Rewriting Copyright History, The Elitist Way: Compare File Sharers To 9/11 Terrorists

from the stunning dept

When we first debunked Hank Williams' problematic attack on Mike Arrington for suggesting, reasonably, that copyright law had reached the point that it needed a serious rethink, someone told me that Hank Williams is trying to become "the next Andrew Keen." Keen, of course, wrote a book last year about how the internet is somehow destroying culture, with the basic thesis being that "culture" is defined only as professionally produced content. Effectively, his argument was that non-professionally produced content simply can't be good, so by competing with professionally produced content, all that amateur content was somehow damaging professional content. The logical errors in this thesis are pretty easy to spot, but we'll just mention the obvious one: if professional content is so much better than amateur content, what does it have to fear from amateur content? In fact, Keen's whole thesis is so ridiculous, and the book praising the reliability and accuracy of "professional" media is so riddled with errors, distorted truths and outright falsehoods, that some have suggested (credibly) that Keen is merely satire. Everything that Keen claims is bad about amateur media, he does -- repeatedly.

Either way, it appears that he's a bit jealous of Hank Williams taking up his role in these debates, as he's finally chimed in on Arrington's original piece, just a few weeks late. Keen's take is so filled with errors that it definitely seems to support the "satire" theory -- and for now we're going to go with that theory, and assume it's the case. But, for a few howlers in the piece, try these on for size:
"Arrington's stance, of course, epitomizes the permissive attitude about intellectual property that has already destroyed the music business and is now threatening to kill the holy trinity that includes Hollywood, the television industry, and the book trade."
This would be the music industry that is seeing every single aspect of its business on the upswing (other than the sale of plastic discs)? This would be Hollywood that had its best year ever in 2007? Ah, right. Destroyed, huh? This is "professional" content at work.
In 1999, when Napster first assaulted the recorded music industry with its peer-to-peer technology, we heard similarly open-minded nonsense from Web 1.0 moguls like MP3.com founder Michael Robertson and Public Enemy's Chuck D. Almost 10 years later, the catastrophic consequences of Napster's mass piracy are all too tragically evident. In 1997, global recorded music sales were $45 billion. By next year, it is estimated that they will have fallen to around $23 billion -- an almost 50 percent drop in sales in a little more than a single decade.
This is classic Keen. Total misdirection in how you define the market and selective quoting of facts. You see, markets for obsolete products shrink, but the overall market is not shrinking. It's like the analyst reports that whined about the market for "PDAs" shrinking just as smartphones were taking over. Did we say that smartphones destroyed the market for PDAs or did we just recognize that the market evolved? Keen leaves out the fact that concert revenue is at record highs. He leaves out the fact that more people today are making music than ever before in history, and more people are able to listen to more music than ever before in history. By any real measure, it would appear the music industry is thriving, even if the obsolete part (selling recordings) is fading.

And, then, there's Keen's coup de grace, comparing those who want to listen to music to the 9/11 terrorists in a sentence riddled with errors:
"The truth, of course, is that the theft of digital content is no more "natural" than holding up little old ladies on street-corners or crashing civilian airliners into tall buildings. And it's the responsibility of thought-leaders like Arrington to use their privileged positions to educate the innocent about the evils of digital thievery."
  • Error 1: Calling infringement "theft."
  • Error 2: Saying that it's irresponsible for someone who notices that the majority of the population is breaking a law to suggest that perhaps it's time to rethink that law.
  • Error 3: Suggesting actions done by the majority of the population is the equivalent of the 9/11 hijackers.
  • Error 4: Saying that any "thought-leader" has a "responsibility" to take a particular stand
  • Error 5: Saying that infringement is a problem of "innocents" run wild.
  • Error 6: Putting a moral angle ("evil") on an issue that is merely one of business models
So many errors in just such a short quote. You'd never see that from a professional writer... oh wait.

