Yes, Online And Offline Rules Are Different… Because Online And Offline Are Different

from the basic-economics dept

In the past we’ve discussed the ridiculousness of claiming that the internet is some sort of “wild west” without laws just because some people don’t like the laws covering the internet. Clearly, there are plenty of laws that deal with the internet. What people really mean when they call the internet “the wild west” is that they simply don’t like the laws — and specifically that those laws don’t fit into the analogy they have crafted for the internet.

But it’s important to recognize that the analogy they have crafted is just an analogy.

Just as claiming that copyright infringement is “the same as taking a CD out of the store” is a bad analogy, so are the claims that the internet is lawless. The fact is that the internet is different. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any laws online — and as noted, there are tons of laws that impact the internet already. It’s just that you can’t do a one-to-one comparison between situations online and offline, because they’re not the same.

And this works in reverse as well, which was brilliantly demonstrated a few weeks back by Julian Sanchez, who sought to flip the analogies by posting the typical “lawless internet” script, followed by a similar screed looking out from the internet:

At regular intervals—too short for it to even be amusing anymore—we now hear that debates over Internet regulation would be more productive if only people would get it through their thick skulls that the Internet is not some special free-for-all zone. There’s no reason it can or should remain magically exempt from the rules that apply everywhere else (we are reminded) and it is absurd and mysterious that some people (we are assured) believe otherwise.

This is a fair point. But what about all these hippy-dippy Real World anarchists who think meatspace can remain immune to the rules any well-managed virtual community understands to be essential? How is it, for instance, that citizens are physically capable of injuring each other, regardless of whether they’ve opted in to player-versus-player? And what fool designed it so that my image is visible to all other users in the same city, even if we aren’t friends? You’ve even apparently got to jump through a bunch of hoops to get something called a “restraining order” just to implement a simple user block!

The key point: there are certain things that are simply different in both worlds, and while you can try to create a direct analogy — or even say that we must create an analogy, all of those analogies break down as you dig deeper. In the real world, someone taking a CD means there’s one less CD to sell. That’s not true online. While you can make copies of something in the real world, online it’s instantaneous and exact. No matter what the analogy, you’ll run into problems, which is why relying on analogies never involves looking at the real issues. So using such analogies is always going to be a mistake. Again, to Sanchez:

What will actually make debates over Internet regulation more productive is universal recognition that the first paragraph is exactly as dumb as the second. (Possibly more so, since the second at least hints at some interesting possibilities.) You cannot implement an analogy. The rules that you’d want to apply if you could make it so just by wishing are not always the rules it is wise or feasible to attempt to actually put in place, once you’ve factored in the probable efficacy of that attempt and its unintended side-effects. Both of these, alas, are determined by annoyingly stubborn “facts” about the nature of the technological context in which you want to enforce the rules.

If we’re going to address issues involving the internet, it’s going to take actually understanding the internet, rather than trying to apply misleading analogies that don’t actually represent the situation. The internet is different. That doesn’t mean it is (or should be) lawless. But if there are going to be appropriate laws, they need to recognize the realities of the technology, not pretend that the internet is just like the physical world… but in pixels.

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Comments on “Yes, Online And Offline Rules Are Different… Because Online And Offline Are Different”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

The analogy should be.

The Internet is a Phone System.

As such, You wouldn’t …

…Listen in on everyone’s phone calls trying to catch them doing something wrong?
…Prevent people from calling others?
…Shut down someones phone, for calling a friend three times after he got accused of a crime?
…Fine him over $100,000 USD for listening to a song over the phone?
…Shut down someones phone for a year after someone accused them of playing music for a friend?

nuff said.

John Doe says:

The myth of the lawless internet

As far as I can tell, the internet is anything but lawless. If you threaten to kill someone using Facebook, you are charged with a crime. If you threaten to blow up a building using Twitter, you are charged with a crime. If you hack into a bank account online, you are charged with a crime.

If anything, I think many things that are a crime in the real world or maybe not even a crime but frowned upon, are being demonized if done online. Yes, bullying is bad, but now we have a concept of a cyber-bully which seems to be far worse than just being an old fashioned, playground bully.

Anonymous Coward says:

As soon as the guy starts talking about “meatspace” you sort of know where he is coming from. It’s not a very compelling way to look at things.

The internet is a Wild West, because there is no reason at all for the internet to be legally different from day to day life. Nobody here would walk into a beswt buy, rip open a cd, and rip a copy, yet we feel no issue at doing the same thing online. Is there any reason, other than “you can do it anonymously” that makes it possible?

Or like Gullwhacker’s example, except instead of reading the book you bring your lap top and scanner and scan a copy into memory. It’s illegal, for plenty of reasons, and certainly something that no normal book store would tolerate.

At this point, only in extreme circumstances are the rules of the real world applied online, like John Doe’s example of a death threat. Even then, we still face the issue of “was it really them or a hacker” and all that comes with it.

The new laws introduced and being introduced aren’t to make things on the internet more illegal than doing them in person, it’s to make the current laws apply correctly and directly to online activity. I know Mike that you want everything to be free all the time, without restriction, but if you cannot legally do it in the real world, you need to prepare yourself for the basic concept that it won’t be legal online forever either.

Wild west. You don’t like it, but it’s true.

silverscarcat says:


What Wild West?

