Misguided Outrage At NY Times' Ethicist Over Ethics Of Downloading A Book

from the we're-still-having-this-argument? dept

We recently wrote about the NY Times' ethicist, Randy Cohen, and his perceptive claim that downloading an unauthorized digital copy of a book you already own is likely illegal, but not unethical. It resulted in quite a discussion in our comments, with people taking both sides. However, an anonymous reader points us to a blog post at Mediabistro, where it appears readers sent in a whole bunch of ridiculous strawman arguments to claim that downloading such a book was clearly unethical. According to Mediabistro, not a single reader agreed with Cohen. While some commenters on the post do take the "infringement is unethical, no question" type statements to task, the blog post doesn't bother to point out the serious confusion by the complainers. Take, for example, the following:
"So, if you own the hardcover you should get the paperback for free? Different platform, right? Maybe you can use the hardcover to get into the movie version as well. That's a different platform. Maybe the audiobook as well? It's really a deeply irresponsible post. Some ethics!"
But that's missing the entire point of what Cohen said. First of all, the situation he was discussing was one where the ebooks were not even available -- so it wasn't even a question of the author losing any money. And that's the key point that Cohen is making, which seems lost on the people attacking him. Morality only really comes into play when there's a question of who wins and who loses. When you need to make such a choice, that's a moral question. If there are no losers, there's no moral question to deal with. What Cohen is pointing out -- quite accurately and ethically -- is that in a scenario in which there is no loss, but only gain, then it cannot be seen as unethical. What the person above was stating is totally different. In each of those examples there is a real loss. Something scarce is taken, and that means others can't have it. But with the ebook of a book that hasn't been released in that format, that's not even a question.

It's really a question of whether or not you should be allowed to format change the works you've purchased, and there are many reasonable arguments in favor of that -- especially in situations where there is no loss in the system.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    KnownHuman (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 6:50am

    Boog really cut my comment short when he quoted me for that article. He cut Mike's comment short as well.

    Mike's comments basically said that it's okay to download the eBook as long as you pay for the eBook when the publisher gets around to releasing one.

    My comment corrected the terminology (not piracy or theft, but civil copyright infringement), and then pointed out that Cohen's analogy was wrong - downloading the ebook was not akin to ripping a CD, for that to work, the user would have to scan and OCR the book himself. The difference was in the sweat-equity, the customer was paying for the new edition through time and effort (both scarce commodities).

    And if customers didn't like a publisher not producing an eBook, let the customer know and support another who does.

    Since Jason didn't link to the original article, you can find it here: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/publishing/ny_times_ethicist_approves_of_illegal_downloading_an _ebook_157343.asp

     

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      DH's love child, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      "And if customers didn't like a publisher not producing an eBook, let the customer know and support another who does."
      I think you meant either let the author know or let the publisher know.
      And that's a really good theory, but you know, I have favorite authors and series of books. One of those, I know, is not available as an authorized ebook. The only way I can get it is to download them from other places. I have no problem supporting authors by paying for their works when they're available, but if they're not, I am going to find it one way or another so that I don't have to carry stacks of dead trees everywhere I go.

       

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        KnownHuman (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:07am

        Re: Re:

        I did. Another reason why comments shouldn't be written before coffee.

         

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        Haywood (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:29am

        Re: Re:

        Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up.

         

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        KnownHuman (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:31am

        Re: Re:

        With regards to your second bit, I really know the feeling. I hate when I want to enjoy a piece of media and it's not in the format I want. A lot of the time, though, the authors are the people with the least say in the situation.

        The problem with publishing is that the contracts are really specific when it comes to edition and format rights. It used to be that paperback and hardcover rights were granted separately - leading to one publisher putting out the HC, and if that was successful, the author's agent would approach publishers for a second bid on the paperback. Stephen King mentions benefiting from this in "On Writing." But as publishers started to produce both paperbacks and hardcovers (and invented the third edition, the Trade Paperback), publishers began to acquire rights to all editions of the book, often including the other formats like audiobooks.

        Until recently, eBooks weren't even mentioned in contracts, and this has caused a bit of a tussle between agents and publishers over whether the eBook constitutes a new format, or simply a new edition. You might recall that in December, Random House made their argument for the edition logic, while agents and authors tended to side with format. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/business/media/13ebooks.html) (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704121504574594113096154756.html)

        The debate is still going on - and fuel has been added to the fire with the recent AAP stats that showed eBooks surpassing audiobooks in sales last year. (http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/publishing/book_sales_dipped_18_in_2009_ebook_sales_rose_176_1 57677.asp)

        Many authors are currently stuck, not knowing who controls the eBook rights to the books they wrote. Obviously, everyone is keen on making some money off these books, but the questions of how much and when have yet to be decided. However, it never hurts to email your favorite author, and inquire. Many really enjoy hearing from fans.

         

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          chris (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:22am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The problem with publishing is that the contracts are really specific when it comes to edition and format rights... Until recently, eBooks weren't even mentioned in contracts, and this has caused a bit of a tussle between agents and publishers over whether the eBook constitutes a new format, or simply a new edition.

          that's all very interesting, but as a reader, it's not my problem.

          i am going to read what i want in the format i want and there isn't anything that anyone can do about it.

          you, the author/publisher/agent/whatever, can either sell me what i want to buy, or miss out on the sale and/or marketing data when i get it by other means.

          all the ethics and morality in the world won't change that fact.

           

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            KnownHuman (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I'm in agreement with you that it's not the reader's problem. I frequently point this out to publishers, that the transition is coming and they can either make money off of it, or let control and innovation slip to other channels.