We'll finish it off one more howler:
By stating his opposition to criminalizing "natural behavior," Arrington is not only legitimizing online theft, but he is also undermining the credibility of entertainment companies, such as Hulu or Blinkbox that have invested major resources into building entirely legal Web businesses. Defending YouTube's flagrant disregard for intellectual property laws is tantamount to justifying criminal behavior....
Ah, you see, in Keen's satirical world, companies like Hulu and Blinkbox that offer up professionally produced content deserve to have their business models protected by the government and criminal laws. But those that support amateur content are criminal enterprises. The fact that Keen seems unable to grasp the difference between a service provider and a user in terms of criminal liability is the least of the problems here. The fact that Keen seems unable to grasp the fact that these are merely different business models for distributing content -- and the one he dislikes is winning in the market -- suggests an unwillingness to actually understand what's happening here.

What it comes down to is that folks like Keen and Williams have decided that there's a certain class of content that "counts," and that's "professional" content. All other content is a problem -- especially if it interferes with an obsolete business model. Basically, they've decided that they like one particular (poor and increasingly obsolete) business model for a particular group of companies, and decided that interference with that business model must be a crime -- even if the end result is exactly the opposite of what they predict (i.e., there's more content being produced today than ever before -- it's just that it's happening using a very different model than the one they like). Luckily, we live in a world where business models adapt and change, and the companies and pundits unwilling to do so will simply fade away.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    avitarx, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 9:46am

    not natural?

    I find the "not natural" to infringe copyright argument silly.

    "The truth, of course, is that the theft of digital content is no more "natural" than holding up little old ladies on street-corners or crashing civilian airliners into tall buildings."

    Anybody who has heard a good song will naturally hum it. Or quote lines from a funny scene in a movie. Breaking copyright is an incredibly natural thing to do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    MLS, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:17am

    Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    None of these commentators are dead set against file sharing. What they are concerned about is file sharing of content by a content creator without the creator's permission. If a person chooses to create original content and upload it to the internet for free distribution to all, they have no objection. After all, a creator of original content is free to do whatever the creator deems appropriate.

    While you may consider them to be somewhat like dinasours (sp?) because of their views, your's are based on economics and theirs are based on the responsibility of each person to do the "right thing"...and that is not ignore the rule of law simply because they may not like it. The proper response is to advocate changing the law using the many legal means at hand to do so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    None of these commentators are dead set against file sharing.

    Um. Comparing file sharing to 9/11 hijackers would suggest otherwise.

    What they are concerned about is file sharing of content by a content creator without the creator's permission.

    Actually, that's not what they said. They were ridiculing people who said copyright law needs to be changed.

    If a person chooses to create original content and upload it to the internet for free distribution to all, they have no objection.

    Have you read Keen's book? He's got objections to a LOT more than that.

    While you may consider them to be somewhat like dinasours (sp?) because of their views, your's are based on economics and theirs are based on the responsibility of each person to do the "right thing"...and that is not ignore the rule of law simply because they may not like it.

    Um. Did you read what they wrote? That's not what they wrote.

    The proper response is to advocate changing the law using the many legal means at hand to do so.

    Okay. Clearly you did not read what they wrote. Both of them ridiculed people who say copyright law should be changed.

    MLS, you do this a lot: where you respond to what you want people to have said, rather than what they actually said.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:39am

    Dinosaurs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    You find convient facts to support your ideas, Mike. I thought the music industry was going in the crappier. But wait now it is on an upswing. Neat.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    formerly anonymous coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:55am

    re: re: re: ...

    Music industry is in an upswing. Recording industry is failing (not much money to be made on making copies) Just to clarify.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    try reading, it would help. the recording industry is in the crapper, but recording industry is a small portion of the music industry which is doing quite well

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    ehrichweiss, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:07am

    how droll

    What a completely disgusting fuck!! I'm quite sure that if we were to send this guy's statement out to a lot of people in NYC who lost loved ones to the REAL 9/11, this ass clown would find that copyright infringement is nothing like terrorism, from people who experienced it for themselves.

    Is it too much to hope for that this sick fuck gets his family wiped out by an IED or a car bomb? He absolutely needs a wakeup call.

