General Question

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bodyhead's avatar

No, it is not stealing. When you steal something you remove something of someone else’s. Despite what you think, when you copy a song it is copyright infringement. It is not stealing.

The picture at this link illustrates my point:

eambos's avatar

If you didn’t previously own a copy of what you are downloading then yes, it technically is stealing.

richardhenry's avatar

People who say it isn’t stealing aren’t taking into account the fact that it’s the 21st century. Stealing is depriving someone of something, which in this case is money, which you owe them for entertaining you.

However, I do think that the movie and music industries deliberately inflate their ‘losses’. They don’t get it (out of choice, obviously). There’s no way in hell that you would have bought everything you’ve downloaded. Every download isn’t necessarily lost cash.

I think they should come up with a model (like something through the iTunes Store) where you can download the song, listen to it three times for free, and then for further listening you should buy it. With movies, they should just make them dirt cheap. I’d download a hell’uva a load. I’m a huowge fan, but it doesn’t really let you check out new artists you know about and would like to listen to.

The Zune store has a similar sort of model for ‘squirting’ songs on your friends, but I’m not a big Zune fan, both because I’m an iPhone user and I think the culture sucks.

The industries don’t get it, but yes, it is 21st century stealing.

eambos's avatar

Oh, and just a side note: I’m all for file sharing!

richardhenry's avatar

Oh, and I’m NOT a fan of the “you wouldn’t steal an old woman’s hand bag, so don’t download movies” commercials they put on DVDs. Partly because they put them on movies that you’ve actually PAID for. If they could put them on the downloaded films, then that would be genius… but as it stands, they should stop being so rude.

Zaku's avatar

To “steal” is to take without permission. Sharing is giving permission. But corporations are asserting rights to own ideas, data, all original thoughts of employees, even some ideas of long-dead people, in order to profiteer on an extreme scale (charging significant amounts for something that costs virtually nothing), at humanity’s expense. They assert the right to own information that they have distributed. It’s an imaginary crime which depends entirely on society accepting its validity.

I find the moral position of the Information Property concept to be morally bankrupt, and massively detrimental to humanity. We’ve invented machines (especially computers) which by their nature effortlessly copy and distribute an unlimited number of perfect copies of information. Then, to perpetuate an economic model based on ownership of physical objects and the supremacy of law-buying mega-corporations, some elements attempt to illegalize free use of it.

As if the world needed another system to perpetuate and multiply the wealth of excessively wealthy wealth-hoarding organizations.

richardhenry's avatar

@Zaku: “Sharing is giving permission.” What? The content holders didn’t give the file sharers permission?

Besides, making money isn’t bad. The bad part is that they aren’t adapting to the digital age, and taking advantage of it in a way that won’t piss off consumers. They can make money, more money than they have been, and keep customers happy at the same time, they’re all just too stuffy to accept that their old models don’t work anymore.

Releasing more for free could be amazing promotion, but they simply don’t get it. With less cost to release an album, they should sell them for cheaper… people will buy more. Much more. The corporations simply need new blood to realise it.

mabd's avatar

No, its not stealing. I don’t mean to say, automatically, that its perfectly morally OK, but its not stealing for the following reason:

Stealing is a concept that applies to the model of tangible goods, which are finite and limited. When you steal a physical object you deprive another person of their ability to use that object. This is not true for filesharing. In fact, filesharing increases wealth because you’re making more of something where before there was less. Of course there are downsides to making filesharing completely and openly free…you decrease the financial return on investment for someone creating a new work, which may decrease their ability to make new works in the future (they may be forced to get a day job, thus taking up time and energy that could be used to creating art, ultimately yielding fewer original works). The balance between open file sharing, and restrictions on such, should maximize overall benefit (from a utilitarian perspective) for all. This should be done by balancing the “new wealth” that is created by allowing people to freely make copies, with the additional new works that will be created by restricting such copying. This balance, is a legal matter, that requires fine tuning. This perspective is different from the idea of property rights, something which is seen as much more absolute, and which can only be infringed upon by the government as in taxation.

In my opinion the law is currently FAR off from that balance. The fact that something like 99% of books older than 15 years old are out of print, means that they are all not available for sale, yet they are also not available for free distribution with this amazing thing called the internet, because they are covered under copyright.

That means that those 99% of books are essentially “locked up” so that the authors of the remaining 1% of books can squeeze a small percentage of extra income of out them. This is clearly not in balance. The point is, copyright is a bargain that the People offer to authors, because it is to the benefit of the People, since it ultimately leads to the creation of more works. It is not an essential right. Similarly patents are designed to promote the disclosure of technical designs so they are not forever lost, in exchange for a limited time of protection.

File sharing does not deprive anyone of anything. Saying its deprives the author of money is assuming the money was coming to them, as if it is their right to receive money. Its like saying shopping at a competitor deprives a business of money so therefore that is stealing. Sometimes even shopping at a competitor is illegal (in the case of government granted monopoly). That doesn’t make it stealing. Copyright is another form of government granted monopoly. By finding other means of obtaining the product, without actually taking anything physical from a particular business, is infringing on that government granted monopoly. Illegal, but not stealing.

We need ways of reimbursing and financing artists so that they can continue to make art and supprt themselves while doing so. We need legal measures to do so. However, breaking these legal measures should not be called “stealing”.

As an interesting side note, it has been shown the creativity of artistic expression diminishes greatly when it is rewarded extrinsically (ie with money). Based on this, it is my belief that copyright is supposed to provide funding for artists to live, and not incentive to create art. The creation of art is its own incentive, and providing greater reimbursements does not lead to better art (the opposite is in fact seen)

As I said, there are a LOT of really important reasons a good copyright policy should exist and be respected. When it is not respected, it is called copyright infringement.

richardhenry's avatar

@madb: Those are some really interesting points. I think this is a pretty good discussion.

Zaku's avatar

@richardhenry: All I said was following the limits of the question: “sharing” does imply permission between the sharers. You are adding the concept of “content holders” which is just an idea which not everyone accepts. There is no universal right to own an idea such that you can claim that others can’t share it once they have it. It’s INFORMATION, not an object, and many hold that it is fundamentally impossible to control the sharing of information once you give it to someone else. Making money may not be bad, but trying to assert that it’s morally wrong and illegal to share information, well, is something I consider bad.

richardhenry's avatar

@Zaku: Getting people together, paying them, hiring cameras, hiring film crews, learning lines, filming, working for months on special effects and editing, and everything else involved in the production of a movie is not just “information”. You can’t expect people to do that for nothing. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your logic. Digital data might just be information, but everything that everyone did to create that data was not an effort they should necessarily have to give away.

There are some very successful indie films that are made on shoe-string budgets. Primer, for example. But you cannot make a film like The Matrix or Titanic on a shoe string budget. So much of the film industry would fall apart if they never made any money back.

