The Moral Argument In Favor Of File Sharing?

from the is-it-wrong? dept

I've discussed in the past the question of whether or not there's even a moral question to consider when it comes to copyright, if you can first show a situation where everyone is better off (i.e., if the end result of content being shared, willingly, is better for both the content creators and consumers, why should morals even be a question?). Separately, I have made clear that I do not engage in any sort of unauthorized file sharing -- noting that it is illegal and, I personally believe, wrong. Some people have pushed back on that latter point, suggesting that my labeling it as "wrong" is, in fact, a moral statement as well. A couple months ago (yes, I'm slow, but I'm catching up on some old "saved" submissions), SteelWolf sent over some thoughts on why file sharing is not wrong, and why there's actually a moral argument in favor of sharing:
It is through sharing that we develop a culture and advance humanity. Creative works like art and music are, at their core, about sharing with others. They tell stories, reveal personalities, or comment on the world in ways that others can appreciate, forming a part of our culture as they are spread around. Gregor Mendel's discoveries about genetics had no value while they were gathering dust on the monastery bookshelf; it is only when those discoveries were shared with the world that they became vital.

Infinite Goods Should Be Shared

Say you have something that is good for others, and it is infinite, so you will not lose any of it by giving some away. I don't think it's a stretch to say that most people's idea of morality would dictate that they should share that thing. In general, information is something that can be seen as a public good. If somebody has a discovery or an idea, it costs nothing to give it away, it is not scarce, yet it can potentially benefit the world.
On this, I absolutely agree -- but it is much more the argument for why the content creators themselves should share their content first. And that's where things get tricky. I do think it makes sense to share content. I think that content creators would find themselves better off if they share their works (and do so strategically, in combination with a business plan that takes advantage of it). But what if the original creator doesn't want the content shared? Then what?

SteelWolf argues that there's a moral imperative to share, but again, this seems to apply more to the content creator, than those downstream:
Faced with an infinity of good things in the form of content information, why would somebody chose not to give it away? What is gained by hoarding something that can help others and costs nothing to share? Let's say you figure out that you can protect people from a deadly virus, say, influenza, with a vaccine. While it costs something to manufacture physical vaccines and mail them to everybody in the world, sharing the information behind it is free. Others can chose whether or not they want to invest money in creating their own, but sharing has given them the option to do so where before it did not exist. Faced with this situation, who would chose to let thousands of people perish by denying them even the potential opportunity to save themselves?

Yet this is exactly the choice many people are making in the name of "intellectual property." They would rather see others suffer than share something infinite with them, desperately clinging to business models that depend on scarcity. In the 21st century, ideas, information, digitized content are all infinitely available. For these things, the Star Trek replicator has been made, and it's time to use that as a stepping stone to greater things.

Faced with an infinite supply of information that can potentially benefit billions of people, I chose to share. Those who try to hoard this information are both attempting to drink the ocean and doing wrong.
While I think this is interesting, and at times compelling, in the end I'm still not convinced there's a moral component here, except potentially for the creator/innovator. But, at the same time, I still believe that we're better off taking the moral discussion out of it. Perhaps a moral argument like the one above is helpful to convince some, but it leads right back to the economic discussion, where some will ask why anyone would bother in the first place, if they're just told they need to give it away for moral reasons.

Instead, I'm more convinced by economic arguments that show greater opportunity in sharing infinite goods, in that it decreases the cost of creation, promotion and distribution, while making it easier reach a larger audience for selling scarce products. Again, if you can make the economic argument, and then throw in the moral benefits of spreading information on top of it, that makes sense. But a purely moral argument still falls a bit short for me. Still, I'm sure it will lead to an interesting discussion here.


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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:00pm

    Remember

    The Public Domain is the *default*. Copyright is the government-granted imposition upon that. It's not up to us to come up with a compelling argument for it, it's up to those who have fenced off the public's rights to come up with good reasons--reasons that benefit the *public* good, and not a small group of rightsholders.

    So, what reasons do you have for your "it's wrong" stance? (And no, the current law is a fact, not an argument.)

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:08pm

      Re: Remember

      Now people will try to argue that it's like physical property and so people should have a right to intellectual property just like physical property.

      But remember, the argument for physical property laws is that everyone is better off with them than without. Any law should be for the betterment of society, neither physical property NOR intellectual property laws are exempt from this requirement.

       

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        aphrael (profile), Nov 8th, 2009 @ 2:41pm

        Re: Re: Remember

        I just finished reading Lessig's 'Free Culture'. Even though the book is from 2004 and a lot has happened since, he does show compelling evidence that Big Content is basically working on *eliminating* the public domain, since copyright keeps on being extended and therefor the amount of work that falls into the public domain is small.
        Since the amount of work that need copyright for life+70yrs is about 2 percent (only 6% of books get reprinted after 1 YEAR, let alone 70), it's not hard to see how scary the prospects for the public domain are. I'm all for the rights of artists to benefit for creations, but there's a lot of stuff out there that creators or rightsholders somehow can't figure out how to profit from and so they let it sit on a shelf somewhere. IMHO this content should be in the public domain, where we could profit from it culturally if it was widely available.

        Last year a well-known research institute in the Netherlands actually proved that file sharing, although slightly harmful for the labels and studios (probably in respect to commercially viable content), had huge cultural benefits and was good for society as a whole.

         

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    Ben (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:18pm

    My problem in all this

    Is that I'm an armchair fan. I'm slowly developing an appreciation for music outside the normal pop channels, but I can't regularly get to concerts to support artists in a manner that doesn't involve buying their CD (either electronically or physically).

    Artists can only perform a certain number of concerts/shows per year before they succumb to physical exhaustian (I would assume), so this places a limit on their revenue generating capability from those channels (assuming merchanising sales are proportional to public performances).

    In a world without the RIAA, their revenue - thanks to selling electronic downloads or even those archaic pieces of plastic - is limited not be how many shows they can fill, but by how many people worldwide wish to obtain a copy of their music. You can kind of see why a lot of people cling to this metric.

     

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      ChadBroChill (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 12:27am

      Re: My problem in all this

      But the price of a concert ticket is not fixed, it is potentially infinite depending on the demand to see the artist. It is theoretically possible to make and infinite amount of money from only playing one show, as long as the demand for that one show is insanely high. Using this model, it is easy to see how 'good' artists (ones who create a high demand) could be rewarded more than 'bad' artists (ne who do not create a high demand).

       

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      hegemon13, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 7:48am

      Re: My problem in all this

      "...this places a limit on their revenue generating capability from those channels..."

      What, you mean just like anyone else who works for a living? Yes, there is always a limit when trading hours for dollars.

      On the other hand, concerts are just one channel. There have been MANY other money-making channels listed here on Techdirt that do not rely on the sale of infinite goods.

       

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    Peter Rock, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:18pm

    Don't publish

    "But what if the original creator doesn't want the content shared? Then what?"

    Mike, then they shouldn't publish it in the first place.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:36pm

      Re: Don't publish

      But creators are a greedy lot. They'd write a story about ratting their grandmother out if they could make any money on it. Always making things up for money.

      Some of them charge by the word! Greedy, is what they are.

      Judas created something too. For only thirty pieces of silver he created a martyr.

      Some say God is the greediest creator of them all.

       

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        wow, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:52pm

        Re: Re: Don't publish

        "creators are a greedy lot"

        Huh - I thought the greedy ones were the middlemen, you know - the **AA mob.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 11:03am

          Re: Re: Re: Don't publish

          Oh that's right, my mistake. Most creators that I know don't actually have any money but they sure are happy, making stuff up.

          I would be willing to bet they would keep doing so even if there weren't any financial incentives.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 10:55am

      Re: Don't publish

      Of course, you're absolutely right... if they don't want anybody to copy it, then they shouldn't publish it at all... but then who is worse off? Really? The publisher doesn't lose anything because they never invested any additional effort or time into publishing the work in the first place... but the general public *WILL* lose something... because the desire by the general public to experience new content will not spontaneously disappear, that desire will be left largely unfulfilled. If the quantity of tripe that is freely shareable now could satisfy that need, then nobody would be infringing on copyright in the first place... people would instead just copy the free stuff.

      I do not understand the mentality of people who think that the quantity of quality material available on the internet would somehow just magically increase if copyright were done away with.

       

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        Rabbit80 (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 1:04pm

        Re: Re: Don't publish

        You seem to be under the illusion that the tripe the *AAs' are distributing is "quality" material.. This of course can be easily disproven! (Britney Spears, etc)

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 4:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: Don't publish

          I don't deny that there is a large volume of tripe that is protected by copyright and the corporations don't want people sharing either... but truthfully, if freely available stuff is so much better, why are so many people illegally sharing stuff that is copyrighted and not supposed to be freely shared rather than sharing the stuff that people *WANT* to be freely shared?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 8:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Don't publish

            But free content is being shared. So is paid content. They're both being shared.

            It's what people do! They share!

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

        Re: Re: Don't publish

        "I do not understand the mentality of people who think that the quantity of quality material available on the internet would somehow just magically DEcrease if copyright were done away with."

        There, I fixed it for you! Two-letter change was capitalized in case you missed it.

        More seriously, the burden of proof is always on those seeking unequal government protection under the law. Any form of monopoly such as Copyright or Patent constitutes unequal government protection. Thus the burden of proof is on those who seek such protection, to prove that values like innovation or creativity would DEcrease without such protections. Nobody has ever proven such a decrease would occur. Most studies show the opposite, that valuable output and availability would both INcrease and diversify without such protections complicating the interactions.

        People seem to forget that the natural/non-government alternative to public domain status isn't monopoly, it's secrecy. What value is there in keeping a creative work secret? What use are secret innovations, that are no longer secret the moment you start selling them? The truth is that there is no incentive, moral or economic, in keeping secrets. Especially in the modern economy, which is increasingly driven by reputation, exposing your knowledge and creative value to the public will always be more valuable than hiding it away where only you know about it.

        Don't start denying the reputation economy now. What else are "brands" except economic value in reputation? How would charities or political groups get ANY income without their reputation for serving well-known goals? How do you trust any information without the reputation of the authors? To concentrate on scarcity alone is to completely miss the basis of most modern economic interactions. The reputation market validates trademark and attribution rights, which are ethical because they also serve consumer protection aims.

        Monopolies serve and protect nothing but power lust and greed.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 2:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: Don't publish

          Along with a reputation econmony it's also important to remember that we have an attention economy as well.

          If consumers are going to "spend" their attention on free content created by other consumers (youtube) rather than priced content created by other corporations then you end up with a situation that appears to be harming the corporations.

          The consumers are fine though.