            All too often, the response from publishers about their eBook policies is either a poor analogy used to justify windowing (typically that the hardcover is a theatrical showing and the ebook/paperback is the DVD) or the need to "educate consumers" as to the cost of producing a book and then use cost-based pricing.

            But, the above response was not an excuse to educate the reader, but rather to point out that publishing is often gridlocked because of its own complexity. The Shirky article that Mike referenced not too long ago fits brilliantly.

            The thing left unsaid in the above response was that, there are authors who know their books are tied up in debate and are willing to slip you an electronic copy of their book. Not all. Not even most. But still some.

             

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      JEDIDIAH, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:35am

      How much effort really...

      "Sweat Equity" of an ebook is entirely dependent on the technology used to make the ebook. It can be a highly automated process much akin to ripping a CD. So trying to equate it to something like actually writing the book in the first place is rather bogus.

      People are even willing to contribute this sort of sweat equity for free just so that works can be preserved. Sometimes, the "fan" produced versions even manage to be superior.

      Part of the problem with the multimedia technology is that the cat has been let out of the bag in this regard.

      People know that they can generate their own ebook if they have original electronic "manuscript" and the word processing program it was made with.

       

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        KnownHuman (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:50am

        Re: How much effort really...

        Totally agree, which is why I am a huge fan of fan-fic. I think it's a sincere form of flattery. Most people who engage in copyright infringement aren't out to hurt the author, they're fans who wish to share the experience - be it an album, book or film.

        There are, of course, always bad seeds. Unfortunately, those tend to draw the bulk of the attention.

        I don't think I attempted to draw a comparison between writing and scanning a book. If I did, I apologize for the confusion.

         

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      JEDIDIAH, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:35am

      How much effort really...

      "Sweat Equity" of an ebook is entirely dependent on the technology used to make the ebook. It can be a highly automated process much akin to ripping a CD. So trying to equate it to something like actually writing the book in the first place is rather bogus.

      People are even willing to contribute this sort of sweat equity for free just so that works can be preserved. Sometimes, the "fan" produced versions even manage to be superior.

      Part of the problem with the multimedia technology is that the cat has been let out of the bag in this regard.

      People know that they can generate their own ebook if they have original electronic "manuscript" and the word processing program it was made with.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 6:53am

    Most people are incapable of distinguishing between the content and the medium. Take for example, the quoted poster. To that person, the physical book and the words on it are the same thing. They cannot divorce the content and the medium in their minds. To them, two copies of the text (content) must have come from two different books. It is impossible for them to believe that someone took the same text and implemented it onto physical media twice.
    To these people, their lack of understanding is a way of life. Once they have made up their minds, they will rationalize their decision and never go back or re-evaluate. So, coming from their point of view, format shifting is the same as stealing a physical copy for each format we shift to. But you can only come to that conclusion if your initial premise is flawed. If your initial premise is not flawed or you are capable of re-evaluating your position, it is very difficult to come to that conclusion.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:04am

      Re:

      Hmm, it looks like my initial premise about the quoted poster was flawed. Instead of re-evaluating, I'm going to blindly repost my old and broken dogma over and over and over again.

       

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    Designerfx (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 6:57am

    total strawman

    I'm glad you linked that site with the strawman arguments.

    The closest thing to reality in the strawman arguments in the blogpost is the "Mike Cane" example, but in reverse. What they said was that it's okay to download if you can't buy a cd (not out yet), but when the cd comes out you have to buy it. This by itself is wacky. Why would someone buy a cd automagically because they downloaded the song? Doesn't work that way.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:17am

    You can format change if you want, but you can't make a copy of the format change that somebody else has made. Similar to ripping music. Nobody ever got in trouble for making mix tapes of their records or ripping their disks to mp3's. But as soon as you start coping files made by other people, you are in trouble, even if you have a copy of the work in some other format.

     

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      Steven (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      That may technically be illegal, but we are not talking about legal vs illegal here. We are talking about whether it is immoral.

      I submit it is not immoral to download a digital copy of physical media that you own.

       

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        The Sarcastic-Mike, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re:

        You don't own it, silly! You just have a temporary license to rent it in that one particular piece of media.

        So if you happened to hand write a copy of all your books and all your books were destroyed in a fire you should feel obligated to destroy all those copies as well.

        It really is the only ethical thing to do.

         

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          Steven (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:49am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Wow, you're right. I never thought of it that way. brb I need to go delete a bunch of MP3's because the CD's were stolen.

          ;)

           

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            The Sarcastic-Mike, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:05am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Would the inverse work as well? If your hard drive failed, and you lost all your MP3s, would you have to destroy all your compact discs?

            It really is the only ethical thing to do.

             

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:18am

    Logic

    Logic has never been the copyright supports strong suit.
    They tend to more so just repeat the same argument over and over again rather than reply to anything we say.

    And as the AC poster above was basically saying, but I will reword it, a lot of people still have plenty of trouble distinguishing infinite from non-infinite.

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:30am

    It isn't that simple

    First, there is the issue of the law (illegality). When laws clearly serve a special interest and not the society as a whole, the law itself is "bad". Consequently, downloading stuff that some claim is "illegal" can still be ethical because the law itself is unethical.

    Second, I don't have a problem with paying for a hard back then paying again for a paper back. These are physical products that have a cost of production associated with them. Now if I have a CD and want to load a song onto my computer or my MP3 player, that is a fair use. When one buys a product such as a CD, one should have an entitlement to use the content as they wish. (Of course I will agree that using the content as you wish, does not meaning copying and selling).