And, yes, there should be things that apply differently online to real life?

Don’t think so?

If I buy a movie, and then play it for all my friends over my 360, and none of them have bought the movie, is it illegal?

I mean, should I be fined $100,000 for doing that? Lose my 360 for a year? Get thrown in prison over this?

Of course not. No one would do that.

So, why is it illegal if I do the same thing online? I’m not making a profit, I’m just sharing it.

Note, in both cases, I’m the only one who’s spent any money.

We don’t need new laws, we need to fix the old ones.

Jay (profile) says:


In all of the posts, all of the evidence of all kinds of piracy, I do know one thing. That the piracy of goods represents a small loss to those creating entertainment. So instead of focusing on the money, people focus on the pirates.

Why do you spend such an inordinate amount of time with the people that won’t pay? Why not focus on the people that want better customer service, experiences, and better products?

Is it so hard to ask for the movie industry to have a better suggestion than treating everyone like criminals?

If this were the wild west, I’m sure the barkeep knows that if he prices his whiskey more than three pinches of gold, most of the people wouldn’t visit his store for long. Instead, they’d just rather run some moonshine on their own.

Anonymous Coward says:

The CD analogy should be...

The CD analogy should be that I go to a music store, buy a single copy, rip it, burn thousands of copies, open up my own store, and give them away for free.

Someone has to buy the first copy (or it gets leaked, yeah, yeah, imperfect analogy). The cost of distribution is on the pirate and the site that hosts the .torrent file (or the cyberlocker).

Anonymous Coward says:

Nobody here would walk into a best buy, rip open a cd, and rip a copy
Actually, I’m not proud of this, but once, I was in an HMV looking at the DVDs. Normally all the cases are empty. But I noticed one that had the disc in. So I took it out and put it in my pocket.

If it were that easy to steal DVDs, the MPAA would probably want to execute everyone who went to a shopping centre.

tqk says:


Wild west. You don’t like it, but it’s true.

You equate “Wild West” with total anarchy. Even in the real world Wild West, every town had a sheriff and deputies, and even vigilantes, good and bad. On the Internet, we have Interpol coordinating stings that bust forty members of Anonymous in multiple countries in one day. That sort of suggests that existing law works. Note also that wasn’t just US law working. That was law in multiple Third World Countries working.

If Anonymous isn’t synonymous with vigilantism, I don’t know what is.

Keroberos (profile) says:


I love how in an article talking about bad analogies, you get comments spouting even more bad analogies.

Or like Gullwhacker’s example, except instead of reading the book you bring your lap top and scanner and scan a copy into memory. It’s illegal, for plenty of reasons, and certainly something that no normal book store would tolerate.

Nice try but it fails. A closer one would be, you buy a book from a bookstore, read it, loan it to a friend, but instead of reading it, he scans a copy to his computer to read later.

We’re not discussing whether or not these things are legal or illegal, the discussions are about the fact that these things exist and there is little you can do to stop them without turning the country into a police state (and I don’t think even that would help) and how you can create business models that can keep you profitable regardless of how much piracy happens on the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:


I am sorry, but doing it online isn’t the same at all.

Playing a movie for your friends would be rather different from enabling thousands of people to get a free copy of something. It’s the difference between sneakernetting a couple of movies with your best buddy, and widespread piracy.

The lack of a profit motive doesn’t really change much, the results are important.

Now, if you buy a movie, and bang out 1000 copies on DVD, and hand them out on the street corner, you might find yourself in trouble.

Remember – you have to compare scale to scale.

Anonymous Coward says:


Funny how to an article where they make a point how silly analogies between real-world and the internet really are sometimes and lead us away from the real issues, you respond by saying that the comparison is valid and try to strengthen your argument by repeating exactly the same silly analogies.

Did you understand the article at all? Things like “The key point: there are certain things that are simply different in both worlds”, and “If we’re going to address issues involving the internet, it’s going to take actually understanding the internet, rather than trying to apply misleading analogies that don’t actually represent the situation.”

Anonymous Coward says:


Meatspace laws do apply online. Downloading infringing content is illegal. I’m liable for every piece of infringing content I download. It’s just that certain parties choose to ignore individual accountability. Then there are others who aren’t even sure about what’s infringing and what isn’t.

So no, the wild west analogy fails. Massively.

Regardless, the solution isn’t more legislation which allows parties to make unlimited accusations with no repercussions for a false filing and no due process.

Canonical Howard says:

Another line in the sand

The metaphors are fun, and insightful.

So we have lots of examples, from the physical world and online, that individuals draw as a line in the sand. ‘See, I can do this in one world, why can’t I do it in the other?’, or ‘You can’t do this in one world, why in the other?’

I think what the author misses, as do many of the comments, is that the laws of a nation should reflect limits to individual behavior (and to police and government behavior), irrespective of the medium – Internet, phone, fax (!), or face to face in public. For example, threatening the life of another person in any medium is not tolerated.

Laws often treat behaviors done in private differently than those in public. You can wank in private, but not in public. You can show friends a movie in private, but not in a public place, unless you’re authorized by the Copyright holder (right of public performance).

Is the Internet a public or private place?
Is file sharing conducted in private, or in public?

This isn’t about the physical nature of CDs and books.
I hope it’s not a debate about whether in principle, existing laws should apply online. To suggest they don’t apply online is to vote for Wild West on the Internet.