          I can see why content creators favor kicking people off of the internet.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:27pm

    Any media going over public airwaves should be not subject to intellectual property. The FCC regulates public airwaves and grants monopolies on them. Basically the government is subsidizing the owners of public airwaves with monopolies. No one owes these people a monopoly over public airwaves, they're PUBLIC airwaves and should be for the benefit of the public. If the government is going to give a monopoly over public/government airwaves ANYTHING on those airwaves should not be subject to intellectual property. Period. It should be free for everyone. If an entity doesn't like it I'm sure there are PLENTY of entities that would love to host a T.V. or radio station and offer their content for free. Many many independent artists who release their music under creative commons licenses would be more than glad to have their music broadcasted.

    The same should be true with cable infrastructure. If the government is to grant a monopoly on who can build new infrastructure or who can use the existing infrastructure then, as far as I can tell, it's government infrastructure. It doesn't belong to the free market and so the government/PUBLIC should ensure that ALL media on that infrastructure is public domain. Period. Otherwise, open up the infrastructure to competition and those who want their content to be subject to intellectual property should compete with those who release their content under some creative commons licenses. Then I can choose a cable company out of anyone who wants to compete in my area and some cable companies can offer some youtube channels as well, channels from individuals who offer their content and independent movies for free and I can record and share them all I want. Those who want intellectual property on their content should have to compete. But if they want a monopoly on the infrastructure their content shouldn't be subject to intellectual property. Society does not owe these people a monopoly on the infrastructure and we should not grant them a non equitable deal.

     

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:39pm

    I'll make an example about sharing, finite goods, and morality:

    Let's say there's a famine. You are a storekeeper, and you decide that since there's a shortage of food, you refuse to sell your food, because you know you'll be able to extort a better price at a later time (when everyone is desperate and starving). In this example, while nobody is claiming that you should give away your food, very few people would disagree that the previous hoarding of the food (instead of it being sold at whatever the market price should be or whatever) is immoral. Yet (unless there's a very specific anti-speculation law in your state), it is quite possible that the storekeeper is doing what is legal.

    So, I hope everyone agrees, using your "legal rights" to refuse selling (or sharing, for a price) is immoral.

    From the opening post, when something benefits humanity as a whole, INCLUDING the "holder", and he refuses to share, it could be argued not only that it is NOT WRONG to share, but that any rights to "refuse sharing" the holder uses is IMMORAL.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:27am

      Re:

      There is neither a common law precedence for "sharing" nor am I able to recall a biblical prohibition or admonition against selling a good. Your best moral argument would be with respect to greed. However, that greed is the greed of a seller trying to sell a good for the highest possible value and the greed of the buyer trying to buy a good for the lowest possible value. Morally, there should be a meeting of the minds based related to the true value (not cost) of the good.

      What if there was an absolute refusal to sell a good? Then the greed componenent is removed. While Jesus "shared," there was never a commandment to "share," it was merely a recommendation.

       

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        The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 1:35pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, you missed the whole point that even if it's lawful, it can be immoral.

        I really don't give a crap about what Jesus did.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I caught your point, though I am unsure I agreed with it - or with your approach. You attempted to claim that not sharing was immoral, or potentially immoral. I disagree. Not sharing is a choice that is neither moral or immoral - it is just a choice.

          Now, if you did not share because your goal was to gain more money at a later date, you might have a case for immorality if by not sharing you caused harm (starvation, in this case) to a potential sharer. But the immorality is not failure to share, but greed.

          As for not giving a crap about what Jesus did, I only bring up Jesus because the foundation for morality sans law in the western world is the Bible. So, if you accept no morality outside the law, then likely you do not care what Jesus did.

           

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            The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 12th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You seem to think that not sharing is always immoral. Which is just a reduction to absurdity about what I'm saying. I'm saying that, under some circumstances (IE: famine and greed) not sharing can be immoral. Greed is not immoral (since it's only a feeling or whatever), but the action you take to satisfy your greed can be. In this case, stockpiling a much needed good is immoral (doing it BECAUSE you're greedy is not). The opposite of it: sharing.

            I'm sure there was some basis of Western morality long before a bunch of guys got high one day and decided to write The Bible.

             

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              SteelWolf (profile), Nov 12th, 2009 @ 2:02pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              If you have something infinitely replicable, that you can use to improve the lives of others, why would you NOT share? It literally costs you nothing to make somebody else's life better.

               

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:02pm

    What about the copyright holder?

    Sure, sharing a work increases the distribution of the work, but unless one is advocating the utter abolition of copyright (a premise which has its own share of problems that I will address shortly), one must remember that copyright holder is supposed to have a time-limited _exclusive_ right to copy the work... everybody else who wishes to copy it requires permission. Exclusive, by definition, means that nobody else is supposed to do it so when somebody copies the work without permission, the creator is being deprived of that exclusivity (which again, is supposed to be part and parcel of copyright).

    Now if we abolished copyright, everybody who makes a creative work would pretty much have to self-publish... so what if some lesser-known person creates a work that happens to be pretty good, but a larger entity with a wider distribution capacity usurps control of it and distributes it without compensating the creator? Without copyright, the creator would have no legal recourse against a company that would do this, since nobody else needs permission to copy.

    So one might think that's still workable... one could simply only allow non-commercial distribution... what harm could that do, right?

    But even non-commercial distribution, in particular when it is left unchecked, still deprives the copyright holder of the exclusivity that copyright is supposed have, and without the notion of exclusivity attached, the very notion of copyright itself becomes worthless.

    That said, I'm STRONGLY in favor of copyright holders making the choice to freely share their content, as I believe that will have the greatest benefit to society as a whole. Personally, however, I refuse to take matters into my own hands on this matter and disrespect the wishes of ANY copyright holder by distributing an author's or artist's work without their permission, and I make no qualms with calling into question the integrity and moral character of anyone who would simultaneously do so and still claim to want to act in the best interests of creators (a position that I'll admit has made me a few enemies, but until an alternative to copyright exists that actually has a potential to benefit the creator of a work with no less efficacy than copyright should, it's one that I resolutely remain steadfast in).

    Meanwhile, of course, thanks in no small part to the ongoing activities and attitudes of people who don't care about the value of copyright, numerous governments around the world are creating stricter and stricter laws surrounding copyrighted material, which may not impact people who were going to go and break the law anyways, but is of serious concern to people who may have only wanted to fairly use a copyrighted work in a manner that otherwise could have been perfectly reasonable and legal.

    Think about it.

     

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      Dementia (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 3:28am

      Re: What about the copyright holder?

      Now if we abolished copyright, everybody who makes a creative work would pretty much have to self-publish... so what if some lesser-known person creates a work that happens to be pretty good, but a larger entity with a wider distribution capacity usurps control of it and distributes it without compensating the creator? Without copyright, the creator would have no legal recourse against a company that would do this, since nobody else needs permission to copy. I would like to introduce you to the internet and P2P. Simply stated, you can't get a much bigger, or more efficient, distribution capacity. In other words, the creator already has access to the best distribution method possible. Assuming of course we are talking about some content that can be put into a digital format.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 5:36am

        Re: Re: What about the copyright holder?

        Although on the Internet the distribution _potential_ is the same for all entities, the actual distribution capacity is not. It is limited by several factors, some of technical nature and some some not, including, most prominently, the amount of prior public exposure that the entity has had, and the entity's bandwidth.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: What about the copyright holder?

          Yeah, but in five years all of that will be ancient history. We'll all have supercomputers in our pockets with a near infinite amount of space and it will act as a node to the near infinite internet.

          Why do those who love copyright so much have such a limited knowledge of the future. It's easy, take what's in the present and assume it won't matter in a few years time.

          That's always been the future. Do we use animals for mass transportation? Nope. Do we go to the bathroom en masse outside? We sure don't. Do we have a massive network of interconnected machines that are at their core copy-makers?

          Then I guess we don't really need copyright, do we. Or at least we don't need a system where copyright last for centuries. That's asinine.

           

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      Richard (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 1:27am

      Re: What about the copyright holder?

      what if some lesser-known person creates a work that happens to be pretty good, but a larger entity with a wider distribution capacity usurps control of it and distributes it without compensating the creator? Without copyright, the creator would have no legal recourse against a company that would do this, since nobody else needs permission to copy.

      This remark misses the entire point of the thread. The subject here is the morality of filesharing. The principal feature of filesharing is that there is NO SUCH THING AS "a larger entity with a wider distribution capacity" since everyone has exactly the same distribution capacity.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 9:19am

        Re: Re: What about the copyright holder?

        The principal feature of filesharing is that there is NO SUCH THING AS "a larger entity with a wider distribution capacity" since everyone has exactly the same distribution capacity.

        Again, this is false. People with more money can distribute to a wider audience faster. Always.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 9:31am

          Re: Re: Re: What about the copyright holder?

          Perhaps more importantly, people with more money can increase encounters with people who may wish to purchase the information as opposed to entities with less money who have difficulty encountering potential customers. Mike Masnick has discussed this issue multiple times when he points out that the key to success is overcoming anonymity. Yes, the whole world may trek to your web site to gain your wisdom, but who knows your web site exists? I know I do not.

           

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          Jason, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 10:39am

          Re: Re: Re: What about the copyright holder?

          AC, Your argument is drowning in linear thinking. You speak as though a download can only take one path to the end user. The problem you can't seem to get around is that the distribution itself is a networked function. That's what torrents ARE, and more nodes equals broader, faster distribution.

          Even if a corporate distributor used torrents (which few have the savvy to do), they aren't necessarily going to be able to pay to get distribution to a wider audience faster than another distributor paying nothing who has a more compelling content item, which by no other force than its popular appeal will find itself on more nodes thereby achieving wider, faster, cheaper, and more efficient distribution.

           

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      batch, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

      Re: What about the copyright holder?

      so what if some lesser-known person creates a work that happens to be pretty good, but a larger entity with a wider distribution capacity usurps control of it and distributes it without compensating the creator? Without copyright, the creator would have no legal recourse against a company that would do this, since nobody else needs permission to copy.

      The only way to have legal recourse would be to have a neutral third party, like the copyright office, to register ownership of works. So it will be on official public record. In other words, a paper trail.

       

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    cryptozoologist (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:26pm

    why bother?

    "some will ask why anyone would bother in the first place"

    the answer is not easy, but one must acknowledge that creators do bother even when monetary compensation is not part of the equation. one obvious example that springs to mind is the free software movement. there is an entire operating system (several in fact) and a complete ecosystem of applications surrounding them, that is vibrant and growing yet not driven by the desire to extract residual payment from all uses downstream.

    people created music before anyone ever thought of copyright and if copyright were to disappear from the face of the earth would continue to do so.

    some creators are motivated by vanity, some by altruism, some by their faith and some for a myriad of other reasons, yet they are motivated, nay compelled, to create.

    those who create solely for monetary considerations are called 'hacks' or sometimes even 'whores'. who among us would truly be diminished if these voices were to go silent?

