Hide Techdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Guess What? Copying Still Isn't Stealing

from the just-saying dept

Every time you think we’re done seeing totally ridiculous arguments about file sharing, the old really silly ones pop back up. Musician Logan Lynn has written a pretty silly rant on Huffington Post entitled Guess What? Stealing Is Still Wrong. And, indeed, it is. But nowhere in the article does he actually discuss stealing. He discusses infringement. In silly black and white terms that assumes that every single download is absolutely a lost sale, that no one who downloads ever gives him any money and that his biggest fans are criminals. Crazy stuff.

The music industry has been ravaged by the digital age, the primary culprit being illegal file sharing on websites with practically zero regulation. The past two decades have been something of a Wild West on ye olde Interwebs. No rules, no accountability. By the time the music industry reacted to what was happening, it was too late.

Almost nothing in this paragraph is true. It’s a nice fiction that the RIAA/MPAA have been telling the world, but it’s simply wrong. The music industry? Growing. Zero regulation? Try 15 anti-piracy laws passed in the last 30 years. No accountability? Should I list out the tens of thousands of lawsuits that copyright holders have filed against those who were file sharing? If you can’t get the basics right, it’s kinda difficult to take your complaints seriously.

While performing at and attending the CMJ music conference in New York City in fall 2009, I learned that at that time, 91 percent of all new music was downloaded illegally over the Internet instead of purchased. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Record stores are closing, music rags are shutting down, and the glory days of rock and roll are over…

Actually the popular stat at the time was 95%, and it was bogus. And, there’s a lot of evidence that the number has actually been dropping, not rising. Record stores closed because they sold CDs which are increasingly obsolete. Music rags are shutting down because music blogs are running rings around them online. The glory days of rock and roll were never quite as glorious as you think…

which I actually don’t give even half a shit about. In fact, I’m glad the music industry got destroyed. It was fucked-up anyway, so who cares? Poor (filthy rich) record executives making hundreds of millions of dollars on the backs of artists. Boo-hoo. I’m crying for you. Really. I am.

It sure seems like you’re complaining.

What pisses me off is having over 91 percent of my personal intellectual property stolen, often before it even has the chance to be finished and released to the world. As a professional musician, a lot of time, hard work, and money goes into making a record. As an independent musician, that money comes directly out of my own pocket. Being a starving artist honestly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anymore, people, and getting ripped-off has always sucked.

You didn’t have 91% of your intellectual property “stolen.” First of all, the number — whatever it is — was a general number across the entire global market. That doesn’t mean it’s the same for all artists. This is basic stats. Second, if tons of people are downloading your works it’s because they like your music and that’s a good thing and then there are all sorts of ways to get paid.

Even when I was on a major label, I got totally screwed because so much money was put into the recording, printing, PR, and distribution side that trying to recoup from consumer sales based on that 9 percent of people obtaining the album legally was almost impossible. Everyone had the record months before it came out anyway, because of file sharing. The week before it was released, one site that posted download counts on files reported over 18,000 illegal downloads of my record before my lawyer had them take the file down. That alone comes out to $180,000 — for my songs — of which I saw $0. My record deal was a 90/10 split at the time, but guess what 90 percent of $0 is? You guessed it! Still $0.

First of all, the “numbers” posted on those sites are usually made up, not real. Second, assuming that every one of those 18,000 people would have paid $10 for the album is simply delusional. Some of them might have. Others might have downloaded first and then decided to buy later. Others might have downloaded, and then told 20 of their closest friends how awesome you are and told them to go buy your album. Or go see a live show. The assumption that this is $180,000 gone is simple fantasy.

Think of it this way: if you were a painter and were putting the finishing touches on your pieces for a show, wouldn’t you be upset if someone broke into your studio, took your unfinished paintings, and hung them in their public gallery without your permission? Let’s say you had some finished work hanging for sale in your own space, but every time someone saw something they liked, they removed it from the wall, tucked it under their arm, and left without paying for it? What if 100 people came to your show opening and 91 of them decided to steal one of your paintings off the wall? Then what? Paint faster to keep up with the demand?

Think of this way: if you were a painter and were putting the finishing touches on your pieces for a show, wouldn’t it be awesome to find out that thousands of people were so eager to find out about your works that they were clamoring for copies online? Let’s say you had some finished work hanging for sale in your own space, but every time someone saw something they liked, they made a copy and told a bunch of others about it — and then paid you to do more paintings? What if 100 people came to your show and 91 of them liked you so much they decided to make copies and find out more about you and how they could support your future work? Then what? Things would be pretty good, right?

I know this is the part where all the kids and hipsters start to roll their eyes and say things like, “You just don’t get it, grandpa,” and, “It’s freedom of speech,” but I don’t actually believe that stealing my intellectual property is your constitutional right. Sorry, everybody.

If you’re going to mock those who are arguing against you, it helps to actually understand their argument. The free speech argument is not that infringement is free speech. It’s that ridiculous laws like SOPA create massive collateral damage that do serious harm to free speech.

Next time you hear a song you like, I encourage you to purchase it instead of stealing it. Supporting independent musicians just feels better than robbing us of our livelihood. I promise! Hell, you could even go to your favorite local record store, buy a CD, and look at the cover art for hours. You know, for old times’ sake.

Next time you have a fan come to your site, I encourage you to offer them proactive reasons to buy instead of just demanding that they hand over cash. Treating your fans as fans and giving them lots of ways to support you just feels better than treating your biggest fans as criminals. I promise! Hell, you could even offer up cool products and bundles, or try a name your own price offering, or any number of other cool new ideas. You know, for modern times’ sake.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Guess What? Copying Still Isn't Stealing”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
420 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

I’d never heard of the guy, even though he apparently works in a genre I’m familiar with. Amusingly, a genre that’s largely built around people sharing recordings of DJ sets with each other for promotion, often free of charge or bootlegged.

No matter, since his poor ability to understand the arguments seem to go hand in hand with his promotional skills, he’s still not getting any of my money. I’ll give it to other musicians who understand the business they’re in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually someone Infringed on his rights as a rights holder. The person made his music available for download which is INFRINGEMENT. This enabled others to STEAL his music. Yes there is a difference!

Infringement – to encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another – from Merriam-Webster Online

Steal: to take or appropriate without right or leave and with intent to keep or make use of wrongfully – from Merriam-Webster Online

Notice how Infringement is to violate the law, specifically the rights of another. The person who shared the file violated the rights of the musican by circumventing the distribution/duplication rights granted under Copyright Law.

Stealing is to take or appropriate without right with the intent to make use of the work wrongfully (without permission). Clearly the verb “steal” more closely resembles the action of the downloaders. They have appropriated (through a download) that to which they are not authorized. Notice how it car theft, the property does not need to be permenantly displaced from the original owner – the argument that to steal requires something to be gone is ridiculous. You can steal physical goods, ditigal goods, services, access to performances, etc…

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Notice how it car theft, the property does not need to be permenantly displaced from the original owner – the argument that to steal requires something to be gone is ridiculous. You can steal physical goods, ditigal goods, services, access to performances, etc…”

Nobody is arguing that the owner must be deprived of property permanently for it to be stealing. It’s stealing if you even temporarily deprive the owner of their property. But the deprivation, regardless of the duration of that deprivation, is a sine qua non for it to be considered stealing.

You can steal physical goods. You can’t steal digital goods unless you steal the hard drive with the only copy of those digital goods from the owner. You can’t steal an intangible good that is copyrighted, unless you wrongfully assert ownership over a copyright, such as when studios refuse to let copyrights revert to their creators after 30 years or labels claim ownership of other people’s videos on YouTube.

Theft of services involves a pre-arrangement for an exchange of money for services. This doesn’t happen when artists are creating works and they’re being published unless fans are actively commissioning the creation and publication of works.

Doug D (profile) says:

It can be.

Saying “copying still isn’t stealing” doesn’t make it true.

I understand that you don’t agree that copying is stealing. But there are people — not all of them on the side of RIAA/MPAA/et cetera — who disagree with that, who think copying *is* stealing. (I’m one of them, even though I think the big IP holders are acting like idiots and deserve to have their businesses, perhaps their whole industries, go down in flames.)

(Why can it be stealing? Because afterwards, a person through their own action can end up with something they’re not entitled to. The “stealing” doesn’t come from the original owner *losing* access, but from the recipient *gaining* it. If you take an action by which you unilaterally claim something you’re not entitled to, then you’ve stolen something. Nobody has to be deprived of anything for that to be true, or for it to be wrong.)

If you said “not everyone agrees that copying is stealing”, I’d have nothing to add. But if you simply say “copying isn’t stealing” as if that were a fact, or were agreed upon by over 95% of people, well, I have to respond.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

Doug, you have to get use to the Techdirt word games. Mike will tell you it isn’t stealing, because you still have the original. It’s a narrow, one sided way to look at things, ignoring the end result (the person who didn’t steal suddenly has something they didn’t have before, didn’t pay for it, doesn’t have the rights to it… but it’s not stealing!).

The more you pay attention here, the more you realize that the piracy supporters use the same sneaky weasel language that they berate politicians for using.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: It can be.

You lost your argument when you stated “doesn’t have the rights to it”. But I’ll respond anyway…

It’s NOT stealing. *Rolls eyes*

It’s called SHARING. Sheesh…

Here’s a fun fact, if I pay for a commission picture, I’m the one who’s paid for it, but others can look at it for free, which means they got something without ‘having the rights to it’, save it and share it with others.

It’s not stealing, it’s sharing with people.

Try reading some fan fiction and looking up fan art of various series once-in-awhile.

Gracey says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

How is it sharing?

It isn’t shared unless the originator “shares” it. If the originator doesn’t, then it certainly isn’t shared.

It’s acquired without permission.

More word games. Everyone can choose their own definition of words and the dictionary contains multiple definitions of some words, but getting or taking something you haven’t received the permission to use or take (or without paying for it) wouldn’t appear to be the correct behaviour, whether the creator still has the original or not.

Even “borrowing” isn’t an apt fit … to borrow something, you first ask permission.

Stealing? Perhaps not.

Shared? Definitely not. Not unless the person who has the authority to share it, shares it.

Copyright needs a serious overhaul, with both sides of the coin being able to participate in the discussions and be heard.

…not that I don’t think sharing is perfectly fine if you do own the “thing”, whatever it is. I’m happy to share my own stuff, happy to get free stuff from someone who wants to share it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

Copying is not stealing, in direct words, but the results (for the person making the copy) are EXACTLY THE SAME AS STEALING. They didn’t have something, now they do – and they didn’t obtain it legally.

It’s not sharing (sorry silverscarcat), it’s obtaining without consent.

Would you care to weasel word some more?