These discussions are almost always about Copyright.
Suggest how Copyright should be changed, rather than saying it doesn’t apply online, because online is somehow different.


Anonymous Coward says:


I understand, and yes, the wild west did have all of those things – and they were often about as effective as pissing into the wind.

Even in the wild west, true criminals are spotted and known. You know the old wanted posters, right? That’s pretty much the deal. The issue isn’t the name criminals, the big players. The issue in the wild west was that almost everyone was a criminal at some level, from rustling cattle to shooting unarmed people who wandered onto their lands. There are things that were tolerated back then that would just not be tolerated now.

There isn’t total anarchy, just a total disregard for the law, until someone gets caught. Then just like the file lockers, suddenly every roach scurries out of the light for fear that they are next. That action, more than anything, proves what is really going on.

Anonymous Coward says:


Which by the way is a long standing tradition, everybody does that, heck old ladies go out to bookstores to copy recepies from the books without paying, there is a photo of two doing exactly that here on techdirt somewhere I just can remember the words to do a search LoL

Go to any bookstore today and you see someone trying to take a picture with his/her cellphone to show it to others.

Unless of course is wrapped in plastic.

Sneeje (profile) says:

The CD analogy should be...

Which makes perfect sense except the part about how you will have thousands of dollars of infrastructure costs that you can’t pay for, so pretty much no one would ever do. So the analogy makes no sense.

Top it off with the fact that the existing stores would have very many things that consumers would ACTUALLY want, like:
– Original branded products
– Wide selection
– Ability to ask questions
– Comfortable setting
– Can make copies of the music for their own use without repercussion
– Can share CDs with others without repercussion

None of which would exist in the scenario you described. See how that works? People pay for things they actually want if the price matches their value expectation. People really do want legitimate copies of things, but not if it comes with a HUGE sense of entitlement from the provider.

That last sentence negates any future rebuttal by you, because there is no analogous offering by digital purveyors that compete with the free, illegitimate options.

Anonymous Coward says:

The CD analogy should be...

I think the point you should take away is, Pirates are able to distribute the same content world wide same day faster cheaper and more conveniently than those that own the copyrights.

Now considering that most of these pirate sites start up in someones basement with their spare time on the weekend likely with the funds equivalent to what a high school student might have access to you really have to wonder why it’s so difficult for the industry to distribute their content world wide same day style…

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Another line in the sand

“Suggest how Copyright should be changed”

Ok, I will take you up on that one. Copyright should be brought back to what it was intended to be. You create something and you get your copyright for 10 years. That is being quite generous. How many 10 year old movies, songs, and so forth are really raking in money?

So copyright gets cut back and now the public will actually have a real public domain that is not getting constantly raped and things taken from it. With that they will make new works that they can have rights to for 10 years.

See how that works? You have to KEEP WORKING if you want to keep getting anything. You don’t write one song or one book and then kick back milking that for eternity. It also gives others a chance after a reasonable time to build upon your work.

The other side effect of this is no more stupid going after everyone and their dog for infringement. It will be a lot easier to keep track of what came out in last 10 years then the crazy system we have now.

Machin Shin (profile) says:


Yup piracy is illegal, and so are a ton of other things. How about we worry about getting all the drunk drivers, domestic abusers, rapists, murderers, thieves, drug dealers, arms dealers, human traffickers, and so forth? There are a LOT bigger issues than some people downloading things.

The solution too this problem is not more government meddling. The solution is for the industries to adapt and deal with this on their own and let the government deal with real issues.

Greevar (profile) says:


“Nobody here would walk into a best buy, rip open a cd, and rip a copy, yet we feel no issue at doing the same thing online. Is there any reason, other than ‘you can do it anonymously’ that makes it possible?”

No, we wouldn’t. Why? We wouldn’t because it’s much easier to just buy the CD and rip it at home because if you do it at Best Buy, you’re violating their property to do it. While at home, you’re doing it to your own physical property. Your analogy requires you to violate the property of someone else rather than using your own. Nobody would take issue with you ripping a disc you paid for and, therefore, own. They would take issue with you ripping a disc that belongs to someone else, however. In the Best Buy example, you’ve handled property that you had no permission to handle in such a way. At home, it’s yours and you can do as you please with your lump of plastic. The only real-world analogy that could possibly apply to this is that you memorize a book you bought and then recite the content to a group of people in a public space for free. That’s what file-sharing is, transmitting information to all the occupants of a public space. Would you demand that I be arrested if I went to the city park and read “The Davinci Code” aloud to the public?

Wild West my ass. Such a label is just a failure to realize that digital space and physical space are in no way the same. You can’t apply real-world concepts to something that can’t be governed by such rules. The digital world defies the limitations of the physical world and cannot be reigned-in as such. The internet is a communication medium and everything that goes on over the internet is speech. There is no property on the internet, there is nothing but public space and people using it to speak to everyone else. To say that sharing files on the internet is a violating of your property is to say that you own certain bits of speech. That’s what you continually miss every time. Your arguments are dishonest and ignorant.

Anonymous Coward says:


“The issue in the wild west was that almost everyone was a criminal at some level, from rustling cattle to shooting unarmed people who wandered onto their lands. There are things that were tolerated back then that would just not be tolerated now.”

