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Jason Robert Brown debates rationalization of theft

By 5 July 2010 235 Comments

Updated 7/6/2010 - Slashdot posted a great discussion on intellectual property from famous composer Jason Robert Brown.  The debate highlights the divide between the rights owners and the rights violators.  For composers, they’re struggling to communicate to the public that they have a right to make a living off of their creations.  For content pirates, they go to great lengths to rationalize their own behavior.

A number of rationalizations made in comments to the Jason Robert Brown’s blog and the slashdot thread stuck out and I’ll debate some of them below.  The rationalizations in favor of piracy boiled down to the following concepts.

“It’s rude to refuse copies for friends”

The girl named “Eleanor” that tried to defend her actions for stealing Mr. Brown’s sheet music made the case that she would consider it “nasty” to refuse making an illegal copy of sheet music for her friend.  This is actually a very interesting point that needs to be addressed because the cultural reality is that it really is very uncomfortable to refuse making copies for friends.  It puts a person in the awkward position of being a morality police officer and it is very uncomfortable to have to turn a friend down and essentially accuse them of being a thief.

This is one of the key reasons that legal enforcement and DRM are needed because it helps make it more socially acceptable to refuse.  If a person is made aware of the illegality of distributing copies and it is technically difficult to make a copy, it’s far more socially acceptable for them to say “I don’t know how to make a copy” rather than “I refuse to give you a copy even though it can easily be done because it’s illegal”.

“We’re giving you great advertising so it’s OK to take your content”

The other common argument made to rationalize theft is that it is offset by the promotional value of having content more widely available.  The problem with this line of reasoning is that if everyone anoints themselves as promoters and decides to pay themselves with a free copy of the content, then the promotional value is worthless because everyone is a “promoter” and no one is paying.  It only works when the content owner has the sole right to appoint promoters.

“It’s the Internet dude, everyone does it”

More specifically, this argument basically says that because theft is so easy and so rampant and so difficult to enforce, then it is OK to steal.  Well it’s easy to take candy from a baby or kid too but that doesn’t make it OK to do.

As for “everyone” doing it, that simply isn’t true.  It is true that a lot of people (especially younger people who have to ask their parents for money) are stealing content, but not everyone is doing it.  But the fact that so many people are doing it only highlights the severity of the problem.  It’s like Tom and Joe both stole something and Tom argues that it’s OK because Joe did it tand then Joe arguing that it’s OK because Tom did it too.  This is circular logic and it has no merit.

“The record labels aren’t paying the artists enough so we should also steal from the artists”

I think the title is kind of self explanatory, except those who make this argument phrase it in a much more marketable way.  They argue that the record labels are stealing from the artists so it’s OK to then steal from the record labels.  Except the fallacy of this logic is that it hurts the artists and workers that work for those record labels as well.

“Change your business model since you can’t stop piracy”

This is one of the more common arguments I hear and it even comes from some of the more conservative types.  The fallacy of this argument is that the current business model still allows the artists to scrape by even if they’re suffering from piracy.  There hasn’t really been a “free” or advertisement based business model that has been shown to be significantly profitable or even profitable at all.  Those who argue for a change of business model can ignore this “minor detail”, but those whose livelihoods depend on copyright and the enforcement of it don’t have that luxury.

“Rich people shouldn’t be entitled to profits”

Most people who depend on copyrights probably aren’t rich and even if they are rich, it still doesn’t justify stealing from them.  The word “profit” is thrown around as something evil but there really is no functional difference between profit and income.  Denying someone of their greedy profit sounds righteous whereas denying someone their income sounds evil, but there is no difference.

“I can’t feel sorry for people with fancy MTV cribs”

See answer above.

“Only physical goods can be property”

The concept of property of any form was invented by society.  Before the concept of property, a person’s ability to keep it depended on their own physical prowess.  But even the strongest man in the tribe could be deprived of property by a pack of weaker men so the concept of law and property protected everyone.  It makes no difference if property is physical or intellectual.

“Stealing a song or video isn’t the same as stealing physical property”

The argument is made that because a piece of content can be replicated at no expense to the creator, and that the replication of that content does not deny someone else possession of an item that was bought with money, it’s not stealing.  The fallacy of this argument is that theft of a physical property deprives someone of past income, but theft of content deprives the creator of that content their future income.

Now we could argue that it’s not a 1:1 comparison because someone who downloaded $10,000 worth of content would never have bought that much content, but that person would have bought some content if he/she didn’t or couldn’t steal it.  Even if we say the person would have only bought $1,000 of content had they not stolen $10,000 of content, they’ve still stolen $1,000 someone’s earned income.  Aside from haggling over what fraction is theft, it is still theft.

“Just make society pay through taxes”

I talked about this before and we really need to ask ourselves if we want to start paying a tax on our computers and Internet access.  It’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you so do we really want the government doling out money to the artists and journalists.

“Today’s music is crap” [Added 8/30/2010]

If ever there was a good example of adding insult to injury, this would be one of them.  When someone is willing to go to the trouble of stealing a song, it’s clear that they value it.  But to call someone’s work “crap” and that it isn’t worth paying after stealing that person’s work is the ultimate slap in the face.

The fact of the matter is that there are very few geniuses in every generation.  The music of the past that we know of are all good because they survived the test of time.  The classics (not just classical music) are effectively a short list of the best music from past years and it’s difficult to compare the work of a few recent years to the classics.

My personal conclusion

First let me disclose that this conclusion is my personal opinion and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of Digital Society or Arts & Labs.

A lot of people will have a problem accepting my arguments in favor of copyright enforcement because it conflicts with their own downloading habits and it potentially forces them to deal with guilt.  But I’m not really trying to force people to feel guilty and I’m OK with it if they do *not* feel guilty.  I would hope that people can switch to legal means after they consider the damage they are doing, but if they won’t stop downloading then I don’t want them to feel guilty.  Guilt may force many people to rationalize their own behavior and drive them towards the free culture copyright abolitionist movement.

This is one of the few times that I would rather have people accept a position of hypocrisy if they must continue pirating content.  A person could be in favor of fines for traffic violations while routinely speeding or running yellow-to-red lights and hoping that they don’t get caught.  A person could be in favor of copyright laws and the enforcement of those laws while routinely violating them and hoping to avoid getting caught and fined.  While this state of mind is far from ideal, at least it offers some kind of protection to the artists rather than the zero protection offered by the free culture alternative.

235 Comments »

  • William F. Aicher said:

    I think you just listed every argument I’ve ever seen about why it’s okay to steal peoples’ stuff online – and you rebutted every one of them as well. Fantastic stuff here.

  • Sam Spink said:

    “It makes no difference if property is physical or intellectual”
    – Have you ever taken an economics course, or do you really need the concept of rivalrous and non-rivalrous goods explained again? And moreover, one cannot ever, ever, “steal” music; one can only infringe a copyright.

    “do we really want the government doling out money to the artists and journalists”
    Do we really want the government doing all your enforcement for you, cutting off the access rights of millions of people for the sole benefit of private businesses and rent-seekers that refuse to change? There would be no copyright business at all without a government-created monopoly right, which made some sense in a purely analog world but is now positively harmful to innovation and culture. The idea that copyright businesses constitute a “free market” of any kind is absurd.

    So much of your article is reactionary nonsense that it’s barely worth responding too. Really it is JRB’s tantrum, and subsequent closing of the comments section once responses turned to rational argument instead of sycophantic praise, that needs responding to. But as he says in a typically patronizing answer to one of his critics, “I’m not going to debate the experts on this.” Indeed he isn’t, because all available evidence does nothing to support his — or your — contentions.

  • George Ou (author) said:

    @Sam Spink

    It makes no difference if you’re stealing physical or intellectual property in the sense that you are depriving someone of their income. Stealing physical property means you’re depriving someone of their former income. Stealing intellectual property means you’re stealing future income, though it is likely a smaller fraction than stealing physical property. But it’s stealing at the end of the day no matter how many times you say it isn’t stealing.

  • Sam Spink said:

    George,

    Since when did “depriving someone of an (assumed) future income” become the definition of theft? Besides, playing semantic games is exactly the problem. Obfuscation of the complexity and lack of balance in debates over the issue is a feature in pro-absolutist copyright discourse, not a bug. I also note that you didn’t respond to my actual points.

    Adding, there is no hard evidence anywhere that proves that the availability of digital copies of a copyrighted work directly reduces sales of its physical version — btw studies paid for by content industries that hide their methodologies don’t count. Correlation (weak as it is) is not causation. You *assume* a future income has been “stolen” but you cannot steal something that *doesn’t exist yet* (except under your special definition) and you *cannot prove* that a downloaded digital version of something is a 1:1 substitute for a sale. The very smartest people who do intensive research in this area (ie not political hacks or industry flaks) agree that perhaps, maybe, about 20% of the decline in physical music sales over the past ten years is due to file-sharing. A refusal to meet consumer demands and years spent wasting time on DRM implementation, as well as the refusal to acknowledge that mobile devices and interactive games and apps have replaced teenagers’ spending on CDs and tapes, are far more likely culprit. I wonder if not reducing the price of CDs for the 30 years of that technology’s existence had anything to do with it?

    Finally, tarring the entire “free culture” movement as copyright abolitionists is absurd. Presumably you’re working from the same set of instructions that went out from ASCAP and Joe Biden last week. Creative Commons *depends* on copyright, it doesn’t seek to abolish it. The life of the “author” plus 95 years is an abolitionist stance on the public domain.

    You’re looking down the wrong end of the telescope on this issue, as JRB is. The interests of a self-selected class of “professional creators” do not and should not outweigh the interests of the next generation of information users. Your entire premise is based on the assumptions of industrial cultural production, a model that makes no sense at all to anyone born after 1990. Why not create new competitive markets to meet these people’s needs and desires — I believe it’s called “capitalism” — instead of calling everyone younger than you a thief and demanding ever more punitive measures from governments to prop up your anachronistic models?

  • George Ou (author) said:

    @Sam Spink

    If the law (which came from society) says that intellectual property owners are entitled to control their property and charge money for it, and you decide to break that law, you’re stealing. Now you’re entitled to work to try and change that law, but until you do, it is defined as theft by the law and by society as a whole.

    You’ve come up with an alternative theory that runs counter to existing law and you’re hoping to sway the majority of society to your alternative theory that people aren’t entitled to be paid for their creations, but you haven’t been able to do that yet. But that doesn’t mean you or anyone else gets to break the law just because you’ve decided that you don’t agree with the laws of most modern societies. Just because you’ve decided to say that stealing intellectual property isn’t theft doesn’t mean it isn’t theft in the eyes of the law and society.

    For example; rape isn’t legal because we as a society have decided to make it illegal even though it is a “natural” part of nature and animals. We’ve essentially decided that we would not tolerate living like animals. You or anyone else can’t come along and decide that you think that law is bad and proceed to break it without consequences. You’re arguing that just be cause a lot of people want free music, it should be legal. There are many bad men on this planet who think like animals that would benefit from legalized rape so why aren’t you arguing for the needs of those males? It would also benefit the masses (in the short run) if we legalized the looting of a few wealthy people so are you going to argue for them too? I mean we’re a democratic society right? Are we going to degenerate to mob rule where 10 wolves and 1 lamb vote on what to have for dinner? I hope not, at least not in civilized first world nations.

    Creative Commons is Copyleft, not Copyright. CC has restrictions on it like must-attribute or Noncommercial requirements, but it is advocating free usage of CC material.

  • Reactor said:

    A similar debate revolved around the taping of live concerts, and distribution of the recordings. Artists handled it differently. The Grateful Dead accommodated the tapers on the theory that distribution of concert tapes increased the demand for albums. Bob Dylan denounced the tapers and the distribution of bootlegs as theft.

    I would note that one of Dylan’s best recordings, “The Basement Tapes,” appeared first as a bootleg because Dylan didn’t like it and had refused to release it. Another bootleg, a record of his performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965, was eventually released as a regular album. People who had the bootleg bought the album. So, the whole “bootleg” issue is one case in which an absolutist view of copyright is misplaced.

    Beyond that, the extension of copyright far into the future is, in my opinion, abusive. It’s greedy and does nothing at all to encourage the creative process. Works should be in the public domain when their creator dies, or soon after.

    Music (recordings and sheet music) traded via the telecommunications network, i.e., the computer-to-computer transfers that we call “the Internet,” is a tougher issue. Pandora has evidently found a means of giving access to music for no incremental cost; they essentially recreate radio. Radio stations themselves transmit via the telecom network too.

    But now we have the ability to transfer entire copies of libraries from one computer to another, making it possible for whole groups of people to evade purchase to begin with. As morally satisfying as it is to lecture to an errant teenager, the reality is that many crimes are crimes of opportunity; if something is sitting out there for the taking, it’s going to be taken.

    Frankly, the issue now is really one of easier theft. After all, if someone checks the sheet music out of the public library and then uses it, or (just as likely) photocopies it, the cumbersome nature of doing it will tend to deter much of that sort of thievery. But if you can steal with a mouse click or two, well, then many people will do it.

    I really doubt that exhortations are going to get you too far. Maybe a better idea would be to flood the trading sites with copies of the first couple of pages of your sheet music, with a notice saying that you’re offering a buck off for people who buy the rest, plus access to a website where they can play podcasts of you talking about your music and playing short selections of it.

    Come on, Mr. Brown, you’re a creative man, so be creative.

  • Reactor said:

    Something to point out: Patents and copyrights don’t exist to protect property rights. They exist to reward creation. And yes, there is a meaningful distinction here. To the extent that granting property rights merely enriches people or corporate entities without encouraging creation, then a patent/copyright scheme becomes counterproductive and could actually squelch innovation.

    Ecclesiastes 1:9 got it right: “There is nothing new under the sun.” In the artistic realm, and even the scientific, there is much cross-fertilization of ideas. One wonders whether, for example, at some future date someone might sue a future Beatles for “stealing” the copyrighted guitar creations of a future Chuck Berry.

    Much of the anti-”piracy” discussion, especially on corporate-oriented, right-wing websites like this one, rather neatly sidesteps the issue of overwhelming corporate greed that’s close to the center of the debate.

  • George Ou (author) said:

    @Reactor

    The creator has the right do give their content away, but they also have the right to restrict it as they see fit.

    You’ve come along and decided to call the victims of theft immoral and call the thieves victims of greed. The law and society fortunately doesn’t work like that. You can turn morality on its head in your own mind, but it doesn’t change the laws.

  • Reactor said:

    Well George, if you want to puff yourself up by siding with some old fart who lectures teenagers for doing things that teenagers have done forever — taking what they can get, when they can get it — then have at it. The corporatist right wing has always been good at that game.

    On the other hand, there is the world as it exists, and as it always has existed. Sure, the technologies change, but human nature doesn’t. The kid in the morality play wanted to play the composer’s songs, and the parents wouldn’t buy them for her. Maybe instead of being such a self-righteous jerk about the whole thing, he might have instead showed a little mercy and mailed her a copy of what she wanted.

    Of course, that would require something that neither he, nor you or this site has: a soul.

  • Reactor said:

    Or, to put it a different way: The elders have forever been upbraiding the impudent youth. It starts happening when the elders hit their 40s, and it tends to only get worse. Of course the elders are right. They always are right. But the youth just want to sing, and the elders ought to remember that they, too, once just wanted to sing, until they forgot how.

  • Reactor said:

    “The creator has the right do give their content away, but they also have the right to restrict it as they see fit.”

    One other thing. For someone who goes on about “the law,” you don’t know it too well. Copyright carves out a “fair use” exemption that puts limits on the creator’s right to “restrict it as they see fit.” Corporations are always trying to nibble away at fair use, but it continues to exist. So, George, if you respect the law as you claim, at least bother to read it.

  • George Ou (author) said:

    Reactor says: “One other thing. For someone who goes on about “the law,” you don’t know it too well. Copyright carves out a “fair use” exemption that puts limits on the creator’s right to “restrict it as they see fit.”

    Fair use doesn’t mean you can distribute a copy to anyone on the Internet nor does it give you a right to replicate a copy to your friends. You can give or loan your own copy to your friends though.

    Reactor says: “Something to point out: Patents and copyrights don’t exist to protect property rights. They exist to reward creation. And yes, there is a meaningful distinction here. To the extent that granting property rights merely enriches people or corporate entities without encouraging creation, then a patent/copyright scheme becomes counterproductive and could actually squelch innovation.”

    Oh I see. You’re saying if we steal from you or your friends or groups of people like the Creative Commons or GPL, then it’s morally wrong. But groups of people that form a legal entity known as an LLC don’t deserve any such protection.

    Reactor says: “The elders have forever been upbraiding the impudent youth. It starts happening when the elders hit their 40s, and it tends to only get worse. Of course the elders are right. They always are right. But the youth just want to sing, and the elders ought to remember that they, too, once just wanted to sing, until they forgot how.”

    Well thank you Reactor! Thanks for saying that the elders are always right just like they’re right in this case. In this case, the youth want to steal and the elders “forgot” how to steal. But there’s one problem with your assertion. You’re assuming that older people have forgotten how to steal. That’s not true because they still know how to steal. In fact it’s amazingly easy for anyone to steal a song off the Internet just like it’s amazingly easy to not pay the restaurant they ate at or sneak into a movie theater. But they choose of my own free will not to do that because they’ve got jobs. It’s not worth stealing and they feel wrong for stealing.

  • Reactor said:

    I’m telling you that, if you’re going to sit back on your haunches and cite “the law,” then don’t make the flatly incorrect statement that a creator of copyrighted content has “the right to restrict it as they see fit.” That is simply not so. “The law” isn’t what you say it is, bud.

    By the way, you can also sell your copy to your friends. At least you can in the real world. Ever heard of a used CD store?

    I only said what I said. Why do you feel a need to put words in my mouth?

    One last thing. You seem to think that I’m in favor of what’s called “Internet piracy.” I am not. I never said that I was. What I am in favor of, though, is a realistic appreciation of human nature. Chucking a bunch of putdowns and insults at a teenage girl who didn’t want to buy four bucks worth of sheet music is obnoxious, no matter how “correct” the author was.

    If I was on the jury, I’d find the kid guilty, levy a 1 cent fine, and advise the author to grow some compassion. He’s an arrogant, cringeworthy embarrassment to old farts everywhere.

  • Reactor said:

    I also think many artists and/or labels are self-defeating when they pull songs off of You Tube, which is a low-fidelity format not easily recopied. Like Pandora or “internet radio,” songs on YouTube generate interest.

    The law gives them the right to pull the stuff down, so I’m not making a legal argument against them. I’m saying that they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Just because someone created a piece of work doesn’t confer on them or their corporate rights-holder any particular intelligence or even much common sense.

    Which, I might add, might not add up to much in court, but out in the real world where opinion and habits are formed, it tends to shape actual behavior a lot more than than the legalistic, self-righteous effusions here and elsewhere.

  • George Ou (author) said:

    Reactor says: “I’m telling you that, if you’re going to sit back on your haunches and cite “the law,” then don’t make the flatly incorrect statement that a creator of copyrighted content has “the right to restrict it as they see fit.” That is simply not so. “The law” isn’t what you say it is, bud.”

    We were not talking about media fair use “bud”. We were talking about live concerts. To my knowledge, fair use doesn’t include a right to make bootleg copies.

    Reactor says: “By the way, you can also sell your copy to your friends. At least you can in the real world. Ever heard of a used CD store?”

    I never said you couldn’t do that. I merely said you could not make a replica for your friends or other people. You can make a replica for your own backup purposes or portability purposes under fair use, but this was really a very tight exception crafted under the law.

    Reactor says: “Chucking a bunch of putdowns and insults at a teenage girl who didn’t want to buy four bucks worth of sheet music is obnoxious, no matter how “correct” the author was. If I was on the jury, I’d find the kid guilty, levy a 1 cent fine, and advise the author to grow some compassion. He’s an arrogant, cringeworthy embarrassment to old farts everywhere.”

    In other words, you would over throw the law with jury nullification by issuing a meaningless fine to slap the face of that victim whom you refer to as an “old fart”.

    So at the end of the day, you’re basically acknowledging that stealing music is wrong but you don’t care because you can get away with it and you can try to overthrow the law with mob power. You speak of the law with nothing but shameless contempt. You can keep telling yourself that to make yourself feel righteous and guilt free.

  • Reactor said:

    “We were not talking about media fair use ‘bud’. We were talking about live concerts. To my knowledge, fair use doesn’t include a right to make bootleg copies.”

    Please tell me something: What is it about right-wingers that makes you so completely dishonest that you can’t even tell the truth about the smallest things? You wrote: “The creator has the right do give their content away, but they also have the right to restrict it as they see fit.”

    That’s flatly wrong. Instead of just admitting your error and moving on, you’ve concocted a lie about having been talking about something else. Come on, George, why does being wrong about a small point make you so scared that you have to resort to such concoctions?

    ———-

    “In other words, you would over throw the law with jury nullification by issuing a meaningless fine to slap the face of that victim whom you refer to as an ‘old fart.’ ”

    Juries have been known to do exactly what I suggested I’d do. As far as the old fart in question, given his surly, nasty behavior toward the teenager in question, I’m not worrying too much about his tender sensitivities. He’s correct about the law, but he’s a bitter old jerk. Someone ought to say so. Since I’m in my 50s and know a bitter old jerk when I see one, I thought I’d do the honors.

    ———-

    “you’re basically acknowledging that stealing music is wrong but you don’t care because you can get away with it and you can try to overthrow the law with mob power”

    I have acknowledged no such thing. In fact, I wrote that I am against stealing music. But you’re so busy constructing straw men (another right-wing specialty) that mere facts can’t get in your way.

    ———-

    More broadly, as I’ve read this and other articles on this “pro commerce” site, I have seen a definite pattern, which is for you and other writers to be in such thrall to corporate entities that it seems to never cross your mind that such entities are just as prone to be institutionally deaf, dumb, blind, stupid, venal, lawless, grasping, and criminal as anyone else.

    The difference, of course, is that your heroes have lots of money, and lots of power, including that which signs your checks and lines your pockets.

  • George Ou (author) said:

    @Reactor,

    You brought up live concerts and then tried to apply fair use logic to it when I said that creators can do as they fit *in the context of* live concerts. Now you’re trying to twist the context. When you are bitter against someone who you admit is right and you attack them at a very personal level, that is the very definition of bitterness. Every time you say “bitter old man”, perhaps you could look in the mirror.

  • Reactor said:

    In the real world, there are always arguments on both sides of an issue. My postings here have recognized that, but you’ve stuck to a one-note self-righteousness so typical of ideologues — even to the point of refusing to admit any flaws in your argument.

    There are things to be said for an absolutist view of copyright. The law does grant property rights to creators and their assigns, and the creator of the sheet music is right to be upset about the free copying and trading of it online. I can’t blame him for being upset about that, but his berating and hectoring of a teenaged admirer was churlish at best.

    Moreover, in the world as it exists, and has always existed, ideas and creations resist boundaries, including those established by copyright law. And, while legally defensible, some of those boundaries deserve to be crossed, as in the case of live music recorded by amateurs and distributed without authorization.