     

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      dale (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:58pm

      Re: why bother?

      Let me come at this from a slightly different direction. Generally, the focus here is on music or books or movies. These things are entertaining, but not necessarily useful. I write software. Unlike music or movies, software tends to be useful rather than entertaining. Books can go either way, novels are entertainment while "how to" books are useful and informational. As a software developer, my motivation for "why bother" is because I want it. I want it. I need it. It produces some sort of output that is useful. That is all. It is useful to me. Since it is useful to me, I figure it might be useful to others and post it on the internet. I have a lot of ideas and I like the challenge of putting them into a useful context. I get a lot of satisfaction from writing code. I used to have some sort of Microsoft style license, then I switched to GPL, then Apache, and am currently using a BSD style license. More and more, I'm thinking just going public domain from the get go is the way to go. I get what I want out of this software, and I really don't see any reason to limit others from taking advantage of what I've already done. Oddly enough, my company bought some software last year, and in the middle of it was some of my code. I smiled. I'm glad someone else found it useful. Someone else made some money off of it, and I didn't make a cent, yet I still smiled. So why bother? I got software that I wanted. That is the reason I bothered. I needed it, it was useful, it produced an end result. I'm happy others found it useful.

      Now put this in a music perspective. Music is nice to listen to, but it doesn't produce anything. I can play a song a hundred times, and still it produces nothing useful. Sure, it's nice, it's a catchy tune, but in the end, I wasn't able to use it to calculate the value of a mortgage or determine how many trees should be planted on a certain slope to deter erosion. Music makes people feel good. I can't imagine any reason that someone might have to withhold something that is infinitely reproducible and that would make others feel good. Would you do that to your wife or kids? I don't think so. I think musicians are a lot like software developers, they write music because they have a lot of ideas and they need put those ideas into music. They record it to polish it and tune it and make it perfect. Lots of musicians post it on the internet for free (see Jamendo or Kahvi for thousands of examples). Why do they bother? Because they want to. That is all.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 6:14am

      Re: why bother?

      Before anyone thought of copyright, it was completely impossible to copy music without actually reperforming it oneself. For other works, copying was tedious, error prone, and extremely expensive (having to be done by hand, often with large groups of people being involved in the process, and generally simply not worthwhile for anybody who was not affiliated with the creator of the work). When technological devices that enabled more accurate copying of an artist's work, the most notable example being the printing press, were invented, it was seen that a new legal framework was required in order to continue to protect the creator's interests, and so copyright as created. But one who sees copyright as only protecting the creator's and publisher's interests is not looking at the larger picture... for without copyright, there would be little incentive for people to create and publish anything that they did not want or expect anybody else to freely copy. Whether this is selfish on the part of such creators is irrellevant to the fact that the number of creative works coming from such people would diminish. The number of works coming from people who want/expect their works to be freely copied would remain constant, but in such a climate, one would eventually find that the signal to noise ratio would sink to practically unusable levels... the volume of quality works would simply be far too low for most people to easily find them or be notified of their existence amongst an overwhelming volume of tripe, and the general public would a sharp decrease in the volume of readily available new artistic works... which I think would be a huge loss to society. One might consider the scenario I've painted above to be an unlikely turn of events, but the realities of the world that we live in suggest to me that is almost _exactly_ what would happen without copyright.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 10:27am

        Re: Re: why bother?

        The number of works coming from people who want/expect their works to be freely copied would remain constant, but in such a climate, one would eventually find that the signal to noise ratio would sink to practically unusable levels... the volume of quality works would simply be far too low for most people to easily find them or be notified of their existence amongst an overwhelming volume of tripe,

        What's with the future perfect tense here? Welcome to the internet! This is happening now - there is a lot of creative content available for free; a lot of it is crap, but a lot of it is very, very good. Luckily, as time as goes on, people continue to build better and better tools to sift through all the content and find the good stuff.

        Also, I would argue that the amount of works from people who freely distribute is NOT constant - it is going up thanks to open distribution platforms, better and cheaper tools for creation, and better business models to leverage that distribution.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 10:35am

          Re: Re: Re: why bother?

          Right now, even stuff published on the internet still has protections of copyright. Take copyright away, and *ALL* that will be left is what people want to be freely shared and copied without any regard whatsoever for the original source.... ie, what we have with people sharing stuff on the internet now. If you don't think that would drastically affect the quantity of good quality works produced, then you have a far more idealistic view of the world than I.

           

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        Nina Paley (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

        Re: Re: why bother?

        it was seen that a new legal framework was required in order to continue to protect the creator's interests, and so copyright as created.

        Wrong. Copyright was created for censorship. Please read some history:

        The first copyright law was a censorship law. It had nothing to do with protecting the rights of authors, or encouraging them to produce new works. Authors' rights were in no danger in sixteenth-century England, and the recent arrival of the printing press (the world's first copying machine) was if anything energizing to writers. So energizing, in fact, that the English government grew concerned about too many works being produced, not too few. The new technology was making seditious reading material widely available for the first time, and the government urgently needed to control the flood of printed matter, censorship being as legitimate an administrative function then as building roads. link

         

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        chris (profile), Nov 8th, 2009 @ 9:35am

        Re: Re: why bother?

        The number of works coming from people who want/expect their works to be freely copied would remain constant, but in such a climate, one would eventually find that the signal to noise ratio would sink to practically unusable levels... the volume of quality works would simply be far too low for most people to easily find them or be notified of their existence amongst an overwhelming volume of tripe

        and you think there isn't money to be made helping people find stuff they like? that's a salable scarcity called convenience.

        that is just one of thousands of new scarcities that pop up from freely available content.

        sure i can get anything i want whenever i want it right now, that shifts my focus from obtaining content to finding worthwhile content in an easy way.

        now that i can snap my fingers and get any pop song i hear for free, my new music interests have shifted away from catchy, yet ultimately forgettable tunes, to things that interest me in a much more meaningful way. i would gladly pay for someone to find me "free" content that i had control over once it was mine.

        this was supposed to be what the recording industry did: finding, investing in, and promoting talent, rather than demanding $20 a disc for auto-tuned excrement.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:32pm

    It's capitalism vs. communism. Pretty simple, really.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:33pm

      Re:

      Capitalism and Communism are actually, surprisingly, in agreement when it comes to Copyright.

      Communism states that all works should be shared equally, and that the workers shall be compensated in accordance to the amount of work they have done. In other words, artists would share their work freely and receive a set compensation.

      Capitalism believes that the market dictates the price of a good, which in turn is determined primarily by supply and demand. In this case, anything that is instantly copyable by anyone has effectively infinite supply, which results in a "worthless" good.

      In other words, both true Communism and true Capitalism dictate that music is...well, free.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:33am

        Re: Re:

        Since there is no value in music creation, then all music creators should cease creating music and do something that is more likely to benefit the public good.

         

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        Hephaestus (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 8:29am

        Re: Re:

        "In other words, both true Communism and true Capitalism dictate that music is...well, free."

        NICE LOGIC ..... Hoo-ah!!

         

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      Richard (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 1:22am

      Re: Capitalism vs Communism

      In fact it's Capitalism, Socialism, Liberalism, and Communism all united against Feudalism.

       

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:45pm

    I think Mike that while I agree that we are better off taking the moral argument out of it, it is not a choice which we can meaningfully make. The content industry is not actually trying to make the best choice possible. Therefore, whether the moral argument should be in the debate or not, they will include it in their sell to law makers and citizens because it is seductive. Of course, you cannot reply to a moral argument by using an economic argument. If something is "wrong" then it does not matter that it is also mutually beneficial. So those of us opposing copyright maximalists have to be willing to fight them on every front if there is to be any hope of winning. I for one am not willing to wait until the market has eradicated them. They have a lot of government support which will keep them alive well beyond their natural life-span.

    I think that the argument that SteelWolf makes applies recursively to all consumers... Discovery and innovation as you have mentioned on a number of occasions Mike is not exclusively creation ab nihilo. In a very real way, the person who receives a piece of information has always "discovered" it. As such, they do have the same moral imperative as that of the "first" discoverer: They must share their infinite good for the benefit of humanity at zero cost for them. That being said, laws are meant to be followed as they represent (theoretically at least) the will of the democratic majority. And so you should not file share, though you should encourage file sharing to be legalized.

     

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      Lisa (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 2:22am

      Re:

      "And so you should not file share, though you should encourage file sharing to be legalized."

      The problem with this statement is it implies that content that the artist willing allowed to be redistributed shouldn't be shared.

      Filesharing in itself is not illegal. I do agree with what you were trying to say.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:31am

      Re:

      Sharing always involves a cost of some kind, even if it is in time (labor). Ergo, since there is always a cost to share, there is no moral imperative to share.

       

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    Jesse, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 9:48pm

    There are plenty of circumstances where an individual may not want to do a morally correct action. In those cases, often, we as a society compel them to do so, regardless. A person may not want to contribute by paying their taxes, like everyone else. Does it make society wrong for compeling them to contribute?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 11:18pm

    Right or wrong in the eyes of non-sharers is not terribly relevant anymore, as sharing between users is never going to be stopped.

    Personally, I see no moral problem with my sharing of music or movies with others (even though my job is also production of data that I would like to be paid for - the data, not my time)
    I can't speak for others, but the only thing that will ever stop me is a "free" (as in $0 coming directly out of my wallet) alternative that is more convenient/easier than current sharing.

     

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    moore850 (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 4:09am

    infinite goods are going to be shared eventually

    It's not that infinite good should be shared necessarily, but because they are not scarce, there is no physical penalty for sharing them in the way that one loses a physical item when one shares it. Therefore, given an infinite timeline, all infinite goods will be shared between everyone because there's no penalty to society as a whole in terms of haves vs. have-nots for doing so.

     

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    yogi, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 4:46am

    Bad approach

    Turning the copyright issue into a moral one is a bad idea.

    No matter which way you take the moral argument, for or against copyright, the result is that the discussion will resemble the theological arguments of the middle ages.

    In short - nothing good will result, freedom will be severely restricted (who want's a sharing police to catch all those greedy creators that don't want to share?) and a lot of people will get hurt.

    This is an economic issue - let's keep it that way.

     

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      Nina Paley (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 5:54pm

      Good approach

      No matter which way you take the moral argument, for or against copyright, the result is that the discussion will resemble the theological arguments of the middle ages.

      And no matter which way you make the economic argument, for or against copyright, the result is that the discussion will resemble the economic and political arguments of the 20th Century. It's still worth making the arguments, because they're true.

