It’s amazing to me that in the subject of criminology, a field which has ample expert study, people will often just assume that their assumptions are correct and that their beliefs universal.
While logical and full of common sense, your observations are still incorrect. Outside of immediate detection there is no agreed principle that consequences ever play a role in criminal behaviour. That’s why it’s never been proven that the death penalty is more a deterrent than imprisonment, or to take a more relevant example, that punishment will prevent IP theft:
In the month following the RIAA’s well publicized crack-down, P2P usage increased 10%. Here at last was a consequence for pirating music, but instead of heeding that, the increased publicity simply increased the number of people prepared to indulge in downloading.
Criminology is not voodoo, and IP theft is not a new issue, what appears to be completely missing from the world is expert opinion that criminal behaviour is substantially different between traditional and online crimes. So while the internet is bringing new opportunities for crime to a wider audience, there’s no evidence that criminal behaviour itself is substantially different.
Put a man in an unguarded warehouse and he won’t pick what he needs, he’ll pick the closest items, or the most items he can carry out without heed to what he’ll do with them. It’s not even challenged any more that crimes of opportunity are prompted by need, or desire, but through lack of self control.
About the only accurate statements regarding piracy the last few days here, have been those which dispell the myth that IP theft is commited by those who cannot afford products. There are so few crimes of necessity in fraud or theft, that not even the bleeding hearts try and expouse that myth anymore. People rarely steal because they have to or need to, they steal because they can.
So while it’s tempting to be swayed by you playing the irrelevant card, I’d rather see a work by someone more experienced in criminology explain why this form of criminal behaviour is notably different, and as such would result in markedly different revenue streams from those who steal.