    George, you clearly come to all of this as a knee-jerk, ideological spokesman for Everything Corporate. We’ve seen your kind before, and will see it again. Have fun with your money.

  • Mike said:

    Your assessment of the ‘change the business model’ argument is overly reductive and fails to take account of actual market forces. There are other ways to make money online besides advertising, and this is probably the weakest form of monetization because it does not take account of innovation.

    I could care less about sheet music or piracy, but I do think about technology and economics. The moment media is available at a cost near zero people are going to engage in it, period. The challenge is to provide something better, that has recognized value in the eyes of consumers and makes them want to pay for it.

    The entertainment industry has proven utterly inept in adapting to the realities of the Internet and their primary response to piracy has been to demonize the consumer. Publishers and distrubutors should be held responsible for creating a compelling model and providing creative works in a manner that encourages responsible consumer behavior. The fact that they have not is the reason online piracy is such a problem, much moreso than consumer behavior.

    Instead of thinking about advertising revenue, think about portals for distributing sheet music that offers value added services to people. Deploy that music on an iPad, offer recordings of performances to people looking to understand a complex piece, use social media to connect people who are looking to understand a piece of work… but stop complaining that people are downloading your stuff. The reason publishers and distributors exist is to create a market for monetizing media, and the fact they have not just shows how dead the existing models are. Resisting change is not the answer, embracing the potential for doing more with media is.

  • Reactor said:

    “I could care less about sheet music or piracy.”

    Well, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it, Mike? Frankly, the rest of your stuff strikes me as regurgitated cliches, i.e., “resisting change is not the answer,” etc. You’ve offered nothing that hasn’t been pumped out there before. The composer in question might be a churlish jerk, but people are stealing the fruits of his labor and you couldn’t care less.

    By the way, it’s “couldn’t care less,” not “could care less.” And you don’t “monetize media.” The media are, in themselves, neutral. What you try to monetize is your creation, not the medium itself. THINK.

  • Eric said:

    MY problem with Jason Robert Brown and his wife, Georgia Stitt, is their arrogance when dealing with this stuff. There is no humility for people to feed on, and he’s known for his arrogance in the industry. I wrote on his blog and asked if he’s never stolen something himself. Has he never made a copy of a CD for someone or xeroxed a piece of music, or a from an encyclopedia in college? He has logos for shows on his personal website along with photographs from the shows, that he probably didn’t take himself. He says he owns all this, but how do we know? Why doesn’t he credit anyone or say “used with permission?”

    I asked him all this and he ignored me. Susan Egan of “Beauty and the Beast” wrote in to Georgia Stitt’s page applauding them for their efforts, but a quick perusal of her website showed a LOT of copyrighted materials. Now maybe she got permission for it all, I don’t know. But when I wrote to her she snottily wrote this back, “Every last detail and piece of material on my website does indeed fall under Fair Use, Eric, and has been scrutinized to make sure of this. How much more clearly can I state this? It is all legal. This is fact. I own it. It’s mine. Make sense?”

    I had a lovely conversation with the head of copyright infringement from a major cable network this morning and showed him Ms. Egan’s website and told him what she said. He said that it simply was not true that her entire site falls under “fair use.”

  • Greg said:

    George, you have the patience of a saint. Thank you for articulating your point of view.

  • David said:

    “If the law (which came from society) says that intellectual property owners are entitled to control their property and charge money for it, and you decide to break that law, you’re stealing. Now you’re entitled to work to try and change that law, but until you do, it is defined as theft by the law and by society as a whole.”

    Actually, it is NOT defined as theft. It is defined as copyright infringement. There is another legal definition called manslaughter, and I suppose if somebody killed me I suppose you could argue that there had been a theft of life, but it’s not theft. The recording industry (et. al.) has tried to redefine copyright infringement as theft, but that doesn’t make it so.

    Furthermore, you can either make moral arguments (and certainly there are good ones), or you can make legal arguments (and certainly they are pretty airtight), but defining moral behavior as legal compliance is a fallacy.

    If you go back to what the founding fathers (specifically Jefferson) wrote about patents and copyrights it is clear that their purpose was to create an incentive to innovate, not because the creators had some sort of divine right to their intellectual fruits but because it’s in the economic interest of society. Yet 200 years of lobbying by the likes of Disney has distorted this original purpose and now we think it has something to do with natural rights. “Lifetime of the author plus 50 years?” Are you kidding me? If that’s a necessary incentive then it’s a wonder that Shakespeare even bothered to write.

    “Intellectual property” is not property, and the term itself is propaganda. If I illegally copy a song it does not necessarily mean I deprived you of its value; I may have copied it ONLY because it is free. Yes, it’s still illegal to do so but that doesn’t make the song property.

  • Reactor said:

    @Eric, before making these comments, I went back and read what you wrote on Brown’s site. I think you made some worthwhile points there and here, yet I also disagree with some of it. (Funny that, huh? People aren’t supposed to do that these days, because it requires others to actually think.)

    I think Brown mostly sidestepped your questions on his site, and for that I’d definitely downgrade him. He is quite willing to throw down the gauntlet at a teenaged girl, but curiously unwilling to engage an adult. Some courage.

    But I’d also side with him on his basic reply, which is that “you don’t have to be the Pope to preach.” (As an aside, that presumes that the Pope is somehow perfect, a dicey assumption at best. But his point remains.) In other words, I don’t think questions about some of the contents of his website negate his complaint about the theft of his sheet music. I have my bones to pick with Brown, but he’s got good reason to be miffed.

    Along those lines, while I have objected to his high-handed treatment of the girl he corresponded with, he really doesn’t have any obligation to be a nice guy to anyone. He had his stuff ripped off, and can be forgiven to a degree for being upset about it. As for his general arrogance, presuming it’s true (which seems likely), I don’t think that negates his basic complaint either.

    What it does do, though, is undermine what otherwise might be a sympathetic hearing among some of those who hear his arguments. It rarely hurts anyone to show some class, and Brown certainly missed that chance by a country mile.

    What’s even more irrelevant is the contents of the websites of those who supported him. To attack Brown on the basis of Susan Egan’s site is an exercise in levying guilt by association. While one’s associations can be quite relevant, I really don’t think that a supportive comment on a website rises to the level of the sort of association that can be used to impeach Brown’s standing to complain about the theft of his sheet music.

    In the end, I don’t think that Brown’s own (potentially) checkered past and even present provides good reason to dismiss his point outright. Can you really and truly blame the man for being upset about the misappropriation of his work? I can’t, anyway. What I can blame him for is his lauching of a jihad against his youthful admirer. In the end, he was petty and small-minded. He should have made his point, and then given her some of his music.

    Where I am much less forgiving is with this website, “digital society.” Here, I see a group of absolutist, corporate ideologues. I suspect (but can’t prove, of course) that this site exists to drum up corporate p.r. business by demonstrating an unfliching fealty to corporate rights holders, no matter what. It pretends to rationally discuss the issues, but always offers one side. Hard to have much respect for that.

  • RichM said:

    People should simply abide by current law, until that law is changed… SINCE WHEN does this statement constitute a reactionary or right-wing idea? If ever there was a bi-partisan concept, this is it.

    The good thing about having a law in the first place is that it distinguishes the real rules from the blah-blah-blah of differing theories and ideas about what should or should not be the state of the world.

    People will continue to steal (or infringe) but it is stupid (or silly) to argue that it is somehow justified under current law. The whiny carping and name calling above isn’t worth the electrons it took to transmit it.

    Got a better idea or business model that can both promote general creativity and still give authors and composers the motive to continue a career contributing their hard work to the world? Great. Let’s hear about it. But spare me the indignation and cheap shots.

    I can tell you from 25 years as a professional composer and music producer that the way things are right now are such that I could not advise any talented young person to pursue music or lyric writing, no matter how good they might be. And I guarantee that the widespread “trading” of copyrighted material (and the equally widespread and juvenile notion that somehow, music should be free “information”) is a major reason that young talent should find work elsewhere. I’m talking about very real, very concrete examples of exceedingly talented people having to bail on what they love, because of how far their incomes have been slashed by piracy. Much great new music that will now never be written.

    Get real, folks. If composers and lyricists cannot earn fair rewards for their work – honoring them no differently than we do architects or chefs – we will soon be living a world of YouTube amateur musical mediocrity. Won’t that be special?

  • Mike S. said:

    This is a fascinating discussion. I teach Popular Culture at a local community college, and just this semester saw a great documentary on PBS called Copyright Criminals. It briefly examines the way rap and hip-hop music depend on sampling other recordings and incorporating them into ‘new’ songs, and tries to represent different points of view on the debates over copyright, intellectual property theft, etc.

    I decided to show the doc in class, feeling that it would spark some really interesting discussion and thought. So I illegally downloaded it off the internet, copied it to a Travel Drive, and prepared to present it. That night I engaged in more self-reflection than I ever had previously about downloading and media piracy. What a blatant act of hypocrisy on my part! That the irony was initially lost on me was very disturbing, so much so that I immediately powered up the computer and ordered a copy of the DVD.

    All of Higher Ed knows that student plagiarism is on the rise in the age of the internet, and we are also well aware that many (if not most) students do not think that plagiarism of words, ideas, the hard work of others, etc. is even wrong. Considering my own experiences with illegal and illicit downloading, it is hard to maintain even a facade of moral authority when dealing with my students’ attitudes.

    This behavior is wrong. It does represent a major moral crisis within our society. I am thoroughly complicit myself, and ashamed that I have been willing to accept false self-justification in order to save 99 cents or even $9.99 at iTunes.

    To put it another less pompous way — imagine the internet as a real place, and stealing stuff as something physical and real. That is, check out the Dave Chappelle Show Internet Sketch and see if you think of things in a new way.

  • hayim said:

    I’ve followed this far enough that I think i need to add my 2 cents.

    The problem is that the current structure for supporting creative artists is defunct. Creative art can be a laborious endeavour, and in this great capitalism the problem is that you can only spend large amounts of time on things that other people want to pay you for, or else marry/be born rich.

    [sidebar: If no-one values your art, you'll die poor, or stop creating. Does that mean your art is 'bad'? Not necessarily. Where's your solutio to that, Mr. Ou and friends?]

    Our current solution is the publishing industry and copyrights. But the idea of ‘selling rights’ to information is simply untenable and ridiculous. It’s a wonder that it has lasted so long, and I’d think due more to selfishness than concern for artists.

    Question for the experts: is it legal to on-sell your legally bought ‘rights’ to another? Ie, sell a CD, sheet music, DVD etc?

    In that case, bring back napster, and have it implicit that each reproduction is not shared freely but ‘sold’ on for $0.00. ‘Buy’ your usage rights back each time you want to use it and just ensure that no two people who have ‘sold’ to eachother are exercising those usage rights at the same time. The whole system can be managed online. Moving offline for a bit? Just set a lock on the rights you want so that no-one else inadvertently buys them off you while you’re using them off your ipod on your morning jog.

    A perfectly legal destruction of an illogical system.

  • Eric said:

    @Reactor: I don’t disagree that JRB has a point to make. My issue is the way he made it. Sure, you don’t have to be the pope to preach, but who’s going to listen to a pope that doesn’t practice what he preaches? How long would the pop be a pope if all of a sudden he condoned abortion?

    I didn’t bring up Susan Egan to hold it against JRB, I brought her up as an additional example of people “applauding” his efforts when she could be a worse offender than he is.

    It’s easy to get on a soapbox about something and start condemning all those around you, but does one really have a moral right to do so if they commit the same violations (no matter what the specifics of the item, ie sheet music, cd’s, xerox copies of encyclopedias…).

    I remain that if he had come online as a humble man and kindly explained his position instead of taunting teenagers online and then being so arrogant when people disagreed with him, more people would have listened with an open mind. I knew of his unpopular background so I went into it expecting him to act that way. Having said that, I was immediately put off by his attitude and still am.

    I also tried to debate with his wife Georgia who sought me out on Facebook with a curt and childish reply, likewise avoiding the questions I posed to her.

  • Reactor said:

    “I don’t disagree that JRB has a point to make. My issue is the way he made it.”

    Same here. It’s probably our strongest area of agreement. We both regard Brown as something of a puffed-up blowhard, and an intellectual coward. But let’s face it, we’re all condemned, so I’m not somewhat reluctant to hold someone’s nastiness against him. Complete jerks can have a point, too. I really don’t buy into a Duty of Congeniality, although in the real world I reserve the right, as do you, to poke a stick at the Bitter Arrogant Old Farts of the world.

    “It’s easy to get on a soapbox about something and start condemning all those around you, but does one really have a moral right to do so if they commit the same violations (no matter what the specifics of the item, ie sheet music, cd’s, xerox copies of encyclopedias…”

    The standard to apply can be borrowed from accounting, which can actually be honest if the accountant isn’t a snake: materiality. It seems to be that you’ve scoured his website and past for immaterial gotchas. I really don’t think Brown is, say, an evangelical minister who condemns gays while having a special relationship with a Boy Scout.

  • Reactor said:

    Oops, a correction. I meant to write in the second paragraph: “I am somewhat reluctant to hold someone’s nastiness against him.”

  • Eric said:

    @Reactor: If JRB isn’t reluctant to point out someone’s ill-doings, I’m not reluctant to point out his. If he had kept his mouth shut, I’d never have said a cross word about him….anywhere.

    I had another thought:

    I wonder why no one is up in arms about recipe “sharing?” When people buy cookbooks, recipes get shared like wildfire if they’re good, but few (if any) seem to cry “COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT!”

  • Reactor said:

    Come on, Eric, don’t be foolish with “recipe sharing.” Sheesh.

  • Travis Briggs said:

    “Just make society pay through taxes”

    I talked about this before and we really need to ask ourselves if we want to start paying a tax on our computers and Internet access. It’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you so do we really want the government doling out money to the artists and journalists.

    This already exists in the US. As part of the AHRA there is already a tax on recording devices and recordable media in the US. This revenues from this tax are paid to artists, recording labels, composers and music publishers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Home_Recording_Act#AHRA_royalties

  • Eric said:

    Reactor: Why is that foolish? How is someone spending hours in a kitchen coming up with a recipe, then publishing it in a book, different than JRB writing a song and publishing it in a book?

    If Wolfgang Puck comes up with this great recipe, do you think he appreciates it if someone steals it and passes it out on the internet? Who’s going to buy his cookbook if the recipes are all over the world already?

  • Casey said:

    I think when your living, real living…food, clothing, rent is on the line, hearing people argue that you don’t deserve compensation for something you created, yet they deserve to own it, is obnoxious. Why do people feel they can own it and listen to it, but not pay for it? How does anyone expect output to continue? Bootlegs used to generate album sales only works if the albums in question have a value. Devaluing everything makes no sense. Then concert prices skyrocket and people complain that they are the victims of something their theft has created.

    Argue all you want everyone…but if your actual living doesn’t have anything to do with it I have to wonder why you care as much as people who are affected by it? Is there some sort of guilt involved? This insane need to justify it boggles my mind.

  • Dejah said:

    Recipes are a bit different. As “lists” they are not copyrightable. The directions are, but not the recipe itself. So if you share the list of ingredients and write your own directions, it’s not infringement.

  • Daniel said:

    Hi George,

    A little thing you assume (if only by omission) is that all content is actually available for purchase by anyone anywhere. There’s two main thing wrong with this:

    1. Some content isn’t available anywhere. Books go out of print. So do DVDs, so does anything tangible. Even more significantly, a lot of content has never really been “in print” in any meaningful way. Old movies and TV shows (and even some new ones) are copyrighted by their owners, but the owners never bothered to release them on DVD, or even VHS, or any home format. If I’d like to watch “No Down Payment” (1957), the only opportunity for me to do so would be to catch it when it airs every once in a while on the Fox Movie Channel. But since I don’t live in the United States, and I couldn’t watch the Fox Movie Channel even if I paid for it, this isn’t exactly realistic. Piracy gives me the opportunity to consume content that I’d be happy to pay for, but can’t.

    2. Some content is only available somewhere. And “somewhere” isn’t necessarily “here”. Content tends to be available in the country in which it is produced, if at all. But if you live in a different country, you have to subject yourself to the whims of local distributors (or publishers, or what have you). So if I want to read an American book, or watch an American movie, my selection is dictated by whether or not any local companies bought the rights to distribute it locally. Even if I don’t need it translated to the local language, even if I have the means and the opportunity to buy this content in America. So basically if I live outside the United States and buy all my content from Amazon, this still makes me a criminal. According to the law (American copyright law, not necessarily the law of the country I live in), I have to buy all my content locally. And if it isn’t available locally, I’m out of luck. Again, piracy gives me the opportunity to consume content, this time content that I bought and paid for, and yet still don’t have a right to own.

  • Russ said:

    What a fascinating discussion. The sense of entitlement on the side of those defending Internet piracy/intellectual property infringement is astounding. It says a lot about the overall state of our society today and how so many people think so many things they want or “need” should be free.

    Anyway, despite all the overheated rhetoric, I think there is a reasonable middle ground, at an “I learned all I need to know in kindergarten” level. Want to own your own copy of something? Pay. Want to loan or give away that copy to a friend? Free. Want to use technology to distribute dozens, hundreds or thousands of copies of that copy to people you don’t even know, so that they don’t have to pay to get their own copies? Crime.

    Here’s another thought. Let’s say someone has printed sheet music they bought for $5 in one hand. And, let’s they have a $5 bill in the other hand. Now, let’s assume they have a copier that can make perfect copies of either one. Why would it be a crime to make copies of the $5 bill, but not be a crime to make copies of the sheet music … especially if they could sell/trade each copy of the sheet music for another $5 bill?

  • Eric said:

    Dajah: A recipe isn’t very useful without the instructions. Who lists just a list of ingredients?! Recipes within a cookbook are copyrightable, so if you share those, you’re infringing copyright.

  • Gio said:

    Holy cow the sense of entitlement is stunning. Wah wah. “I want THIS but I can’t have it unless someone GIVES it to me, or I TAKE it.” Life sucks doesn’t it?

    Do any of you work? Of course. How ’bout I show up on payday and take part of your check. I need some money. You won’t mind, right? Oh, wait, that’s not allowed?

    Somewhere the idea of ‘Too f_ing bad” got lost. Wanting something gives you the right to own it?

    The issues here go way beyond all the intellectual blathering I’ve just read. It speaks volumes about the state of things in the future. I’ll be dead by then, and the new OLD FARTS will be left to wonder why no one will toss them a few crumbs.

  • Ddes said:

    Russ: The sense of entitlement on the side of those defending current copyright law is astounding. It says a lot about the overall state of our society today and how so many people think so many things they want or “need” should be free.

    Notice your reaction here. I’d wager it’s a mix of anger and confusion, because, after all, you don’t think you’re exhibiting “entitlement”, and you don’t think those are the opinions you and the people you support have expressed. Notice also how this completely fails to facilitate useful discussion. There’s a place for commentary about the debaters, but within the debate itself is not it. (I realize it’s slightly hypocritical to point this out when my first paragraph was a commentary about debaters, but this was only with the hope of making my point clearer.)

    To address your other points:
    What is intuitive to you is not to everyone, and is nonsensical in most of the relevant areas. For example, how exactly am I supposed to loan a friend an MP3? Can I be said to own a book if all I have is data which only works with, eg, Amazon’s Kindle, and not Barnes & Noble’s Nook? After all, I thought I was purchasing the book, to use for myself as I see fit. Having done so, is it immoral to convert it, against the wishes of the publisher? Beyond that: is it immoral to download a copy, for free, from another source, in a format I can use?

    And exactly how many friends am I allowed to share with before it becomes immoral? I have dozens of friends, far more acquaintances. I share stuff with them using technology. Some of that stuff was paid for. When does it become immoral? This isn’t a small point – you claim some fundamental distinction between sharing with a few friends and many strangers, but the lines between “few” and “many”, “friend” and “stranger” are blurred at best – so how can there be a fundamental difference?

    A further example: what about my local library, which is perfectly happy to loan out (donated!) copies of sheet music to the tens of thousands of strangers who frequent it? True, only one person is in possession of the music at a time: but in the particular case of sheet music, it can be memorized in a week or two. Is it immoral of me to have memorized the music – copied it, if you will, to my brain? No? But you’d hardly claim it’s the sheets themselves which are valuable, but rather the music – and I indisputably have a (mental, true) copy of the music.

    It’s not actually a crime to copy a $5 bill unless you intend to buy things with it. This isn’t such a minor point, because the claim of most here is not that it should be legal to sell others’ works, but that it should be to merely copy. And it’s a pretty worthless analogy anyway – a $5 bill is a physical object representing an intangible thing of which there is nonetheless a limited supply. The supply of copies of sheet music has no such limits. In creating a copy of a $5 bill (to use as money) I necessarily devalue the money of everyone else. The same is not true of the sheet music in any sense.

    (The main point of this wall of text is the first two paragraphs, as they address the manner in which the debate is conducted. Please do avoid commenting on the debaters themselves within the debate. The others points are just arguments.)

    To address a few minor points in the original post, while I’m here:

    There hasn’t really been a “free” or advertisement based business model that has been shown to be significantly profitable or even profitable at all.

    This is just wrong. See, for example, Cory Doctorow. He makes his works available for free – not just “free”, but actually for free, as in speech and as in beer. And it’s still profitable for both him and his publisher. An exception? Possibly. But you can’t claim there are no profitable business models based on free.
    Oh, and for advertisement-based – uh, Google? The company? The ridiculously wealthy company which makes nearly all of its money by providing useful services – for free – and putting advertising on them? Or, for a more content-driven business, Boing Boing, or Gizmodo and co., or any number of other similar websites. Their businesses aren’t just a service, they’re articles. Writings. Intellectual property. Provided for free, and only for free, with advertising, for considerable profit.

    Even if we say the person would have only bought $1,000 of content had they not stolen $10,000 of content, they’ve still stolen $1,000 someone’s earned income. So even if we haggle over what fraction is theft, it’s still ultimately theft.

    Except that I’d argue many of the cases the fraction is 0. Difficult to prove, but the fact that revenues of intellectual property businesses haven’t deviated from what you’d expect even in the age of the internet does strongly suggest this.

  • Don said:

    Just a small insert here, if I may.

    Morals thrown around here seem to point to some sort of religious connotation.

    A definition: Morals — habits within a culture within a society.

    No dieties involved. No governments involved.

    What’s immoral for the folks on one side of a street may be moral for those on the other.

  • Rich Demanowski said:

    What it really comes down to is a moral and ethical issue:

    I work hard to produce photographs. I invest a lot of time and effort in their creation. It’s taken me years, even decades, of study and practice to get good at it. Most people I talk to, in person or online, agree that I can do things with a camera that they are not capable of – I can make photographs that they could not make themselves.

    That constitutes a valuable service, just like the service of a plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, or chef.

    Do you expect your plumber to work for free? Do you expect an electrician to come wire your house if you don’t pay him for his skill and expertise? Do you expect a resauranteur to feed you for free?

    Then why do you expect photographers, movie makers, writers and musicians to create photographs, make movies, write books, and compose and perform music for your enjoyment, without compensating them fairly for what they’ve produced (that you can’t or won’t produce yourself!)?

