Is downloading torrents stealing? Depends on who you ask. No doubt, some people think of it that way. Others, however, consider it more of a protest against what they see as price gouges for entertainment or software. (Of course, there are still others who don’t care either way, and just want free stuff.)

Then there’s the Swiss. Forget cheese and chocolate — seems it’s unauthorized digital goods that really tickle them silly. According to TorrentFreak, as many as one in three people in Switzerland download torrents for music, flicks and games. And, just like in America, the players in these industries are incensed about all the piracy. This is what has had the government scratching its head over what to do.

Put yourself in its shoes: You are the government of Switzerland. (Go with me on this.) Torrenting might as well be your people’s favorite pastime, but you’ve got these upset constituents — important leaders of your technology and entertainment industries — who want to throw the book at perpetrators. But you CAN’T throw the book at them. First of all, the law currently allows for the acquisition and personal use of copyrighted material. And second, even if that weren’t true, how in the world would you find everyone who downloads torrents? (Uh, you can’t.) So what now? Hey! Let’s commission a study to look into this! After all, if it’s really not as big a deal as it seems, then you don’t have to squander budgets trying to attack this thing, and you can go back to your Lindt hot chocolate and brie.

(I have no idea if that’s how it went, but that’s the way it played out in my head.)

End result? Well, wouldn’t you know — the study ascertained that people eventually do spend the money they saved from torrenting on entertainment products. Switzerland interpreted that to mean the copyright holders aren’t actually suffering damages from torrenting. Awesome sauce! Problem solved, good night and good luck to ya.

No really, all kidding aside, the Swiss government has deemed that acquiring content is not illegal, whether that’s photocopying a book or downloading it off the internet — as long as people keep it to themselves, i.e. it’s for personal use.  Turns out, the Swiss aren’t really into oppressive tech measures; they have a more optimistic view of technology:

“Every time a new media technology has been made available, it has always been ‘abused’. This is the price we pay for progress. Winners will be those who are able to use the new technology to their advantages and losers those who missed this development and continue to follow old business models,” says the report. (Oh, I hope the cable companies are paying attention.)

Think this line of reasoning could trickle down to other countries (like ours)? Well, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. No doubt, that has to be ruffling feathers, and not just over there either.

What’s your take on this? Think the Swiss should’ve treated torrenting like stealing? Or do the companies need to change their way of thinking, and figure out how to work the torrent angle — like maybe word of mouth or viral marketing? Weigh in.

[via TorrentFreak, PCMag, SAI Business Insider]