Now then, is the time to explain why the "contract of sale" for these things is both unfair and, deliberately obscured by the sellers and thus gives rise to the "will to pirate" which is acted upon more often as the dematerialisation of the products nears perfection. Unfortunately, this will take us into the realms of copyright and intellectual property - their histories and their futures and this is not a pretty place to go. To simplify the argument we will proceed as though copyright and patent law were identical - they are not, but they are sufficiently similar to allow us, for the purposes of this article, to proceed as though they were.
There is, we believe, a fundamental fraud at the heart of the contract of sale for music, film, broadcast, and software, and this has to do with the buyer being deliberately misled about what exactly it is that they are "buying" and under what terms. The buyer has heretofore been led to believe that what they were buying was a physical artefact - the disc, the CD, the film, the software program floppy disks or CDs - when that has never, in fact, been the case. In reality what the buyer purchases depends, to a great extent, upon the then prevailing nature of copyright law. Essentially, and trying not to make this too difficult, what you buy is a very limited set of rights to a varying number of "acts of authorship" where "act of authorship" can include: the original author of the piece of music or film or software: the "performers" of that piece; the fixing of that piece in a concrete form - the publishers if you will - the recording or film or software company. In fact, the last thing that one is "buying", if one could properly said to be "buying" anything with any of these items is the artefact itself. And when we said that the set of "rights" that one is actually buying are limited we really meant it. They are primarily limited to and by the vector upon which they are fixed - when your vinyl record wears out or your CD/DVD gets scratched or your VHS tape mangles you no longer have any "rights" to the "acts of authorship" that you paid for: if you need to replace the vector or medium then you must pay again for the rights that you already bought!
Now, we are thoroughly convinced that this is not the agreement that buyers of such items believe that they are entering into when they buy. It actually takes dogged work to uncover the nature of, and limitation applying to the contract that one enters into in such everyday purchases. Moreover, it is not so straightforward as we just described - for example: if you buy, let us say, a secondhand vinyl record you do not buy, or at least you do not pay for, any of these limited rights to "acts of authorship" and so we have to assume that you either do not buy them or that you inherit them from the previous owner and that they are therefore, in some sense, transferrable. But if that were the case, why would they be transferrable among subsequent buyers and sellers but not between the primary buyers and sellers?
It is this very bizarre idea of a set of "rights" that leads us into the maze that is copyright law and intellectual property. Not wishing to patronise we might suggest here that you clear your head and be prepared to attend very carefully because this is a rats' nest that we are about to enter and it wallows in legal jargon and definitions that are beyond a lot of us without a clear head and a determination to comprehend - to see through the lawyers' smokescreen.