    How many hours a day, for how many years, did people like Trent Reznor and Nigel Kennedy have to practice, to be able to captivate people with their music the way they do? Do you think they would have been able to invest that kind of time, if they had to work a full-time job or two to get the rent paid and put food on the table?

    I’ve heard it said that artists are “supposed” to do their art for the love of the art.

    While it is true that I pursue my photography for the love of the art, I can’t pursue it very well if I have to devote a significant portion of my time to something else so that I can feed myself. As Frank Lloyd Wright so eloquently stated: “Art for art’s sake is a philosophy of the well fed.”

    As a photographer, just like a plumber or an electrician, I produce a valuable product and service that most other people either can’t produce for themselves, or would prefer not to, because their time is better spent pursuing something they are more talented at.

    As for the downloading of online content not being “theft” … how, exactly, is it not theft? Thieves take things that do not belong to them. The people to whom those things belong either laboured to produce them, or exchanged them for money they got in exchange for something they laboured to produce.

    If I carve a block of wood into a sculpture, and set it out in my front yard for people to see, does that entitle you to take it and put it in your living room? Of course not.

    Making a photograph or a piece of music is no different. It involves just as much time, effort, skill, knowledge and practice as producing a painting or a sculpture. And just like time, effort, skill, knowledge and practice required to be a plumber or electrician, the makers of photographs or music or books or movies are just as entitled to be paid for their work.

    Just like when the woodcutter displays his craftsmanship in his front yard, when artists put their work on the web for people to see, they are both generously sharing it for the enjoyment of virtual passers-by, and marketing themselves in hopes that someone will pay them for it.

    Downloading a photograph or song or movie, without exchanging something that both you and the producer of that content agree is a fair exchange for it, is just as much theft as if you’d walked into a store and stolen a DVD.

    I hear the cry going out “But it’s not the same! If I take the woodcutter’s carving he’s physically deprived of it. All I did was make a copy! The artist still has the original!” Just because it’s easy to make copies of digital content, doesn’t mean it’s right to do so. It’s just as easy to take off with the wood carving somebody left in their front yard for people to enjoy, and the end result of the theft is the same: The creator of the piece doesn’t get paid, and thus has no funds to invest in the creation of something new. That creator must now spend his or her valuable time, waiting tables or being a night watchman or other unskilled labour (after all, they spent their time becoming skilled artisans, and if people won’t pay them for their craftsmanship, they’re relegated to doing some other kind of unskilled labour), instead of doing what they’re good at, and passionate about.

    The simple moral and ethical issue is this: If you want something that you didn’t create yourself, with the effort of your own mind and hands, then you are morally and ethically obligated to exchange for it something that you *did* create.

  • Ddes said:

    Rich: You make points which are raised and answered frequently in these debates, and attack positions which few people, if any, actually support. Let me try to point some out for you.

    Do you expect your plumber to work for free? Do you expect an electrician to come wire your house if you don’t pay him for his skill and expertise? Do you expect a resauranteur to feed you for free?

    Then why do you expect photographers, movie makers, writers and musicians to create photographs, make movies, write books, and compose and perform music for your enjoyment, without compensating them fairly for what they’ve produced (that you can’t or won’t produce yourself!)?

    There are a bunch of false comparisons here. An electrician works for a single person per job, and is paid by a single person. A content producer, such as a photographer, works for thousands or millions, and is paid by many. They are not the same. If I fail to compensate an electrician for her work, she doesn’t get any compensation. If I fail to compensate an artist for his work, he does.

    Why do I expect musicians to compose and perform music for my enjoyment without compensating them for what they’ve produced? Because, well, they do. That I do not compensate them personally does not mean they are not compensated.

    Your next few paragraphs are FUD based on the idea that piracy means artists get no money from anyone. Reality disagrees.

    As for the downloading of online content not being “theft” … how, exactly, is it not theft? Thieves take things that do not belong to them. The people to whom those things belong either laboured to produce them, or exchanged them for money they got in exchange for something they laboured to produce.

    If I carve a block of wood into a sculpture, and set it out in my front yard for people to see, does that entitle you to take it and put it in your living room? Of course not.

    The major issue with this is your use of the word “things”. And “take”. You don’t produce “things”, you produce art, which is intangible. The entire debate arises because piracy does not involve me taking a physical object, but rather making a copy of something intangible. Piracy is not theft because nothing is taken, at least not directly. The indirect effects are debatable – but it is a separate issue and needs to be treated as such, regardless of what you think of it. The first step to coming up with solutions will have to be to stop treating it as theft.

    Making a photograph or a piece of music is no different. It involves just as much time, effort, skill, knowledge and practice as producing a painting or a sculpture. And just like time, effort, skill, knowledge and practice required to be a plumber or electrician, the makers of photographs or music or books or movies are just as entitled to be paid for their work.

    Again, these are extremely distinct professions. Continuing to draw parallels shows that you consider them to be the same, fine, but not everyone agrees with that idea as instantly as you seem to. This means you’ll have to address the issue itself, rather than attempting to relate it to something people have already thought about. You can claim all you like that artist and electrician serve the same broad function, but unless everyone agrees, it’s not helping your overall argument at all.

    Oh, and on the last sentence of that quotation: Few claim that artists don’t deserve compensation. The actual position is that the compensation does not need to come from every single person who enjoys it. JK Rowling is paid tons, despite her popular works being trivial to download for free.

    Downloading a photograph or song or movie, without exchanging something that both you and the producer of that content agree is a fair exchange for it, is just as much theft as if you’d walked into a store and stolen a DVD.

    I disagree. So do many other people. Repeating your point doesn’t make it more true. And, again, drawing a parallel other people don’t see will not help your argument – you’ll have to address the issue itself.

    I hear the cry going out “But it’s not the same! If I take the woodcutter’s carving he’s physically deprived of it. All I did was make a copy! The artist still has the original!” Just because it’s easy to make copies of digital content, doesn’t mean it’s right to do so.

    I hope you don’t seriously think that people claim it’s OK because it’s easy. Come on now. That isn’t the point at all.

    The creator of the piece doesn’t get paid, and thus has no funds to invest in the creation of something new. That creator must now spend his or her valuable time, waiting tables or being a night watchman or other unskilled labour (after all, they spent their time becoming skilled artisans, and if people won’t pay them for their craftsmanship, they’re relegated to doing some other kind of unskilled labour), instead of doing what they’re good at, and passionate about.

    You continue to assert that this is what will happen. Cory Doctorow, as I mentioned earlier, would disagree. He makes his books available, for free, online. Lots of people download them without paying for them. (Considerably more people than pay for the physical copies.) He still gets paid.

    The simple moral and ethical issue is this: If you want something that you didn’t create yourself, with the effort of your own mind and hands, then you are morally and ethically obligated to exchange for it something that you *did* create.

    Or inherit? Or receive as charity?
    And what if I want a copy of Great Expectations? Shall I hold a séance, or just give money to someone at random?
    This is a drastic oversimplification of a debate which is extremely complex. There are useful discussions to be had, but trying to reduce the entire issue to a single statement is not remotely helpful.

  • Gio said:

    This is about the most warped justification for theft I’ve ever heard:

    “Why do I expect musicians to compose and perform music for my enjoyment without compensating them for what they’ve produced? Because, well, they do. That I do not compensate them personally does not mean they are not compensated.”

    So hopping on the bus from the rear exit so as to beat the fare is OK, because other riders are paying? Man oh man…..

  • Daniel said:

    Here’s another one of those bus/plumber/chef analogies, for your evaluation:

    Let’s say I watch an entire hour’s, day’s or week’s worth of ad-sponsored TV programming. Am I now under a moral obligation to buy the products whose ads paid for the shows I watched? If so, which of the products? How many? How often? What if I liked a show, but not the products? What if I liked the products but not the show? And, most importantly, what if many peopled watched a show and never bought anything that the show advertised. Ever.

  • Ddes said:

    Geo: I didn’t say it was OK. He asked why people expect artists to continue production if some individuals aren’t paying, and I told him why. I avoided passing judgment.

  • Gio said:

    @ Daniel:

    Companies pay to air their advertisements knowing full well that people may or may not ever buy their products. No one is obligated morally or otherwise to buy anything. It’s a cost of doing business they are willing to absorb. Advertising. I don’t get where you are going with that……

  • Gio said:

    Since I’m here……

    I’m perplexed by the idea that music is intangible. While it may well be, during the time it exists in the writers mind, and perhaps while being listened to (as you can not touch sound), once it is written on paper, recorded to tape, or pressed to a disk, it becomes a tangible item. It is product, in physical form.

    And guess what? Those little charges of electrons that get sent back and forth on the internet and stored on magnetic metal disks in your computer? Tangible. Yes! Electrons are sub-atomic particles of matter. They take up physical space. Microscopic, yes, but tangible none the less. And they are stored on a hard drive, just like one would store any other physical object in a container. Tangible matter. How’s that for semantics?

    One last thing……..
    Someone earlier suggested that this debate is too complex, and can’t be boiled down to one simple statement. I disagree. I think it’s too easy to make it more complex than it really is. It should not have anything to do with politics, religion, entitlement or anything else. IMHO it comes to two simple points.

    1. If you can’t afford something, do without, until you can afford it.
    2. If you can afford something and take it anyway, you are stealing.

    Composers, photographers, artists and other such creative types are no different than anyone else, in that they deserve to be paid for their work.

    Cheers all…..

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    Please. Music isn’t tangible, it merely has tangible representations. The electrons (or more typically pulses of light) flying over the wires and fibers have a tenuous connection to the music at best. Writing a file to a hard drive is simply an act of magnetizing certain regions of the disk. There’s no more or less “disk” simply because you wrote music to it. The music is in the patterns and is distinct from the physical form. I hate to sound patronizing, as I’m sure we all know this, but… I’m not really sure why you’d claim music is tangible. (Especially because making a copy of a tangible object – say, a piece of timber, or an apple – is rarely a crime.)

    1. If you can’t afford something, do without, until you can afford it.
    2. If you can afford something and take it anyway, you are stealing.

    1. What if it’s not available where I am? Are you implying I shouldn’t borrow things from friends? Do you object to libraries? What harm does it do to create a copy if I couldn’t have paid for it in the first place? No, really – what harm?
    2. Can someone really be said to “take” a thing if everyone previously in possession of a copy of that thing before she takes it is in possession of exactly the same number of that thing after? Is it not theft for me to steal an Audi if I only have $100? (I can’t afford one, after all.)
    I’m not going to continue to list flaws. The point: This is still a useless and dangerous oversimplification.

    A final note – people, please stop referring to piracy as theft. I understand why you do it, but not everyone agrees that piracy is theft. If there really is something wrong with piracy in general, you ought to be able to address it in itself, instead of just claiming it is theft and everyone knows theft is wrong. Really.
    And no, this isn’t an attempt to make it acceptable by hiding what it is, because there is disagreement about what it is. If you say piracy, everyone knows what you mean. It’s a more precise term. Use it.

  • paferg said:

    This back-and-forth volley never changes, and it has been raging for decades. The defenders of piracy and copyright “reformers” are far more sophisticated in their arguments (having honed them for years) than the artists and average Joes arguing against piracy, and so the discussion never really evolves. It always surprises me that the arguments never change, and I swear I have read this exchange almost verbatim many times before.

    Quoting Ddes: “The major issue with this is your use of the word “things”. And “take”. You don’t produce “things”, you produce art, which is intangible. The entire debate arises because piracy does not involve me taking a physical object, but rather making a copy of something intangible. Piracy is not theft because nothing is taken, at least not directly.”

    This is really the crux of the issue, the point where actual discussion seems to stop. Artists want to be compensated for their work, and they view the unauthorized use/copying/attainment of their work as theft. Those who favor more open or liberal copyright laws counter that it’s not theft, because they are only making a copy. And that’s perfectly sound logic.

    However, this isn’t ultimately an argument about philosophy, politics or metaphysics — artists want to earn money from creating things, and when people can get the things artists create without paying them, the artists tend to make less money. That it is difficult to prove how much less, or under what circumstances, or that unrelated factors have impacted the market for their works, or that the artists or their publishers may have done things to make their situation worse, or that some believe the publishers’ business model is outmoded, or that some artists create things for free and do just fine, doesn’t really change that fact.

    It’s simple. Piracy erodes the market for legitimate copies.

    It doesn’t destroy it, it doesn’t cause 1:1 loss of income, it doesn’t happen equally in all situations, but on the whole, it’s true.

    It doesn’t matter if copying is “theft,” and I would encourage artists and their defenders to abandon that line of argument, as it’s just feeding the trolls.

    The fact of the matter is, piracy is here to stay. If you’re an artist and you wish to make money for the works you create, you will need to find new ways to do it than you’re used to. Engaging in philosophical debates on forums and blogs with people who enjoy nothing more than messing with you will not put the genie back in the bottle. The people you’re arguing with just like arguing — that’s why their arguments are so reactionary and predictable. You’re just visiting this place, they live here. They aren’t trying to address the issues so much as defeat your arguments bit by bit and make you look stupid. So don’t encourage them. I’m all for debate, but this isn’t debate, it’s just replaying the same tired script again and again.

  • Gio said:

    Ddes:
    The disk itself is tangible, so the file exists in an actual location, on that disk. There may not be more or less “disk, but the usable space on the disk will fill up with data. “Disk Full” I don’t think telepathy has been fully developed yet, so the information resides somewhere, and as such is material goods. Making a copy of a piece of timber may not be a crime, but comparing music to a piece of wood is really telling. No wonder you expect it for free. :)

    Borrowing implies that you will return the item. That’s how a library works. You either spend time there gathering information, or you take it out, and return it when the allotted time is up. How do you borrow music? Chances are you get the copy and keep it. If you can’t pay for it, then wait until you can. Where’s the harm, you say? You are not just affecting the composer, but everyone else in the chain. Musicians, recording studios, producers, engineers, anyone who earns a living in the process of creating this item that people are so willing to help themselves to. The end result is the artist or label losing money that would be invested in another recording, thus lowering the budget, and in turn affecting the recording studios who then close down (this is all true and has been happening for years BTW), and all the way down the line. End game is where people are left with gobs of self recorded, poorly produced drek to listen to. Help yourself to that…… No harm at all, huh?

    Not available where you are? Too bad, would be my answer to that. There are many foods I love that are not locally made and cost a fortune to buy in the shops. When I have extra coin, I get it. When I don’t, too bad for me. I don’t cry about it, and it makes those times when I can afford it all the more special.

    What I find dangerous is the over complication of this issue and the word play used to defend it.

    Since we’re playing word games here….. What does a pirate do?

    Steal.

  • Daniel said:

    Gio: Maybe the companies that are advertising their products are willing to absorb the cost. But let’s take this to the next level.

    The companies aren’t the only factor here, the companies are subsidizing art and artists. And if the advertisers aren’t happy, the artists are in a jam. This used to be even more pronounced a couple of decades ago when each show had one specific sponsor. So basically if a show doesn’t make enough money, it gets cancelled, which significantly effects both current and future financial wellbeing for hundreds of people who take part in it. Not to mention hundreds of people who are employed by the advertising agencies themselves, many of whom are artists. So by your logic, each viewer has to do all he can to keep his favorite shows (and basically all shows he watches, whether he likes them or not) on the air, instead of passing the responsibility to some abstract “someone else” that actually buys the products that are being advertised. Because otherwise it would be just like hopping on the bus from the rear exit and expecting other passengers to pay.

  • Mike said:

    @Reactor – your response fails to deal with the substance of my argument.

    Thank you for suggesting thinking as a way of addressing this issue, many of the people you are responding to clearly have thought about it and your responses are a bit ‘reactive’. Your continual assertions that the commenters in this thread have not given this subject enough intellectual vetting appears to be a tactic for substituting ad hominem attacks for real discussion on the points made. May I suggest you read the comments people are putting up and respond to what they actually say instead of attacking people based on select phrases?

    In case my point was too complicated, the original post makes the claim that “Change your business model since you can’t stop piracy” is a flawed argument. As proof of this the author cites that free and ad supported business models are never profitable. While this is a factual error (I own several businesses that operate on a free business model and maintain annual 50% gross / 20% net profit margins), my original comment was centered on the idea that the business model for distributing sheet music is fundamentally flawed. It is the responsibility of publishers and distributors to protect the rights of the artists they represent, and they appear to be failing to do it en masse. Attacking consumers is a very base way of attempting to protect that model, and fails to address the core economic concerns driving people away from the model in the first place.

    In my mind, a business model absolutely must generate a profit or go away. There is an old saying in economics – Dinosaurs must die. If changes in technology are going to compromise a business model, it is the responsibility of stakeholders to provide a more innovative approach or else the market ABSOLUTELY SHOULD shrink up and go away. Attempts to reinforce the business model through regulation or morality are always fun to watch, but advances in technology have a transformative effect on societies and markets that present challenges to those who would roll them back. It can be done, but likely not at a price everyone is willing to pay.

    Your comment criticized me for not offering an alternative. As I have no interest in sheet music (and personally believe the world would be better off with less music) it is unlikely I possess the domain expertise necessary to offer a solution to this situation. The only advice I have to offer is conceptual, and that is for creators / publishers / distributors / whoever to reinvent media somehow and offer content in a form people are willing to pay for. There are working models in business today of people doing exactly that.

    One wild idea that comes to mind is to distribute sheet music through a service that includes value adds, like video of performances, notes from the author, etc. Put together an application that demonstrates notes about the performance and makes it altogether more relevant. Stop focusing on the distribution of paper, which is likely not a viable distribution model, and start focusing on creating relationships between artists and consumers if you want this model to remain profitable.

    Otherwise, shut up about it, stop publishing sheet music, and focus on performances and other revenue-generating activities like writing jingles for advertisements. Being in business means you focus on revenue generating activities, right? What is so special about slinging paper that means it has to be around forever?

  • Gio said:

    Daniel,

    No, what I’m saying is, if you ride the bus, pay for your ride.

    All these arguments and analogies aside, I have yet to hear a single, definitive answer to this question that doesn’t ramble on about business models, arcane systems, and what if’s to justify “piracy”?

    Why is it OK to take a product that’s offered for sale and not pay for it.

    Simple question.

    Can someone answer with a short, simple answer?

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    Why is it OK to take a product that’s offered for sale and not pay for it.

    If you were never going to purchase it at any price but “free”, making a copy harms no one.

    Short and simple.

    The disk itself is tangible, so the file exists in an actual location, on that disk. There may not be more or less “disk, but the usable space on the disk will fill up with data. “Disk Full” I don’t think telepathy has been fully developed yet, so the information resides somewhere, and as such is material goods. Making a copy of a piece of timber may not be a crime, but comparing music to a piece of wood is really telling. No wonder you expect it for free. :)

    I don’t think music is a tangible good, like timber. I was just pointing out that if it were a tangible good, it would be very strange indeed to argue you can’t make a copy of it. I’d rather not continue this line of argument, because it is frankly ridiculous, but I’ll have a go.

    With encryption, you can entirely change the actual data stored, so it’ll look nothing like the original. Does this make it a new and different good, now legal to copy/”take”? No, obviously.

    With stenography, you can arrange that a single piece of data represents two separate things, neither of which look much like they would individually. As such, couldn’t I claim the data on the disk is the first, and not the second? No, obviously.

    Given a sufficiently well-designed program, any arbitrary stream of data can be interpreted as any other arbitrary data. If I have a program that will play the text of the constitution as “Bad Romance”, say, is it now illegal to share the constitution? No, obviously.

    When I upload a file to youtube, the music track stored on their disk is converted from the one on mine, and looks nothing alike. Given that they did not in fact copy the actual data, should it be legal? No, obviously. (At least by you position.)

    The music is not its physical representation. Transcribing sheet music by hand is exactly as immoral as photocopying it, even though the final result will appear different, because both represent the same information.

    Moving on.

    Borrowing implies that you will return the item.

    But that’s not what you said. You said If you can’t afford something, do without, until you can afford it. There’s no mention of borrowing here. The point is that your reduction is oversimplified. Yes, you can justify borrowing given a paragraph of text, but it runs counter to the original statement. You can’t make it that simple.

    Where’s the harm, you say? You are not just affecting the composer, but everyone else in the chain.

    How? How I am affecting the composer, or anyone else? If I didn’t have the money to pay for it, making a copy does not deprive them of anything. If they had $100 before I made a copy, they still have $100 after, and they were never going to get any more from me. How are they losing money? I ask again – how exactly are they harmed?

    Not available where you are? Too bad, would be my answer to that.

    This is the same as above. Given that I couldn’t purchase it in the first place, how does making a copy hurt anything?

    Since we’re playing word games here….. What does a pirate do?

    Steal.

    What I’m trying to do is avoid word games. Don’t call it theft unless everyone in the discussion agrees that’s what it is. That’s not a word game, that’s a social convention of language which has been respected for thousands of years.

    And I hope you’re aware that, in context, we’re talking about digital piracy, not the guns and cannons kind. What does a digital pirate do? Copy. Whether this is theft is debatable, given that we’re debating it.

  • RockStar said:

    How can there even be a debate? People are STEALING the property someone else has created. You can rationalize all you want but in your heart you know it’s wrong. Do people really think its OK to enjoy the fruits of another’s labor just for the taking? Gio is right. This kind of self-entitlement is killing our society, not just the music industry. And who are we to decide that an artist has made “enough” money? Yeah, punish the successful and wound those struggling to get there. Stuff your mouth full of that cake, you morons. Fill your empty head with all that great FREE music! Enjoy.

  • Gio said:

    Ddes:
    You are the one who mentioned Library. That’s where my use of “borrowing” came from.

    So what you are saying is, you are entitled to copy something since you would not have paid for it in the first place. Let’s continue…… It then stands to reason that you are entitled to copy an artists entire catalogue, since you would not have paid for it anyway. So if YOU are entitled to do so, it follows that the entire planet is entitled to copy this artists entire catalogue. Why stop at this one artist? Let’s make all music fair game, to be copied because no one wants to pay for it. There. Now we have artists who create music that no one will pay for, because they can just copy it, and copying is not a crime. Do I have that right? Why should artists continue to create anything at all? Because they love to?

    Extreme? Maybe. But that’s where it will likely lead.

    The point is that if “copying” is free and OK, at some point there will be no revenue from said product, because everyone will just make a copy for free.

    Believe what you like, and I’m not so naive to think I will sway anyone’s opinion, but IMHO, the sort of reasoning that makes “piracy” OK is warped, twisted, a bit too socialist in nature for my taste, and borne of the same stuff defense lawyers use to get known murderers of the hook. Semantics.

    To me, piracy, whether it be digital, or the guns and cannons kind, is theft. And I don’t really care if people agree with me or not. It is my opinion, and I am as entitled to it. Arrrrgh!

  • Gio said:

    Ddes wrote:
    “If you were never going to purchase it at any price but “free”, making a copy harms no one.”

    This makes the assumption that one is already expecting something for nothing, and has no intention to pay for it to begin with. What right does one have to own anything without paying for it??? As I said before, it will harm everyone involved down the line, as more and more people “copy”, and less and less people buy.