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    You find convient facts to support your ideas, Mike. I thought the music industry was going in the crappier. But wait now it is on an upswing. Neat.

    Huh? I've always said that it's the recording industry that's had trouble, *not* the music industry, which is doing great.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Abdul Koroma, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:31am

    Keen's take on copyright??

    I came across this article of Keen in which he is basically suggesting that to even 'rethink' copyright laws will be ahuge mistake: Why 'Rethinking' Copyright Law is a huge mistakE (
    http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=556&doc_id=155800&F_src=flftwo)

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:37am

    "The overall sales decline came despite a threefold increase in digital music revenue, while illegal file-sharing volumes changed little, according to a separate IFPI market report published on Thursday."

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4639066.stm

    Also - in other current news - Buggy and Whip sales are down again - while Auto sales rise!!

    What about phones with cords? I bet their sales are down

    VHS players - I bet their sales are down.

    Might wonder if 8-Track Sales are down too.

    I bet coal sales are down too, with the advent of Natural Gas and Electrical furnaces.

    I bet Parachute Pants sales are down too.

    I agree:
    Really? What an analysis. Like no shit moron. Obsolete technology sales typically decline.

    Anyone want to debate in what ways a CD is better than a thumb drive? Shall we?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    MLS, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    "Um. Comparing file sharing to 9/11 hijackers would suggest otherwise.

    Hyperbole, just like you are prone to do.

    "Actually, that's not what they said. They were ridiculing people who said copyright law needs to be changed."

    I wonder if you approach is cherry picking, or one where you try and get the general gist of an article? Clearly they were addressing the general notion advanced by Arrington (who, BTW, praticed mergers and acquisitions...nothing to do with IP law in the slightest) that it is only natural for people to "cheat", so why keep worrying about "cheating" and simply go with the flow.

    "Both of them ridiculed people who say copyright law should be changed."

    Outside of a few media conglomerates and their in-house attorneys, I have met not one businessperson or IP lawyer who thinks the current copyright law is just fine. These two commentators are no different. What they are concerned with is those who continually raise the clarion call that the copyright law in general (including what was originally enacted in 1790) is "bad" and a world without copyright law is "good".

    Every commentator, you included, say things that can be picked apart. You and they are writing commentaries, and not articles meant for peer reviewed publication in professional journals. Just as I try to read between the lines concerning your articles, I try and do the same with those of others. I only wish others would try and do the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:45am

    LMFAO!

    How did file sharing reduce the global record sales from 45 billion to 25 billion? Couldn't it be the fact that a lot of the music just sucks? I haven't heard much new music that was worth my money let alone the effort to try and steal it.

    One thing I've always been curious about....when we buy a CD we're not actually buying the music. We're only buying the right to listen to that music anytime we want. So even if I lose my CD do I still retain the rights to listen to those songs?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    B, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    This guy cracks me up every time. He's a gem... like those random Bush apologists who used to show up on Digg.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    patrick, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 12:33pm

    RE

    Speaking Andrew Keen, Revision3's Pop Siren interviewed him in episode 14. It's about half way through the show.
    If it's satire he is very good at keeping a straight face.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    *Psst* this guy's giving out free videos...


    http://mashable.com/2008/05/22/social-media-marketing-primer/

    http://www.willitblend.com/

    Just one example of advertising genius and innovation that turned mega-profits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Ben, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    The way I see it

    Just like it has been notoriously difficult to copyright (and enforce) the infringement of recipes, which only requires a pen and a 3x5 index card, trying to prevent people from copying something that is INHERENTLY copyable (i.e. digital media, or any digital data, for that matter) is an exercise in futility. I do agree that copying a recipe and SELLING it as your own is wrong, such as in the case of a chef or cook. But to copy it and store it in your home? Saying it is illegal is just a waste of breath. Think about it, the song is just an arrangement of ones and zeros, so all we're doing is replicating those ones and zeros on our computer. If you turn around and sell it, then I can see there being an issue. But get off, I just want to listen to N'Sync without having to dish out $20. :) And you have to admit that content on the radio is freely available, which encourages people to subscribe to the mentality that music shouldn't cost them anything. Plus it gives me new ideas on what music I should pirate. So now we should shut down the radio! Ban all the airwaves, it's encouraging people to download music illegally. And of course, we should get rid of all USB chords, because it facilitates infringement. And MP3 players should be outlawed too, because you should be using your CD, not copying it. Duh. Like, OMG.