And isn’t that what we have now? There are all kinds of things that are currently illegal that some people don’t even know about and do on a regular basis. Ala ripping their own movies, which violates DMCA. This is “tolerated” as it’s seen as okay by the majority of the popluation. In fact, the only ones not okay with this are people like yourself.

“There isn’t total anarchy, just a total disregard for the law, until someone gets caught. Then just like the file lockers, suddenly every roach scurries out of the light for fear that they are next. That action, more than anything, proves what is really going on.”

There’s nothing wrong with disregarding unjust laws. This is what the United States was essentially founded on. I’m not saying it’s okay to download a movie. I’m saying, if the laws have been perverted to the point that “entering the Public Domain” has become a joke, then perhaps the people taking what by all rights should have been theirs decades ago is okay (if not necessarily legal).

Also, in regards to file lockers, they’re not scurrying and if they are that doesn’t really prove anything at all. At least not in regards to the way you’re implying. All it proves is that people are realizing that the United States (or better said corporations who are pulling strings) are now deciding to seize and do what they feel like. “Oh, your site is perfectly legal in Country A and in line with court rulings? Well, too fucking bad. We’re the U.S. and we DO NOT approve. Oh, and we’re not just going to seize your site, we’re going to raid your home as if you are some kind of dangerous criminal. Yes! Starting a website that allows people to store their digital files is a crime on par with terrorism, rape and murder! Now STFU you scumbag!” That’s what has people “scurrying”, the fear that because they can’t adequately control the actions of a few bad eggs (users), THEY will be held accountable and treated in a manner that has until recently been reserved for only the most dangerous of people.

Your words, more than anything, prove how either completely irrational you are, in regards to pretty much anything content related. That or you just have a severe hang up with people doing as they please and you’re one of those types who likes to wag your finger and judge everyone by your own moral code and what you deem as right. Emphasis on “YOUR” moral code and what “YOU” deem as right. That’s purely subjective and not a good reason/place to begin, as far as telling others what to do.

AB says:

Another line in the sand

An intelligent response to an intelligent observation. If only the real world politicians could debate like this…

I think between the two of you lies the truth. If existing copyright laws were repealed and replaced with reasonable terms then reasonable people would be quite willing to accept increased restrictions in file sharing. In fact most torrent sites would probably start actively cooperating and doing self policing without all the threats. (I’m not suggesting this would eliminate piracy – nothing will do that – simply that it would reduce it to the minor nuisance it should be from the big thorn it is now.)

Anonymous Coward says:


Indeed it is legal to do so in Texas. I say this as a native Texan. (Might I also apologize on behalf of more than a few Texans for Lamar Smith. I can tell you I did not vote for him.)

But do aim to kill. If you just injure them, there’s all kinds of stupidity that can happen. From them suing you and potentially winning said suit (as has happened before), to you being charged with attempted homicide (kill them and you’re just defending yourself and your home, which is okay and legal). (That last bit happened to a neighbor of mine. Someone broke in, he caught them in the act and he was arrested on the spot and very nearly charged with attempted homicide. For shooting the thief, who was just injured and didn’t die. A lawyer and some time later, all charges were eventually dropped.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Unless some new invention has come to the fore and been implemented, the last time I looked the internet comprises hardware. And, just like communication systems of old, it employs software to facilitate the transfer of information over the hardware. At the start of a communication and at its terminus the 0’s and 1’s are converted into a human perceptible format, be it a page on a screen, a file from which music/movies can be played, etc.

To say that the internet is basically divorced from the physical world is simply inaccurate.

Anonymous Coward says:


Of course people still do this. There are streets in NYC that are difficult to walk down during busier hours because of the number of guys selling illegal DVDs off of blankets on the sidewalk. (Although admittedly, it seems like the NYPD has gotten them out of the subways)

My favorite is a guy who hangs around inside the check cashing joint on Ave B and Houston in Manhattan. People cash their paycheck, and then step over to him to buy CDs and DVDs. He even takes requests from customers and when the customer comes back next week he has what they asked for. He has a lot of stock on him at all times anyway, lots of PPV events, etc. He even keeps a couple of those personal DVD players on hand so you can be sure the DVDs will play before you hand over your money. Quite a hustle he has going. And again, to reiterate, he does this from within the legit check cashing place.

So yeah, it still goes on. Some people forget that computers, iPods, and internet connections are still luxuries for a great deal of people.

Nick Burns (profile) says:

Hmmm… let’s see… some real world examples of online actions.

Legitimate: Personics – a great but dead business that had kiosks throughout Tower records. The idea, you would go in and make your own mix tapes from a library of songs. You paid about $1 for each song and I believe another $1 for the media itself. I have one of these tapes. It cost $13 = 6 songs on each side + the tape itself. Too bad they went out of business.

Illegal(?): Going to a Tower records (or any music store) that had listening stations with headphones. You could listen to a lot of songs from their library. Where it would come into legality is if you plugged in a line-out type cable instead of the headphones and recorded the music for your own personal use. You’re not stealing anything as the store has not lost any of its inventory. This would take some time and not as instantaneous as what you can do online.

