Since When Is Sharing So Bad?

from the it-seems-like-a-good-thing dept

Jerry Leichter writes "We're all taught to share as kids, and sharing is a fundamental aspect of human societies. But sharing is also "anti-market" - at least as many sellers see it. I have something - a piece of music, a lawnmower - that you need. If I share with you, we both come out ahead - but if instead you buy one for yourself, the seller and manufacturer comes out ahead.

Need a Connection? Sorry, This Is MyFi is a sad tale of where our society has come to. In brief: The writer has a MiFi, a little box that connects to the cellular network and creates a small WiFi network that you can connect to. She was using here MiFi box at the San Francisco airport. Someone recognized it and asked if he could share here connection. She said "no".

Now, she was certainly under no obligation to share her connection. There are good reasons for saying "no". The connection isn't super-fast, and depending on what you and the sharer are doing, you might well notice a slowdown. There's a cap on monthly usage, beyond which you pay per byte, so if you tend to come near the limit (it's 5GB and unless you use the service to do things like download movies regularly it's hard to do) it could cost you.

Still, it would have been a *nice* thing to share - you'd think. Most (to be fair, not all) of the responses to the article are adamant that sharing is a bad idea. All the bad memes appear: "He could download child porn. He could share music. You could be blamed." The general feeling is that sharing your WiFi connection is like picking up a scary-looking hitch-hiker. I mean, what were you thinking?

Even worse, many people seem to believe *it's rude to ask*! That, I find astounding and deeply disturbing. Do we really want to live in a society where asking you to share something that may well cost you nothing to provide is *rude*?

There's plenty of work in behavioral economics that shows we classify transactions as either "social" or "economic". We apply different standards to each. The social realm is all about reciprocity and trust, while the economic realm is all about value and rules. Once things cross over into the economic realm - and a simple mention of money is often enough to cause a transition - it's extremely difficult to go back. (If you think this is all about some dreamy socialist communal life, consider what would happen on a date if - to be traditional - the guy made a point of how much the dinner cost, what he paid for the theatre tickets, etc. Think that evening would end well?)

Yes, network access is sold, not given away. Yes, someone does have to pay to build out the networks - so I have no problem paying my fair share - just as I pay for the sugar in my kitchen. But is it really wrong for my neighbor to knock on the door and ask to share some?"


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    RecycledBottle, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:21pm

    Shortsighted

    We are taught to share as children *those things that are ours* - our ball, our toys, our lunch snack. Movies, music, and software are not ours. It even says so on the packaging/licensing. When you are an adult you must read, be responsible, and learn to live by the rules and laws - and NOT to behave like children.

     

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  2.  
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    Kazi, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:27pm

    Some people have grandfathered unlimited 3G plans with a MiFi. I know I do.

    It's not rude to ask. It's rude to say no and not provide a reason. A reason is "I have a data limit".

     

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    dave in pheonix, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:28pm

    It isn't rude either way. Ask respectfully and accept the answer as given. Considering security and all other issues like that, it isn't very hard to say no.

     

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  4.  
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    Kazi, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:31pm

    RecycledBottle - When you fall from a cliff and I come down I won't share my phone with you. You should have bought a phone ahead of time so as to call 911 with it.

    On a side note, usually criminals abide by laws while mature adults abide by morals established in society.

     

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    Fiercedeity (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Shortsighted

    If I purchase a DVD, yeah I own it. I don't care what some packaging says, I OWN IT, and I should be able to reasonably do whatever I want with it. That includes sharing it with others.

    The fact that there should even be any question about that fact, especially among lawmakers, just shows how far down our society has plunged.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:41pm

    Re: Shortsighted

    What about music, movies and software that is in the Public Domain? Are those copies not *ours* to share?

     

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  7.  
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    Jerry in Detroit, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re: Shortsighted

    In the case of public domain or FOSS, none of these are commodities that I have paid for sole use or possession.

     

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  8.  
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    Danny (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:08pm

    Case law not yet established

    I find the "he could share child porn or download music" argument compelling.

    We do not yet have established law telling me whether or not I am responsible should someone use my wifi (with and without my permission) to do something illegal. Until I know where I stand legally, I have to protect myself.