They currently make money in a bad way, but they shouldn’t make no money at all.

richardhenry's avatar

^ edited that, by the way, if you’re crafting a response. added a bit more

nikipedia's avatar

@mabd: Can you elaborate on this point?

I don’t mean to say, automatically, that its perfectly morally OK

(I can give you a lesson in its versus it’s if you’re interested.) Given the points you made, what do you think is immoral about it?

btko's avatar

sharing a file isn’t stealing.

Sharing copyrighted material is. From photocopying a book of yours a giving it to a friend to ripping your cd and giving it to a friend. Same thing.

mabd's avatar

@nikipedia: I can give you a lesson in its vs. it’s as well. In fact, I can probably explain it better than you can.

I can also, in return for your superfluous lesson, give you a lesson in:
A) not being a condescending asshole
B) not focusing on things that are irrelevant, especially during discussion or debate
C) reading comprehension (I made it pretty clear how I thought harm may come by not respecting a reasonable copyright arrangement).

And for those of you wondering why I’m being so harsh on nikipedia, I know her in real life so its cool.

(that last “its” was just to infuriate you)

Zaku's avatar

Oh, and a one-level-higher view is that whether it’s right or wrong is arbitrary and defined by society, the law and individuals (maybe other organizations, like corporations and religions – or the Fluther community consensus – anyone can say and agree what’s right or wrong). So from that view, we’re free to choose what we want to call wrong or right, if we even decide that’s important.

So, two considerations I tend to gravitate towards are:

1) What model most closely matches reality. Ideas are shared by talking, looking, or loading from a disk or network cable into memory, automatically, all the time, with more ease than any control process could ever make sense of it. It’s fundamentally impossible to really police that. It’s not in the same nature as something one can really hold onto and control.

2) What is the good to society of outlawing free distribution, and what is the cost? Would we not love to live in a world where all content was essentially freely and easily available? We have the technology. From one view, we’re just stopping ourselves with selfish object-hoarding ideas.
Looking the other way, if people do choose to agree that ideas can be owned and idea-sharing can be controlled, then what if someone invents a wonderfully cheap idea while employed by a corporation whose sole purpose is to maximize profit? Does a corporation have such a right to profit that it can deny a wonderful idea to people in order to maximize and perpetuate its wealth? Well, megacorporations in the drug and food businesses seem to think it’s perfectly ok to go around acquiring the rights to things like the DNA for plants and animals, so as to deny those rights to others and profiteer by them.

Zaku's avatar

@richardhenry – Digital data is information. It is a fact that it can be easily copied, distributed, and shown over and over to anyone without any additional cost to whoever made it in the first place, and even at extremely little cost to the distribution networks and people who own the computers and storage media and display devices. The cost is not in the distribution and sharing of the information. The cost, as you pointed out, is in the creation of it. And I am all for rewarding people who produce interesting content for others, even handsomely. But it doesn’t need to be done using a model that no longer matches the facts, and that prevents people from using the wonderful technology we have to share freely. All that it takes is a new sales and/or business model. Really. It’s slowly happening, but in the meantime, people are being stupid and some people are being arrested and a lot of time and energy is being wasted and a VAST amount of free sharing of information is not being done, and we have to put up with a bunch of annoying crap like RIAA and DRM technology and insane EULA’s.

shilolo's avatar

Everyone who says file sharing (i.e. sharing of copywritten material such as movie, books, CDs, patents. etc.) has never been the owner/originator of such a project. If you put years of your life into a project, and were expecting some financial reward for your work, but then that was significantly diminished or diluted due to copywrite infringement by “the masses”, you would be pissed off.
There are those who argue for the free exchange of ideas/products, but, there is a strong disincentive to individuals/companies to invest years of work and huge sums of money (sometimes, as in the case of new medicines or technologies) only to have that work become a gift. If I spent a billion dollars developing a new product, and suddenly I couldn’t make back my money because of so-called file sharing, I’d be damned if I made that mistake again. People and companies cannot survive and flourish under those conditions.

Zaku's avatar

@shilolo – That is utterly false, shilolo. I and many of my friends have spent years making creative works, and we would love nothing better for the world to be able to share them freely. We’d also love to be supported for our efforts, but we have no attachment and much resentment for the outdated systems of sale and illegalization.

richardhenry's avatar

@Zaku: Yes, it is without additional cost. But it does not reward any profit. They don’t receive payment for their work. I suppose that they do make their money back at the box office, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be able to sit down and be entertained for free, forever. You should have to give a payment at some point, even if it’s just for the films you enjoyed watching.

shilolo's avatar

@Zaku. Congratulations on your altruism. I don’t feel that way. If I invent something and put my blood, sweat and tears into it, I’m opposed to it being freely traded just because we can. You can choose to give your work away, but that is your choice, not mine. The option to give up one’s intellectual property for free (i.e. a charitable donation) should be limited to the originator/holder of the idea, not to society as a whole.

richardhenry's avatar

@shilolo: I agree wholeheartedly. If someone like JJ Abrams wants to give away stuff he’s been working on for free, then amazing! But as it stands, what he does is not a part time job or something he does on the side, nor should it be.

Zaku's avatar

I agree that I’d like to be supported and rewarded for doing my work. I’m just not stuck thinking the only way it can be done is by trying to enforce rules that no longer make any sense. It’s still entirely possible to limit whether you release your product or not, how you release it, what forms you release, etc., or to invent other support structures for people who provide content. Or at least, it is if you are willing to let go of the idea that it can only be done in one way, and the only alternative is not to get compensated at all.

In fact, there have already been many successes at various forms of distribution that have nothing to do with attempting to enforce or vilify free distribution.

mabd's avatar


But in any case, I’ll elaborate:

As I mentioned, I believe copyright is about balance between free copying (which increases overall wealth by increasing the number of copies of existing artistic works) and restricting copying (which increases overall wealth by increasing funding, indirectly, for the creation of new works). The goal is to maximize overall wealth by finding the right balance. If such a balance is reached, then clearly any deviation from this balance is morally wrong, in utilitarian terms, since it decreases overall benefit. This deviation is morally wrong in either direction, that is, when balance is reached it is just as morally wrong to infringe copyright as it is to increase copyright protection.

Of course, the market is not so homogenous; there are some works that exist such that copying them will not harm the artist’s ability to create new works (think of an independently wealthy, profitable, filmmaker), and there are those works whose creators depend deeply on the contribution from people who purchase the work. Of course, when you look at highly profitable films, movies, books, you have to take into account all the failures. Just because an individual film is profitable does not necessarily lead one to conclude that its OK to copy. The great successes offset the cost of the flops, so its not so clear cut. But the economics are extremely complex. Take Hollywood for example. On the one hand, their profits are pretty meager, about 6%, so you can’t easily say they are so awash in profits that it’s OK to copy as you will (that is, you can’t easily assume that diminishing the profits of the industry won’t diminish the creation of new works). However, there is a LOT of waste in Hollywood, especially in blockbusters. A big portion of a film’s commercial success is dependent on the actor, so big name actors have a lot of power to command big salaries, since films compete for them. But if there were less profits to go around, surely the actor’s salary would simply diminish similarly, since the salaries of the hottest actors is a sort of arms race.

