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Stephen Jones

The Case for File Swapping

Check:

http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/case-for-file-swapping/

For an essay I wrote that explains why file swapping is ethical and moral and why it should be legal. It discusses various harmful terms that prevent correct thought on the matter, and also discusses some related issues.
Shlomi Fish Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Your whole article is based on a misconception. A code of laws is ethos not ethics. Copyright violation is illegal.
Graham
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
So maybe drug swapping or firearms swapping is OK then ... based on this essay

After-all, I'm just notifying the criminals where the kids are to sell them drugs, taking them right to their front-door, knocking, asking the kid to come outside, introducing him to the drug trafficker, telling the child what they are getting, then allowing the transaction to take place, the kid gets free drugs from a criminal, and I don't even alert the authorities.  Gosh, you're right, I should feel good about swapping.

Oh yes, definitely ethical.

- please feel the sarcasm in these statements, I in know way would want such a thing to happen.

File swapping is piracy, copyright infringement, and theft!  I create something with my abilities, put a price on it, protect it, then someone comes along and gives it away?!?!  How is this OK?  Your essay does not give me ANY reason why this would be OK - pure nonsense coming from the mouth of an obvious criminal.

The logic of criminals is simply baffling to me.
angry
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>File swapping is piracy, copyright infringement, and theft!
>I create something with my abilities, put a price on it,
>protect it, then someone comes along and gives it away?!?!
>How is this OK?

Because during the act of "taking something away from you", nothing is actually taken away from you.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Sorry, your argument is deeply flawed at the intellectual property level.  (I am not trying to flame you are anything, just help your argument... read the end.) 

Basically, (according to you) if I take a book and scan it online, I can then file share it and I am not ripping off the author.  (Don't try and tell me he can make money other ways, many of them have little money to begin with.) 

Another example, encryption.  Should that be free to share with everyone as you can duplicate it without harming the original?  Well, save the answer until after all of your private information is stolen and you don't have a dime to your name. 

By saying intellectual property doesn't exist, you are saying ideas are worthless if they don't directly turn into objects. 

So, I could discover coke's recipe and make as much coke as I want and I didn't rip off coke cola?  (I am making soda here instead of duplicating an order of 0s and 1s.) 


While I agree with you on the greater idea/goal of your argument, this is the wrong way to go about it.  You might be better off saying intellectual property that defines a culture (aka music, movies, etc) is owned by the culture and not one person.  But you would have to find a way to expand that to cover all file sharing. 

P.S. A one web-page online paper would be easy to read. 

And I find it funny that you have a copyright on your paper!!!
I forgot my posting name
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Um, yeah:

> The primary reason why file swapping should be legal is
> because it's not a crime, at least not an ethical one.

There is no such thing as an ethical crime. If I cheat on my girlfriend that may be unethical, but it is neither a crime nor an "ethical crime".

I'm afraid file swapping DOES constitute a crime, even if it shouldn't be.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>Basically, (according to you) if I take a book and scan it
>online, I can then file share it and I am not ripping off
>the author.  (Don't try and tell me he can make money other
>ways, many of them have little money to begin with.)

Many authors give away their texts online AND sell them as books. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that far from harming the sales of the printed book, it actually helps.

So basically you're appealing to emotion and your argument is based upon a fallacy.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
The copyright has a "Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License" in his defense.

wow - sorry for flying off the hook, but I see how the philosophy is that nothing is actually being taken away, physically.

So then if the same information existed on a CD, and the CD was pointed to by a swapping service, and a criminal took it out of my car, then, is that not OK or OK? And the criminal can only be prosecuted for stealing the piece of plastic, and what is on it has no value?

Also, I don't think comparing file swapping to a fictional drug trafficking was a good idea now that I think about it.  I usually hate it when someone compares apples to oranges, and there I go and do it myself.
still angry though
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>Another example, encryption.  Should that be free to share
>with everyone as you can duplicate it without harming the
>original?  Well, save the answer until after all of your
>private information is stolen and you don't have a dime to
>your name.

Another bad example. You don't copyright your PIN code and if you file-shared your bank account details then you deserve to be robbed.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>So then if the same information existed on a CD, and the CD
>was pointed to by a swapping service, and a criminal took it
>out of my car, then, is that not OK or OK?

Not OK. You are deprived access to that CD if a thief steals it. If I copy your magnum opus and then set up a torrent, you haven't lost access to it.

>And the criminal can only be prosecuted for stealing the >piece of plastic, and what is on it has no value?

Don't be ridiculous. Of course the piece of plastic has value. PEOPLE BUY THEM. What better measure of value is there?
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
If an auther gives away his/her text, it is his/her right to do so, not mine. 