     

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  9.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Shortsighted

    Umm I think you read the wrong post. This doesn't mention anything about movies, music or software...

     

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  10.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Re: Shortsighted

    Correction, it mentions music once, somewhat in passing.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    Re: Case law not yet established

    I suppose, but that does seem to approach the paranoia where suddenly every stranger is a pedophile or a serial killer. Downloading music is a more reasonable concern I suppose but it still seems unlikely.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:28pm

    It's rude to ask to take something that isn't legally theirs to share. Such is the ideology of techdirt that everything should be free and you have some god given right to leech on the system.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:29pm

    Download this song

    Sharing is a good thing.

     

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    Alan Shore, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:34pm

    Re: Case law not yet established

    Exactly. That's also why you should also always ask "Should I wear a condom" before fucking... So it's consentual in the eyes of the court.

    In case you couldn't tell, I'm mocking you. It's your type, sir, that's ruining America.

     

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    nelsoncruz (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:38pm

    Re: Shortsighted

    RecycledBottle, then I guess you turn your music off when you have visits, and never invite people to watch your DVDs with you... or even let anyone use your computer! You probably don't even share that stuff with your family! They didn't pay for the license, after all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:49pm

    Comments in the main article are weird. I don't see how it's rude to ask, and even if she has all the right not to share, I know I would have. Treating a person approaching to share maybe 10 minutes of wifi (this was an airport, wasn't it?) as a potential liability and speaking of the huge fees she has to pay (60$ a month) is kind of weird in my book. I share, and if I don't have something to share (i.e.: I'm not that fond of sharing my cup for hygiene reasons), I simply give out. And I think that's the only way to be. But that's just me...

     

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    TheStupidOne, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:50pm

    If I was on someone else's mifi

    I'd limit what I do to email and maybe reading news ... watching videos or playing music would just be rude unless the person specifically said that I could (even then I probably wouldn't)

    Sharing is a good thing and being very respectful while you are using something that isn't yours is a good thing.

    As a side note if the guy had any real malicious intent he probably could have hacked into her mifi and done whatever he wanted. The fact that he asked would indicate to me that he had honest intentions.

     

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  18.  
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    Kazi, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 6:21pm

    Re:

    Tell your kid to stop asking my kid to share my kid's crayons. It's rude. You kid uses up the primary colors too.

     

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  19.  
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    Michael Long, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 7:02pm

    Sharing is the wrong meme

    Sharing is the wrong meme in this case, as "sharing" in the tradional sense implies scarecity and a level of hardship.

    You have a car and I do not. If you loan me that car, then you do without while it's gone. I return your car, and now once again I'm without and need to take the bus. Same for your DVD.

    That's why it's considered polite and nice to share, as you've undergone at least some level of inconvenience on my behalf.

    File "sharing", however, is anything but. You're not sharing, but distributing someone else's work. There's no hardship, as you grin and slip me a copy and keep on consuming yours.

    From my perspective, the idea that someone feels entitled to rip off anything and everything they want, just because they want it, shows just how far down our society has plunged.

     

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  20.  
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    Phoenix, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 7:28pm

    Re:

    @Kazi - Another reason to say no is "I don't know you." That is more than enough.

     

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    Phoenix, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 7:32pm

    Re:

    @Kazi - Borrowing a phone for a 911 call is not at all the same as borrowing a data connection for unknown activities. If you don't understand that, you are challenged.

     

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    Phoenix, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 7:35pm

    Re: Re: Case law not yet established

    No, it's people like you who can't spell that are embarrassing America.

     

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    rjk (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 8:41pm

    "From my perspective, the idea that someone feels entitled to rip off anything and everything they want, just because they want it, shows just how far down our society has plunged."

    Really?

    It's interesting that a few people here are focusing on the sharing between music fans. But, ignoring the idea of sharing between artist and fan.

    The article makes the following comment (I think it's Mike, but everything is italics so it's unclear).
    "There's plenty of work in behavioral economics that shows we classify transactions as either "social" or "economic". We apply different standards to each. The social realm is all about reciprocity and trust, while the economic realm is all about value and rules."

    I think the key to understanding what's going on with file-sharing is understanding the above. Music fans are fans of music and the artists that create it. Music is culture, communication. It's a social interaction. Music fans don't view their relationship with artists as economic.