      I am moved by both moral and economic arguments against copyright.

       

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    Cody Jackson (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 5:49am

    GPL somewhat mitigates this

    The GPL published by the Free Software Foundation was designed to handle this. In the belief that information should be free, the GPL gives several rights to the creator and user of software:
    • the freedom to use the software for any purpose,
    • the freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
    • the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and
    • the freedom to share the changes you make.

    There is also the GFDL (GNU Free Document License) for books, manuals, and other writings. The FSF has a list of free and non-free licenses for those interested in deciding how to license their work, including such "weird" things as font licensing, editorials, and opinions.

    Much like Creative Commons, the GPL and GFDL encourage the free sharing of information and knowledge while preventing someone from co-opting the info for himself. However, the FSF recommends not using CC for some works because of ambiguity due to the many different CC licenses.

    That being said, there is obviously a big difference between morality and legality. What is moral may not be legal and vice versa. For the most part, people have to follow their own compass. Are you going to do the right thing or the legal thing? Ideally, laws and morality would mesh but that won't always happen, especially when money and power come into play.

     

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      Fred McTaker (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

      Re: GPL somewhat mitigates this

      I agree with most of your post, but I disagree with the reasoning behind FSF recommendations about avoiding Creative Commons licenses. Their argument about needing to be specific applies to their own licenses, since you now have not just GPL (which most actually associate with v2 not v1), but you also have GPLv3, LGPL, GFDL, and various dual-license possibilities that include GPL non-exclusively.

      The whole point of Creative Commons, which I think is in many ways more successful than GPL, is creating a consistent short-hand for expressing legal rights granted by copyright holders to their audience, in a way that doesn't force all content creators to become lawyers. CC, rather than depending purely on acronyms, version numbers, and overly-complicated web guides, include more consistent combinations of license sub-sections. Rather than impregnable backronyms, CC includes easily parsed short-hand like "non-commercial" and "share-alike", and matching visual iconography with the same meanings (which are preferable for many forms of visual mediums). The GPL authors could learn a lot about accessibility from Creative Commons, and inspect their own ambiguity instead of blithely discarding others'.

       

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        Cody Jackson (profile), Nov 8th, 2009 @ 6:37am

        Re: Re: GPL somewhat mitigates this

        Well, I can only say that I considered both CC and GFDL licensing for my programming book when I wrote it. I ended up using the FDL because there were a lot of choices under CC and some of the nuances were difficult to figure out.

        CC has streamlined things somewhat but I still think the FDL has its place; it ensures that any changes made are given back to the community, much like the GPL.

        Too many licenses can be overwhelming and therefore a bad thing. But the fact that there are so many choices means people are more likely to pick one that doesn't limit other people from using an item to their benefit.

         

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      Nina Paley (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

      Re: GPL somewhat mitigates this

      Are you going to do the right thing or the legal thing? Ideally, laws and morality would mesh but that won't always happen, especially when money and power come into play.

      Yes. But doing the right thing takes courage; obeying bad laws does not. We are all indebted to those who chose the right thing over the legal thing. If people obeyed laws over their moral consciences, human slavery would still be legitimate in the US, and the Third Reich's "final solution" would have indeed been final.

      (Of course there are people whose morality is opposite to mine, who disobey laws for their principles; these include terrorists like doctor-murdering anti-abortionists. I am appalled by them, but not because they break laws; rather, because their actions are so egregiously immoral to me. If only laws reflected a shared or "true" morality, we wouldn't have to grapple with moral questions. But because law is so inadequate at expressing morality, individuals really do need their own "moral compass.")

       

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    senshikaze (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 6:07am

    So the question comes down to: is it RIGHT to share other people's work without permission or even explicitly against their permission?

    If it is an infinite good, then no, I don't think it is morally wrong.

    what is wrong is locking up human advancement (much like the person who emailed you said) behind walls of money and law.

    If a person owns the land a river is on, is it wrong to take a glass of water to give your friend?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 6:21am

      Re:

      Why is it right for anyone other than the creator to make the decision in lieu of the creator that it is acceptable to share the creator's work when the creator does not wish it to be? Whether this is selfish on the part of the creator is irrelevant to the fact that his or her wishes are still being disrespected. One can choose to, if they object to such a system, create their own works and choose to make them freely available, something I take no pause whatsoever in endorsing most completely, as I do believe that the free sharing of information and aspects of our culture will ultimately benefit society most. I will *NOT* however, take the law into my own hands and disrespect the copyright holder's wishes just because I happen to disagree with him or her, however... as surely I have no more right to do that than he or she has to cater to my preferences.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re:

        If one doesn't want there work, or content, or art to be shared the answer is to not share it with anyone.

        Ever. And nothing of value was lost.

         

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      PopeRatzo, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 2:19pm

      Re:

      "If a person owns the land a river is on, is it wrong to take a glass of water to give your friend?"
      And if some of the water in that river evaporates and condenses on my property, is it wrong for me to take a drink?

      Or.. if I pay to buy a glass of that water, is it wrong for me to give my friend a sip?

      Or.. maybe private ownership of natural resources is immoral.

      Take your pick.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    The only moral issue is that taking something that isn't yours is immoral.

    It is a question of respect, something that the current generation isn't very good at.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 11:08am

      Re:

      Get off my lawn!

      It is impossible to take an infinite good. You can copy it. And you can question the morality of taking an infinite good but you shouldn't rag on how much this generation lacks respect.

      It makes you sound petty.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 11:30am

        Re: Re:

        Back in my day, we had to purchase our vinyl records. We just couldn't go online and check out new bands, nope, just had slap the money down and if we didn't like it then that was that.

        Now kids just disrespect copyright like it was irrelevant with their massive network of copying machines all across the globe.

        Disrespect is what it is.

         

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          Oh My, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 6:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ya! That's right! Need to teach them brats some respect.
          The nerve! They would invite their friends over to hear the new 45 they got - can you believe it? - and they did not pay one cent in performace fees, now that is disrespectfull. Then they would record it on a cassette tape - damn pirates - and give it to a friend. They should be ashamed!

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 8:12pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yeah but all that sharing was done behind closed doors so none had any idea the massive amount of copyright infringement that was going on.

            Internet sharing just puts numbers in front of the content industry's bloated face.

            So of course we have to kick people off of the internet.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:42am

        Re: Re:

        I disagree with you that it is impossible to "take" an infinite good. If you did not have something and now you do (content), then you have taken something. If you did not "take" something, how did you get it? Saying "copy" is a clever attempt to avoid naming your action, but that is semantics. You have acquired a good that you previously did not have. You "took" that good. When you took the good, did you do so with only your labor or did you make a effort to compensate the originator of the good by payment to the originator? The former could be classified as stealing by some. The latter is buying.

        An "infinite" good does not actually exist, as has been pointed out many times on this site as well as others. It requires equipment, time and effort to locate a digital good and to then copy it. Thus, even a "free" good requires a significant capital investment (a computer with memory) and at least a modest labor investment. All this effort is to "take" a copy of the digital good.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 8:40am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "The former could be classified as stealing by some."

          Yeah, but those people would be considered morons. The words you are looking for: copyright infingement.

          Which ain't stealing.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 9:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You are back to semantics again. Stealing = taking. This definition has nothing to do with law and everything to do with the actions of the taker.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 10:57am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Stealing does NOT always equal taking. The definition has everything to do with the law and nothing to do with the actions of the taker.

              Sorry, the stealer. Why not just call him a murderer of paid content.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Ummm...no. You need to do a little research with respect to the biblical definition of stealing, which is generally accepted as "To steal is to take something that doesn't belong to you." (There are, to use one of Mike Masnick's favorite terms, tons of references for this definition, but one that is nice and clear is http://www.claudemariottini.com/blog/2008/05/you-shall-not-steal-deuteronomy-2015.html).

                Note that this article (and the dozens of other articles dealing with the subject) covers acts that are illegal and those that may not be illegal, but still fall under the definition. Indeed, the article spends about as much time on actions that are clearly stealing and yet are not illegal.

                As for calling him a "murderer of paid content," you will have to provide your own reference for that. Murder seems to imply destruction and a "stealer" of something is merely taking, not destroying.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  And copyright infringement is what again? That's taking, sorry stealing. And murder is destroying?

                  And fair use is sharing?

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 2:32pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Fair use is limited usage authorized by law, which also has common law and a bit of common sense precedence.

                    So, now you are saying copyright infringement is stealing. However, remember that this definition is a moral one, not a legal one.

                    Are you saying murder is not destroying?

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:05pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      The Romans murdered Jesus and created a martyr. They destroyed Jesus the man but created Jesus the idea.

                      You can create things using murder. Destroy things as well.

                       

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                        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:59pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        Some people have the theory that to create you need to destroy. I am not sure that statement is an absolute, but some people have used what I consider to be convoluted logic to "prove" all creation is founded in destruction.

                         

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                Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 12:42pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Would you care to give an example of where stealing is not taking? I would be interested.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 2:21pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  No, I am saying that taking is not always stealing.

                  How could I provide an example where stealing is not taking?

                  You can take a gift. You can steal a gift. See?

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 2:30pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Not what you said in the first place.

                    Taking is always stealing if the person took without permission of the person who was the legal owner. In the case of the gift, there was a complementary action to the "taking," and that was the giving. Of course, there is a presumption that the "giving" person was authorized to "give," meaning that the "giver" had legally acquired the "gift," and was not a stealer as well.

                    Incidentally, there are moral and legal arguments regarding acquisition of stolen goods. In the eyes of the law and the Bible (and in common law as well) anyone receiving of a stolen good is as guilty as the person doing the stealing if the "taker" had reasonable belief that the "taken" goods were not fairly given.

                    Interesting example: If you find a bag of money alongside the road and you take it, is it stealing? You did not deprive anyone of anything since the money was clearly lying alongside the road, and you did not "take" the money from anyone, so it must not be illegal, right? Of course, the law and the definitions of stealing say otherwise. So, here is an example of where stealing was not "taking" in the purest sense of the word (yes, I had to search to find that one).

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 4:56pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      And if I copied the bag of money but left the original on the side of the road?

                      What, exactly, have I taken?

                       

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                        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        You have taken a copy that you did not previously have, and you did so without permission, explicit or implicit.

                         

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                          Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 8:21pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          What if instead of a bag of money it were a bag of ideas?

                           

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                            Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 5:32am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            Did you take them? Did you have permission to take them? How did you know they were ideas? Did you open the bag and find they were ideas? Did you endeavor to find the original owner?

                            However, ideas, as opposed to a book or a design, is just an idea. Faster-than-light travel is an idea. Ideas cannot be suppressed and once in the world, they can never be retrieved. Of course, ideas are mental abstractions and not an implementation or embodiment. From a moral viewpoint, ideas just "are." It is impossible to unthink an idea once you have heard it.