Tim K (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

You make absolutely no sense. The question for illegally obtaining something would be stealing, infringement, etc…The end result is not the same. Stealing, the owner no longer has it, infringement, they do, the consumer side, yes you have it or you don’t, but you are ignoring what else stealing incorporates. Same as in my analogy, the question may be what you said, but the end result is the exactly the same, you’re dead. If I ignore part of the result then yes, they are exactly the same, you’re dead, but whether or not someone goes to jail is different based on the circumstances so you can no just interchange the words. Good try, but no

Jake (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

steal   [steel] Show IPA ,verb, stole, sto?len, steal?ing, noun
verb (used with object)
1.
to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force: A pickpocket stole his watch.
2.
to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment.
3.
to take, get, or win insidiously, surreptitiously, subtly, or by chance: He stole my girlfriend.
4.
to move, bring, convey, or put secretly or quietly; smuggle (usually followed by away, from, in, into, etc.): They stole the bicycle into the bedroom to surprise the child.
5.
Baseball . (of a base runner) to gain (a base) without the help of a walk or batted ball, as by running to it during the delivery of a pitch.

Explain to me please where your definition of stealing fits the real definition of stealing, I would appreciate it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

Except the only way to tell if something is obtained illegally is to examine the manner in which the thing was obtained. Possession exists regardless of if the obtaining was legal or illegal. You’re trying to wag the dog here and say ‘well they have it so it must not be legal’ when the question is not ‘do they have it’ but ‘how did they get it.’

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

It’s not exactly the same as stealing specifically because for it to be stealing, the owner must be deprived of the original and the item being stolen must be exclusive. You cannot steal ideas, for instance, because you can’t wipe someone else’s memory of the ideas they’ve had, even if you copy those ideas.

You seem to be trying to say that it’s morally equivalent to stealing. You can’t logically argue that it is practically equivalent for the stated reasons.

It’s funny you said that Techdirt’s perspective (which isn’t pro-piracy regardless of your accusations) is one-sided. Calling copyright infringement is one-sided because it’s only looking that the person obtaining something they weren’t authorized by the copyright holder to obtain. It doesn’t look at the fact that the copyright holder is not deprived of the original. It doesn’t look at the fact that from the perspective of the person offering the copy to someone else that they are in fact sharing.

Calling copyright infringement theft has always been a weasel wording. It’s an intentional effort to paint copyright infringement as something more damaging than it is (e.g. if someone copies $40k worth of music and they don’t have $40k lying around to have spent on it, how is that a $40k loss to the music industry?).

It’s the same with the use of the term “piracy,” which backfired when the so-called pirates started using it as a badge of honor. Next I suppose we’ll be hearing about copyright terrorists…

Obtaining without consent isn’t a real thing. You might be referring to “theft by receiving” stolen property, but the property has to be stolen, rather than copied, for such a charge to apply.

IP maximalists often tout the “it’s the law!” argument for right and wrong. Well, the law doesn’t say that copying is theft, so, “it’s the law!” that copying isn’t theft.

Liz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Last year I planted a bunch of seeds in my back yard garden. The resulting plants blossomed and eventually developed into a variety of fruits and vegetables. I had so many in fact that I shared with my friends and neighbors.

Now these people and I didn’t buy the same fruits and veggies from the supermarket which is just two miles away. So then are we stealing from the grocery store since each tomato and carrot we ate from my garden is a lost sale to them?

Now if someone (like those damned raccoons) came in and helped themselves – I wouldn’t have had as much food stuff to consume and share. I’m at a loss because of a limited supply. THAT’S stealing. Even if it is from sneaky little bandit-faced canids who live in the wild.

Now, I know it’s a bad comparison. Seeing that I’ll need to rework my garden again this year for another harvest while a digital file can be copied endlessly without loss to the original owner.

Gracey says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It can be.

That doesn’t even come close to being the same thing at all.

You owned the veggies, you do what you want. You have the right to share them.

However, if you went into a farmers field and tool the veggies and shared them…you’d likely be charged with theft, and the original owner of the veggies (the farmer) would have lost some sales. You devalued his earnings by taking the veggies and sharing them.

Whether it’s a lost sale for the grocery store down the street or not is a little bit moot in a situation like this. You didn’t appropriate any veggies from them in the first place.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

“However, if you went into a farmers field and tool the veggies and shared them…you’d likely be charged with theft, and the original owner of the veggies (the farmer) would have lost some sales. You devalued his earnings by taking the veggies and sharing them.”

Precisely! Now…that’s a meat-space crime, with a meat-space victim and a meat-space penalty.
However, if I went into a public server, copied mp3 files and shared them…has the the artist/songwriter/whoever actually LOST any sales? How can you tell? I might already have the CD, but want to download it onto my netbook (don’t have a disc drive on it). The people I share it with might already have the CD. They might go out and buy it.
In fact, this has happened to me countless times (although not with music). A year ago, I downloaded Battlestar Galactica, the series and watched it straight through. Loved it. Then, about a month ago…I bought the series on Blu-ray, paid full price. Felt it was well worth it. That sale WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED if I hadn’t infringed in the first place.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

It’s not sharing (sorry silverscarcat), it’s obtaining without consent.

As Dr. Cox would say…

“Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrooooooooooooonnnnnnng!”

If I give someone a book or DVD, they didn’t pay for it, they borrowed it from me, but, by your logic (which doesn’t work in the real world, BTW) they obtained without consent.

Want to keep trying?

kirillian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Oddly enough, the results aren’t even close to the same. They don’t describe the same process or the same set of results. The only commonality between you stealing from me and infringing off of me is that you have something that you didn’t have before. When you steal it, I no longer have it. When you infringe, I still own the work. You could also procure this work through buying, me gifting it to you, or through me sharing. In the end, all of those things share the exact same commonality that infringing and stealing do. There’s a reason for language. Language allows us to differentiate between different situations. Using language improperly to falsely convey an idea also has a term – it’s called lying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Authoring content is not stealing, in direct words, but the results (for the person creating) are EXACTLY THE SAME AS STEALING. They didn’t have something, now they do.

So all we have to do to make content authorship and copyright violation functionally equivalent to one another and to stealing in your eyes is have a few representatives sign a piece of paper that says content authorship is illegal.

Who’s weaseling again?

David Muir (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Robbery is different from burglary is different from shoplifting is different from embezzlement is different from fraud… yet the results are the same: someone had money or property taken FROM them — money or property they can no longer use. That is what makes these all forms of “stealing”.

You can’t go ahead and lump copyright infringement in with them too because someone acquired something that they are not legally entitled to have. That logic makes driving with an expired license the same as grand theft auto, because you are enjoying the use of a vehicle that you are not legally entitled to use.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Let’s put it this way, shall we, it’s not stealing because the infringement in no way shape or form makes it impossible for the “rights holder” to crank out as many more perfectly precise copies as they wish.

Stealing would be running off with the master and that person starting to issue copies either in their own name or just to make money themselves. All while denying the “rights holder” to do the same.

See? No weasel words just a real life comparison of the two words. At best infringement MAY deny the “rights holder” a bit of income. Though studies to show that the reverse is the case more often than not.

The only weasel words being used here are yours.

Prisoner 201 says:

Re: Re: It can be.

Why would you want to change the established definition of stealing when there is a perfect word for “unrightfully aquired through copying” which is “infringement”?

And this is not mockery, I am genuinely puzzled why anyone would want to be deliberately incorrect in communication.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

word games.

emotive hyperbole.

basically it’s a lot easier to convince the ignorant that ‘stealing is bad and this is stealing’ than that ‘you shouldn’t make a copy, at no cost to anyone, of your stuff and give it to your friends so they can see how awesome it is, because that doesn’t give us money, and thus is bad’

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

And you can see other examples of this from other people who have manipulative agendas. When the GOP and their pundits call Obama a socialist at the same time that Obama has supported big business and corporate bailouts and handing the DOJ over to the entertainment industry, on top of being opposed by the actual socialists, it’s clear that calling him a socialist is just a buzzword for people trying to garner the support of ignorant Americans who remember the Cold War

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

Don’t pretend that such word-use is one-sided, or even that the bulk of it is on Mike’s side.

*I* happen to consider it stealing, but I understand that some people do not, and that it’s not “settled”. The verb “to steal” is certainly not as well-defined as MPAA/RIAA pretend, no more than it’s as well-defined as the author pretends.

I also happen to consider IP-related stealing to be literally *victimless*. The original IP-owner is *not* (IMHO) entitled to *any* compensation. The proper remedy is for the “stealing” to be reversed (ie. the copy is to be destroyed), and if there’s a pattern of offending behavior, the “thief” should be imprisoned.

But the original IP-owner is not entitled to any remedy or compensation at all, since they have not actually been deprived of anything at any point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It can be.

“The more you pay attention here, the more you realize that the piracy supporters use the same sneaky weasel language that they berate politicians for using.”

And, yet, you back politicans who, according to you “…use the same sneaky weasel language that they berate politicians for using.”
Double standard when it’s convenient for you, boy?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

you have to get use to the Techdirt word games.

Sorry, you’re the one who’s playing the word games.

The words “stealing” and “theft” are, in fact, legal terms with very well-defined meanings. And copyright infringement is not encompassed in that, objectively. To claim otherwise is to use “steal” in a loose, slang sense — which is word games.

Your definition of why it’s stealing is interesting, but wholly unsupported in law. There are a lot of ways a person can illegally gain something without it being considered “theft”. The key point of theft is that someone was deprived of something.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

It doesn’t *have* to be stealing.

The question is: did you take something you weren’t entitled to take?

If the original is in the public domain, then “of course not”. It has to go back to the entitlements.

(That said: the solution is not for the IP-holders to sue and get paid. That’s bogus. Just because someone stole something doesn’t mean the IP-owners were deprived of anything. They are not entitled to any remedy of the sort — what *should* happen is, the copies are destroyed, the “thief” goes to jail, and the owner of the original IP has no involvement beyond testifying as to the entitlements involved.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

Its still called “infringement” no matter how desperately you want to call it “stealing”

Just because your opinion tells you so, doesn’t make it so.

And they didn’t “take” anything, they “copied” it.

You really mean “did you copy something you weren’t entitled to copy?”

That would go a lot farther

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Tell me…how does one infringe when having 4.6 trillion copies of Moby Dick, which was published in 1851 and is now in the public domain? There literally cannot be copyright infringement of such a thing.
In meat-space, there are copyrights on republications of the work, such that Publishing Company A owns the copyrights to a publication of the book, if they stuff enough new creative elements in it (perhaps a foreword or something), but the actual text of Moby Dick? Public Domain, pal, public domain.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

I’m going to share my thoughts with you, but I’m going to do so under your definition of stealing. That is, you need to pay me for them or I will declare that you stole them. Why? Because if you read further you will have my thoughts without having paid for it, so you aren’t entitled to them.

