Not unexpectedly, our Consumer’s Dilemma license for the report has generated some controversy. To recap, the CD license creates different paths to acquiring the report: first, we have an IP address geolocator that sends visitors from high income countries toward an $8 paywall when they download the report; all other resolvable IP addresses get free access. Second, and separately available, a ‘commercial reader’ license that costs $2000. There’s also a $28 book, but I will assume that’s not at issue here.
Criticism so far has taken two general forms:
1) that we are being unfair in constraining access in high-income countries by setting an $8 pay wall. This divides further into what I’ll call a ‘CC left’ position, which thinks the report should be Creative Commons-licensed (and therefore free to everyone), and a ‘Grumpy Right’ position which appears to just resent being asked to pay $8 when others are getting it for free.
2) the view that the license is cheap theater unworthy of the scientific purpose of the study. Since this complaint is underspecified so far, I’ll assume it includes 1 but is mostly about the commercial reader license, which gets read as juvenile sticking it to the man.
Maybe some clarification is in order here. If you are residing in one of the listed high-income countries, want to read the report, but think that $8 is an unreasonable price, you can acquire it for free through other means. In fact, we have made it exceedingly easy to do so. If you fall under the terms of the commercial reader license but think that $2000 is unreasonable, you have the same options (plus the $8 option). In both cases, the reader is faced with a dilemma: pay the legal price (roughly mapping ability to pay to a determination about whether the price is fair), acquire it through pirate channels, or don’t bother with it. In most of the countries we’ve studied in this report, the results of this calculation with respect to DVDs, music, and software are strikingly consistent. Media goods are highly desired, exorbitantly priced with respect to local incomes, and freely available through pirate channels. High rates of piracy and tiny legal markets are the result. We’ve written 400+ pages about this dysfunctional form of globalization and its causes.
The resulting consumer’s dilemma is a ubiquitous experience in medium and low-income countries but one that confronts the American or European reader (or the media company employee conjured up by the commercial reader license) much less frequently and with much less intensity. The global market is made for those consumers. It is priced and distributed for them. They are rarely faced with what they experience as ridiculous pricing for a DVD or book–or seriously disadvantaged by differential pricing. The Consumer’s Dilemma license is a way of reversing that equation and, in the most minor ways, requiring an explicit engagement with it. Among the surreal aspects, that simple choice can subject you to crushing civil and criminal penalties, but you can rest easy knowing that only very rare, arbitrary examples will be made (and none in our case). Now that’s theater. Our license has a theatrical side, to be sure, but it also stays true to the experiences documented in the report. Those experiences–the personal choices and the market and price structure that informs them–are the report’s primary subject.
ps. some have wondered why Canada is not on the list of high-income countries pushed into the Consumer’s Dilemma. This has nothing to do with Canada’s GDP or relative standard of living, which we hear good things about. It has everything to do with the funding of this project by a Canadian public organization, the International Development Research Centre. Thanks IDRC!