Some thoughts on copyright, entitlement, and zero opportunity cost

One of our neighbors keeps trying to steal cable television.

We know this because our neighbor isn’t terribly good at electronics or even the most basic principles of electrical cabling. Our cable modem service keeps going out; last week, while I was visiting figmentj, it went out for three days (leaving my roommate David, whose car still hasn’t been replaced since it was totaled a couple months back by an unlicensed driver, without transportation or World of Warcraft).

The technical guy sent out by Comcast discovered that the main cable junction box feeding our apartment complex had been pried open, and the miscreant, in his clumsy and ham-handed efforts to steal cable, had made a right proper mess of the cable connections. Our cable connection had been cut entirely, and a much of the rest of the junction box had been screwed up as well.

Last night, just at the start of a boss fight in Heroic Pinnacle (that doesn’t mean much to you if you don’t play World of Warcraft, so substitute “a difficult situation where other players were counting on me”), it went out again. David ran outside to try to catch the miscreant, and discovered that the junction box had been pried open again and cables were strewn all over the place.

That’s not what this post is about. That’s just the back story.


This post is actually about intellectual property and opportunity cost. Now, before I get into a full-on rant here, I want to disclose something up front: I have a horse in this race. This is an issue that matters to me because I am a creator of work that is often taken without my permission, something I’ll get into in a bit. This is not an abstract thing for me; it’s something that affects me personally. If it sounds like I’m taking the issue of intellectual property personally, it’s because I am.

We live in a society that is very hostile to the idea of intellectual property. People tend, by and large, to think very little of stealing content; in fact, entire social systems have grown up around it. We are, by and large, okay with bootleg software, illegally downloaded music, and all manner of disregard for the intellectual property of others, in ways that would horrify us if they were applied to physical property.

This stems, I think, in no small part from the fact that we are as a society hostile to intellectual pursuits in general. It’s pretty tough not to notice that US culture today is steeped in anti-intellectualism; an anti-intellectualism so virulent that many folks won’t vote for a political candidate if he’s perceived to be too intelligent or too well-spoken. It’s not surprising that a society that thinks so little of intellectual endeavor should think so little of the products of that endeavor.

In fact, I’ve even heard people argue that intellectual property as a concept should not exist at all. In a strange throwback to Communist ideals, I’ve heard it argued that if a person dedicates twenty years of his life and his entire fortune to the development of a new idea or the invention of a new gadget, his knowledge and the fruits of his labor should be available freely to all, so that anyone who wants to make knockoffs of his invention or who wants to sell the results of his idea should be free to do so without giving anything back to the person who worked so hard to develop it.

I think that’s fucked up beyond all measure, frankly.


Now, granted, not everyone takes that extreme a view to the notion of ownership of the results of one’s cognitive labors. A much more common argument in favor of intellectual theft is the “zero opportunity cost” argument.

This argument goes something like: “Well, there was no way I was going to buy Photoshop. If I steal a copy of Photoshop, Adobe has not lost anything, because I was never going to buy it to begin with. Because Adobe has not really lost anything, no harm has been done, and it’s OK for me to pirate it.”

Same for copying music, stealing cable, or sneaking into the movie theater; “I wasn’t going to pay for those things anyway, so it’s not like they have lost any sales. They’re not losing anything, so it’s OK for me to do this.”

It’s a bullshit argument, front to back. The opportunity cost is rarely truly zero.

My neighbor is a great example. In his attempt to steal cable, he has damaged property not belonging to him, he has interrupted a service that I’m paying for, and he has made Comcast send out repair technicians twice now. (Tomorrow will be a third time; they’re replacing the entire enclosure around the cable junction box, because in prying it open he damaged it beyond repair, and the junctions inside are now getting rained on.)

It’s a bullshit argument even if the piracy doesn’t involve crowbars to someone else’s property, though. Take Photoshop (or don’t, please!). Most of the folks who pirate it are not professionals; they don’t do print production for a living. That means they don’t use, or even know about, anything even close to 90% of its capability; they have no need of a $700 image editing program, and there’s no question that Adobe is not out $700 for everyone who steals Photoshop.

What these pirates need is a $49 image editing program; and that’s a $49 image editing program they’re not going to buy because they stole Photoshop.

And hell, there’s a free image editing program called The GIMP that they can have for nothing, legally! It’s not Photoshop and it can’t do everything Photoshop can do, but the folks stealing Photoshop don’t need everything Photoshop can do.


But that’s not even the most important reason the argument from opportunity cost is bullshit. The argument from opportunity cost is bullshit because it rests on a sense of entitlement. Bluntly, you don’t have the right to benefit from someone else’s work without paying that person, even if you would rather go without than pay.

People steal intellectual property and people steal services because they want the benefit. They see benefit in owning Photoshop or having cable TV. Having these things makes their lives better in some way. And they feel entitled to that benefit; they feel that they deserve to have their lives made better from the labor of other people.

If I do something that has value, and you want that value, pay me. If you don’t want to pay me, then don’t take the value. You are not entitled to gain value from my work for free.

Even if–and I’m looking at the folks who steal music here–you think that the money I want is excessive or that I am unreasonable.

If you think that I am unreasonable and the value I offer is not worth what I am asking in exchange, that’s fine. Don’t take the deal. But don’t then also believe that you’re entitled to have that value, and you have a right to steal it just because you didn’t take the deal! You may think the RIAA is a bunch of asshats who wouldn’t know ‘reasonable’ if it bit them on the cocaine-powdered nose, and I’d agree with you, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that you have no right to take value from them for free just because they’re asshats.


It gets simpler to understand when we think about tangible things. If I rent cars, and you sneak into my parking lot, you hot-wire one of my cars, and you take it for a joyride, then you return it to my lot the next morning and I don’t notice what you’ve done, you could argue that the opportunity cost was zero. I didn’t lose anything’ the car is still there, and you weren’t going to rent it from me anyway, right? You might even say I’m financially better off, if you fill the gas tank before you put it back so it has more gas in it the next morning than it did when you took it.

Yet reasonable people, even people who think that software piracy or theft of music is OK, would draw the line at this sort of behavior. I doubt that very many folks would say that taking my cr for a joyride was acceptable; the “zero opportunity cost” argument would not hold up. Yet it’s the same argument that folks use to steal intangible things all the time.


Now, on to the horse that I have in this race.

In the past few days, intangible theft has affected me twice. First, my cable modem service was interrupted because my neighbor thinks that theft of service is OK. (Which, I suspect, will soon become a self-correcting problem; the police and the cable companies take theft of service seriously, and I started the ball rolling on a theft-of-service investigation this morning.)

Second, because I create intellectual property. I create content in the form of software, such as my game Onyx, and in the form of a great deal of writing on a number of diverse subjects.

Now, I like to think that I’m a reasonable fellow. I don’t much like the way the software industry works, so I give away a limited version of my game for free. I don’t like DRM and Draconian copy policies, so I license the pay version to people rather than to computers–if you buy the game, you’re free to put it on as many machines as you own, under whatever operating system you like, and the same serial number will work on all of them.

I believe that outreach, especially on subjects like non-traditional relationship and lifestyle choice, is important, so I permit anybody who wants to to copy any of the information on my Web pages, provided they credit me for it. My BDSM and polyamory pages are wildly popular, and I get several requests a month to copy part or all of the site elsewhere. Go for it! Do whatever you want. You don’t even need to ask me first. Seriously.

You want to print my stuff out and use it as a handout at a seminar? Be my guest! You want to translate it into other languages? Go right ahead! You want to put it on your own Web site? No problem! Just credit me as the author. That’s not an undue burden.

Yet, even that is apparently too much to ask for some folks.


Lat week, I discovered that large sections of my BDSM site were being used on the commercial, for-profit site of a prodomme who makes her living from her Web site, and they were posted without attribution. I sent her a nice email explaining that I was fin with her using the material, but I’d really appreciate credit. She responded by saying that she’d never heard of me or my Web site, and that she hadn’t taken the material from me, she’d taken it from another site.

I looked, and sure enough, she had–she’d lifted it from another site that had lifted it without attribution. From, get this, still another site that had lifted it without attribution.

No honor among thieves, I suppose.

So I’ve spent, over the last day or so, about four or five hours working my way up the chain and sending out copyright infringement notices. And I bet that over the next week I’ll probably be hearing from a bunch of pissed-off people.

That seems to be how it happens. People do geniunely seem to have a sense of entitlement to the intellectual work of others; when I’ve dealt with this kind of thing in the past, it’s shocking how often someone will become angry, as if to say ‘how DARE you tell me that I can’t take material you have created and use it on my own pay-for-access Web site!’. It’s not just me, either. In any dispute over intellectual property, the person whose work has been stolen is often cast as the villain–in ways that they are not if, for example, someone has his car taken.

Which is weird, and more than a little fucked up.

And sometimes, it’s by folks who really, really ought to know better. One of the Web sites that has lifted content from me belongs to the Triskelion Society, a well-known and generally well-respected BDSM organization. (Edit: As it turns out, the material was given to the Triskelion Society by a third party claiming copyright; they were blameless and have since removed the material.)


I’m sure that there will be folks who think I’m being unreasonably hard-assed about this. After all, my own site is free; what’s the harm in taking content from it for their own site? It’s not like I’m losing money, right?

In the end, I think that it comes down to respect. We (well, generally, most of us) respect the property of other people, and the labor of other people, but it seems that same level of respect does not extend to the intangible creations of other people. The zero-opportunity-cost argument displays an appalling lack of respect for other people’s effort and creation; it essentially boils don to “I want this, but I’m not going to pay for it, so I should have a right to have it anyway.” It’s even worse when it’s dressed in the language of self-righteous indignation; there are many music bootleggers who will rail against the RIAA as a corrupt, archaic, greedy institution that exploits its own members (which is true) and doesn’t pay its own artists (which is also true), but the difference between the RIAA and the misic pirates is that the RIAA believes artists should be paid a trivial pittance, whereas the music fans, incensed by this arrogance, seem to believe that the artists should be paid…nothing at all.

Now, me, I don’t ask for money; I merely ask that work I created should be attributed it to me. And apparently that’s too high a cost for some folks–even folks who use my content to build Web sites that they do charge money for.

But after all, they weren’t going to pay me for it anyway, so I haven’t really lost anything, right?

218 thoughts on “Some thoughts on copyright, entitlement, and zero opportunity cost

  1. Well, if you’re still writing that poly book, you might very well be losing something. You could get accused of plagiarizing if you quote your own material that’s better known under the stolen authorship. Not that it would be too terribly difficult to prove it’s yours. Your “voice” is reasonably distinctive and you’d have the source files, but the aggravation is still there. It’s certainly valuable time you could be spending doing something else.

    I feel the same way about the Misanthrope stuff that you do about yours, except for one thing: If you’re gonna put stuff on something that makes money that I wrote, you have to get direct permission.

    Part of it is also that I think people think any asshole can just plop down and write something valuable. One would think blogging has proved this not to be so, but there you are!

    • Actually, that’s a good point about the possibility of accusations of plagiarism. Defending against such an accusation would in fact represent a tangible loss (of time, and possibly of money).

      • “Actually, that’s a good point about the possibility of accusations of plagiarism.”

        I’ve had this exact problem. I tracked the fuckin’ thing all the way to an English-speaking Korean newspaper that basically told me to blow it out my ass, unless I wanted to fly down to Korea and have it out with them.

        “Aggravated” is the right term for that.

        For a column I wrote in ’92 or so, and years later I had someone accuse me of appending my name to an existing story, and as “proof,” they DID point out a site where my story had been pirated. I was able to show the published 1992 column, though.

        Still, defending your copyright is important for a lot of reasons and that’s definitely one of them.

  2. Well, if you’re still writing that poly book, you might very well be losing something. You could get accused of plagiarizing if you quote your own material that’s better known under the stolen authorship. Not that it would be too terribly difficult to prove it’s yours. Your “voice” is reasonably distinctive and you’d have the source files, but the aggravation is still there. It’s certainly valuable time you could be spending doing something else.

    I feel the same way about the Misanthrope stuff that you do about yours, except for one thing: If you’re gonna put stuff on something that makes money that I wrote, you have to get direct permission.

    Part of it is also that I think people think any asshole can just plop down and write something valuable. One would think blogging has proved this not to be so, but there you are!

  3. I will admit, I was one of the kids who enthusiastically used the original Napster to my full advantage and stole lots of music, and didn’t think a thing of it. I didn’t give much thought at all to intellectual property… until I started graduate school.

    Now, knowing all the blood, sweat, tears, and hours away from my family and friends that it takes to create original research and get it published, I would be horrified if someone plagiarized my work. I would rather they steal my laptop- at least I didn’t make that with my bare hands.

    So, bravo! Fight the good fight, even against angsty neighbors.

    (ps. I registered my copy of Onyx, and I love it). πŸ™‚

    • yeah–funny how creating something of value can change your ideas about copyright, isn’t it? πŸ™‚ I’ve long suspected hat most supporters of copyright violation haven’t actually worked to create anything original.

      Back in the day–and we’re talking waaaaay back in the day, like late 70s and early 80s–I was a TRS-80 user, and hung out on the old-school bootleg TRS-80 BBS systems like Greene Machine and Pirate-80. Then, when I started writing custom TRS-80 software and shareware, my own attitude changed.

  4. I will admit, I was one of the kids who enthusiastically used the original Napster to my full advantage and stole lots of music, and didn’t think a thing of it. I didn’t give much thought at all to intellectual property… until I started graduate school.

    Now, knowing all the blood, sweat, tears, and hours away from my family and friends that it takes to create original research and get it published, I would be horrified if someone plagiarized my work. I would rather they steal my laptop- at least I didn’t make that with my bare hands.

    So, bravo! Fight the good fight, even against angsty neighbors.

    (ps. I registered my copy of Onyx, and I love it). πŸ™‚

  5. Brand your stuff.

    Me, I’d really have to argue that in a case of IP theft, nothing is being stolen. Your Right to Reproduce (copyright) is being violated, but there’s no crime of theft (car analogies notwithstanding).

    But I’ll readily agree that this will cut no ice with you, especially in the circumstances.

    I *wanted* people to “steal” my book. That’s why I made it Kopyleft. But you know what? I’m not sure, if some shithead edited my name off the cover and started serving that version instead of the version I released, I’m not sure I’d be terribly happy at all with that.

    Blah. Anyway, I think we’ve confused tangible theft of actual property with Violation of Rights. And you know what? I think if the Violation of Rights aspect was played stronger, I think it’d go a hell of a lot better and stronger with people in general.

    But then, the RIAA can’t afford to start squarking about violating Artists’ Rights, can it… ;}P>

    • Hmm. I’m curious about something–would you say that taking any sort of intangible is not theft? For example, would you say that theft of cable TV service is not actually theft?

      • I really would. And I firmly believe that the historical, semantic and legal precedents would back me up.

        There is no car missing from the garage. It’s still there.

        But keep in mind that as the RIAA and others continue to push the assertion that it “is” “theft”, in general, consensual use the meaning of the word “theft” bends more and more to match this misuse.

        And in linguistics, misuse becomes use.

        (IANAL)

        • Even assuming your claim of rights violation as opposed to stealing, theft of cable is still theft, if only because in order to steal the cable you also have to steal the electricity that brings it to your house, and electricity is tangible, and has a cost per watt that someone has to pay for, and that someone is the person who actually paid to get the cable in the first place.

          • True. Modern life is complex. I would have thought the vandalism of the Cable Company’s equipment would be a much more expensive issue, though.

          • You could argue that the vandalism causes the owner to have his potential earnings “stolen” because they couldn’t earn them, as well.

            I would argue that the vandalism is not theft, but causes loss of earnings and more importantly costs the owner repair costs, so you’re talking a Tort, not a Theft.

            (I’d better state again: IANAL, and, and in most cases when I open my mouth, may well be frothing BS.)

          • I think you’re splitting hairs. At what point does calling it “violation of rights” or anything other than theft make it any more or less wrong?

            Regardless of your argument, it IS theft. In a court of law, an individual owns a copyright. When someone else copies intellectual property without permission, they are taking ownership of something that doesn’t belong to them. Namely, the right to copy that material.