Stealing is wrong, we both agree on that, but apparently we disagree on why stealing is wrong. I (and almost every other person out there) thinks stealing is wrong because you are taking something away from someone else has the right to that thing. You apparently think stealing is wrong because someone acquired something.

Did you spot the difference? You hate that people have something, whereas most human beings hate that someone took something away from someone else. We dislike the taking away, you just dislike the having.

Stealing is stealing, copying is copying. In both situations someone ends up with something. In only one situation does someone lost something. That you equate the two shows that you don’t like people having things.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

You’ve basically got it right. I don’t like people having things *that they’re not entitled to have*, and think that’s the true harm that comes from stealing. Exactly!

(You may not agree. I don’t expect you to. But we’ll go farther if we each understand the other.)

(And I *won’t* agree with your “and almost every other person out there”. That’s to be determined. But I understand that it’s what *you* think.)

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It can be.

No, I’m making an attempt to show you that your definition of stealing is stupid.

I don’t get to establish such agreements unilaterally. I made the proposal, you kept reading even though you knew what the terms were. You kept reading, so that means you agreed to the terms. You could have easily ignored my comment, but you didn’t. Since you agreed but didn’t pay you weren’t entitled to my thoughts. Yet you read them anyway. By your own definition of stealing, you are a thief.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

You’re attempting to justify your bad definition of “stealing” by substituting a bad definition of “taken”.

Someone else in the world wants to tell me how I could reorganize the bits on my hard drive such that, when interpreted and played through my speakers, a certain sound is produced.

What was “taken”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

Here I’ll bite on this.

Lets say Andy makes some art. He hangs it in a private gallery in his house and gives no one the right to look at it.

Then, he invites ten people in to examine it. One of them, Billy, is an asshole who sneaks in a camera and takes some pictures of it. Totally uncool. Billy prints out those pictures and hangs them in a public place.

By your definition, everyone who passes by the picture Billy printed out is a thief, because they have access to something they don’t have the rights to. Am I correct?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

Words don’t mean whatever you want them to mean. It’s not up for debate, stealing has a meaning and copying simply doesn’t fit the definition. Your silly paragraph in parenthesis is just a pathetic attempt to redefine what stealing actually means so that it fits your preferred usage but that’s not how words work. Stealing requires both, period. Not because I say so but because that’s what the word means. It is a fact that copying is not stealing.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

I agree that “words don’t mean whatever you want them to mean”. But it *is* up for debate.

The dictionary I just consulted has 8 definitions for “steal”, 3 of which are completely compatible with my way of thinking about this. Other dictionaries may disagree.

There isn’t some universal objective “master dictionary” we can consult to settle this — I don’t get to redefine words, but I *do* get to explain that my understanding is different from yours, and is backed by a dictionary that I had nothing to do with writing. There is disagreement, and there is room for argument.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

Please return all the ‘air’ you have stolen….

Why? You took action (breathing) and gained something you are not entitled to without properly compensating the rights-holder (GOD)…

Your compliance with this request will show that you really do understand the concept of stealing, and that you will no longer steal things that you do not have an explicit right to.

I assume you don’t have any documentation showing your right to breath? So please stop….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

I don’t want to say you’re an idiot, because I sense that you may have some ‘skin in the game’, (musician, maybe?), so you appear to be blinded by your own interest here.
I would only ask you to reconsider, “something they’re not entitled to”. That’s wrong. All of humanity is entitled to enjoy the results of artists work. Nobody can own it.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

1) No skin in the game. I’m a computer programmer, but I do in-house programming for my employer. Where it makes sense to, I participate in open source projects, and make my own projects available to others.

2) You say “all of humanity is entitled to enjoy the results of artists work”. You say it axiomatically. Obviously, I do not agree, but I’m open to discussion — *why* do you believe that? What argument would you make to persuade someone who’s undecided?

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

As a fellow developer and open source contributor I want to:

A) Thank you for making your arguments in a reasoned, logical manner. Compared to the trolls we often see around here, it is a breath of fresh air.

B) Say that bogging this down to a discussion of semantics is a losing battle. However, I think the problem is a lack of logic on the parts of those that proclaim infringing to be stealing. Consider the following (which I have written here before).

I watch an episode of The Daily Show via their website – Not stealing

I watch an episode of The Daily Show at a bar – Not stealing

I watch an episode of The Daily Show on cable – Not stealing

I record an episode of The Daily Show via DVR or MythTV – Not stealing

I download an episode of The Dialy Show – Stealing

There simply isn’t any consistency in the rationale behind what is and what isn’t considered “stealing”. I am allowed to record, but not to download, either way it’s an identical arrangement of bits on my hard drive. It’s like telling me I can legally get to a destination by car, if and only if I take proscribed roads. What I (and most people) care about is getting to the destination quickly and inexpensively.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Whether that download is stealing depends on criteria that *I* think are reasonably clear, at least at the extremes.

Were you entitled?

In your first example, you watched it, you did not *obtain* anything. After you’re done watching, there’s no copy anywhere that didn’t exist before. The same is true of your second and third examples. Nothing was obtained, so the question of stealing doesn’t make sense.

In the fourth example, it’s clear that you’re entitled to make that copy, because of fair use for space-shifting and time-shifting.

For the “download” case, that’s where it may or may not be stealing depending on your entitlement. For a person who never visited the Daily Show web site, doesn’t get cable or satellite, and has never been to a venue where it was being shown legitimately, it’s clearly stealing. If the download is a side-effect of the DVR or using the Daily Show’s own web site, it’s clearly not stealing.

There *is* (to my mind) a grey area in between, for example: if two people get Comedy Central from different providers (eg. Comcast vs. DirecTV), and one forgets to TiVo the show, and the other remembers, and burns it to a DVD and hands that to the other person, has any stealing occurred? I don’t actually know enough to answer that question right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It can be.

“There *is* (to my mind) a grey area in between, for example: if two people get Comedy Central from different providers (eg. Comcast vs. DirecTV), and one forgets to TiVo the show, and the other remembers, and burns it to a DVD and hands that to the other person, has any stealing occurred? I don’t actually know enough to answer that question right now.”

Right, and most people don’t really care they just want to watch the show they forgot was on or their DVR didn’t record.

I think the daily show is a bad example because, iirc, they do make everything freely available on their site. But basically people will not get bogged down in these questions nad grey areas. If they want to watch it, they will watch it. If you provide legitimate means they will (mostly) go through those avenues (assuming they are not unduly burdensome) because fans do understand and want to support artists they like. If you don’t provide legitimate means that is not going to stop most people from getting what they wanted.

You can call it entitlement if you want but I would say its common sense. People know its possible and their is no reason anything can not be available cheaply and conveniently online. I would say the entitlement comes from the rights holders (usually not the artist) who want things to be the same as when it was logical and necessary to have control over distribution, control that the rigged to prevent true competition while dominating the supply chain to increase marginal profits at every step from the artists mind to the costumers hand.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

“Right, and most people don’t really care they just want to watch the show they forgot was on or their DVR didn’t record. “

I agree. That has little to do with whether it’s right or not. You’re basically saying (to my ears) that they don’t care whether it’s stealing or not. I agree that that’s true. I also think it’s often true of, for example, individual pennies. Are they wrong to steal? Sure, but most people are just not going to get worked up over someone taking 1? out of a tip jar.

(Which is why the law, and society as a whole, should focus on pragmatic solutions, not absolute perfectly enforced write-and-wrong-based reasoning. It drives me a bit crazy that so many traffic violations are ignored, but I recognize that it’s necessary for society to function, so I don’t try to get it changed — but they’re still violations, even if they’re ignored.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It can be.

“You’re basically saying (to my ears) that they don’t care whether it’s stealing or not”

Correct, its too archaic a principle and a whole bunch of grey areas. People want the artists they like to keep making stuff and they want to people able to get stuff that they logically should be able to.

Technology now allows us to give money directly to artists so they can keep creating and it also gives a near zero cost means of receiving the content.

The problem is the people who used to make lots and lots of money by selecting artists and giving us the content do not want us to do it ourselves. So they stand in the way of setting up any system that actually fosters fans and artists connecting directly and setting up a fair an balanced system to help artists get money and people get content.

Imagine a world where fans didn’t have to beg for years to have their favorite show brought back by a network (e.g. arrested development) because instead of paying a flat rate cable bill I get to decide what shows I like and support them directly. Great for the consumer, horrible for middlemen. However it is a system we have the technology for, it is just being blocked by entrenched power every step of the way.

I think the video game market is the closest to achieving something like this. Look at the big name developers that have wanted to make games that their fans wanted for years but no publisher would ever give them money. Now they are reaching right out to the fans and the fans are answering the call. The world hasn’t flipped on it head yet but it is surely leaning. (e.g. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/66710809/double-fine-adventure AND http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/wasteland-2 )

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 It can be.

I guess my point is, most of us would like to be pragmatic about it but when multinational conglomerate empires worth billions stand to lose a lot of money with a pragmatic solution it makes it really hard to discuss, plan and implement one. If people keep falling for their bullshit and repeating their worthless stats or arguing about semantics we do not move forward.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Incidentally:

“What I (and most people) care about is getting to the destination quickly and inexpensively.”

I get that. That’s why I think our governments and societies should focus on *pragmatic* solutions to these sorts of problems, rather than absolute rights-based approaches.

I mean, if I were to go 100% absolute-rights-based rather than pragmatic, I’d eventually insist that anyone who ever ran a red light end up in prison, even if nobody had been harmed.

It’s clearly *wrong*, those people are doing something *wrong*. But our society really has to be pragmatic about addressing it. The end goal for society *cannot* be for everyone to always act absolutely “in the right”.

hothmonster says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It can be.

Very true and reasonable of you Doug. So with 15 laws in 30 years and 0 effect on piracy do you think it might be time to try responding to the wants of the consumer instead of trying to force them back to a system that no longer makes sense now that the internet exists? When have we spent too much time, money and political power trying to control the flood and start just digging some channels instead?

The problem is the people setting the stage for this argument. Doing most of the paying for the studies, getting their talking points repeated in papers and on tv and spending millions of dollars lying to congress will die (figuratively) because they make their money by siphoning money away from the actual artists in exchange for getting content to the consumer.

This used to be and expensive, arduous and serious logistical task but it isn’t anymore. I could professionally create cds/movies/books with nothing but a home computer and a couple grand in special equipment to make my product faster and higher quality, a person used to need a warehouse and 100k equipment to do this kind of stuff. I don’t need to ship it to stores all over the country anymore. So these companies used to take the song and spend 3 dollars getting it pressed to CD and 2 dollars getting it shipped and fractions of dollars per unit on negotiating with stores, paying all the employees required to do this ect ect. So we as consumers looked at all that work and we were ok with giving them a few dollars extra. We knew it didn’t cost 9.99$ to make and ship a cd but we accepted it as a decent value for the effort and work to get it into our hands. Now it costs a fraction of a penny to copy-paste. You can not make 5$ profit on something that costs you nothing without people seeing it as a rip off.

