Sun Tzu and File Sharing

Yesterday, I was reading articles about eBook software for various OSs when I stumbled on the site Feedbooks which distributes eBooks of public domain works in various formats (including PDF). One of the featured books was Sun Tzu's The Art of War. I've heard several times that this book (handbook, really) is often used now for improving business and management strategies, and producing and selling movies and music is one such business, which file sharing is supposedly destroying. The debate over file sharing is often portrayed in popular media as a war between the poor, starving artists and the greedy freeloaders. In reality, of course, the poor, starving artists are just the RIAA and MPAA (though there are a handful of artists/filmmakers who genuinely resent and want to stop file sharing because they believe it harms there business), while the greedy freeloaders are actually people who would pay for such content if it was easy to buy and use and didn't have so many restrictions on its use (though there are quite a few people who would in fact only listen to music or watch videos for free (without regard to the legal status of said listening/watching)). So what if Sun Tzu was talking about file sharing? I can't analyze every single point made in the original book (I believe this is the Giles translation), but I will list a few that are very relevant to this issue (the citation of point Y in chapter X will be given as "(X.Y)"):
  • Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. (1.1)
  • It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected. (1.2)
  • According as circumstances are favourable, one should modify one's plans. (1.16)
  • Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. (2.4)
  • Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. (2.5)
  • Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them. (3.1)
  • Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting. (3.2)
  • The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a siege. (3.5)
  • Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field. (3.6)
Follow the jump to read a more sensible interpretation of this with regard to filesharing. (NOTE: I don't intend to be fair/balanced with this. I'm just interpreting it from what I've read and from my own preexisting opinions. If you don't agree, please feel free to leave a comment with a suggestion/alternative interpretation.)
Here's what a site like TechDirt, which actually gives alternative working business models to choking off file sharing entirely, might say about it:
  • (1.1) To make money from music and films, it's important to know how to do business properly. [This is true any way one interprets the original statements, whether from the RIAA or the freeloader's perspective.]
  • (1.2) Making money is the lifeblood of a business, and losing money can spell the end for a business. [Again, this is true from any interpretation.]
  • (1.16) Artists and filmmakers should be able to adapt to changing circumstances in order to keep bringing home the bacon.
  • (2.4) If one does not continually innovate and stay ahead of the game, one will fall behind and financially suffer, no matter what.
  • (2.5) File sharing is the distribution model of the future, so there's no point in sitting on the old distribution models hoping they will work magic again.
  • (3.1) To keep the business going and money flowing in, it is better in the long run to win over customers rather than alienating them through ever-increasing restrictions and ridiculous copyright lawsuits running into the tens of millions of dollars.
  • (3.2) Get money from the customers by giving them a reason to buy; don't take it from them through lawsuits.
  • (3.5) Many file sharing lawsuits (and this has been proven by the RIAA's own financial accounts) ultimately cost many orders of magnitude more than they net the beneficiary. They are a waste of money for everyone involved.
  • (3.6) A lawsuit ending in an out-of-court settlement is the best way out...? (Uh-oh!)
Well, that was fun. I hope you enjoyed reading this!

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