Needless to say this requires a very complex economic analysis to determine the “optimum” level of copyright. But before you can perform such an analysis you have to agree that copyright is not some fundamental human right, but simply a tool for maximizing overall benefit. If you don’t agree with that premise there is no point in doing any sort of analysis.

So, Nikipedia, basically it may be morally wrong to infringe on copyright (or copy at all instead of paying the author, when copyright is too lenient and you are not even infringing), because it decreases overall benefit. But there is a necessary conclusion here. It is also morally RIGHT to copy and distribute works when copyright is too restrictive. Therefore, there are many cases where we are under a moral OBLIGATION to copy and distribute works of art when it does not unduly harm the creator’s ability to create new works. (Of course the ability to distinguish such a case is not so clear, and when people bring their self-interest into it, they will likely justify cases even when it is not so morally justified. But such cases clearly do exist, often).

shilolo's avatar

@Mabd. That’s a long winded way of saying, its all relative…

mabd's avatar


Not really. It’s a way of saying that copyright serves a purpose and should only be used to serve its purpose. It’s, in fact, not all relative. Assuming we have good enough ways of measuring, and assign the appropriate values to things, we can determine OBJECTIVELY whether we’ve hit the right balance. I’d say it’s more like the balance between liberty and security. Security is supposed to protect you so that you can stay alive and enjoy your liberty. But when security becomes so pervasive and extensive, that it actually restricts your liberty, it eventually defeats its own purpose.

What is the purpose of art? And when I use the word art, I really refer to any human expression, from the Mona Lisa to a math textbook. So what is its function? It is to illuminate, to educate, to enlighten and entertain. The purpose of copyright is to maximize the amount of this occurring in the world. If copyright becomes so restrictive that there are actually less people being able to have access to books/films, etc. then it defeats its own purpose.

nikipedia's avatar

@mabd: So it sounds like yet again we have an optimization problem, huh? Anyway, I largely agree with what you’re saying so you should engage the rest of the collective. And answer your damn phone.

marinelife's avatar

I agree that our laws have not kept up with our technology.

I agree that the mainstream creators and distributors of content such as music and movies have not to date come up with models that fit well in the new reality brought about by technology and the Internet. They need to take a more creative pass at new models.

What I disagree with is that faced with this transitional period, individuals decide that some laws are bad and can just be disregarded at will. It is not up zaku or mabd or anyone to say, selectively, I don’t like this law so I am going to ignore it. Whether you like it or not, you are a part of this society.

You can work within it to change it. You can lobby, you can create petitions, you can form a grassroots movement, but you can’t just say that law no longer applies. People try to do that all the time. Wesley Snipes, for example, joined a group of people who decided income taxes were not OK, and so they were not going to pay them. People who arbitrarily do that are criminals.

Saying piracy or copyright violation is not stealing is rationalization and equivocation. Just because you say it loud and often does not make it true.

I am a writer. I absolutely do not think my work product should be free for the taking or sharing just because it has no concrete form. By your arguments, if you saw a piece of furniture in a store, you should just be able to take it. There really is no difference between content and a piece of furniture. They both took time, effort, and creativity to produce. The producer is entitled to market value for them.

While I also think we need some reform on some of our patent laws, which have not kept up with technology and scientific advancement, particularly in the areas of genetics and medicines, right now we ought to have to live with the system we put in place until it is legally changed.

@nikipedia With acquaintances who address you as nicely as that, who needs enemies?~

Zaku's avatar

@niki: Of course, composing long Fluther posts or answering the phone is an optimization problem… ;-)

Zaku's avatar

@Marina: Which society do you say I am a part of and can’t ignore, Marina? There are many societies who have different views on such issues, and the closest thing to agreement is found in the law, which to some societies is supposed to represent the will and interests of the people. I’m not necessarily advocating or practicing illegality, although that’s certainly one way it does go when the law fails to match reality.

You say you are a writer who absolutely does not think your work product should be free for sharing? So what do you think of libraries? How about people reading your book to each other? How about giving your book to a friend after they have read it, or after they die? Maybe the libraries of the dead should be burned to increase the profits of current corporations who own the rights to profit from those ideas?

Perhaps also consider Thomas Jefferson on the subject, and the thread on this page which describes the stuck patterns of argument which so often come up around these themes.

marinelife's avatar

@Zaku Libraries buy the books that they lend. If someone buys a copy of my book, they can read it aloud to whoever they want. What they can’t legally do is make a copy of it and give that copy to someone else. I am advocating enforcing of current copyright laws. No more.

sndfreQ's avatar

@mabd: what about the concept of “stealing cable?” If I’m reading your explanations correctly there’s no depriving of others of media content and access; your simply “sharing content.”. Is this analagous to file sharing (just a slightly different delivery mechanism)?

In cable “broadcasting” (actually it’s narrowcasting, but now I’m splitting hairs) the idea that a show is a “performance” of an artist(s) work is similar to other broadcast formats-the consumption of that media constitutes the performance, for which the copyright owners are paid. In the case of commercial music, a download, CD, live concert are all considered forms of a performance. Just because a CD is physical/tangible, are live performances, radio broadcasts, and (digital) transmissions any less of a commodity?

Back to the cable issue-it’s a really interesting point in digital rights management when people can TiVo programs, but not redistribute them; pre-digital, the argument was that analog recording methods did not approximate the high-quality broadcast masters. In this day and age where digital copies are identical to the original, can the same be said for digital copying?

Vincentt's avatar

If stealing is depriving someone of something, then file sharing is only stealing if you’d otherwise had bought the music, which I’d never do.

By the way, file sharing of course isn’t stealing by definition. I use torrents to share files now and then so as to help the original author save bandwidth – e.g. Xubuntu cd images.

shilolo's avatar

@Vincent. Bullshit. “I’d never buy a Ferrari, so taking one off the lot isn’t stealing, right?”

flameboi's avatar

I have to quote Lars Ulrich in the comic sketch at the twothousandsomething MTV VMA’s “Sharing is fun when is not yours”

sndfreQ's avatar

@shilolo: If I read this right, Vincentt was saying that he’d never deprive someone of something, not “never buy the music.” It may simply be a case of a misplaced modifier (“which I’d never do” refers to stealing music via file sharing).

I think we’re all on the same side of the argument. Vincentt’s second point illustrates that an “original” purpose for file sharing is to balance data load between client and server, as in the case of sharing open source content.

sndfreQ's avatar

@mabd: to quote your previous post:

“If copyright becomes so restrictive that there are actually less people being able to have access to books/films, etc. then it defeats its own purpose.”