    Entitlement? You bet. Take, take, take seems to be the credo these days. It’s both laughable and pathetic that this is what society has been reduced to.

    Go ahead. Make your copies. One day there will be nothing left to copy, as people will just stop making things available. In the end, “free” is not free. There will be a price to pay, and I fear that this reality will rear it’s ugly head eventually, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will. It will be a sorry world to live in.

    Enjoy the debate, folks. I’ll be busy raising my kids making recordings that no one will pay for, not because the music is bad, but because it’s “free” to copy on the internet. Thanks for that, pirates.

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    You are the one who mentioned Library. That’s where my use of “borrowing” came from.

    Yes? The point was that your simplification was too simple. It fails to take into account issues like libraries. Do you understand this?

    So if YOU are entitled to do so, it follows that the entire planet is entitled to copy this artists entire catalogue.

    I don’t see why. The US president is entitled to sign bills passed by Congress into law. No one else is. Not everyone is in exactly the same circumstances. Just because it’s OK for some people does not mean it’s OK for everyone. This is an extremely basic principle of society, and you’ve chosen to willfully ignore it to make your slippery slope.

    Now we have artists who create music that no one will pay for, because they can just copy it, and copying is not a crime. The point is that if “copying” is free and OK, at some point there will be no revenue from said product, because everyone will just make a copy for free.

    This is wrong even if you accept the claims leading up to it. Again, Cory Doctorow. He writes novels which are available for free, legally, online. Everyone can just copy them, and copying those is indeed not a crime. And yet people pay anyway. Enough to support him and his family and his career. You might expect people wouldn’t pay, but reality disagrees.

    Why should artists continue to create anything at all? Because they love to?

    Well, plenty of this does happen, yes. See: Deviantart, Flickr, the open source community. Yeah, there’s a lot of crap, but there’s also plenty of genuine art.

    Believe what you like, and I’m not so naive to think I will sway anyone’s opinion, but IMHO, the sort of reasoning that makes “piracy” OK is warped, twisted, a bit too socialist in nature for my taste, and borne of the same stuff defense lawyers use to get known murderers of the hook. Semantics.

    … Good for you? Logic is logic and facts are facts, however much you might not like them, however socialist they are.

    To me, piracy, whether it be digital, or the guns and cannons kind, is theft. And I don’t really care if people agree with me or not. It is my opinion, and I am as entitled to it. Arrrrgh!

    “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

    This makes the assumption that one is already expecting something for nothing, and has no intention to pay for it to begin with.

    No, it doesn’t. If I don’t have any legal way to purchase something, or the means to do so, then I can’t buy it. If it so happens that I can create an illegal copy, so much the better, but that has nothing to do with whether the artists was going to get paid. The artist was never going to get paid.

    As I said before, it will harm everyone involved down the line, as more and more people “copy”, and less and less people buy.

    My personal copies have nothing to do with what other people are doing. My creating a copy does not hurt anyone, at least if I wouldn’t have purchased it if I couldn’t have copied it. That’s my thinking. How am I wrong?

    Entitlement? You bet. Take, take, take seems to be the credo these days. It’s both laughable and pathetic that this is what society has been reduced to.

    This is an opinion, and you’re entitled to express it, but within the debate is not the best place to do so.

    One day there will be nothing left to copy, as people will just stop making things available.

    What, now copies destroy previously created things? Even if all of your above reasoning was true, it doesn’t follow that we’ll no longer have anything to copy. Pirates, at the very least, will continue to make available all they always have, because they were never getting paid for it in the first place.

    Your arguments in those two posts were wrong at nearly every conceivable level. They were factually wrong; the intermediate arguments did not follow from the “facts”; and the conclusions didn’t even follow from those arguments. I point this out only because your previous posts were at least occasionally logically sound, if based on demonstrably inaccurate assumptions. You seem to be losing coherence.

  • Gio said:

    Your assertion that my arguments are wrong is your opinion. I don’t much care for your “logic” or concept of what “facts” are either. I live in this world, and people who copy files are indirectly stealing income from me, and those that I work with. Justify it any which way you want, but that is fact.

    So tell me, who decides who can copy and who can not, then? And what would be the criteria? This is silly.

    There is nothing slippery about what I said. Were not talking about the Presidency here. Were talking about plain old citizens copying files. If one is allowed, why not everyone else?

    How’s this?

    For you to even want to copy something means it has some value to you. Some kind of worth. Would you bother copying something you don’t care to have? Why not? Because it has no value to you. If something has worth, it should be paid for. Pretty simple, and that’s as deep as it should get.

    I’m through here….

  • Ddes said:

    I live in this world, and people who copy files are indirectly stealing income from me, and those that I work with. Justify it any which way you want, but that is fact.

    But this isn’t true. If they wouldn’t have paid if they couldn’t pirate, how are they stealing income? They never were going to affect your income in any way. The piracy has no effect on your income.

    So tell me, who decides who can copy and who can not, then? And what would be the criteria? This is silly.

    There are lots of potential criteria and issues with the same. All I was trying to establish is that it’s not nearly so black and white as you and others here have claimed.

    There is nothing slippery about what I said. Were not talking about the Presidency here. Were talking about plain old citizens copying files. If one is allowed, why not everyone else?

    Different people get to do different things. The recently unemployed get a stipend from the government. Other people do not. People who can’t afford to pay for music cannot be said to be stealing it, because everyone has exactly what they did before and after someone copies it. The only potential effect is a loss of future income, and if someone can’t afford to pay, there was never even a question of that.
    Oh, and “slippery slope” is a rhetorical device, wherein you assume that certain slight problems now will build into greater problems later. Like if you say that a few pirates now means no one will pay in the future.

    If something has worth, it should be paid for.

    Air has worth to me. Broadcast TV has worth to me. Google’s myriad free services have worth to me. Great Expectations has worth to me. I don’t pay for any of these things. You think I should have to?

  • Gio said:

    “Different people get to do different things. The recently unemployed get a stipend from the government. Other people do not. People who can’t afford to pay for music cannot be said to be stealing it, because everyone has exactly what they did before and after someone copies it.”

    Apples and Oranges.

    Ah. True colors showing here. Is that what this is about? Allowing the poor to have what they can’t afford? Wow.

    “Air has worth to me. Broadcast TV has worth to me. Google’s myriad free services have worth to me. Great Expectations has worth to me. I don’t pay for any of these things. You think I should have to?”

    Easy to make your case when you take things out of context, isn’t it?

    Something else, really……..

  • Gio said:

    “There are lots of potential criteria and issues with the same. All I was trying to establish is that it’s not nearly so black and white as you and others here have claimed.”

    And there it is. The reason people who share your views make all these convoluted arguments with myriad different criteria is that you are simply incapable of justifying piracy on the most base level. Black and White.

  • Ddes said:

    Apples and Oranges.

    No. Things which are OK for some people are not OK for other people.

    Ah. True colors showing here. Is that what this is about? Allowing the poor to have what they can’t afford? Wow.

    That was never what this was about. That was a single example to demonstrate that things are not as clear-cut as you seem to suggest. It works equally well if you substitute “those in places with no way to legally purchase media” for “the poor”. The argument stands. And, frankly, questioning motivations is no more appropriate than any less subtle ad hominem.

    Easy to make your case when you take things out of context, isn’t it?

    If my quotation was out of context, I apologize. What I understood you to be saying is that we should always pay for things we find worth in. Could you rephrase it for me? I don’t see any other obvious interpretation.

    And there it is. The reason people who share your views make all these convoluted arguments with myriad different criteria is that you are simply incapable of justifying piracy on the most base level. Black and White

    The reason it requires complex debate is because it’s a complex topic. There are lots of complex topics. Rarely if ever do we have a moral question which is black and white. This is not one of those cases. If nothing else, I’ve been trying to firmly establish this. Given the amount of serious scholarly debate already extant, I had not expected that to be such a major point of contention.

    A question I’d like you (or someone) to answer:
    Would you agree that, if someone does not and will not have the means to purchase, for example, the album of a given artist, then their pirating it does not in itself harm said artist?
    I expect your answer will be “no”, of course, though you might surprise me. But if you don’t agree, could you explain for me, again, where the harm comes from? Saying it’s down the whole line, artist to producer, answers where it would have effects, but not where it comes from. I’m sure I’m missing something, but one way or another, I’m still not understanding.

  • Daniel said:

    Gio: “No, what I’m saying is, if you ride the bus, pay for your ride.” And that’s exactly what I said about ad-subsidized TV shows. If you watch the show, and the show’s advertising Coke, buy a Coke.

    What I wrote earlier, and nobody really responded, is that as a resident of a country-other-than-the-United-States, I can’t legally own most content that a resident of the United States can and does take for granted. I can’t use iTunes for example. I technically can’t – the software is designed to block any attempt to do so. I can’t use Hulu, I can’t use Amazon Video on Demand, I can’t even use Pandora. I can only buy part of the books available on Amazon Kindle, and I can’t buy any books available on B&N Nook. Things like DVD and Blu-Ray regions were created to prevent me from owning and watching certain movies and TV shows. Now, you can say that if I can’t afford content, I should do without. But the point is that (1) I’m more than happy to pay for it, but can’t, and (2) as both a journalist and an academic, I don’t consume content on a whim but to actually perform my job.

  • Ivan said:

    Hey,
    I’ve been wanting to add to this debate for awhile now, and Jason Robert Brown’s post really hit a nerve. Like Eleanor, I am a teenager (16 years old, in fact) and a prolific copyright violator, particularly in regard to film.

    Below are my opinions on the topic, although they are obviously subject to change as I learn and discuss more (otherwise, what is the point of discussion?).

    Central to the debate is the idea of copyright as theft. I contend that theft, in its conventional definition, implies depriving the original owner of their property for one’s own benefit. This is obviously amoral.

    But is copying an [i]idea[/i] necessarily theft? For instance, if I went to a shop and saw a cool novelty – say a duct tape wallet – then came home and made my own wallet out of duct tape, that act would hardly be on the same level as shoplifting. It would of course be nice of me to give some tribute to the source of the idea – referring my friends to the shop when they ask about my new wallet, or just paying for the wallet in the first place – but hardly [b]amoral[/b] to do otherwise.

    I think the most critical mistake defenders of copyright make is mixing business and art. I strongly believe these are fundamentally different institutions. Business exists to make money; art exists for a far greater purpose. The statements “an artist must be financially rewarded for his art” and especially “art will suffer if it is not well-funded” are false both in principle and in history. A well-known Russian writer once said “if you cannot live without writing, then [i]don’t write[/i]“. I doubt that if bestselling writers, rock stars, singers and actors would cease to get millions for their work, America would turn into a cultural desert. But I’m open to debate on that.

    Lastly, the idea of the free market system is that business produces material that consumers need – if consumers can just manufacture or copy the material themselves, then business is wasting its time. Naturally, we do not pay for things we can get for free (as long as we can do so without committing an amoral act such as theft).

    That is why, despite often pirating movies, I still go to see them in theatres – because a theatre provides a far more immersive and quality experience, more than worth the $12 + popcorn I shell out. Similarly, while I could just print most books (especially older ones) off Project Gutenberg, I will almost always opt for the Penguin Classic, because the feel of the physical book, the illustrations, and the introduction are worth the $10-20 for me. Music is similar – there is no comparison between the sound quality and pleasure derived from a concert vis a vis a pirated MP3. Same thing with a physical album CD with the cover, maybe some trivia about the musicians, the authentic disc and the feeling of having supported a branch of art I highly enjoy.

    Sorry for the whopper of a comment.

  • Gio said:

    Ddes,

    If my comment came off as an attack, I apologize. That was not my intention.

    That statement you made was indeed an apples and oranges comparison, and here’s why. You are comparing NEEDS with WANTS. Air, as you mentioned earlier, as well as stipends for the unemployed (which society has agreed in one way or another is the right thing to do), food, shelter, are basic human needs, and have worth on a totally different level. Survival depends on it. On the other hand, no one NEEDS a copy of band X’s latest song. A person may WANT it, but their survival does not depend on whether they have that copy or not. That is an absolutely clear cut distinction. As for your other examples (broadcast TV, Google services, etc.), those are paid for. The creators and all involved are compensated by other means (advertising, for one), and are offered to the public for free as part of the business model. What that stuff is worth to you or anyone else is for the individual to determine, but is hardly a matter of life or death if you don’t have them, and since it’s already offered for free, does not apply here.

    AFA your question “Does the artist get hurt directly by pirating?”….. I’ll make one final attempt.

    There are two things I see.

    1) There is a concept called “potential income” that I see frowned upon in these discussions. Fine. If “x” amount of copies are sold for “x” dollars, any additional free downloads will not subtract from that original amount of revenue. You guys seem to love pointing this out. What it hinders is potential for growth. That hurts. In many ways. I’ll not get into the economics of it (rising studio costs, cost of living, etc), but I do marvel at how advocates for pirating are somehow attempting to appoint themselves arbiters of how much money an artist can earn.

    2)Am I to understand that hurting whomever is down the line (studios, musicians, producers), may not be acceptable, but directly harming the artist is?

    As for the question, “What if I live in an area with no legal means to purchase media?”, I don’t know. Somewhere, someone on this planet has what you WANT available by legal means. It’s a small world now. The internet can connect you to areas where you CAN purchase things legally. You may have to jump through a few more hoops to get it, spend a bit on shipping, but it is possible. If you want something badly enough, you find a way. I would need way more than what you’re giving me to justify illegal copying.

    What you’ve been trying to establish as a complex moral issue is really not so complex at all. Product is meant for sale. Music, be it on CD, Sheet music, MP3 or any other form is product intended for sale. Period. To acquire said product by any means other than paying for it is theft.

    Now I’m no Supreme Court Judge, nor a lawyer, just a regular shmo defending my income, and that of my colleagues. I’m sure you will find points to pick apart, as it is apparent to me the only answer you will accept is “Here. Copy what you want.”

    Have at it. Enjoy.

  • Gio said:

    @paferg:

    Ha! I actually just saw this post of yours.

    “The people you’re arguing with just like arguing — that’s why their arguments are so reactionary and predictable. You’re just visiting this place, they live here. They aren’t trying to address the issues so much as defeat your arguments bit by bit and make you look stupid. So don’t encourage them. I’m all for debate, but this isn’t debate, it’s just replaying the same tired script again and again.”

    I’m just passing through here anyhow. :)

  • MrJoe said:

    George,

    I find this sentence very telling: “Guilt may force many people to rationalize their own behavior and drive them towards the free culture copyright abolitionist movement.”

    This is a new twist. No longer are you threatened by copyright infringers alone, you are threatened by authors who intentionally put their work in the public domain or under less militant licensing terms.

    I’m the author of some Creative Commons work, and some open source software too. Do you want to tell me, the “creator”, how I am allowed to license my own copyrighted work? Is that it now? Give me a break.

    You can fight the pirates, but you aren’t going to win. But if you fight against author’s rights at the same time, you definitely won’t win.

  • Steve H said:

    <blockquote cite="There are a bunch of false comparisons here. An electrician works for a single person per job, and is paid by a single person. A content producer, such as a photographer, works for thousands or millions, and is paid by many. They are not the same. If I fail to compensate an electrician for her work, she doesn’t get any compensation. If I fail to compensate an artist for his work, he does.”>
    Not if everybody behaves like you. If I’m a hot dog vendor and you nick one of my Chicago jumbo weenies with all the trimmin’s while I’m distracted by another customer is your behavior legal or ethical just because everyone else is paying for their food? If YOU were the hot dog vendor is that how you would see it? One definition of integrity, of character is “how you behave when no one is watching.” The Internet now affords vast opportunities for near-anonymous appropriation of digital content and the law is struggling to catch up with the changing paradigm of intellectual property rights. But just as important as reexamining the legal aspects of the digital age is revisiting and, hopefully, reaffirming our ethics.
    I am privileged to know quite a few musicians, graphic designers, artists, photographers, playwrights, journalists and novelists who are talented enough to make their living through their art or craft. They range in age from their late teens to early eighties. Most would describe their politics as liberal and all would be described by me as honorable and empathetic people. I sent out an email poll to 50+ of them two days ago. They all responded and, without exception, they adamantly believe they have the right to be compensated for their efforts. Granted, this cross-section sample is limited by my preferences in friends and associates, but I’d hazard to predict that any similar sample of successful creators of digital content would skew the same direction. This is stealing. It’s a new way of stealing and one that is difficult to police but just because an illegal act is easy or wide-spread does not mitigate its harm. Store-looting during a riot is no less a crime because everyone does it.
    My apologies if I’ve mis-applied emphasis HTML tags, there doesn’t seem to be a way to preview this post.
    Cheers!

  • Ivan said:

    @Gio,
    You seem resigned to the fact that nothing you or others will say will ever convince pirates to stop, well, pirating copyrighted data. I think this is an overly sardonic approach. I for one am really looking for an answer to the question – “is piracy moral?” – because if it is not, I can’t very well live with myself and yet continue doing it.

    I won’t argue, in fact I agree with, the fact that piracy reduces the income of artists. To deny that is folly. My question is whether they truly own (not deserve, which is a sociological issue) the art they create in the sense that they can exploit all manifestations of it for financial gain – the fact that they have the right to attribution is indisputable.

    Basically, I’m asking you to clarify your idea of product in “Product is meant for sale. To acquire said product by any means other than paying for it is theft.”

    Up until recently, product always meant something physical – that is, something that, if stolen, deprives the owner of possessing it. It is PROPERTY, which Western civilization holds as a fundamental human right. But is something that can be shared and duplicated endlessly – an idea – really property?

    I would hold that is something different, and needs to be addressed on a different level. I’m not necessarily saying copyright must be abolished, but comparisons to theft are void when dealing with ideas.

    Here’s an example: Over a million academic papers are published every year for free – with their purpose being the advancement of human knowledge. Many of them are the result of years of arduous labor by teams of scientists who have devoted their entire lives to research (a very miserable, financially speaking, occupation). They contain brilliant ideas and insights into the workings of the universe; some may result in the creation of life-saving medicine or the beginning of extrasolar spaceflight. Now imagine that every single one of these papers is copyrighted and becomes intellectual property of the creator, or the creator’s institution. The institution will then sell this knowledge for huge premiums. Science will have become a business. It will no longer be possible to access any paper ever written for a simple maintenance fee – one will have to pay every single creator of every single paper on the topic.

    Can you see how much damage that would do to academia? To Science? To progress?

    So the question of the story is – why is art different?

  • MrJoe said:

    “You seem resigned to the fact that nothing you or others will say will ever convince pirates to stop, well, pirating copyrighted data. I think this is an overly sardonic approach. I for one am really looking for an answer to the question – “is piracy moral?” – because if it is not, I can’t very well live with myself and yet continue doing it.”

    They are afraid if they were able to stop piracy, because it will just drive people to Creative Commons music anyway.

    I know why they hate Creative Commons so much: it craps all over their arguments. This is music that the artists INTENTIONALLY say, hey, we are going to give YOU, the user, some rights, including the right to share to music and remix it too. And this pisses off the militant copyright people, because they don’t want users to have any rights at all.

    I encourage everyone to go download some Creative Commons music, especially if you feel “guilty”. There is literally tens of thousands of FREE and _LEGAL_ music tracks available. Woo hoo!

    And check out Linux and Ubuntu too. =)

  • MrJoe said:

    Oh and another Creative Commons project I’m sure you have heard about – Wikipedia. A completely free encyclopedia. There is no reason to pirate, even if you like getting stuff for free. It’s the best way to give the finger to these militant copyright types. All their arguments, about how music will die, or how this and this will never work, fall apart in the face of Creative Commons and Free Software.

  • MrJoe said:

    Oh and another Creative Commons project I’m sure you have heard about – Wikipedia. A completely free encyclopedia. There is no reason to pirate, even if you like getting stuff for free. It’s the best way to give the finger to these militant copyright types. All their arguments, about how music will die, or how this and this will never work, fall apart in the face of free culture. It’s sad to watch almost.

  • Ivan said:

    @MrJoe
    Nah. I don’t suspect anyone of twisting truth to serve their own interests. To me this is a moral issue that transcends individual interest, and my goal is to clarify my own thinking on the issue in order to make the morally right decision for myself.

    Plus, Creative Commons doesn’t really crap over the pro-copyright argument; they are the ones defending the artists’ rights to their own work, so obviously they respect the artists’ right to give it away for free via Creative Commons.

  • MrJoe said:

    Ivan,

    But you see, their argument is without having very strict copyright where no one is allowed to share, music will just die. This is repeated over and over.

    The ASCTA declared jihad against Creative Commons, EFF, and other groups quite recently. These groups don’t condone piracy but they have ideas may be hostile to the copyright moral crusaders.

    You want morality? The book “Free Culture” by Lawrence Lessig (founder of CC), makes a different moral argument, unlike most books, you can download and read this one for free: http://www.free-culture.cc/

    If you are having moral issues about copyright, I suggest you read that book to see perhaps militant copyright idea of morality is not really 100% correct. They HATE that book, by the way. It’s a book they definitely would love to be banned (ironic). All the more reason to read it. I’m not going to summarize the book here, because that would do it injustice.

  • Ddes said:

    It’s night; I’ll be coherent again in the morning; not gonna say much right now.

    Paferg: most of your post is an insightful summary of the problem. Some of it I take issue with, but I’ll get back to that later. Except this: really, this is the first time I’ve ever participated in or even seriously looked at a debate regarding copyright, and considering I’m under 30, there’s no way I’ve been refining my arguments for decades. I’m as new as anyone.

    MrJoe: I agree with most of the stuff in your posts, at first glance, except this:

    It’s the best way to give the finger to these militant copyright types.

    First, Gio and his ilk are hardly militant copyright types. Those pushing for reform are, at the moment, in a minority, if only because so few people are educated about the issue. And people supporting the status quo are rarely militant.

    Second, considering that a lot of those arguing for the current scheme are themselves artists, it shouldn’t be the objective to “give the[m] the finger”. (Actually, giving anyone the finger, metaphorically or otherwise, almost never accomplishes anything except to make you feel better.)

  • Ddes said:

    One more thing:

    They HATE that book, by the way. It’s a book they definitely would love to be banned (ironic).

    I’d be shocked if this were true. The RIAA, maybe, but not individual artists. In my experience artists are big on the sharing of ideas, even ideas they don’t like. Some of them also want to be paid for it, is all.

  • MrJoe said:

    First, Gio and his ilk are hardly militant copyright types. Those pushing for reform are, at the moment, in a minority, if only because so few people are educated about the issue. And people supporting the status quo are rarely militant.

    Well militant is a subjective term. I definitely view Gio and his ilk are militants. They are trying to start a fight about copyright. I especially hate when they to push some kind of moral idea. Morality is also subjective. Christians and Jews and Muslims, they all have differing morals. Yes. You bring morality into the argument, you are turning a legal argument into a holy war. That’s what this has turned into, a jihad. Trying to push morals on everyone else. And free culture, well they are the infidels. Nothing more then pirates and “copyright abolitionists” in disguise. The man said it himself. It’s not my words. I wish I could make it up.