            We can go on and on about damages, and a variety of other things, but the use of the term theft is accurate, because intellectual property is still property, and someone is taking it without permission. What you’re trying to do is to narrow the definition of theft and perhaps the definition of property as well. Again, splitting hairs.

            As for the arguments that would convince your average citizen this is wrong, I think we’ve already lost that battle. And not simply because many people don’t grasp the concept of intellectual property, but because society at large doesn’t grasp the concept of personal responsibility.

            We live in an era where most people feel entitled to anything and everything their heart desires. By and large, personal happiness trumps morality. Combine that with the digital age making the act of making copies easier now than at any time in history, and you have a recipe for disaster.

          • Apologies, but you’ve missed the point if you thing I’m saying it’s more or less wrong.

            The rest, tl:dr and you didn’t exactly get off on the right foot with me now, did you? Thanks for your comments.

          • Well, we all seem to agree it’s wrong. We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether or not it’s theft. I think that description fits very well, though I’ll add that your “violation of rights” fits well also.

        • You’re correct with regard to copyright law; it is not, legally or technically, theft, but rather a violation of the creator’s protected rights of reproduction and distribution. In most cases, violation of copyright law and other instances of violation of intellectual property rights is a matter for civil rather than criminal law, whereas theft is a matter for criminal law.

          However, I’ve done some online reading, and it seems that theft of services is indeed, legally and definitionally, considered theft. The phrase “theft of services” appears in both state laws and Federal law in the US, and is treated as a matter of criminal, not civil, law. The law in the US defines theft of service as a case where a person obtains services, known by that person to be available only for compensation, by deception, force, threat, or other means to avoid payment for the services.

          This particular concept of theft appears to have a long history; from what I gather, the US definition of “theft of service” traces its roots back to pre-Colonial English law.

    • I think this is something of a semantic argument, which has been unfortunately muddled by the widespread use of the phrase “copyright theft.” You don’t steal a copyright, you infringe a copyright. From a legal standpoint, if you digitize my short story collection and start distributing it, you’re not committing theft — you’re committing copyright infringement. (There is such a thing as “intellectual property theft” that’s distinct from copyright violation, which further muddles the issue, but IP theft tends to mean things like stealing trade secrets and counterfeiting merchandise.)

      However, Tacit’s main point would seem to still stand, wouldn’t it? Saying “it’s not theft, it’s copyright violation” is somewhat akin to saying “that wasn’t battery, it was assault” — so noted, but it’s a crime either way, and the only issue seems to be the precision of the language. And even setting aside the question of criminal intent, there’s a basic truth to the notion that “I think your price is too high, so I’m just going to use your product without paying for it” lacks a certain ethical grounding irrespective of whether the product is delivered to you in a box or in a ZIP archive, isn’t there?

      • Well, in the sense that it’s an argument about meaning, yes, it’s a semantic argument.

        But I don’t think the “that wasn’t battery, it was assault” metaphor holds water. Perhaps, “that wasn’t battery, it was slander” is a better example for you to use.

        • Semantics! πŸ™‚

          (Seriously, I was trying to find a rough “two crimes that are similar but not identical” comparison that also wasn’t theft, but I couldn’t come up with anything that was really very apt. Hopefully the thought gets through in spite of that.)

  6. Brand your stuff.

    Me, I’d really have to argue that in a case of IP theft, nothing is being stolen. Your Right to Reproduce (copyright) is being violated, but there’s no crime of theft (car analogies notwithstanding).

    But I’ll readily agree that this will cut no ice with you, especially in the circumstances.

    I *wanted* people to “steal” my book. That’s why I made it Kopyleft. But you know what? I’m not sure, if some shithead edited my name off the cover and started serving that version instead of the version I released, I’m not sure I’d be terribly happy at all with that.

    Blah. Anyway, I think we’ve confused tangible theft of actual property with Violation of Rights. And you know what? I think if the Violation of Rights aspect was played stronger, I think it’d go a hell of a lot better and stronger with people in general.

    But then, the RIAA can’t afford to start squarking about violating Artists’ Rights, can it… ;}P>

  7. How do you feel about content _type_? eg buying a CD and ripping it so you can listen on your mp3 player; buying a DVD and converting it to watch on your Mac or iPhone or…?

    Does it make a difference if you bought the original media and then downloaded a pirated copy, as opposed to doing the conversion yourself?

    • I don’t know how Tacit feels. I can say for myself that if I write a book and then you go to the trouble to scan it into text so you can read it on your iPhone, but don’t pass it around, I’d hardly be upset.

    • I’m not a hardass about the form a work takes, personally. If someone buys a CD, what they’re buying is the right to listen to that music..including, for example, on their iPod. I would have no problems with someone doing something like that, and by and large the American judicial system agrees.

      Similarly, if I write a book, and someone scans it to read it on their PDA, that’s fine with me–provided they bought a copy.

      Now, if someone buys a copy and then downloads a scan, that, person isn’t violating my copyright…but the person who made the scan available for download is! That’s redistributing my original copyrighted work, which is a clear violation of both copyright law and basic moral decency.

      Where it gets hairy is when you’re distributing tools to allow someone to copy a work. Is that wrong? I think that’s highly contextual.

      For example, nearly all Windows games employ various techniques, none of them very successful, to prevent people from ripping the CD. These techniques generally don’t work well, because they’re usually cracked in days, or sometimes in hours; in a few high-profile cases, the anti-copying mechanisms were cracked before a game even came out.

      Using such a tool on a CD you own isn’t wrong. using such a tool on a CD you own for the purpose of making copies of it for 1,452,317 of your closest BitTorrent friends is a whole ‘nother story.

      This relates to the idea of portability, too. I don’t own a Windows computer. I own Macs, and I run Windows on my Macs. Some anti-copying measures don’t work in emulation. I have in the past bought a copy of a game, then downloaded the CD crack so that the game I bought will run on my Mac. I personally do not see anything wrong with doing that; I have paid for the content. Yet it could be argued that this is not permitted by US copyright law, which forbids using or distributing “copyright control circumvention measures.”

      • But what about those music CDs a few years ago that were sold with anti-copying software?

        Lets forget for a minute that that software fucked up computers and made them susceptible to viruses, that it was put on CDs without informing the consumer on the packaging, and then the company didn’t allow stores to accept returns that people no longer wanted because they couldn’t use them and did not consent to having the anti-copying software automatically installed on their computers, despite the fact that what they sold contained material on it that would have prevented the person from buying the CD in the first place, and despite the fact that that anti-copying software rendered the CD practically unusable.

        These people bought the music, so they should be entitled to put it onto their computers if they want to. They should be entitled to put it on their MP3 players if they want to. These people could have bought the music through iTunes, or Rhapsody, etc, but they wanted a hard copy, be it for the art in the booklet or to have a hard copy in case their computer crashes, or for whatever whimsy they have.

        With current technology, it is unreasonable to expect a consumer to lug around a CD binder with 200 CDs when they can carry around a digital device that weighs 3oz and can hold 5 times that amount. And that person has the right to put music onto these devices that they have previously purchased.

        Lets say that someone was a technophile in the 80s (this may even be you!), and went right out and bought the first compact disc players on the market and bought the entire set of albums of, lets say, Blondie on CD and paid $25 for each of those CDs back in 1989. Back in 1989 MP3 players weren’t around, so buying a digital copy wasn’t a choice. Does this person not have the right to copy those CDs onto their MP3 player? Do they have to pay for music they already have access to again just because it is in an inconvenient format? That’s exactly what all this anti-copying software does; it prevents people who have legitimate reasons to copy music from copying there music.

        As much as it sucks that there are unethical people out there that take advantage of legitimate software to use in illegitimate ways, it’s not worth infringing on honest people’s rights to do with things they have purchased what they want to do.

  8. How do you feel about content _type_? eg buying a CD and ripping it so you can listen on your mp3 player; buying a DVD and converting it to watch on your Mac or iPhone or…?

    Does it make a difference if you bought the original media and then downloaded a pirated copy, as opposed to doing the conversion yourself?

    • Oh, god, don’t even get me started on theft of photography! There’s a salesman here at the company I work with who will not seem to understand that just because a picture is posed on a public Web site doesn’t mean we can freely use it in our advertising and marketing materials.

  9. I don’t know how Tacit feels. I can say for myself that if I write a book and then you go to the trouble to scan it into text so you can read it on your iPhone, but don’t pass it around, I’d hardly be upset.

  10. I think one thing that you didn’t address in all this was the transition of our consumer culture from a free content society to a paid content society. Look at it this way: in the old days, you didn’t have to buy the music, you bought the radio. What you didn’t get was control over when you got to hear any given piece of music. For that, you needed to buy the phonograph/record/8-track/cassette/CD. Same thing for televisions. You bought the TV, the content was provided on the public airways for free. And if you didn’t want to purchase a book, you went to the library. In the case of the library the cost was paid by your taxes and funneled through government funding. But in the cases of mass media, the content was subsidized by advertising. Then came recording devices which allowed people to grab and consume what was being given away for free, without paying their share by consuming the advertisements that were funding the giveaway. This made content cost more. Enter in cable television, pay-per-view, and the like.

    (I will continue this in a moment .. baby crying.)

    • (continuing…)

      There are people out there who don’t understand the big picture, and I seriously believe that the history of media content is responsible, at least in part, for some of this. Following the “old” way of thinking, it only makes a certain amount of sense that there are those who believe “I bought a computer” or “I already pay for Internet access, so why isn’t the content or program free?”

      I’m not saying that it’s right, and in some cases I think there are people who really do know that it’s wrong, but there is still a rebellious attitude left over from the old days — a concept of “why should we pay for something that we *were* getting for free.

      And yes, I’m sure there are a dozen holes in this comment. But sometimes you need to be a litigious asshole to protect yourself in a society that is transitioning from one model of content provision to another.

      • Your concept is compelling, but does not address why people think they have the right to post something without carrying along with that post the attribution that someone else wrote it.

        Even in cases where content use is not an issue, lack of attribution is a problem. Academic fair use is the arena I’m most familiar with. What gives people the gall to claim that they wrote something when they did not. How much does a simple citation hurt to put up?

        I really wish I could pull one of my professors aside and say, “Don’t you dare show me a slide set that you’ve butchered from a publically available set (that covers the material better) and claim that you wrote it.” The professor in question removed many useful bits of information and added a ‘citations’ page which omits the original source. And his English is bad enough that it’s very obvious which bullet points he edited and which were written by someone else.

        • You’re absolutely right. And as a survivor of the rigors of academia (and an author published in three fields), I agree whole heartedly. Anything less is intellectual lassitude on the part of whomever first posted a non-attributed piece. (It gets much less easy to categorize the intent or integrity of individuals who post unattributed text purloined from another site that bears no attributions.) And not everyone understands the importance of citing sources. Although Franklin’s writing is undeniably adult content, there are tons of websites out there that are hack jobs done by kids who find an interest, and then treat the Internet like either a big library or a stack of used magazines to be perused, ripped up, and glued back together as a collage.

          • Giggle.
            Oh, dear, modified only slightly your last characterization fits my situation perfectly.

            …hack jobs done by [professors] who find [they have to teach a course], and then treat the Internet [and usually also textbooks, treatment guidelines, and journals] like [a cross between a] big library [and] a stack of used magazines to be perused, ripped up, and glued back together as a collage…

          • The sad thing is that I wouldn’t have as much trouble with it if he hadn’t falsified the citations page. If he just used it without attribution and pointed us to the set when asked directly, I’d call it standard academic use. (though I don’t know if academic fair use technically has to be cited within the presentation or not).

            Meh.
            This is the same instructor that brought us the gem:
            “I am the teacher, you are the student. I teach, you learn.”
            He’s also not from this continent which, does, I believe, have a strong negative effect on his usefulness in the classroom. Both attitude towards students and his patterns of speech get in the way of effective teaching, and that’s not even beginning to discuss whether I think he actually knows the material or not.

          • Academic fair use need citation only if it will be included in a published work (like a lecture workbook), but not in a lecture or presentation.

          • Thanks for the clarification. In that case my ~only~ objection is that by including an incomplete citations page he strongly implies that he wrote the slide set himself.

    • That transition might be part of where the sense of entitlement comes from; “It’s free on the radio, so why can’t I get it free on the Internets?” And it’s also true that in trying to protect the old business models, which are becoming increasingly archaic and irrelevant, the RIAA has used hamfisted tactics that make them look like clueless, greedy asshats, or worse.

      I really think the RIAA shot themselves in the foot and did a disservice to other content creators with their heavy-handed approach to copyright enforcement. They’re so desperate to cling to the old business models that they’re screwing up and spewing fail all over the place. That doesn’t do the rest of us any good at all.

      The business models don’t change the underlying reality, though, which is that folks aren’t entitled to the benefit that’s created by intellectual pursuits without paying for it, even if they’re used to paying for it indirectly.

  11. I think one thing that you didn’t address in all this was the transition of our consumer culture from a free content society to a paid content society. Look at it this way: in the old days, you didn’t have to buy the music, you bought the radio. What you didn’t get was control over when you got to hear any given piece of music. For that, you needed to buy the phonograph/record/8-track/cassette/CD. Same thing for televisions. You bought the TV, the content was provided on the public airways for free. And if you didn’t want to purchase a book, you went to the library. In the case of the library the cost was paid by your taxes and funneled through government funding. But in the cases of mass media, the content was subsidized by advertising. Then came recording devices which allowed people to grab and consume what was being given away for free, without paying their share by consuming the advertisements that were funding the giveaway. This made content cost more. Enter in cable television, pay-per-view, and the like.

    (I will continue this in a moment .. baby crying.)

  12. Heh. That’s where it gets fuzzy, dunnit? If it happened and I had to take Official Action, I’d have to be an asshole about it to protect my copyright, according to US law. I don’t know how I’d feel personally.

  13. (continuing…)

    There are people out there who don’t understand the big picture, and I seriously believe that the history of media content is responsible, at least in part, for some of this. Following the “old” way of thinking, it only makes a certain amount of sense that there are those who believe “I bought a computer” or “I already pay for Internet access, so why isn’t the content or program free?”

    I’m not saying that it’s right, and in some cases I think there are people who really do know that it’s wrong, but there is still a rebellious attitude left over from the old days — a concept of “why should we pay for something that we *were* getting for free.

    And yes, I’m sure there are a dozen holes in this comment. But sometimes you need to be a litigious asshole to protect yourself in a society that is transitioning from one model of content provision to another.

  14. er…no.

    ok, i’m a raging music thief, BUT, i use my stolen music to explore artist and see if i like them and then i go buy them and ta-da.

    but no, it isn’t right at all. i went to peruse your site, and you put a lot of time and effort and thought in to the site, and others could at least give you the props you deserve.

    • One of the places where the RIAA really missed the wagon was in not realizing that distributing music for free can actually boost music sales.

      Or maybe they do realize that, says my cynical self, and that’s actually what they’re trying to prevent.

      Used to be that it was hideously expensive to cut an album; unless you were very wealthy, you could never do it yourself. You needed the labels. That’s not true any more; even someone who’s relatively poor can still make an album, but it’s fantastically expensive to market it, and so you still need the labels. If it becomes cheap to produce and cheap to market an album, who needs the labels any more?

      • *nods* That’s where I object — I always cite my sources (if I know them — I do admit to reposting images found on LJ in my own journal for non-commercial use, but I at least post who I got them from!) and I would never steal someone’s written work, but I will steal and listen to music.

        However, if I *like* the music, I will make a point of buying the album (preferably directly from the artist if at all possible), because I do appreciate the work of the artist in creating the songs.

        I am not, however, a fan of the RIAA and their effect on, say, the soon-to-be death of Internet radio at their hands. Their insistence on only using the old business model has, as you said, shot them in the foot. I’m angry that they still have so much power and influence, because they really don’t represent artists, they represent people who make *money* off of artists. Big difference, in my book.

        — A :/

  15. er…no.

    ok, i’m a raging music thief, BUT, i use my stolen music to explore artist and see if i like them and then i go buy them and ta-da.

    but no, it isn’t right at all. i went to peruse your site, and you put a lot of time and effort and thought in to the site, and others could at least give you the props you deserve.