There are massive companies built too profit off these physical goods that are no longer needed or wanted(on anywhere near the same scale) and their are organizations that only exist from dues these companies pay. Do you expect these member organizations to tell the truth? To not confuse the issue and spread fallacies among the consumers? They only exist because of these large conglomerates and if those conglomerates become redundant bye bye 500k a year job at the MPAA.

/rant

Gracey says:

Re: Re: It can be.

Seriously not.

Apparently, you aren’t an artist.

Humanity is only entitled to it if the artist publishes it; sells it, or shares it themselves.

Who are you to say that all of humanity is “entitled” to it? Psha.

As for nobody can “own” it. Yes, yes they can. You pay the artist for his painting and oh-my-god, you own it. What you decide to do with it is your business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

https://www.google.com/search?q=picasso+paintings&hl=en&safe=off&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=5ppfT8vvI6W42wX-64C1CA&ved=0CEQQsAQ&biw=1149&bih=688

I just admired all that art without anyones express permission. Guess i am a fucking dirty thief?

“Who are you to say that all of humanity is “entitled” to it? Psha.”

Ever hear of the public domain? Probably not, nothing goes into it anymore anyways.

Rich says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

You are mixing up physical and non-physical goods. Sure, I own the physical object that is the painting, if you sell it to me. I don’t own the “art” though. I’m still not allowed to makes copies of it for my friends or to sell on eBay. You don’t own it either. The law gives to a monopoly on that right for a limited time. Copyright is not ownership. You don’t own the art, even as the artist. Society owns it. Yes, humanity IS entitled to it. It is OUR culture. Even the law says so!

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: It can be.

I must say, Well done, you actually stated a valid argument instead of being like most and just saying “but but but, stealing!!”

The problem with what your saying though is that copying is still not stealing. It is infringement and infringement is wrong and it is illegal. We are not trying to say that infringing on copyright is ok, we are saying that calling it stealing and trying to compare it to physical objects is just stupid.

It is kind of like trying to compare communicating a threat and physical assault. They are both crimes and are kind of similar on some levels but one does not really hurt you while one puts you into the hospital. While similar crimes you cannot interchange the terms for them. The same is true of theft and infringement. They are similar in some ways but in other ways nothing at all alike.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

You say “copying is still not stealing” as if that were a fact.

I’m open to argument, but you didn’t make an argument, you made an assertion. If you’d like to take a stab at persuasion instead of assertion, I’ll listen.

(And, communicating a threat *can* cause harm, so I’m not sure I accept the “one does not really hurt you” part in your last paragraph. And you *can* use the term “attack” for both, it’s routinely done.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

Copying is not stealing IS A FACT. It is. Its not an opinion. It is not an assertion. Legally, copying is NOT STEALING. Its INFRINGEMENT.

Legal dictionaries are what legal terms are defined by, not websters or your pocket dictionary.

Do yourself a favor and look up the legal terms. Since we are talking about law.

Theft: (Legal definition) “the generic term for all crimes in which a person intentionally and fraudulently takes personal property of another without permission or consent and with the intent to convert it to the taker’s use (including potential sale).”

PERSONAL PROPERTY. IP is not property, in terms of personal property.

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It can be.

The 1st entry for Morality by dictionary.com:

mo?ral?i?ty
   /məˈr?lɪti, mɔ-/ Show Spelled[muh-ral-i-tee, maw-] Show IPA
noun, plural -ties for 4?6.
1.
conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.

Morals are the consensus of the community large or small, enacted by the majority as a common set of rules to live ones life by….. Sounds an aweful lot like ‘Laws’ doesn’t it?

Principles are by definition a personal belief and therefore do not factor into a discussion of morals or laws as such are binding to all (morals bond you in a cultural sense where as laws do so in a criminal way. The cultural often being the hardest to live down)

prin?ci?ple
   /ˈprɪnsəpəl/ Show Spelled[prin-suh-puhl] Show IPA
noun
1. principles, a personal or specific basis of conduct or management: to adhere to one’s principles; a kindergarten run on modern principles.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

I was trying to make a simple point. That is that these two things are different in a few ways and because of this the two crimes have different names.

If I go steal your bike you have now lost your bike. This is stealing. I have taken something from you.

If I infringe upon your IP then I have not taken anything from you. Instead I have illegally gained a copy.

So stealing has caused direct physical harm just like me walking up and hitting you with a bat. Infringement has caused a perceived injury to you much like me threatening with a bat but not actually hitting you.

They are different with different names. Both are illegal and both are wrong. They are not the same and calling them the same thing just confuses the issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

I would add and to say that the lesser crime IS or IS THE SAME AS the greater crime is to afford it the improper and undue negative connotations of the greater crime.

However, they are NOT saying file-sharing is LIKE theft which would be a proper statement but wouldn’t accomplish the purpose of them making the statement in the first place.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re: It can be.

Stealing, per the dictionary has two aspects. For physical property, you do actually have to deprive someone of something without their permission. There is nothing in the definition about gaining something.

If I steal your bike and throw it away, I haven’t gained, but I’ve certainly stolen.

The second aspect of stealing is intellectual (ideas) passing off ideas as your own is stealing. I’m sure that someone will argue that copying a song is passing it off as your own, but we know that the intent of the definition is to imply that an idea is your own when its not.

copying is stealing like a dog is a shark. Yes they are both animals and they have some similarities, but we use different words for different things.

So if copying is stealing then stealing is copying. But I thought stealing is ALWAYS illegal and copying can be legal. But they are the same, no?

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

Here’s a dictionary definition to consider:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/steal#Verb

I don’t see that *any* of the definitions shown there necessarily involve depriving anyone of anything. You may argue that #1 is in applicable because you don’t consider a digital copy to be something that can be “possessed”. I’m willing to leave #3 out of consideration for the moment since failing to do so would short-circuit the discussion. But #2 clearly has nothing to do with depriving anyone of anything, it has to do with the “thief” *acquiring* something, whether anyone is deprived or not.

Your dictionary may of course have a different set of definitions that do show such a requirement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

While we are talking about an argument based in semantics, technically speaking, if I purchase a CD containing uncompress .cda tracks and then rip them to compressed mp3 files and digitally compare the original file on the cd with the file that is now on my computer (say with md5 sums) the comparison will reveal that the creation in no way resembles the original and therefore is not the same content. So how can someone have stolen something when the “owner” retains the original and what is gained by the “thief” isn’t even the same thing (technically) as what was in the “owner’s” possession?

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

(Aside: whether it’s “the same thing” isn’t something you can settle that simply. Can two people ever have “the same thought”? Certainly something different happens in the physical world when two people think things that they’d describe as the same.)

Here’s how *I’d* determine whether someone can have stolen something:

1) Does the “thief” have something they didn’t have before?

(Clearly yes.)

2) How did they get it?

(This matters, a lot. If someone else cracks into your “Google Play” account and uploads music you’re not entitled to without your knowledge, *you* haven’t stolen anything.)

3) Is the “thief” *entitled* to have that thing?

(This also matters a lot, and is why not *all* copying is sharing — in fact, the vast majority of it isn’t.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

The point of all of this is is NOT whether infringement should or should not be legal as that is a completely separate argument. To say that “infringement is stealing” is to associate negative qualities with the act that it does not on it’s own possess. It’s simply spin-doctoring on the part of the Content Cartels.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It can be.

Furthermore the downloader does not acquire their possession FROM the artist so how can they be stealing it from the artist. To you the tangible world as an analogy (like the proponents of your position love to do) if I purchase a stolen car stereo from a pawn shop, although I may be guilty of possession of stolen property, however I can’t legally be charged with STEALING that property because I was not guilty of taking it from it’s rightful owner. So how does file-sharing fit the definition of theft again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

No but their is massive potential for harm and society has agreed it is not up to the individual driver to decide if harm will or will not occur. Which is why you see cars stopped at a redlight at 4 am with no other car on the road for miles. Even at that point when the driver is 100% sure nothing bad will happen he sits there because he agrees with the rule that it is not his call.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It can be.

Technically it is a crime (misdemeanor) and if a cop see’s you do it and writes you a ticket yes you are being charged with a crime. However if you are sent a ticket by a redlight camera’s automated system, you are being charged with an “administrative violation” (like a parking ticket) which is not a crime since there is not really a way to for them to prove that the owner of the car is the one that committed the actual crime. Just because they don’t necessarily charge someone with the crime doesn’t mean that the act they committed didn’t constitute one.

Jotunbane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

According to my step dad (who is a cop by the way), running a red light is perfectly legal… as long as nobody sees it.

So yes, running a red light IS legal, if nobody is “harmed” by it. But the minute somebody (a cop??) see you do it, well we know what happens then.

So I would argue that copying (call is stealing if you like) is perfectly legal… as long as nobody finds out about it.

So the ball is back in your court now. I copy/steal EVERY god damn day. Do you want to bitch about that, well go right ahead (you are right, we don’t care). You cant prove that I did it (nobody saw it 🙂 and technically you cant do ANYTHING about it (well you COULD break the internet, that would slow it down some, but good luck with that).

And you can call me an immoral nogood freetard info-hippie if that makes you feel any better. Start making sane laws and we might consider obeying some of them, until then … pfth.

Another User who is just fed up. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

But the whole problem is it not stolen never was. So if copying is legal and infringment is not illegal (civil matter) than your entire agrument is false Doug D. Even on a morale level lets brake it down to common things

Number one nothing was ever stolen!

Copying is not illegal therefor cannot be considered stealing.

Copying is a form of reproduction using certian tools. in this instance a program is used to create a Wave, MP3 or CD image of a CD(which the cd is not stolen). Than you have your new item that is a copy of another item which was never stolen.

So again what is ecatly stolen? Cannot be stealing because again nothing was never stolen. Now you can argue that someone out there stole the CD’s than made copies of a stolen cd than maybe that would be stealing?

Just like when we back in the 80’s use to make copies of tapes or Mix tapes of songs from the radio or tapes and records. Still not Stealing. Or have anything stolen.

Arthur (profile) says:

Re: It can be.

Using words correctly is important. With a contentious subject like this, it is very important.

“Stealing” is illegal, by definition. “Copying” may be infringing and, therefore may be illegal. To say “copying is theft” is to falsely accuse many people who have only copied legally.

These things are different.

Arthur (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

Yet you make the absurd claim that “Copying” is “Stealing” when the words mean different things.

No one here (that I can see) is claiming that copying is legal, it may or may not be. But claiming that all copying is stealing is disingenuous. If, by copying, someone “obtains something they are not entitled to”, that is wrong and accurately called “infringement”.

