Pretext for War: Unfortunately, played straight more often than not in these decadent modern times when one is at least nominally supposed to try to solve ones’ differences via the Conclave of Galactic Polities, or the Galactic Trade Association, or some such. The Imperial Ministry of State and Outlands, among others, feels a certain nostalgia for the good old days when would-be galactic warlords and interstellar imperialists would just come right out and announce that they were starting a War for Killing Those People and Taking Their Stuff, since at least it was honest and no-one had to pretend to take obvious bullshit seriously in the name of interstellar amity.
(I take this moment to note, relevantly, that bearing in mind the pointlessness of resource wars as mentioned back in No Blood For Phlebotinium and the impractical difficulty of interstellar invasions of anything but less developed colonies, most wars are fundamentally for reasons ideological, reasons prejudicial, or the interpolity equivalent of “Your Mom”.)
The first of them is the Empire’s esteyn, acceptable everywhere in it and existing in the interests of internal free trade. It’s a quasi-fiat currency, managed by the Imperial Board of Money and Values to avoid either inflationary or deflationary tendencies to provide a reliable store of exchange-value. It’s acceptable anywhere the Imperial writ runs, in quanta from the micro-esteyn to the mega-esteyn, and is denominated in a truly remarkable range of values as well as its official ones, inasmuch as to simplify the transition, most of the local currencies which formerly existed were redefined as new denominations of the esteyn.
(The management is done on the basis of an energy/cycle index, these days, modified for secular productivity changes due to innovation. It used to be done on the basis of a rather broader basket of commodities, likewise modified, but the advances in nanofacturing and automation technology have thinned it quite considerably, in consequence. Also, while technically it’s done by the IBMV, in practice, in the modern era, most of the day-to-day work is done by a massively-distributed AI which extends itself all through everywhere there is an economy and keeps track of those statistics which it needs to know to make things work.)
The second is the Accord exval, an interstellar exchange currency between and supported by the signatories to the Accord on Trade, and managed by the Conclave and the Galactic Trade Association on their behalf – or rather by their tame AI – to be valued at the real-time floating average value of the currencies of each of the members. (This makes it rather more volatile than the esteyn, both because many members prefer to hide or play silly-bugger games with their actual economic numbers, and because enough of its members are AI-phobic enough that the GTA’s AI is nowhere near as intelligent or self-directing as the Empire’s Fiscal Prime. Some people evidently find it hard to turn control over to a machine that’s smarter than they are.) The exval is not, for the most part, a real currency – it’s money of account and exchange currency, used to optimize cross-polity electronic currency transfers and make it easier to track the real values of foreign-held assets – and to let working spacers and tourists know what the actual prices of things are as they spend (most polities that receive any amount of tourism, and just about all the starports/startowns, dual-label goods in local money and Accord exvals; which one gets the round number and which one floats tends to vary by location).
There are a number of other currencies of general acceptability; the venerable gAu, gAg, and gPt can be traded anywhere, although you need so damn much of them given modern mining technology and its effect on the value of the underlying metals, it’s hardly worth bothering anywhere off Hicksworld. The energy (usually antimatter) backed, fully convertible, ergcred is sometimes seen, especially out towards the Rim Free Zone. A few of the higher-infotech societies out there occasionally talk up the virtues of the finality – and use it between themselves – backed by irreversible computational operations, but have trouble selling it to people of less infogeekery.
Digital Piracy Is Evil: Well, on the one hand, it’s not called digital piracy (it’s called Unlawful Duplication & Conveyance, or Unlawful Derivation) and is a lesser crime than theft; and Imperial IP law is different and rather more generous, especially in re patents and discoverer’s licenses (but also in re creator’s moral rights); and DRM (and its cousins, Genetic Rights Management, Fabrication Rights Management, and Experience Rights Management) around here is different, belike.
On the other hand, IP crimes are prosecuted much more vigorously, even on the small scale, because it’s not the money, it’s the principle, belike. And at the far other end of the scale, any and all of the Galactic Trade Association, the Empire’s Market Liberty Oversight Directorate, Traders in Ideation, ICC, and the Intellectual Property Owner’s Association of the Empire have, well, mercenaries. Who are quite happy to make mass-pirated-good factories and pirated-data archives in non-sovereign space – and in sovereign space where the sovereignty in question does not feel like cooperating – explode, along with their owners, because those people do not respect their fellow sophont’s rights and they hate people like that.