    During the 20th century, there was only one way to own the music you loved, thru the record labels. As such it was tolerated.

    However, now the reproduction and distribution of digital content is virtually $0.00. It's also possible to market and promote in many new ways more cheaply with a wider reach.

    When Lar starts complaining about people stealing Metallica's music he defined Metallica's relationship with its fans as economic. It's no surprise to me, that when a band as beloved by its fans as Metallica, perhaps unwittingly, defined the relationship as economic, that the fans react quickly and harshly.

    Music fans share because they love music, it's natural to share and they view their relationship with music and artists as social, not economic.

    It doesn't matter what law are enacted, what education is attempted, what pleading or bulling is tried. Music fans will never, ever accept a relationship with music and artists as economic, it just won't happen.

    That doesn't mean music fans won't support their favorite bands financially. They will, as long as they are treated fairly and the nature of their connection with music is respected.

    Music fans live in a world where it costs $1 for a low quality mp3 file or $13 for a $1 piece of plastic and the record industry insisting on an economic relationship between fans and artists. Society may be plunging but it isn't because of the music fans.

     

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  24.  
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    bob, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:00pm

    Sharing

    When I shared my bat ball and glove as a child I was not paying a rental fee for them.
    But if you wish to use my 3G connection as I have to pay for what I use over 5GB I sure as hell am going to say no.

     

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  25.  
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    Cheese McBeese, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:50pm

    Easy Answer

    Easy answer to this question... "Sure, you can share my connection for $5 - half the price of the commercial connection. What a deal! Oh, I also need to see your drivers license so I can track you down in case any agency wants to follow up on your activity. One more thing, please sign this EULA so I know we're clear on what is acceptable use of my connection."

    If anyone agrees to all this bullshit, they deserve to be allowed to share your connection.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 5:38am

    Sharing...

    Yes, when I was a child I shared by toys. I did not make a copy of my toys to give to someone else. When the sharing was over, I got my toys back.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 5:59am

    Re: Sharing is the wrong meme

    "some level of inconvenience on my behalf"

    Erm.... sharing does NOT automatically encompass "some level of inconvenience on my behalf". That's pure bs. If you're so constrained that you cannot imagine a scenario where you could share without experiencing inconvenience then that merely highlights your lack of imagination (or perhaps you're just the type of person who disappears when it's their round.)

    Oh and "sharing in the traditional sense"? What the hell is that exactly? Ancient greek Sharing? Neanderthal sharing? WTF are you on about?

     

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  28.  
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    chris (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Re: Re: Shortsighted

    Umm I think you read the wrong post. This doesn't mention anything about movies, music or software...

    the shills always take it back to movies, music and software, regardless of the actual content of the post.

     

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  29.  
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    chris (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Re: Re:

    @phoenix

    "sure, just be careful please, i am responsible for what happens on this connection." is also a good response.

     

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  30.  
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    Halfabubbleoff, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:10am

    I normally agree with 90% of this site.....

    however, I can't say that I do in this case.

    First, it is simple etiquette, you do not walk up to a stranger and ask to borrow their "property" or services in this case. That is just bad manners.

    Secondly, the security issue is valid. The person has no idea what their connection will be used for, or what kind of access the other individual will have (or attempt to gain) to their own PC.

    Now, this would all change, if the individual had already expressed a willingness to share the connection. It would not be rude to say, "Excuse me. I saw you offer to share your connection with that person. When they are done, do you mind if I connect as well? I have an important message I need to send [reservation to change, email to check, etc]." That would be an acceptable time and method in which to ask.

    Just because someone has a service that allows itself to be shared among others, does not mean they are obligated to.

    I will grant one obvious exception to this: In cases of emergencies, the normal rules of decorum can be loosened (of course).

     

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  31.  
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    chris (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:38am

    Re: Re: Shortsighted

    then I guess you turn your music off when you have visits, and never invite people to watch your DVDs with you... or even let anyone use your computer! You probably don't even share that stuff with your family!

    you're damn right he does!

    all this sharing talk sounds like socialism, which i think we can all agree is unamerican. i thank baby jesus every day that there are still good people like @recycledbottle out there protecting our way of life.

    i don't think anyone should just get something for free, not even my kids. i charge those little bastards rent and sell them food and clothing for a small profit. i could charge more, but they're children, and i don't do anything without thinking of the children first.

    i also charge them for all of those "life lessons" i teach them. i worked hard to gain all of that experience and i am not going to just give my intellectual property away for free just because you happen to be the fruit of my loins.