    Third, the claim that a content owner has a toll-both entitlement to post-sale control over a product is ridiculous. After all why should a content producer be perpetually paid again and again for something they did not produce. Unfortunately it seems that the public mindlessly accepts the false premise of unearned rights and the concept of fair use seems to be fighting an uphill battle. When you buy content, you have a PROPERTY RIGHT to use that content. Society and the law should recognize that right.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:46am

      Re: It isn't that simple

      The problem here is that there does remain an argument for the notion that copyright is beneficial for society, and that for a limited time, is is appropriate that an exclusive right to copy a particular work be granted. The thing is, downloading a digital copy of that work does amount to copying it, and without authorization, would be infringing on copyright, which can, as I said before, be argued to be beneficial to society. Laws against downloading copyrighted works without authorization are not unethical unless copyright itself is unethical. At best and at worst, such laws are redundant. What *IS* unethical is the way copyright durations have been extended to absurd duration, but I do not uphold the disregard of it.

      That said, I *do* uphold the notion that *ALL* personal use copies should be exempt from infringement, with the caveat that you do already have an authorized copy of the work.

       

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        Steve R. (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:18am

        Re: Re: It isn't that simple

        Copyright was meant to be for a limited period of time and was originally smaller in scope. It has now been expanded in both time and scope to be essentially, unethical. Do dead people create new content?

        The word "authorization" is being unethically applied and even in absurd situations. Do I need the "authorization" of the content owner to burn my physical book? Mike even points to the movie 2012 being sued for using the (virtual) statue of Jesus in Brazil without "authorization". When one sells a product they are transferring the property right for the use of the product to the buyer. The creator of content is not entitled to retain post-sale control.

         

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    crade (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:32am

    "What Cohen is pointing out -- quite accurately and ethically -- is that in a scenario in which there is no loss, but only gain, then it cannot be seen as unethical."

    To be fair.. This isn't.

    If you assume that the author is entitled to compensation for people's private use of their purchased content in new ways (I don't really understand where this entitlement comes from but anyway)

    There is *always* the possibility of an ebook released tomorrow, in which case the author loses.

     

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      Tyanna, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:03am

      Re:

      If someone purchased a book, then downloaded an electronic version of the book so that they could use on their reader b/c one wasn't available by the publisher, that would imply that if there had of been one available at the time of purchase, the person would have bought that one.

      You are assuming that the person would have bought both a physical copy and a electronic copy, and that doesn't seem to be the case. They wanted to buy an electronic copy but it wasn't available, so they bought a physical copy and downloaded an 'illegal' version of the book.

      So no, I don't feel the author lost in this case. They probably gained b/c the cost of a physical book is more than an eBook.

       

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        crade (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:16am

        Re: Re:

        No, I'm assuming that the author is entitled to redundent compensation when someone uses both a physical book and an ebook.

        There is no answer to the "whether they would have bought if things were different" question. I don't make assumptions about this, it is always an unknown.

         

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          hegemon13, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "No, I'm assuming that the author is entitled to redundent compensation when someone uses both a physical book and an ebook."

          Well, you're assumption is dead-wrong and unethical, so it doesn't really matter what conclusions you draw from it.

           

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            crade (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Well, I agree with you, I don't understand where this entitlement comes from at all. I just don't think it makes any difference whether the ebook version is available for sale or not. I think whether the author is "losing" is completely dependent on whether or not they are entitled to get compensation for this sort of private use.

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:53am

      Re:

      No, the author doesn't... because if the ebook had been available at the time the consumer purchased the hardcover book, then the consumer would have purchased the ebook INSTEAD. In either case of the timing of the releases in different media, the consumer is very unlikely to purchase BOTH.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re:

        This isn't really rellevent. How likely it is doesn't matter, saying the author only loses in 1% (or whatever) or these scenarios makes no difference. There is a loss.

        The author / vendor could be trying to set up a business model based on a staged release in the hopes that people won't want to wait for the ebook and will buy the physical book, but still want to buy the ebook when it is released or whatever, it is totally irrelevent, as this argument is related to the question of whether the author is entitled to compensation for this situation.

        If you already assume the author is entitled to compensation when this is done, and it is done and he didn't get compensation for it, thats a loss.

         

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        Sheogorath (profile), Sep 1st, 2012 @ 7:07pm

        Re: Re:

        AC said: "No, the author doesn't... because if the ebook had been available at the time the consumer purchased the hardcover book, then the consumer would have purchased the ebook INSTEAD. In either case of the timing of the releases in different media, the consumer is very unlikely to purchase BOTH."
        The DVDs of movies aren't available during the time of the cinema release, but I don't go to the cinema instead, I just wait until the DVD release, then wait some more until HMV are selling them for under 10 each. OMG, I commit copyright infringement regularly by not seeing movies and films at the cinema as well as on DVD!

         

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:35am

    Moderation Protocol

    I realize that sites tend to attract their own certain type of reader. However it makes me sick when a site owner purports to have an open community, but behind the scenes curtails comments that do not agree with their own agenda and opinions.

    Conflicted and doubtful would describe how I feel about the following idea (and I think I've seen something similar before): It might be a useful public benefit if there were a service respectable sites could subscribe to that categorizes and logs moderation of comments.

    Considering all the commenting that goes on, this would require a massive store that would also have to be open for public review (adults only for the comment content section, obviously).

    Actually a site full of moderated comments might very well be an entertainment draw for some people (you know the type... yeah me too sometimes).

    Obviously there would be concerns about slander/etc. and information on the site would have to be tagged as "most likely complete bullshit" if it could even avoid being sued out of existence in its first few minutes of existence.

    There has been a massive amount of work (and plenty of Rhodes Scholar brains) done on context> search matching by the major search engines for some time. With some more direction, this type of logic could be applied even to political discourse (topic context negative, topic context positive, agree/disagree etc.) In theory, a lot of the moderated comments could be automatically categorized.

    With a service like this in place, people could get a picture of a sites community moderation, e.g.: "Suspected Bias - ".