And I am not talking about an encrypt key, but the algorthm itself. 

But feel free to keep trying to make a fool of yourself.
I forgot my posting name
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>If an auther gives away his/her text, it is his/her right
>to do so, not mine.

Of course. But if an author gives it to another person then it is that other person's right to give it away to me. UNLESS, IMO, that other person has signed an agreement to state that he won't share it with anyone.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Copyright law is the most extreme example of technology getting in conflict with legal practices. And it sould be rethough over and over.

IMO (and IANAL) the author should definitely be the sole owner of their work. Perhaps we should outlaw the rights transfer -- i.e. you can only *rent* someone's right to use/distribute a work, but not buy (or even inherit) it forever (or until it becomes public property; if Disney's lawyers have any say, the two terms are equivalent).

That way, file swapping would be illegal; but RIAA would be so as well.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
"I'm afraid file swapping DOES constitute a crime, even if it shouldn't be."

Nope, file swapping by itself is definitely not a crime. Swapping files which are copyright protected may be a crime, nonetheless. Or do you want to tell me that I'm not allowed to swap MY files in any way I want to, and I'm not allowed to allow others to do so with MY files?

If file swapping by itself is a crime, then we have to close down the Internet. Or is there any functionality in the Internet not based on file swapping? I don't know what is going through YOUR network connection, but for my connection, it is binary data being swapped from and to other computers.

There are files for which swapping is a crime, and there are files for which swapping is perfectly legal.

The funny thing is: The illegal files can be broken up into any number of legal files, which can any one by itself be legally swapped, because any is just a collection of white noise random data, but all of them can be recombined into the original illegal file. You just need the right tool.

Thus, what is now illegal? Any single part - for what reason, it is random noise? The combination of all parts together with the tool - certainly. All with just one part missing, unable to create the file? The meta-information involving the part identifications, describing how to combine them? What else?
Secure
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
No, he is right.  If the author gives it away, then he is free to be given away.  (You would just point to where the author gives it away.) 

However, if the author gives it away and then later stops, that is another case.
I forgot my posting name
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
As for "white noise" idea I would say it is legal until you rebuild the copyprotected item.
I forgot my posting name
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>IMO (and IANAL) the author should definitely be the sole
>owner of their work.

IMO, if an author sells me something, it's mine and the author shouldn't have the right to dictate what I can or cannot do with it.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
I agree, you should be able to do whatever you want with what the author sells you. 

However, your rights only go so far as the authors. 

The author could sell you complete control of his/her work, but he/she would then charge you A LOT more. 

So, the author sells you a reduced control version, to say allow you to read it and have 1 copy of it. 

If you want to pay more, you are free to do so.
I forgot my posting name
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
"IMO, if an author sells me something, it's mine and the author shouldn't have the right to dictate what I can or cannot do with it."

This is the current state of affairs, true. What I promote is that this right can't legally be transferred permanently.

This may not be the perfect example, but compare it with this: I have a son, and I may legally allow you to make use of him in a limited and strictly controlled way -- for example, to have him appear in a TV ad for cookies. But in most countries there is simply *no* legal way for me to *sell* him to you in the way you describe above.

It should work similarly for intellectual property, and in a way it already does: did you know that the author of a work, under the Berne convention, has the legal protection to be recognized as its author? For example, J.R.R.Tolkien has sold away his full exploitation rights to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit -- but Saul Zaentz has no legal rights to suddenly start to publish the books under his own name.

Actually, it's all in the hands of the authors. When a publisher wants to buy the full rights, the author may opt to sell only limited rights (by time or volume); with the today's technologies like Web, digital press, CD burners and iTunes they don't rely on the behemoth publishers and they can reach their audience independently.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>The author could sell you complete control of his/her work,
>but he/she would then charge you A LOT more.

If you buy a coffin, can the manufacturer stipulate where you bury it?

http://www.bookofjoe.com/2005/10/if_you_buy_a_co.html
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
This is one reason why people feel compelled to attack Free Software. Because it calls into question the concept of thoughts/bits on your own HD being someone else's private property -- to the extent of making it about freedoms and rights. (Heck, countries have attacked each other for similar reasons.)

As regards contracts, you can't enforce contracts on things you don't own, to my understanding. That is, I can't sell you my neighbor's car, as I don't own it. I can only sell and bind you to things which I own. Even if you believe I own my neighbor's car, that doesn't mean the local police and judge will enforce my (nonexistent) property rights to her car.