     

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  32.  
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    chris (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Re: Re: Case law not yet established

    I suppose, but that does seem to approach the paranoia where suddenly every stranger is a pedophile or a serial killer.

    don't you watch the news? there is a gay serial killing pedophile crack addict gangbanging terrorist hiding in the bushes right outside your house right now waiting patiently to rape, murder, and force you into gay marriage and abortion, all in the name of allah.

     

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    Kazi, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re:

    Actually it is. If you make a fake 911 call I'm responsible for it.

    Furthermore, I pay the taxes on the 911 connection. Why should be you be utilizing a service I've paid taxes for? You must be challenged. I paid for it then I use it. I'm responsible for the fake calls coming from that number, not you. If you're dying then MAYBE I'll let you make a call and monitor it. If you scream, though, I'm cutting you off.

     

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  34.  
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    Kazi, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    @chris

    And what I would say.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    Re: Sharing is the wrong meme

    I have a campfire and you do not. I am warm and you are cold. I share my fire and we are both warm.

    No hardship.

    Nice try though.

     

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  36.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Shortsighted

    Well played, Sir.

     

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    Kazi, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    Re: I normally agree with 90% of this site.....

    Yes, let's base rudeness, politeness and what's socially acceptable based on whether it's an emergency or not.

    If it's an emergency you have a right to use my phone (Well, you need to find batteries - I paid for these batteries and the batteries aren't covered by the same warranty as the phone is since they are an "accessory". Talk to any major cellular carrier regarding this.).
    If it isn't an emergency get away from me . You're being rude.

    Yes, let's set social standards that we expect others to follow. No talking on the train, it's rude. Most people just want to get home after a busy day of work. No socializing and if you do it's extremely rude. Why? Because you're being approached by someone at a time that is inconvenient to YOU and your just don't feel like using the time to be helpful.

    Where's society headed with such attitudes?

     

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  38.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:03am

    WWJD

    Jesus was all about file sharing. Think Loaves and Fishes.

    That's right ladies and germs, he only bought 3 fish and a loaf of bread, but he fed hundreds of people! What about the fish/bread vendor's bottom line!? Think about all the lost potential sales!!

    That's right, if you're against File Sharing, you're against Jesus. Take that, RIAA.

    If it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me. (Except for that absinence thing, thanks but no thanks J-dog.) :P

     

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    Kazi, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Shortsighted

    socialism ... meh ...

    Being a socialist or a capitalist doesn't make you share more. Sharing doesn't make you a socialist or a capitalist :|. It makes you a bit more humble though.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:22am

    Re: Sharing is the wrong meme

    If I lend you my lawnmower, sure, I didn't duplicate it, but I stopped you from buying your own. If I lend you my lawnmower every time you mow your lawn, then you never need to buy one.

    If I do the same for everyone on the block, then you've got a good 10-20 people that get all the benefits of a lawnmower at absolutely no cost to them.

    How is that any different than copying a CD for you, and all my friends?

     

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  41.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    I like the loaves and fishes example. As for asking strangers if you can use something of their's: It is not rude if it is done politely. The proper response is also a polite yes or no. An explanation is optional and is generally based on the level of connection, stranger vs. a friend. This is called etiquette and there are entire books of it available.

     

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    nasch (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:47am

    Re:

    On a side note, usually criminals abide by laws while mature adults abide by morals established in society.

    Criminals, by definition, break laws.

     

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  43.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Re:

    I read this blog all the time and this is one of the best comments on this topic I've seen. Nicely done.

     

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    nasch (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:59am

    Re: I normally agree with 90% of this site.....

    First, it is simple etiquette, you do not walk up to a stranger and ask to borrow their "property" or services in this case. That is just bad manners.