                            Try unthinking faster-than-light space drive - of course, it does not exist, but then again, it is only an idea - which is a true infinite good since it costs zero to replicate other than the labor required to speak the idea and to have someone hear the idea; however, ideas are not prohibited (well - biblical, some ideas are prohibited, but that is another story) under any system of justice or morality, biblical, koranic, Bhuddism, or legal.

                             

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 9:32am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I guess you are one of the privileged few "non-morons," since a huge chunk of the population calls taking what it is - stealing.

             

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    bigpicture, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    The On and On and On song.

    This debate has been going on and on, and it is the typical duality. On the one side the argument is that I created the work therefore I own it and have the right control it. On the other side is "but you did not create the means and technology to copy" that I bought and paid for and therefore you have no right to own or control that. The technology for copying is like air, we breath it every day, so then the argument is control your work if you like, but don't interfere with my copying technology in any way because you have no right to do that.

    Then there is all the "In between" interests related to these two basic positions, the publishers, recording companies etc. etc. whose business model is threatened, and in reality there is no longer any need for. They are the ones who squawk the loudest and create the most confusion. If it was agreed by the politicians that only "CREATORS" of content have the primary legal rights to it, (only they can dictate who has the right to produce copies and no exclusive deals can be made) a lot of the "in between" parasite issues would go away.

    Of course there then is the peripheral "moral" and "legal" issues thrown in to remove the clarity of thinking. What does not seem to be noticed is the large amount of brainwashing involved in the debate. The US has a specific culture that brainwashes their citizens that the US corporate way is morally right, and has the moral right to foist it's values on the rest of the world. What they don't see is that to a lot of other cultures they seem like they have lost the capacity to reason, that they are crazy and brainwashed.

    Look at a parallel debate currently going on about health care right now, the rest of the world cannot understand what the issue is. (because corporate interests weigh heavily in the debate, which should really be about the interests of citizens) The reason for this is that the rest of the world has an entirely different outlook on "CONFLICT OF INTEREST". Example: Why should a hospital be a profit center? To the rest of the world that concept is an ACUTE conflict of interest, and disadvantages and misrepresents the patients. (crazy?) The corporate brainwashing in the US is that if you suggest differently you are a socialist and a communist. Are they really that stupid? This same conflict of interest exists in a lot of other occupations. The politicians of whom a lot are ex-lawyers are not interested in settling the copyright and patent issues. Because there would be a lot less work and fee theft for their overpopulation.

    Who are the really big financial winners in any copyright or patent dispute? Is it not mostly the lawyers? Who is charged with adjusting and correcting these systems to make them workable in todays world? Is it not the legal system and lawyers? If you want any system to work then correct the root causes of the problems. If you want healthy people then produce healthy food. If you want healthy plants then work on making healthy soil. If you want a healthy alternative to copyright and patents then REMOVE GREED, CORRUPTION, AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 2:40pm

    Economics *is* morality

    The problem I have with Mike's articles on the subject is that economic systems aren't independent of moral systems, they are embodiments of the principles of moral systems. Irrelevant moral questions don't apply, that I will grant, but saying moral arguments don't belong in discussions of economics is like saying that sound is irrelevant to the discussion of music. Or food is irrelevant to the discussion of cooking. Or wet is irrelevant to the discussion of water.

    If by 'morality' Mike means "arbitrary rules dictated by belief systems that have no relevance to objective reality", then I guess his stance makes some sort of vague sense, but I view it as evidence of fuzzy thinking. As already pointed out, disclaiming the relevance of morality to economics and then throwing the term "wrong" around is evidence of this fuzziness. Please think a bit harder on this matter and clarify your views.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 3:16pm

      Re: Economics *is* morality

      "Sound is irrelevant to the discussion of music."

      What if the discussion was about Ludwig van Beethoven? And not his music played but a discussion of his compositions?

      And the discussers are all mute.

      I think I've made my point.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 7:17am

      Re: Economics *is* morality

      The problem I have with Mike's articles on the subject is that economic systems aren't independent of moral systems, they are embodiments of the principles of moral systems.

      This is entirely incorrect. Morals do come into play later in figuring out if you want to make policy changes to impact economics, but a free market exchange system works entirely independently of moral structure.

      Economics describes how the transactions work out in the absence of morals. You can add in morals to discuss if those transactions are "fair" or "right," but that's separate from the economics.

      The two can be connected, but you can absolutely have an economics discussion without morals playing a part. And you should. Otherwise, you will cloud the discussion with morals where economics should go. I am fine with adding in the moral discussion *after* the economics discussion, but mixing the two is how you screw things up policy wise.

       

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        LostSailor (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 2:18pm

        Re: Re: Economics *is* morality

        but mixing the two is how you screw things up policy wise.

        Once again, I disagree. When it comes to making policy, the two are intertwined.

        Certainly you can have a purely economic discussion about intellectual property and a separate purely moral discussion about intellectual property. But taking the discussion beyond the mere academic and attempting to formulate an equitable policy, you have to consider both parts.

        Copyright is in essence a moral policy that uses economic and legal mechanisms to further that policy. The basic moral underpinnings of copyright are the promotion of creative efforts for the benefit of society while recognizing the unique nature of intellectual property and the creators' right to benefit as the market allows from his/her creation. The mechanism is the exclusive right to control the dissemination and/or monetary benefits of that creation.

        You've said elsewhere that you haven't seen any evidence that copyright hasn't really done much to further creativity, yet the economic incentive is a powerful driver that has allowed us to become incredibly productive and innovative.

        Free sharing of content without copyright may increase the economic benefit to society but places additional economic burdens on the content creator to make a livelihood doing other activities than creating. Under copyright, society may be restricted from completely free sharing and what they can do with the content, but it still has the benefit of the content and the ideas conveyed by it while the content creator has a chance to benefit economically from the creation for a limited time.

        You know I agree that copyright term has been extended well beyond reason, but it doesn't mean that copyright extends economic benefits to both society and creators...and it does so for moral reasons. Indeed, just making the economic argument for file sharing (that free sharing increases innovation and creativity for the benefit of everyone, without specific concern for payment) makes a moral assumption that this method of encouraging innovation and creativity is "good."

        Frankly, trying to separate the two is what screws up the policy making.

         

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    Griff (profile), Nov 8th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    Lets consider software

    Specifically MS Office. Once MS have produced it is is, by TD's definition, an infinite good. However, plenty of people with a choice are prepared to pay a lot of money for it and do every year.

    Noone can fault MS's business model - there are a lot more MS millionaires than OpenOffice millionaires or linux millionaires. You are free to opine MS would make more money in the long run by giving Office away but I fear you'd find it hard to convince many (including me).

    I don't think anyone would argue that after MS have invested what could amount to millions in a new version of Office, that they there is some moral reason why they should give it away, not that someone who chooses to illegally pirate it has some moral defence.

    Sure, in a country or market sector where noone can afford it, MS might be better of turning a blind eye to piracy rather than see OpenOffice take market share but this is a decision for MS alone to make. They invested the money up front to create value for people.

    The major reason that there is not huge ubiquitous piracy of Office is not because people are respectful of any moral arguments or even of the rules of copyright. There are simply technical hurdles (aka DRM) and a well funded policing operation that finds and punishes businesses that break the clear rules.

    And when software as a service becomes uniquitous, there will little or no pirated software. When Office is served from the cloud, how will OpenOffice compete ?
    Who will pay for the servers that are required for OpenOfficeAsAService ?

    Once again, I'd defend to the death your right to say that MS would be financially better off giving Office away, but I would not agree.


    Now compare this with music. The ONLY difference is that preventing and punishing piracy is technically more challenging. The value per item is less and there is little control over the enivironment in which the product is used. But music, like software, is digital content that can be copied infinitely at almost zero marginal cost.

    ( Music in the cloud (aka streaming) will simply be recorded and then pirated. The old Radio DJ trick of talking over the intro won't work for a streaming service )

    Now I fail to see how just because it is harder to protect music from actions the creator has not approved, that somehow changes the morality of the situation.

    It may well be true that the musician / label is on a hiding to nothing now the genie is out of the bottle but that doesn't make it morally wrong for the artist to want to sell the content (noone has to by it) nor does it make it right for someone to copy it without his/her permission.

    It may well be true that the industry would find a whole different business model more profitable than the RIAA/DRM approach, but that doesn't mean their current approach is morally wrong. The RIAA's main fault is their overreach and excessive behaviour, and the way they seem to get absurd backing from the legal and political establishment, resulting in ludicrous financial legal awards, but if these things were not so, they would not be per-se morally wrong. A guy/gal who uploads an album with the express intention of enabling illegal sharing should arguably be punished as if he/she had shoplifted one copy. It is well nigh impossible to meaningfully prosecure the downloaders unless tools exist for them to verify what is a legal/illegal download. (As an aside, the industry could easily create such a tool and make it widely available - why don't they ?).

    Without these excesses, the RIAA would be little different from the alliance of software producers (whose acronym eludes me) that send people into sizeable companies to catch them in the act of using 200 pirated copies of Office.

    Are they morally wrong ?

    Someone posted earlier saying how they create software for themselves and then are happy to freely share it for others. That is all well and good but I suspect that
    a) The software he refers to is not 20 man years of effort
    b) Giving code away for free is not his day job


    I must say, with a Sonos as my primary music system (plus a few cheap MP3 players for running/dogwalking) I would rather buy an MP3 album for £5 from Amazon than pay more than twice that for a plastic disk that I have to rip as soon as I get home. But £5 is fine, and the artists have to eat. I'd rather they made money off the music and toured to meet the fans, playing small, unprofitable venues even in towns where the turnout might not be high, rather than played a few stadiums I cannot get to to be sure they make a million from the tour.


    You could tell me that DRM is not a business model but MicroSoft might disagree.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 9:20am

      Re: Lets consider software

      In general, I agree with your post... but I find one comment that you made to be somewhat incorrect:

      "... the industry could easily create [a tool to verify what is a legal/illegal download] and make it widely available - why don't they ?)."

      Are you suggesting that somebody could somehow actually tell the difference between an illegal and legal download? How would you propose that anyone do this, particularly since both controlled and freely distributable content are both just a bunch of 0's and 1's when being transmitted digitally?

      In truth, the only difference is how the end user will (not might, not potentially, not even probably, but actually *WILL*) interpret that data... and lacking any technological means for predicting the future, I cannot see how it can ever happen. In fact, the exact same sequence of bytes (and by logical extension, an entire computer file) could represent both a controlled copyrighted work and a public domain one or otherwise freely distributable one when processed by different programs (or even the same program, using different settings), although I must admit that for the case of an entire non-trivial file this is statistically unlikely to actually happen without somebody taking some pains to deliberate contrive an example of it.