How about bittorrenting in real life? One scenario would be with books. Go to a library or a book store that also includes the free use of photocopying. Take a book you want and photocopy perhaps the first 10 pages of it or as much as you can without raising suspicion. Now either you or have several of your friends do it with the consecutive pages at different stores. You would bring all the scans back home and assemble your book. Again the establishments still have a their stock of the book.


John Fenderson (profile) says:


Oh, he knows he’s talking nonsense. It’s just that in order to perpetuate the crusade against freedom of communication and privacy, he needs to create a mythical Big Powerful Bad Guy Who Wants To Steal Everything.

The *AAs aren’t fighting the internet because they’re actually worried about piracy. They aren’t. CEOs of some major companies have said this outright. They’re fighting the internet because it is a distribution channel that they cannot monopolize. That threatens their business model & profitability.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, what you fail to recognize or possibly even realize, is that the value of the CD IS NOT the physical CD itself but the music contained on the CD. The actual disk is of negligible value, in fact if a recorded and finalized CD contains no data (music) it is completely worthless. The value of the CD is of course the music which is digitally encoded therein. All of your resistance to equate piracy with theft is ridiculous. When one purchases a song from iTunes, or on a CD, or even when one goes to a concert, they are paying to hear a performance. Pirating a song is the same as sneaking into a concert. You are stealing the opportunity to experience the performance. Piracy charges (for listening to pirated music or watching pirated movies) should carry the same punishment as theft of service. Infringing, illegally distributing copies of creative works, should be a matter for the civil courts, with damages awarded based upon the market value of the works. Sites like TPB should be fined for every instance of infringement that is enabled by their service, but only at the market value of the work (not the ridiculously inflated fines that have been levied in the past).

John Fenderson (profile) says:


The issue in the wild west was that almost everyone was a criminal at some level, from rustling cattle to shooting unarmed people who wandered onto their lands.

You should read up on the “wild west”. It wasn’t actually that wild. It wasn’t even remotely like it’s portrayed in the movies. It was much more dull grueling work to maintain a subsistence lifestyle. Cattle rustling, shootouts, and so forth were not exactly an everyday occurrence.

Not even remotely everyone was a criminal, or at least not in any sense differently than everyone now is a criminal.

There are things that were tolerated back then that would just not be tolerated now.

Yes, and there are things that are tolerated now that would just not be tolerated then. Laws and mores change over time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Except they don’t want the digital laws to be just like the real world. Sure they use that argument to try to make more things illegal. But half the time the are getting up in arms for someone taking something that is perfectly legal to do at home and adding “on the internet” to the equation.

Like Zediva or Pinsetter. If I own a movie and watch it at home with some friends that is legal. If I stream it and watch it with friends who are not in my home its illegal. Why? Because I added the internet to the equation.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

The CD analogy should be...

The fault there lays with the industry itself. They could have set up sites where people can easily find releases at reasonable prices. For example if you’re burning your own CD or DVD or have to get new hardware to listen/see the release it would have to be at a slightly lower price than what Sneeje talks about in his post where the bricks and mortar, knowledgeable staff, relaxed atmosphere and so on are present.

That discount over Sneeje’s store may not be as much as you think because people do value all those things over price, in many cases, and there’s a tendency to linger creating more sales.

Keeping in mind, here, that what we’re talking about is bits and bytes here not entirely physical goods in “the real world”. In both cases, though, the industry makes what it would have while selling shiny plastic disks.

The industry chose to do neither. In music they had to get cornered by Steve Jobs before an iTunes existed. Not only that but he out bargained them when he got iTunes going.

Because the industry refused to do business on the web Napster came along in the days where most connections were still dial up. That inconvenience alone should illustrate that people weren’t making the decision to “pirate” lightly when a download of one or two songs could take 20 minutes or so and be interrupted by a message waiting signal on the phone line. Napster provided what the industry would not.

To compete now, and the industry can if it chooses, it would have to ditch holy grails such as regional “rights”, phased introduction and a few other marketing tools that worked well before the Web existed but are both irrelevant and annoying to customers now that the Web is here.

They can beat free, if they want. They have the branding that says we’re the genuine article, would be less likely to be hiding root kits, viruses and other nasties that break out on pirate sites from time to time and customers would consider them more secure for that reason alone. They’d also need to stop expecting $20 US for the download of each CD which would allow piracy to continue as no one, in this day and age, is going to pay that. I have no idea the price the market would set but it isn’t what is currently retail.

The industry has high profit margins already, buyers aren’t about to tolerate higher ones where the good itself, the song, movie, tv show or whatever isin infinite supply because it’s digital.

I could go on here but, in my mind, the industry didn’t just miss the boat but they missed the whole damned fleet as it steamed on by

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

I think this A.C. has a point.

When some people say “piracy” = “theft”, a better real-world analogy will be like turnstile-jumping to get into the subway in NYC or any other metropolitan area. It’s “theft” in that something that is offered for sale and not for free is not being paid for without the permission of the owner of said thing (the Metropolitan Transit Authority in my subway example, the copyright owner in the examples of “piracy”). However, nothing is being lost, except an opportunity at a sale (I realize that there are people who pirated music who later bought the music they pirated. I know, I’m one of them. Still, it’s like saying that people who jump turnstiles also pay to use the subway more: it’s quite possible more money could have been paid legitimately were there legal opportunities, but that doesn’t excuse infringement).

John Fenderson (profile) says:


Texas is a scary place.