So it comes back to whether you consider thoughts, and bits on your HD, to be someone else's private property.
Tayssir John Gabbour Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>This may not be the perfect example, but compare it with
>this: I have a son, and I may legally allow you to make use
>of him in a limited and strictly controlled way

Not a great example. You can't buy or sell people. You can buy and sell music, books and anything else that is covered by the so-called intellectual property laws.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>So it comes back to whether you consider thoughts, and bits
>on your HD, to be someone else's private property.

If you do, there's a corrollary - if you memorize a piece of intellectual property (say, a book), you are a carrier of that property.

So therefore you must believe that somebody else owns the representation within your brain - they own a PART of your brain, in effect and they should be able to use the law to prevent you from USING your brain to recite the material.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
"You can't buy or sell people. You can buy and sell music, books and anything else that is covered by the so-called intellectual property laws."

But I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about author's *rights*.

What is music? Is it a printed representation of the sounds? Is it the sounds itself? What is a book? Is it the printed words or the paper they are printed on?

The main problem is that we have entered the information age, but our legal system is still marooned in the pre-industrial era. The whole issue is the intangibility of *information*, and that gives us most trouble: the copyright law is about the *right* to *exploit* the *information*.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Crazy essay, interesting site. I liked this quote from one of your OTHER essays:

"I will indeed haunt them [gentiles] and if I have my way, eradicate all of the 'gentility' off the planet."
NetFreak Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Information technology tries to destroy information scarcity.  The costs of accessing information are approaching zero.

Copyright is a legal device for creating an artificial demand for information.

They are in total opposition.  I think information technology will win over copyright in the end.  The market value of a near-zero cost information unrestricted global infrastructure will far outweigh the value of copyright, I think.
Michael B
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
If you want to know what happens when there are no IP rights go and look in parts of the world where pirating is rife. These places have no native industry creating content because it doesn't pay. You don't see dominant shrink wrap developers in places like Russia or China because it's impossible for them to create local demand to get them off the ground.
Tony
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>>The market value of a near-zero cost information unrestricted global infrastructure will far outweigh the value of copyright, I think.

And who is going to produce this information without being paid?
Tony
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Happens all the time.
Michael B
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
"In the 19th century, the United States was both a rapidly industrializing nation and -- as Charles Dickens, among others, knew all too well -- a bold pirate of intellectual property."
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/14/technology/14NECO.html


Similarly, NYT points out that the driver of real innovation (as opposed to "Microsoft innovation") was the US government.

 "Hundreds of research projects supported by the agency, known as Darpa, have paid off handsomely in recent decades, leading not only to new weapons, but to commercial technologies from the personal computer to the Internet. The agency has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to basic software research, too, including work that led to such recent advances as the Web search technologies that Google and others have introduced. "
http://lazowska.cs.washington.edu/nyt.darpa.pdf

(I link to a PDF, as it has the cute graphics showing links from government subsidy to industry.)
Tayssir John Gabbour Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
I was reading your link trying to determine at what level you logic jumped the tracks. I believe it is your conclusion that others have misdefined the terms.  The terms are globally accepted, you may not like them, or you may wish they were different but that is what legislative bodies are suppose to handle. (at least in the US).

"Intellectual Property" 
If you are going to quote Stallman, do him the justice that while he believes they should not, he recognizes they do exist.  Try to take code from your employer and send it to FSF,they want the legal release.
"Stealing or Theft"
You state - "stealing involves taking tangible property without permission, and depriving the owner of one less instance of it. "
That is incorrect. If I steal the formula for something, like theraflu, I do not steal the product, nor for that matter anything tangible. You may wish to claim that someone "lent" me the formula so it was there fault.  But if you hand me your laptop, I decrypt the drive and then take the formula, how is that different than software keys? 
"Piracy"
A pirate is only a pirate if he "robs or plunders at sea without a commission from a recognized sovereign nation." As for the 10-year old, they are not the problem.  The problem is the guy/gal with bulk CD burners making Rolling Stones Albums faster than the label can.
"Crime"
You said "If one violates the letter of the law of my country did he commit a crime? Not necessarily. A crime is an action that is globally accepted to be unethical, according to well-defined, absolute Ethics. "
The problem here is that you mis-defined Crime.  Violating the letter of the law is a crime.  Whether you will be punished or if the law is ethical is unrelated. In fact, many laws are not ethics based at all (speed limits come to mind).
Laws are agreements among the members of society that are institutionalized to ensure common good. Criminal versus civil is a means of determining the type of penalty to ensue. 
Sure you can drive at 120 mph without an issue but for the common good we recognize most people need to keep it below 65.  Get caught breaking the speed limit and you end up in criminal court.

And to answer the next point - Yes, we can say that the people who violated prohibition were criminals.  They violated the Constitution and criminal law, which is what defines a criminal. So, similarly, I _can_ argue that violating the prohibition on duplication makes you a criminal. 