  16. I’m not a hardass about the form a work takes, personally. If someone buys a CD, what they’re buying is the right to listen to that music..including, for example, on their iPod. I would have no problems with someone doing something like that, and by and large the American judicial system agrees.

    Similarly, if I write a book, and someone scans it to read it on their PDA, that’s fine with me–provided they bought a copy.

    Now, if someone buys a copy and then downloads a scan, that, person isn’t violating my copyright…but the person who made the scan available for download is! That’s redistributing my original copyrighted work, which is a clear violation of both copyright law and basic moral decency.

    Where it gets hairy is when you’re distributing tools to allow someone to copy a work. Is that wrong? I think that’s highly contextual.

    For example, nearly all Windows games employ various techniques, none of them very successful, to prevent people from ripping the CD. These techniques generally don’t work well, because they’re usually cracked in days, or sometimes in hours; in a few high-profile cases, the anti-copying mechanisms were cracked before a game even came out.

    Using such a tool on a CD you own isn’t wrong. using such a tool on a CD you own for the purpose of making copies of it for 1,452,317 of your closest BitTorrent friends is a whole ‘nother story.

    This relates to the idea of portability, too. I don’t own a Windows computer. I own Macs, and I run Windows on my Macs. Some anti-copying measures don’t work in emulation. I have in the past bought a copy of a game, then downloaded the CD crack so that the game I bought will run on my Mac. I personally do not see anything wrong with doing that; I have paid for the content. Yet it could be argued that this is not permitted by US copyright law, which forbids using or distributing “copyright control circumvention measures.”

  17. Oh, god, don’t even get me started on theft of photography! There’s a salesman here at the company I work with who will not seem to understand that just because a picture is posed on a public Web site doesn’t mean we can freely use it in our advertising and marketing materials.

  18. Hmm. I’m curious about something–would you say that taking any sort of intangible is not theft? For example, would you say that theft of cable TV service is not actually theft?

  19. Actually, that’s a good point about the possibility of accusations of plagiarism. Defending against such an accusation would in fact represent a tangible loss (of time, and possibly of money).

  20. I have a rather popular photo on my website that I’ve seen plagiarized over and over, it’s even on the cover of some Greek book. It’s a collage of photos of a set of plaques on a Japanese monument that my friend Sven took and I scanned – unmistakable because of a blade of grass in front of one of the plaques among other things. I don’t particularly care but like you I would appreciate if people asked and/or attributed the picture. I once wrote to a guy who had it on his website and he insisted high and low that the image did NOT originate from my site and that he had permission from the creator, who he refused to name. Then he turned nasty after I inquired why his file was named “sven1e.jpg”… Now I just don’t bother anymore; I just create *new* stuff.

    But yeah.

    • Heh. That’s a whole can of worms, right there.

      Copyright is limited in scope, and rightly so. After a time, works revert to the public domain, on the idea that once the original creator is dead and can no longer profit, the work should still benefit society as a whole.

      Where people fall off the truck is in assuming that if a work is not protected by copyright, that means they’re free to use any representation of the work that they choose. The plaques aren’t protected by copyright, so folks are free to use representations of them…

      …as long as they make those representations themselves.

      The plaques are not protected, but your photographs of them are.

      Had it been me, if some guy used a photograph of mine on my Web site and turned nasty on me when I notified him about it, I’d likely file a DMCA complaint to his ISP and have his Web site shut down. (In fact, I’ve actually done this once.) Getting nasty when you’ve been caught plagiarizing is just uncalled-for.

      • That’s what I said too; go take your own pictures of it.

        I didn’t pursue it because he took the picture down later (no apologies or anything though) and his ISP was French or something, really not worth that hassle.

        I have some dubious content on my site too, but at least I made the scans or videocaptures myself rather than copy them from someone else’s site…

      • I’d likely file a DMCA complaint to his ISP and have his Web site shut down

        That works, unless they decide to counter-DMCA, which then means you have to take it to court and prove the infringement…

        …and some people think you’re admitting it’s not really your work if you can’t afford to take it to court.

        I’ve had many a troll pull that one on me.

        L

    • You should sue the publisher of the book for copyright infringement and get a cut of the profits from the book. If you have hard, on actual film, copies of the picture than there is no way they can win and would probably settle for not an insignificant amount.

      • The original work is the photograph. The scan, if done with permission of the photographer, is a legal copy. However, the copyright still belongs to creator of the original work (the photographer). The creator is the only person who has a right to sue for damages.

        It is also possible that the collage may be considered a new original work, but that is very subjective and it would require an examination of the original photos as well as the collage. It would also require a deeper understanding of legal principles, such as “fair use doctrine” and “derivative works.” I imagine all of these might come into play if someone wanted to pursue damages in this particular case.

      • Maybe I should, but… a self-published book in Greek on an obscure topic, marketed from an ugly website, and so pathetic that even the cover is plagiarized? I really doubt that there will *be* profits. I have my own comics on sale through my website, and I’ve sold like 1 volume in 6 months, despite the original and sexy covers. ^_^

        Also technically it’s not even my photo, the real owner is probably Sven’s ex-wife…

  21. I have a rather popular photo on my website that I’ve seen plagiarized over and over, it’s even on the cover of some Greek book. It’s a collage of photos of a set of plaques on a Japanese monument that my friend Sven took and I scanned – unmistakable because of a blade of grass in front of one of the plaques among other things. I don’t particularly care but like you I would appreciate if people asked and/or attributed the picture. I once wrote to a guy who had it on his website and he insisted high and low that the image did NOT originate from my site and that he had permission from the creator, who he refused to name. Then he turned nasty after I inquired why his file was named “sven1e.jpg”… Now I just don’t bother anymore; I just create *new* stuff.

    But yeah.

  22. yeah–funny how creating something of value can change your ideas about copyright, isn’t it? πŸ™‚ I’ve long suspected hat most supporters of copyright violation haven’t actually worked to create anything original.

    Back in the day–and we’re talking waaaaay back in the day, like late 70s and early 80s–I was a TRS-80 user, and hung out on the old-school bootleg TRS-80 BBS systems like Greene Machine and Pirate-80. Then, when I started writing custom TRS-80 software and shareware, my own attitude changed.

  23. I really would. And I firmly believe that the historical, semantic and legal precedents would back me up.

    There is no car missing from the garage. It’s still there.

    But keep in mind that as the RIAA and others continue to push the assertion that it “is” “theft”, in general, consensual use the meaning of the word “theft” bends more and more to match this misuse.

    And in linguistics, misuse becomes use.

    (IANAL)

  24. Heh. That’s a whole can of worms, right there.

    Copyright is limited in scope, and rightly so. After a time, works revert to the public domain, on the idea that once the original creator is dead and can no longer profit, the work should still benefit society as a whole.

    Where people fall off the truck is in assuming that if a work is not protected by copyright, that means they’re free to use any representation of the work that they choose. The plaques aren’t protected by copyright, so folks are free to use representations of them…

    …as long as they make those representations themselves.

    The plaques are not protected, but your photographs of them are.

    Had it been me, if some guy used a photograph of mine on my Web site and turned nasty on me when I notified him about it, I’d likely file a DMCA complaint to his ISP and have his Web site shut down. (In fact, I’ve actually done this once.) Getting nasty when you’ve been caught plagiarizing is just uncalled-for.

  25. The “Zero Opportunity Cost” argument (I’ve never heard it called that, and I don’t see what it has to do with opportunity cost) is based on utilitarian ethics. If you want to debate it in any meaningful way, you have to do so via utilitarian ethics; arguing about rights is just missing the point.

    The only thing you said that really has any relevance to the view you’re trying to counter is the bit about how someone pirating Photoshop is no longer going to buy a $50 editing program from someone else.

    Other relevant critiques would include:
    * People not being honest with themselves about whether they really would buy something
    * Incidental harm that comes from procuring pirated material (breaking the junction box, risk to the car that was taken joyriding)
    * That plagiarism is different than personal use, because it serves to take credit away from the real authors

    It gets simpler to understand when we think about tangible things.
    Fuck analogies. Tangible things are not like information, and the rules around information are intended to be a useful system to encourage people to make more information, not a reflection of natural rights. This is why copyright is (supposedly) temporary. Those rules are a good and useful thing, but talking about your rights to something you created is also missing the point of copyright and patent law.

    • “Tangible things are not like information, and the rules around information are intended to be a useful system to encourage people to make more information, not a reflection of natural rights.”

      This is not a good argument. Technically a painting and a composition of music would both fall under the content of intellectual property. Therefore, both would be able to be reproduced freely after a period of time. However, while music can be composed on a computer, so there is no technical hard copy, a painting does have a hard copy, and that original work of art is worth significantly more than any reproductions.

      I don’t see why a painting should be more valuable than a musical composition; they are both legitimate forms of art, and art is intellectual property. By distinguishing between a hard copy and a digital copy is stupid. Stealing the content of a CD is no different than stealing the CD itself.

      This also goes into the realm of copyright infringement. If someone makes a counterfeit Monet and sells it as their own work it’s the same as someone copying a musical piece and selling it as their own work. Both of these are also the same as copying someone’s literary pursuits and calling them their own.

      • “I don’t see why a painting should be more valuable than a musical composition”

        I agree. The value of intellectual property is determined in large part by market demand, so the delineation between visual art (paintings, sculpture, etc.) and performance art (music, dance, acting) has almost no bearing on the value of intellectual property. No matter how you slice it, the value is determined by how much people are willing to pay for it. Paintings can have an astronomical value as “tangible property” because there is only original, and it’s value is determined not only by the quality of the work, but also by the its rare nature. Because it would be difficult or impossible to create a perfect copy, the original has immense value. However, it is much easier and less expensive to photograph the work and create many “less than perfect” copies in this way.

        In this way, it’s more fair to compare a CD with a color print sold in the museum gift store, than to compare with the original painting.

        Now, if you want to compare something with an original painting, look at the auctions where someone has spend thousands of dollars (or more) to purchase the original handwritten lyrics to a famous song. Items like this have sold for for astronomical amounts, in very much the same range as treasured paintings and sculptures.

      • that original work of art is worth significantly more than any reproductions.
        I’ve always thought that was perverse. The only thing I can think is that it’s basically memorabilia value, owning a piece of history, on top of the actual art.

    • There’s some merit to what you’re saying, I’ll grant, and I think your point about the goal of intellectual property law is reflected in the fact that intellectual property infringement is (usually) a matter of civil rather than criminal law.

      Plagiarism is indeed a very different animal from personal use, something that I had not considered in my original post.

  26. The “Zero Opportunity Cost” argument (I’ve never heard it called that, and I don’t see what it has to do with opportunity cost) is based on utilitarian ethics. If you want to debate it in any meaningful way, you have to do so via utilitarian ethics; arguing about rights is just missing the point.

    The only thing you said that really has any relevance to the view you’re trying to counter is the bit about how someone pirating Photoshop is no longer going to buy a $50 editing program from someone else.

    Other relevant critiques would include:
    * People not being honest with themselves about whether they really would buy something
    * Incidental harm that comes from procuring pirated material (breaking the junction box, risk to the car that was taken joyriding)
    * That plagiarism is different than personal use, because it serves to take credit away from the real authors

    It gets simpler to understand when we think about tangible things.
    Fuck analogies. Tangible things are not like information, and the rules around information are intended to be a useful system to encourage people to make more information, not a reflection of natural rights. This is why copyright is (supposedly) temporary. Those rules are a good and useful thing, but talking about your rights to something you created is also missing the point of copyright and patent law.

  27. One of the places where the RIAA really missed the wagon was in not realizing that distributing music for free can actually boost music sales.

    Or maybe they do realize that, says my cynical self, and that’s actually what they’re trying to prevent.

    Used to be that it was hideously expensive to cut an album; unless you were very wealthy, you could never do it yourself. You needed the labels. That’s not true any more; even someone who’s relatively poor can still make an album, but it’s fantastically expensive to market it, and so you still need the labels. If it becomes cheap to produce and cheap to market an album, who needs the labels any more?

  28. That transition might be part of where the sense of entitlement comes from; “It’s free on the radio, so why can’t I get it free on the Internets?” And it’s also true that in trying to protect the old business models, which are becoming increasingly archaic and irrelevant, the RIAA has used hamfisted tactics that make them look like clueless, greedy asshats, or worse.

    I really think the RIAA shot themselves in the foot and did a disservice to other content creators with their heavy-handed approach to copyright enforcement. They’re so desperate to cling to the old business models that they’re screwing up and spewing fail all over the place. That doesn’t do the rest of us any good at all.

    The business models don’t change the underlying reality, though, which is that folks aren’t entitled to the benefit that’s created by intellectual pursuits without paying for it, even if they’re used to paying for it indirectly.

  29. It’s pretty tough not to notice that US culture today is steeped in anti-intellectualism;

    do you run across a lot of people arguing against intellectual property who are themselves in general anti-intellectual? most of the people i’ve heard decry intellectual property were geeks; though i’m sure my samples may be biased in various ways.

    i think the lone inventor, toiling away in his laboratory for 20 years until he produces an amazing invention and then is done and cashes out somehow, is a very appealing and romantic picture. and i can’t think of too many good ways to achieve it without robust intellectual property laws. but from a business standpoint, things don’t end there– somebody has to take that invention and turn it into a product and sell it. if the original inventor is still involved, he’s the world’s foremost expert on his invention and even if his plans and schematics were distributed free to everyone in the world, the company he’s involved with is going to be at the forefront of innovation in that product and will probably dominate the market anyway. so the main benefit of intellectual property laws is allowing him to cash out and retire instead. i’m all for cashing out– it allows division of labor, a fine thing. but i don’t think it’s the real story behind most patents, at least.

    your neighbor-stealing-your-cable examples are a nice hook, but disingenuous: there’s physical damage going on there, and a nonzero opportunity cost. it’s not parallel.

    • but from a business standpoint, things don’t end there– somebody has to take that invention and turn it into a product and sell it. if the original inventor is still involved, he’s the world’s foremost expert on his invention and even if his plans and schematics were distributed free to everyone in the world, the company he’s involved with is going to be at the forefront of innovation in that product and will probably dominate the market anyway

      That’s actually not true, and there are several examples of markets where that’s not true. The ability to conceive an invention isn’t necessarily the same as the ability to capitalize on and market that invention, and in some cases, the invention’s nature is such that the person who invented it doesn’t necessarily have an advantage over everyone else.

      Two real-world examples are the pulse detonation engine and the Mag-Lite.

      The pulse detonation engine is a type of jet engine that’s currently under development. It works by creating supersonic shock waves in a combustion chamber; these supersonic shock waves cause detonation (rather than deflagration, or ordinary burning) of jet fuel. The result is an engine that burns less fuel, has fewer moving parts, produces more thrust, and works at higher speed than a regular jet engine.

      The development of a working pulse detonation engine would revolutionize airplanes. It would result in safer, faster, more fuel-efficient planes with longer ranges and greater capabilities. It would save billions of dollars in fuel for passenger jets alone, while simultaneously making passenger planes faster and more reliable. It’s a big deal, in short.

      A pulse detonation engine mechanically is very simple. There’s a gotcha, though. The most critical part appears to be the exact shape of the combustion chamber, which must be carefully tuned to promote supersonic shock waves. Designing the combustion chamber is challenging the limits of our ability to understand and model fluid dynamics. All the major aircraft companies have already spent tens or hundreds of millions of dollars trying to develop working pulse detonation engines.

      Because they are so simple, any engineer who sees one working would surely be able to duplicate it. Once the shape is right, that’s it; you’re done. A company that spent $100,000,000 developing a pulse detonation engine, only to see its design copied by a rival, would not be able to catch up; it’s rival would be $100,000,000 ahead when it comes to marketing, tooling, manufacturing, and promotion. The principles are so simple that the company that developed it would not automatically have a greater understanding of it than anyone else.

      The second example is the Mag-Lite. It was developed by a single inventor working in his garage, who wanted to develop a strong flashlight with a sealed switch that was reliable in extreme conditions. It’s a classic American success story–he started out making them all by hand in his garage, he marketed them himself, and he built a successful business from his idea.