    The truth is, just like any other thing, if they don't figure out a new way to present their product, it's going to decline in sales. This has been the way, like it has been said above, of the 8-track, the beta, VCR, tape player, and now even DVD is being phased out for Blu-Ray, which is also killing HD-DVD. Something better has come along.

    So get over it, and start selling music online for cheap (oh wait... they already do that). The record industry needs to die anyway, it encourages promiscuous sex and bulemia among teenage girls. Of course, maybe I shouldn't be complaining. I like skinny 14 year olds. Mmmmm.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    asdf, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    Re: LMFAO!

    no.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    DS78, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Wait what?

    What am I supposed to do with this Napster machine then....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: LMFAO!

    Still confused....I'm allowed to copy the CD so if I lose the original I can still listen to the music. How is it any different if I get the songs from someone else's back up?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 1:58pm

    MLS is the new angry dude but with class. He's like a less frustratingly stupid dorpus because he is so polite about it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    dorpass, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    MLS, you continue to introduce arguments that were not presented by the two gentlemen in an effort to obscure what they were actually saying. When you say "Outside of a few media..." you are quite right, but it has NOTHING to do with what these two are saying. You are not only cherry picking, you are doing it from the wrong orchard too. So far your comments show that you barely read the article and just went back to your usual Mike-bashing.
    And you might want to learn about proper uses of hyperbole while actually reading an article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Balthazar, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    As always, you're reading what you wish was said, not what was said. Perhaps you should stop "reading between the lines" and actually read the lines.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    mike allen, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    Abother Riaa etc clone here let me state now that copyright law wants taking back about 100 years then it might be nearer what it should be. As too comparing the file sharers with 9/11 terrorists as someone said try saying that to the face of a new yorker a another comment said.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Jed, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 3:30pm

    Majority?

    Error 2: Saying that it's irresponsible for someone who notices that the majority of the population is breaking a law to suggest that perhaps it's time to rethink that law.

    Error 3: Suggesting actions done by the majority of the population is the equivalent of the 9/11 hijackers.
    Majority of what? Certainly not US citizens or the earth...

    On another note I dislike it when people state that sharing music is "against the law" or "infringement". To my knowledge there are no US laws that directly apply to this matter. And while some courts have said it is illegal, haven't many said it's not? So why do we call it "unlawful" when it's really just questionable?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    cvpunk, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    speaking of Dinosaurs.. I think people like MLS and these idiots who back this sort of business model should check out "Dinosaurs Will Die" by NOFX.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    cvpunk, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Re:

    NOFX is on a independent label btw (Fat Wreck Chords). Owned by their vox/bassist Fat Mike.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Wayne, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 4:34pm

    Remember the good old days

    I remember when we could record music from the radio - not stealing!!!. Or when you bought software or a game for your computer the first thing they told you to do was make backups in case you wreck the Diskettes. We taped our TV shows for later, shared our books, Cd, and Videos and no one said anything - Again not stealing. So the what's changed?

    My Answer "GREED"

    So we're all doing the same thing we were 20 years ago but now we're all thieves. Hmmm i wonder why that is oh i know greed.

    Ya not really about the article but i had to throw my 2cents in

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    lolling, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 5:32pm

    stop embarrassing yourself

    You haven't debunked anything and IT IS YOU that is attempting to rewrite the history of copyright.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Lucretious, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: LMFAO!

    Still confused....I'm allowed to copy the CD so if I lose the original I can still listen to the music. How is it any different if I get the songs from someone else's back up?

    shhhhh....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 8:54pm

    "There is no greater mistake than the hasty conclusion that opinions are worthless because they are badly argued."