Now Do I wish it were otherwise?  Yes.  I wish that it was easy to make duplicates of CDs and DVDs.  I wish that I could force publishers to provide electronic versions of their books, even if I had to buy the paper version first.  I also wish I could drive 100mph on the highway. 

I cannot do any of these things, because they are criminal or if you wish illegal.  None of us like to think of ourselves as criminals but what defense is there for driving 100mph in a 35 mph zone? 

If you wish to change the laws, to make it non-criminal to do, you will get my support - to a point.  If you feel the deck is stacked against you - welcome to the real world.  If you think it unfair - so what?  Neither of those are reasons to break the law and redefining the words does not change that.
MSHack
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
"And who is going to produce this information without being paid?"

The Internet is full of free texts, free pictures, free music (sic!), free software, and anything else that can be expressed as information. You must enforce people by law to share material goods; you must enforce people by law to NOT share immaterial goods, including these they created themself.
Secure
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
I may come back to the article, it seems to be a good compilation of the arguments in favour of file-swapping, but it's too long and that's not a reader-friendly format.

OTOH, it's not a very sophisticated article, and I gave up when I got to the section:

>>> It is not a Crime

because all he's done is to beg the argument.  All he says is "it is not a crime because no crime is committed."  Well, that's not very compelling.

I agree that IP laws are messed up, there are legitimate uses for file sharing, but simply repeating the same arguments over and over isn't going to do anything.
Ward Bush Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
"You don't see dominant shrink wrap developers in places like Russia or China because it's impossible for them to create local demand to get them off the ground."

I can't understand cyrillic or chinese, thus it is no miracle that I've never heard of the russian or chinese software industry. However, do you have any resources for this assertion?
Secure
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Developers in Russia and China have other factors against them, like coming late to the game, using a non-native language, and having to deal with Kafkian bureaucracy. It's hard to gauge how much they are losing due to piracy.
Rubinelli Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
==> So therefore you must believe that somebody else owns the representation within your brain - they own a PART of your brain

Nope. You said it yourself. They own the "*representation* within your brain". There is no logical path from there to "own[ing] a PART of your brain". Just because you say it, doesn't make it so.

Since the thread is about file swapping, does the fact that I have a file on my hard drive mean that that the copyright holder owns a part of my system? No. They own the *idea* represented within the bits of the file. They don't own the magnetic medium on which that idea is documented/realized. You can load it in ram, keep in on your hard drive, print it out on paper, or stuff it in your brain. Regardless of the representation, it's *theirs* not yours.

==> in effect and they should be able to use the law to prevent you from USING your brain to recite the material.

in effect, yes. There's ample precedence here. When one robs a bank, they must *USE* their brain. The law prohibits this. When one commits murder, they *USE* their brain somewhere in the process. The law prohibits this. When I slander or libel someone, I'm likely *USING* my brain. The law prohibits this. When one is involved in common theivery, they're *USING* their brain. The law prohibits this. What's yer point? Anything you do you're *USING* your brain. The law puts an awful lot of restrictions on *USING* your brain. I don't see any significance to your line of reasoning.
Sgt.Sausage
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>Not a great example. You can't buy or sell people. You >can buy and sell music, books and anything else that is >covered by the so-called intellectual property laws.

You're actually "buying" the media that contains *one copy* of the "...music, books and anything else...".  Copyright law holds that except for things constituting "fair use", like backing up a software product, you do not have a right to make, sell or otherwise distribute copies other than the *one* you paid for unless specifically allowed to by the copyright holder.  Unless you bought a copy of your own stuff, that's generally not you. 

Even the Creative Commons licenses impose conditions underwhich copying is OK or not.
a former big-fiver Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>Since the thread is about file swapping, does the fact
>that I have a file on my hard drive mean that that the
>copyright holder owns a part of my system? No.

If you believe bits and bytes are property then yes. Sony believe this (because their existence is predicated upon it) and this is how they went about ensuring that their property remains theirs:

http://techdirt.com/articles/20051101/1135217_F.shtml

>They own the *idea*

You can't own something that only exists in representation form. The closest the law can come to realizing this fantasy is by mandating control over representations which brings us back to square one.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Didn't this topic get beaten to death years ago when Napster got sued?
Bart Park
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
>You can't own something that only exists in representation form.

Excuse me, but you can. It's the basis of our copyright system. Sure, you can't own it in "brain form" -- unless or until it's laid down in "representation form". In the case of a work of fiction, maybe that form is the paper it's typed on, or the bits that make up the ascii in the text file it's created in. In the case of, say, a movie or song, it's in the bits stored on the CD/DVD, or the data on the magnetic tape, or the file on the hard drive, or even maybe the printed sheet music. Once that idea is represented in some media -- once that idea is physically manifested -- it's *owned* by its creator. The creator of the idea holds the copyright, and the copyright is ownership of the rights that can attach to the idea. No ifs, no ands, no buts. The law is pretty clear on this. Copyright is granted by the mere creation of the first representation of the idea.