      There was an article about him in a recent issue of Fortune Small Business (a magazine to which I subscribe). Today, nearly 30% of his company’s gross profits are spent fighting off rivals who are infringing his patent. Several elements of the Mag-Lite are protected by patent, but that doesn’t prevent much larger companies all over the world from trying to take his business by producing their own flashlights using his design, rather than come up with their own design. Patent attorneys and patent suits consume more than one dollar out of every four that he earns. If he were to stop pursuing the people who infringe his patent, he would likely go out of business; most of the infringers are much larger and wealthier than he is.

      • I didn’t know that about the Mag-Lite inventor – namely, Anthony Maglica – before. I can’t say it surprises me. A name that did come to mind was James Dyson, whose vacuum cleaners that never lose suction were something he had to fight for tooth and nail after inventing them, dueling with the likes of Electrolux to defend his invention and actually manage to earn a profit. Thankfully, he succeeded.

        The first name that came to my mind was, of course, Philo T. Farnsworth, a name pretty much everybody should know but pretty much no one does. I doubt any other inventor ever made an invention so very societally expansive and defining and yet was so screwed out of proper recognition as he, not to mention how very repurposed his invention largely became. I bet the tale of Robert Kearns told in Flash of Genius pales in comparison. – ZM, who is intentionally not saying what Mr. Farnsworth invented in the hope that readers look it up themselves, crap their pants, and remember it

  30. It’s pretty tough not to notice that US culture today is steeped in anti-intellectualism;

    do you run across a lot of people arguing against intellectual property who are themselves in general anti-intellectual? most of the people i’ve heard decry intellectual property were geeks; though i’m sure my samples may be biased in various ways.

    i think the lone inventor, toiling away in his laboratory for 20 years until he produces an amazing invention and then is done and cashes out somehow, is a very appealing and romantic picture. and i can’t think of too many good ways to achieve it without robust intellectual property laws. but from a business standpoint, things don’t end there– somebody has to take that invention and turn it into a product and sell it. if the original inventor is still involved, he’s the world’s foremost expert on his invention and even if his plans and schematics were distributed free to everyone in the world, the company he’s involved with is going to be at the forefront of innovation in that product and will probably dominate the market anyway. so the main benefit of intellectual property laws is allowing him to cash out and retire instead. i’m all for cashing out– it allows division of labor, a fine thing. but i don’t think it’s the real story behind most patents, at least.

    your neighbor-stealing-your-cable examples are a nice hook, but disingenuous: there’s physical damage going on there, and a nonzero opportunity cost. it’s not parallel.

  31. Wild West

    There’s an elephant in the room that you haven’t mentioned: ASCAP and the other intellectual property guardians, are all firmly rooted in the 20th century. The money they bring in doesn’t necessarily go to the artists who’ve created the content.

    There’s an entire industry of middlemen whose jobs were terribly important yesteryear, but now, not so much. They haven’t been going out of their way to exploit the suddenly available bandwidth or explore micropayments, or any other future-focused compensation scheme. Instead, they claim to be fighting on behalf of the authors, using old-school bludgeons and renting us DRM crippled vaporware.

    Their net effect on the overall dialog has been a lot like the tobacco companies arguing that smoking is a civil right that’s being violated.

    In the absence of a robust financial ecology where following the rules isn’t penalized, some people are doing the equivalent of smash-and grab burglary, where overall value is being destroyed. Your cable thief is a pretty blatent example, but I think any time someone sells pirated goods pretending to be authentic stuff, overall value is being destroyed.

    (I’m particularly thinking about helicopter crashes, where the bolts were cheap knockoffs marked up to look like they were rated for the proper stress)

    The kind of sharing that you encourage, where credit is maintained, that’s a creative commons license. When people used to make cassette mix tapes to share with friends, that was a tolerated form of such sharing. (eventually- there was a fight there too.)

    The problem as I see it, is that industry is actively fighting against any sort of creative commons approach, and insisting we all stay rooted in the old way of doing things. There’s new software that I paid money for, that won’t run on my high-def monitor- I suspect because it hasn’t proven to the HDMI spec that it’s an authorized use of the system. In this case, it’s the cable company that’s vandalized my video, and I have to sink more tech support time into resolving it. (I won’t, I’ll just have to play it on a different monitor)

    When Sony went ahead breaking the law by installing malware on people’s computers, they made it plain that they’re not going to be part of the solution. So it’s going to be a wild west environment until something reasonable takes its place.

    Please don’t think I’m trying to put words into your mouth that you didn’t say… I’m accusing people like the RIAA and their ilk of claiming to fight for your interests when they’re really working against them.

    In the largest scheme of things, I think those fat cats are going to have to be brought into compliance before the little guy is going to have a fair shake.

    • Re: Wild West

      Oh, believe me, I absoluttely agree with your point about the RIAA, and even said somewhere up there in the comments that I think their tactics have actually done more harm than good for other folks interested in protecting their intellectual property.

      The business practices of the RIAA, and to a lesser extent many other large American businesses, seems rooted in a sense of entitlement as well; it seems to me that once a person or a company has become wealthy and successful in some particular market, it feels entitled to continuing to be wealthy and successful, even if the market changes. For all the fact that we talk the talk about capitalism, the reality seems to be that a lot of folks feel like they deserve to have the money keep rolling in without having to adapt to changing market conditions, simply because the money was rolling in before.

      It’s hard to find a better example than the RIAA> The music labels arose because in the past, they had a stranglehold on a very important choke point in the production of music; recording an album used to be an outrageously expensive undertaking beyond the means of anyone but the extraordinarily wealthy. The world has changed, though, and now virtually anyone can record an album–but the labels maintained a stranglehold on promotion and distribution.

      The advent of the Internet changed that. The thing I think the labels fear more than anything else is the dawn of a world where a person can record, promote, distribute, and sell an album entirely on his own, without the help of anyone else. Issues of copyright and intellectual property aside, the RIAA’s clumsy gyrations seem predicated on desperate attempt to maintain control over the distribution of music, because without that, they no longer have any value to add.

  32. Wild West

    There’s an elephant in the room that you haven’t mentioned: ASCAP and the other intellectual property guardians, are all firmly rooted in the 20th century. The money they bring in doesn’t necessarily go to the artists who’ve created the content.

    There’s an entire industry of middlemen whose jobs were terribly important yesteryear, but now, not so much. They haven’t been going out of their way to exploit the suddenly available bandwidth or explore micropayments, or any other future-focused compensation scheme. Instead, they claim to be fighting on behalf of the authors, using old-school bludgeons and renting us DRM crippled vaporware.

    Their net effect on the overall dialog has been a lot like the tobacco companies arguing that smoking is a civil right that’s being violated.

    In the absence of a robust financial ecology where following the rules isn’t penalized, some people are doing the equivalent of smash-and grab burglary, where overall value is being destroyed. Your cable thief is a pretty blatent example, but I think any time someone sells pirated goods pretending to be authentic stuff, overall value is being destroyed.

    (I’m particularly thinking about helicopter crashes, where the bolts were cheap knockoffs marked up to look like they were rated for the proper stress)

    The kind of sharing that you encourage, where credit is maintained, that’s a creative commons license. When people used to make cassette mix tapes to share with friends, that was a tolerated form of such sharing. (eventually- there was a fight there too.)

    The problem as I see it, is that industry is actively fighting against any sort of creative commons approach, and insisting we all stay rooted in the old way of doing things. There’s new software that I paid money for, that won’t run on my high-def monitor- I suspect because it hasn’t proven to the HDMI spec that it’s an authorized use of the system. In this case, it’s the cable company that’s vandalized my video, and I have to sink more tech support time into resolving it. (I won’t, I’ll just have to play it on a different monitor)

    When Sony went ahead breaking the law by installing malware on people’s computers, they made it plain that they’re not going to be part of the solution. So it’s going to be a wild west environment until something reasonable takes its place.

    Please don’t think I’m trying to put words into your mouth that you didn’t say… I’m accusing people like the RIAA and their ilk of claiming to fight for your interests when they’re really working against them.

    In the largest scheme of things, I think those fat cats are going to have to be brought into compliance before the little guy is going to have a fair shake.

  33. Your concept is compelling, but does not address why people think they have the right to post something without carrying along with that post the attribution that someone else wrote it.

    Even in cases where content use is not an issue, lack of attribution is a problem. Academic fair use is the arena I’m most familiar with. What gives people the gall to claim that they wrote something when they did not. How much does a simple citation hurt to put up?

    I really wish I could pull one of my professors aside and say, “Don’t you dare show me a slide set that you’ve butchered from a publically available set (that covers the material better) and claim that you wrote it.” The professor in question removed many useful bits of information and added a ‘citations’ page which omits the original source. And his English is bad enough that it’s very obvious which bullet points he edited and which were written by someone else.

  34. If you’re not familiar with the Baen publishing site (www.baen.com) and their free library, you probably should be. Eric Flint makes a compelling argument about digital free libraries and distribution of electronic material. It may or may not be relevant to your interests/fields, but…

    File sharing of Baen’s e-books has tangibly increased their profits – both the publisher and the authors’ pockets directly.

    Yes, I have (in the past, years ago) used P2P software to obtain music I had no other way to obtain – no radio, no tapes, no CDs, no money. Since then, I *have* purchased the music I felt was worth the money, and deleted the rest. Yes, there is obviously a difference between ripping tons of stuff off teh intarwebs and not paying for it, and “sampling”.

    Now I use Seeqpod for sampling, but to use it I must be havening an intarwebs connection, which doesn’t quite do the same thing for me in terms of determining just how broad the appeal of that particular music is for me.

    *shrugs* There’s a reason I no longer listen to Metallica or read Harlan Ellison. They’ve made their views on “pirating” very plain, and I feel the position they take is so draconian that I cannot support it – so I simply will avoid their products entirely, even if I can get it “free”. (Yes, this includes changing the radio station if Metallica is playing. No, it doesn’t accomplish much except keep me in my moral comfort zone.)

    And, of course, everyone’s got an opinion that is biased by their personal interest – which is why I refer you to Eric Flint’s writings at the Baen Free Library. As an editor and published author, his particular dog in this fight is clearly on the side of “creator of intellectual property”. πŸ˜‰

    • Wow. Interesting. I just did some Googling and found (and read) Eric Flint’s essay on his ideas. Interesting stuff.

      I happen to agree with him, in fact, and it’s part of the reason that I let folks copy material from my Web site for free.

      It’s also why I don’t think the RIAA’s fight is mine. While copying music without permission of the copyright owner is both legally and morally wrong, I don’t for even half a second believe that the RIAA is sincere in trying to protect the rights of their artists; rather, I think they’re desperate to maintain control over the distribution and promotion of music. I seem to recall reading a peer-reviewed study a few years back that demonstrated that online music piracy economically benefits artists, because it exposes them to a wider audience, many of whom eventually buy the albums. (That’s certainly been the case with me; on many occasions I’ve had friends give me copy of a CD or a mixed tape, and then bought the album. I owe my entire Sisters of Mercy collection, which includes not only all their albums but also rare imports and live concert albums I bought, sometimes at great expense, to a single mixed tape that someone gave me about twelve years ago. Not only have I bought every album, I’ve seen them in concert as well, all because that one mixed tape got me hooked. But I digress.)

      Anyway, I absolutely agree with Mr. Flint’s ideas, and I think that in the long run exposure generates more profit for content creators.

      The part that irks me is not the copying so much as the plagiarism. (In two cases I discovered today, folks had not only lifted stuff from my site without attribution, they had stuck their OWN copyright notice on it, which shows an appalling amount of gall that it’s hard to fathom.)

      The argument he makes breaks down as soon as someone starts passing off the work of another as his own. I bet if I took his novels, removed his name from the cover and stick mine on it, and then started selling them from my Web site, he’d be none too pleased–and rightly so.

      • And because of that I think you need to distinguish between plagiarism and piracy. Whilst there may be some technical overlap between them (copying of work without permission) they’re not the same.

        (BTW, I love the Baen library; between that and the CDs they put out I have 199 free books from them; I’ve also bought at least 33 dead trees as a result of authors I’ve read in the library which I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise).

    • I no longer read Harlan Ellison because he’s getting to be even more of an asshole with age, committed a vile invasion of space upon one of my very favorite authors during what should have been one of her greatest moments of professional triumph, and because he doesn’t seem to have anything interesting to say anymore (perhaps the mail-order idea service in Schenectady went out of business). But draconian views on media distribution are another nice nail in the coffin.

  35. If you’re not familiar with the Baen publishing site (www.baen.com) and their free library, you probably should be. Eric Flint makes a compelling argument about digital free libraries and distribution of electronic material. It may or may not be relevant to your interests/fields, but…

    File sharing of Baen’s e-books has tangibly increased their profits – both the publisher and the authors’ pockets directly.

    Yes, I have (in the past, years ago) used P2P software to obtain music I had no other way to obtain – no radio, no tapes, no CDs, no money. Since then, I *have* purchased the music I felt was worth the money, and deleted the rest. Yes, there is obviously a difference between ripping tons of stuff off teh intarwebs and not paying for it, and “sampling”.

    Now I use Seeqpod for sampling, but to use it I must be havening an intarwebs connection, which doesn’t quite do the same thing for me in terms of determining just how broad the appeal of that particular music is for me.

    *shrugs* There’s a reason I no longer listen to Metallica or read Harlan Ellison. They’ve made their views on “pirating” very plain, and I feel the position they take is so draconian that I cannot support it – so I simply will avoid their products entirely, even if I can get it “free”. (Yes, this includes changing the radio station if Metallica is playing. No, it doesn’t accomplish much except keep me in my moral comfort zone.)

    And, of course, everyone’s got an opinion that is biased by their personal interest – which is why I refer you to Eric Flint’s writings at the Baen Free Library. As an editor and published author, his particular dog in this fight is clearly on the side of “creator of intellectual property”. πŸ˜‰

  36. I think this is something of a semantic argument, which has been unfortunately muddled by the widespread use of the phrase “copyright theft.” You don’t steal a copyright, you infringe a copyright. From a legal standpoint, if you digitize my short story collection and start distributing it, you’re not committing theft — you’re committing copyright infringement. (There is such a thing as “intellectual property theft” that’s distinct from copyright violation, which further muddles the issue, but IP theft tends to mean things like stealing trade secrets and counterfeiting merchandise.)

    However, Tacit’s main point would seem to still stand, wouldn’t it? Saying “it’s not theft, it’s copyright violation” is somewhat akin to saying “that wasn’t battery, it was assault” — so noted, but it’s a crime either way, and the only issue seems to be the precision of the language. And even setting aside the question of criminal intent, there’s a basic truth to the notion that “I think your price is too high, so I’m just going to use your product without paying for it” lacks a certain ethical grounding irrespective of whether the product is delivered to you in a box or in a ZIP archive, isn’t there?

  37. You’re absolutely right. And as a survivor of the rigors of academia (and an author published in three fields), I agree whole heartedly. Anything less is intellectual lassitude on the part of whomever first posted a non-attributed piece. (It gets much less easy to categorize the intent or integrity of individuals who post unattributed text purloined from another site that bears no attributions.) And not everyone understands the importance of citing sources. Although Franklin’s writing is undeniably adult content, there are tons of websites out there that are hack jobs done by kids who find an interest, and then treat the Internet like either a big library or a stack of used magazines to be perused, ripped up, and glued back together as a collage.

  38. Giggle.
    Oh, dear, modified only slightly your last characterization fits my situation perfectly.

    …hack jobs done by [professors] who find [they have to teach a course], and then treat the Internet [and usually also textbooks, treatment guidelines, and journals] like [a cross between a] big library [and] a stack of used magazines to be perused, ripped up, and glued back together as a collage…

  39. “What these pirates need is a $49 image editing program; and that’s a $49 image editing program they’re not going to buy because they stole Photoshop.”

    This also leads to less development of alternative solutions, thus we trend towards (usually unsupported) freeware or Photoshop as the only choice. By extension, this harms the Commons via the chilling effect it has on mid-level development.