You don’t have to falsely conflate it with “stealing” to make it “more illegal”. It’s already illegal. Why argue about it? Infringement is illegal.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Copying can be stealing, the same way picking something up with your hands can be stealing. Stealing is a higher-level, more abstract concept.

In the context of copying a thing that you do not have entitlement to copy, copying is stealing.

The difference between the “it can be” in my subject and the “it is” in some parts of the discussion is meant to be context.

Of course making copies of something you created yourself from scratch is not stealing. Of course making copies of something you own as part of fair-use is not stealing. Of course making copies of something in the public domain is not stealing. But in the right context, copying is stealing.

Of course picking up the sandwich that you made at home this morning is not stealing. Of course picking up your own phone to answer it is not stealing. Of course picking up your own wallet if you drop it is not stealing. But in the right context, using your hands to pick something up is stealing.

Arthur (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It can be.

Why do you object to using the term “infringing” which is a quite accurate word to describe the exact type of copying that is illegal. Why insist on using a vague and sloppy term “stealing” when the exact, specific illegal action is “infringing”? Why be inaccurate when an accurate term exists?

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It can be.

I’m actually not trying to insist that everyone agree that it’s stealing.

I’m trying to point out that some people do consider it stealing, so saying “it isn’t stealing” is going to create disagreement where it wasn’t necessary to do so.

I actually agree with most of what Techdirt has to say about copyright, but I do consider this sort of thing to be “stealing”, so when they come out and say flatly that it isn’t, it irritates me greatly, and I would argue it’s also counter-productive — it creates disagreement over what’s essentially a trivial point in the mind of some people who would have otherwise agreed completely.

I’d really like it if they’d either stop trying to talk about whether it’s “stealing” or not, or to simply state “not everyone agrees that it’s stealing” instead of flatly declaring “it’s not stealing” as if that were simple fact.

Tim K (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It can be.

But how is it trivial when people like Logan use it to equate infringement with if you were a painter and were putting the finishing touches on your pieces for a show, wouldn’t you be upset if someone broke into your studio, took your unfinished paintings, and hung them in their public gallery without your permission? When those are two completely different things

Arthur (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It can be.

The fact that “some people” consider “it” to be stealing isn’t made clearer by agreeing with them. If by “it” they mean “copying” (which is what you are saying) then they are wrong. Using their ideas is wrong and stops discussion.

If, however, by “it” they mean “infringing” then they should say that to avoid confusion.

To continue to use “stealing” when the accurate term for what is illegal is “infringing” promotes the lie that all copying is stealing. Don’t you think accuracy is better than hyperbole?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It can be.

The artificial granted right of copying to a select few is the enlightenment, making copies of things is the natural state.

Now we can all debate on how far we, the people, grant a select few the exclusive, artificial, unnatural, monopoly on copying. But that is a different discussion altogether.

You seem to be confused on that part.

Prisoner 201 says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It can be.

If we are playing fast and loose with definitions, I would like to say that no one is entitled to locking up culture with copyright, so all copyright holders are thieves.

They steal works from the public domain, the most obvious thefts being retroactive copyright extensions. But I say just plain old copyright as it was first devised is also theft.

So, Doug, why do you defend people that steal from billions? Why do you side with the aggressor?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

Concur, especially since stealing is not a legal term, but a colloquial one. As for “theft”, I find it interesting that so many here immediately become legal experts, but then immediately shift gears when it comes to the legal reqirements such as those, for example, associated with “due process”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

This whole debate on definition and such have always had me confused, I understand what infringement is but it seems like everyone is attacking the way infringed upon material is delivered. The internet doesn’t do the infringing, it’s the person who put there is. An simplified example of this would be, somebody invents a lead to gold formula, gets patents, copyrights,etc. Now a buddy of his takes it, copies it, prints it out on thousands of pieces and then distributes it to people walking on the street. Ok now with all the laws and whatnot that are in place today, the police go after the people that receive this info that were just walking on the street, instead of going after the person that put it there. If companies can’t compete with information/data/movie… going out into the public, maybe they should be doing something else to make their profits instead of lobbying for laws that go after the innocent. The internet is only doing what it does and that’s spreading information.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

This is true too but that’s another issue all together, the point I was trying to make is that, saying it’s theft or even infringing, when it’s been put into a public place. You can’t steal or infringe upon something that’s in the open, the infringement comes from the person that put it there. No one is forcing people to create and put it onto the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

“If you take an action by which you unilaterally claim something you’re not entitled to, then you’ve stolen something. Nobody has to be deprived of anything for that to be true, or for it to be wrong.”

According to the dictionary, you’re wrong, boy.
“to take the property of another wrongfully.”
-Merriam Webster
Is your song file still there?
It hasn’t been taken!
Your property’s still there!
Then it’s not “stolen”.
It’s copied, not stolen, boy.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: It can be.

Actually, I’m right, even by that definition! Look at the Merriam Webster definition of “take”!

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/take

By the first definition, it does *not* require that the original “holder” be deprived of anything! It only requires “to get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control”, which copying *certainly* does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It can be.

“Actually, I’m right, even by that definition! Look at the Merriam Webster definition of “take”!”

“Take” isn’t “steal”, boy.
And since the decidedly-different definition of “take” doesn’t include “steal” (except in your own mind), it isn’t the same thing.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It can be.

Your MW definition of “steal” was “to take the property of another wrongfully”.

I pointed out that this was consistent with my definition of stealing because the MW definition of “take” does not involve depriving anyone of anything.

You’re the one who brought Merriam Webseter in as authoritative. Their definition of “steal” includes the word “take”, and so depends on their definition of “take”. Considered together, it’s all consistent with my definition.

And, I’m not sure why you consider it important to refer to me as “boy”. It’s true that I happen to have testicles attached to my body, but I don’t see how that’s of any consequence in this context. But if you enjoy doing that, you go right ahead sweetie.

Amen Brutha says:

Re: It can be.

Masnick is an ass. Everyone is full of $hit with the exception of himself. Rape, pillage and plunder…it’s not a crime to copy things you didn’t pay for. I bet if Mike went to college, he probably cheated his way …all the way. Because hey, it’s cool to copy. Everyone else has it wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It can be.

“The “stealing” doesn’t come from the original owner *losing* access, but from the recipient *gaining* it.”

So if simply gaining it is stealing then i am guilty of stealing my Girlfriends TV. I didnt have an HDTV before i met her, now i live with her and have an HDTV. I didn’t buy it, but i “gained” it by moving in with her.

So come arrest me now for, as you say, this is stealing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who?

Logan Lynn? Who’s that? I never heard of her/him. Who cares what drivel an unknown idiot says?

On the other hand, when a highly respected, internationally known musician says something stupid, repeatedly, then its real news.

Note: it hurts me to acknowlege this, because I’ve been a John McLaughlin fan for forty years. I will still follow his musical development, but I don’t think I care to read what he says from now on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Who's "Stealing" your stuff?

From what I see in the article, this Logan guy actually agrees with some of the usual techdirt arguments, he just blames the wrong people.

The week before it was released, one site that posted download counts on files reported over 18,000 illegal downloads of my record before my lawyer had them take the file down.

This is just the same “release window” argument commonly used. Except Lynn doesn’t care about the people who wants to hear the music, just about his “lost profits”.

Even when I was on a major label, I got totally screwed because so much money was put into the recording, printing, PR, and distribution side that trying to recoup from consumer sales based on that 9 percent of people obtaining the album legally was almost impossible

This is a well-known fact, though he’d rather bash his fans (who appreciate his work) than the people who actually screw him over.

What pisses me off is having over 91 percent of my personal intellectual property stolen

and

Next time you hear a song you like, I encourage you to purchase it instead of stealing it

Saying things like this (as well as the tone in his blog post) just makes him come off as entitled and aggressive.

What if 100 people came to your show opening and 91 of them decided to steal one of your paintings off the wall? Then what? Paint faster to keep up with the demand?

You’re out of songs to sell because people stole them all? Tell you what: just send me an mp3 and I will gladly reproduce it for cheap, just for you!

hfbs (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who's "Stealing" your stuff?

What if 100 people came to your show opening and 91 of them decided to steal one of your paintings off the wall? Then what? Paint faster to keep up with the demand?

You’re out of songs to sell because people stole them all? Tell you what: just send me an mp3 and I will gladly reproduce it for cheap, just for you!

You hit the nail on the head there..

Edward (profile) says:

“if you were a painter and were putting the finishing touches on your pieces for a show, wouldn’t you be upset if someone broke into your studio, took your unfinished paintings, and hung them in their public gallery without your permission?”

But what if they went to the gallery where you had sold them, took pictures, and then *shared those pictures* with their friends?

OMG!! the gallery is going to go broke because 91% of people that COULD visit a gallery and view your paintings DIDN’T because they had a copy sent to them by a friend. And you will go broke because the gallery will not buy any more of your paintings!

And you will never sell that picture over and over and over… because you only painted ONE original and the rest are worthless copies, right?

That’s not how it works. Gutenberg put thousands of scribes out of work. Kodak put thousands of portrait painters in the poor house. Digital technology will change the way we profit from information.

Evolve, or die. And get off my lawn.

Yo, Ho! says:

Take a page

Artists like this need to learn to take a page from the youtube artists out there. Many of them use youtube as their main form of promotion. They get out there, work their tails off and make a good product – and guess what. People buy.

Out of a ton of examples I can think of off the top of my head, the Piano Guys is probably the brightest. Here’s this group of guys making professional quality videos in their spare time, on their own dime. In exchange, they offer the mp3s of their videos for FREE for a limited time on their website, and ask you to become a founder and donate however much you want to keep them going. At different levels of donations they give you different things – ranging from a physical CD to a t-shirt, to personal piano lessons! This is a group of guys that *get it*. Treat your fans like fans, and your fans will pay you handsomely in return.

Yell, and whine, and persecute your fans, and you’ll find all of your work pirated, and no one willing to pay. It’s kind of like the bully in the sandbox. Pretty soon, you find yourself playing alone – even if you do have all the best toys.

Anonymous Coward says:

“15 Anti-Piracy Laws”? Surely you jest, or else you view every amendment to Title 17 and other related Titles as an anti-piracy law, even if they have nothing to do whatsoever with piracy. Seriously, merely by way of one example, the state sovereign immunity amendment was about piracy? Of course not.

He mocks? If summarizing the all too typical responses to opinions such as expressed by this gentleman is mocking, then your standard for using the term is a bar set at about a micron above ground level. In my view, if anything is truly mocking, it is the hubris being directed at this gentleman.