  • MrJoe said:

    I’d be shocked if this were true. The RIAA, maybe, but not individual artists. In my experience artists are big on the sharing of ideas, even ideas they don’t like. Some of them also want to be paid for it, is all.

    You think there are no artists working for the RIAA? I wouldn’t paint artists with the same brush. Just because you put out a track doesn’t suddenly make you a good guy. Hitler was an artist too, you know.

  • Ivan said:

    @MrJoe

    No sir. A debate about morality is what this should be, because our laws should be inherently moral. Leave the actual laws to the lawyers and congressmen who will know how to write them correctly – but the moral content of these laws is, in a democratic society, for us to decide.

    What you see is a jihad – a holy war – persecution of people for their beliefs. Personally, all I see is a bunch of people who are searching for truth (even if they think they’ve already found it) in a complex issue that concerns us all.

  • Ivan said:

    “I wouldn’t paint artists with the same brush.”

    And yet this is precisely what you did with the statement “They hate that book, you know”.

    Anyway, this is my last reply to you since I don’t think we’re getting anywhere. If you’re open to my advice – relax. Think of everyone arguing here as someone with a family, a living or aspirations for one, a rational mind and above all, a conscience.

    That is the problem with this debate – it gets cluttered up with the small debatables and polarizing statements like “They hate freedom!” or “They are thieves!”.

    To me the fundamental question here is whether artists truly own the ideas they create – and it seems to me, bolstered by the academia example I mentioned earlier, that to think they do is ultimately destructive.

  • MrJoe said:

    You want to talk morality? I see a world where single human being can have access to the sum of human knowledge. Every. single. person. The only thing stopping this almost utopia from occurring is copyright law.

    Not technology. The law.

    It’s post-scarcity of information, and you know, copyright law and the billions of dollars worth of lawyers can’t defeat the fact. We live in post-scarcity of data.

    And I keep stressing Creative Commons because even if found their foolproof anti-pirate system, it won’t push people into paying for music, it will push them onto Creative Commons. Because you go to sites like this: http://www.jamendo.com

    You find tens of thousands of free tracks, many good tracks, more then you could listen to in an entire lifetime. How is music dying exactly? Before the Internet, I couldn’t get that much music even if I tried. And it’s completely legal, so back off copyright militants. I don’t need your crappy expensive music.

    :)

  • MrJoe said:

    And yet this is precisely what you did with the statement “They hate that book, you know”.

    That was not in reference to “artists”, but rather “copyright militants”. There are artists who are firmly in the free culture camp, much to dismay of the jihadists. :)

  • kylie said:

    Taking someone’s creative work without paying for it, and without their permission is stealing, regardless of how easy, or painless, or accepted it is. It isn’t fully accepted, otherwise it would be legal. If you want it to be legal, get yourself elected and make it so.
    The problem with information and material on the internet is that the people who should have been setting up the electronic distribution systems (ie the record companies, the movie and tv distributors and the publishers) dropped the ball in a big way and failed to understand the new structure. Then they prosecuted the offenders out of proportion to the crime. Of course they are easy to hate, and justify stealing from. But ultimately, you aren’t stealing from a faceless company, you are stealing from a person (or persons). Very few of us would do that in person, with physical objects, yet feel completely ok with doing so online. I think what JRB did is what the artists and the producers of that material should have done in the first place- presented the offenders with the real person they are ripping off. It is a lot harder to justify your theft when the victim is standing in front of you- either figuratively or literally. Yes, you will still have the die hard pirate individuals, in the same way we still have criminals, but the vast majority of the population would recognise that is a cost to acquiring items.
    There does need to be a new way of dealing with this- prohibition doesn’t work very well- but blaming the creators for losing control over their creation is not it.

  • Mr. Bill said:

    I was linked to this post by saxontheweb.com, where someone remarked that piracy is not like theft but rather copyright infringement is more like loss of property rights than loss of ownership. This lead me to realize that a far better analogy to piracy than theft is trespassing. You own some land, and someone walks onto it. They haven’t taken anything physical from you, but still, I think even most teenagers would agree to their own right to prevent people walking into their room without permission. Likewise if someone owns a hotel and you sneak in and stay in it overnight without paying, you haven’t really taken anything physical, but most people would agree the owner of the hotel has the right to charge you to stay over.

  • Ivan said:

    @Kylie

    I do agree that blaming or hating artists or the companies that represent them is wrong. Using their sometimes harsh tactics as an excuse to pirate more is akin to a rebellious child pouting to punish his parents for sending him to his room.

    But you are ignoring the complexities of the issue. Legally, there are different standpoints on copyright around the globe. In Canada, for instance, it is not illegal to download copyrighted material, only to upload it.

    But just because something is legal does not mean it is right. There were laws once that repressed minorities, pried into the bedrooms of private citizens, and rejected a woman’s right to her own body. They were challenged and changed by concerned citizens turned activist.

    As you said, the ease, painlessness, or acceptance of the act does not imply its morality any more than laws concerning it do.

    But I do urge you to consider the huge difference between real property that, if transferred, deprives the owner of its possession, and intellectual property – knowledge and ideas – that can be duplicated endlessly with no loss for the owner except the loss of income stemming from the EXPLOITATION of his ideas.

    This is what you’re taking for granted – the fact that the progenitor of an idea has the right to exploit all manifestations of it for financial gain. Where is this idea coming from? Who says it is true?

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    I appreciate your willingness to discuss this in the manner in which you are. As for me being sardonic, perhaps that’s true, after all, I’m one of the “old farts” everyone keeps referring to. You bring up some interesting points, and I will try to address them.

    Your example of academic papers is a great one, and helps me illustrate my point, as you half answered it already. The difference lies in content. Information vs Entertainment. The former, as you put it, “are published every year for free – with their purpose being the advancement of human knowledge”. The latter is entertainment. IMO there is a major distinction between the two. We NEED information, we WANT to be entertained. Not being entertained will hardly cause any damage to Science, academia, or progress, though it would make for a very boring existence devoid of enrichment for the soul. I think it’s too easy to lump everything together now that most things can be reduced to a sequence of 0s and 1s, and these distinctions are critical if we are to resolve this issue in any meaningful way.

    Music is an “idea” while it resides in the composers brain. Once pen hits paper, it becomes something else. A creation. A creation unique to that composer. Art. It exists as something more than a thought. If you like this persons work, you may choose to buy a ticket to see a performance. If you wish to enjoy this work at home, you buy a copy from him. Now this artist may choose to sell this copy, or give it away for free. Or not record it at all. You would then wait until the next performance to PAY and see him again.

    Back to product:
    Now once you get this creation recorded (and this seems to be the most difficult point to make), it used to go to a manufacturing plant for replicating and distribution in the form of a CD, or going back further, a vinyl record. Something you can hold. With the sole purpose of being sold to whomever would choose to buy it and enjoy at their leisure. Much like anything else is manufactured. The idea is born, it gets put to paper, you design it, manufacture it, and then you sell your new doo-dad to the public. This costs money. (By the way, patents exist so that these unique ideas can’t be stolen by others, manufactured and sold. They exist to protect the inventor, and IMO to promote advancement. You want to sell vacuum cleaners? Well this idea has been used. Why don’t you invent a better one? That kind of thing. These are ideas here, no?)

    This issue didn’t seem to exist when music was pressed to vinyl, at least not nearly to the extent it does now. Why is it any different now that it’s a digital file? It’s still a unique creation only on modern media. Was it wrong to distribute and sell recordings then? They would not have sold if there were no market. People WANTED to buy the records. And I might add (putting the flaws of the actual business practices labels and record companies used aside for a moment) there was actually a vetting process built in to the system, wherein you could very well bet that the artist making records were some of the best in the world. Nowadays, anyone with a cheap microphone and a laptop can create so-called music, and the result is an absolute glut of material that is mediocre at best. Perhaps this contributes to the dilemma. But I digress…..

    What about movies? Books? Is this form of art considered public domain the moment it hits paper?

    Being a musician, recording engineer, and sometimes writer, I can honestly say I have no quarrel at all with Creative Commons. If people wish to distribute their art for free, and allow others to use and manipulate it (ie:re-mix) as they choose, that is their choice and their right. Not participating is in no way an infringement of anyone’s rights. Rather a choice, and one I would not like to have forced on me. Carrying on about how it craps on my argument is laughable at best, and sounds like the rantings of a spoiled child. I would hope that you folks aren’t using that stuff for personal gain, like profit? Here’s a thought, instead of relying on the work of others, how about using some of that matter between your ears and create something unique? The more I engage in these discussions, it seems to me the piracy advocates and “people of their ilk” are indeed the more rabid ones, frantically clamoring to grab whatever they can for free and too easily using “violation of rights” and “entitlement” as the basis of their arguments.

    Ivan, I look forward to your thoughts on my ramblings……

  • Mike said:

    There comes a time when concepts need to be revisited. Every so often, you need to take a look at the law and see if it fits in with reality. For example, if there are laws on the books that, if completely enforced, would turn the majority (if not the vast majority) of the citizens in America into criminals, I think you really have to look at the law and see if it is really a legitimate law. Make no mistake about it, if the current set of copyright laws are enforced, 100% of the time, most of America would be criminals. Listening to the CD you just bought? That’s ok. Hum, or whistle it while you are walking down the street? Public performance. The only reason why all of America isn’t completely outraged over the current copyright laws is due to the fact that probably 95% (possibly even more) goes unenforced.

    One of the big problems with the current argument comes down to semantics. Some people see it as stealing, while others don’t. First, stealing refers to limited natural resources. Ideas and concepts are not limited natural resources. Sales are not a limited natural resource. Losing a theoretical, possible future sale is not stealing. For example, lets say that you are selling hammers. I convince many of your customers not to buy hammers from you anymore (for whatever reason). I did NOT steal from you. It is simply a situation where people who might have bought from you aren’t buying from you now.

    See, the problem with all of this is that information is not a limited natural resource. Music (as an example) is an idea. Once it’s recorded, it’s simply data. 1′s and 0′s. CD’s and cassette tapes are limited natural resources. You want to stop people from stealing CD’s, I’m all for it. You want to stop people from arranging a bunch of 1′s and 0′s in a specific order, I don’t know if I can go along with that. See, if it WERE something that could be stolen, then it would be subjected to the first sale principle. Once you sell it, you no longer have control over it. For example, lets say that I built the most beautiful house you’d ever seen. Once I sell that house, I no longer have any control over it. The argument that is being made right now is that despite the fact that people have bought CD’s, they don’t actually own what they just bought (ok, that’s a bit argumentative. They didn’t buy the music, they just bought a cd). This is probably the biggest reason why there is little sympathy from the rest of the “non-artist” population (those who don’t depend on copyrights). For the rest of the world, there really isn’t a good analogy that they can relate to. That’s why these analogies to stealing falls flat. If it were stealing, the person who it was stolen from, wouldn’t have it anymore. If someone downloads a song from the internet, there are still exactly as many cd out there, and the person who wrote the music, still has that music.

    Now, that is not to say that artists shouldn’t be compensated for their work. The most certainly should and the deserve to. But, as I originally said, maybe it’s time to rethink the entire compensation system to more accurately reflect reality.

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    This is a reply to your comment beginning
    “If my comment came off as an attack, I apologize. That was not my intention.”

    You are comparing NEEDS with WANTS. Air, as you mentioned earlier, as well as stipends for the unemployed (which society has agreed in one way or another is the right thing to do), food, shelter, are basic human needs, and have worth on a totally different level. Survival depends on it. On the other hand, no one NEEDS a copy of band X’s latest song. A person may WANT it, but their survival does not depend on whether they have that copy or not. That is an absolutely clear cut distinction.

    You’re getting sidetracked. The point was that something being OK for one person does not mean it’s OK for another person. There are plenty of examples not involving needs. For example, it’s (generally) OK for a man to walk up to his wife and kiss her. It’s (generally) not OK for anyone else. Just it’s OK for me to kiss my wife, it does not follow that it’s OK for everyone else. But that’s exactly the sort of argument you were making:

    So what you are saying is, you are entitled to copy something since you would not have paid for it in the first place. … So if YOU are entitled to do so, it follows that the entire planet is entitled to copy this artists entire catalogue.

    And that’s what I was trying to address. I see how my previous examples were needs and not wants, and how this distracted from my point. Hopefully the example above clarifies what I meant. Things can be OK for some people and not others even if they’re not needs.

    AFA your question “Does the artist get hurt directly by pirating?”

    That wasn’t my question. It was not piracy in general, but in the specific case where the pirate does not and will not have the means to purchase the art. I’m using this case precisely because it does not represent a loss of potential income, nor, as far as I can see, potential growth.

    I do marvel at how advocates for pirating are somehow attempting to appoint themselves arbiters of how much money an artist can earn.

    Where exactly do you see this? That’s a fairly specific accusation, so you ought to be able to get some quotations.

    Am I to understand that hurting whomever is down the line (studios, musicians, producers), may not be acceptable, but directly harming the artist is?

    I’m afraid you misunderstood something rather badly. I didn’t mean to imply that at all. I’ll repeat my question for you here:

    Would you agree that, if someone does not and will not have the means to purchase, for example, the album of a given artist, then their pirating it does not in itself harm said artist*?

    I expect your answer will be “no”, of course, though you might surprise me. But if you don’t agree, could you explain for me, again, where the harm comes from? Saying it’s down the whole line, artist to producer, answers where it would have effects, but not where it comes from. I’m sure I’m missing something, but one way or another, I’m still not understanding.

    *amendment: nor the studio, musician, producer, etc.

    I don’t see if you’ve answered this. (I’m looking for a yes or a no, and not seeing one.) Could you?

    Somewhere, someone on this planet has what you WANT available by legal means. The internet can connect you to areas where you CAN purchase things legally.

    I can physically move to places where it’s legal to purchase things, of course. If I’m wealthy enough, and if both my government and the government of the foreign state are amenable. But apart from that, the wonders of the internet are unlikely to help. Unfortunately, not all media is licensed for legal sale or import to every region. It’s entirely possible, in most cases, to find someone willing to sell it anyway, but someone somewhere is going to be committing a crime. (An real-world example you’ve almost certainly heard of: if I lived in Pakistan, it would be illegal for me to purchase pornography. It’s not merely hypothetical. Another example: there is music which is available exclusively on iTunes. iTunes is not legally available in the entire world. So no, the internet isn’t going to help here.) Again: not all media is legally for sale to everyone everywhere.

    What you’ve been trying to establish as a complex moral issue is really not so complex at all. Product is meant for sale. Music, be it on CD, Sheet music, MP3 or any other form is product intended for sale. Period. To acquire said product by any means other than paying for it is theft.

    You keep saying this. (Particularly that last sentence.) As I’ve said, there’s a lot of contention about whether or not this is true. Therefore, you’ll need to address piracy itself, instead of merely calling it theft.

    Oh, and some people are willing to sell me, say, Great Expectations. That makes it product intended for sale. Is it theft to find a copy online?

    Now I’m no Supreme Court Judge, nor a lawyer, just a regular shmo defending my income, and that of my colleagues.

    There is very little evidence that piracy actually hurts sales, so you’re not even doing that.

    Again, I am actually hoping for a direct answer to my question earlier: Would you agree that, if someone does not and will not have the means to purchase, for example, the album of a given artist, then their pirating it does not in itself harm said artist?

  • Ddes said:

    Gio: I’ve responded to your reply to me, but it’s being held for moderation because there’s links in it. It’ll presumably be posted soon.

  • Ddes said:

    paferg:

    However, this isn’t ultimately an argument about philosophy, politics or metaphysics — artists want to earn money from creating things, and when people can get the things artists create without paying them, the artists tend to make less money.

    That just isn’t true. See the last two links in my previous post (which is waiting for moderation just now, and I’m not going to repeat the links because they’re why it’s waiting for moderation.) See also the fact that 40 of the top 50 highest-grossing films ever were released after 2000, despite the fact that piracy in the 2000s was orders of magnitude easier and more widespread than ever before. And while, as you say, this is difficult to provide evidence for, there’s a nice case-study: books. A significant number of publishing houses have made ebooks of certain just-released books available for free. These novels did no worse than the publisher’s generally very accurate models predicted. In some cases, they did better. True, it’s possible there were a large number of exceptional circumstances, but, well, Occam’s Razor. There’s no reason to assume these were a special case.

    Engaging in philosophical debates on forums and blogs with people who enjoy nothing more than messing with you will not put the genie back in the bottle. The people you’re arguing with just like arguing — that’s why their arguments are so reactionary and predictable. You’re just visiting this place, they live here. They aren’t trying to address the issues so much as defeat your arguments bit by bit and make you look stupid. So don’t encourage them. I’m all for debate, but this isn’t debate, it’s just replaying the same tired script again and again.

    As I’ve mentioned, please try to avoid insulting the debaters within the debate itself. It helps nothing.
    And, in the fact of it, you’re wrong:
    I’m honestly trying to develop and refine my own opinions on the topic, and help others do the same. That’s what discussion is for. I’m as much a visitor here as anyone else; I’ve never been here before. I am trying to address the issues and I really don’t care about defeating arguments except insofar as that’s helpful. I’m very much not trying to make anyone look stupid; I doubt anyone here is. And this “script” is new to me. If this isn’t debate, what is?

    This is exactly why comments about debaters should be made outside of the debate. I’ll be happy to reply to any arguments, but I’m not going to continue to defend myself here. It annoys me that I did in the first place, but I’m going to leave the above paragraph in there.

  • Ivan said:

    @Gio

    Thank you for the reply. My first thought was “damn, he’s right!”. I think the crux here is how we separate knowledge from entertainment – with documentaries and textbooks being two of the most obvious grey areas I can think of. But I’ll reply more in-depth when I’ve thought about it more – your reply really hit a nerve.

    On an unrelated note: what about libraries?

    If getting a product without paying for it is theft, then taking out books at a library is too, despite being socially acceptable even for people who can easily afford to buy them.

    In fact, libraries downright resemble pirates – someone has to actually buy a copy of the book first, then (theoretically) the book can be enjoyed by an infinite number of people.

    While some people do enjoy actually owning books, I don’t derive any pleasure from having a large bookshelf as I seldom re-read. Everything I need from a book I can easily glean in the three weeks the library gives me. Is it then wrong to borrow a book from the library as opposed to buying it from the store? While it’s true that the library isn’t truly free (funded partially by my taxes), the author still only gets the royalties from that one book.

    Any thoughts? (And Gio, I’ll get back to you).

  • Ddes said:

    RockStar:

    People are STEALING the property someone else has created.

    The debate is focused around whether or not piracy is theft. Asserting that it is doesn’t help.

    You can rationalize all you want but in your heart you know it’s wrong.

    That’s a common argument in religious debates, although I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen it elsewhere. In any case, I think I know what’s “in my heart” better than you do.

    This kind of self-entitlement is killing our society, not just the music industry.

    Really? Society is dying now?

    .

    Steve H:

    Not if everybody behaves like you.

    But not everyone does. Democracy would collapse if no one voted, but it chugs along as well as ever if I personally do not vote.

    If I’m a hot dog vendor and you nick one of my Chicago jumbo weenies with all the trimmin’s while I’m distracted by another customer is your behavior legal or ethical just because everyone else is paying for their food? If YOU were the hot dog vendor is that how you would see it?

    Central to this debate is that we’re not talking about physical theft. I hardly expect a hotdog vendor to mind overmuch if I watch how he puts a hotdog together, then do the same myself.

    Besides, the point of my statement is that Gio was claiming piracy was not only immoral but irrational, by drawing a false comparison to electricians. I was addressing that.

    But just as important as reexamining the legal aspects of the digital age is revisiting and, hopefully, reaffirming our ethics.

    My ethics weren’t changed by the rise of the digital age, merely expanded. We face moral questions which have never been an issue.

    Oh, and considering the readiness of teenagers to admit to piracy in polls and to friends and indeed complete strangers, people hardly seem to be ashamed of it. You can accuse people of being immoral, but not lacking in character – except to the extent it places them at risk from the law, pirates seem not to care whether or not anyone is watching.

    They all responded and, without exception, they adamantly believe they have the right to be compensated for their efforts.

    No one here is claiming they should not have the right to be compensated (to a varying extent, and only for stuff that isn’t shit). Besides, I expect cross-sections of other populations would reveal that they think they have the right to rape women, or mutilate young girls, or other such delightful things. What people believe they have the right to do doesn’t have much to do with anything.

    This is stealing.

    As I’ve said, the debate is focused around whether or not this is stealing. Asserting it is doesn’t help anything.

    .

    MrJoe:

    I know why they hate Creative Commons so much

    Who exactly? Artists? Artists in general seem to be pretty happy about Creative Commons. Certain very small fractions of the population aren’t, but that’s all.

    . I definitely view Gio and his ilk are militants. They are trying to start a fight about copyright.

    No. They don’t need to start a fight about copyright, because they’re good with the status quo. If anyone’s trying to start a fight, it’s the people who believe copyright law needs reform.

    Morality is also subjective.

    Society has moral standards. It’s illegal to rape people precisely because it’s immoral. Legal questions and moral ones are frequently inextricably linked, as here.

    You think there are no artists working for the RIAA?

    You said “they” hate the book, “they” being “militant copyright types” like Gio here, or presumably George Ou, or Jason Robert Brown. These are the artists I was talking about. I didn’t mean every individual artist, but rather pro-current copyright artists in general.

    I see a world where single human being can have access to the sum of human knowledge. The only thing stopping this almost utopia from occurring is copyright law.

    Absolutely wrong. Copyright law does not forbid the sharing of knowledge. Indeed, sharing knowledge is almost always allowed under fair use. Wikipedia itself is a great example of that – it cites copyrighted works, but publishes the knowledge within them for free, and perfectly legally. It’s the sharing of art and of a specific presentation of knowledge which is prohibited by copyright law.

    As Ivan rightly pointed out, you need to relax. Accusations of Jihad are, as the war in Iraq nicely demonstrates, not a good way to work things out.

    .

    kylie:

    Taking someone’s creative work without paying for it, and without their permission is stealing, regardless of how easy, or painless, or accepted it is. If you want it to be legal, get yourself elected and make it so.

    I agree, taking someone’s work would be stealing. Copying it, however, may or may not be theft, which is what the debate is largely about. The current legality is irrelevant, and indeed one of the goals people have for discussions like this is to change people’s minds, so that it becomes accepted and that gets made into law.

    Of course they are easy to hate, and justify stealing from. But ultimately, you aren’t stealing from a faceless company, you are stealing from a person (or persons).

    I disagree that piracy is theft; hence the debate.

    Very few of us would do that in person, with physical objects, yet feel completely ok with doing so online.

    This is because it’s a different issue.

    There does need to be a new way of dealing with this- prohibition doesn’t work very well- but blaming the creators for losing control over their creation is not it.

    I don’t think very many people are arguing that blaming creators is a way of dealing with anything. The point would rather be that we need a new system because creators do not have control of their creation, but laws are still written as if they did.

    Yeah, I’m responding to four people in one comment, but I thought it better to have one longer comment than four different ones.