    In respect to the RIAA – their unreasonable business model is forcing substitution by their consumer. If we truly shut down all illegal P2P, the market will develop a legal alternative to the RIAA. This is already happening slowly via sites like AmieStreet.com and TuneCore.com

  40. “What these pirates need is a $49 image editing program; and that’s a $49 image editing program they’re not going to buy because they stole Photoshop.”

    This also leads to less development of alternative solutions, thus we trend towards (usually unsupported) freeware or Photoshop as the only choice. By extension, this harms the Commons via the chilling effect it has on mid-level development.

    In respect to the RIAA – their unreasonable business model is forcing substitution by their consumer. If we truly shut down all illegal P2P, the market will develop a legal alternative to the RIAA. This is already happening slowly via sites like AmieStreet.com and TuneCore.com

  41. That’s what I said too; go take your own pictures of it.

    I didn’t pursue it because he took the picture down later (no apologies or anything though) and his ISP was French or something, really not worth that hassle.

    I have some dubious content on my site too, but at least I made the scans or videocaptures myself rather than copy them from someone else’s site…

  42. As someone who’s seen her intellectual property being offered for free download, I agree with you — for the most part.

    On the other hand:

    I’m in a situation where I bring in $745/month (+ $14/month federal disability in a large, rather expensive city. Nearly a year of having an “active” file with vocational rehab has been absolutely useless in terms of providing help getting my knowledge/skills back up to date — they told me that they won’t pay for any education because I have a graduate degree.

    I’d like to go back and actually work at the same thing I did before getting sick — it would provide good enough health insurance to cover the overwhelming cost of the medication and care needed to keep me alive and well, as well as being the easiest/fastest route back to work given my various physical limitations.

    Friends have been kind with loans and gifts of books, but not so much as far as the (expensive) software goes — nor do I expect such a thing. If I don’t learn some specific (software) tools that I’ll likely be expected to know ahead of time).

    The biggest local employer of people in my field (with the best health insurance, incidentally) makes several of these specific tools, and I don’t think it would be a good thing for them to know about those of my disabilities that can’t actually be seen in an interview. So I don’t feel as if I can approach the company and ask for a free copy or anything, nor would that be likely to work anyway.

    I’m sure you can guess how I’m handling this lack of resources wrt intellectual property. I’m sure this bothers you — it certainly bothers me. But how else do I proceed? What would YOU do in this situation?

  43. As someone who’s seen her intellectual property being offered for free download, I agree with you — for the most part.

    On the other hand:

    I’m in a situation where I bring in $745/month (+ $14/month federal disability in a large, rather expensive city. Nearly a year of having an “active” file with vocational rehab has been absolutely useless in terms of providing help getting my knowledge/skills back up to date — they told me that they won’t pay for any education because I have a graduate degree.

    I’d like to go back and actually work at the same thing I did before getting sick — it would provide good enough health insurance to cover the overwhelming cost of the medication and care needed to keep me alive and well, as well as being the easiest/fastest route back to work given my various physical limitations.

    Friends have been kind with loans and gifts of books, but not so much as far as the (expensive) software goes — nor do I expect such a thing. If I don’t learn some specific (software) tools that I’ll likely be expected to know ahead of time).

    The biggest local employer of people in my field (with the best health insurance, incidentally) makes several of these specific tools, and I don’t think it would be a good thing for them to know about those of my disabilities that can’t actually be seen in an interview. So I don’t feel as if I can approach the company and ask for a free copy or anything, nor would that be likely to work anyway.

    I’m sure you can guess how I’m handling this lack of resources wrt intellectual property. I’m sure this bothers you — it certainly bothers me. But how else do I proceed? What would YOU do in this situation?

  44. Even assuming your claim of rights violation as opposed to stealing, theft of cable is still theft, if only because in order to steal the cable you also have to steal the electricity that brings it to your house, and electricity is tangible, and has a cost per watt that someone has to pay for, and that someone is the person who actually paid to get the cable in the first place.

  45. I agree with you in general. I don’t think that this article — or any other equally well-written article — will change any minds.

    Why? Because the cost to the creator doesn’t matter. The important question is the cost to the pirate.

    Think about literal pirates off the coast of Somalia: those that race to ships, attack or kill sailors, and run off with what they can capture (or hijack). As long as the likely gains are much, much greater than the likely costs, literal piracy will continue.

    The same is true for music/software/photography/book pirates. And I don’t see an easy way to raise the cost.

      • True, but you could also argue that the reputation of the Torrent seeders is value. It’s not money, but it is a reward that they prize, and are willing to violate the law to obtain. Just as not all property is tangible, so are not all rewards for illegal behavior tangible. πŸ™‚

        • You could argue that, but I think that over simplifies and loses a key distinction as to the motive of pirates (which I took to be a key part of your original post). Some people do pirate stuff for commercial gain; others use pirated stuff for whatever reason (you covered some of them); yet others pirate stuff simply because they can.

          Understanding the motivation is a prerequisite to tackling the problem.

  46. I agree with you in general. I don’t think that this article — or any other equally well-written article — will change any minds.

    Why? Because the cost to the creator doesn’t matter. The important question is the cost to the pirate.

    Think about literal pirates off the coast of Somalia: those that race to ships, attack or kill sailors, and run off with what they can capture (or hijack). As long as the likely gains are much, much greater than the likely costs, literal piracy will continue.

    The same is true for music/software/photography/book pirates. And I don’t see an easy way to raise the cost.

  47. I spent a year creating a website for a well-known hentai. After it became successful, I spent another 4 months fighting with Wikipedia, as some assholes had posted my ENTIRE website as a wiki entry. They literally copied every page, and turned it into one big entry.

    Not only did they claim authorship of my material, the wiki article diverted thousands of page views from my site to Wiki.

    It also started a rumor that I had copied Wiki, and in the end, one of the people on my forum turned out to be not only the copycat, but kept sabotaging the link to my site that had been added to Wiki!! She kept making a tiny change to the URL to point nowhere. I caught her in the act through her IP address, which she categorically denied, then spent months trying to drum up sympathy within the fan community, and months later admitted what she had done. I wish I could say I feel vindicated in the end. Nope, just tired from the bullshit.

    But the worst part of the whole ordeal? I LOVED working on that site. I loved taking tedious screen caps, summarizing episodes, researching the source material. It made me happy. And once I had to fight constantly to protect my work, the joy was gone. And I haven’t updated it in at least a year because I’m still so bitter and angry.

    Stealing somebody’s joy in their craft is even worse than the theft itself.

    I can sympathize with you, and I say go hit that dom and all the others right where it hurts, in the wallet.

    • Can I just say, I fully agree that tacit should ream these bastards? In case my position is not clear.

      I say that, having have problems with Wikipedia regards my work, myself.

  48. I spent a year creating a website for a well-known hentai. After it became successful, I spent another 4 months fighting with Wikipedia, as some assholes had posted my ENTIRE website as a wiki entry. They literally copied every page, and turned it into one big entry.

    Not only did they claim authorship of my material, the wiki article diverted thousands of page views from my site to Wiki.

    It also started a rumor that I had copied Wiki, and in the end, one of the people on my forum turned out to be not only the copycat, but kept sabotaging the link to my site that had been added to Wiki!! She kept making a tiny change to the URL to point nowhere. I caught her in the act through her IP address, which she categorically denied, then spent months trying to drum up sympathy within the fan community, and months later admitted what she had done. I wish I could say I feel vindicated in the end. Nope, just tired from the bullshit.

    But the worst part of the whole ordeal? I LOVED working on that site. I loved taking tedious screen caps, summarizing episodes, researching the source material. It made me happy. And once I had to fight constantly to protect my work, the joy was gone. And I haven’t updated it in at least a year because I’m still so bitter and angry.

    Stealing somebody’s joy in their craft is even worse than the theft itself.

    I can sympathize with you, and I say go hit that dom and all the others right where it hurts, in the wallet.

  49. “Actually, that’s a good point about the possibility of accusations of plagiarism.”

    I’ve had this exact problem. I tracked the fuckin’ thing all the way to an English-speaking Korean newspaper that basically told me to blow it out my ass, unless I wanted to fly down to Korea and have it out with them.

    “Aggravated” is the right term for that.

    For a column I wrote in ’92 or so, and years later I had someone accuse me of appending my name to an existing story, and as “proof,” they DID point out a site where my story had been pirated. I was able to show the published 1992 column, though.

    Still, defending your copyright is important for a lot of reasons and that’s definitely one of them.

  50. But what about those music CDs a few years ago that were sold with anti-copying software?

    Lets forget for a minute that that software fucked up computers and made them susceptible to viruses, that it was put on CDs without informing the consumer on the packaging, and then the company didn’t allow stores to accept returns that people no longer wanted because they couldn’t use them and did not consent to having the anti-copying software automatically installed on their computers, despite the fact that what they sold contained material on it that would have prevented the person from buying the CD in the first place, and despite the fact that that anti-copying software rendered the CD practically unusable.

    These people bought the music, so they should be entitled to put it onto their computers if they want to. They should be entitled to put it on their MP3 players if they want to. These people could have bought the music through iTunes, or Rhapsody, etc, but they wanted a hard copy, be it for the art in the booklet or to have a hard copy in case their computer crashes, or for whatever whimsy they have.

    With current technology, it is unreasonable to expect a consumer to lug around a CD binder with 200 CDs when they can carry around a digital device that weighs 3oz and can hold 5 times that amount. And that person has the right to put music onto these devices that they have previously purchased.

    Lets say that someone was a technophile in the 80s (this may even be you!), and went right out and bought the first compact disc players on the market and bought the entire set of albums of, lets say, Blondie on CD and paid $25 for each of those CDs back in 1989. Back in 1989 MP3 players weren’t around, so buying a digital copy wasn’t a choice. Does this person not have the right to copy those CDs onto their MP3 player? Do they have to pay for music they already have access to again just because it is in an inconvenient format? That’s exactly what all this anti-copying software does; it prevents people who have legitimate reasons to copy music from copying there music.

    As much as it sucks that there are unethical people out there that take advantage of legitimate software to use in illegitimate ways, it’s not worth infringing on honest people’s rights to do with things they have purchased what they want to do.

  51. Well, in the sense that it’s an argument about meaning, yes, it’s a semantic argument.

    But I don’t think the “that wasn’t battery, it was assault” metaphor holds water. Perhaps, “that wasn’t battery, it was slander” is a better example for you to use.

  52. Can I just say, I fully agree that tacit should ream these bastards? In case my position is not clear.

    I say that, having have problems with Wikipedia regards my work, myself.

  53. You should sue the publisher of the book for copyright infringement and get a cut of the profits from the book. If you have hard, on actual film, copies of the picture than there is no way they can win and would probably settle for not an insignificant amount.

  54. Semantics! πŸ™‚

    (Seriously, I was trying to find a rough “two crimes that are similar but not identical” comparison that also wasn’t theft, but I couldn’t come up with anything that was really very apt. Hopefully the thought gets through in spite of that.)

  55. You could argue that the vandalism causes the owner to have his potential earnings “stolen” because they couldn’t earn them, as well.

    I would argue that the vandalism is not theft, but causes loss of earnings and more importantly costs the owner repair costs, so you’re talking a Tort, not a Theft.

    (I’d better state again: IANAL, and, and in most cases when I open my mouth, may well be frothing BS.)

  56. “Tangible things are not like information, and the rules around information are intended to be a useful system to encourage people to make more information, not a reflection of natural rights.”

    This is not a good argument. Technically a painting and a composition of music would both fall under the content of intellectual property. Therefore, both would be able to be reproduced freely after a period of time. However, while music can be composed on a computer, so there is no technical hard copy, a painting does have a hard copy, and that original work of art is worth significantly more than any reproductions.

    I don’t see why a painting should be more valuable than a musical composition; they are both legitimate forms of art, and art is intellectual property. By distinguishing between a hard copy and a digital copy is stupid. Stealing the content of a CD is no different than stealing the CD itself.

    This also goes into the realm of copyright infringement. If someone makes a counterfeit Monet and sells it as their own work it’s the same as someone copying a musical piece and selling it as their own work. Both of these are also the same as copying someone’s literary pursuits and calling them their own.

  57. How would you feel about copying this post (with citations)?

    How would you feel if it were edited by someone else?

    I think it is excellently written, but might be a bit off-putting to the “norms” because of the bdsm and poly references, and they could easily be edited out with the removal of a few words and an addition of one or two.

  58. How would you feel about copying this post (with citations)?

    How would you feel if it were edited by someone else?

    I think it is excellently written, but might be a bit off-putting to the “norms” because of the bdsm and poly references, and they could easily be edited out with the removal of a few words and an addition of one or two.

  59. Uhm, having had my hard work on webpages (specifically the help pages I wrote for AdventureQuest) stolen word for word and only the game name changed for another company called RealmDefender, I think they owe you. I had our lawyers shut RealmDefender down for a while until they removed the material. We then found out that they’re located down the street from us in Lutz, and that they’re paying college students to rip us off in various ways with their game. I do not like them, I do not like the fact that they stole my hard work and used it to make money. So I can completely understand where you’re coming from. I think in this instance, you should get their sites taken down.

      • That’s awesome πŸ™‚
        I’m Safiria in AdventureQuest, and I’m the executive game administrator there. I created all the help pages, the parent pages, all the email responses, etc (just to name a few things).

        I just hated having my work stolen, word for word, by another game company who has been trying to rip us off.

        I hope you two continue enjoying the game together!

    • Yeah. It’s bad when intellectual property is violated for non-commercial purposes; it gets particularly annoying when it’s done by organized criminals for profit.

      The fact that someone would pirate your work for monetary gain in such a clear-cut way is appalling.

  60. Uhm, having had my hard work on webpages (specifically the help pages I wrote for AdventureQuest) stolen word for word and only the game name changed for another company called RealmDefender, I think they owe you. I had our lawyers shut RealmDefender down for a while until they removed the material. We then found out that they’re located down the street from us in Lutz, and that they’re paying college students to rip us off in various ways with their game. I do not like them, I do not like the fact that they stole my hard work and used it to make money. So I can completely understand where you’re coming from. I think in this instance, you should get their sites taken down.

  61. Wow – Can of Worms, yes?

    It’s ridiculous to think that copying with citation is a difficult thing. I routinely route people here to you work because of the way you write. But when I do, it’s not such a hardship to say, “Hey! wrote this article you might find interesting…” So for those who are stealing from you, I do think it’s worth the time to find them and smack them on the head.

    The only caveat to this is the concept that people make copies of things for their own personal use, sometimes forgetting that the internet is the worlds largest bathroom wall. If I make a photocopy of a poem, I’m keeping it for myself. There ARE people out there who are silly enough to think that making a copy of information for “their own site” is not going to get out.

    Theft of services is the same as plagiarizing or taking the car. It’s theft. The car analogy is a bit of a non-starter in relation to intellectual property, though, due to the risk factor of actually having the car destroyed without being insured through the act of the theft. Just like your cable box is being destroyed due to the idiot trying to steal. This causes cost to the company, which in turn, is then passed along back to you. So in essence, the idiot trying to steal your cable is actually costing YOU money.

    As for music, realistically, I propose that this is a special case. For many, many years, the music industry was in sole control of distribution and production of music. If an artist wanted to “get out there” he had to sell both himself and his music to companies like BMI, ASCAP, and somehow the RIAA got in there and took control of everything. What has wound up happening, is that absolute and utter CRAP was being put out for consumption to the general public, but you couldn’t actually really determine if it was crap until you shelled out your $16-25 bucks. THEN, once you opened the packaging, if you didn’t like it, you couldn’t return it. Having worked in the retail industry, I will tell you it was Catch-22 for consumers. And getting money to the artist… pft. It’s one of the reasons why iTunes has taken off like gangbusters. People can pay for the music they WANT and the music they LIKE. – and the artist gets paid for the work the consumer wants. I admit, I use P2P to download music – but as a point of honor, I make it a point to go purchase the music that I like and that I listen to. I *know* I am not alone in this. People have gotten tired of being taken advantage of. And because I can – I will gladly buy the music I listen to, even for those who can’t afford it. (it’s the bit of socialist in me).

    So yeah – geeze – see what happens when my brain starts ticking along. πŸ˜› Anyway, I DO hope that you get everything straightened around.