It’s a right that is given to the creator of the content-be it art, knowledge, entertainment, and specifically musical, dramatic or artistic work (according to the American Heritage Dictionary). If the owner of that content chooses not to share or otherwise disseminate their work, that’s their right. File sharing of copyrighted work without the express consent of the creator of that content constitutes theft of property (intellectual property in this case).

Truefire's avatar

@shilolo: “I’d never buy a Ferrari, so taking one off the lot isn’t stealing, right?”

Haha.. awesome.

@Vincentt, I’m an open source advocate too,
and you’re right about filesharing’, by definition.
The ‘depriving’ thing is definitely going into my ‘most foolish lst’ though.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

Tone's avatar

The libraries argument is terrible. File-sharing isn’t the same as libraries. Every book in a library was bought and paid for, and the library shares it with the explicit expectation that it be returned so it can be leant to another person. The legal issues with file-sharing arise because of the digital nature of computer files. Every copy of a file is exactly the same, making distribution of equal-quality copies basically free. This of course causes big problems for the owners of the rights to the content. If you could do the same thing with a library book, believe me, there would be serious issues there too.

As others have mentioned, the laws are a mess right now, and the RIAA and other groups are taking very punitive and backwards-looking approaches to dealing with the problem. That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. People work very hard to create the music you’re listening to, and they have every right to be paid for their work. Some artists have been creative and found ways to make a good living embracing file-sharing, but there’s no question that overall, real people doing real creative work are losing real money. Pretending it’s all so innocent and that you’re not affecting anyone but big corporations is naive. (It would also be a terrible excuse for breaking laws anyway. Do you steal from Wal-Mart?)

Claiming that stealing only applies to physical goods is just playing semantics and misses the point entirely.

Vincentt's avatar

@Shilolo & Truefire – I wasn’t saying it isn’t stealing because I’d never buy it, I’m saying that that’s what you say if you call stealing ”depriving someone of something”.

Still, the Ferrari comparison isn’t a good one. When Richard said stealing is depriving someone of something, that meant depriving someone of income – the money you’d have payed if you hadn’t downloaded whatever it is. When you’re taking a Ferrari, that means you’re depriving the Ferrari from someone else. In this case, it’d be more like making a copy of the Ferrari, thus “depriving” Ferrari from revenue they’d have made if you’d have bought it. However, if you wouldn’t have bought the Ferrari (too expensive) yet you make a copy of the Ferrari without anyone noticing, that’s not depriving anybody of anything.

So if stealing is depriving people of something, making a copy of a Ferrari you wouldn’t buy anyway isn’t stealing. I’m not saying stealing is depriving people of something, though (nor am I saying it’s not).

I hope that’s clear enough ;-)

Zaku's avatar

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”
– Thomas Jefferson

sndfreQ's avatar

@Zaku: interesting quote, but I have a question for you.
How else are artists, musicians, filmmakers, and content creators supposed to make a living? The concept of sharing ideas is one thing, creating content that is to be appreciated, consumed, or otherwise intended to instruct has value in this market and society. Depriving those who created it the right to receive compensation for the exchange and consumption of their content is the central issue here; it’s even more germane to the conversation when considering exact digital copies of the original, indistinguishable from the master, that are being “shared” in the name of free exchange of ideas?

In an ideal world, the world’s artists, philosophers, inventors, and innovators would all be supported by the people-but is that the world we live in? Maybe I’m going out on a limb, but in Capitalist, free-market economies/societies, everyone has the right to make a life for themselves. Perhaps in a socialist/totalitarian society, where the state will pay these groups a living wage for their contributions, maybe it’s different-but that’s not relevant to this discussion.

@Vincentt: Oh man, now I have to jump on the other side with shilolo, based on your last reply! It’s so interesting that you use the example of copying a Ferrari; there are stories in the news that actually address this very issue (see links below).

Building your own Ferrari (an exact replica down to the insignia), driving it around your backyard where no one else can see is still driving around a Ferrari. Your appropriating of the car’s identity, its aesthetic and functional details, and the idea of the car being a Ferrari, infringes on someone else’s idea and right to sell that car (to anyone, even you if you can’t afford it). In principle, this concept you support is flawed, whether applied to a $250K auto or a $4.99 digital movie.

Now if you’re going to write, shoot, direct, edit and author your own “Dark Knight” movie, then whatever…but when you or someone else shares an exact copy of another’s person’s idea (intellectual property, as is the case with digital media), that commodity is being traded without compensation to the creator of the product.

Here’s an interesting take on your concept related to technology:

What’s most interesting is that the ‘innards’ and basic hardware design of this device are made by the same component manufacturers in China; as for the actual product design, interface and OS, the issue of copyright infringement is coming up, and made even more controversial in that it stretches across countries (China and the U.S.) and economies and societies…it may come down to “how similar” in look and feel this comes to Apple’s OS and iPhone product, but yet, this is being done in many other markets as well.

Yet, the Chinese manufacturer is moving forward with production of these units. It’s now becoming a matter of international trade and commerce, but is a very real concern.

Zaku's avatar

@sndfreQ – I could suggest various different workable models for creators, businesses, and economies – there are many possibilities when one lets go of attachment to the older models.

For example, a very low recommended donation coupled with wide and free distribution. Did you like my work? Click here to send me an easy micropayment.

Another example is forming a company, agency, or automated system which receives money not on the basis of individual use (which costs almost nothing and is impossible to police) but on some other mechanism such as subscriptions, taxes, advertizing, fees for related services. Then users are simply asked if they would like to acknowledge the creator that they appreciated the work. Creators are then compensated by that agency on some scale based on how many people loaded, used, and/or acknowledged their work, but the act of acknowledgment costs nothing. So you create a system for rewarding creators without linking it to what you can’t control.

Another is offering a product for free and then selling related products which improve its value, a model which has been having a lot of success in recent years. Bands releasing free music on download is causing people to buy the actual album. Games are being created where you can download and play them for free, but some extras are available for sale. Etc.

Advertising (especially tasteful, non-annoying advertising ;-) ) is another option which can be combined with zero-price products. See television in America, and contrast with television in the United Kingdom, where the government finds itself spying on its own people with covert signal-detecting vans that go around detecting TV’s and checking against a massive database of who has paid for a TV license or not (makes me upset, I dunno about you…).

As for going out on a limb by saying people have a right to earn money, no, but you are on another limb which from where I stand, says your right to earn money is inextricable from your right to control my use of information which I get from any source (such as broadcasting it through my house, or other people wanting to show a film FBI WARNING blah blah blah you will be imprisoned if you play this film in public blah blah), which is not a game that can be won, or that should be attempted.

sndfreQ's avatar

@Zaku-So as long as people are paying for the information/entertainment they consume, however they consume it (i.e. file sharing included), then that’s fair game right? If any of the above mentioned methods for marketing media can be applied to bit torrenting, I’d love to see that happen. I’m just not that confident that Joe “I can’t afford it, so why pay for it” will abide by that principle.