The *idea* is "owned". Let me be clear on this. The media (bits, paper, magnet, brain cells (whatever)) -- the media is not the thing that is owned by the copyright. It is the idea itself.

When you buy a book, a CD, a piece of software, etc. You are buying the *media* that the idea is stored on, and a bundle of rights to use the idea contained within that media. You are not, according to current U.S. and international (Bern anyone?) law, you are *not* buying the idea to do with as you wish. You have bought a CD and the rights the owner *chooses* to grant you. Period. If said owner wishes to grant you unlimited copy and usage rights, then he may *choose* to do so. You are not automatically granted these rights simply because you bought the media that the idea happens to be represented on. If you choose to overstep your bounds with respect to the rights you hold, expect the consequences and be prepared defend yourself. There's decades, maybe even centuries of case law standing in the way of your successfully defending yourself.

Back to the brain representation (memorized works) For you to have memorized it and stored it in your brain, you had to see it, hear it, read it -- you had to have access to a physical representation of the idea. Someone else created the original representation, therefore someone else *owns* the copyright. Since the idea was someone elses, then, yes, the idea in your head (be it a song, a movie, a story or a bit of C code) is, in fact, owned by someone else simply due to the fact that they created it, and they hold the copyright.

They don't own your brain, but they do, according to current law, own the idea recorded in your brain's memory banks.

The key you are failing to acknowledge is that the *idea* itself is independent of the particular media it may be stored on. One can hold the copyright regardless of whether a story was laid out on paper, written long-hand (with a pen or pencil), typed into a word processor, dictated into a tape recorder, painted on a wall, carved into a stone, or is just simply what we know as bits and bytes on a hard drive. 

==> The closest the law can come to realizing this fantasy is by mandating control over representations which brings us back to square one.

It only brings us back to square one because you don't understand the current law, or you choose to disagree with it. Either way, the law is the law and ownership belongs to the copyright holder.

Whether you agree with the law or not, it is what it is. If you choose to ignore the current law, well ... prepare to defend yourself in both criminal and civil courts and good luck with that one. Let us know how it goes.

***

Now, what I think is the more important question to get at, and maybe a better use of this thread is: "is this law a 'just law'". You and I both know that there are a lot of laws still on the books that just don't make sense in today's world. How, exactly, would you propose to change the current copyright (and patent, trade-secret, intellectual property) -- how *exactly* would you change the current law so that folks would still create valuable ideas *equitably*. You lose the profit motive, and you lose a huge chunk of folks time that's dedicated to creating these ideas.

If I'm a musician, and I can't make money selling my music, then I'm delivering pizzas for a living and can't devote my time to writing music. If I'm an author, and can't make money selling my latest novel, then I'm forced into becoming an insurance agent so I can make the mortgage payment. If I'm a software developer, and can't make money developing my software, then I'm forced into standing at the door handing out fliers at the local Walmart. If I'm a screenwriter, and I can't make money selling my screenplays, then I'm forced to start digging ditches for a living to feed my kids. Folks absolutely depend on the income these things generate so that they can keep doing it. If they can't generate the income, then they're screwed into finding some other way to pay the bills.

I think it's very similar to what's happened to manufacturing in the U.S over the last several decades. Folks are constantly driving towards lower prices. We demand it. We change our shopping so that we can find the lowest prices. We'll go to (supposedly "evil") Walmart and other deep discount stores. We'll go online and search out the cheapest outlet to feed our consumerism. A business can't survive without customers and the customers demand a cheaper price. Always. Cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. Bigger, Better, Faster, NewAndImproved, but always cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. We, as consumers, have forced ourselves into a position where business has to find the cheapest way out. Manufacturing overseas. There go the jobs. The average joe says: I've got no money because I don't have a job, but dammit(!), I can buy the cheapest crap from WallyWorld!. Unintended consequences? Sure. I'm sure no one thinks about it. I'm as guilty as the rest. I actively seek out bargains and *usually* (all else being equal) will go with the cheapest option. It's the classic "race to the bottom". What can we do about it? I don't know, but you'd better have an answer because you're now extending the same principle from real, tangible, manufactured goods to intellectual property.