    I don't know. Probably not worth it at all... but crap like this article and comments on Mediabistro makes me worry for the easily convinced.

     

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      hegemon13, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:02pm

      Re: Moderation Protocol

      Whoever claimed that TechDirt wasn't biased? Mike makes his viewpoints and biases quite clear. This is a BLOG not a news outlet, and the blogger is entitled to have and share his opinions. It's called free speech.

      And as far as the article goes, it is sheep like you who are easily convinced to bow down to your media masters and empty your pockets.

      What difference does it make to the author whether I read his/her book from a page or a screen, as long as a pay for a copy of the book? Personally, when I get my first book published, I will happily included a DRM-free digital copy, with every one.

       

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    Christopher Froehlich (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:42am

    first sale

    I think the CD to MP3 comparison is most apt. Were I to purchase a CD and choose to rip it to MP3 format, that is perfectly legal and ethical; however, it's fundamentally no different than purchasing a CD and downloading someone else's MP3 rip of the same. It may be illegal, but it cannot be unethical simply because it happens to be more convenient and someone else has done the work of ripping the album.

    Similarly, I *could* purchase a book and rip it to eBook format myself, and that would be equally lawful and ethical as ripping a CD; however, it is infinitely more convenient to allow one person to do that work and simply distribute the labor. Illegal? Possibly. Unethical? I doubt it.

    If it were easier to "rip" a book to eBook format, this conversation wouldn't be happening.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    I have a reading disability mixed in with being dyslexic. I ready very slowly and at a rather low level. When I went to university, I was given a grant by the government to buy a very advanced reading program. What I did was scan in my readings into a pdf and load it into the program so that it could read them back to me. Very awesome program. Wouldn't have been able to get through university without it.

    Some publishers were even kind enough to provide a pdf version of the book, if I proved that I had purchased the book, thus saving me time and from destroying the book (as I normally had to cut the spin off to use the bulk scanner).

    So, I paid for the book, I scanned it in and used it in a different way. Publishers would provide pdf version if I proved that I purchased the book. In both cases I used different formats of the same media.

    It is this reason that I believe that it isn't unethical to download a book if you've purchased it. It shouldn't matter b/c they have been paid for their physical resource.

     

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    Darryl, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:16am

    So many excuses for theft

    "When you need to make such a choice, that's a moral question. If there are no losers, there's no moral question to deal with"

    This is you're faulty argument, it's just not true that there is no loss.

    So you buy a DVD of a movie, you will probably not bother going to the picture theatre to watch it. There is the loss you cliam does not exist.

    Just as you buy a hard back of a book, then you download (steal) an ebook of the same thing.

    You realise you do not need to hard back copy anymore, so you give it away or sell it. The person you give it too, or sell it to would not have to purchase it for himself.

    Therefore the author of the works does not get a sale on that product.

    You have not lost anything, you got an illegal copy of the ebook (for free), and you sold you're physical copy to someone else. So they dont lose either...

    But you have stopped a sale of the original works, and the loss of a sale is a loss. !!!! (go figure).

    I know, I know you wont agree with me, and you'll call me wrong or something. But the facts are the facts. It's also the law, you cant define you're morals on others, or consider you're personal morals to be above others. Each have their own moral compass. It's just you're is not as high as most.

    But if you are going to argue against Copyright (the very same copyright that allows the GPL to exist, and be inforced). THen at least make you're arguments sensible and logically consistant.

    That way you'll gain a great deal more credability, and if you dont like a particular law, BAD LUCK... it's the law, and just because you dont like a law does not allow you to ignore it.

    So until the law is changed, morals has nothing to do with it. You're breaking the law, and you're engaging in simple THEFT.. If you moral compass is OK with that, so be it.

    Im glad mine is not, my morals dont give me permission to break the law, disregard the law or to steal.

    If your morals allows that, then you might want to look at you're moral compass and general attitude.

    I suggest, you abandon you're morals, and just rely upon the rule of law, it's a good starting place for building up you're moral character.

     

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      Free Capitalist (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:32am

      Re: So many excuses for theft

      And if morals were grammar, your post would be the Antichrist.

       

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:47am

      Re: So many excuses for theft (It's been a while since I"ve done this....)

      "So you buy a DVD of a movie, you will probably not bother going to the picture theatre to watch it. There is the loss you cliam does not exist."

      Er, in what world yet do DVDs come out before or during the theatre run of a movie? Obvious failitude is obvious...

      "Just as you buy a hard back of a book, then you download (steal) an ebook of the same thing."

      Guessing you're from Europe, with the whole s/z letter usage thing, but the SCOTUS says you don't know how to properly use the legal work of "steal"....

      "Therefore the author of the works does not get a sale on that product"

      Which IS NOT A GODDAM LOSS, Sparky. How can you LOSE something you never HAD, for chrissakes? More importantly, why are you allowed to use a language without any basic understanding of the words you're using?

      "But you have stopped a sale of the original works, and the loss of a sale is a loss. !!!! (go figure)."

      Yes, I am Dark Helmet, vaunted Lord of the Sale Stoppers! I can single handedly determine what OTHER people do with their money! That is how powerful I am. Somebody says, "Hey, I'm going to go buy Ender's Game", but then I download a copy of the eBook, whip out my happy stick, shake it at them while muttering the lyrics to Hotel California and BAM! The sale has just disappeared!

      ....Moron.

      "But the facts are the facts."

      I love it when people say that after stating zero facts....

      "Each have their own moral compass. It's just you're is not as high as most."

      Sorry, my cell phone is ringing, hold on a moment. Hello? Yes? Oh, Darryl, it's for you. It's the sanctimonious regulatory department. They said stop using it all up, you're not leaving enough for the priests and politicians. But good news! I just got an email from the local Office of Punctuation and Grammar! They have a special running for first time users that, wouldn't you know it, you super-qualify for!