What about individuals who pirate movies by taking cameras into movie theatres? I can go downtown to my business district where in the streets, there are dozens of peddlers selling bootlegged DVDs acquired this way for profit. How is that money getting back to the content creators? Are these peddlers interested in a “recommended donation” to the creators of that content? They are helping those who otherwise can’t afford to go to all those movie theatres, but at what expense? Who’s paying the price?

Seems to me the issue becomes one of defining (or considering re-defining) copyright law; in the case of most media, when the media is consumed, it’s considered a “public performance” above all else (i.e. its intrinsic value of sharing information). When you strip away that concept in the name of asserting your right to information, you bifurcate a fair market system where people can make up the compensation at-will. Alas, the argument of “I have rights to information” trumps people’s right to earn a living. So it’s okay to break the law if it is outdated?

Here’s another thought-In my line of work (education) I come across many first-timers interested in getting into the media industry-whether recording artists, filmmakers, broadcasters, it is always an interesting and stimulating subject of discussion when I bring up the concept of commoditizing what they do (their craft).

Admittedly, in light of digital technology, the system is to blame-as most controlling interests in “Big Media” have monopolized the economy and ability for the “little guy” to compete. But that doesn’t mean breaking the rules comes without consequences to someone. I ask my students whether or not they would feel good about someone pirating their hard-earned efforts, and even the notion of others profiting from their work without their consent, and the “room” goes wild!

I just see things from the angle of the content creator. Until a balance can be found whereby honest consumers morally make the decision to torrent a movie and pay for that usage, then I think the argument of “access” over “honesty” is one that strikes a chord with me personally and professionally.

I’m still not convinced that anyone who file shares a la torrent is paying the respective owners of that content for their effort. It’s the main reason I don’t do it and am strongly against it. I also destroyed the hard drive containing my Napster-acquired music, and have since subscribed to a paid music leasing service that enables me to pay the artists for unlimited use/access to their content (8 million songs that I can download at-will to my PMP anytime, for a flat $15 / month). I see these options as the future of entertainment media in the digital age, but “sharing media” for the sake of saying you have a right to share it-I don’t subscribe to that policy.

Now, there is a bit of a ray of hope-some of the big companies are starting to come around (for example, as a service) that uses the methods you described above.

Tone's avatar

@Zaku – Wait. If you really believe in Jefferson’s idea, then how can you advocate paying for anything beyond the costs of the materials involved. You mention giving away digital media as a way of encouraging people to buy an album, for example. Why is it allowable for an artist to charge for a physical album of their music (their ideas), but not expect payment for the exact same ideas in digital form. Somehow the format is the difference? Seems they should be limited to charging for the cost of the plastic the record is made out of, the paper for the sleeve, etc. You’re basically advocating Communism, where everything is the property of the society at-large, and no individual can own anything.

Resorting to these high-minded ideals about the “freedom of ideas” simply doesn’t wash. It can’t be taken to it’s logical conclusion, or anywhere near. It works great for things that the person advocating this argument would rather not pay for, but completely falls apart in so many other cases.

Listing other possible ways an artist could make money is great. Some of those are great ideas. That has absolutely no bearing on the morality of unauthorized file-sharing.

The content-owners (and particularly large associations like the RIAA and MPAA) definitely need to figure out better ways to deal with this issue, and iTunes has shown that millions of people are quite willing to pay reasonable prices for authorized downloads if they have an easy way to do so. No matter how many rationalizations you come up with, the fact that the situation is not perfect doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for depriving artists of their income.

Vincentt's avatar

> Building your own Ferrari (an exact replica down to the insignia), driving it around your backyard where no one else can see is still driving around a Ferrari. Your appropriating of the car’s identity, its aesthetic and functional details, and the idea of the car being a Ferrari, infringes on someone else’s idea and right to sell that car (to anyone, even you if you can’t afford it). In principle, this concept you support is flawed, whether applied to a $250K auto or a $4.99 digital movie.

First of all: I didn’t say I support the concept.

That said, I’m wondering: is this appropriating of the car’s identity etc. etc. depriving the author of something? I’ve got a strong feeling it is, but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head.

Tone's avatar

Another question @Zaku: If you believe that “ideas” (we’ll leave aside for now that you seem to consider products to be simply ideas) you get from any source are yours to do with as you please, how about this scenario: An inventor works toils for 20 years on a great idea, finally bringing it to market. It’s his life’s work. As soon as this “idea” is in public, a large company buys one, reverse-engineers it, and begins selling an exact clone for half the price because their manufacturing is streamlined and they have economies of scale. By your logic, this is perfectly okay. Or is it only okay when it’s an individual doing this to a “company” (again, leaving aside that you’re conflating the record companies with the artists)?

Your basic argument seems to be that if you feel like you can do something, you can, and it’s good. A bit thin, in my opinion.

sndfreQ's avatar

@Vincentt: Thanks for the clarification. What did you think about my links to the Bimmer X5 knock-off? Just curious.

Zaku's avatar

Heh. You guys are outpacing me.

“So as long as people are paying for the information/entertainment they consume, however they consume it (i.e. file sharing included), then that’s fair game right?”
– No. The problem I see is people trying to cling to information as if it were a physical object that they can control. It’s only possible to do that in people’s minds and computers, by introducing security measures through DRM hardware, software, and mental programming.

What about pirate copies? They aren’t a problem if you’re not trying to do your impossible quest. Download and copy at will, please! Yeah you might not want to get it from Slimey Joe who pointlessly videotaped it in the theater, because his copy is really bad quality, so get the actual freely distributed hi-fi version off the net. Then we request that if you got something out of it, click the rating button, and/or send us a micropayment – I suggest $0.75 for the standard satisfied viewer.

It’s not that trying to sell and control information like a physical product is out-dated so much as it is inappropriate, counter-productive, ultimately impossible, and probably other things I’m not thinking of right now.

So many people seem to be so stuck on the metaphor of theft even though it’s really not necessary to view it that way.

What’s the actual desire and need of someone who creates content? It seems to me that even content creators who are still mentally stuck on the “object theft” model, essentially want to share their work, be acknowledged for it, and to be well compensated for it, no? If they do well, they want more compensation, but is there really an essential need to punish people who see it for free, or to control every single act of sharing? It seems to me that that’s really not what it’s about.

If we stop futilely trying to control duplication and display, then we can invent a new system. I’m not saying that I have the perfect answer, but I can think of many that look workable to me, and I know of many that are already working. For example, if you take 100 creative people and tell them that if they produce a certain (not-extreme) amount of work, they will be paid what they need to support themselves and do their work, and then we’ll distribute it freely to the whole world, and they’ll be additionally rewarded based on how many people say they appreciated it, potentially making a nice amount, how many of those 100 people would prefer that system, if it worked? How many will prefer to say, no, it’s more important that I control copying and punish people who see it for free?