NOTE: I'm not arguing agianst manufacturing overseas, per se (and by extension, writing software overseas) -- I'm saying that we, as consumers, have forced ourselves into this pickle. We can't have it both ways. We can't have "true minimum pricing" *and* high paying jobs. It's just not sustainable for any significant percentage of the population. :END NOTE

You're just taking this one step further. You've taken "cheaper, cheaper, cheaper" to it's ultimate limit. You want it all *free*. Hell, you don't want to race to the bottom, you want to start out the race as the declared winner. At the bottom, true minimum pricing -- zero, nada, zilch, *free*! As with the unintended consequences in the manufacturing arena, there will be extreme unintended consequences if you follow that road to its logical conclusion. As with the manufacturing where business went where they can be profitable, the artist, the musician, the author, the software developer -- anyone who generates intellectual property for a living will be forced elsewhere. They'll be plumbers, and ditch-diggers, and burger flippers, and salesmen. Kiss your precious files and their swapping goodbye.
Sgt.Sausage
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
There's no question that the original poster is disagreeing with copyright.

The fact that infringing copyright is illegal is also not under question.

This thread appears full of violent agreement.

Currently, the US is in the position of the old English, threatening sovereign nations like China (soon to be a superpower) with dire threats if they do not adopt our IP rule of law. By the same token, the English tried forcing us to adopt their IP rule of law, which of course we rationally ignored until the moment we calculated it was in our national interest. It's interesting to watch this play out.
Tayssir John Gabbour Send private email
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
Why write a long winded essay on why it is ok to steal? If you are going to steal, then just do it; there is no sense in sugar coating it and talking about it all day long.
CIFChamp
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
 
"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from any body. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices."

http://nyet.org/
Thomas Jefferson, 1813
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
"If I'm a musician, and I can't make money selling my music, then I'm delivering pizzas for a living and can't devote my time to writing music."

Here we reach a fundamental problem: creation vs. reproduction (exploitation). They're mixed together in the copyright law, and I think they shouldn't be.

If you are a musician, and laws were changed so that physical representations can be copied at will, you will still be able to earn a lot of money by live performance. Even under current law this is more profitable for the authors -- you can be sure that Madonna makes much more money off her tours than record sales.

My opinion is that even if copying of physical forms is legal, it would generally benefit the overal creative "community". The idea that it *significantly* eats on the authors' income is a false pretense being enforced by the likes of RIAA, who are actually the only ones who loses money on it, because the only way they make money is to take from the authors providing no particular benefit to them. The probably did once, but with the modern technology this is no longer the case.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
Ok, so musicians can play live - what about authors? Why write a book if it's then OK for someone to scan it and post it online? That's no different to ripping a CD and putting the music online - you are stealing the authors work and preventing them from making money from it. Why are people who are presumably law abiding when it comes to stealing objects (cars/TVs - or even books/CDs from a shop) advocating theft of the contents of these objects?
Another Contractor....
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
"you will still be able to earn a lot of money by live performance. Even under current law this is more profitable for the authors -- you can be sure that Madonna makes much more money off her tours than record sales."

How much money do you make from live performance? Don't talk about stuff you know sod all about.
Live musician
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
"How much money do you make from live performance? Don't talk about stuff you know sod all about."

And how do you know what I know? I used to be a live performance manager and music producer; admittedly, that was nearly fifteen years ago.

And the answer is: it depends. What kind of music do you play? Do you play your own music or other people's? Do you perform solo or in a band/orchestra? Are you a small-town bar piano player or Luciano Pavarotti?
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
"Why are people who are presumably law abiding when it comes to stealing objects (cars/TVs - or even books/CDs from a shop) advocating theft of the contents of these objects?"

I'm not advocating the theft, I'm advocating the change of legislation. Not just decriminalization, but a deeper change in mindset about those things, to keep the pace with the advances in technology instead of trying to subdue that technology.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
No, you are advocating ripping people off. The book analogy posed by "Another Contractor...." made perfect sense to me, but somehow it did not even provoke a spark in your mind. Meanwhile, you are suggesting that we all should be pizza delivery boys/girls because anything that requires talent, skill, hard work and years of study will be freely taken by those who sit back and do nothing. What you are advocating is for mankind to become the greatest parasitic animal ever to grace this earth.  If you were to get your legislation passed, technology would come to a sharp halt due to a lack of willing participants to play host to your parasitic scheme.
CIFChamp
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
Just a note: I clearly stated the fact that while non-commercial copying must be perfectly legal and cannot be enforced, commercial copying (like selling in CD stores, broadcasting on commercial stations, etc.) is enforcable. Thus, if a musician releases a CD, then he can demand CD stores to give him royalties for each copy of the CD that they sell.