      In the end, there is absolutely nothing that copyright holders can truthfully do to keep people from infringing on copyright... even kicking people off won't really solve the problem, because the people who remain will simply get a whole lot sneakier about it (which I can't help but chuckle at the notion, because this is almost the exact behavior exhibited by house cats when they do something they are not supposed to and you catch them... they simply continue to do the activity... just while you are not looking).

       

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        Griff (profile), Nov 8th, 2009 @ 10:15am

        Re: Re: Lets consider software

        -- Are you suggesting that somebody could somehow actually tell the difference between an illegal and legal download? How would you propose that anyone do this, particularly since both controlled and freely distributable content are both just a bunch of 0's and 1's when being transmitted digitally?---

        There is an iPhone app that allows your iPhone to "listen" to a tune playing on a the radio an immediately identify it (then buy it if you want to).
        The "is this an illegal download" tool I alluded to would
        - identify the tune (using the same database the app referred to above uses)
        - interrogate the database to see if said tune is currently legally available free.

        If the song has ever been legally made available free with unlimited copying rights then I would suggest that it is meaningless to later assert that a download is illegal. But I would guess that most commercial music would not be in that category and the tool would tell you that it was dodgy to expect the tune to be free.

        I'm not sure that you could do this in real time as a browser add on (as you are downloading) since torrent sites get fragments from different places simultaneously, but you could certainly check the file after receiving it.

        What this tool could not do so easily is tell you whether the apparently legit looking music download site with paypal payment was entitled to sell you the MP3 (Amazon) or not ("fly-by-night-cheap-mp3s.com ). But in theory the database behind the tool could tell you that too.

        This is not rocket science technically if
        - someone wanted to do it
        - consumers wanted to use it

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 11:24am

          Re: Re: Re: Lets consider software

          I'm not sure that you could do this in real time as a browser add on (as you are downloading) since torrent sites get fragments from different places simultaneously, but you could certainly check the file after receiving it.

          Sure, but why would the recipient of the file *WANT* to check it? If they wanted the song, whether or not the source is dodgy is unlikely to matter to them, so they wouldn't be running the verification software. You could integrate it far enough into the OS that initially people would have little choice, but technically knowledgeable people would still figure out ways to defeat it and eventually that knowledge would become common enough that even that level of protection would become meaningless. Again, whether or not the sharing of such information is against the law is irrelevant to whether or not people do it. Speeding is against the law too, and a majority of people do that too when they figure, using nothing more than their own independent judgment, that it is not unreasonable for them to be doing so.

           

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            Griff (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 4:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Lets consider software

            -- Sure, but why would the recipient of the file *WANT* to check it? --

            This was all said in the context of whether it is right for the **AA to prosecurte a downloader. If there is a legitimate way for a downloader to find whether a download is legal or not, then whether they choose to use it or not is immaterial - it takes away their defence of not knowing. If I owned file sharing site I would point users to such a tool to get my site off the hook.

            I guess the next problem is that if the tool was completely automated (as it could be) then the **AA could insist that the filesharing site used it to screen uploads, rather than simply hiding behind safe harbour and making it the punter's problem.
            And by logical extension, the **AA could insist that any ISP that hosts files has a duty to see if they are indentifiable music files and if so check legality.

            This would cost all internet users as the ISP's would pass costs on, but to be honest I'd rather pay for that (a once per upload application of a server algorithm) than pay for a huge overhead of watching surfers' traffic looking for infringement.

            It's an interesting though experiment though. if the **AA spent the money developing such a tool and made it freely available to all and sundry, what would the implications be ?
            There'd have to be logal redress for false positives (I can imagine otherwise the **AA developers adding )

            if (songNotRecognised)
            {
            status = NOT_FREELY_DOWNLOADABLE;
            }



            Like any DRM, however, some smart people will get round it. They will find a way to mangle an MP3 so that it sounds almost the same but is unrecognisable by the algorithm. But a lot of illegal copying is about convenience. It is just so easy to rip a CD and post it online.

             

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      Cheese McBeese, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

      Re: Lets consider software

      Well said. I think you hit the nail on the head better than anyone else.

      I share the same thinking. Artists and distributors who ignore the need for evolving business models do so at their own peril, but it is their choice to make, not mine or anyone else's.

      There is no moral imperative for sharing here because music is entertainment.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 7:30am

      Re: Lets consider software

      Specifically MS Office. Once MS have produced it is is, by TD's definition, an infinite good. However, plenty of people with a choice are prepared to pay a lot of money for it and do every year.

      Yes. Did anyone suggest otherwise? People pay for infinite goods all the time. But the question is whether or not it's a truly sustainable business model. And, over time you discover that it is not. And, to be fair, you seem to have ignored the fact that a rather large % of people buying MS Office are not buying MS Office. It comes bundled with their computer. They're buying convenience, not MS Office.

      Noone can fault MS's business model

      But we can ask if it's sustainable.

      I don't think anyone would argue that after MS have invested what could amount to millions in a new version of Office, that they there is some moral reason why they should give it away, not that someone who chooses to illegally pirate it has some moral defence.

      I could see how some could make a moral defense. If they need it and can't afford it.

      What if by using Word they were able to write the greatest novel ever? Or what if they were writing down some amazing truth?

      The major reason that there is not huge ubiquitous piracy of Office is not because people are respectful of any moral arguments or even of the rules of copyright. There are simply technical hurdles (aka DRM) and a well funded policing operation that finds and punishes businesses that break the clear rules.


      Heh. Uh, that's just not true. Office has rather weak DRM and had no real DRM for most of its early days -- and it still sold well. The reason was (1) convenience (2) service contracts (3) bundles.

      And when software as a service becomes uniquitous, there will little or no pirated software. When Office is served from the cloud, how will OpenOffice compete ?
      Who will pay for the servers that are required for OpenOfficeAsAService ?


      Google seems to be doing quite well offering Google Docs, which is basically office served from the clouds. I imagine that Oracle (soon to own Sun, which owns Star Office) may also be plenty willing to pay for the servers. IBM is now offering Open Office as well, and would be thrilled to offer a cloud version.

      What do they all have in common? Doing so helps other aspects of their business model.

      Once again, I'd defend to the death your right to say that MS would be financially better off giving Office away, but I would not agree.

      And when everyone else is offering equivalent products for free, and Microsoft is struggling, we'll await your response.

      The ONLY difference is that preventing and punishing piracy is technically more challenging.

      No, that's not true. It's not difficult to pirate Office. Even Microsoft admits this.

      a) The software he refers to is not 20 man years of effort

      Have you ever used Linux? Have you ever used Google?

      b) Giving code away for free is not his day job

      Again, have you ever used Linux? Have you ever used Google? Have you used the web?

      You could tell me that DRM is not a business model but MicroSoft might disagree.

      Microsoft's business model has nothing to do with DRM.

       

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    Capt Obvious, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Proper Terminology

    I realize what is meant when the term "file sharing" is used, however - the use of this term to describe copyright infringement is incorrect.

    There is nothing wrong with file sharing. All of you reading and/or posting to this blog are participating in file sharing. That is how a computer works, that is how the internet works.

    I do not think that a prosecutor would use the term "pop a cap in his ass" in order to describe attempted murder. Nor would a doctor say "slip him a mikey" just prior to surgery.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 8:50am

    While the content I might create would be free, my life is consumed with providing for my food, shelter, and other necessities, so very little is produced.

    Free defines a line between hobby and occupation. Since most infinite goods content creation requires specialization, practice, materials, and equipment, it is also a line that frequently determines quality as well as quantity.

    If we do not pay them for their output, how do we reward our artists? Will we return to a system of patrons? Should they receive grants funded by taxes? Probably it will come down to acceptance that most folks feel entitled to get something for nothing if they can, and we will just settle for mediocre.

    Or maybe the best artists will write that classic after they retire but before their mind loses its capacity for excellence?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 10:32am

      Re:

      I believe in the abolition of copyright. It's utter destruction. And I am an artist who freely gives his work away to the public domain. I am also poor. I do not care about the exchange of money for artistic expression. It's dumb.

      However, if copyright were to be reduced from 200 years back down to something reasonable, like 14 then I would be more than happy to become pro-copyright.

      But it will never happen so fuck copyright.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 11:26am

        Re: Re:

        So what do you propose as an alternative?

        Or are you of the opinion that since you are an artist who is poor, that all other artists ought to be content to be the same?

         

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          Nina Paley (profile), Nov 8th, 2009 @ 11:39am

          copyright deprives artists of income

          Artists who copy-restrict their works are just as poor. Probably more poor. If copyright actually functioned to support artists financially, we'd all support it. Problem is, it doesn't.

          Copyleft is so new and so rare, that there's a much tinier sample of artists who use it vs. artists who don't. However I can think of several who make more money with copyleft than copyright. Me, for example. Also my colleague Karl Fogel, who has published two books with O'Reilly. And Cory Doctorow.

          I don't expect anyone to give up $$ to support copyleft. The problem is, copyright deprives artists of income, but STILL they cling to it, possibly because they fear change. I wouldn't expect Madonna or Sting to support copyleft, but almost all other artists have a financial as well as moral incentive to do so.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

            Re: copyright deprives artists of income

            No, they cling to it because in the end, it's the only thing that gives the creators of their works any control over it while simultaneously allowing the general public to experience it. Some think that this sort of desire of control is wrong, but if it were simply done away with without careful introduction of a workable alternative, there would be nothing to stop people from taking other people's ideas and profiting from them without compensating the original creator at all... and all that would be left to exchange is more of the same sort of material that people give away for free right now. So let's face some facts... the majority of P2P traffic today is unauthorized copyrighted content exchange, even though P2P software itself has plenty of legal uses. If the free stuff were that much better than the copyrighted stuff, then why is it getting copied so much more?

            I repeat what I said before... the people who copy material without regard for its copyrighted status are ruining things for law-abiding citizens... people who had wanted to respect the laws regarding copyright and use material in ways that actually would have been perfectly legal if increasingly draconian measures weren't being taken to try to stop copyright infringement (measures which will ultimately be ineffective at stopping people intent on breaking the law, but can stop cold the fair use by people who had no such intention unless they too resort to breaking the law).

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 1:59pm

              Re: Re: copyright deprives artists of income

              "The people who copy material without regard for its copyrighted status are ruining things for law-abiding citizens."

              But the copyrighted status is becoming meaningless as more and more artists come out in favor of ignoring copyright for their own works.

              Sounds like a grey area to me! We need more control! That will help. Let's sue! Kick people off the internet!