Vincentt's avatar

sndfreQ – sorry, haven’t clicked it, will do so now :)

Vincentt's avatar

OK, I’ve read it. This clearly is depriving BMW from something, because the car is being sold to people that might buy BMW’s car and bring in a return on investment.

However, I’m very curious how Toyota’s letting the market sort it out worked out. Clearly, the price difference between BMW’s car and Shuanghuan’s car isn’t just the price you pay for the car’s design, so BMW’s car is probably better.

sndfreQ's avatar

@Zaku-thanks for sharing your ideas-they’re insightful and visionary; I hope that one day all will see the same. Problem is, what do we do in the interim, where “broken” systems still support artists and their living wages? I know too many starving students who in spite of their protectiveness about their own content, can’t/won’t pay even a $0.75 donation for any content, nor do they see a need to; it’s that mindset that I’m against.

I guess it’s a larger issue to think about than what I was asserting earlier-and you brought that back to reason for me. I’d be for the options you propose, it’s just deciding when and how to operate this on a global/universal scale that I think is the daunting task, especially in consideration of national attitudes, mores and economies concerning pirating and copying of concepts (Hong Kong is a hotbed for pirated movie content distribution btw).

Still, there are those unscrupulous consumers who refuse to pay for any content as a principle, citing as Tone mentioned above the idea of “leaving aside that [you’re] conflating the record companies with the artists” as the basis for not paying for consuming content.

I recently bought a Wii and was shopping around on Craigslist for some used “setups,” and had a bit of a time arguing with one seller, who wanted to charge me full price for bit torrented games, and would not separate these pirated games from the sale of the console. The argument went along similar lines, in terms of his rationale that he “couldn’t afford to buy all those games,” yet and still he insisted on charging me for them as if they were store bought.

I told that bozo where he could go…but it’s that mentality that I see with the vast majority of bit torrent users-the entitlement concept going awry in the logic of the end-user; nowhere in that conversation did he mention that he wanted to pay the companies for his use/enjoyment of their content, just wanted to say that he was charging me for “the time involved in downloading and burning the games to disc.”

I was floored by this…and politely stepped back, and shuffled on to Game Stop to buy said game system and original games.

robmandu's avatar

”...arguing with one seller, who wanted to charge me full price for bit torrented games…”

< < (sputters)

< < (breathes in, breathes out)

< < (opens mouth, closes it)

< < (has nothing to say about teh stoopid)

< < (shakes head, navigates away)

sndfreQ's avatar

Edit: regarding the Wii, when I was shopping on Craigslist, I did not yet own a system; by “setup” I meant the entire system (console, controllers, accessories-i.e. Wii Fit, and games); I wasn’t on the prowl for pirated games, but they were bundled in the systems that were being advertised on Craigslist.

Just a clarification.

Zaku's avatar

@Tone: You seem to me to be collapsing ideas and arguing along limited lines. I’m not advocating Communism or Capitalism, and it seems to me those terms will just tend to add misunderstanding and emotional reactions.

Yes the media is important because physical media does take something of value to produce, store and distribute it, which information does not (or, a vastly smaller amount, these days), especially when we have a very nice computer network. Look at some examples that have been working for some years now at least in some cases, where people give their music away and people are responding by buying physical albums anyway because they like it and want the physical thing, and/or to express support for the artist. It may not be mainstream yet but it dispels your notion that somehow if you listen to Jefferson then you can only charge for raw materials and/or you become a Communist(tm – The Cold War) in a puff of one-dimensional logic.

You say the idea falls apart, but I can’t see inside your head to see why it is doing that in there.

You’re correct that listing ways to make money with free distribution doesn’t directly relate to the morality of file-sharing, except it does in the line of argument SndfreQ brought up (that IIRC he was concerned how people could support themselves doing creative work), which is what I was responding to.

The reaction of the industry you brought up, to move towards smaller fees and easier distribution, is entirely relevant and part of what I’m trying to explain – it’s a move in the direction of the inevitable, which is just the sort of thing I’m talking about. If the industry makes the cost and ease of getting their product from them lower than it is to get it from the black market, they’ll be doing fine and won’t need to illegalize it. With billions of customers, people will be able to make content and get rich off it… but what may get in the way next is not piracy or the needs of artists, but the needs and desires of media megacorporations, who have charters to own and control more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more… and who will become less and less necessary as technology improves. When people don’t need a corporation to make and distribute and sell music and video to the whole world… expect more heel-dragging etc.

Oh and by the way, my posts have never been trying to “absolve [me] of responsibility for depriving artists of their income.”

Zaku's avatar

@Tone, as for your second line of inquiry, it seems to me to have more to do with your line of thinking than mine. You seem very concerned about people getting what’s rightly theirs and not having it stolen. I’m looking more from what’s good and workable for everyone. It seems to me the status quo is that inventors do lots of work and then corporations profiteer off of it. Let’s let go of getting mad at people and organizations and “thieves” and look at what would serve everyone well and work better than the way we operate currently, at least for a moment, ok?

So, what does the inventor want? Probably the same thing as an artist, no? He wants to be able to do is work and for himself and his loved ones to be supported, and to be acknowledged for his work and to have it be of as much use as it can, and certainly he deserves to be rewarded for particularly good contributions. I’d say too we’d even like him and his family to survive comfortably just for applying his life to things that might help even before he produces something great, or if he never does.

Or, in your view, is what he really wants to track every time someone learns or uses his ideas, and wring at least some money from every single use of his brilliance, because he thought of it first?

Once one lets go of old models, there are many ways to structure reward games so that thinkers and artists can be rewarded. One idea might be that academics and scientists could have both salaries (as some of them do now, but we might allow more people to do that), and also as rewards for the value of their contributions (as we also do now, but just in fairly limited ways) instead of, or in abundant addition to, the options offered by a marketplace, for-profit corporations, or government research grants, etc.

robmandu's avatar

@sndfreQ, I got your drift. Just flabbergasted someone would actually try to sell stuff they got off the torrent… and at full list price even. And then justify it by saying they couldn’t afford to buy it in the first place.

Ow. Teh stoopid. It’s hurting my brains again.

Zaku's avatar

@sndfreQ: What there is to do now is have and spread discussions such as these, or even moreso, where we look at leaving the past in the past, look at what we wish things would be like, and then get creative about what can be done, and spread the conversation wider and wider. And that is what is happening now, here in this topic, and in practice inside media corporations, with game developers, with independent and with corporate-signed artists. For example, it is actually a current high-tech marketing buzz concept to sell things for zero, because it really increases consumption – products sold for zero are being used to generate markets for related products, marketing info, advertising, etc. It doesn’t happen everywhere overnight, but it can happen in single cases immediately, as soon as someone sees a possibility and acts on it, etc. One wonders what is the critical mass in the culture of the mental block in the way of transforming the world economy.