I am not opposed to copyrights, just to the fact that non-commercial copying (i.e: copying a song to a friend, or putting or downloading it from the Net) is against the law.
Shlomi Fish Send private email
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
And I repeat - why should an author bother writing/publishing if everyone like you can buy a copy of a book, scan it and give it to all their friends? That would be just as "non commercial" as your example. For that matter - why not just let everyone who has bought a copy of any software just give copies to all their friends? Why should anyone invest time and money in producing anything if it's going to be OK to give copies away to all your friends? It's people who insist that copyright on music is unfair that mean that record publishers put DRM on their CDs which means that I can't play the CD that I purchased on my computer!!!
Another Contractor....
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
Those seriously interested in the topic could read about the "free rider" problem (free markets have a hard time effectively delivering certain kinds of goods, despite clear demand), and Larry Lessig.
http://www.archive.org/details/LessigAtSwarthmore

Lessig points out the history of intellectual property, and explains how it's gone way beyond the Constitutional framers ever intended, to the extent that innovation is actively harmed. At the same time, there are even radical book publishers, like South End Press, who (apologetically, in every book) explain how they must rely on some form of copyright under the current economic system. Not the infinite copyright of today perhaps, but some modest form of it.

One issue is that we don't actually have a really free market. It's distorted by taxpayers who shoulder the costs and risks of real tech innovations, who are often angry that companies like IBM sell the fruits of their own investments right back to them. Even mighty MS Research must limit itself to more medium-term research, just as Bell Labs did when AT&T lost its legal monopoly. So tech certainly won't die if copyright were abolished, maybe it would be more innovative, but a free market can't magically provide it either. So we have a weird situation today.

I think Hahnel's ABCs introductory econ book gives a good overview of this topic.
http://www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=114534
Tayssir John Gabbour Send private email
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
"Why should anyone invest time and money in producing anything if it's going to be OK to give copies away to all your friends?"

It seems that a surprisingly large number of people have never heard about the free software phenomenon, given the amount of occurrences in asking this type of question.

Use this as a starting point to explore the wonderful universe of Free and Open Source Software:

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/

There is much much more than just this, of course.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
 
I have a music degree and have spent a long time scratching a living from this business. Not a very good one. I'm no genius, but I often work with musicians who are so much BETTER at what they do than plenty of mediocre lawyers, programmers and suchlike. And earn much less. I don't think the world owes me a living, but....

discussions such as this display one single attitude at the back of it all:

"we don't value you or what you do. we want to listen to your music and your performance, but we won't pay for it if we don't have to".

Thanks a bunch. You can dress it up HOWEVER you like. 'It's the RIAA/record companies who are the greedy rip off merchants, or musicians make more from live performances/records. CDs are too expensive, pop stars spend it all on cocaine' or whatever.

If you take the product - the song and the performance - without paying for it, that is theft. You are taking money out of the music industry and that affects EVERYBODY in that industry. As a matter of fact there is a VERY DIRECT relationship, because of the verious copyright acts and the organisations, like PRS/ASCAP that administer them, between sale of, for instance, CDs and artists income. They get a royalty.

If the artist wants to give you their work, take it. But if they want paying, pay them. If you don't then you are a thief. You are committing a crime, probably a legal one, and certainly a moral one. You are a bad person.

I just caught a little of Aretha Franklin singing at Rosa Parks funeral, and remembered that there is a great recording she did of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Went to Napster, paid 79p  - 50 cents? - for it. Is something that good really not worth what takes me a couple of minutes to earn?
Aretha fan
Thursday, November 03, 2005
 
 
"If the artist wants to give you their work, take it. But if they want paying, pay them. If you don't then you are a thief. You are committing a crime, probably a legal one, and certainly a moral one. You are a bad person."

And you are absolutely correct.

The problem is when we have two issues confronting each other; in this case, free use and advancement of technology at the expense of content creators.

I don't think we should blindly go for one or the other -- they're both valid and important, and we must find a way to make both thrive. This will take much bigger experts than I am, but it has to be done.

Free copying of content without legal permission is a bad concept; but taxing blank media because they can be used to copy protected content is bad just as well -- you don't have such taxes for photocopiers and even paper, which can also be used to cheaply copy protected content. The only reason the latter is legal and accepted in many countries is because publisher groups (like RIAA) have much more weight to throw than users of technology (the fact that what they do is illegal to start with doesn't help either).