      "just because you dont like a law does not allow you to ignore it."

      Attention United States: Darryl says thou shalt not exist, because thou shalt never have formed for the purpose of ignoring bad laws. That is all....

      "You're breaking the law, and you're engaging in simple THEFT.."

      Keep count. We're setting a record for the most number of things wrong in a single post here....

      "I suggest, you abandon you're morals, and just rely upon the rule of law"

      Read that again, because it makes the conclusion of that sentence all the more funny....

      "it's a good starting place for building up you're moral character."

      BWAHH??!! Darryl says: Ignore your morals to improve your morals.

      Maybe that whole internet license thing wasn't such a bad idea....

       

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        Steven (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:43am

        Re: Re: So many excuses for theft (It's been a while since I"ve done this....)

        BTW I just finished Ender's Game. Damn good book. Don't know why I didn't read that years ago. I think I'm going to have to go buy it and the rest of the series.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:57am

          Re: Re: Re: So many excuses for theft (It's been a while since I"ve done this....)

          Orsen Scott Card is one of the author's I've modeled my own style around.

          BTW, if you haven't read the rest of the series, particularly the Speaker For The Dead line, do so immediately. Ender's Game was merely a prequel to the real book he wanted to write....

           

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        Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:35am

        Re: Re: So many excuses for theft (It's been a while since I"ve done this....)

        DH I think this may be one of the most humorous serious posts I have seen you make. They usually either seem to be on the side of completely point for point rebuttal or just off the wall laughs, but this one pulls of both very nicely man.
        Have a cookie, I'll buy.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:48am

      Re: So many excuses for theft

      "just rely upon the rule of law"
      Back of the Busers who don't understand finite != infinite really need to evaluate the laws they hold so dear. Is a law ethically right simply because somebody took the time to write it? If a law is wrong and you know it is wrong, is it still ethical to follow it?

       

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      DH's love child, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:33am

      Re: So many excuses for theft

      My father has already debunked most of your specious arguments, but you are forgetting one little fact. THE BOOK WASN'T AVAILABLE LEGALLY AS AN EBOOK. So let me put this in simple terms for you:
      The ONLY way to get the ebook was from unauthorized sources as it has never been available for sale. How the f**k does the author, publisher, literary agent, or anyone else lose in this scenario as they didn't provide the format for sale to begin with? RTFA

       

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        Alex Bowles, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:41am

        Re: Re: So many excuses for theft

        When you acquire an unauthorized copy of something out of print, you harm everyone in the publishing cartel by shifting your attention to something they didn't sell you.

        The fact that you're reading something out of print is irrelevant. The whole point of letting things go out of print is to encourage you to buy something new to read. When you go digging up old stuff, you're pulling yourself out of the market for new stuff. And that's obviously bad (for the cartel).

        For this reason, the cartel has traditionally opposed things like the Doctrine of First Sale, which allows for the existence of lending libraries, second-hand book stores, used record shops, and so on.

        Wretched libraries, letting people read for free. We hates them, my precious (monopoly), we hates them.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:03am

      Re: So many excuses for theft

      I'm glad mine is not, my morals don't give me permission to break the law, disregard the law or to steal.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_parks

      IT'S THE LAW! FOLLOW IT CITIZEN! ARE YOU GETTING UPPITY?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

      Re: So many excuses for theft

      Hi! My name is Darryl....this is my brother Darryl...and this is my other brother Darryl. We like to enjoy a soda water when we go to the picture theatre.

      If a movie is available on DVD, then it's already been shown at the "picture theatre" (whatever the hell that is). So no, Darryl, there is no loss.

      Let me ask you this...would you allow yourself and/or family members to die of starvation before stealing food? Which is more ethical? There are many unethical and immoral laws on the books. And for that matter, no body knowledgeable of every law, so it is more likely than not that you break multiple laws on a daily basis.

       

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      rockman123 (profile), Apr 10th, 2010 @ 7:42pm

      Re: So many excuses for theft

      i always liked clarkes short story the 9 billion names of god. if you had a program that took every possible combination of the english language, like your post above. do you own that? you wrote it but what about it distinguishes it from a random pattern that happens to make sense. so we come to a pre fabricated meaning that reflects a moral truth. that truth is the self reflection you see as value. you see yourself as a deed. an unequivocal action.but what if we deconstructed that action into a series of proposals, that say, ultimately exist to legitimizes a business structure, capitialism.you can't be a thief because it destabilizes the machinery. so are you free or are you just the sum of the limited possibilities of a certain defined business model. are your ethics freely obtained or bought by a paradigm that reduces your choices to a stark either or. i am wondering if there is really a you, or is that you, just a reflection of the sum of our significations, our historicisms. you may find you are artificial, a digital copy if you will. a copy without an ultimate legitimate source. just a thought anyway

       

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:17am

    Here are a few legal and ethical conundrums:

    1) I buy a CD. The music itself isn't legally available online. So I download it from an unauthorized source. Legal or not? Ethical or not?

    2) I buy a CD. The music itself isn't legally available online. So I rip the CD. Legal or not? Ethical or not?

    3) I buy a CD. The music itself is also legally available online. But I download it from an unauthorized source anyway. Legal or not? Ethical or not?

    4) I buy a CD, but I'd also like to enjoy that music on my mp3-player. The music itself is also legally available online. But I rip the CD anyway. Legal or not? Ethical or not?

    History has taught us that the media industry would like us to buy it anew with every new format shift. (Vinyl -> Cassette -> CD, BetaMAX/VCC/VHS -> DVD -> BluRay) So logically the same would hold true with the digital copy.