And, by the way, he uses “free speech” correctly in that if you tell someone to stop “sharing” without authorization, far too often the response is along the lines “Sharing is perfectly fine, it is cultural, and, besides, it is non-commercial fair use.” Never mind that Fair Use is a doctrine developed at common law in the US to accommodate the First Amendment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

1. Read, among others, the Atascadero, Seminole Tribe, Alden, and Florida Pre-Paid decisions by the Supreme Court and you will quickly see that the act attempting to abrogate state immunity from suit is preempted by the 11th Amendment.

2. Even if the 11th Amendment was not in play, apparently your bar for the word piracy is somewhere close to ground level.

Traveller800 (profile) says:

When I saw this, I left him a post on his facebook, pointing out the many holes in his arguement. I mentioned how file sharing sites tend to bre villainized despite breaking their spines trying to bend over backwards to please the industry…how he should have looked at his own staff in 2009 when his song was leaked instead of the ‘pirates’ and most of all…how insulting his fans will not make them wanna buy his songs.

My post was deleted after 1 minute.

trparky (profile) says:

It is still theft...

If you look at the definition of the word theft, it reads as…
“the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.”

In the case of piracy, though it may not be a physical item that you are taking, you are still wrongfully taking that item/property (though it may just be a copy of that item) that does not belong to you that you did not pay for.

That song or movie that you pirated belongs to someone else, it is not within your rights to take that without proper compensation to the person/entity that owns it.

This is theft if you go by the literal definition of the word “theft.”

hfbs (profile) says:

Re: It is still theft...

You are still wrongfully taking that item/property (though it may just be a copy of that item)

Not to point out the obvious, but there’s no ‘taking and carrying away’ being done here. There’s carrying away, yes, but what’s being carried away are copies.

And there’s no taking (copying) of a copy either – it’s pure copying.

But I suppose if we’re going to compare definitions, then let’s look at the one for ‘copy’ – “An imitation or reproduction of an original; a duplicate”. Well fuck me, that sounds familiar. The trick is this – you have to interpret the definition of ‘stealing’ a certain way to make it fit whereas the definition of copying matches it perfectly.

trparky (profile) says:

Re: Re: It is still theft...

But… did you pay for that copy? If the answer is no, then you legally do not have the rights to have that copy.

If you copy or take something that you do not have the permission or legal rights granted to you by the owner of that “item” then you have technically stolen that “item.” Again, I understand that it is a copy but you don’t have the legal rights to copy. In any civilized world, that would be considered to be theft.

Now, at one time or another I was once like you. I felt the same way about copying. I remember the old Napster days when I traded songs far and wide across the Internet. But when the lawsuits started happening I deleted all of my ill-gotten songs and started buying them instead to support those artists that made those songs.

Prisoner 201 says:

Re: Re: Re: It is still theft...

“In any civilized world, that would be considered to be theft.”

Strangely enough, in all the countries I know, the law says different.

I guess we don’t live in a civilized world. That actually explains why the media industry has no qualms robbing the world of its cultural heritage again and again.

rubberpants says:

Vocabluary and Framing

That we’re still taking about this is evidence to me that, as mentioned by Cory Doctorow in his talk about the war on general computing (which is excellent by the way), we just don’t have words to describe all the new things the Internet is creating. Our vocabulary is lagging behind reality.

And so, in the presence of a linguistic vacuum, people want to use the words that best fit how they view things.

To the MPAA/RIAA it’s “stealing.”
To consumers it’s “sharing.”
To lawyers it’s “infringement.”
To Jack Valenti it’s “murder.”
To me it’s “cp song.mp3 song1.mp3”

What is it really? Well, we don’t have a good word yet.

Eponymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Hollywood are thieves

Gotta go back to Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games books, if you want to do that. A friend recommended that I read them, and they are actually pretty solid for teen lit. After reading them, I mentioned the base similarity to Battle Royale to my friend, and was greeted with a “huh?”. Hard to find a lot of people with solid Japanese cinema knowledge.

Tangent:

Let’s say I freely tell the Hunger Games story to my friends, and say that my memory is perfect so they are receiving an exact, word-for-word COPY of the story from me. Are we stealing at this point? Are we even infringing?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hollywood are thieves

Hunger Games is it’s own series written by Suzanne Collins in 2008. I’ve never read Battle Royale, and it could be very likely that the Hunger Games is based on it, but that doesn’t make Hollywood the thief – it makes Suzanne Collins the thief.

But then, personally, I’m a fan of derivative works, so it’s all good in my book.

Anonymous Coward says:

guess what mikey?

Copying IS stealing. Try telling software developers otherwise, not to mention movie producers. Stop promoting piracy like you are somehow entitled to “copy” and download whatever you want, despite how much hard work and money has been invested into those very projects, which depend on people buying “copies”. Just because you can make a digital copy of something, does not give you a moral or legal right to distribute someone’s work. Grow up.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: guess what mikey?

I’m a software developer.

Copying is not stealing. The work and time I invest into my projects does not give me a property claim on your computer or your MP3 player. Just because I’d like people to pay me for my investment does not mean I’m entitled to it, nor does it mean that someone who chooses not to pay me is immoral.

Grow up.

ANON (profile) says:

NIN Fan

“Next time you hear a song you like, I encourage you to purchase it instead of stealing it.”

should read “Next time you hear a song you like, I encourage you to try and see that band in concert (which is what happens already) where they actually get most the money or buy that track online where the artist is entitled to a license royalty vs a sale, meaning they get 50% of that money instead of 10%. Well that is unless the record label is ripping the artist off still trying to give them 10%. (see Eminem vs Universal)”

I have no interest in supporting the labels, just the artists. I wish there was an option for that. A paypal donate button on the artist site would be nice.. not that I am a fan of paypal either but…

I started pirating music before iTunes and things of that nature existed due to the an album being released online over a month before I could buy it. I went to the store to buy it (after reading it was out on the net) to find out, not out in stores. This was my favorite band that I had purchased every album and single they had released and a few imports, around 18 CDs of that band alone. The band itself most likely played a role in it being released early (they are known for doing that). Also had to rebuy a couple CDs that had been damaged over time. I was using early MP3 players at the time of which the RIAA or whoever suing Diamond for making the Diamond Rio MP3 player. Most the ones I used were imported from Hong Kong because of that lawsuit. Seemed insane to wait a month buy a CD and since that day I have never went out and bought a single CD.

Any legal option that is offered to me seems to be after I can already get it online, some DRM crap or something else less convenient or worse quality than piracy. Actually I did download 2 CDs directly from a few artists sites, they were free from the artists themselves and one during the aftermath of a natural disaster, mainly due to me being stuck in a place where I did not have access to my normal means of listing to music and internet, that CD is now long lost or damaged, but the MP3/FLAC files I got before I bought the CD from the private torrent tracker work fine.

It seems the record industry has lost me.. maybe forever?

Bengie says:

The bee analogy to casual copying

Bee: Ohh, a flower. I shall collect some pollen.

Tree: Bees that don’t deposit pollen should be outlawed! We must place hurdles for bees to pollinate, to make sure every bee that takes must also give!

After years of bureaucratic restrictions on pollination….

Tree: There are few trees left, we are dying. Stupid bees keep stealing from us, we must lock down pollination even more, lest we die off.

Tree2: ZOMG! Bees in that other park are free to pollinate their many trees with no restriction, we must stop that before the trees die off!

Greevar (profile) says:

Logan is clueless.

“What pisses me off is having over 91 percent of my personal intellectual property stolen, often before it even has the chance to be finished and released to the world. As a professional musician, a lot of time, hard work, and money goes into making a record. As an independent musician, that money comes directly out of my own pocket. Being a starving artist honestly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anymore, people, and getting ripped-off has always sucked.”

He’s making the mistake of trying to fund his time and labor by selling something that he can’t control. That’s his error, not ours. If he wants to be paid for his labor and time, he should be selling his labor and time instead of pretending that the fruits of his labor is what he is selling. The problem is born out of his inability to understand what business he is in, he’s assumes that he must control what is impossible to control.

Art isn’t something with unique and distinct boundaries that distinguish it from other art, it overlaps with many other pieces of art. It doesn’t exist in a bubble that separates it completely from all other ideas, it’s a cluster of combined ideas which makes it impossible to apply the concept of property to any of it.

“Think of it this way: if you were a painter and were putting the finishing touches on your pieces for a show, wouldn’t you be upset if someone broke into your studio, took your unfinished paintings, and hung them in their public gallery without your permission? Let’s say you had some finished work hanging for sale in your own space, but every time someone saw something they liked, they removed it from the wall, tucked it under their arm, and left without paying for it? What if 100 people came to your show opening and 91 of them decided to steal one of your paintings off the wall? Then what? Paint faster to keep up with the demand?”

This is another example of how he is blind to reality (which is the common delusion that copyright based industries share). If you take his painting, he doesn’t have it anymore. That isn’t even close to what infringing through file sharing does. When you copy, the result is more where there was less. His statement makes clear that he doesn’t understand the difference and he bases all of his arguments upon that flawed assumption. Taking a painting means someone has stolen physical property, a clear measurable loss has occurred. In the case of copying, there is no measurable loss to account for because it cannot be known what people would do, for certain, in absence of the ability to copy. When you copy, the author loses nothing. His supply of works is not diminished.

He also thinks that his works are his property, which is illogical and impossible when you realize that all art overlaps with other art. If you could apply the overlapping traits of art to physical property like land, it would be like owning a parcel of land, but you also own parts of your neighbors’ land and they own parts of yours. How could you distinguish what’s uniquely yours and what’s uniquely theirs? The borders would be blurred beyond existence. What you would end up with is a common ownership of all land between all members of that society. Individual ownership would be impossible, thus is the way with art. For anyone to called a piece of art their “intellectual property” is trying to apply incompatible concepts to it in order to attain a quantum of control, despite the fact that such control isn’t even necessary and a lack of control would benefit the progress much more than imposing limitations.

Gracey says:

It can be.

Nowhere in the laws I know (and yeah, we have cops and lawyers in our family) does it say that it is legal to run a red light just because no one sees you.

It is not legal. Period. It’s a traffic violation. No, you won’t get a ticket if no one’s there, but that doesn’t suddenly make it legal.

So choosing to ignore laws (of any kind) fits within the scope of anarchy. Chaos and disorder. Ignore the government laws and you have chaos. Anarchy.

So yeah, I can see anarchy in a simple statement like that. When people to decide to do whatever they want without giving some thought to regulations and laws, and deciding to think something is legal when it isn’t…enough of that and you are going to have anarchy.

I’d agree the government is always right, and laws aren’t always right and may need changed to keep up with the times. But ignoring them isn’t the way to do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

If the law was created to take it away from humanity (copyright), that which belonged to humanity in the first place, then humanity is entitled to it. The only thing that says we aren’t is a law providing for limited times, an exclusive right to the creator.

When that period of time expires, it belongs to all of humanity. Therefor, all of humanity is entitled it it, except for the period you are granted exclusive control of it.