    I agree with Kazi, this is sad. I hope it's not considered bad manners to ask our fellow human beings for small favors. Personally I enjoy an opportunity to help others when it doesn't greatly inconvenience me, and I'm sure there any many others who agree.

    Really how often are you asked for help from a stranger when it's not either an emergency or something trivial? Come on, help out your fellow (wo)man.

     

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    Kazi, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    Re: Re:

    That's a definition. Intelligent criminals use the law to their advantageand manipulate it so that other abide by it.

    That's what I've noticed from personal experience anyway.

     

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  46.  
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    A-bom, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Re: Sharing is the wrong meme

    Your argument against sharing applies equally to the analogies you present. If I share my car, then the workers who created it are getting ripped off because my friend can now enjoy a car without having to purchase it himself. Same for the DVD, but to a larger degree because if the movie did not appeal to me I certainly would not rent/purchase it after borrowing it. Indeed, I likely would have never purchased or rented it before it was shared. Essentially, the only reason I saw it was my friend lending me a DVD.

    On a side note, is it proper to think of music, art etc as being consumed? At what point can a painting be considered consumed, after the first viewing? After the second? After the three hundredth? To me, such works should not be 'consumer goods' because the a single work can never be removed because another uses it, and does not depreciate over time. Software and other non-artistic IP does not fall into this category, because through use the program may develop security holes, be rendered obsolete by advances in the field, and generally become less viable (if left alone) as more customers use it. Artistic work, on the other hand, can never become less viable in this fashion and should not be lumped in with consumer goods. The mistake in copyright is not recognizing this.

     

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  47.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 9:35am

    Re: WWJD

    "That's right, if you're against File Sharing, you're against Jesus. Take that, RIAA."

    That's brilliant. It should be on a t-shirt.

    Loooooooots of t-shirts.

     

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  48.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: WWJD

    I'd wear it.

    I also would have shared my mifi connection, but I'm cool like that.

     

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    Bnesaladur (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Shortsighted

    LOLOLOL @ chris(comment#31)

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Sharing is the wrong meme

    Your lawnmower will wear out 10-20 times faster than it would have otherwise, meaning you will be buying more mowers than you otherwise would have.

    Just FYI: Commercial mowers often mow 10-20 customers per week, and in some climates they may get 2-3 years of service from a mower, after which they buy another.

    As for CD's and DVD's, the only thing you are out is the time it takes to gather the content, purchase the computer, format the CD's and DVD's, make the copies, and deliver them to all your friends. My immediate reaction: If you have that much time on your hands you should be out washing the car, mowing the yard, or trimming weeds.

     

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  51.  
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    mithrandir9x, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Shortsighted

    ROTFL! Oh, shit, I can't get up!

     

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  52.  
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    Fiercedeity (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re:

    It's exactly the same thing.

     

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    Ben Zayb, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Sharing is the wrong meme

    "You have a car and I do not. If you loan me that car, then you do without while it's gone. I return your car, and now once again I'm without and need to take the bus. Same for your DVD."

    Sharing your car can also be "carpooling". In that way, nobody gets to be without. It's really the car owner's (as in the guy how bought the car) choice on what "sharing his car" means.

    If the car is a Toyota, Toyota can't tell the guy what's sharing and what is not.

    "From my perspective, the idea that someone feels entitled to rip off anything and everything they want, just because they want it, shows just how far down our society has plunged."

    When somebody pays good money for something, they're entitled to do what they will with it. If I bought a DVD of UP, ripped it, and put the file in my shared folder; why should your perspective matter?

     

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

  54.  
    identicon
    Ben Zayb, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: Sharing is the wrong meme

    "Your argument against sharing applies equally to the analogies you present. If I share my car, then the workers who created it are getting ripped off because my friend can now enjoy a car without having to purchase it himself."

    GOOD ONE!!!

     

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

  55.  
    icon
    Fiercedeity (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Sharing...

    That's because you couldn't. Now if such a thing were possible, I guarantee you that you would be the first kid on the block with his own underground toy store.

     

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

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 3:17pm

    since when is sharing bad?

    AIDS

     

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

  57.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    Re: since when is sharing bad?

    Natural selection is good!

    Therefore, sharing is still good.

     

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

  58.  
    identicon
    jo, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 8:39pm

    is cracked software sharing?

     

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


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