    Should we need to, though?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:37am

      Re:

      I think it's pretty hard to argue against making personal copies for private use. I should be able to rip my cd's, scan my books, or photograph artwork I buy. As long as the copies are only for me, no problem, right?

      Logically, who cares how I get my copy? Instead of ripping my CD, I just download the mp3's. Still seems ok. Downloading a rip of a blu-ray when I only own a VHS copy of the work is less ok, but I'm not that troubled by it.

      But what about if I rip my mp3's then put them online for anybody to have a copy? I think this is less defensible and arguably wrong and immoral.

      So, stop worrying about people who are making copies and instead concentrate on those making copies available.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:37am

    Take a pill and and have a good lie DH. (dark hamlet, or some other DH !!).

    "Er, in what world yet do DVDs come out before or during the theatre run of a movie? Obvious failitude is obvious.."

    I did not make any statement about what comes out first, and so what ? what is you point here. If something is available in one form but not another, that does not give you the right to take what is not yours.

    You purchase A COPY of a product, you do not purchase the COPYRIGHT" of the product. Therefore you do not have the RIGHT to COPY that item. (it's amazing how simple laws are).

    "I suggest, you abandon you're morals, and just rely upon the rule of law"

    Yep thats what I said, and stand by it, if you're moral compass is that far out, that you consider theft and breaking the law acceptable. Then you're morals are corrupt, and you are far better of just relying on the rule of law to guide you're morals. Not you're own brain, that appears not up to the task.


    "Attention United States: Darryl says thou shalt not exist, because thou shalt never have formed for the purpose of ignoring bad laws. That is all...."

    WTF ??? so you're going Biblical now, and you dont get the choose what laws you follow, just because you dont like a law does not give you permission to break it. (grow up).


    "Maybe that whole internet license thing wasn't such a bad idea...."

    Would not make any differene to you, you consider everything fair game. and if you dont like a rule you are happy to ignore it. So yes, a license would be no good for you. We would not want to provide you with more rules and laws to break would we !!! :)

    Like I said before, and many others have said, including the LAW, is that, Trying to spin breaking the law by using 'morals' as you're 'excuse' shows clearly to everyone that you're logic and morals are deeply corrupted.

    So next time you are arrested for murder, speeding, stupidity, tax evasion or whatever be sure to tell the nice policeman that you never agreed to that law, and you're morally obliged to do what you like... so how far that gets you in court, and then prison ...

     

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      Steven (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:56am

      Re:

      "I suggest, you abandon you're morals, and just rely upon the rule of law"

      Yep thats what I said, and stand by it, if you're moral compass is that far out, that you consider theft and breaking the law acceptable. Then you're morals are corrupt, and you are far better of just relying on the rule of law to guide you're morals. Not you're own brain, that appears not up to the task.

      I strongly support your stance I hope the nation follows. Then I can go buy me a couple black people and get all those darn women out of the voting booth and back into the kitchen where they belong.

      Legal does not equal moral. Morality gives us a position in whi

       

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        Steven (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:58am

        Re: Re:

        ...which to intelligently discuss the law and the appropriateness of certain laws.

        (sorry about the double post, hit the mouse with my palm on my laptop)

         

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:11am

        Re: Re:

        "Not you're own brain, that appears not up to the task."

        I'll make you a deal: when you can figure out how to properly construct a sentence, including the use of correct homonyms, then you get to talk about other people's brain power, and not before.

        Deal?

         

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      Nastybutler77 (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      Listen to yourself Dingus, and answer me one question:

      "'I suggest, you abandon you're morals, and just rely upon the rule of law'

      Yep thats what I said, and stand by it, if you're moral compass is that far out, that you consider theft and breaking the law acceptable. Then you're morals are corrupt, and you are far better of just relying on the rule of law to guide you're morals. Not you're own brain, that appears not up to the task."

      So prior to the emancipation of slaves, anybody who opposed slavery had corrupt morals?

      You sir, are an idiot.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:21am

        Re: Re:

        A California law was created in 1925 that makes it illegal to wiggle while dancing.

        Laws are never stupid. They are perfect and must be followed or society shall crumble under the weight of all those wiggling people.

         

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        Any Mouse, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 3:45am

        Re: Re:

        I would suggest we take this even further. How about the American Revolution? We're all traitors to the Crown of England, and should all just stand against the wall and be shot? Hmm? How's that sound? I agree, this person is an idiot.

        Laws are not a moral compass, and your own morality must dictate how you react to a law. If you feel the law is unjust, find your way to fight back against it, but not following the law is not immoral if the law is immoral.

        Of course, I doubt this person's 'brain power' as he puts it is up to the task.

         

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    Alex Bowles, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: So many excuses for theft

    Darryl (last name withheld) "So until the law is changed, morals has nothing to do with it. You're breaking the law, and you're engaging in simple THEFT.. "

    The Supreme Court of the United States "Interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The infringer of a copyright does not assume physical control over the copyright nor wholly deprive its owner of its use. Infringement implicates a more complex set of property interests than does run-of-the-mill theft, conversion, or fraud."

    No further comment.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:12am

      Re: Re: Re: So many excuses for theft

      What do they know?

      It's also ammusing that in some countries, it is, in fact, not illegal to download material for personal use.

      How can it be illegal in one country and legal in another?

      It's almost like laws aren't so black and white.

       

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    Pessimistic Optimist, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:29am

    Flawed logic (again).

    The utterly failed logic coming from the peanut gallery is palpable. It is amazing how difficult basic reasoning can be for some people.

    Say I purchase a song in FLAC format from an online store and this store does not sell anything in MP3 format.