  • Gio said:

    @Mike

    “Losing a theoretical, possible future sale is not stealing. For example, lets say that you are selling hammers. I convince many of your customers not to buy hammers from you anymore (for whatever reason). I did NOT steal from you. It is simply a situation where people who might have bought from you aren’t buying from you now.”

    Right, but in your analogy, no one (those who you convinced not to buy my hammer) gets my hammer at all. Is there someone tossing my hammers off the back of a truck for free somewhere, to those who you convinced not to buy one?

    “See, the problem with all of this is that information is not a limited natural resource. Music (as an example) is an idea. Once it’s recorded, it’s simply data. 1′s and 0′s.”

    One thing that is very bothersome to me is the idea that music is “just” information. Music is a work. Just like sculpture. Just like a painting. It can now be captured and stored as information (data) in computer terms, but when it is played back through the appropriate application, are you hearing 0s and 1s? Before digital, was music data? How about before recording was even possible? Was it data?

    @Mike & Ddes:

    You both seem to share the following view:

    “If someone downloads a song from the internet, there are still exactly as many cd out there, and the person who wrote the music, still has that music.”

    Yes. But lets remember that CD sales are in decline, and legit download sales are up. So….take the number of store bought CDs, add to that the number of legit download sales. I just made (X) amount of money. How many copies(downloads)were made without consent? It doesn’t matter how many CDs are out there. Soon enough, no one will press CDs, as they will become obsolete, and all content will be strictly in binary form. The method of delivery is not the issue. If I sold 10k units (CD or download), but 1k were “copied”, I just lost 1k units worth of sales. How is that not a loss? More importantly, why is that OK?

  • Gio said:

    @Ddes:
    “Things can be OK for some people and not others even if they’re not needs.”

    “It was not piracy in general, but in the specific case where the pirate does not and will not have the means to purchase the art.”

    “Would you agree that, if someone does not and will not have the means to purchase, for example, the album of a given artist, then their pirating it does not in itself harm said artist*?”

    OK. I see you are looking for justification for this particular scenario, as it seems to be your sticking point in every post. I will try…..

    No. I don’t agree. IMO, pirating of any kind is not acceptable. But what are we talking about here? People in Singapore who want to listen to Madonna but can’t because of the laws there?

  • Gio said:

    @Ddes:

    Oops, almost forgot……..

    I said: “I do marvel at how advocates for pirating are somehow attempting to appoint themselves arbiters of how much money an artist can earn.”

    Your answer:”Where exactly do you see this? That’s a fairly specific accusation, so you ought to be able to get some quotations.”

    Your whole premise that copying takes nothing away from what has already been sold tells me this. “You sold this many units. There are more that you didn’t get paid for, but that’s OK. You won’t miss it, since you did sell some…..)

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    One thing that is very bothersome to me is the idea that music is “just” information. Music is a work. Just like sculpture. Just like a painting. It can now be captured and stored as information (data) in computer terms, but when it is played back through the appropriate application, are you hearing 0s and 1s? Before digital, was music data? How about before recording was even possible? Was it data?

    Yes. Music is information and has always been information, nothing else. What else do you propose it could possibly be?

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    If I sold 10k units (CD or download), but 1k were “copied”, I just lost 1k units worth of sales.

    You never had those sales in the first place. You can’t lose something you don’t have.

    OK. I see you are looking for justification for this particular scenario, as it seems to be your sticking point in every post. I will try…..

    No. I don’t agree. IMO, pirating of any kind is not acceptable. But what are we talking about here? People in Singapore who want to listen to Madonna but can’t because of the laws there?

    I didn’t ask if it were acceptable. I asked if it hurt the artist. I hate to keep repeating myself, but I’m not sure how I can be clearer. (Unless I misunderstand you, and you actually mean “it hurts the artist” by “it is not acceptable”. In which case, explain to me how the artist is hurt? I’m not getting it.)

    And no, we’re not talking about any one person, but if you’d like to be specific: a fairly poor person in Russia who wants to have Live in Moscow, an iTunes exclusive album by Stone Sour, or Get to Me, another iTunes exclusive by Train. (iTunes is not available in Russia, if you wondered.) I have no idea if this has ever happened, but it’s entirely plausible.

    Your whole premise that copying takes nothing away from what has already been sold tells me this.

    You’re seeing something I’m not. Saying I’m not going to pay is no more arbitration than happens when I don’t buy a hamburger.

  • Kim Remesch said:

    I wanted to respond to two points.

    First, one person suggested that copyright should die with the author/creator. To have it otherwise is greedy, he said. I have a dual education, journalism and accounting. I decided to use the journalism training as that was how I could add something, I felt.

    Had I used the accounting, I would have a substantial retirement account now. But as a writer, I do not. That copyright ensures that my children inherit from my work. If I had that substantial retirement account, and I died, my children would inherit that. There’s no difference. It’s mine to leave to whomever I want. The fact that I went into a profession that is grossly underpaid is enough of a contribution already. How dare you say it’s greedy to maintain a copyright for one’s heirs.

    Second, someone else suggested that a copyright is not to protect the work but to reward someone for creation. If that were true, the author wouldn’t have to PAY for the copyright. You are given rewards. You don’t generally have to pay for them.

    As is written here again and again, people are coming up with a lot of rationalizations for stealing. If you want to steal, call it what it is. Own it. Don’t try to convince the rest of us that you are not doing it.

  • Gio said:

    Ddes:
    INFORMATION: – things that are or can be known about a topic. Communicable knowledge of something. The act of informing. Notification.

    I don’t how to be more clear. Is a sculpture “information”?

    Is a painting “information”?

    They are both art. So is music.

    Your argument is dangling on a technicality (the definition of information as it relates to computing, that because it is stored as data it is therefore information), that I find weak and tenuous at best.

    “You’re seeing something I’m not. Saying I’m not going to pay is no more arbitration than happens when I don’t buy a hamburger.”

    What I’m seeing is truth, not some kind of abstract reasoning to justify something. If you don’t buy a hamburger, you don’t GET the hamburger, unless someone agrees to GIVE you one. Copying a file is akin to sneaking into the restaurant’s kitchen, making your own burger with THEIR ingredients, and walking away with your copy of their burger. Is that not theft? Did you hurt the restaurant by doing this? Christ, even my 7 yr old can understand this…….

  • Gio said:

    “And no, we’re not talking about any one person, but if you’d like to be specific: a fairly poor person in Russia who wants to have Live in Moscow, an iTunes exclusive album by Stone Sour, or Get to Me, another iTunes exclusive by Train. (iTunes is not available in Russia, if you wondered.) I have no idea if this has ever happened, but it’s entirely plausible.”

    And to this I say too bad. This person should work to change things in his own country, or move.

    This gets back tho the issue of entitlement. Can everyone have everything they want in life? No. That’s reality. I would love a Picasso, but can’t have one (for obvious reasons, namely money). Too bad for me. I’ll live…….

  • why I steal said:

    If I may tangent… I steal recorded music (not sheet music — totally different story there) because I am hoping to assist in the destruction of the current system of publishing recorded music. Have you heard that rationalization before? It’s the second-most-common rationalization among the people I know, although they’d word it differently. As an artist who would be hurt by these actions, I know it’s an ugly and figuratively bloody business, but so are most revolutions.

    As a consumer, I will not pay someone to steal my legal rights — through DRM, spending money I gave them on lobbying against me, and creation of international treaties to further abridge my freedoms — and bully me by abusing the judicial system. And my convictions on that point are even stronger than my convictions that artists should be able to earn a living. To use the screwdriver analogy, I will not continue to buy screwdrivers after the screwdriver store has repeatedly taken my newly-acquired screwdrivers and plunged them into my gut.

    I have tried to change the laws through representation, but I don’t have enough money to make an impact. I have made entreaties to those committing this abuse of consumers, but all such pleas fall on deaf ears. The _only_ way left to remedy the situation is to overthrow the whole affair by asphyxiating it economically (and a great many innocent victim artists along with it). When the money I spend to purchase recorded music is not used against me, I will happily return to paying. The thuggish tactics of organizations like the RIAA and MPAA have created my piracy, not hindered it by force of intimidation.

    The most commonly-cited rationalization is a simple disagreement over price. Most people understand that free as a price isn’t sustainable, but they’re utterly unwilling to pay $20+ for a single CD, which seems to be the going retail rate for new releases at your typical outlet like Walmart. It’s unquestionably stealing to go and get it for free, but a great many of those who steal would purchase, if the price were more reasonable and didn’t encumber their fair use or surreptitiously install rootkits. I think the popularity of iTunes and the $0.99 song and $10 album attest to this (as regards pricing, anyway). At retail rates, the 50+GB of music most of my friends have amassed represents $100,000 or so. If they could purchase that same 50+GB for $5,000 (or maybe even as much as $10k) then they would own it all legally. But that means $3-$5 albums, not $20+ albums.

    The third most commonly-cited rationalization is that the only legally available copies of a work are DRM-encumbered. And the DRM-encumbered version is useless to the would-be user for one reason or another. I could buy the (useless) DRM version as a token of artist support then proceed to download (or create) the usable pirated copy. But support of the artist and support of DRM are inseparable, and someone happy to support artists may want nothing to do with support of DRM. So I must choose: support the artist or vote against DRM with my dollars? The artists’ loss is easy to dismiss as someone else’s problem, when the DRM issue is one that affects me personally, so guess which one wins out most often? Thankfully as non-DRM-encumbered music is gradually coming available, this rationalization ceases to be as powerful.

    The top three rationalizations I hear aren’t even represented in the 10 you listed. How many music thieves have you actually talked to?

  • Gio said:

    And DRM is “useless” to you why? Does the CD not play? Does it not sound as good? Because it’s attempting to stop you from what, stealing? Exactly what “rights” does it take from you? You won’t die if you don’t get the things you want, when you want them.

    It’s amazing to me how people will spend money on all sorts of things, $20 parking,$20 cover charge, $60 on food and drink for a few hours, hundreds of dollars on sporting events, giant TVs, the latest gadgets, yet 20 bucks for a CD is too much? $0.99 for a song is too much? So because you WANT 50G worth of music, you should just be allowed to have it? I would love a Ferrari, but cannot afford what they’re asking. Do I deserve it anyway? This is pure BS.

    Yeah, go stick it to the man for not letting you obtain and freely distribute that which is not yours to begin with…….

    As for the rest…. Oops! There goes the baby out with the bath water again!

  • Ivan said:

    @Gio

    Your statement “We NEED information, we WANT to be entertained” rings true to my ears.

    But after some reflection, I think it is too simplistic. Entertainment and information may be indistinguishable – see documentaries. One would have to leave it to the consumer to identify their own primary purpose in experiencing a work of art. Especially for younger people, reading books such as Don Quixote or watching Citizen Kane can be exclusively a learning experience, whereas for others, it is entertainment. This approach fails to generate any moral absolutes.

    “Music is an “idea” while it resides in the composers brain. Once pen hits paper, it becomes something else. A creation. A creation unique to that composer. Art. It exists as something more than a thought.”

    I agree – and that is a beautifully succinct way of putting it. The question is whether the composer has an inalienable right to financially exploiting this creation, or if it becomes the property of everyone, and all we owe the composer is attribution. I’ll add a quote here (lengthy, but highly recommended) that adds weight to this latter idea:

    “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”
    “Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody.
    Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.”
    - Thomas Jefferson

    To be fair, this regards patent law specifically – an invention is more susceptible to being called an “idea” than is a work of art. But I do think Jefferson undermines the idea that artists have the inalienable right to financially exploit all manifestations of their art – it is a matter of social convenience and encouragement, nothing more.

    Before digital media existed, nobody ever actually bought “art” per se – they bought a SERVICE that allowed them to experience it. First there were only live concerts – the resources needed to set up a concert hall, to pay the musicians and to buy the instruments warranted an entry fee from which the composer took a royalty check. Then CD’s arrived, that likewise provided a tangible service to the consumer with the artist getting a cut. Same with books, cinemas, and DVD’s.

    The statement “artists own their works of art” in the sense of unlimited financial exploitation is a very new one. Prior to digital media, the artist had the right to control how OTHERS exploited his work, and demand a proportionate share of their financial gain. The idea that an artist can suppress the free sharing of his art is an entirely new, and a very industrial way of viewing art.

    Those are my thoughts, for the moment anyway.

    I invite you to apply the same sentiments that lead you to believe art is something greater than just information (which I fully agree with), to deduce that art is something greater than industry, that it is industry that exploits art rather than art exploiting industry to make money. When industry chooses to exploit art, then yes, the artist needs a fair share. But to say that it is immoral to experience art for free is giving a radical new (speaking morally not legally) approach to art… what exactly leads you to believe this is the case?

    I’m struggling to express myself here, so I apologize for gaps in logic and clarity. I am happy though that we’ve stripped away most of the clutter that usually fills up these debates – arguments about how piracy affects income and growth, Creative Commons, the evils of the record industry, etc.

    Will look forward to your reply.

  • Ddes said:

    Ugh.

    Kim Remesch:

    At least in the United States, there can be no question what the function of copyright law is. It’s made explicit in the supreme law of the land – the Constitution.

    The Congress shall have the power… To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    The function of copyright law is neither to protect the work nor directly to reward the creator, but to promote the progress of science and art. In practice, that means ensuring creators have some way of getting paid, so they’ll keep doing what they do. There is nothing about protecting the work.

    While we’re looking at the Constitution, let me also point out that it does say “to Authors”, not “to Authors and their children”. And also let me remind you that the laws written just after the Constitution had a maximum term for copyright of 28 years.

    The reason it’s “greedy” to maintain a copyright for your heirs is that copyright inherently restricts the rights of everyone else. That’s judged to be necessary, for a short time, so that creators get paid. Taking it further is greed.

    Copyright also limits the ability of other authors to create new art based on yours.

    As is written here again and again, people are coming up with a lot of rationalizations for stealing.

    There is contention about whether or not piracy is theft. Saying that it is doesn’t help.

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    Sculptures and paintings are special cases, having both tangible and intangible components. (The paint and the canvas, or the marble, as well as the information about how that’s arranged.) But the art itself is generally held to be the information – hence why it’s illegal to copy a sculpture, even if you don’t take the marble.

    There’s no technicality here. An audio recording is not “stored as” data, it is data – information. An image is not “stored as” data, it is data. This is clearest, I suppose, with writing. All that writing is is words. Words are information, and their arrangement is more information. There is nothing else.

    There really isn’t any debate on this topic.

    What I’m seeing is truth, not some kind of abstract reasoning to justify something.

    What a helpful and insightful comment.

    Sorry, I hate to be sarcastic. I just want to drive home that asserting that you’re right and other people are wrong is… unhelpful.

    Copying a file is akin to sneaking into the restaurant’s kitchen, making your own burger with THEIR ingredients, and walking away with your copy of their burger.

    No, it’s really not. Copying a file consists of observing how someone else has data arranged and reproducing that on your own machine. There’s no use of anyone else’s resources. The file is created on my computer, using my CPU and ram and hard disk. It’s extremely difficult to make useful analogies, but the closest related one would be watching how a chef prepares a dish and then doing the same at your house. (Actually, the closest related one would be getting one burger and then causing an identical one to appear by magic.) Either way, not theft.

    And to this I say too bad.

    I’m… still not seeing an answer to my question, namely, does it hurt the artist. Not piracy in general but in this specific case. Really, there’s no subtle, different question I’m asking, like “is it acceptable” or “should he just deal with it”. My question is whether or not this specific instance of piracy would hurt the artist.

  • Ivan said:

    @Ddes

    “No, it’s really not. Copying a file consists of observing how someone else has data arranged and reproducing that on your own machine. There’s no use of anyone else’s resources. The file is created on my computer, using my CPU and ram and hard disk. It’s extremely difficult to make useful analogies, but the closest related one would be watching how a chef prepares a dish and then doing the same at your house. (Actually, the closest related one would be getting one burger and then causing an identical one to appear by magic.) Either way, not theft.”

    I’m going to have to side with Gio on this one. Just because something can be reduced to zeros and ones does not mean it is not innately valuable. Gio postulates, and I’m inclined to agree, that a work of art is more than the sum of its molecules or binary strings. If I understand the burger example he provided, he means that while you are assembling your own burger (your computer is assembling binary strings and converting them to audio) you are using the restaurant’s ingredients (the original creativity and work that went into writing the music) without paying for them (i.e stealing them). It’s a flawed analogy (as all food-art analogies will inevitably be) but it has a point. My argument is that the music, once created, does not belong to the composer in the same way that the burger belongs to the owner.

  • Gio said:

    @Ddes:
    You’re arguing on a technicality and you know it. This is just what lawyers do when they don’t really have a case. Keep harping on that same point enough, and eventually people buy it. I don’t need to be told what music is. I’m a musician and a recording engineer. I’ve been playing music since I was 4 yrs old, as did my parents, and grandparents. If all music is to you is a bunch of bits on a computer, to be shared freely by anyone, that’s your prerogative. There are those who see it differently. I maintain that pirating denies me and others of income. You don’t. Nothing you have posted here is enough to sway my opinion, particularly the “what ifs”, and certainly not your insistence that since downloads don’t take from sales already made, they don’t hurt anyone. You don’t see my many responses as an answer to this repeated question. Fine. There really is no point in circling this around with you any further.

  • Ddes said:

    Gio:

    It’s good that you make music. The point about music being information was really not important to my argument. I’ll drop it if it’s going to get you hung up.

    Before you go, would you answer the question? I’m sorry you think I’m blind to your answers, but really, it seems like you’re avoiding answering it. You skipped it once, then you said piracy hurts the entire line of production, then you said it was unacceptable, then you said it was too bad and people should work to change their governments. Never, as far as I can see, did you answer if it actually hurt the artist. It’s not a trick question.

  • NashvilleDave said:

    @”Why I Steel”

    You made your whole argument irrelevant in the second paragraph when you self-righteously say, “As a consumer, I will not pay someone to steal my legal rights — through DRM.”

    What legal right are suggesting they have stolen? Do you somehow believe you have a legally protected right to steal my rights as a creator?

    Not to mention how sad it is when petty thieves attempt to paint themselves as revolutionaries.

  • Gio said:

    @Ddes:
    I have. Many times, in many posts, in various ways. Obviously not well enough. If I were to try again, I’m certain it would not be good enough. No Thanks.

  • David said:

    Here’s a situation that no one seems to address: A composer writes a piece of music. The music is published and (we’re talking sheet music, as in JRB’s post) a few copies are sold, but most people “exchange” it, giving it away to other people via the internet. Composer decides they need to rework the piece or maybe even deep-six it as they’ve decided it’s not their best work. Publisher takes the piece out of their catalog, but people keep trading it.

    There’s been a lot of argument about what rights copyright gives the creator of a work (or what rights people think it should give the creator). I don’t think anyone would argue that copyright gives the artist the right to decide NOT to have a piece “out there” in the world. But because of the viral aspect of the internet “trading” sites, the composer loses this right.

    Personally, I’m for a strong set of rights, as is current law, but for reducing the term of copyright (perhaps back from life+75 to just life). But, folks, if you don’t like the law, work to change it.

  • TheGripester said:

    I see a lot of justifications above. One comment even tries to debate semantics, saying that the term “stealing” can never apply to music.

    I think if the average file-sharing scofflaw suddenly had musicians showing up at their place of employment and siphoning off some of their earnings every week, they would be shocked and outraged, screaming to high heaven about theft and injustice.

    Everyone knows it’s wrong, and still most people engage in it. Even watching an illicit YouTube post is a form of theft. But it’s gotten to the point where journalism and research is relying more and more on “free” content. Big sites like Huffington Post regularly link to YouTube clips with questionable content.

    I think the only solution is to have fee-based licensing built into one’s internet service charges. People could download at will, but compensation would be distributed to the artists. It would not be a “tax,” as the funds would go directly to a licensing organization pool, which would be responsible for royalty payments. So no government involvement.

    And before you scream at me for my insolence in characterizing your behavior as questionable, please mention where you work so I can be there on payday to get some of your paycheck. I’m sure you won’t mind, after having taken some of my royalties in you last Limewire download.

  • lenora said:

    I’m not going to try to tell you all how to think either way or debate about it, because quite frankly, I’m getting lost in all this and there are a lot of ideas and facts being thrown around. I am an artist though and I give my music away. I’m nobody you’d probably know, so really, it gets my stuff out there. Some artists will argue that I shouldn’t do that, ruins it for everyone, but they have a right to do what they want as do I (I think). The landscape has changed. I don’t know where it’s going to go. Nobody knows. It’s still new. That’s why it frightens me a bit that some people think I don’t own what I’ve written. Or that the actual recording doesn’t have value. Sometimes when I write a song, I spend 20 minutes and there it is and I say “hey, I’m done, I like it”. Very little effort. But sometimes a song takes hours and hours to express the idea, using 20 years of working very hard to be the best songwriter I can be through skill and practice, to notate my ideas, make the right melody choices, pick the right time signature, etc. What is the BEST way that I, me, this artist, can express this idea, the same idea that many people may have, but may never express as I do? That becomes the song, both music and lyrics. Not that it will be necessarily liked, but if it is, then it has value. It contributes to someone or someones. What about the physical recordings that end up on the cd or as an mp3? I worked very, very hard putting out my first album, making the mixes just so to express the song the way I hear it expressed. I work four jobs to pay off the credit cards that paid for the album. I am pretty unsuccessful financially with the entire thing but I can’t rail about it being a pirating issue. Maybe an artist who IS directly affected by piracy can chime in here. I do hope that those who find my free music online and then download it, like it or love it, that they will continue to support me in some way. If they don’t like it, has no value to them and forget about it. But if they do, tell someone, come to my show when I’m in their town or country (which may cost them), host me in their home for an evening when I’m on tour, write me an email.. ANYTHING.. to show that they have an appreciation for the talent and skill I have acquired that resulted in their enjoyment. Give back a little.

    These people, whose works ARE valued, work very hard and sometimes they choose to not give it away, sometimes they do. JRB chooses not to give it away. I don’t care if he’s a jerk. It’s his choice and from what I can determine so far, the law supports it. I think what some are saying is that it shouldn’t be his choice, because it’s not really his to begin with?

    Mucho confuso

  • David Geary said:

    I feel so sad after reading this stuff. I applaud you all for trying to beat back this inane stuff but, truthfully, the battle is lost. We can stop recording I guess – that’s about all that’s left in the end. Leave them to their Reality TV.

    this (clipped below) is the stupidest thing I think I’ve ever read.
    ——–
    There are a bunch of false comparisons here. An electrician works for a single person per job, and is paid by a single person. A content producer, such as a photographer, works for thousands or millions, and is paid by many. They are not the same. If I fail to compensate an electrician for her work, she doesn’t get any compensation. If I fail to compensate an artist for his work, he does.

    Why do I expect musicians to compose and perform music for my enjoyment without compensating them for what they’ve produced? Because, well, they do. That I do not compensate them personally does not mean they are not compensated.
    ——–

  • Ddes said:

    So… anyone else want to tell me what I’m missing in Gio’s posts? I’m legitimately curious.

    The question I’ve been looking for an answer to:

    Would you agree that, if someone does not and will not have the means to purchase, for example, the album of a given artist, then their pirating it does not in itself harm said artist?

