Why is everyone here convinced IP only means electronic and entertainment?
Part of the problem with this discussion is IP means "Intellectual Property" - defined somewhat colloquially as novel inventions deriving from an inventor's (or inventors') intellect.
Is everyone forgetting all the different kinds of "Intellectual Property"? That the entertainment industry isn't the only one challenged by the changes in commerce brought about by the Internet?
EVERY industry has Intellectual Property to protect: Trademarks, Designs, Chemical compositions, Methods, Patents, Copyrights, etc. Other industries are finding ways to deal with changes in distribution networks. Other industries grow and evolve with the times.
Giving everything away for free is not the answer. Taking it without permission is no better. The inventors and creators of IP still have to eat, pay the bills, live day to day like anyone else.
Companies can't afford to bring a product to market without the expectation of exclusivity for a certain amount of time. Otherwise, for example, all the wonderful pharmaceuticals and treatments developed during the Biotech Boom wouldn't exist. A lot of people who survive now, as a result, would be dead.
Without IP protection, there would be no such thing as affordable "generics" - i.e., drugs on which the patent has expired, putting them in the public domain, so any company can make their own version. Because no company can afford to spend 15 years developing a drug they can't sell enough of to recoup the R&D costs.
Those who argue piracy is not theft are deluded - of course it is. It always has been. Taking anything that doesn't belong to you is theft - trying to make it sound "romantic" or Robin-Hood-ish doesn't change facts.
That the company selling it may be engaged in "creative" and dishonest bookkeeping (quite true: see Art Buchwald et al. among other cases against the movie industry) still doesn't entitle you to steal from them. Burglarize the home of another thief, and you're still going to jail, even if your victim does too.
But trying to hang on to an inflated profit margin also doesn't entitle companies to overstate outrageously the amount they claim is lost to piracy each year - as they provably do.
We'll never have any relevant discussion of Intellectual Property unless it involves ALL Intellectual Property...AND why exclusivity is absolutely necessary for innovation in the first place...AND why extending exclusive ownership of IP longer and longer makes a mockery of both the inventor and the law.
We'll never have a relevant discussion, unless we stop acting as if what's best for the U.S. movie industry, music industry, drug, electronics, health, sports, food, beverage, clothing, agriculture, manufacturing industries, etc., is also best for the whole world, or the best way for the US to be a participant in an increasingly closer-knit global economy.
And we'll never have a useful discussion if the customers AND the companies claim they should be allowed to steal from each other, from the inventors, or from anyone else.
If IP weren't protected, in this and almost every other country, most inventions we enjoy would never have made it to market. The point of IP protection is the inventor deserves to benefit, has a RIGHT to benefit, from his or her own property. Without the inventor, it would not have existed. Therefore, it belongs to the creator exclusively.
The law also states, very plainly, usurping the inventor's rights (or those of the entity to whom the inventor assigned them) to reproduce, copy, distribute, etc. - i.e., acting as if the inventor's property is your own - is theft.
However, the law also recognizes the public, and humanity in general, have certain rights as well. Intellectual property is defined partly as that which benefits society, and therefore the government sets a limit on exclusive rights, to prevent generally useful inventions from being locked up forever, used only for the benefit of a few, affordable only to the wealthy, etc.
Patents and copyrights must expire after a set time for the benefit of humankind, health, education, the economy, and so on. "You can't take it with you," is as true for inventors and creators as anyone else. As a result, neither you, nor your family, nor the company holding the copyright or patent is allowed to hang onto it indefinitely, or indefinitely entitled to the profits of someone else's work and imagination.
Consequently, those who argue piracy is somehow "right" and not stealing, simply because they want it for free "now!"
Those who argue the free exchange of information in general should be curtailed or censored to protect a limited subset of it, and thus their profits...
Are Both Wrong.
BOTH sides need to stop limiting the scope of IP, AND stop attempting to justify dishonesty, theft, and greed.
Then the discussion might finally become an intelligent one. Continued lies will get us nowhere, nor will the still-illogical concept somehow two wrongs make a right.