    Words to live by...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 9:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    MLS Said:

    >Outside of a few media conglomerates and their in-house attorneys, I have met not one businessperson or IP lawyer who thinks the current copyright law is just fine.

    Interesting MLS. I continually wonder what an attorney does trolling here for several months straight. So when you meet with these in-house lawyers, do you tell them to visit TechDirt and read "MLS" posts? Are you using this venue as a marketing tool for your firm?

    If so, that's a great idea, and other firms should start blogging here too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    MLS, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 9:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    "Are you using this venue as a marketing tool for your firm?"

    No. Have other ways to do that. My sole interest is merely to try and disabuse some who may use to site of the notion that the patent, copyright, trademark, and unfair competition laws are nowhere near the "draconian dragons" presented here in so many of the articles criticizing the law. Are they perfect? No, and particularly the trend exhibited as of late by the increasing expansion of copyright law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Jun 13th, 2008 @ 3:37am

    Re: Re:

    But dinosaurs lasted millions of years!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    mkam, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 4:55am

    Re: Keen's take on copyright??

    Abdul, did you find that article from the above post which Mike wrote. Oh, now I see. Little redirect with some additional sponsor on it. I love the Internet and trying to make a few extra pennies where you can. I might even click on your link.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Ron Soldwish, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 5:55am

    getting ripped off

    Anyone ever stop to think that the music world has ripped us off for years??? Putting out "Pop" stars, with bubble gum ideas, and no real meaning? I think the real venue for music is in live concerts, not rerecorded over and over again till it sounds perfect (Briney Spears/Lindsey Lohan)
    and heres the funny thing.
    Awhile back my friend told me he like Korn, so i obatined there music via the Internet. I fell in love with them, then I went to a concert. I took my girlfrind bought 2 $65 tickets, 8 $8 beers, 1 $15 T-shirt, $10 for parking, $4 poster Thats ruffly $223 bucks i spent insted of $15 for a cd id prob loose in a few years.
    Why dont Music stars tour for 200 days a year rather than release a digitly remixed fake album, because everyone is trying to get rich quick and lazy!!!!

    PS Metalica sucks

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Sam B, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 6:54am

    Re: Wayne

    I remember when we could record music from the radio - not stealing!

    Actually, the record companies claimed that was illegal as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Taping_Is_Killing_Music

    Anyway, great post, but when someone flagrantly abuses Godwin's Law, Giuliani's Corrolary - "Anyone who uses 9/11 as a justification for or comparison to anything automatically loses the argument" - you shouldn't bother debunking them. Just surround them in a circle, and point and laugh at them until they burst into tears and run off home.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 10:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    "Um. Comparing file sharing to 9/11 hijackers would suggest otherwise." Hyperbole, just like you are prone to do.
    wohaky. i'll bite. so, given the origional quote:
    "The truth, of course, is that the theft of digital content is no more "natural" than holding up little old ladies on street-corners or crashing civilian airliners into tall buildings."
    and your pretty straightforward assertion that this is either

    • not offensive
    • not an unreasonable comparision of filesharing/copyright infringement to the 9/11 terrorist attacks
    you would find the statement the profession and practices of lawyers is no more natural than murdering and raping innocents compleatly unoffensive, correct?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    MLS, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Your article is unfair and ridicules people who disagree with your views

    "not offensive
    not an unreasonable comparision of filesharing/copyright infringement to the 9/11 terrorist attacks"

    I expressed no view regarding the above. Moreover, it is irrelevant to the issue at hand...copyright law in general.

    Re the commentaries noted in the posted article, I think #31 sums things up quite nicely:

    "There is no greater mistake than the hasty conclusion that opinions are worthless because they are badly argued."

    Try and place visceral reactions to some of the words and phrases aside (they are over the top and not necessary to make the point), and instead try to glean the message underlying the two commentaries. Clearly the commentators are not copyright apologists who advocate that the law is just fine as is, or even that it should be strengthened. It is clear, however, that they have strong opinions (as they are entitled) concerning the repeal of copyright law as suggested by so many in the anti-copyright and open-source camps.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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