              And while we're at it let's prevent jaywalkers from using the streets! Jaywalk three times and no more roads for you.

              That will make people respect the law!

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 9:27am

                Re: Re: Re: copyright deprives artists of income

                No copyrighted status is becoming meaningless because consumers ignore it, not the creators. When you publish something, copyright is automatic (in North America, at least), so the only way a creator can ignore copyright is to explicitly surrender the work into public domain. In fact, however, most artists that are releasing their content for free are *retaining* copyright over their work and merely giving explicit permission for others to copy it as they wish. That doesn't diminish the value of copyright, it actually completely supports it.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 11:02am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: copyright deprives artists of income

                  Seriously, if copyright were just reduced to an amount of time that made sense for the 21st century landscape then I would be more apt to be supportive of copyright.

                   

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              bigpicture, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 3:00pm

              Re: Re: copyright deprives artists of income

              And what planet are you from? Copyright does not protect the artists and creators rights at all, copyright is something that they used to barter away to recording companies and publishers for pennies on the dollar. Just to get a recording contract they basically would give all of their creators rights away. The Beatles made nothing off their first recordings, it was the touring that earned them the money. The recording company basically stole "Brown Eyed Girl" from Van Morrison.

              If copyright was something that by law could not be traded away as part of any contract, then it might make money for the artists as well as the recording companies. If a copyrights part of a deal could not be locked in, then the money part is always open for renegotiation. So the artist could could revoke rights to copy at any time unless they got a bigger cut, leverage for a fair profit sharing arrangement instead of recording company theft.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 4:45pm

                Re: Re: Re: copyright deprives artists of income

                This is another thing that really grinds my gears.

                I would be more than happy to support copyright if it really were about the "artists" but the law is so one-sided in favor of corporate-owned content that I have no probelm throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

                How does a corporation own a creative work and have rights to that creative work, lasting, what, a century?

                I can't wait for all the great works of the 20th century to be owned by McDonalds and Nike!

                Respect the artists and don't you dare copy that floppy.

                 

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I am saying that if copyright were reduced significantly I would stop trying to abolish it.

          But seeing as how copyright will NEVER be reduced and there is a great chance that it will be extended what choice do I have?

          There are so many other alternatives aside from copyright for creators to use and utilize that it boggles my poor mind.

          And creators are more than welcome to kick people off the internet even though I fail to see how that helps there position. Or more lawsuits. Or conflating copyright infringement with stealing.

          I have found my alternative. Why should I share what I've learned as an artist with others?

          They might try to share my precious thoughts with others!

           

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      Free as in Beer or free as in speech?, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

      Re:

      AC -> "Free ... is also a line that frequently determines quality as well as quantity."

      I assume you are saying that free (either type) implies low quality.

      That's a rather arbitrary conclusion and I'm sure there are many who would dispute it. In fact, there are many examples where free is of much higher quality than the non-free alternatives.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 2:00pm

        Re: Re:

        Shakespeare is free and we all know what a hack that guy was.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 7:27am

        Re: Re:

        I am not saying free = low quality. I am saying that if we can't find a way to compensate our artists, much of their lives will be consumed with their "real" jobs and they will have less time to devote to producing the content you want for free (so less content), to mastering their craft (lower quality than might otherwise have been), or even finding the opportunity to allow their creativity to generate the concepts that will, with work, become the compositions you want to download. If they live in poverty, they won't want to afford the equipment they need to do a good job, or they might not even have the means to make their work available.
        If the artists are poor, then the overall quality will decline--instead of Thriller on DvD, the best we will get is Numa Numa Guy on YouTube and the bulk of it will be sadly lacking the quality we have come to expect.

        Why should someone be expected to provide value to you for free just because you can take it? And if it doesn't have value, why do you want it?

        Why do you pay so much to see a doctor for 15 minutes? Why would you pay more than the $2 that represents minimum wage? They aren't doing anything more than talking to you then writing a note on a special pad of paper.
        You don't pay them for the time you spent in their office. You pay them for their 23 or more years getting an education and for their experience treating patients.

        If you value an artist's work enough to want it, how can you possibly believe they don't deserve to be paid for it, or that they don't have the right to expect compensation for the time and money they put into producing it and for the time, talent, and effort they put into learning the skills they need to create it?
        Their prosperity does not come from a steady reliable source that rewards them for the time they put in regardless of the quality of their output, as yours does if you have a regular job, but depends on how many folks like their work enough to pay them a tiny installment for each copy.

        They are not selling bits in a file, ideas, or free product that came magically from thin air. They are trying to sell their genius, their training, their talent, their time, their work, and their angst, and recoup the money they put into the equipment, costumes, employees and the like, that they needed to produce that file you valued.
        If producing a work of quality is so easy that it should be free, why do you need to download one? Why not just make your own?

         

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    Patty, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 10:45am

    Moral Schmoral

    Defending the morality of file sharing only muddies the water. It all comes down to a seismic shift in technology and the inevitable changes that will ensue. Inevitable. All the discussion about whether or not people Should or Should Not be doing it is useless. There is only one discussion and that what to do now that culture is Ones and Zeros. What happens now that there is no need for middlemen and there are no distribution barriers?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 11:09am

      Re: Moral Schmoral

      I don't know but as an artist it sure sounds exciting!

      Oh sorry, what I mean to say is how awesome intellectual property laws are and without them we wouldn't have any new art or invention, everybody would steal everything and humanity would implode.

      So let's kick people off of the internet.

      That sounds pretty exciting too!

       

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    Cheese McBeese, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Keep it Simple, Stupid

    If you decide to take something that I created, I own, and I'm selling, without paying, just because you can, then you are a douche bag and a thief. It doesn't matter what it is I'm selling, what matters is that it's mine and I've chosen to not give it away. If my decision hurts other people (which is NOT the case with digital music), then the people we elect to govern us (sometimes) develop laws for the greater good.

    If I'm smart, I will evaluate all of the best ways to make money from the product that I'm selling. For example, if I'm selling digital copies of my music, I might want to switch to a model in which I give away the music for free but you have to come to my website to get it and you have to listen to it stream from my website at least once before it becomes available to you. While you're streaming it, I might have some ad displays that are making me as much money as selling the music. Just one example.

    The bottom line is that supporting copyright laws for anything - digital music included - doesn't have to mean it won't be free. However, it's up to each individual rights holder to decide on what business model they will use. It is not up to the douche bag thieves to just take what they want for free.

    Oh, one more point: any song, no matter how good, only has so much demand. It might be 100 copies, 100K copies, or 10M copies. Every time a song is illegally copied or downloaded, the opportunity to sell it has gone down. So please stop with the infinite supply arguments. That only works if the market is also infinite, which it is most definitely not. There is a real opportunity cost associated with stolen music.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 1:47pm

      Re: Keep it Simple, Stupid

      "It is not up to the douche bag thieves to just take what they want for free."

      But it is up to the "thieves", sorry, copyright infringers. If no one infringed than content creators would still be trying to sell plastic discs for $24.99.

      Piracy is a form of competition.

       

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        Cheese McBeese, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 9:47pm

        Re: Re: Keep it Simple, Stupid

        Yes, piracy is indeed a form of competition. Just like speeders are a primary source of revenue for local police departments. Sad but true.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:49am

        Re: Re: Keep it Simple, Stupid

        Ummm, no. Plastic disks are selling for $5 to $10 because there are multiple places to purchase them and the big retailers (Amazon, Sam's, Wal-Mart, etc.) are forcing music distributors to reduce prices. Big retailers recognize that there is a solid relationship between price and volume, and they are interested in volume.

        Piracy is almost completely disconnected from the price of CD's.

         

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    SteelWolf (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 4:22am

    I'm a little late to this discussion but what compelled me to write this article initially wasn't entertainment industries, but biomedical ones. It's in the second paragraph Mike quotes. Companies in "First World" countries spend money developing lifesaving information, much of it with public funding, and then...sit on it. We see time and time again cases where the myth of "intellectual property" is used as a fig leaf to hide behind when coldly refusing to help others.

    Sharing something infinitely replicable has a minimal cost. It's one thing to ask somebody to donate money, time, essentially "scarce stuff." But something infinite? Information, as Mike says again and again here, is not implementation. Is it not better to let needy countries try to do what they can with valuable information (at the very least) than clutch tenuously at information and declare "I don't want this shared?"

    In this thought experiment, I think that once information is released to the world (one might say "published"), the creator doesn't have the ability or the right to say what gets done with it. While he may not want to share lifesaving information with the world, could you blame somebody who worked for him for doing the same?

    What we see across the filesharing community is a bunch of people sharing something that they have with others. It costs nothing to replicate, so why not? Why artificially prevent somebody from enjoying something just because the original creator has some idea that he should be able to control it forever?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:56am

      Re:

      Two issues I have with your comments:

      (1) Any "lifesaving information" that is patented is already available to anyone, anywhere, to read. Since the vast majority of "lifesaving" patents are patented in few, if any, third world countries, then they are pretty much free to duplicate any of the processes in that patent - if they can. The duplication part is, of course, the significantly non-free part of the equation.

      (2) I have seen many people claim that "most" "lifesaving" information is developed with public money. I have spent hours searching for sources and yet all I find are the same sources repeating the same mantra over and over again. Does the government fund a lot of medical research? Yes. Do private companies benefit from that research? Apparently. Is there a solid link between the dollars spent and the benefit to private companies? None that I can find. Of course, there are trillions of gigabytes of data on the internet and only so many hours in the day. It is possible that someone has definitive data showing the relationship between government funding and private company "lifesaving" information.

       

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      LostSailor (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 2:39pm

      Re:

      From Mike's quote of you in his post:

      Yet this is exactly the choice many people are making in the name of "intellectual property."

      I don't know of anyone making choices to share or not share "in the name of intellectual property." Those choices are made in the name of commerce.

      I think that once information is released to the world (one might say "published"), the creator doesn't have the ability or the right to say what gets done with it. While he may not want to share lifesaving information with the world, could you blame somebody who worked for him for doing the same?

      I think this might contain the seeds that undermines the argument. Keeping in mind it's not just a matter of control, but of control in the name of commerce, if the creator doesn't have an incentive (whether moral, economic or both) to release the creation, he just might not want to share it. If the release of that creation by other means (such as an employee) is likely, it would only encourage the creator to be even more secretive.

      From the article you link to:
      There are other benefits for all of us. Instead of relying on obsessive secrecy to protect your idea (which is how Coca Cola protect their recipe) patents allow drug companies to safely disclose more information in public, which helps other people innovate. Protecting ideas also allows a smaller company negotiate outside investment and develop their theories.
      Now, the article also points to the downside of patents as well, but that doesn't mean that the upside, encouraging the release of creative material by protecting it, should be ignored.