One time, a couple of weeks after I moved into a new house, I was sitting in the living room with my young daughter when the door opened and a man walked right in. Turns out that the person who lived there before me was a close friend of his and he was unaware that the guy had moved. If I lived in Texas, I could have killed the guy without consequences?

What do you do, call the police every time someone breaks into your house?

Yes. Do houses get broken into so often that this is an issue? If that’s the case, I’d just move to a place with a tolerable crime level.

Anonymous Coward says:


When one purchases a song from iTunes, or on a CD, or even when one goes to a concert, they are paying to hear a performance. Pirating a song is the same as sneaking into a concert. You are stealing the opportunity to experience the performance.

Um, no. The theft analogy does not work in the digital world. Not only does it not hold legal water (US courts have found that infringing copies are not stolen property), but in a world where you can make effectively unlimited exact copies of something at zero cost, that analogy totally breaks down. You can’t steal something that isn’t scarce. When you sneak into a concert, one could argue that you’re stealing from a ticket holder, depriving that ticket holder of their seat at the concert. But when you download a digital file, any file, copyrighted or not, you gain possession of a copy of the file, but nobody loses anything. Digital files are not scarce, and this lack of scarcity is a fundamental difference that makes almost all real-world analogies break down.

Piracy charges (for listening to pirated music or watching pirated movies) should carry the same punishment as theft of service. Infringing, illegally distributing copies of creative works, should be a matter for the civil courts, with damages awarded based upon the market value of the works.

I agree in part. But why not take it further and go back to the old way of copyright being purely a civil matter? Scrap the whole notion of infringement being a crime. If I infringe your copyright, that’s between you and me to work out.

Anonymous Coward says:

You are all blind to reality. This isn’t an analogy, this is a reality. All the rules in the real “offline” world apply to the online world as well. And they should be fully enforced to the maximum extent of the law.

I am sick of getting “murdered” by the opposing faction while playing any MMO. I don’t care if the person is in another country either. We need to send police to those countries and take the perpetrators back home and lock them up for life, or even executed. This is unacceptable behavior.

Torg (profile) says:


That’s an interesting question. If he just openly walked in and acted friendly or confused that probably would’ve ended up more awkward than deadly, particularly if you’re the kind of person to leave his door unlocked. But assuming you did immediately assume he was a thief, most people aren’t stupid enough to just sit around their house with their gun, so it would take a bit of time to get it. That’d give the guy time to announce himself (“Hi, is Bob home?” or “Who are you?”) or get nervous and leave, which would probably avert the shooting unless you were some kind of psychopath. If he didn’t, though, you might’ve been able to, though I’m not sure what the repercussions would be once the police found out that the guy had a reason to expect to be welcome.

Perhaps “every time” was a poor choice of words, but there have been a few series of break-ins in my area that I remember, most of which were resolved by a dude with a gun (though there’s one I don’t remember much about that might’ve been handled by the authorities).

Anonymous Coward says:

on par with terrorism, rape and murder!

“Starting a website that allows people to store their digital files is a crime on par with terrorism, rape and murder!”

Excuse me but rape rarely gets a severe penalty, and even murderers get away with as little as 5 years (5 years x $40k/year = $200k) whereas file sharing suits routinely run well over $300k, and starting a filesharing website attracts suits in the millions. Based on the numbers there is no way these can be considered on a par; murder and rape are clearly considered far lesser crimes.

The Moondoggie says:


Texas is a scary place.

True. It’s because of them we are all in this mess in the first place by voting for Lamar Smith.

Yes. Do houses get broken into so often that this is an issue? If that’s the case, I’d just move to a place with a tolerable crime level.

There’s crime all over the world. You never know when you’ll get hit hard and fast…

Anonymous Coward says:


Legitimate: Personics – a great but dead business that had kiosks throughout Tower records. The idea, you would go in and make your own mix tapes from a library of songs. You paid about $1 for each song and I believe another $1 for the media itself. I have one of these tapes. It cost $13 = 6 songs on each side + the tape itself. Too bad they went out of business.

Why did they went out of business? This is a fucking great idea! All the songs you want, the way you want it, and paid for. It’s supposed to be this way.

If they did this online, a zip/rar file with the custom album, you can eliminate the cost of recording and the tapes. You just make the person pay and email him the file/s. PROFIT!

explicit coward (profile) says:


Uhm, no, sorry. Nobody murdered you – otherwise you would not be writing here. What was murdered was your character/toon or whatever you want to call it. And even that is not true, as I know of no MMO where the “death” of a character is permanent.

Yeah, Diablo 2, you had the hardcore-option where death would be permanent. But I wouldn’t consider it an MMO…

Svante Jorgensen (profile) says:

Copying is all you can do on the Internet

On the Internet, at the basic level, all you can do is copy information. You can copy your own information and send it to others, or you can receive copied information. It’s all copies of copies of copies…

In fact, distributing copyrighted material (you have the right to) over the internet should automatically strip the owner of the copyright, since you can’t distribute anything over the internet without letting other people copy it.

Willfully distributing your content on the internet and claiming to retain the copyright is a logical fallacy.

TL;DR – Internet and Copyright is incompatible.

Anonymous Coward says:

on par with terrorism, rape and murder!

Yeah, I actually was pretending to be a shill or the U.S. government.

