If enough people stop paying for a product it will cease to be made on a sufficient enough scale to be a product. Sponsored content is paid for in-part by the sponsors, so if you watch your video and listen to your music with commercials inserted, fear not.
But if you constantly grab free copies of music, movies, and software that were not meant by their creators to be free, you really need to reconsider your behavior. This site is free to you so read on…
The worst case scenario is where aggregates host free content that was not meant to be free, and those aggregates profit illegally off such hosting. This is called bootlegging, and it’s illegal and ill-advised.
I support the authorities investigating and prosecuting these operators. To me they are a notch below a thug who steals a big rig and sells the stolen contents, because stealing a big rig requires much physical risk and the crime has an finite result — 1 truck full of stolen goods. A digital bootlegging operation is infinite and requires nothing more than some geeks with criminal intent. If you steal content, host it, and then profit from it, you are a criminal.
Back in the mid-90’s I used to get software from the “warez servers”. Programs I used for work were usually purchased and licensed by my employer, and I’d purchase the major applications I needed for production, but almost every other type of game or utility I’d download from the warez site, and sometimes use a hacked code to get installed. At one point I had lots of it on my machine, probably thousands of dollars of software that I did not pay for.
Why don’t I do this anymore? Because I’m a better person now? Perhaps. Because I write software for a living and wouldn’t stand for someone stealing my paycheck? Indeed.
Because (thanks to iOS) application pricing has become sensible for the average working stiff? True. Because licensing technology on apps and OS’s has gotten better? Perhaps yes to all of the above.
Software is business-first. It’s also a craft, and perhaps only the best coders at their finest moments hit the point of it being “Art”. Music, on the other hand, is firmly in the Art category. Yes it’s a craft, and it is also a business (well it used to be), but it does not answer business questions or otherwise serve as a requirement for profit.
Music is a lifestyle choice and can only be created by human artists traversing the difficult territory of emotion, melody, and mood projection.
To steal from anyone is wrong and stealing software hurts programmers and the tech company’s bottom line. But to steal from Artists is not only wrong, it also devalues Art in our society, and we all suffer from that.