    According to the flawed reasoning I've seen so far:

    1) I don't own the copyright, therefore it would be immoral for me to convert my file from FLAC to MP3.

    2) By the exact same token, downloading an MP3 of the FLAC file I purchased would be just as immoral, the equivalent of "theft".

    3) I should follow laws blindly, even if I (and many others) believe them to be immoral, poorly written, and out of date.

    Does that sound about right? /facepalm

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:31am

    If I buy the book to read at home do I have to then buy another copy to read while on a bus and another to read while at the park? I should be able to read a book I purchased when, where, and how I like.

     

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    Rick, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:41am

    Hmmm

    Would it be just as unethical to scan a book I bought?

    Not that I'd care. If I buy something, I'll do what I want with it - period.

     

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    Russ (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    ethical vs legal

    So many of the dissenting are conflating ethical (or moral) with legal. Just because ethical = legal is good and unethical = illegal is also good doesn't mean that legal = ethical or most importantly illegal = unethical.

    ethical is a cultural norm. Legal is a political tool. As much as our elected representatives would like to claim, history has shown that political != cultural. Although any political decisions that deviate too far from the cultural norm will be changed.

     

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      The Sarcastic-Mike, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 11:14am

      Re: ethical vs legal

      Hey man, at one point it was entirely legal to actually own people. Are you trying to tell me that owning people was immoral?

      That's absurd! If it was legal to own a human being, to treat them as your property, than it just goes to follow that owning a human being was also moral.

      It's in the bible!

       

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    btrussell (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 11:26am

    Selling me a copy? Then I should be able to do with it what I want for personal use.

    Selling me a license? Then I should be able to access it anywhere, anytime, as many times as I want.

    Distributors need to make up their minds on what they are selling.

     

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    Karl (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 12:25pm

    Baen

    I just posted a lengthy comment over there, which I'm sure will get me flamed.

    But, I just wanted to point out one cool thing I found out through the thread. The first post has a link to the Baen Free Library. Here is an author and publisher who truly gets it:
    http://baen.org/library/

    No idea if the books are any good, but I'll soon find out...

     

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    Sam I Am, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 12:29pm

    all or none at all

    E-versions of tangible merchandise are different products at different price points serving different platforms for different uses. Buy one or all or none at all, but get over yourself that purchasing one version should somehow entitle you to every other version of a given product. It doesn't. And if it must, the initial purchase price should skyrocket.

    Distributors understand perfectly well "what they are licensing." Either accept non-essential merchandise (we're not talking healthcare here) the way the rights holder offers it and at the price point they indicate or do without. Take it any other way and suffer consequences, just as you would taking material goods. Simple.

     

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      Chris Meadows (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:42pm

      Re: all or none at all

      Right. Remember, even though the Supreme Court held that you have the legal right to rip CDs to MP3s, you should still buy the CD AND the MP3s because purchasing one version doesn't entitle you to other versions of a given product.

      Yeah.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 4:18pm

        Re: Re: all or none at all

        I think the original article mentioned that there was no electronic version of the hardcover book even offered.

        It's still ethical, in my book. If you purchased the hardcover and it happend to be a giant tome with a great weight to it and you were going on vacation and didn't want to carry it around but you had a lightweight e-book reader then . . . .

        I mean, you did pay for it.

         

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    IrishDaze (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 12:41pm

    I submit that my downloading an "unautorized" digital copy of a book I own is not illegal because I am obtaining that copy for my personal use (most usually for "Find" functions). Sweat equity doesn't matter, wider distribution does.

    While I find that reading a physical book or my Kindle1 to be superior to reading a computer screen, I can't just CTRL+F a physical book.

     

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      IrishDaze (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

      Re:

      Pardon, that should be "I submit that my downloading an "unautorized" digital copy of a book I own is not UNETHICAL"

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 4:22pm

        Re: Re:

        You would think that having a searchable version of an electronic book might be considered a positive in today's society.

        I mean, if you purchase a book because there is no electronic version and you live in a country where it is not illegal to download an electronic version for your private and personal use . . . .

        IT'S WRONG IT'S WRONG! IT'S WRONG!

        Good luck holding back that rising tide, people.

         

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    Nick Dynice (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 4:26pm

    I have not yet had a chance to read through all of the comments here yet, so excuse me if someone already made this point.

    People are used to making MP3s from their CDs, tapes from their records, etc. Some cool labels sell records and then allow the free download of the tracks as MP3s.

    One day, we will all own book scanning devices, probably similar to the automated page turning/systems/OCR systems Google probably uses for their book scanning program. We will feel entitled to rip all of our books into ebooks in this manner because we think it is more convenient, and we do not think it is unethical. These moral norms would take decades to change, and probably will not change in favor of monopolists.

    To make the jump form book to movie and then say this too is ethical is not a fair analogy. These are not the same media.

     

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    Marion Gropen (profile), Apr 10th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    No Loss?

    Overlooked in many of the arguments about copyright violation is the issue of control.

    The short version: If I make it, and I want to restrict the way I offer it to you, you have no right to force me to do otherwise.

    I believe that an author or other creator has the right to control how their work is sold and distributed, where substantial parts of it get used in mash-ups and other ways, and many other things. Of course, many authors choose to release that control. Some offer their work under various copyleft licenses. Some renounce their rights explicitly, but if they do not, then we don't have the right to take their work and do as we will with it.

    That said, I also believe that US practice is fair: you can extract content from one version and move it to others for your own personal use. However, the minute you offer to share it, or take that sharing from someone else, you are violating the creators' and rightsholders' control.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2010 @ 11:17am

      Re: No Loss?

      The short version: If I make it, and I want to restrict the way I offer it to you, you have no right to force me to do otherwise.