    And, if the answer is “no”, an explanation of that. But at least a yes or a no.

  • Ddes said:

    Or, Gio, if you could just quote from your posts where you answered it. Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places. No additional effort on your part.

  • Jeff M said:

    In all this debate is one truth that we can all accept regardless of what side of the debate you are on. Free is the future. Like it or not. Call it “stealing” or not. It’s inevitable. My niece and her friends don’t buy albums anymore – they never will. It’s like someone 35 years old getting all their entertainment via the radio and all their news via the newspaper. 35-year olds have grown up with TV and the Internet and the radio stations and newspapers aren’t coming after us with legal challenges! I don’t care what side you are on…but downloading CONTENT – call it ART, call it whatever you want – news, music, movies, TV shows, blog posts, pictures, whatever…ALL CONTENT WILL BE FREE because you CANNOT STOP IT!

    “Artists” that say it’s stealing will just be trampled over by other “artists” that embrace the new reality. Newspapers. Business that create software. Movies. Music. News (anyone heard of twitter?). It’s just a new reality!

    I am a computer engineer and musician, and I consider myself a morally upstanding guy (I buy music and movies, but I’ve also been known to download a few without paying too). I have thought through all the debates here and I’ve come to the conclusion that the moral, legal, monetary and philosophical sides to this debate just don’t matter. Like it or not…free content is not stoppable. If you are an “artist” or a business or a newspaper or a record label or a museum, whatever – if you make your living off of CONTENT – embrace this reality or you will become obsolete.

  • Eburch said:

    Ddes question asking for a “yes” or “no” is really beside the point. It’s a rhetorical device–of course you can construct a scenario: artist x has sold 100000 CDs download or whatever, Mr z doesn’t have the “means” to purchse said CD and pirates a copy–a copy he would never have paid for. Artist X has lost nothing. OK it’s easy in that case to say yes, in this particular construct, the artist has lost nothing.
    But what about this scenario:
    99999 of the aforementioned purchasers of artist x’s CD
    had decided they didn’t really have the means to purchase (and had downloaded the copy uploaded by the one person who did have the means) could you still say artist x hadn’t lost anything since the 99999 folks had decided they were not able or willing to pay for what they could get for free? Sure you could say that is a logical conclusion.
    But one thing is pretty certain, artist x would never make another CD unless he’s independently wealthy.
    And if you follow the premise to its logical conclusion, you will soon have nothing but home studio amateur music on the homefront. Some of it probably good. That’s OK if that’s what people want. Maybe it is.
    But I hope they don’t expect artists to put a lot of time effort and money into something that will almost certainly not put food on the table.
    A problem with the construct about “some one person who doesn’t have the means to purchase”– it’s not real. People are downloading music illegally because it’s easy to do, they don’t “want” to pay for it and they don’t think they should have to. I would venture it’s seldom a matter of they are living in poverty so they don’t have the means. And they think(at least some of these blogs seem to indicate it)they are not hurting the songwriters and artists who wrote and performed the music–they’re only hurting some big corporate record companies. That is simply a crock.
    I’m a songwritersinger and far far from wealthy with no connection to any big record company. If you don’t think artists should earn a living from music, come out and say so. All this blog crap is trying to justify that belief without coming out and saying it. It won’t hurt you to admit it, will it?

  • Gordon Kaswell said:

    I have reached the point in the debate regarding illegal downloading where I think some shift in the ground rules is in order. The posts regarding free culture vs. traditional copyright protection, new vs. old business models, etc. are getting awfully tedious, because rarely does anyone convince anyone of anything. The abstractions tend to distance people from the effects of their behaviors.

    So here’s something to make it real. I have come to the conclusion that people who do not create anything have very limited credibility in a discussion about creators’ rights. Therefore, before any online conversations regarding the topic take place, I suggest that every participant disclose his/her creative resume.

    In other words:

    1) Have you written a book, a song, a poem, an article? Have you painted a picture, created a sculpture, created photographs?

    2) Have you made any money from your creative efforts?

    3) Have you made any effort to control the copyright (literally the right to copy) of your work?

    For me, anyone who won’t disclose his/her creative background is not worth my time in a discussion.

  • Gordon Kaswell said:

    Oh, of course I should practice what I preach:

    I’m a published songwriter and composer (award-winning, actually), and a freelance writer of non-fiction. I have earned significant money (though not, by any means a fortune) from my musical creations through performance royalties (I’m a member of ASCAP) and CD sales. I’ve also been paid for magazine articles I’ve written.

    I register my copyrights for all the music I write with the Register of Copyrights, Library of Congress. I have retained copyright on some of my freelance writing, wherever I deem it appropriate. (In some cases, the articles are for limited niche markets with limited financial possibilities, and the copyrights are not worth registering.)

  • why I steal said:

    Gio:

    And DRM is “useless” to you why? Does the CD not play?

    Yes, in fact, that is exactly the problem. I’ve had to return or throw away several CDs and DVDs because of that exact issue. And even if it plays, it may be impossible to transfer to a portable device. Or it may “time out” and cease operating after some fixed number of playbacks or hours. Or it may, without any exterior warning, require some registration process that demands personal information I am unwilling to provide. Or it may allow only some small fixed number of copies. Or it may be locked to an unrelated transient piece of hardware (like a hard drive serial number, which becomes useless after the hard drive crashes). And it extends to other areas like DRM-protected e-books that do not allow the extraction of text, making user assistance tools inoperable (like high-contrast or magnification for the visually impaired, text recognition and reading for those who need it, and so on). These kinds of impediments make the content useless to the end user.

    Exactly what “rights” does it take from you?

    If everything about DRM is done right (a generous assumption given the readily-available history such as Sony), it still strips me of my rights of fair use. It strips me of the right of a functional product (returning to the “useless” point), the implied warranty of merchantability. And when it’s done wrong, as it often is, the problems escalate from faulty products and false advertising to outright fraud, gross negligence, and violation of wiretapping and hacking statutes.

    Stepping back from DRM, a number of organizations are actively attempting to create legal frameworks, based on copyright, that would take away my rights. Making it a felony to cite or extract a few words out of an article (that would otherwise qualify as fair use) is stealing my rights. Denying my access to the internet (or any form of networked electronic device, even!) because someone created a screenshot of what they believe constitutes copyright infringement is stealing my rights. Taking extreme punitive actions like garnishing wages, and putting someone in prison, on the basis of flimsy evidence and no due process is stealing my rights. Allowing free speech in my private forum, to be silenced and shut down with no more due process than an email or first-class letter, is stealing my rights. Making a near-effortless allegation that requires thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours for me to refute and clear my name, is stealing my rights. Covertly filing court briefs against me, for no purpose other than to coerce discovery of information about me that would otherwise be unavailable, is stealing my rights.

    This is the legal landscape large copyright interests are attempting to create, and as a citizen I cannot accept this. The fact that large copyright interests have been and are — by all appearances so far — going to be successful in creating this legal landscape is deeply frightening. The fact that my supposedly-representative government is so concerned about the well-being of these large copyright interests that they are willing to blindly trample tiny interests like me is why I feel driven to action more extreme than “sigh. oh, well” and why my interests as a citizen override my interests as an artist.

    It’s amazing to me how people will spend money on all sorts of things… yet 20 bucks for a CD is too much?

    Yes, that was one of my points. Why should this be so amazing? It is simple microeconomics, and the plummeting sales of music in some formats highlight how the price is too high.

    So because you WANT 50G worth of music, you should just be allowed to have it?

    No, and I never claimed this.

    What I did say, was that IF that 50GB worth of music was priced differently, THEN it would be obtained legally rather than illegally. IF you could buy a Ferrari for $10k instead of $100k, THEN you might buy one instead of stealing one. I am by no means arguing that everyone should be allowed a Ferrari, and should therefore go steal one if they can’t afford it.

    NashvilleDave:

    What legal right are suggesting they have stolen? Do you somehow believe you have a legally protected right to steal my rights as a creator?

    The stealing of rights to which I refer is described above. As an almost-insignificant side note (by comparison with the above), there is also the issue that when I purchase a product, a legal right is created that the product perform as advertised. If it does not, my rights have been abridged.

    I do not have a legally protected right to steal anyone else’s creations, and I have not said that I or anyone does. But I absolutely will not financially support the eroding of my Constitutional rights. Two options then remain: forgo a large amount of recorded music, or enjoy that music extralegally. By and large, I do the former. Sometimes, I do the latter, and the reason why I do not pay is for the reasons I’ve described. If I could instead pay the artist directly to enjoy that music, I would do so in an instant. Very few artists make that possible, though.

    Let me ask a hypothetical question: Suppose I download an album illegally, for free. The artist of that album has a Paypal donation on their website. I go to that artist’s website and donate to the artist the retail cost of buying the album I just downloaded. Is this morally okay in your mind?

  • why I steal said:

    Another particularly infuriating example of DRM-gone-wrong (and rationalization of piracy) that I didn’t mention earlier… the content may be tied to a third-party server not under my control. And some time in the future that server may go away, leaving the content completely inaccessible. Lest you think this an impossible hypothetical, it has actually happened several times, leaving thousands of users without access to content they thought they had purchased “forever.”

    To play what-if, imagine you had in fact purchased those 50GB ($100k) of music through a service that offered music as DRM-protected. Three (or five, or ten) years later, the company that sold you that DRM-protected music decides they’re tired of hosting the server. Your $100k investment just lost ALL of its value, through no fault of your own, and completely outside of your control. That sort of thing doesn’t happen to LPs or cassettes. It doesn’t happen to paintings, sculptures, or Ferraris. It doesn’t happen anywhere except freak asteroid impacts and DRM. And while you can insure paintings and Ferraris against asteroid impacts, good luck convincing your insurance company to insure your DRMed music collection.

    That alone creates a market for pirated music, even among people who have already purchased the same music legally. If you ask some torrent users, they will tell you they’re only downloading music they already legally own, and only intend to make that music available to others who also legally own the music through some outside mechanism. In essence, they say, they are only offering a fair use backup service, and generously doing so for no additional cost above the user’s cost to obtain legal right to the content.

  • NashvilleDave said:

    @Why I Steal

    I don’t like the way Wal-Mart does business either … especially the way they edit the “dirty” words out of movies without telling their customers … so I don’t shop there. In fact, I don’t much like large corporations at all so I buy from local small businesses as much as I possibly can. I even seek out and eat at local restaurants (the food’s usually better anyway) when I travel.

    If you were sincere about this so called revolution, you would forego material produced by major record labels entirely and support local and independent bands (we’d really appreciate it).

    Instead you’ve decided to be a shoplifter and call yourself Robin Hood. Frankly, I’m not impressed.

  • Gio said:

    @ Why I Steel

    I have never experienced the problems you describe with any music I have purchased on the internet or CD. Ever.

    Perhaps I’m doing something right.

    $20 seems too much only when compared to the “free” option downloading offers.

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    I am giving your response some thought. I will reply soon enough.

  • Randall said:

    This entire debate in the comments is revealing. But it’s the same thing you see everytime the subject was brought up. Those who rationalize with an entitlement mentality of the most arrogant nature will never even consider the other point of view meaningfully, and they will continue to defend their arguments to the death.

    It is so interesting that every time these debates take place, the first person to devolve their speech into petty insults and self-righteous anger is the side combating the Copyrights of creators. It says a whole lot, but it doesn’t matter.

    These people will only become more rigidly hardlined in their insular viewpoints. My observation won’t make any of you think harder from different points of view. I have certainly spent time on both sides, trying to deeply consider the validity of the anti-copyright sides. But the core issues do not prove that stealing is morally acceptable in this case. The core issues also do not reveal anything that justifies calling Copyright infringement (where it is actually infringed upon) incredible. But none of this matters. The entitlement mentality of the human being is disturbing. This is a human issue. The opportunity presented itself and music is the easiest thing to rip into, so it was. And now it’s impossible to pry people from this mentality. However, one day the Internet will not be what is today and has been. Wait and see.

  • Jan said:

    Music fans who steal music may have a love/hate relationship with music. They love music there stealing but also hate the fact they need it and won’t admit to themselves how much they need the music so they steel it to CONTROL WHAT THEY LOVE rather than admit what they love controls them.

    Therefore, I have concluded the fault is not with the music business model, the fault is with the music itself. The commercial music formula is one which was created to keep people COMING BACK FOR MORE. This makes a music fan with CONTROL ISSUES feel like they’ve lost control. To gain that control back they steel the music.

    What can be done? Create commercial music that doesn’t leave the music fan with CONTROL ISSUES with a feeling of being HOOKED. Of course to create music that doesn’t leave a music fan feeling un-satisfied, a musician would have to have the music fans best interest at heart, unlike many musicans who are subscribing to the OLD MUSIC FORMULA of leaving a music fan wanting more.

    Perhaps if your a musician whose music has a high incidence of music fan thievery, the fault may not be with the MUSIC BUSINESS MODEL, but with your music itself. Create music that leaves a music fan with a sense of complete satisfaction and that music fan will be happy to pay for your music.

    I’m hoping to come up with more insight soon to help resolve this important issue of thievery by music fans, I’ll be testing my philosophy with my OWN MUSIC. Follow me on Twitter.

    Peace& music

    Jan

  • Mike said:

    @Gio

    First off, I completely understand your side of the argument. I really do. But, what you are arguing for is not what I’m arguing for. Ultimately (and please correct me if I’m wrong), you are trying to convince people that pirating is wrong, that it hurts the artists (they won’t make as much/any money), and that ultimately it’s stealing. However much I agree with or disagree with those conclusions, is besides the point. The point I’m trying to make is that currently the system is flawed, and needs to be corrected. Do you know why the free market is SO GOOD at efficiently allocating scarce natural resources? It’s because its self correcting. The equilibrium state of a free market is the state where all of the scarce resources are efficiently allocated. It all works automatically, and it all works without anyone trying. People just acting in their own best interests is what keeps the system working. Now, free markets work extremely well with scarce natural resources, but it doesn’t work non-scarce resources. No matter how much everyone tries to make it work, it just doesn’t. This is exactly what is happening in the music industry right now. Music is not a scarce natural resource. For example, you could play the same song on a CD a billion times, and that song is still there. But, what WAS a scare resource was the medium that it was on. That made it very easy to work in the free market. One tape, one record, one cd, one sale. Sure, at the time you COULD copy that format, the copies were still made on physical media, and the process was expensive enough (in time and resources), that the result was still a limited natural resource. But, that is most certainly NOT the case any more. You could literally make 1 billion copies of a song for (basically) free. Now, in free market economic, the equilibrium price is where the supply curve intersects the demand curve. With an unlimited supply, it doesn’t matter where the demand curve is, the price is $0.00. Now, obviously this system could never work as artists can’t survive on nothing. So the current solution is to try to prevent it from ever becoming an unlimited resource, and continue with dealing with it in traditional means, through physical media sales. And therein lies the problem that we are seeing right now. Artificially limiting supply (which was/is the purpose of DRM) is ineffective on a practical level. And at a systematic level, I find it hard to justify. If we can physically supply everyone on the face of the earth with that song for free, why shouldn’t we? And THAT brings us back crux of the argument. Compensation. Obviously artist NEED TO BE COMPENSATED FOR THEIR WORK.

    I’m an engineer. I solve problems. I fix things. You can’t fix anything until you identify what the real problem is. So again Gio, I understand everything you are saying. I really and truly do. But, passing/enforcing a law is not going to fix the problem. The FUNDAMENTAL problem is that we are looking at an entirely NEW set of rules here. Adam Smith never envisioned a world where there were unlimited resources. The free market economy is NOT equipped to handle it. Now, we can continue trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Our current solution is to just use a bigger hammer. I suggest that we should be focusing our efforts into finding a better solution.

  • Ivan said:

    @Randall

    I think that is an over-generalization. I’m not here to justify my piracy. I don’t need justification – I can just keep pirating and clam shut about it (with no repercussions, seeing as how it is legal to download coprighted content in Canada). Or I can actually probe deeper in what I’m doing and compensate for my own bias by discussing it with people who have an opposite source of bias (i.e, make their living off the content I download).

    @Eburch

    “You don’t think artists should earn a living from music, come out and say so. All this blog crap is trying to justify that belief without coming out and saying it. It won’t hurt you to admit it, will it?”

    I’ve said a very similar thing already if you read up. I do think artists should earn a living – just as scientists and journalists should earn a living. BUT I am not convinced that artists have the right to exploit and control every single manifestation of their art for financial gain. See my previous posts for a more in-depth explanation.

  • Tropylium said:

    “‘Losing a theoretical, possible future sale is not stealing. For example, lets say that you are selling hammers. I convince many of your customers not to buy hammers from you anymore (for whatever reason). I did NOT steal from you. It is simply a situation where people who might have bought from you aren’t buying from you now.’

    Right, but in your analogy, no one (those who you convinced not to buy my hammer) gets my hammer at all.”

    What difference does that make, exactly? While reading this conversation I’ve gotten the impression you were concerned about loss of profits, not about others gaining something.

    With physical products – the kind it is possible to steal – these are necessarily intimately connected, but not necessarily with copyable products – the kind which can generally only be pirated, not stolen – which in this time and age, happens to include music.

    The conservatist viewpoint, I think, goes from reasonable to petty once the argument shifts from “Musicians should be compensated” to “Others shouldn’t get anything”. Yet those are easy to confuse because of their former link, and equating piracy with theft implicitely does just that, which is one of the reasons that equation tends to attract opposition.

    “‘And no, we’re not talking about any one person, but if you’d like to be specific: a fairly poor person in Russia who wants to have Live in Moscow, an iTunes exclusive album by Stone Sour, or Get to Me, another iTunes exclusive by Train. (iTunes is not available in Russia, if you wondered.) I have no idea if this has ever happened, but it’s entirely plausible.’

    And to this I say too bad. This person should work to change things in his own country, or move.”

    But they CAN (as in: are able to) have it, by piracy. The optimal solution, I agree, would be to somehow make the work in question available to our hypothetical Russian; but as long as it isn’t, piracy would appear to be a victimless crime in this particular case. I would state categorically that an alleged crime cannot actually be a crime without a victim.

    There’s a side to this I see rarely explored, however: what does become of our Russian pirate, if said work eventually DOES become available in Russia? Are they now obligated to purchase a copy, or delete their pirated one?

    Consider designing a public building in a fashion such that if even a moderate earthquake were to hit it, it would collapse killing people. In an earthquake-prone area, this would (or should, at least) be illegal. In a more geologically stable area, it wouldn’t (again, shouldn’t) be; but yet, an earthquake of sufficient magnitude may by a small probability eventually occur in the area anyway.

    Analogically: would the *probability* of a Russian issue turning up eventually determine whether piracy-due-to-unavailability is wrong? And the problem is, said probability is quite impossible to gage.

    Also one note on practicalities – $20 is quite obviously a ripoff price for a CD, as quite a few stores (not only online, but also brick-and-mortar) are able to sell CDs, sometimes the exact same ones, for closer to $10. 98% of the music I buy comes from these kind of vendors. Not surprizingly, all of them could be described as independant.

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    I have been thinking about your post, and here is what I’ve come up with so far…..

    “But after some reflection, I think it is too simplistic. Entertainment and information may be indistinguishable – see documentaries. One would have to leave it to the consumer to identify their own primary purpose in experiencing a work of art. Especially for younger people, reading books such as Don Quixote or watching Citizen Kane can be exclusively a learning experience, whereas for others, it is entertainment. This approach fails to generate any moral absolutes.”

    There is no doubt that reading books or watching movies and documentaries can be both a learning experience and entertainment. I put to you that music’s primary function is not to teach, but to entertain. That’s not to say one cannot learn anything from studying music, but I maintain that those who write music do so primarily to entertain those who hear it. I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that the -majority- of those who pirate music are not doing it for instructional purposes, but to stuff their drive with as much entertainment as they can get their hands on, for free. Please note I said majority, not ALL.

    One can also learn by studying sculpture and paintings, though I believe again that the creators of these things have something other that instruction in mind when making them. Nonetheless, for some reason, these two forms of art are protected from being copied in any meaningful way, while the concept of copyrights for music is being questioned.

    You cited Thomas Jefferson and noted that it specifically regards patent law. I agree, and will add that I myself do not interpret anything in that passage as being meant for/applying to the arts at all. “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine;” True, but my writing a song instructs no one, and is meant to entertain.

    “The statement “artists own their works of art” in the sense of unlimited financial exploitation is a very new one. Prior to digital media, the artist had the right to control how OTHERS exploited his work, and demand a proportionate share of their financial gain.”

    How, or better yet, why does DIGITAL make this concept any different now than it was then?

    “The idea that an artist can suppress the free sharing of his art is an entirely new, and a very industrial way of viewing art.”

    Lets remember that when Jefferson wrote those words, there was no such thing as recorded music, movies, film, TV, etc., and the idea that and artist can exploit their OWN work for financial reward is only as new as the inventions that brought forth those new methods of delivery. Let’s remember too, that prior to the digital age, no one really seemed to have a problem saving to buy that new 45″ release, or album, cassette tape or CD. Why is that?

    “But to say that it is immoral to experience art for free is giving a radical new (speaking morally not legally) approach to art… what exactly leads you to believe this is the case?”

    I never once said it is immoral to experience art for free in that broad a sense. There are countless opportunities available do this, with both art & information, which are completely legal. I could, if I choose, and many do, distribute their work for free. Key word there is choice. If it is taken against my will, that is another matter.

    I will leave you for now with another one of my hypothetical scenarios (I know, my analogies don’t fly too well here, but none the less), followed by a few questions that may or may not help you see my point of view…..

    I’m a sculptor. I create a statue that for whatever reason ends up being displayed in the town square. There, it is out in public for all to see, free of charge. People like my statue. In fact, one person likes it so much, that he wrote me and asked if I would create a replica for him, so he could enjoy it in his home. I make this replica, and give it to him. Over time, people begin to come from far and wide to see this wonderful statue I have made, and eventually I get 5, 10, 50, up to thousands of requests for replicas of this statue. What do I do?

    1) I could refuse, and say that if you want to enjoy my statue, you will simply have to go and see it. What about the people on the other side of the planet? They don’t get to see my statue at all, unless they travel to where it is being displayed. What if they cannot afford to travel?

    2) I agree to make all these copies, and now begin task of making thousands and thousands of these copies. Am I morally obligated to do this?

    2) I could suggest that I would indeed make them each a replica, for a fee.
    Is that morally wrong?

    3) They agree to this fee I have asked for, and I agree to make these copies.
    Is it morally wrong for me to accept this money? Is it morally wrong to sell copies of this work? Is it morally wrong for me to expect people to pay for the “copy” they get?

    Now. Let’s substitute “music” for statue, and “CD or MP3″ for the replica.

    What changes? Why?

  • Russ said:

    Ddes -

    To address your counter arguments:

    “How exactly am I supposed to loan a friend an MP3?”