As for bozos who crudely try to charge full price for their own versions of things, well, they’re just bozos and there will always be bozos, but I don’t personally find it all that relevant that their bozo-ness includes producing a second-rate copied product and/or overcharging for it without compensating anyone – that seems to me like a distracting sub-conversation which results from dwelling on the old object-based model too much so that it channels thoughts into one dimension of argument.

Knotmyday's avatar

Not stealing. How I miss the glory days of Napster…all the old blues stuff, lovingly ripped to file. Blind Lemon Jefferson…my eyes are tearing. Dammit.

Tone's avatar

@Zaku – You haven’t addressed why it’s okay to make a profit from the direct sale of a physical object, but not from the direct sale of a digital one. Besides the cost of the materials, by your arguments, there’s no justification to charge directly for anything. People should be free to pay what they like, when they like, based on their subjective ideas about the value of a product. I know you’re trying to be “above” terms like Capitalism and Communism and all that, but I’m not using these terms pejoratively, they are descriptive and valuable words for describing very different economic and social systems. I don’t think my thinking is narrow, but it’s grounded in reality. Envisioning an extremely different future where the entire world’s economy (which is directly based on the way humans have approached work and value for work pretty much forever) is changed and greed is eliminated and people are happy to have enough to survive but don’t strive to be rewarded beyond that is perhaps (in your view) a utopian vision, but to my mind largely a fantasy. Tangible, real-world results come from dealing with the way things are, not the way we would like them to be. Whether you want to call it that or not, you are describing many of the features of Communism (what’s good for the collective at the expense of the individual). I’m not saying that’s objectively bad, but these ideas aren’t new. New models are great, but the extremely broad way you have of describing these models leaves them wide-open for criticism.

Zaku's avatar

@Tone –
“You haven’t addressed why it’s okay to make a profit from the direct sale of a physical object, but not from the direct sale of a digital one.”
– That would be because I have no such opinion that it’s not ok to make a profit from digital sales. What I think is not ok and ultimately counterproductive and impossible, is trying to control and illegalize duplication of information that someone already has access to.

“Besides the cost of the materials, by your arguments, there’s no justification to charge directly for anything.”
– Seems to me like you are drawing conclusions based on your own assumptions. I have no such belief.

“People should be free to pay what they like, when they like, based on their subjective ideas about the value of a product.”
– I agree.

“I know you’re trying to be “above” terms like Capitalism and Communism and all that, but I’m not using these terms pejoratively, they are descriptive and valuable words for describing very different economic and social systems.”
– They aren’t useful to me if I don’t know how you define them. (Also, many people on the ‘Net seem to be stuck with a devolution of McCarthian definitions for those terms, and like labling people Commies when people talk outside their box. So even if we avoid such, we may miscommunicate to people stuck on certain meanings of those terms.)

“I don’t think my thinking is narrow, but it’s grounded in reality.”
– So it seems. However, the view of narrow thinking I tend to suspect, is believing that your ideas are the only truth, even when the class of idea can ultimately only ever be opinion or at most a likely story.

I don’t know what this “way humans have approached work and value for work pretty much forever” is that you say your view of “reality” is based on, but attitudes towards what we’re talking about (ownership and control of use of ideas and information) has, it seems to me, changed radically even in recent years. So, I don’t even have a clear view of what the “reality” you’re mentioning is.

Similarly, your view of what I’ve written, for instance, proposing a system where “greed is eliminated and people are happy to have enough to survive but don’t strive to be rewarded beyond that” is actually almost the opposite of several things I’ve written above, and consistent with none of them. I never proposed the elimination of greed, nor that people would not strive to be rewarded beyond their needs. I did suggest that some people would be happy enough to survive, but that’s not a utopian dream, it’s a simple statement about what’s so today – there are many people who would be content with comfortable means of survival and support for the work they like to do, not to mention (lest further confusion ensue) the people who are starving, homeless, etc.

“Tangible, real-world results come from dealing with the way things are, not the way we would like them to be.”
– I disagree. I would say rather that treating ideas about the status quo as real and inevitable, and treating what we’d like as mere unrealistic fantasies, are the patterns of thought that needlessly keep things the way they are.

“Whether you want to call it that or not, you are describing many of the features of Communism (what’s good for the collective at the expense of the individual).”
– I don’t recall ever describing expense to the individual – where did I suggest that? The only loss to the individual I recall suggesting, was the loss of the right to demand the right to stop people and companies from sharing ideas that they claim ownership to. And I’m not even entirely against some limited versions of such.

mabd's avatar


To quote you, regarding copyright:
“It’s a right that is given to the creator of the content-be it art, knowledge, entertainment, and specifically musical, dramatic or artistic work (according to the American Heritage Dictionary). If the owner of that content chooses not to share or otherwise disseminate their work, that’s their right. File sharing of copyrighted work without the express consent of the creator of that content constitutes theft of property (intellectual property in this case).”

Copyright is a restriction on freedom of speech. It is my right to speak freely, and although it is not absolute, there needs to be a good reason to infringe on it. Copyright is a decent reason, but its important to realize: its not an intrinsic right in itself. It’s a form of public policy designed to lead to a desired outcome: the creation of more works of art. Why do we want to create more works of art? So people can view, read, study or otherwise consume them. If copyright is so restrictive that it actually diminishes the amount of value that people get out of the art that is created then it is going beyond its purpose and being counter productive. So I agree, it is a right (granted by the government) to the creator of content. The question is why is this right granted? I believe, and am arguing, that the copyright is not an intrinsic right you automatically have by virtue of being human. You can look at the history of copyright, culture in general, and even copyright as it is today to see that it is generally not considered a natural right.

sndfreQ's avatar

Thanks mabd; good points and getting me thinking about the issue in a broader context. I’ll do a bit more research and get back to the group. Thanks all!

Tone's avatar

“That would be because I have no such opinion that it’s not ok to make a profit from digital sales. What I think is not ok and ultimately counterproductive and impossible, is trying to control and illegalize duplication of information that someone already has access to.”
– It should be okay, then, for me to copy anything, piece by piece, and distribute it freely, regardless of whether that thing is digital or physical. Can I reprint a book I get from the library, make thousands of copies, and give them away? The technology used is an incidental detail, the ethics are the same.

“Seems to me like you are drawing conclusions based on your own assumptions. I have no such belief.”
– This is an easy way out. I didn’t say you had this belief, I said it was a logical conclusion drawn from your line of reasoning.

“People should be free to pay what they like, when they like, based on their subjective ideas about the value of a product.”
– I agree.
—— Really? How does this work? Only with digital products? Or with anything?