      No one is forcing you to offer it. And as to conditions, they're only valid if I agree to them.

      I believe that an author or other creator has the right to control how their work is sold and distributed, where substantial parts of it get used in mash-ups and other ways, and many other things.

      I see. So that would make the first sale doctrine, as recognized in the US, invalid. And if, for example, I want to sell my house or car I should have to get the permission of everyone who helped create it (or their heirs) before I do so. Interesting. Do you practice what you preach?

      That said, I also believe that US practice is fair

      Wait a minute, you were just arguing against it.

      you can extract content from one version and move it to others for your own personal use.

      Even without the author's permission? That goes against what you were just arguing. Inconsistent? Hypocrite?

      ...or take that sharing from someone else, you are violating the creators' and rightsholders' control.

      Even if I never entered into any agreement with the creator or rights holder? So, you can force me to honor your wishes regardless, but I can't force you to honor mine. What are you, royalty or something? Oh, wait. Maybe that's why you think you deserve "royalty payments".

       

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      Russ (profile), Apr 12th, 2010 @ 2:31pm

      Re: No Loss?

      Control of distribution yes, control of use or profits no. You can restrict distribution to first sale but after I own it, I should be able to do what I want with it as long as it doens't interfere with your right of distribution.

       

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    Darryl, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 9:36am

    "morals and ethics"

    Yes, it's always good when "morals" and "ethics" are used as a justification for actions.

    Ofcourse,
    The Roman Catholic Church was morally and ethically justified to engage in the crusades, and the witch hunts.
    Spannish Conquistidours were morally justified to attack and kill Inca people.
    Taliban are morally justified to wage war against the west and stone people.
    The US was morally justified to wage war against Iraq, vietnam, Korea.......
    Hitler was morally justified to invade poland
    Romans were morally justified to kill christians
    Pol Pot morally justified to kill millions of his own citizens.

    So in the present and throughtout history 'morals' and 'ethics' have been used as a tool and excuse to do what you like and to get you're own way.

    That is why morals on their own cannot be used as the rule of law, because morals vary greatly between people, groups, and nations.

    Laws are a mutally agreed upon, (you vote in law makers in a democracy) set of rules based on a subset of fundamental moral and ethical conditions that applies to all.

    The law trumpt's morals, so if you believe it's morally correct to kill someone, there is a law that trumps you're personal morals. And it's what you are ultimately answerable to.

    So if you dont like a law, because it does not agree with you're 'morals' then you either need to look at you're own moral compass or get the majority of the community to accept you're moral standing to have the laws changed.

    So if you can convince enough people that it's right to kill people, you might be able to have a law passed to allow that. But most people think killing is morally wrong, so you personal morals dont mean anything. You have to live by the existing laws. Or society will punish you for you're imorral (in societies eyes) act.d

     

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    identicon
    Jack Marshall, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 3:31pm

    Cohen's Ethics

    The claim that ethics only matter when there are "winners and losers" is just dead wrong. A lie is wrong, whether there are losers or not: this is just a platform for rationalization.

    If you tell me that when the King novel does come out electronically, the guy who downloaded it illegally will pay for it, then you have an argument. Otherwise, it is all just an excuse to steal.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2010 @ 10:42am

      Re: Cohen's Ethics

      If you tell me that when the King novel does come out electronically, the guy who downloaded it illegally will pay for it, then you have an argument.

      He very well may if they follow CwF+RtB.

      Otherwise, it is all just an excuse to steal.

      The claim that copyright infringement is "stealing" is a lie and, as you said, "a lie is wrong". Congratulations. And you teach "legal ethics"? Wow. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

       

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    herodotus (profile), Apr 11th, 2010 @ 6:26am

    "The claim that ethics only matter when there are "winners and losers" is just dead wrong. A lie is wrong, whether there are losers or not: this is just a platform for rationalization."

    What makes a lie wrong? What universally accepted moral principle or authority is being invoked here?

    Do tell.

     

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    Darryl, Apr 11th, 2010 @ 11:15am

    "morals and ethics"

    Yes, it's always good when "morals" and "ethics" are used as a justification for actions.

    Ofcourse,
    The Roman Catholic Church was morally and ethically justified to engage in the crusades, and the witch hunts.
    Spannish Conquistidours were morally justified to attack and kill Inca people.
    Taliban are morally justified to wage war against the west and stone people.
    The US was morally justified to wage war against Iraq, vietnam, Korea.......
    Hitler was morally justified to invade poland
    Romans were morally justified to kill christians
    Pol Pot morally justified to kill millions of his own citizens.

    So in the present and throughtout history 'morals' and 'ethics' have been used as a tool and excuse to do what you like and to get you're own way.

    That is why morals on their own cannot be used as the rule of law, because morals vary greatly between people, groups, and nations.

    Laws are a mutally agreed upon, (you vote in law makers in a democracy) set of rules based on a subset of fundamental moral and ethical conditions that applies to all.

    The law trumpt's morals, so if you believe it's morally correct to kill someone, there is a law that trumps you're personal morals. And it's what you are ultimately answerable to.

    So if you dont like a law, because it does not agree with you're 'morals' then you either need to look at you're own moral compass or get the majority of the community to accept you're moral standing to have the laws changed.

    So if you can convince enough people that it's right to kill people, you might be able to have a law passed to allow that. But most people think killing is morally wrong, so you personal morals dont mean anything. You have to live by the existing laws. Or society will punish you for you're imorral (in societies eyes) act.d

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2010 @ 12:01pm

      Re: "morals and ethics"

      So if you dont like a law, because it does not agree with you're 'morals' then you either need to look at you're own moral compass or get the majority of the community to accept you're moral standing to have the laws changed.

      Right! Now get in the back of the bus!

       

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


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