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Word Count: 3,921
Many of the products we buy today are no more than large collections of zeroes and ones High-priced software high-quality music and valuable reference material such as computerized databases or CD-Rom encyclopedias are commercial products like any other but the media of their transmission makes them different in at least one aspect it is possible to copy them freely or at least extremely cheaply A compact disc of Elvis Costello and the Attractions is different from say a ham and swiss sandwich in many ways but beyond the obvious is one reason that makes the nature of the two items and their production and purchase very different indeed I can only eat the ham and swiss sandwich once while I can listen to the Attractions CD repeatedly This is a result of the fact that the CD contains information rather than an actual substance such as the sandwich has The consumable material in the sandwich is actual food and is gone after its consumption while the consumable material in the compact disc is encoded binary data that will be around for the life of the physical disc Since the sandwich can only be consumed once we pay out an amount of money that signifies what one sandwich is worth to us If I want another sandwich I pay another 495 If someone were to invent a ham and swiss sandwich that could be eaten thousands of times lets not go into the mechanics of how this would work then the producer might be justified in charging many times the cost of an ordinary ham and swiss on the grounds that Im getting more than just one sandwich Buy our sandwich once and youll never go hungry again However one might protest this idea if we know that it still costs the usual amount to make the sandwich If a producer can make a repeatedly-edible sandwich for a couple dollars and sell it for 4000 he
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