  62. Wow – Can of Worms, yes?

    It’s ridiculous to think that copying with citation is a difficult thing. I routinely route people here to you work because of the way you write. But when I do, it’s not such a hardship to say, “Hey! wrote this article you might find interesting…” So for those who are stealing from you, I do think it’s worth the time to find them and smack them on the head.

    The only caveat to this is the concept that people make copies of things for their own personal use, sometimes forgetting that the internet is the worlds largest bathroom wall. If I make a photocopy of a poem, I’m keeping it for myself. There ARE people out there who are silly enough to think that making a copy of information for “their own site” is not going to get out.

    Theft of services is the same as plagiarizing or taking the car. It’s theft. The car analogy is a bit of a non-starter in relation to intellectual property, though, due to the risk factor of actually having the car destroyed without being insured through the act of the theft. Just like your cable box is being destroyed due to the idiot trying to steal. This causes cost to the company, which in turn, is then passed along back to you. So in essence, the idiot trying to steal your cable is actually costing YOU money.

    As for music, realistically, I propose that this is a special case. For many, many years, the music industry was in sole control of distribution and production of music. If an artist wanted to “get out there” he had to sell both himself and his music to companies like BMI, ASCAP, and somehow the RIAA got in there and took control of everything. What has wound up happening, is that absolute and utter CRAP was being put out for consumption to the general public, but you couldn’t actually really determine if it was crap until you shelled out your $16-25 bucks. THEN, once you opened the packaging, if you didn’t like it, you couldn’t return it. Having worked in the retail industry, I will tell you it was Catch-22 for consumers. And getting money to the artist… pft. It’s one of the reasons why iTunes has taken off like gangbusters. People can pay for the music they WANT and the music they LIKE. – and the artist gets paid for the work the consumer wants. I admit, I use P2P to download music – but as a point of honor, I make it a point to go purchase the music that I like and that I listen to. I *know* I am not alone in this. People have gotten tired of being taken advantage of. And because I can – I will gladly buy the music I listen to, even for those who can’t afford it. (it’s the bit of socialist in me).

    So yeah – geeze – see what happens when my brain starts ticking along. πŸ˜› Anyway, I DO hope that you get everything straightened around.

  63. I think you’re splitting hairs. At what point does calling it “violation of rights” or anything other than theft make it any more or less wrong?

    Regardless of your argument, it IS theft. In a court of law, an individual owns a copyright. When someone else copies intellectual property without permission, they are taking ownership of something that doesn’t belong to them. Namely, the right to copy that material.

    We can go on and on about damages, and a variety of other things, but the use of the term theft is accurate, because intellectual property is still property, and someone is taking it without permission. What you’re trying to do is to narrow the definition of theft and perhaps the definition of property as well. Again, splitting hairs.

    As for the arguments that would convince your average citizen this is wrong, I think we’ve already lost that battle. And not simply because many people don’t grasp the concept of intellectual property, but because society at large doesn’t grasp the concept of personal responsibility.

    We live in an era where most people feel entitled to anything and everything their heart desires. By and large, personal happiness trumps morality. Combine that with the digital age making the act of making copies easier now than at any time in history, and you have a recipe for disaster.

  64. Apologies, but you’ve missed the point if you thing I’m saying it’s more or less wrong.

    The rest, tl:dr and you didn’t exactly get off on the right foot with me now, did you? Thanks for your comments.

  65. The original work is the photograph. The scan, if done with permission of the photographer, is a legal copy. However, the copyright still belongs to creator of the original work (the photographer). The creator is the only person who has a right to sue for damages.

    It is also possible that the collage may be considered a new original work, but that is very subjective and it would require an examination of the original photos as well as the collage. It would also require a deeper understanding of legal principles, such as “fair use doctrine” and “derivative works.” I imagine all of these might come into play if someone wanted to pursue damages in this particular case.

  66. I was just recently accused of being small and petty, and playing stupid whiny games because I complained on my journal about all mention of me being removed from a website I designed, coded, and wrote most of the content for, then (very generously, I think), gave it to someone.

    People can’t even respect something when you give it to them. I /could/ tell them they no longer have the right to use it — imagine what I’d be called, then.

    • Ugh. My sympathies; that really sucks. It really does seem to me that the folks who bleat the most loudly when they’re caught copying or otherwise misusing someone else’s work are the folks who can’t or don’t produce anything themselves.

  67. I was just recently accused of being small and petty, and playing stupid whiny games because I complained on my journal about all mention of me being removed from a website I designed, coded, and wrote most of the content for, then (very generously, I think), gave it to someone.

    People can’t even respect something when you give it to them. I /could/ tell them they no longer have the right to use it — imagine what I’d be called, then.

  68. “I don’t see why a painting should be more valuable than a musical composition”

    I agree. The value of intellectual property is determined in large part by market demand, so the delineation between visual art (paintings, sculpture, etc.) and performance art (music, dance, acting) has almost no bearing on the value of intellectual property. No matter how you slice it, the value is determined by how much people are willing to pay for it. Paintings can have an astronomical value as “tangible property” because there is only original, and it’s value is determined not only by the quality of the work, but also by the its rare nature. Because it would be difficult or impossible to create a perfect copy, the original has immense value. However, it is much easier and less expensive to photograph the work and create many “less than perfect” copies in this way.

    In this way, it’s more fair to compare a CD with a color print sold in the museum gift store, than to compare with the original painting.

    Now, if you want to compare something with an original painting, look at the auctions where someone has spend thousands of dollars (or more) to purchase the original handwritten lyrics to a famous song. Items like this have sold for for astronomical amounts, in very much the same range as treasured paintings and sculptures.

  69. That’s awesome πŸ™‚
    I’m Safiria in AdventureQuest, and I’m the executive game administrator there. I created all the help pages, the parent pages, all the email responses, etc (just to name a few things).

    I just hated having my work stolen, word for word, by another game company who has been trying to rip us off.

    I hope you two continue enjoying the game together!

  70. You’re correct with regard to copyright law; it is not, legally or technically, theft, but rather a violation of the creator’s protected rights of reproduction and distribution. In most cases, violation of copyright law and other instances of violation of intellectual property rights is a matter for civil rather than criminal law, whereas theft is a matter for criminal law.

    However, I’ve done some online reading, and it seems that theft of services is indeed, legally and definitionally, considered theft. The phrase “theft of services” appears in both state laws and Federal law in the US, and is treated as a matter of criminal, not civil, law. The law in the US defines theft of service as a case where a person obtains services, known by that person to be available only for compensation, by deception, force, threat, or other means to avoid payment for the services.

    This particular concept of theft appears to have a long history; from what I gather, the US definition of “theft of service” traces its roots back to pre-Colonial English law.

  71. There’s some merit to what you’re saying, I’ll grant, and I think your point about the goal of intellectual property law is reflected in the fact that intellectual property infringement is (usually) a matter of civil rather than criminal law.

    Plagiarism is indeed a very different animal from personal use, something that I had not considered in my original post.

  72. Re: Wild West

    Oh, believe me, I absoluttely agree with your point about the RIAA, and even said somewhere up there in the comments that I think their tactics have actually done more harm than good for other folks interested in protecting their intellectual property.

    The business practices of the RIAA, and to a lesser extent many other large American businesses, seems rooted in a sense of entitlement as well; it seems to me that once a person or a company has become wealthy and successful in some particular market, it feels entitled to continuing to be wealthy and successful, even if the market changes. For all the fact that we talk the talk about capitalism, the reality seems to be that a lot of folks feel like they deserve to have the money keep rolling in without having to adapt to changing market conditions, simply because the money was rolling in before.

    It’s hard to find a better example than the RIAA> The music labels arose because in the past, they had a stranglehold on a very important choke point in the production of music; recording an album used to be an outrageously expensive undertaking beyond the means of anyone but the extraordinarily wealthy. The world has changed, though, and now virtually anyone can record an album–but the labels maintained a stranglehold on promotion and distribution.

    The advent of the Internet changed that. The thing I think the labels fear more than anything else is the dawn of a world where a person can record, promote, distribute, and sell an album entirely on his own, without the help of anyone else. Issues of copyright and intellectual property aside, the RIAA’s clumsy gyrations seem predicated on desperate attempt to maintain control over the distribution of music, because without that, they no longer have any value to add.

  73. Sorry, in Florida “theft of service” is civil, not criminal. I’ve found that out on several occasions when patients walk out and I’ve called the cops. They scoff. I fume.

  74. Wow. Interesting. I just did some Googling and found (and read) Eric Flint’s essay on his ideas. Interesting stuff.

    I happen to agree with him, in fact, and it’s part of the reason that I let folks copy material from my Web site for free.

    It’s also why I don’t think the RIAA’s fight is mine. While copying music without permission of the copyright owner is both legally and morally wrong, I don’t for even half a second believe that the RIAA is sincere in trying to protect the rights of their artists; rather, I think they’re desperate to maintain control over the distribution and promotion of music. I seem to recall reading a peer-reviewed study a few years back that demonstrated that online music piracy economically benefits artists, because it exposes them to a wider audience, many of whom eventually buy the albums. (That’s certainly been the case with me; on many occasions I’ve had friends give me copy of a CD or a mixed tape, and then bought the album. I owe my entire Sisters of Mercy collection, which includes not only all their albums but also rare imports and live concert albums I bought, sometimes at great expense, to a single mixed tape that someone gave me about twelve years ago. Not only have I bought every album, I’ve seen them in concert as well, all because that one mixed tape got me hooked. But I digress.)

    Anyway, I absolutely agree with Mr. Flint’s ideas, and I think that in the long run exposure generates more profit for content creators.

    The part that irks me is not the copying so much as the plagiarism. (In two cases I discovered today, folks had not only lifted stuff from my site without attribution, they had stuck their OWN copyright notice on it, which shows an appalling amount of gall that it’s hard to fathom.)

    The argument he makes breaks down as soon as someone starts passing off the work of another as his own. I bet if I took his novels, removed his name from the cover and stick mine on it, and then started selling them from my Web site, he’d be none too pleased–and rightly so.

  75. True, but you could also argue that the reputation of the Torrent seeders is value. It’s not money, but it is a reward that they prize, and are willing to violate the law to obtain. Just as not all property is tangible, so are not all rewards for illegal behavior tangible. πŸ™‚

  76. Yeah. It’s bad when intellectual property is violated for non-commercial purposes; it gets particularly annoying when it’s done by organized criminals for profit.

    The fact that someone would pirate your work for monetary gain in such a clear-cut way is appalling.

  77. Yep, music is definitely a special case, for the reasons you cite and more. I tend to come down (obviously) on the side of content creators when it comes to intellectual property issues, but I do not believe the RIAA’s fight is my fight, much as they like to pretend they’re trying to protect the rights of the artists. (Protect the outrageous revenue stream that let them snort cocaine off the breasts of five thousand dollar a night hookers is more like it, if you ask me…was that my out-loud voice?)

  78. Ugh. My sympathies; that really sucks. It really does seem to me that the folks who bleat the most loudly when they’re caught copying or otherwise misusing someone else’s work are the folks who can’t or don’t produce anything themselves.

  79. I definitely agree about the term limits on copyright, and I think that the efforts on the part of large companies like Disney to extend copyright in perpetuity in some ways shows that they don’t really believe they’re capable of producing another Mickey Mouse. Walt is long dead; the idea that his works should continue to be protected to enrich the company he founded is absurd.

    • I heard someone postulate that the EU was onboard with the extension of copyrighting in large part to prevent the public-domaining of Mein Kampf. And that their interest combined with the Mouse’s interest would wind up with copyright being extended so far that nothing new would enter public domain.

      This may have been specious claim, and I have never managed to remember it when I had the spoons to look it up. Has anyone here heard the same thing?

      • Intresting. According to this article, the copyright is indeed expiring soon on Mein Kampf, and some folks are arguing in favor of an annotated reprint before that happens to help head off right-wing neo-Nazis once the book enters the public domain.

        I suspect distribution will still be regulated in Germany even after it expires, much as it is now.

  80. I definitely agree about the term limits on copyright, and I think that the efforts on the part of large companies like Disney to extend copyright in perpetuity in some ways shows that they don’t really believe they’re capable of producing another Mickey Mouse. Walt is long dead; the idea that his works should continue to be protected to enrich the company he founded is absurd.

  81. Out of curiosity, is there anything you do steal? I thought I remembered you mentioning pirating some or another TV show a little while ago, but maybe my memory is off on that.

    Nope, you are correct. I talked about Torrenting the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica a while ago.

    So, yeah, you can easily argue that I’m being a bit two-faced here. In my own defense, though, turning to BitTorrent was a last resort, after everything else I had tried had failed. I own two copies of seasons 1-3 (I bought them first on iTunes, then bought the DVD collection when it came out), and I tried very hard to buy Season 4 as well. For some reason, it’s not available on iTunes like the first three seasons were, and it’s also not available on DVD. I even tried renting it, but the fact that it’s not out on DVD means (naturally) the movie rental places don’t have it.

    I assume it will eventually be available, and when it is I will buy it, but I don’t have cable TV (and, for that matter, don’t even own a TV set) so legal options weren’t available.

  82. Out of curiosity, is there anything you do steal? I thought I remembered you mentioning pirating some or another TV show a little while ago, but maybe my memory is off on that.

    Nope, you are correct. I talked about Torrenting the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica a while ago.

    So, yeah, you can easily argue that I’m being a bit two-faced here. In my own defense, though, turning to BitTorrent was a last resort, after everything else I had tried had failed. I own two copies of seasons 1-3 (I bought them first on iTunes, then bought the DVD collection when it came out), and I tried very hard to buy Season 4 as well. For some reason, it’s not available on iTunes like the first three seasons were, and it’s also not available on DVD. I even tried renting it, but the fact that it’s not out on DVD means (naturally) the movie rental places don’t have it.

    I assume it will eventually be available, and when it is I will buy it, but I don’t have cable TV (and, for that matter, don’t even own a TV set) so legal options weren’t available.

  83. that original work of art is worth significantly more than any reproductions.
    I’ve always thought that was perverse. The only thing I can think is that it’s basically memorabilia value, owning a piece of history, on top of the actual art.

  84. More often than not, I sit back and am awed by your logic and reason. This time, I can’t go there.

    Without a huge diatribe and subsequent litany we’d engage in, here’s the basics:

    – this society is all about how much time you can spend producing and how little you can pay other’s to do the same. “Discount” is a word that changes peoples metabolism.
    – Intellectual property is perceived as 100% profit product… hence violating the first rule above. It’s like paying for vapor with sweat.
    – I do agree that this society’s intellectual class… nay, the world’s… is a sidelined sub culture and is routinely discriminated against and disenfranchised from the mainstream. I’ve been chirping this song for years… alien minority vs the neanderthal majority.
    – for the above reasons.. with others such as being a rather generous and conspiratory population, ‘sharing’ or buying on ‘sale’ to sidestep the expending of one’s own contribution of labor… is almost something people are unable to control. As an example, watch the stampede videos of school board $50.00 laptop sales and you of course allude to the wildly popular pastime of file sharing online.

    You also touch on another aspect of getting over on neanderthals… give shit away. It is a cost of doing business. I am doing it right now. Take my photos… I don’t care, the more you take free, the more money I make as my name becomes more well known. Do you think Plato got paid much for his Republic? But by all due records of his actual life, he lived well from his other pursuits… which depended on his perceived value (fame).

    You are head butting human nature. Aliens work the system and profit with less personal angst.

    Your neighbor? Comcast is a bunch of idiots (and that is well known too). They’d work past your industrious wall sharer if they piped in scrambled signal and rent him a box so he has no incentive to grab the dirty pipe from the box outside.

    • Head butting human nature seems to be what I do. πŸ™‚

      I’m curious–how would you feel if someone distributed one of your photos, but removed your name and took credit for the work themselves?