Doug D (profile) says:

It can be.

How the law defines it is certainly relevant, and if the article title had said “technically, by a strict legal definition, according to US law” that’d have been different. But how the law defines it isn’t *all* there is to the discussion.

If one is talking about morality or about how the law *should* work, then how the law *currently* works can be a factor, but isn’t the final word.

Doug D (profile) says:

It can be.

To cut to the chase: I do in fact think it’s time to massively decriminalize almost all of this activity and to change the parameters of the ecosystem. I agree, completely.

Which is why I hope the TechDirt folks stop saying things like “it’s not stealing” as if it were universally agreed-upon settled fact. Doing so creates disagreement on ideological grounds where there could have been agreement on pragmatic grounds.

Doug D (profile) says:

It can be.

This is actually pretty close to a fair question. It comes down to negotiated societal consensus.

I’m all for re-negotiating as a society, changing who’s entitled to what. I’m not for individuals declaring unilaterally that the rules aren’t what they are.

(Heck, if I had my way, we’d use a system of land stewardship instead of land ownership as well. But I can see that the reality is, we don’t.)

Gracey says:

It can be.

[has the the artist/songwriter/whoever actually LOST any sales?]

Maybe, maybe not. Depends on how good/bad the stuff is, I suppose. But people who can’t buy, will never buy no matter whether they listen to it free on the web, or grab an unauthorized copy. No money, no sales. So the lost sale thing is a waste of time in some ways.

[That sale WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED if I hadn’t infringed in the first place.]

What is that old saying…the right results from the wrong actions? That’s an excuse, and not a reason. I actually understand that there was an increase in “sales” but I’m not the one you have to convince. I give away stuff for free.

I think a lot of artists in all genres (not just music) seem to be stuck on the “lost a sale” thing. If someone isn’t going to buy it, they aren’t.

I agree that if you purchased the product and need it in a different format, you shouldn’t have to use filesharing to get it or buy a different copy of it. The distributors (et al) should be offering it up in whatever format the purchaser of the CD wants in it. That could resolve a lot of nonsense for music and movie buyers.

Business models need to change, but I’m not too sure that using the wrong methods to force these guys to change their business models is the right way to do it.

And no, I’ve no idea what is the right way, but I’m almost sure this isn’t it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Logan is clueless.

“He’s making the mistake of trying to fund his time and labor by selling something that he can’t control. That’s his error, not ours.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s like trying to force people they need to buy a buggy whip for a horse carriage when they go out for a drive in their car. His sole arguement for forcing people to have a buggy whip, well because its illegal to not have a buggy whip.

I can sympathize with Logan working hard and getting zero return on his investment. But, that is business. It happens. What I don’t understand is this attitude that exsists that everything is a sure thing… Wall Street, GM, Chrysler, Mogan Stanley, AIG.. Etc.. Why do people feel like the world owes them success and wealth? What is it with this bailout type of attitude so many people possess?

nasch says:

It can be.

So choosing to ignore laws (of any kind) fits within the scope of anarchy. Chaos and disorder. Ignore the government laws and you have chaos. Anarchy.

If lots of people ignore most laws, yeah. If some people ignore copyright law? I can’t see how that produces chaos or anarchy.

I get what you’re saying, but if you’re suggesting that the tendency of the younger generations is “ignore laws and do whatever I want”, I think this is no more true of this generation than it was of any other at their age. What’s happening is widespread bypassing of a particular set of laws.

I don’t think ignoring copyright law could lead to any of these things:

1. a state of society without government or law.
2.political and social disorder due to the absence of governmental control
3. a theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society.
4. confusion; chaos; disorder:

If your grandkids (if any) grow up in a chaotic unstable society, it won’t be due to file sharing. I also don’t buy the argument that ignoring one law leads to ignoring all of them eventually. You didn’t claim that, I’m just mentioning.

Violated (profile) says:

Not all bad news

I have seen worse and let us keep in mind that he is an ex-RIAA artist, who was not only screwed over by the contract, but was also fed a daily dose of the common infringement is stealing dogma.

My most fun point of all this is when he said “because of file sharing” when I was expecting the dreaded P-word. I think that indicates that there is hope for him.

Well with 18,000 downloads for $0 then it would take a glorious moron to believe you would still get 18,000 downloads if you charged $10 per download. He would be lucky to get 1,800 at that price and maybe even 180.

Those of us who have been around long enough know that it was not file sharing that killed the music stores when the likes of Amazon and iTunes had a much bigger hand in that one. We can also see that Stream is killing off Game stores now as well.

Well Logan Lynn is part way there and we can only hope he wakes up to smell the crap he shovels. Nothing counts more in the music world than popularity.

Gracey says:

It can be.

Well, that depends on what you mean by “you”.

If you buy a painting from me, I don’t care what you do with it (the painting).

I sold you the painting. I didn’t sell you a copy of it, but if you want to paint one (a copy) of your own from it, then go for it.

If you run off 100 prints, call them yours and sell them, yeah, I’d care, but I’d care a lot less if they still had my copyright on them.

But in the case of the painting, you may be devaluing the thing YOU now own. If I sold you the painting, I don’t own it anymore, you do. It’s value is what you paid for it. More copies floating about could mean less value for the owner, not for the artist (in this case, me).

I’m not going to freak out a little unless what you do causes me or my business harm. I’m kind of lopsided about copyright I suppose.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

It can be.

Oddly the OED has fewer definitions:
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/steal

Note that this is a more “concise” one than the one that takes up an entire bookshelf before breaking it under the weight.

For the Americans here the OED is globally considered to be the definitive English dictionary though by no means does it fulfill any authoritative role like that of the Acadamie Francais

Doug D (profile) says:

It can be.

You may have inferred it, but I certainly never meant to imply it. The law is far from the only context in which the word “stealing” has meaning, and the law doesn’t get to define the terms for those other contexts.

(Or: if a country changes the definition on the books for “stealing” so that “taking bread away from poor people so they starve” no longer fits that definition, do you consider that to have actually changed the meaning of the ten commandments?)

Doug D (profile) says:

It can be.

If you say it’s stealing then there’s no way to understand what’s happening, and you’re simply guaranteed to continue to fail to adapt.

This is very false.

Or: you’re asserting it without backing up the assertion. Care to explain why you believe this? If I say “I consider it to be a form of stealing”, what specifically is it that you conclude I’m missing?

I’ll point out that in other comments, I’ve said that I do not consider the original content owners to be entitled to any compensation for it, because I do not consider them to have lost anything. Is that the sort of thing you had concluded I must be missing, because I consider it a form of stealing?

Gracey says:

It can be.

You are mixing up physical and non-physical goods. Sure, I own the physical object that is the painting, if you sell it to me. I don’t own the “art” though. I’m still not allowed to makes copies of it for my friends or to sell on eBay. You don’t own it either. The law gives to a monopoly on that right for a limited time. Copyright is not ownership. You don’t own the art, even as the artist. Society owns it. Yes, humanity IS entitled to it. It is OUR culture. Even the law says so!

So wrong as to be ridiculous.

The art is mine, the painting is mine, but, I sold it. I can place no restrictions at all on it, if I so choose. It’s my creation. If you buy a painting from me, you can do what you want with it.

If I create a painting and hang it on my living room wall and do not sell it to anyone, then I own it. Period. No, humanity doesn’t have a right to it. I do. Only me, if I want to be so selfish.

You don’t get to tell me who has a right to something I created, neither does any law say that while I’m alive. After I die, do I really care what happens to it?

That’s nuts. No. Make thousands of copies and do what you want them, I won’t care at all. But while it’s hanging in my home, on my wall, and I’m still living and breathing, I get to decide. As for the painting I sold you, you get to decide.

Jake (profile) says:

It can be.

By your same logic, if I buy a CD and make copies, I am devaluing my own property, because who wants to buy a CD when there are many copies available (lol). What is the difference between a CD and a painting?

As for your last argument, when did it become the consumers responsibility to ensure that your business does not come to harm. Back to my car analogy, if I can talk the sales man into selling me a car for less than the dealer paid for it, that is the dealers problem not mine. If you sell something that can not be contained in a finite manner and this hurts your business, why is that my problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Just more of your anti-copyright reality distortion. Even if I am not using my car, and therefor NOT deprived of anything, the simple act of taking use of the car without permission (not the act of denying me access to it) qualifies the action as STEALING. Just like the act of otaining access to a music file (while not depriving me of the file) is still theft.

Stealing Services is called Theft of Service. You are not taking any physical good or depriving anyone of anything but it is still STEALING.

Gracey says:

It can be.

[but if you’re suggesting that the tendency of the younger generations is “ignore laws and do whatever I want”,]

I’m suggesting that ignoring laws can lead to anarchy. So right now, it’s the red light and copyright?

Which both seem pretty minor, I agree.

But the concept of ignoring laws is not likely to stop there. The “we want what we want” mentality isn’t confined to the younger set either, but they do embrace it a lot quicker than old fogies like me.

I’m saying that doing anything the wrong way (such as trying to get poorly written laws like copyright changed) can lead to chaos. It isn’t about the fact that it’s copyright laws, but more about choosing methods for change, or to try and bring about change.

Doing it wrong.

Isn’t going to always make the results right.

Gracey says:

It can be.

The consumers responsibility is only to buy and use the product.

Not buy and copy the product. Just cause I don’t care if they copy my painting doesn’t mean I expect them to put their name on it, thereby causing others to think they created the original work.

That’s the “harm” I suppose I was considering – I lose exposure if the person says they painted it, unless of course they do paint their own, then sell that. And then, I don’t really care.

Benjo (profile) says:

It can be.

Wait, so you think IP-related “stealing” is victim-less, but you think the offenders should be imprisoned?

W T F? Are you kidding me? Name one victim-less crime where the offenders penalty is jail time.

Also, IP-related stealing sounds stupid as hell. This could be on the level of corporate patent infringement, which is in some cases legitimately illegal. Get off your (incorrectly) moral high ground.

Keith_Emperor_of_Penguins (profile) says:

Re:

Even if I am not using my car, and therefor NOT deprived of anything, the simple act of taking use of the car without permission (not the act of denying me access to it) qualifies the action as STEALING. Just like the act of otaining access to a music file (while not depriving me of the file) is still theft.

Except, you know, that is not what’s happening at all. Its making a copy of your car, A FREAKING COPY. But I guess being full of shit is your specialty.

Prisoner 201 says:

It can be.

Pro tip: society is made up of individuals, and “re-negotiation” is a gradual seamless process that goes on all the time.

Right now the negotiations are headed in one direction and a powerful minority is, in a rare display of dexterity, simultaneously digging their heels in, filling their butts with sand and sticking their heads in it.

Arthur (profile) says:

It can be.

To say “copying is stealing” is not just inaccurate, it is deliberately misleading. To say “some types of copying may be stealing” is accurate.