In the end it comes down to industry heavyweights forcing their view to the general public just because they can -- the recent software patents vote in the EU parliament was also heavily lobbied by the SW giants. Ther problem is when this approach goes against a wider public interest -- like the continual extension of the copyright expiration period, sponsored by Disney.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Thursday, November 03, 2005
 
 
The point I wanted to make is: we should look at both sides of the issue, and try to find a way that benefits both.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Thursday, November 03, 2005
 
 
Yes, I did wonder if someone would throw open source s/w in my face...please explain to me how someone can pay the rent/mortgage/pizza bill if all they do is things for free? It's all very well saying that you are happy for people to copy your stuff for free if you don't need the money (hence the Creative Commons stuff), but if you don't have another job and you need this to pay the bills, then no-one has any rights to copy your work and distribute it for nothing. That is theft pure and simple.
Another Contractor....
Thursday, November 03, 2005
 
 
"Yes, I did wonder if someone would throw open source s/w in my face...please explain to me how someone can pay the rent/mortgage/pizza bill if all they do is things for free?"

I've just answered your question: There ARE people investing time and money and giving away their products for free. You should ask these people themselves for their deeper motivations and how they pay their bills. I for my part write software for a living,

"That is theft pure and simple."

thus we agree on this one, though I won't call it theft, since immaterial goods have other rules. But this is mainly nitpicking on the wording.

We are at a definitely turning point right now. Software producers (software==immaterials of all kind) become more and more criminal themselves: Starforce copy protection, Sony rootkit, to mention just two. They try to own the user's property, more and more without any scruples, actually even damaging his machine. Trusted computing is already lurking over the horizon, stealing just more of the user's control over his machine. They try to build a dictatorship of copyright and patents.

On the other hand, the price of data transfer rapidly falls down to zero, more and more bandwidth is available. Even the transfer of fullsized videos is no problem today. More and more material is available, ready for uncontrolled copying once it is a binary stream. The next generation of P2P networks is on the horizon, providing uncensored and uncontrolled data swapping, cryptographically secured and anonymous. External hard drives are already big enough to store the complete collection of videos and music, giving it to the friends all at once.

The problem is: A binary data stream is neutral. It can contain copyrighted music, it can contain free software, it can contain a text. Anyone who controls and suppresses the free flow of data to protect the copyright will sooner or later control and suppress free speech. Starforce, Sony: Do you need more evidence that they WILL try it when  they have the possibility?

We have to find a solution NOW, or it will all end in a big bang, leaving no winners.

Thursday, November 03, 2005
 
 
Another Contractor said:

<<<
And I repeat - why should an author bother writing/publishing if everyone like you can buy a copy of a book, scan it and give it to all their friends?
>>>

First of all, lots of people write stuff for the joy of creation and for wanting to show everyone what they came up with. (Me included). Earning some money from their works is a distant secondary motivator. People have been working on freely distributable content for quite some time now. Check:

1. Open Source Software - http://freshmeat.net/, http://www.fsf.org/, http://directory.fsf.org/, etc.

2. Creative Commons-licensed works - http://creativecommons.org/

3. Creations published on web-sites, blogs, etc.

And like I said commercial distribution can be restricted, so if someone wants to buy this book in a bookstore, you'll still receive royalties.

<<<
That would be just as "non commercial" as your example.
>>>

Right, and it's perfectly legitimate and sound this way. People can distribute a work non-commercially. But commercial distribution may be restricted.

<<<
Why should anyone invest time and money in producing anything if it's going to be OK to give copies away to all your friends?
>>>

People have been doing it all the time lately and not so lately. And some of them even allow commercial distribution of their work.
Shlomi Fish Send private email
Thursday, November 03, 2005
 
 
You didn't answer my question: how do you pay the bills if you can't make money from what you do? And why does the fact that *some people* are happy to do it for the love of creating books/music/software mean that those people who need to do it for money should be forced to do it for free so that you don't have to pay for the fruits of their labour. Or are you saying that no-one should be a full time author/musician/programmer - we should all work delivering pizzas so that we can pay the bills and give our work away?
Another Contractor....
Friday, November 04, 2005
 
 
"You didn't answer my question: how do you pay the bills if you can't make money from what you do?"

Okay, simple: Do another thing that actually earns money.

"And why does the fact that *some people* are happy to do it for the love of creating books/music/software mean that those people who need to do it for money should be forced to do it for free so that you don't have to pay for the fruits of their labour."

Who said this meaning and that they should be forced? Not me, I'm sure. Thus I can't answer THIS question.

"Or are you saying that no-one should be a full time author/musician/programmer - we should all work delivering pizzas so that we can pay the bills and give our work away?"

When you can't earn money with it any longer, you don't have a choice. We are now in the information age, a lot of things have changed, are still changing and will change further. Arrange yourself with the changes, or perish. That's life, sorry. Of course you can try to stop the changes, to preserve the old state, as the content industry is now trying. Just be aware that this may lead to stagnation, suffering and perish for the whole society.

Friday, November 04, 2005
 
 

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