  85. More often than not, I sit back and am awed by your logic and reason. This time, I can’t go there.

    Without a huge diatribe and subsequent litany we’d engage in, here’s the basics:

    – this society is all about how much time you can spend producing and how little you can pay other’s to do the same. “Discount” is a word that changes peoples metabolism.
    – Intellectual property is perceived as 100% profit product… hence violating the first rule above. It’s like paying for vapor with sweat.
    – I do agree that this society’s intellectual class… nay, the world’s… is a sidelined sub culture and is routinely discriminated against and disenfranchised from the mainstream. I’ve been chirping this song for years… alien minority vs the neanderthal majority.
    – for the above reasons.. with others such as being a rather generous and conspiratory population, ‘sharing’ or buying on ‘sale’ to sidestep the expending of one’s own contribution of labor… is almost something people are unable to control. As an example, watch the stampede videos of school board $50.00 laptop sales and you of course allude to the wildly popular pastime of file sharing online.

    You also touch on another aspect of getting over on neanderthals… give shit away. It is a cost of doing business. I am doing it right now. Take my photos… I don’t care, the more you take free, the more money I make as my name becomes more well known. Do you think Plato got paid much for his Republic? But by all due records of his actual life, he lived well from his other pursuits… which depended on his perceived value (fame).

    You are head butting human nature. Aliens work the system and profit with less personal angst.

    Your neighbor? Comcast is a bunch of idiots (and that is well known too). They’d work past your industrious wall sharer if they piped in scrambled signal and rent him a box so he has no incentive to grab the dirty pipe from the box outside.

  86. The sad thing is that I wouldn’t have as much trouble with it if he hadn’t falsified the citations page. If he just used it without attribution and pointed us to the set when asked directly, I’d call it standard academic use. (though I don’t know if academic fair use technically has to be cited within the presentation or not).

    Meh.
    This is the same instructor that brought us the gem:
    “I am the teacher, you are the student. I teach, you learn.”
    He’s also not from this continent which, does, I believe, have a strong negative effect on his usefulness in the classroom. Both attitude towards students and his patterns of speech get in the way of effective teaching, and that’s not even beginning to discuss whether I think he actually knows the material or not.

  87. I heard someone postulate that the EU was onboard with the extension of copyrighting in large part to prevent the public-domaining of Mein Kampf. And that their interest combined with the Mouse’s interest would wind up with copyright being extended so far that nothing new would enter public domain.

    This may have been specious claim, and I have never managed to remember it when I had the spoons to look it up. Has anyone here heard the same thing?

  88. Intresting. According to this article, the copyright is indeed expiring soon on Mein Kampf, and some folks are arguing in favor of an annotated reprint before that happens to help head off right-wing neo-Nazis once the book enters the public domain.

    I suspect distribution will still be regulated in Germany even after it expires, much as it is now.

  89. Head butting human nature seems to be what I do. πŸ™‚

    I’m curious–how would you feel if someone distributed one of your photos, but removed your name and took credit for the work themselves?

  90. Maybe I should, but… a self-published book in Greek on an obscure topic, marketed from an ugly website, and so pathetic that even the cover is plagiarized? I really doubt that there will *be* profits. I have my own comics on sale through my website, and I’ve sold like 1 volume in 6 months, despite the original and sexy covers. ^_^

    Also technically it’s not even my photo, the real owner is probably Sven’s ex-wife…

  91. I know precisely what you mean!

    What’s worse is when the material is stolen to harass and make fun of you.

    If anything, photographs are one of the most easily-stolen and hardest to defend. I’ve had several cases where folks stole copies of photos then had the audacity to turn around and claim “fair use” on the entire photo – when they didn’t even bother giving me credit!

    After the inauguration, I and some others will be lobbying Congress to amend a few laws – especially the one on “free use”. We don’t feel it is fair at all for someone to literally steal something from a private individual and claim “fair use”.

    I can also greatly identify with that “sense of entitlement” you spoke about. I encountered that and more when I was fighting for the rights on my photographs.

    Hugs,
    L

  92. I know precisely what you mean!

    What’s worse is when the material is stolen to harass and make fun of you.

    If anything, photographs are one of the most easily-stolen and hardest to defend. I’ve had several cases where folks stole copies of photos then had the audacity to turn around and claim “fair use” on the entire photo – when they didn’t even bother giving me credit!

    After the inauguration, I and some others will be lobbying Congress to amend a few laws – especially the one on “free use”. We don’t feel it is fair at all for someone to literally steal something from a private individual and claim “fair use”.

    I can also greatly identify with that “sense of entitlement” you spoke about. I encountered that and more when I was fighting for the rights on my photographs.

    Hugs,
    L

  93. I’d likely file a DMCA complaint to his ISP and have his Web site shut down

    That works, unless they decide to counter-DMCA, which then means you have to take it to court and prove the infringement…

    …and some people think you’re admitting it’s not really your work if you can’t afford to take it to court.

    I’ve had many a troll pull that one on me.

    L

  94. You could argue that, but I think that over simplifies and loses a key distinction as to the motive of pirates (which I took to be a key part of your original post). Some people do pirate stuff for commercial gain; others use pirated stuff for whatever reason (you covered some of them); yet others pirate stuff simply because they can.

    Understanding the motivation is a prerequisite to tackling the problem.

  95. And because of that I think you need to distinguish between plagiarism and piracy. Whilst there may be some technical overlap between them (copying of work without permission) they’re not the same.

    (BTW, I love the Baen library; between that and the CDs they put out I have 199 free books from them; I’ve also bought at least 33 dead trees as a result of authors I’ve read in the library which I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise).

  96. I no longer read Harlan Ellison because he’s getting to be even more of an asshole with age, committed a vile invasion of space upon one of my very favorite authors during what should have been one of her greatest moments of professional triumph, and because he doesn’t seem to have anything interesting to say anymore (perhaps the mail-order idea service in Schenectady went out of business). But draconian views on media distribution are another nice nail in the coffin.

  97. Well, we all seem to agree it’s wrong. We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether or not it’s theft. I think that description fits very well, though I’ll add that your “violation of rights” fits well also.

  98. Interesting insights. There is one thing you didn’t mention that I believe is also relevant: people who undervalue the efforts of others sometimes start from the position of undervaluing their own. Perhaps this isn’t apparent in writing circles, but I’ve seen it cited as a source of frustration for people that sell hand-knit wares. They have trouble getting people to pay them fare price for their effort and time because others don’t realize that these things are worth anything and sell their wares for nothing more than cost of materials. (Worse, some of those even pay the costs of shipping the product to you, or the price for a craft table at market.)

    It relates to the idea that people with a stake in intellectual property seeing things differently. Some of them first need to realize that they actually have a personal stake in seeing it respected. That doesn’t excuse them for showing a lack of consideration toward others any more than it does the people who want it both ways, but it does suggest another part of the solution.

    • That’s definitely true, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about posting in its own topic. People often do undervalue the efforts of others, particularly when they don’t know how to do something themselves.

  99. Interesting insights. There is one thing you didn’t mention that I believe is also relevant: people who undervalue the efforts of others sometimes start from the position of undervaluing their own. Perhaps this isn’t apparent in writing circles, but I’ve seen it cited as a source of frustration for people that sell hand-knit wares. They have trouble getting people to pay them fare price for their effort and time because others don’t realize that these things are worth anything and sell their wares for nothing more than cost of materials. (Worse, some of those even pay the costs of shipping the product to you, or the price for a craft table at market.)

    It relates to the idea that people with a stake in intellectual property seeing things differently. Some of them first need to realize that they actually have a personal stake in seeing it respected. That doesn’t excuse them for showing a lack of consideration toward others any more than it does the people who want it both ways, but it does suggest another part of the solution.

  100. The fourth season hasn’t finished airing yet (next episode is january 16th), which would explain it’s lack of availability via other means since they don’t usually publish the dvds etc until after the season has aired.

  101. The fourth season hasn’t finished airing yet (next episode is january 16th), which would explain it’s lack of availability via other means since they don’t usually publish the dvds etc until after the season has aired.

  102. That’s definitely true, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about posting in its own topic. People often do undervalue the efforts of others, particularly when they don’t know how to do something themselves.

  103. Thanks for the clarification. In that case my ~only~ objection is that by including an incomplete citations page he strongly implies that he wrote the slide set himself.

  104. *nods* That’s where I object — I always cite my sources (if I know them — I do admit to reposting images found on LJ in my own journal for non-commercial use, but I at least post who I got them from!) and I would never steal someone’s written work, but I will steal and listen to music.

    However, if I *like* the music, I will make a point of buying the album (preferably directly from the artist if at all possible), because I do appreciate the work of the artist in creating the songs.

    I am not, however, a fan of the RIAA and their effect on, say, the soon-to-be death of Internet radio at their hands. Their insistence on only using the old business model has, as you said, shot them in the foot. I’m angry that they still have so much power and influence, because they really don’t represent artists, they represent people who make *money* off of artists. Big difference, in my book.

    — A :/

  105. You simply cannot compare physical and intellectual property. The cost of copying information approaches zero, and I cannot think of ANY physical object which is comparable. Your “joy ride” example risks a car crash, worries that it was stolen, and simply depriving you of it for a time; that’s comparable to hacking in to someone’s computer to steal files, not copyright infringement.

    “Bluntly, you don’t have the right to benefit from someone else’s work without paying that person, even if you would rather go without than pay.”

    I think this sums up the very simple philosophical difference between your stance and mine.

    Mine: “You do not have the right to deprive me of happiness and freedom, unless it comes at a cost to you. If there is zero opportunity cost, then you have absolutely no moral right to deny it to me.”

    If I pirate at a hypothetical Zero Cost, I gain and you lose nothing. That is a universal positive net gain. The only thing it threatens is your power and entitlement.

    That said, I think there’s plenty of grey areas here. Your photoshop example is actually a great one. Conversely, who suffers if my choice is between GIMP and a pirated copy of Photoshop? I agree that intellectual property deserves some protection, but comparing it to tangible objects is absurd since my copy has caused you to lose exactly $0.00. It may have deprived you of a gain of $100, but that’s not illegal; I can do that by just not buying from you in the first place πŸ™‚

  106. You simply cannot compare physical and intellectual property. The cost of copying information approaches zero, and I cannot think of ANY physical object which is comparable. Your “joy ride” example risks a car crash, worries that it was stolen, and simply depriving you of it for a time; that’s comparable to hacking in to someone’s computer to steal files, not copyright infringement.

    “Bluntly, you don’t have the right to benefit from someone else’s work without paying that person, even if you would rather go without than pay.”

    I think this sums up the very simple philosophical difference between your stance and mine.

    Mine: “You do not have the right to deprive me of happiness and freedom, unless it comes at a cost to you. If there is zero opportunity cost, then you have absolutely no moral right to deny it to me.”

    If I pirate at a hypothetical Zero Cost, I gain and you lose nothing. That is a universal positive net gain. The only thing it threatens is your power and entitlement.

    That said, I think there’s plenty of grey areas here. Your photoshop example is actually a great one. Conversely, who suffers if my choice is between GIMP and a pirated copy of Photoshop? I agree that intellectual property deserves some protection, but comparing it to tangible objects is absurd since my copy has caused you to lose exactly $0.00. It may have deprived you of a gain of $100, but that’s not illegal; I can do that by just not buying from you in the first place πŸ™‚

  107. but from a business standpoint, things don’t end there– somebody has to take that invention and turn it into a product and sell it. if the original inventor is still involved, he’s the world’s foremost expert on his invention and even if his plans and schematics were distributed free to everyone in the world, the company he’s involved with is going to be at the forefront of innovation in that product and will probably dominate the market anyway

    That’s actually not true, and there are several examples of markets where that’s not true. The ability to conceive an invention isn’t necessarily the same as the ability to capitalize on and market that invention, and in some cases, the invention’s nature is such that the person who invented it doesn’t necessarily have an advantage over everyone else.

    Two real-world examples are the pulse detonation engine and the Mag-Lite.

    The pulse detonation engine is a type of jet engine that’s currently under development. It works by creating supersonic shock waves in a combustion chamber; these supersonic shock waves cause detonation (rather than deflagration, or ordinary burning) of jet fuel. The result is an engine that burns less fuel, has fewer moving parts, produces more thrust, and works at higher speed than a regular jet engine.

    The development of a working pulse detonation engine would revolutionize airplanes. It would result in safer, faster, more fuel-efficient planes with longer ranges and greater capabilities. It would save billions of dollars in fuel for passenger jets alone, while simultaneously making passenger planes faster and more reliable. It’s a big deal, in short.

    A pulse detonation engine mechanically is very simple. There’s a gotcha, though. The most critical part appears to be the exact shape of the combustion chamber, which must be carefully tuned to promote supersonic shock waves. Designing the combustion chamber is challenging the limits of our ability to understand and model fluid dynamics. All the major aircraft companies have already spent tens or hundreds of millions of dollars trying to develop working pulse detonation engines.

    Because they are so simple, any engineer who sees one working would surely be able to duplicate it. Once the shape is right, that’s it; you’re done. A company that spent $100,000,000 developing a pulse detonation engine, only to see its design copied by a rival, would not be able to catch up; it’s rival would be $100,000,000 ahead when it comes to marketing, tooling, manufacturing, and promotion. The principles are so simple that the company that developed it would not automatically have a greater understanding of it than anyone else.

    The second example is the Mag-Lite. It was developed by a single inventor working in his garage, who wanted to develop a strong flashlight with a sealed switch that was reliable in extreme conditions. It’s a classic American success story–he started out making them all by hand in his garage, he marketed them himself, and he built a successful business from his idea.

    There was an article about him in a recent issue of Fortune Small Business (a magazine to which I subscribe). Today, nearly 30% of his company’s gross profits are spent fighting off rivals who are infringing his patent. Several elements of the Mag-Lite are protected by patent, but that doesn’t prevent much larger companies all over the world from trying to take his business by producing their own flashlights using his design, rather than come up with their own design. Patent attorneys and patent suits consume more than one dollar out of every four that he earns. If he were to stop pursuing the people who infringe his patent, he would likely go out of business; most of the infringers are much larger and wealthier than he is.

  108. I didn’t know that about the Mag-Lite inventor – namely, Anthony Maglica – before. I can’t say it surprises me. A name that did come to mind was James Dyson, whose vacuum cleaners that never lose suction were something he had to fight for tooth and nail after inventing them, dueling with the likes of Electrolux to defend his invention and actually manage to earn a profit. Thankfully, he succeeded.

    The first name that came to my mind was, of course, Philo T. Farnsworth, a name pretty much everybody should know but pretty much no one does. I doubt any other inventor ever made an invention so very societally expansive and defining and yet was so screwed out of proper recognition as he, not to mention how very repurposed his invention largely became. I bet the tale of Robert Kearns told in Flash of Genius pales in comparison. – ZM, who is intentionally not saying what Mr. Farnsworth invented in the hope that readers look it up themselves, crap their pants, and remember it

  109. Several years later…

    (Comment in several parts!)

    Yeah, I’m arriving pretty late on the debate but I only discovered your blog recently and has a lot of catching up to do. Not sure if you still read the comments several years after a post… Anyway, although I do love your writing and has already spent hours reading and thinking of your material, this is one rant I cannot simply put out of my mind. This is SO SO WRONG.

    I’d like to present my apologies for the upcoming looooong comment, as well as for any mistake I might make since English is not my native language. I’m French btw (that’d be relevant further on).

    Now before I go into full Ranta McRanterson on you (^^), I’d like to start by adressing two things that really bothered me while reading the rant and the comments : a) you mix up notions to arrive to your point and b) you’re quite two-faced on the subject. Yeah, I know it might sound harsh, but let me clear that up.

    First off, with the hypocritical side of the story. You explain that you downloaded a tv show because you couldn’t find it anywhere (and a reader pointed out that it was because the show WASN’T OVER, so kudos to you for not taking 2 mn to check that out first). We’re talking about a goddamn tv show here. That couldn’t wait a few more months because… ? There’s no going around it, if you decide that piracy is wrong, you can’t just bend the rules to match your needs. It’s just a show ; waiting a few more weeks / months to get it isn’t going to change your life. You downloaded consciously because you wanted to watch it, end of the story. That’s one of my pet peeves actually : intent doesn’t make things right. Either you have principles, or you don’t. If you can bend them to fit your needs, you don’t, and that’s it. Even if you know that you’re gonna buy it later on, it doesn’t make it right. Same goes for video games. You say that you have to download cracks for your games on mac. Not going into a whole pc vs mac argument, but no, you shouldn’t do it. If you paid for a PC game, that’s your goddam fault if you can’t run it on your computer. And according to your line of thinking, you’re depriving PC manufacturers of their hard-earned money right there for your benefits. No way around it either : either you have principles, or you don’t. You can decide not to buy the game, you can decide to wait for your tv show to be released on DVD. Your choice, your principles.