But I know you’re right. I actually met a man recently at a bar who murdered a man. He was sentenced to 8 years, was out in 4. He was ordered to pay restitution to his victim’s family in the amount of $100,000. Upon his release, they changed it to $20,000.

So apparently, as you pointed out, murder is considered LESS of a crime and punished as such than sharing a cd’s worth of music online.

Go figure. Some weird sense of proportion/justice.

Anonymous Coward says:


Perhaps you can talk to us when you’re ready to refute more than one point I made.

You know, ignoring an entire argument just to focus on only one sentence goes to show how weak your stance really is.

Oh, that and you know, people have been getting the shaft in regards to the Public Domain since way before I was even born. Why should the people respect copyright length in it’s original form (as in “only rip off stuff that people think should already be in the public domain”), when you and your kind saw fit to not do that? Copyright length extensions anyone?

You didn’t respect the 14 year part of that PRIVILEGE. Why should we?

Oh, I see, it’s just part of the hypocrisy you present here on a regular basis. I see. In that case, moving along.

But seriously, if your best response is to focus on that one sentence only, I recommend you not bother at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think this A.C. has a point.

Not to mention that people ride a train out of necessity. I don’t discover new music because I have to. So if a friend says “I like this band I found.” Then I go and download it so I can see if I like it before I spend money on it. I then decide if I want to support the artist or to delete the music because I don’t like it.

Its not really the same thing as having to get to work everyday. No one is trying out the subway to see if they like it they are using it to get somewhere they have to go.

Niall (profile) says:

The CD analogy should be...

I remember long ago, music stores were talking about allowing you to burn CDs of bought music actually in the store, so you could do a proper ‘mix-and-match’ of music that you wanted. Tie that in with the listening posts that did become popular, and you could have been onto an overall winner. However, apparently because they were too addicted to the additional revenue from ‘filler’ tracks on albums, this never materialised, and now they are reaping the benefits. If they had gotten people used to handling digital files in the shop (for instance, operating a legal service to rip your CDs to a convenient, quality format for you) they would have had a bigger finger in the digital pie too.

Anonymous Coward says:


It isn’t an analogy at all. When someone pays for a song they are paying to listen to the performance exactly as they do at a concert. The performance is diffent, and that’s what makes attending a concert a unique experience. It isn’t an analogy; if you pirate music you are stealing a performance just as you steal a performance when you sneak into a concert.

Anonymous Coward says:


It is exactly the same, the concert is a performance, the MP3 is a recording of a performance. If a performer determines that he/she wants to charge for the song/album/concert, people are not entitled to access that performance free of charge under any circumstances. In fact is expressly forbidden by existing laws that predate the internet. Just because someonme can make a copy of something which doesn’t affect the original does not mean that ther owner of that object is not robbed the opportunity to make a sale. Regardless of whether SOME people might make a purchase after pirating content there are thousands if not millions of others who never make that purchase but still pirate the content.

Torg (profile) says:


And I’m never going to attend a concert from a band I’ve never heard either. I’ve been to several concerts, and I didn’t go to see Rush, Blue Man Group or Weird Al because I wanted to find out if their music was any good. I went because I’d heard it before and thought it was worth paying to see. The only time I’ve ever paid for music that I didn’t know the quality of was when I wanted to support the artist and didn’t give a shit about the music.

And quite frankly I’m not sure how sneaking into a concert is “stealing a performance”. The performance goes on whether or not you’re there, and as long as you’re not in someone else’s seat no one else is inconvenienced. The effect on the performance is exactly the same if you weren’t there as if you are.

Chargone (profile) says:


*thinks* or possibly something that’s only fairly new HERE because until recently all the book shops were either physically small shops that didn’t have room for such in small to midsize towns, or large chain stores that did not in any way shape or form subscribe to the relevant logic. (… actually, for all that they have tons of stuff on their shelves, if you want anything other than the latest pointless fad book from an author no one’s heard of before on a subject that’s of no use to anyone, you have to actually order it and come back when they get it in. most seem to basically be set up for this and selling stationary to be their main way of doing things, actually.)

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

I think this A.C. has a point.

If you think about it, the internet is also space-limited in a way. Otherwise, DDoS attacks wouldn’t exist. A DDoS attack is like people cramming a physical space, like a subway car.

On the subway, you can take the next train. Same thing on the internet. If one place is down, go somewhere else.

Then again, maybe I should stop, because I’m really mixing my metaphors and my point is getting lost.

Chargone (profile) says:


… you know the fun part?

sounds like he’s providing better customer service than most legal outlets.

(seriously, where do they get off with ‘we sell you the game in a sealed packet. the specs on the packet in no way relate to reality. if you OPEN the packet you cannot return the goods.’ that’s the situation here. to the point where any shop that does second hand sales is quite likely to buy the thing back for somewhere around 90% of what they sold it to you for (well, in the first week or so after it came out. after that A: it’s less viable financially and B: you really should have checked out reviews and stuff before buying) to compensate for it. (they can still legally do that. so far.) movies and music are the same. the shops CANNOT give you anything if you return the product after opening the packet, unless the PHYSICAL product (the disk) is damaged, and even then can only replace it with a (theoretically non-defective) copy of the same product.

which is why standard EULAs on these things cannot be enforceable, btw. because they take your money, you cannot get your money back, you cannot return the product, and you cannot USE it without agreeing to their ‘agreement’. i’d call that duress, personally.)

blargh. tangental rant. whoops.

