When discussing the "legitimacy" of piracy and the like, people will often cite bitrate as a reason. "Well, why should I pay for something that's not lossless?!!" Sure, it's a valid complaint. But does it justify theft?
If a band is only selling an album at 128 and you prefer 320, does that justify an illegal download? I'm not sure.
As a Calvin & Hobbes fan, this is an issue I've been struggling with since childhood. I was a nerd even then and fuckin' gobbled up all sorts of interviews and such with Bill Watterson. He would always emphasize the imagination behind what he did and how he felt merchandising his creation would cheapen that aspect of it. Hobbes was supposed to have the voice the reader gave him, not Bill Murray. He didn't want stuffed tigers hanging off of car windows. He wanted to control his art. And he did. Sort of.
To this day, you can see Calvin pissing all over the Ford logo. And bootlegged t-shirts sold on the Internet. While the elementary school me would never dream of purchasing a urinating 6 year-old in bumper sticker form, I sure as hell would have loved one of those t-shirts. But I remember thinking--even then--that it would have gone against the creator's wishes.
I got one for my birthday at one point, felt guilty about it, and asked my mom to return it for me.
Because that's not what the creator would have wanted. In hindsight, asking my mom to return it for me was a bit on the "overkill" side of things. But I knew I couldn't have worn that shirt without feeling like I was betraying the man behind the characters that made my day just a little bit brighter.
I'm not saying we need to stop downloading music. And I'm not saying the people behind it are evil (unless, of course, there's bootlegs floating around of Slick Shoes songs that people mislabel as Fenix TX, Blink-182, et cetra--then that's just confusing for junior high schoolers on Napster everywhere).
But I'm saying we shouldn't kid ourselves. You don't need to think that it's wrong, but we should all start admitting that it's still a little bit not quite right. Know what you're doing and own it. Don't attempt to justify it.
You say you love the artist, but you're rockin' a t-shirt with a little dude and his stuffed tiger making an awkward face. And the creator doesn't support it. Nobody should crucify you for it--and Mr. Watterson would probably be stoked that you're a fan of his work. But really, he just wants you to buy the books, and dive into his world.
See what I'm saying? Maybe not. The comparison kind of falls apart at the end. But hopefully it made at least a tiny bit of sense.