       

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        SteelWolf (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:46am

        Re: Re:

        I don't know of anyone making choices to share or not share "in the name of intellectual property." Those choices are made in the name of commerce. My original article links to a discussion of AIDS, where drug companies would rather defend their exclusive right to charge ridiculously high prices than sell in a competitive marketplace. There was also one here on TechDirt not too long ago having to do with flu. They do research, hoard the information, and use patents to ensure that nobody else can independently do the same thing. IP is the means they use to do this. The information doesn't help anybody innovate, since when people in needy countries try to do similar things, they are derided as "pirates" and prevented from proceeding.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Except, since the drug companies do not file patents in Africa, or in most of Africa, then anyone in Africa is free to make use of the non-hoarded patent knowledge to duplicate patented drugs. So, your argument that "nobody else can independently do the same thing" is not only inaccurate, it is readily shown to be false. In fact, others have a head start because all they have to do is set up shop in a country where the drug is not patented, use the patent to guide them, and start making the drug.

          Now, how do you "prevent" someone from making a drug in a country where it is not patented?

           

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    Infrequent visitor, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    Taking something simply because it is easy to take is immoral. Pay for what you use and take.

    Sleep well at night.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:01pm

      Re:

      I take old works all the time. I take them and I read them. I don't pay a dime for them.

      So how is reading Shakespeare immoral? I took a copy off of the internet. I didn't pay anyone for it.

      They didn't pay anyone for it. Everybody taking things and not paying for it. How dare they!

      Pay up! Taking is stealing is infringing is taking is stealing. Everybody knows this!

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:57pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, Shakespeare gave implicit permission to copy his works. Freely given, freely taken. No harm, no foul.

        "They didn't pay anyone for 'what'?"

        If everybody is "taking" things and they do not have legal permission or the implicit or explicit permission of the author, then they are taking things they are not entitled to. Under biblical interpretation, that is stealing.

        As for "how dare they," I suppose some people have a morality that permits taking things they are not entitled to. Of course, some people are caught and go to jail.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 6:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Taking is not stealing. We are all entitled to our own culture. Everything made in the 19th century is ours.

          I can take any copy of it. I need no permission to do so.

          It's our culture. Not stealing.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 1:53pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Just because you say taking is not stealing does not make it true. That is merely your philosophical belief, which is diametrically opposed to the philosophical beliefs of others. Your viewpoint is no more valid or invalid than that of any other person.

            However, the legal issue, which is very different, disagrees with you. You are in fact not permitted to take a copy of anything covered by patent, trademark, or copyright. If you do so, you risk a combination of civil and criminal punishment.

            It is stealing until either the law releases it for general use, or the original creator or subsidiary owner gives permission for you to make a copy, from some philophical points of view.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 5:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Just because you say taking is stealing does not make it true.

              19th century artistic works. I can take copies of them! Not stealing.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:45pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Quite true: legally mandated. As long as copyright exists, there are two possibilities for works that could be covered by copyright:

                (1) Get permission of the "owner" to make a copy. Many creators give this permission or even provide free digital copies. There are no issues here.

                (2) Take a copy of the work, without permission. Uh huh.

                 

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              How do orpahn works fit into all of this?

              How do you retain permission from a dead author? What if copyright last for an infinite amount of time minus a day?

              It is impossible to steal memes.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:55pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                The length of copyright is a separate issue. If copyright lasted for one day, then during that day anything that you took without permission would be wrong.

                I have mixed feelings about copyright. For certain, copyright is too long. What is the right length of time? Many people argue zero is the right length of time. I am unsure. I would be interested to see what happens if copyright were shortened to 5 or 10 years. Would the world really fall apart? Seems hard to believe. If 5 or 10 years seems beneficial to society, then chop the length to 2 or 5 years and see what happens again. Once again to 1 or 2 years and test again. If undesirable things happen, it would be easy enough to stop decreasing the length, and we would get the benefit of a less onerous and complicated system. If anti-copyright extremists are right and copyright is harmful and unnecessary, we would be able to have a plan to phase copyright out. If they are wrong, then we can figure out what the optimal copyright length is based on measurement.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 7:31am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  But here's the thing, the length of copyright isn't a seperate issue for me. The morality of copyright is tied to its length.

                  If copyright only lasted 10 years I would be in complete agreement that taking an artistic work that the artist has not released would be, well, not wrong, but not good either.

                  But copyright lasts so long that I, as an artist myself, that I have a moral obligation to bitch about it, anonymously, on techdirt.

                  Seriously, if copyrighted lasted 20 years we wouldn't be having this conversation.

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 11:03am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Copyright lasts far longer than many other things created by man, and for what reason? Either a book, movie or song makes money or it does not. I can see a copyright for a few years, but decades? Why?

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 11:21am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      Because the fewer works that enter the public domain the less competition the content producers have against their own newer works.

                       

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                Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:58pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Re memes: Considering that a meme is deliberately spread, that would be a correct statement. Similarly, how can you steal trash? Answer: The law says you cannot. Trash is public domain.

                 

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 2:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So, you can take a "copy" of a McDonald's hamburger because that is part of our culture. Good luck with that.

            It is not our culture. It is a good that needs paid for. To take is to steal.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 5:41pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So a copy of a hamburger is a good that needs to be paid for? And to take it is to steal it?

              Good luck with the 22nd century!

               

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    BeatPick.com, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 8:22am

    copyright, non-commercial projects

    We, at Beatpick.com (we license online music for TV and other commercial purposes), believe that it is impossible to stop the illegal downloading. That is why we, as one of the few ones, made it possible for users to download music for non-commercial projects for free and this is why we license your music under a Creative Commons license. We think it contributes to the artists popularity, networking and rights management. We offer music for free to amateurs, prosumers, students, small non-profit organizations and open source projects, because we know that otherwise they would get it for free anyway. We do not want to get into the discussion whether this is acceptable or not from an ethic or moral point of view. Our main aim is to find business opportunities and exposure for our musicians.

    It is important to understand that by asking the details of the downloader (name, email, project description), we are essentially bringing to the light the non-commercial users. We ask them to put the artists credits in their project and we double check the usage of the track(s). We think this is the best way to offer non-commercial users a legal alternative in exchange of their data.

     

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    hxa7241, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 8:44am

    The morality of copying: a simple Kantian evaluation

    The morality of copying is quite plain and unassailable. Has it ever been seriously contested? If anyone is still interested, here is a simple exposition anyway:

    First, the argument must rest on the basic elements. So put aside consideration of economic effects of copying on the producer, and look at copying in itself.

    To evaluate something morally, we can follow Kant, whose fundamental moral rule is: Act only if the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law. That is, we ask: would we want an action to be a general law?

    If a digital object is good, then copying it duplicates and spreads that good. And the incidental cost of copying is practically nothing. We can certainly wish this were a general law: if everyone copied freely and widely, we would all benefit -- we would all receive very much more good, and at negligable cost. Copying seems clearly moral, and any restriction such as copyright must therefore be partly immoral.

    Creative production can be addressed similarly, with a similar result: We ought to help cultural items be produced because we will all benefit. So helping production, and copying, are *both* moral. One is not intrinsically antagonistic or limiting on the other -- in fact they are mutually supportive. You have a duty to do both. And it follows that where there is a system that is self-conflicting, such as copyright -- which trades copying restrictions against production rewards -- you have a moral duty to replace it with something better.

     

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      SteelWolf (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:56am

      Re: The morality of copying: a simple Kantian evaluation

      You made my point way better than I did. Thanks.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

      Re: The morality of copying: a simple Kantian evaluation

      I believe copying is stealing and stealing is wrong because it's against the precious law.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

      Re: The morality of copying: a simple Kantian evaluation

      Your basic assumption is that a digital object is "good." I argue that a digital object is neither "good" nor "evil," it is merely an object. Thus, copying has no "value" from the perspective you indicate until after the object is received and then used, at which point it may then evolve into a "good" or an "evil." Not knowing a priori whether a digital object will become "good" or "evil," or generate actions that are "good" or "evil," argues against permitting copying.

      As for copying digital objects being an object of "culture," that is debatable. If someone creates a video of farting "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and digitizes it, what has culture lost by avoiding copying? As before, your argument assumes an undemonstrated value. A digital object only demonstrates "good" and "cultural value" after a time, not initially. Your Kantian arguments are interesting, but not persuasive. Further, they are yet another philosophical viewpoint not founded in any greater objectivity than any other moral viewpoint.

       

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        hxa7241, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 3:36pm

        Re: Re: The morality of copying: a simple Kantian evaluation

        > [(yet another) Anonymous Coward] Your basic assumption is that a digital object is "good."

        Of course, because the whole debate assumes it. If objects are harmful then they should be restricted -- we would all agree on that (generally, I think), or at least it is a separate matter.

        Questioning whether digital things are without exception of cultural value, and not knowing if something will 'evolve into an evil', is irrelevant. Do you like music? Then it is good. That is all that needs to be said.

        Because the question is not *what* things are good, but *how to handle* good things.

        As far as Kant: establishing an objective foundation for ethics was his central purpose. Whether he succeeded, or if it is possible at all, are deep questions requiring more than a sentence to dismiss. But your criticism was relative, and so in this case rather vulnerable: I think most people *would* say that Kant made a better job of objectivity than others.

         

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    hxa7241, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 2:34pm

    Re: The morality of copying: a simple Kantian evaluation

    > [SteelWolf] You made my point way better than I did. Thanks.

    Great! I posted it to my notes-blog (click my name), for future reference. Copy it freely and at your leisure!

     

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    y, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:49am

    tt

    yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

     

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    blaise judge, May 17th, 2013 @ 1:38pm

    Against too much copyrights

    to get a job you need to meet certain STANDARDS(ie earn cash, )
    but does that mean to get copyrighted materials, someone also has to meet certain STANDARDS
    where do you draw the line
    is it fair that people not born to meet these requirements have to miss out on these things

    copyright holders are greedier than they have to be, they should be happy in the fact they are fluid in life, and will never have to face poverty
    damned bigots

    fluid: capable of flowing and easily changing shape

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Speaking of morality of actions, I think that supporting copyright holders is immoral, since you support people who should be called criminals. Selling the same product 6 times to the same person (e.g. charging you 6 times for one pair of shoes) is fraud. But selling the same song in different format 6 times to the same person is okay. Those people violate human rights (right to privacy, to own property, freedom of speech in case of DMCA), they try to wash your brain by calling file sharing some scary words and comparing you to thugs, they have a degree of control on how you must use something you bought from them. But they are not criminals because they have money. If you apply the duck test to this situation, you see that it has all the properties of real, not imaginary like reptilians and UFO's, international conspiracy.

     

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