Chargone (profile) says:


so far as i can tell, here abouts if someone breaks into your house and is not armed, your best bet is to take pictures and report it to the police later. they’ll actually catch the guy and you’ll get your stuff back. convincing them to actually come and Actually arrest the guy at the time? good luck unless you’re next door to the police station.

if someone is being attacked in the street outside your house, you best bet is to get someone else in the house to call the cops while you grab an appropriate weapon (escalating is bad, which generally means a bat or piece of pipe or wood, if anything) and dealing with it yourself if you have the capacity to do so. you’ve got more hope of successfully making the self defense claim (or avoiding getting into trouble at all, if you’re successful and don’t cause too much damage) than you do of the cops showing up in time to do anything about it.

obvious and potentually dangerous criminal activity happening down the street? … call the cops and be prepared for them to tell you to take your cell phone and go observe the situation and report details to them rather than actually send anyone with training or skills to do it. (actually happened to someone i know.)

someone trying to steal the tires off your car? run ’em off with a sword. you’ll get more success and less hassle out of seeming homicidal enough to run the guy off and not actually doing anything than you will trying to get the cops to respond before said tires (and anything else of value) are long gone. (also happened to someone i knew. heh.)

if there’s a dude with a gun you call the cops though. they actually respond to that. sometimes with armoured military vehicles mounting autocannons, if the person in question has forted up somewhere.

they’re also good at catching drunk drivers (if said driver is dim enough to go through one of their temporary breath testing checkpoints), murderers and rapists (long after the fact, and if the court doesn’t seem to be agreeing with their conclusions odd things have been known to happen that lead to witnesses and evidence saying different things to correct that. it’s fairly rare. just frequent enough to be worrying.) car thieves (usually after finding the totaled car)… i’m sure you can see the pattern here.

most of it is Not the fault of (most of) the individual officers, i might add. though if it were you’d have a hell of a time doing anything about it, there’s a tendency to close ranks rather than fix things.

so… yeah, you call the cops if your life’s in (immediate and obvious) danger or if you can afford to wait for a resolution.

and if it’s a corporation that’s the issue you don’t even bother. you find out where they’ve got ties and then pick whichever of the following they Don’t have links to: the media, your local MP, or the Inland Revenue Department (if it applies to taxes).

sounds pretty dreadful, huh?

it’s not actually That bad, the cops just don’t have the resources to be reliable. they do actually catch up with criminals and justice is generally done. they’re just no help at all when you have a problem Right Now that doesn’t look likely to shape up to be a shooting spree.

so, no, you don’t call the police every time someone breaks into your house.

you also don’t shoot them. that way lies a manslaughter charge, minimum.

Anonymous Coward says:


Honestly, I have no idea. I have a few relatives in law enforcement, but I don’t see them regularly, as soon as I do I’ll ask them and post here whatever response I get.

What they have told me though, is “shoot to kill”. Literally. For exactly the reasons I stated above. “They live, you might get sued. You might get charged with attempted homicide. Etc. Yes, that is even if THEY were the ones breaking in and possibly armed. Shoot to kill or you’ll regret it otherwise.”

Which is a pretty f*cked up state of affairs if I do say so myself.

I’m thinking if you use a melee weapon, it might be the same. Although instead of attempted homicide it might become aggravated assault. Possibly even assault with a deadly weapon. Depending on the melee weapon you use.

What can I say? [shrugs] Welcome to Texas.

Anonymous Coward says:

The myth of the lawless internet

Not to correct you, because you stated it perfectly, but I know locally… again, here in Texas… if you get caught stealing a cd, or per several friends/examples I can think of and know about, say two or three cds you will get on average about a $200 fine (if that) and no time in jail, no probation, etc.

Think about that. You physically deprive a retail store of 3 cds worth of merchandise, which constitutes a legitimate lost sale (or three) and you get essentially a slap on the wrist. In the Lone Star State. Infamous for it’s sense of justice and harsh punishments.

Yet download just one cd worth of music and face lifetime financial ruin. And that’s without them being able to actually prove you uploaded it/downloaded it beyond having your IP address on a log. Which history has shown can be falsified, completely incorrect to begin with, etc.

It kind of makes you laugh at the whole thing. What can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, you get punished practically nothing for. What they can’t prove, your life is in ruins over. And they wonder why people don’t respect them or the rest of their shenanigans. They have no sense of proportion or shame.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

I think this A.C. has a point.

What, people can get off at their stop? Amazing! So if out of an empty subway 50 people get off and another 50 people get on it, you have exactly 0 persons on the subway! It’s just amazing what you can do when you eliminate the timeline from the equation!

Right. And if 50 people access a website whose server capacity is 50 users, you get a DDoS. All of them leave, and then the website has 0 views.

Just like our hypothetical subway car.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Then again...

Then again, Websites can be mirrored, and train cars have to be built from scratch.

Then again, there are some web sites whose services can’t be mirrored, like Ticketmaster and Chipotle. Then again, the web sites can be mirrored but the services those web sites provide can’t…

This should pre?mpt anyone from comparing me to Bob (at least I didn’t compare a subway turnstile to a paywall!).

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