  110. Several years later…

    (Comment in several parts!)

    Yeah, I’m arriving pretty late on the debate but I only discovered your blog recently and has a lot of catching up to do. Not sure if you still read the comments several years after a post… Anyway, although I do love your writing and has already spent hours reading and thinking of your material, this is one rant I cannot simply put out of my mind. This is SO SO WRONG.

    I’d like to present my apologies for the upcoming looooong comment, as well as for any mistake I might make since English is not my native language. I’m French btw (that’d be relevant further on).

    Now before I go into full Ranta McRanterson on you (^^), I’d like to start by adressing two things that really bothered me while reading the rant and the comments : a) you mix up notions to arrive to your point and b) you’re quite two-faced on the subject. Yeah, I know it might sound harsh, but let me clear that up.

    First off, with the hypocritical side of the story. You explain that you downloaded a tv show because you couldn’t find it anywhere (and a reader pointed out that it was because the show WASN’T OVER, so kudos to you for not taking 2 mn to check that out first). We’re talking about a goddamn tv show here. That couldn’t wait a few more months because… ? There’s no going around it, if you decide that piracy is wrong, you can’t just bend the rules to match your needs. It’s just a show ; waiting a few more weeks / months to get it isn’t going to change your life. You downloaded consciously because you wanted to watch it, end of the story. That’s one of my pet peeves actually : intent doesn’t make things right. Either you have principles, or you don’t. If you can bend them to fit your needs, you don’t, and that’s it. Even if you know that you’re gonna buy it later on, it doesn’t make it right. Same goes for video games. You say that you have to download cracks for your games on mac. Not going into a whole pc vs mac argument, but no, you shouldn’t do it. If you paid for a PC game, that’s your goddam fault if you can’t run it on your computer. And according to your line of thinking, you’re depriving PC manufacturers of their hard-earned money right there for your benefits. No way around it either : either you have principles, or you don’t. You can decide not to buy the game, you can decide to wait for your tv show to be released on DVD. Your choice, your principles.

  111. Several years later…

    (Part 2/3)

    Now before I go into the mindset of piracy, I’d like to start by explaining to you why some people download like crazy indepently of money problems or entitlement (but I’ll go there later on). I’m a mad pirate, I download all my tv shows and quite a lot of movies too. My SO is an avid music pirate. We are not ashamed of it. In my country, there is nothing such as Netflix. If you want to watch a show, you have to watch it on TV. That is a huge problem for me since I don’t have a tv and haven’t had one since I decided not to watch it anymore at age 15. It’s been over 15 years. I love tv shows but I hate watching them on tv network for a lot of reasons : they’re (poorly) dubbed ; channels don’t always give a season in the right order, making it hard to follow ; I have never been able to stand advertising (so if I watch something on tv, I usually just turn it off after the first commercial break, it drives me nut, but that’s another story altogether) ; I can’t adapt my schedule around a show (that usually starts at a specific time on a specific day). So yeah, I can’t really watch shows on tv ; I did try when I was younger, but it’s near impossible for me. Now if I really love a show, of course I’ll buy it, and rewatch it from time to time, but the point is, if a show is still running, I want to be able to enjoy it on my terms : original voices, no commercial break, on my schedule. I don’t feel guilty about it. My SO does the same with music : download an album, listen to it, and then decide to buy it. Why ? Because music shops (at least where we live) don’t allow you to listen to the albums in their shop any more. So if he doesn’t want to throw his money at random, he samples it first. As for movies, the story is pretty close too. We have a subscription to a rental shop, and I go there about twice a week, but the truth is that they mostly have huge blockbusters. If I’m looking for some indy films, if I want something that is not a classic or a recent release, I won’t find it. It’s pretty limited. And the cinema in my city only have dubbed movies too, wich I really much dislike. Now I really don’t care about watching the Avengers or the last Michael Bay movie. But I do care about watching Adam’s Apples or Mirrormask. And before I buy these DVDs, I’d like to watch them, because I can’t AFFORD to be disappointed, financially speaking. But I can afford to be culturally so.

    And now for the next part of my rant. The way you present things mights sound fair to you, but is absolutely awful for me : you basically just told me that culture / leisure is for the wealthy only. I know, it sounds like I’m interpreting, but bear with me. πŸ™‚
    The sad truth is that I don’t have much money. I’m happy if I can go out once or twice a month. I buy books every three months or so ; I don’t buy as much DVDs as I used to. I always finish my month with an overdraft on my bank account. I don’t go shopping, I don’t travel, I don’t do many things fun actually because I can’t afford to. So when you say “if you can’t pay for it, you shouldn’t be able to enjoy it”, what I hear is “if you’re not rich enough, bugger off”. And that makes me angry. Thing is, I’m a sharer. I am an avid reader. And whenever I come across a book I particularly enjoy, I tell my friends to read it and I lend them the book. And if they read something nice, they lend it to me. No exchanged money, that’s not the point : that’s cool, you should read it, take it, I’m happy if you discover an awesome writer in the process. Just like my friend and I exchange books, we exchange movies. And TV shows. And CDs. And magazines. I don’t think “oh the poor artist, he won’t get the money from my friends now!”. I don’t feel guilty when I give a book to my friends. And I certainly don’t feel guilty whatsoever when I borrow one from them. And when I’m downloading, I don’t feel guilty because for me it’s the same process, although instead of having a friend telling me “it’s great, you should check it out, please read it”, it’s the Internet telling me “it’s great, check it out!”.

  112. Several years later…

    (Part 2/3)

    Now before I go into the mindset of piracy, I’d like to start by explaining to you why some people download like crazy indepently of money problems or entitlement (but I’ll go there later on). I’m a mad pirate, I download all my tv shows and quite a lot of movies too. My SO is an avid music pirate. We are not ashamed of it. In my country, there is nothing such as Netflix. If you want to watch a show, you have to watch it on TV. That is a huge problem for me since I don’t have a tv and haven’t had one since I decided not to watch it anymore at age 15. It’s been over 15 years. I love tv shows but I hate watching them on tv network for a lot of reasons : they’re (poorly) dubbed ; channels don’t always give a season in the right order, making it hard to follow ; I have never been able to stand advertising (so if I watch something on tv, I usually just turn it off after the first commercial break, it drives me nut, but that’s another story altogether) ; I can’t adapt my schedule around a show (that usually starts at a specific time on a specific day). So yeah, I can’t really watch shows on tv ; I did try when I was younger, but it’s near impossible for me. Now if I really love a show, of course I’ll buy it, and rewatch it from time to time, but the point is, if a show is still running, I want to be able to enjoy it on my terms : original voices, no commercial break, on my schedule. I don’t feel guilty about it. My SO does the same with music : download an album, listen to it, and then decide to buy it. Why ? Because music shops (at least where we live) don’t allow you to listen to the albums in their shop any more. So if he doesn’t want to throw his money at random, he samples it first. As for movies, the story is pretty close too. We have a subscription to a rental shop, and I go there about twice a week, but the truth is that they mostly have huge blockbusters. If I’m looking for some indy films, if I want something that is not a classic or a recent release, I won’t find it. It’s pretty limited. And the cinema in my city only have dubbed movies too, wich I really much dislike. Now I really don’t care about watching the Avengers or the last Michael Bay movie. But I do care about watching Adam’s Apples or Mirrormask. And before I buy these DVDs, I’d like to watch them, because I can’t AFFORD to be disappointed, financially speaking. But I can afford to be culturally so.

    And now for the next part of my rant. The way you present things mights sound fair to you, but is absolutely awful for me : you basically just told me that culture / leisure is for the wealthy only. I know, it sounds like I’m interpreting, but bear with me. πŸ™‚
    The sad truth is that I don’t have much money. I’m happy if I can go out once or twice a month. I buy books every three months or so ; I don’t buy as much DVDs as I used to. I always finish my month with an overdraft on my bank account. I don’t go shopping, I don’t travel, I don’t do many things fun actually because I can’t afford to. So when you say “if you can’t pay for it, you shouldn’t be able to enjoy it”, what I hear is “if you’re not rich enough, bugger off”. And that makes me angry. Thing is, I’m a sharer. I am an avid reader. And whenever I come across a book I particularly enjoy, I tell my friends to read it and I lend them the book. And if they read something nice, they lend it to me. No exchanged money, that’s not the point : that’s cool, you should read it, take it, I’m happy if you discover an awesome writer in the process. Just like my friend and I exchange books, we exchange movies. And TV shows. And CDs. And magazines. I don’t think “oh the poor artist, he won’t get the money from my friends now!”. I don’t feel guilty when I give a book to my friends. And I certainly don’t feel guilty whatsoever when I borrow one from them. And when I’m downloading, I don’t feel guilty because for me it’s the same process, although instead of having a friend telling me “it’s great, you should check it out, please read it”, it’s the Internet telling me “it’s great, check it out!”.

  113. Several years later…

    Which brings me to my next point : the mindset of piracy. I know people who are seeders. Contrarily to what you assume (and if I recall, I read somewhere on this very website that it’s something one should avoid doing), most seeders don’t do it for some intangible recognition. Honestly now, how many of them can you name? I think I could give you about two or three names, tops. The seeders I know do it from a democratic principle. Yeah, sounds all naive and fairytale like, but please, let me explain. Just like when I lend a book to a friend or colleague out of kindness, they do the same on a grand scale out of kindness for the whole world to share. They have nothing to gain (except maybe a ride in a police car if they get caught). BUT they do firmly believe that people should have access to cultural mediums, wherever they come from. I’m not saying it’s not debatable, nor that they all think the same, but that’s the guys I know. For the same reasons (yeah, we do talk a lot about this), a lot of them haven’t bought a disc in year (too expensive and going straight to the record company’s pockets), but they DO go to a lot of concerts (the money being mostly given to the performers). I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do either, but that’s how they think of it : they donate if they can, and they do what feels right to them. If going to a venue brings more money to the artists than buying their CDs, they CHOSE to download the latter and buy concert tickets. So yeah, that’s debatable, but it explains their mindset and I do think there is value in it. The same people also are highly into unsigned artists and go to their show, I think that even if you don’t agree with them, you can see a pattern emerging here : what you feel is wrong is what they feel is right, because they’re out to spread the word and support what they love, and they want to share it with the world.

    No crediting people’s work is something else entirely, and I don’t see it on the same level. Yes, plagiarism does exist and is punishable. And it does drive me crazy, don’t get me wrong. And if people refuse to credit an author of his work I do feel it’s irrespectful. And yes, some people do think that they are entitled to anything on the web and will go nuts if you tell them. I remember a few years back, I used to read a French blog that I really loved. The guy made a lot of grammatical mistakes, which was painful, but I kept reading because it was terribly fun. The subjects he treated were always interesting yet amusing, in a pretty unique way. Until one day, I liked so much one of his articles that I did some digging to see if I could find similar articles on the subject. I found instead an American website that, well, had the exact same content, safe for the fact it was written several months before the blogger’s article. Since the website looked pretty cool, I started reading articles on it too. And I discovered that 90 % of the French blogger’s content was simply a bad translation of this specific website. I was thouroughly disappointed, and when he posted a new article a few weeks later that was yet another rip-off of the American’s website, I asked him nicely why he didn’t credit the source. The backlash was enormous. People loved him and of course I was a bitch for pointing out such a lie (nitpicking all he had changed to cater to French audience that doesn’t necessarily get very American references). I was shocked by the agressivity, but I can’t say I was surprised by the reaction. People prefer protecting what they know. So yeah, it sucks that your material is being lifted off by some irrespectful people, but it’s not surprising, and for me it’s not about piracy but human decency. If you’re not selling your articles, then you lose nothing financially speaking. However, you lose exposure and realise that some people are real scumbags. Bu you see that every day : someone repeating someone’s else theory as their own, or pretending to have in-depth info on a subject someone else has. And yes, they’re scumbags, but they’re not thieves, “just” irrespectful SOB.

  114. Several years later…

    Which brings me to my next point : the mindset of piracy. I know people who are seeders. Contrarily to what you assume (and if I recall, I read somewhere on this very website that it’s something one should avoid doing), most seeders don’t do it for some intangible recognition. Honestly now, how many of them can you name? I think I could give you about two or three names, tops. The seeders I know do it from a democratic principle. Yeah, sounds all naive and fairytale like, but please, let me explain. Just like when I lend a book to a friend or colleague out of kindness, they do the same on a grand scale out of kindness for the whole world to share. They have nothing to gain (except maybe a ride in a police car if they get caught). BUT they do firmly believe that people should have access to cultural mediums, wherever they come from. I’m not saying it’s not debatable, nor that they all think the same, but that’s the guys I know. For the same reasons (yeah, we do talk a lot about this), a lot of them haven’t bought a disc in year (too expensive and going straight to the record company’s pockets), but they DO go to a lot of concerts (the money being mostly given to the performers). I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do either, but that’s how they think of it : they donate if they can, and they do what feels right to them. If going to a venue brings more money to the artists than buying their CDs, they CHOSE to download the latter and buy concert tickets. So yeah, that’s debatable, but it explains their mindset and I do think there is value in it. The same people also are highly into unsigned artists and go to their show, I think that even if you don’t agree with them, you can see a pattern emerging here : what you feel is wrong is what they feel is right, because they’re out to spread the word and support what they love, and they want to share it with the world.

    No crediting people’s work is something else entirely, and I don’t see it on the same level. Yes, plagiarism does exist and is punishable. And it does drive me crazy, don’t get me wrong. And if people refuse to credit an author of his work I do feel it’s irrespectful. And yes, some people do think that they are entitled to anything on the web and will go nuts if you tell them. I remember a few years back, I used to read a French blog that I really loved. The guy made a lot of grammatical mistakes, which was painful, but I kept reading because it was terribly fun. The subjects he treated were always interesting yet amusing, in a pretty unique way. Until one day, I liked so much one of his articles that I did some digging to see if I could find similar articles on the subject. I found instead an American website that, well, had the exact same content, safe for the fact it was written several months before the blogger’s article. Since the website looked pretty cool, I started reading articles on it too. And I discovered that 90 % of the French blogger’s content was simply a bad translation of this specific website. I was thouroughly disappointed, and when he posted a new article a few weeks later that was yet another rip-off of the American’s website, I asked him nicely why he didn’t credit the source. The backlash was enormous. People loved him and of course I was a bitch for pointing out such a lie (nitpicking all he had changed to cater to French audience that doesn’t necessarily get very American references). I was shocked by the agressivity, but I can’t say I was surprised by the reaction. People prefer protecting what they know. So yeah, it sucks that your material is being lifted off by some irrespectful people, but it’s not surprising, and for me it’s not about piracy but human decency. If you’re not selling your articles, then you lose nothing financially speaking. However, you lose exposure and realise that some people are real scumbags. Bu you see that every day : someone repeating someone’s else theory as their own, or pretending to have in-depth info on a subject someone else has. And yes, they’re scumbags, but they’re not thieves, “just” irrespectful SOB.

  115. Several years later…

    (Oops, last part, I swear!)

    Now a quick word about the guy stealing your cable : that’s not piracy, that is theft. There is physical damage AND it prevents you from doing your work (or playing WOW). There are tangible consequences, and yes, that’s bad.

    Anyway, I’ll stop there because I’ve been apparently writing for a very long time. Merry Christmas ! ^_^

  116. Several years later…

    (Oops, last part, I swear!)

    Now a quick word about the guy stealing your cable : that’s not piracy, that is theft. There is physical damage AND it prevents you from doing your work (or playing WOW). There are tangible consequences, and yes, that’s bad.

    Anyway, I’ll stop there because I’ve been apparently writing for a very long time. Merry Christmas ! ^_^

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