But, no, you’ve made it plain that you think “copying is stealing” is “accurate” and not misleading when it obviously is neither.

Apparently, you think inaccurate, deliberately misleading statements “can be accurate”. I don’t think I want to visit your planet.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re:

Except that we would refer to that case as stealing the car for a small amount of time (and the culprit would probably call it borrowing without permission, which is actually the more precise language to use).

In other words, you are taking a stretched definition and applying it in a form that stretches even further, for the sole purpose of an appeal to emotion, which is in itself a logical fallacy. You haven’t been able to provide meaningful justification for why producing something by utilizing another thing as a model should be considered as disruptive to society as depriving someone of the use of something in order to use it yourself. These are the actual acts you intend to associate under the word stealing.

My question to you is not whether you believe that copyright infringement is theft. It is not what the dictionary describes. It is this: do you honestly think that these two acts should be treated as equal under the law?

To me, that seems to be a gross under-estimation of the effects of depriving others of access to things they have paid for access to simply because you do not wish or are unable to pay to access these things.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

It can be.

How is it any different than copyright law? In this case I’m using contract law, and the terms are more upfront than shrink-wrap licenses, which have been held as enforceable in many jurisdictions. How is saying “By clicking ‘I agree’ you agree to …” any different than “By continuing to read you agree to …”?

The point is I put up terms and you violated those terms. Whether it’s enforceable or not is rather beyond the point. You define stealing has having something that you’re not entitled to. I only gave you my opinion if you were willing to pay me for it. Without paying for it, you are not entitled to it, yet you took it anyway. By my definition, that isn’t stealing, but by your definition it is.

You can argue that you’re definition is correct, but by so doing you are also arguing that you are a thief.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Someone downloading a music file illegally is obtaining use of the music without permission. Can you not understand that if a rightsholder offers use of the music for a fee, and you access that without paying the fee, you are STEALING. Just like if someone charges admission to a National Park, a concert, a movie, a parking lot, etc… And you gain access to that resource without paying you are stealing a service. Notice there is nothing lost, no one is denied access do to your actions, but it is still stealing.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

Ok, so when someone duplicates an artist’s work and places it in a public area, anyone who sees it is not a thief? What if I walked past, saw a cool picture, and took my own picture of that… Now I’m duplicating the original artist’s property, is that thievery?

What if someone stole an artist’s CD and put it on the internet. If I made a copy of that stolen thing, am I a thief or not?

From the standpoint of actions taken, there’s no difference between the two acts of duplication.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

No actually I am telling you that you illegally obtaining music is STEALING. I am using analogies becaue you have been brainwashed by anti-copyright propagandists (actually Masnick et al are anti-IP). Just because you can take somethign without paying and it does not remove something from the market does not mean that it isn’t illegally gaining access to something to which you are NOT ENTITLED.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

And prior to the DMCA in 1998, unless the purpose of the infringement was to make a profit – presumably by selling the unauthorized copies – infringement was strictly a matter of civil law and not criminal law. Prior to the Copyright Act of 1976 (which took effect in 1978) even the selling of the unauthorized copies for a profit was a matter of civil law. In other words… IT WASN’T EVEN A CRIME until relatively recently. You could sue for damages if you could prove you were harmed and how much you were harmed. But you couldn’t be arrested and jailed for it. That didn’t happen until these laws were ILLEGALLY bought by the industry that couldn’t prove they were damaged anyway.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

He’s got a legitimate beef against the people in his own organization or associated entities that leaked the music before it was done. There’s really no excuse for that sort of corruption, regardless of the number of people who may be clamoring for the dude’s music. But if you can’t even control that, what chance do you have of controlling the rest of the world?

It’s like the war on drugs. People do drugs in prison. How do they get drugs in prison? I have my thoughts about that but the larger point is: How are you going to keep drugs out of America? Turn the whole country into a prison? Even if you did you still couldn’t keep them out. Authorities know this and so the war on drugs is just an excuse to turn America into a prison.

The same goes for file sharing. Regardless of the morality of file sharing, the attacks on file sharing are really just an excuse to turn the internet into a prison.

John Doe says:

All I see are cowards!

Cowards to stand up to the truth!

I don’t care what people say or do, but only the truth. You can’t steal thoughts. IMPOSSIBLE! If this were true, learning is illegal, & HELL, looking at paintings or products in a store are illegal SINCE YOU ARE CLONING A MENTAL COPY every time you look at them.

WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO WITH YOUR ILLEGAL COPIES YOU CREATED BY HELLO? LOOKING, SEEING, LIVING your life?

OK, piracy is wrong cause that is stealing, but copying never has been & never WILL be stealing.

Now, I want an RIAA representative to tell me I am stealing so I can tell the bastard to go rot in hell for all the things he is stealing BY JUST BEING ALIVE!

Liz (profile) says:

It can be.

You didn’t appropriate any veggies from them in the first place.

You’re right, I didn’t. If we were to take this example and build on it, I could have gotten seeds from the previously purchased foods. It isn’t too terribly difficult to take a root veggie or a bulb like onion or garlic and get it to grow a new plant.

With that, I’d have purchased a stock item, reproduced it and shared it with others. I could conceivably do this over and over and over. Now you might think this is perfectly legal thing to do. But what if the original material was grown by a licensed farmer who used stock from say, Monsanto?

MrWilson says:

Re:

Actually if someone steals your car while you’re not using it (which is usually what happens when cars are stolen unless you’re carjacked), it’s theft because you are being deprived of your vehicle, including the opportunity to use it, regardless of whether or not you happen to be using it at the time the car was stolen. Joy-riding or borrowing a car without prior permission is still theft, even if you return the car later, though it might not always be prosecuted.

If you go into a National Park without paying, you are trespassing, not stealing. There is something theoretically lost because you’re possibly using services such as restrooms and throwing away garbage and being protected by park rangers, etc.

When you copy a file that you otherwise would not or could not pay for, you are not depriving the copyright owner of anything. It’s not a lost sale. You don’t increase their costs. You’re not using their services because they don’t have to duplicate their effort. They aren’t rerecording their music just for you. It costs them nothing. This is why it is not stealing. It is copyright infringement. If it’s “stealing,” feel free to cite a legal case in which a person was charged with theft or stealing when they copied a file.

You keep pretending that goods which are infinitely reproducible at no cost to their copyright holders are the exact same as scarce, exclusive goods which do cost their owners product or money or opportunity or time if they are taken without permission.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

Language is dynamic (ie. the meanings of words change over time) and the meanings of words ARE ultimately what the public accepts them to mean. So as it is genuinely accepted that the majority of the general public agrees that (based on the percentage of the public that engages in the action as well as the frequency that they engage in the action – especially if you use the figures provided by the entertainment industry)

A. Theft is bad.
B. File-sharing is not bad.

Therefore…

C. File-sharing is not theft.

There simple logical deduction solves it for you.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

It can be.

“For the Americans”

Thanks for the concern, but I’m reasonably certain that the ratio of those who know about the OED here is roughly the same as in other English-speaking populations. It isn’t that Americans are the problem, but that our government has fallen to the control of big businesses (and we aren’t happy about that one, see the occupy wall-street protests).

Being concise (quotes most certainly not required) simply is the best effort at precision, rather than inclusion. Precision is usually preferred in use of language, because of the damage that ambiguity can cause, though inclusion is extremely useful in the study of language. Thus it is prudent to have both versions, but the concise version is actually the better to use for authoritative purposes.

Karl (profile) says:

It can be.

But there are people — not all of them on the side of RIAA/MPAA/et cetera — who disagree with that, who think copying *is* stealing.

None of those people sit on the Supreme Court:

Since the statutorily defined property rights of a copyright holder have a character distinct from the possessory interest of the owner of simple “goods, wares, [or] merchandise,” 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.
– Dowling v. United States

It may be stealing in the sense that you can “steal” a joke, “steal” a glance, or “steal” someone’s heart.

It is not “stealing” according to the law. That is a fact.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

It can be.

The mantra that you are so opposed to is created as a response to the propaganda and emotional appeal of calling the action theft. The wording explicitly works against reasoned debate by preventing a separate discussions regarding infringement and theft.

Since the industry has convinced most of those actually negotiating the law as well as a large segment of the population that infringement is theft there is no room for the debate that needs to happen.

In other words, the difference between the two topics covered by theft and infringement under the law is useful and thus worth preserving. We have no reason to blur the two by using the most expansive version of the definition of theft that has ever been proffered. Doing so creates ambiguity, which, if you have ever worked with the grammars of programming languages, you will recognize as rather disruptive.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

ROFLMAO, how do ILLEGALLY make something law? Did both chambers of the Representative branch of the government approve the law? Did the Executive branch sign the law? If so the law was LEGALLY enacted. That’s how our system works. The House and Senate send the law to the President who then must sign the law (or his veto can be overruled by a 2/3 majority). Geesh I learned that stuff in elementary school. See “I’m Just a Bill” School House Rock, circa 1970s.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

Correct me if I am wrong here, but isn’t copyright infringment as it is defined in the laws restricted to distribution and not consumption? Isn’t that why they have been going after people who have been sharing? I don’t think copyright law applies to people who download STOLEN content. You are not provided safe harbors under copyright law that defines your actions as a civil action. Your actions are still subject to property theft law, it’s just that the content industry has never pushed for enforcement, but I don’t see why they couldn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

Except when there is a popular uprising against an unjust law affecting the rights of the citizens. Ignoring the law to affect it’s change is not only the right thing to do it necessary. Was ignoring the discriminatory laws during the 60’s that fostered the civil rights movement to change those unjust laws “anarchy”?

Anonymous Coward says:

It can be.

Downloading an UNAUTHORIZED copy is not mearly copying. Just like baking magic brownies isn’t just baking. That is the problem with this site, people are trying to say, “It’s not stealing, it’s just copying”. No, its illegally copying because the source was not offered legitimately by the rights holder.

jakerome (profile) says:

Step 2?

Step 1. Make great music
Step 2. Find an audience & give fans a reason to buy
Step 3. Profit
————-

If the musician isn’t profiting, it’s not because of internet piracy. My money is on either crappy music or failure to find an audience. Fact is, it’s easier than ever to create great music, no longer do you have to win the backing of gatekeepers to churn out studio-quality albums. Never been easier to find an audience. There is absolutely no questioning those 2 claims.

The old reason to buy was “it’s the only way to listen to the music you want when you want.” OK, that’s out the window. No law is going to change that, as the law is routinely ignored because real people recognize that copying is not stealing, and routinely ignoring the law. Dozens of times a day for the average citizen. Laws don’t change ingrained societal behavior, and the musicians decrying the new state of the music industry need to realize that.

So provide your fans a better reason to buy besides “I’ll sue you if you don’t.”