“They aren’t useful to me if I don’t know how you define them.”
— I define them above in general, commonly accepted ways. You know, by their definitions. In an intelligent, substantive discussion, we should be able to use terms like these literally without worrying about their past negative connotations. I was clear that I was speaking of an economic and social system without bias, not referring to any one country’s use of that system.

“However, the view of narrow thinking I tend to suspect, is believing that your ideas are the only truth, even when the class of idea can ultimately only ever be opinion or at most a likely story.”
— Everyone believes their opinions are true, or they wouldn’t hold them. You clearly do as well. It’s a weak argument to accuse your interlocutor of believing strongly in their ideas.

“I would say rather that treating ideas about the status quo as real and inevitable, and treating what we’d like as mere unrealistic fantasies, are the patterns of thought that needlessly keep things the way they are.”
—That’s not what I said. Imagining great leaps in social structures and economic systems that require global rethinking of the nature of product and ownership, though, I believe falls into the fantasy category. It’s fine to imagine it and work towards it, but it’s a hell of a long way off. Things change, and should change (and do change). I don’t believe in maintaining the status quo, and I’ve been clear that the current systems in place for dealing with copyright in the face of new technology are terrible. That doesn’t mean the entire basis of our economy needs to be overhauled, in my opinion.

sndfreQ's avatar

This is an interesting article concerning alternatives to a single market model for media in light of P2P. It seems to be fair and relevant in its facts, and although they make some subtle plugs to support their campaign, their site has a lot of good relevant information, especially with regard to free speech versus commerce and intellectual property.

I now see that it’s not a black-and-white issue, and that freedom of speech is not simply one’s right to say what they want or “share” what they want; it protects the freedoms of both consumers and all media content producers-large and small, from the reigns of government and monopolies.

IAC, thanks all for a stimulating discussion. In my line of work it is helpful to see alternative viewpoints to everything. There are many issues, large and small, concerning ownership of media, the right to distribute it (everyone’s), and the need for creators to be compensated fairly for their work. But as Zaku mentions, the important thing to do right now is raise awareness and encourage others to seek out the answers for themselves.

steelmarket's avatar

This may be the wave of the future :

LKidKyle1985's avatar

isn’t there a reason we call it file sharing, and not stealing? I don’t know what the big deal is anymore, the last couple years, you can get any song you want to hear on youtube. so whats the difference of having a file on your computer, or book marking a song you like…. except you cant put it on your ipod. But you could make your own mp3 from recording the music while its playing on youtube. and how is that any different than recording your favorite show off of tv, and that is legal.

Tone's avatar

The issue isn’t getting a copy for your own use, which arguably (and in my opinion) falls under fair use just like recording something from TV. The Supreme Court ruled on this in the “Betamax Case” (Sony of America v. Universal Studios, 1984). The difference with file-sharing is the ease of sharing exact digital copies of those recordings with anyone and everyone for very little cost. The court ruled that people recording TV shows onto tapes at home wasn’t harmful to the business of the studios. Many have and do argue that file-sharing is the same thing, but the other argument is that the ease of distribution (not copying) makes it very different in terms of its potential effect on the business use of the rights-holders.

In other words, it was found that recording at home for personal use caused no harm. There was no Internet in 1984, so the issue of easily and cheaply sharing those recordings with millions of people wasn’t addressed.

bomyne's avatar

Copyright infringment is stealing.

Thats what they say on the anti-pirating video at the beginning of most movies sold in Australia (on DVD anyway)

Samurai's avatar

To me it doesn’t matter if its theft or stealing or whatnot, its still just as free. Its not like your stealing from a poor individual, but stealing from a large evil organization set out for the doom of human kind. Besides, like bodyhead posted, its simply a copy, not the original right?

Kraigmo's avatar

It can be related to theft, but it’s more of an action of copying, than an action of theft.

bomyne's avatar

Yes. If you download a song from Kzaa or whatever the hot filesharer is then you’re not paying for the product you’ve rrecieved.

This is no different then walking into Target, taking a CD off the shelf and walking out with it,

Kraigmo's avatar

I disagree with @bomyne. I don’t think stealing copies of things is akin to stealing originals. If someone copied your car and then drove the copy away, you wouldn’t be harmed one bit. Unless of course, that person was planning on buying your car from you, and the existence of the copy is what stopped that.

I think a better analogy is that file sharing is no different than borrowing your friend’s vinyl record album and copying it onto tape. (That was also considered “illegal” by the RIAA for many years).

I’m not saying copying or file sharing is always ethical. It’s not. But it’s not always unethical, either.

A teen who copies 500 songs for himself isn’t really making a dent into any profits the record industry would have otherwise made anyway. Such a teen certainly never would never pay for 500 songs simply due to the fact very few people have that kind of money.

The RIAA and SoundExchange (the so-called “protectors” of artists) have ripped off their own clients on a level that makes file-sharing pale by comparison.

bomyne's avatar

Unfortunately, @Kraigmo, that’s not the case. When you buy a movie, music, whatever, you’re not paying for the medium it was sold on. You’re not paying for the CD or DVD. You’re not paying for the Bluray or HDDVD (Do they still make those?). You’re paying for the content. Which is why buying songs off iTunes (At least in Australia) Is only usually a dollar or two cheaper.

The Entertainment industry makes it’s money off the sales of this music or movies, and sometimes they cost quite a lot to make.

Imagine Disney brings out a new film tomorrow. It cost them 5 billion dollars to make the film (As an example). 500 people decide to buy it at 30 dollars. 25 of those people decide to put it on a torrent site. Millions of people who want to see the film decide to download it instead of buying it. Suddenly Disney has lost billions of dollars. It could even drive them out of business, leave their management heavily indebt, perhaps in jail (I’m not too sure on how that works), and leave their actors, share holders, and other employees out of money and jobs, etc.

Yes. That’s a VERY extreme example. It also leaves out the cinema aspect.

I’m someone that hopes to get into the entertainment industry soon (Games industry), and while I don’t agree with the actions of the RIAA and MPAA (Threatening old ladies that don’t even have computers, really?), Piracy is a major problem. And yes, Piracy is stealing. It’s something I’m going to have to contend with. It’s something the music, movie, games and even book industries have to contend with on a daily basis.

Have a look at the games industry for another example. Yes, my example above was extreme, but it happens to the games industry all the time. And the music industry. A large company like EA, Disney, whatever isn’t likely to be driven out of business that easily, true… but what about smaller companies or indies? Independant developers, musicians, etc are not funded by a huge company. Their income depends on the sale of their music or games… and unlike the big developers, these small devs take the chance by not including DRM… and they get hit hard by piracy.

Piracy is stealing. Don’t do it folks. If you can’t afford a movie or CD or game, do the right thing and either save up for it, or don’t get it.

PS. Excuse the rant.

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