    This makes no difference to the discussion of the morality and legality of unauthorized production and distribution of copies of anything. Whether the format of a thing enables loaning or not is irrevelant. If one wants a copy of something that has the added benefit of “loanability,” then one can pay extra for the thing in a format that enables loaning. If one buys an MP3, then one accepts the limitations, including “nonloanability,” of that particular format when one hands over his/her cash.

    “In creating a copy of a $5 bill (to use as money) I necessarily devalue the money of everyone else. The same is not true of the sheet music in any sense.”

    Flawed logic. Of course copying and distributing sheet music devalues it! It devalues the copies of the same music others paid for, just like copying a $5 bill devalues money for those who worked for or exchanged something else of equal value to obtain the $5 bill. And, copying and distributing sheet music REALLY devalues the act of creating it in the first place. This the basic argument that everyone seems to want to ignore: the more people that copy and distribute something (sheet music, MP3s, books, whatever), the more the economic value to the author/artist of creating it decreases – just like the more people copied $5 bills, the less those $5 bills would be worth.

    “Is it immoral to download a copy, for free, from another source, in a format I can use?”

    Back to the format point, again. See above. If one wants a book to put on their shelf, then one can buy a copy with that particular attribute (bound paper and cardboard that will sit on a shelf). If one wants a book they can read on their Kindle, then they can buy a copy with that attribute (Kindle compatibility). If they want both, then they can buy both. A good example is the Wall Street Journal. You want a paper copy, you have to pay for it. You want a copy to read on your iPad, you have to pay separately for a copy in that format.

    “And exactly how many friends am I allowed to share with before it becomes immoral?”

    It’s not the use of a single copy that’s immoral, it’s the copying and distribution together that’s immoral. Over it’s life, a single library book could be shared by/loaned to/used/read by hundreds of people. And, no one, including the author, would consider that immoral. But, it would be immoral (and illegal) to for a library to install a printing press and distribute copies to hundreds of people for free (unless the author authorized it, which is his or her right).

    “Is it immoral of me to have memorized the music – copied it, if you will, to my brain?”

    Again, the format argument, in still another form. Again, it’s not the use of a single copy (including as a self-education tool so that one can play a song by heart) that’s immoral, it’s the unauthrorized distribution of limitless copies that’s immoral.

    “It’s not actually a crime to copy a $5 bill unless you intend to buy things with it.”

    Semantics and irrelevant. So what if isn’t technically illegal to make copies of $5 bills? It IS illegal to stand on a street corner and hand them out. So, who cares if it is or isn’t technically illegal to copy sheet music? That’s irrelevant. It is illegal to stand on a street corner and hand them out (again, unless the author has granted permission for you to do so), even if your “street corner” is a Web site.

    “This isn’t such a minor point, because the claim of most here is not that it should be legal to sell others’ works, but that it should be to merely copy.”

    Again, semantics and irrelevant. The points the anti-piracy advocates here and elsewhere are raising are against the combined act of making copies AND distributing them to others, without the author’s/owner’s consent. After all, making 1000 copies of a $5 bill or of a sheet of music and then simply storing them in one’s basement doesn’t devalue the orignals.

    “And it’s a pretty worthless analogy anyway – a $5 bill is a physical object representing an intangible thing of which there is nonetheless a limited supply. The supply of copies of sheet music has no such limits.”

    Your distinction is what is worthless. The only reason $5 bills are in “limited supply” is because people like you (as in, people who believe “copy-ability” means “free”) can’t copy them!

    “In creating a copy of a $5 bill (to use as money) I necessarily devalue the money of everyone else. The same is not true of the sheet music in any sense.”

    Flawed logic. See above. It’s basic economics – supply and demand. Whenever one increases the supply of something (in an environment of constant demand), whether it increasing the supply of $5 bills or the supply of a particular sheet of music, the price/value goes down.

    Now, I know that many will argue that allowing a particular sheet of music to be copied and distributed actaully INCREASES demand for that particular sheet music – or perhaps the actual recordings of that song – or perhaps other works by the same artist. Regardless, I understand the idea that, since more people will be exposed to that artist’s entire body of work by getting a sheet of music for free, the value of that artist’s work (at least colectively) could increase. Fine! This principal has been the basis of “free samples marketing” since long before computers were a means of sharing information.

    But, it is both immoral (and, actaully, quite arrogant!) to take it upon oneself to decide FOR the author/artist decide that his/her work should be distriuted for free. I can no more, as just one person/little ol’ me, decide for the world that a poor farmer’s bananas should be free, just like I have no right to decide that a particular artist’s particular song should be free. Now, if the banana farmer wants to give away his bananas, so that people will buy more of the rest of his/her fruits and veggies, that’s his/her choice. Regardless, that’s not anyone’s choice but his/hers.

    “The fact that revenues of intellectual property businesses haven’t deviated from what you’d expect even in the age of the internet does strongly suggest this.”

    This is simply not factually correct. The music recording industry took a huge hit, even taking into account iTunes and other PAID distribution models, as well as persecutions for piracy, have come to the rescue. The book publishing industry would have been next – and will likely still suffer – despite having iTunes-like PAID distribution models in place before eReaders became widespread.

  • Gio said:

    @Mike

    Very well put, and I completely agree with you. But as it may well take 30 years for anything this new model to be put into place, what do we do? Allow people to ignore the law as it is written now, until a solution is found? Or does the burden lie with the artist in the meantime?

  • Russ said:

    Gio -

    I don’t know if my $5 bill analogy will fly any better than your sculpture analogy, but they are definitely songs from the same album/CD (ha ha). What we have here is an argument between the rights of CREATORS and the rights of CONSUMERS. Without laws to protect the rights of creators (patents, copyrights, private property rights, etc.), creation would decline disasterously, because of the elimination of so many motivations to create (such as, so one can EAT).

    This was the point of my “sense of entitlement” argument above that some took offense to. Because of the rise of new technologies that drive the distribution costs of “digitize-able” products and services to essentially zero, many consumers feel like that they no longer have to honor creators’ rights. One wonders how these consumers would feel if, some day, their own ability to eat was tied to something they created and that others want to render valueless by making and distributing copies of it for free.

  • Russ said:

    Mike -

    I was with you all the way until …

    “Artificially limiting supply (which was/is the purpose of DRM) is ineffective on a practical level.”

    We artificially limit the supply of MONEY, via counterfit protection of physical bills and countless laws and safeguards for “digital” money. The need to do this will never go away, unless the supply of everything that money can buy becomes limitless.

    “And at a systematic level, I find it hard to justify. If we can physically supply everyone on the face of the earth with that song for free, why shouldn’t we?”

    Asked and answered by you own post. Because an artist has a right to make a living from his/her own talents.

    I’m an enegieer, too, coincidentally. And, I personally believe that, one way or another, the ability for creators to make a living from their creations, even if those creations are simply “knowledge” in whatever form (song, book, article, etc.) must be preserved, so that all of us do have those creations to enjoy.

  • MrJoe said:

    This gets back tho the issue of entitlement. Can everyone have everything they want in life? No. That’s reality

    Let me tell you something about reality. Everyone with Internet access could POTENTIALLY have access to all the world’s music, movies, software, etc. As I said, the only thing stopping this from occurring is the existence of copyright law. It is _NOT_ a physical limitation.

  • MrJoe said:

    I don’t know if my $5 bill analogy will fly any better than your sculpture analogy, but they are definitely songs from the same album/CD (ha ha). What we have here is an argument between the rights of CREATORS and the rights of CONSUMERS. Without laws to protect the rights of creators (patents, copyrights, private property rights, etc.), creation would decline disasterously, because of the elimination of so many motivations to create (such as, so one can EAT).

    Can you explain the existence of Creative Commons then? It seems to imply that music will be written without copy restrictions.

  • MrJoe said:

    I don’t know if my $5 bill analogy will fly any better than your sculpture analogy, but they are definitely songs from the same album/CD (ha ha). What we have here is an argument between the rights of CREATORS and the rights of CONSUMERS. Without laws to protect the rights of creators (patents, copyrights, private property rights, etc.), creation would decline disasterously, because of the elimination of so many motivations to create (such as, so one can EAT).

    Can you explain the existence of Creative Commons then? It seems to imply that music doesn’t not require copy restrictions in order to be produced.

  • MrJoe said:

    I don’t know if my $5 bill analogy will fly any better than your sculpture analogy, but they are definitely songs from the same album/CD (ha ha). What we have here is an argument between the rights of CREATORS and the rights of CONSUMERS. Without laws to protect the rights of creators (patents, copyrights, private property rights, etc.), creation would decline disasterously, because of the elimination of so many motivations to create (such as, so one can EAT).

    Can you explain the existence of Creative Commons then? It seems to imply that music does not require copy restrictions in order to be produced.

  • Ivan said:

    @Ross

    “Without laws to protect the rights of creators (patents, copyrights, private property rights, etc.), creation would decline disasterously”

    That is an objectionable statement. It would decline in numerical terms, certainly. But to say that the quality of art would decline if artists were paid less… I stick by the quote “If you can live without writing, don’t.” Pursuing a creative life is (or should be) a calling, just like becoming a teacher or a researcher (both ridiculously underpaid professions pretty much everywhere).

    To be clear, I’m not saying that musicians are overpaid or that they don’t deserve what they make or any such stupid generalization. All I’m saying is that “music will die if musicians make less money” is a pretty dumb thing to say.

  • MrJoe said:

    I’d like to add to Ivan’s statement by also adding that the MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of songs won’t magically disappear either. There is more music out there then any single person could listen to. Even if you managed to argue that no new music would be created if there was no profit incentive (which is nonsense), it wouldn’t make all the music that is already produced disappear.

  • Gio said:

    “Can you explain the existence of Creative Commons then? It seems to imply that music will be written without copy restrictions.”

    Once again, this is a choice that is being made by those who contribute.

  • MrJoe said:

    Once again, this is a choice that is being made by those who contribute.

    None the less, it is music that is created without copy limitations. It really puts to rest the idea that copy limitations are required for new music to be created.

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    “But to say that the quality of art would decline if artists were paid less… I stick by the quote “If you can live without writing, don’t.” ”

    Respectfully, if you knew the costs involved, to properly make a record, you may rethink that a bit. Are there records made for cheap, or at home even, that are good records? Sure. But this is not the norm, and I’ve seen the quality of music decline first hand. It’s happening, whether people want to acknowledge it or not.

  • MrJoe said:

    If you want to make the property analogy (which by all means, I believe is total nonsense), I will remind you that not even physical property rights are absolute. The federal government the USA (and most governments in the world) has the power of eminent domain, taking of property for the public good, for a “fair compensation”. States and local governments in the USA have even more power, regularly seize property without any compensation at all.

    If you want copyrighted works to behave like physical property, so be it. Revocable for the public good, and I’ll be collecting those property taxes also.

  • MrJoe said:

    “Respectfully, if you knew the costs involved, to properly make a record, you may rethink that a bit.”

    T Pain proved that all you need to make a chart topping hit is a $900 Macbook with autotune enabled.

  • Gio said:

    “T Pain proved that all you need to make a chart topping hit is a $900 Macbook with autotune enabled.”

    You left out this bit….

    “Are there records made for cheap, or at home even, that are good records? Sure. But this is not the norm.”

    Thanks for cherry picking. Great way to make a point.

  • MrJoe said:

    @Gio

    That’s your opinion. But T Pain is HUGE. The reward incentive structure called copyright made T Pain a millionare.

    Making music people want to hear is no longer an expensive thing. That’s the point.

  • Gio said:

    @MrJoe

    “That’s your opinion. But T Pain is HUGE. The reward incentive structure called copyright made T Pain a millionare.”

    Oh. So in the case of T Pain, copyright is OK, because it made him a millionaire.

    “Making music people want to hear is no longer an expensive thing. That’s the point.”

    You left out the word “some”.

    You mention the word incentive too. So in your Utopian world where everyone owns everything, where will the incentive be? How will there be another millionaire “T Pain” if no one buys anything?

  • Ivan said:

    @Gio

    “Respectfully, if you knew the costs involved, to properly make a record, you may rethink that a bit. Are there records made for cheap, or at home even, that are good records? Sure. But this is not the norm, and I’ve seen the quality of music decline first hand. It’s happening, whether people want to acknowledge it or not.”

    Fair enough, I hadn’t considered that – I was more relying on writing as an example, which requires almost no financial investment and lots of time – and if you have talent, the publishing company invests in you.

    As for a decline in music, I’d say that’s a subjective truth at best. I listen primarily to classical and opera and would claim that, as a general rule, music has declined since the late 1800′s, partially because it became so easy to get into the music scene (back then you would need to have a full musical education before anyone would even consider letting you perform, and the extreme cost of setting up an orchestra required nothing less than a prince or duke taking personal interest in you.) The fact is, nobody can make that kind of statement, because we all look for something different in the music we listen to.

    Music changes, but good music endures. If records are expensive to make (you would know better than me) and end up making no revenue due to piracy, then artists will have to rely entirely on live concerts and private support for their income. Yes, the music will change, some will say to the worse, some for the better. But I still don’t see the connection between the global quality of music and the gross income of the worldwide music industry.

    Also @Gio – I will respond to your sculpture analogy – when I’ve thought about it, probably tomorrow (in what is becoming a pattern).

  • MrJoe said:

    “Oh. So in the case of T Pain, copyright is OK, because it made him a millionaire.”

    If you think people with $900 Macbooks and autotune should be millionares, then sure, copyright is OK.

    Fact of the matter is, any high school dropout can but together a CD with GarageBand that sounds like it came from the Billboard 10. And he could probably do it in a Saturday afternoon. Bear with me, I’m being conservative here. It’s actually easier then that.

    This is a great insult to music bigots (or “opinionated music lovers”, for a better term).

    It seems they got a drop two kick from two totally different directions, one from the relative ease of music filesharing (music, being data (ouch!), also happens to be relatively small amounts of data, transferring a track over the Internet takes all but a few seconds on broadband). On the other hand technology greatly reduced the barrier of entry to music production, with autotune and synthesized instruments with easy to use software, anyone can be a musician/singer.

    Hell these days, there even exists systems that can generate a CD with a single button click. Using Hidden Markov Models, and other such techniques, a computer can be creative enough to produce music all on it’s own. It’s not quite Billboard material, yet.

    Basically what I am saying is you should be Amish. Or not. Just realize your industry is dying (dead?). And move on.

  • Gio said:

    Hey @MrJoe

    How completely arrogant your last post is. I record music. That’s my job. I don’t need to be schooled in the technology that exists today. If you’re happy with the lowest common denominator drek that is produced by those methods and said high school dropouts, then by all means, help yourself. Some of us appreciate more developed forms of music, that require just a bit more skill and knowledge than simply clicking a mouse and having the computer do the rest. I’d say for you not to appreciate anything but that mindless drivel qualifies you as a bigot as well.

    That has got to be one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever read in my life! I laughed so hard I nearly vomited, that there really are people out there that actually think this way.

    Pull your head out of you a**, and see that the world does not revolve around you and your narrow minded view of this planet and it’s inhabitants.

  • why I steal said:

    @Russ:

    Very well put (in your 5:21 comment). But I disagree with the notion that every format constitutes another sale. This seems to be what the industry wants (no surprise since they think it means more money for them), but it flies directly in the face of fair use and contradicts your later claim that DISTRIBUTION is the problem, not the COPYING alone.

    It also runs afoul of that finely-tuned human instrument called fairness. Generating a creative work is, well, work. It justifies compensation from those who enjoy the result. In the performing arts, every performance involves work, and every performance is compensated. When it comes to print and recordings, taking an existing work in one format and converting it to another format involves nearly no work (unless the work has been formatted especially to make this difficult). Once the artist is compensated for creating the work, it is unfair to expect double, triple, quadruple compensation for swapping formats. That would be akin to buying the whole camera over again every time one took a picture. It’s only fair to expect compensation for swapping formats that is commensurate with the work involved in changing formats. (Incidentally, WSJ print subscribers get free access to WSJ online.)

    The latest comments seem to highlight the problem perfectly. Some people are happy with music that has near-zero production cost, and are understandably unhappy to pay exorbitant amounts for that kind of music. These people are being called “anti-copyright”. Other people want a product resulting from a greater investment of time and capital, and these “pro-copyright” people are incensed that the “anti-copyright” crowd could possibly be unhappy about cost. (Personal insults and petty bickering then ensue.)

  • Mike said:

    @Russ

    Yes, they artificially limit the physical supply of money (as they should) and I’m all for it. They also do a fairly decent (though not great job) of artificially limiting the physical supply of media (cds, dvds, etc). And I’m all for that. That’s all still on the scarce natural resource level. But, there is no “digital” supply of money. What you are referring to are records in a bank. For example, there is no unique order of 1′s and 0′s that will result $100 every time “play” it. All DRM is about preventing the copying and/or playing of those 1′s and 0′s. That’s why it has been, and will continue to be ineffective.

    Also, the point I was trying (though apparently ineffectively) to make was that there is nothing wrong with people getting things for free. If there is an unlimited supply of music, then on a moral level, not only would it NOT be wrong if everyone got a copy of that music, it WOULD be wrong if they didn’t. Again, in the real world with scarce natural resources, this has really never really come up, as there is only so much of everything. Physically, not everyone can have everything. There just ain’t enough of everything to go around. But there is more then enough music to go around (as the supply is limitless). So the point I’m trying to make is that all these people “getting something for nothing” are not wrong. The wrong that is happening here is that the artists need to be fairly compensated for their work. And that fair compensation, who pays, and how much, is the question here (obviously, no news there).

    @Geo
    The problem currently that artists refuse to look to is that laws or not, the system has changed. And because of this artists need to accurately identify what exactly they have to sell. Before the system changed, the artist had individual copies of their art that they could sell to individuals. This system lead to a fairly “fair compensation” for their work. The more popular it was, the more it sold. Now, we could get into an argument that this actually WASN’T “fair compensation” as what this actually rewarded was popular art, not good art. But now that individual copies of the art is not a reliable method of receiving compensation, you have to look at what you still control. As the artist, you still control the master copy. The original that all other copies are made from. Without you (the artist), other copies would never exist. Maybe it’s time to take a look at the actual monetary value of that, and sell it for what it’s worth. In the current system, it still sucks as there are some huge issues with accurately valuing that master copy (how do other people know what it’s worth until they see, hear, etc.), who pays for the master copy, along with countless others issues. But, the sad reality is that once you sell your art, you no longer have control over it (just like when you sell your car, you no longer have control over it). This system could be enacted tomorrow without changing any laws.

    @All
    This is what I’m talking about. This is just one possible system. Sure this system is going to be torn apart in the following comments. I could tear this system apart, as I’m not an overly big fan of this system either. But, if enough people start actually coming up with different ideas, a decent system would emerge (probably as a combination of several different systems).

  • lenora said:

    It’s a bit irritating to me that some people that are anti-copyright seem to have very little knowledge of the investments musicians make to create good art. @Ivan “Fair enough, I hadn’t considered that ” in regards to the cost of making an album. REALLY? And you’re on here arguing for piracy? Even if you are making your album at home on a personal computer, there is a huge learning curb which takes time.. and time is money. Time away from your job, or away from other activities, PLUS, that equipment and software costs a lot of money. I think it is up to the artist and songwriter.. which can be two different people. There are different licenses as well. The mechanical license (the composition) and the recording license. These are paid separately unless the artists writes all of their own material. In that case, they can do what they want with the recording. I think there is a basic misunderstanding of the art of making music. Writing a song takes time and that time is again, MONEY. If you stay home to write and are not an already established songwriter or hit maker, time away from work is money lost. It’s a choice, but with the hope that someday your skill will put some food on the table. I do have a publisher, and they are well known, but they didn’t give me an advance. So, it doesn’t always work that way.

    @MrJoe Really? Autotune? That’s why when you actually attend a concert, half the time the people can’t sing on key. That’s a SKILL. This could become an entirely different argument, but I think some of the people here have no idea what it is to learn how to play an instrument, sing on key, write a decent song, basically, be a musician. I’d like to know what else you listen to, Mr. Joe. Because if this argument is all about the stuff people are making in their homes and no one cares about a well produced album anymore, than I don’t know what to say. I’m not talking Katy Perry whose record company spends tens of thousands on her recordings and co-songwriters, I’m talking about people like, say, Tom Waits, who could easily just record his songs with midi piano and vocal into a computer. But he chooses to work with amazing musicians and produce an album. To mic a real piano and simultaneously record the vocal is in itself a feat that requires a lot of skill. Costs him money. And if you appreciate him and he doesn’t just say, throw my music around the internet, then have some RESPECT. Or really, try to change the laws in a way that appreciates the artist. Let’s get an electronic stamp on any artist’s mp3 or sheet music that wants to be compensated and insure that they are compensated through the internet provider fees or something. In the 50′s and 60′s record companies were so corrupt.. well they probably still are.. that artists were literally living in cars and often died penniless. No Ivan, just because an artist is making less, doesn’t mean they won’t make good music. Good musicians make good music, but do you really want to listen to your free mp3 and then learn that the artist is homeless, or severely struggling to make ends meet? Worse yet, in poor health and unable to financially care for themselves?

  • Ivan said:

    lenora,

    “@Ivan “Fair enough, I hadn’t considered that ” in regards to the cost of making an album. REALLY? And you’re on here arguing for piracy?”

    No offense, but you took that way out of context. After admitting an oversight, I proceeded to explain it (I was going with the writing analogy at the time) then explained why I think it doesn’t matter anyway. I could just repeat myself again but I suggest you re-read my previous post fully, as it addresses the issues you just raised. Cheers.

  • Gio said:

    @Mike

    Your argument above ultimately renders even my Master valueless. Who will buy it, even at cost, if as you say, once it’s replicated it belongs to everyone for free? What will they do with it? Keep it in a safe and gloat about owning such-and-such master tape? So what! It’s worthless now!

    So, tell me then…… why should I bother? I’m sorry, I don’t buy that.

  • Ivan said:

    @Gio

    “I’m a sculptor. I create a statue that for whatever reason ends up being displayed in the town square. There, it is out in public for all to see, free of charge. People like my statue. In fact, one person likes it so much, that he wrote me and asked if I would create a replica for him, so he could enjoy it in his home. I make this replica, and give it to him. Over time, people begin to come from far and wide to see this wonderful statue I have made, and eventually I get 5, 10, 50, up to thousands of requests for replicas of this statue. What do I do?

    1) I could refuse, and say that if you want to enjoy my statue, you will simply have to go and see it. What about the people on the other side of the planet? They don’t get to see my statue at all, unless they travel to where it is being displayed. What if they cannot afford to travel?

    2) I agree to make all these copies, and now begin task of making thousands and thousands of these copies. Am I morally obligated to do this?

    3) I could suggest that I would indeed make them each a replica, for a fee.
    Is that morally wrong?

    4) They agree to this fee I have asked for, and I agree to make these copies.
    Is it morally wrong for me to accept this money? Is it morally wrong to sell copies of this work? Is it morally wrong for me to expect people to pay for the “copy” they get?

    Now. Let’s substitute “music” for statue, and “CD or MP3″ for the replica.

    What changes? Why?”

    First, I want to establish the limitation of any analogy involving sculpture: the fact that, for whatever reason, the “original” sculpture is considered far more valuable than any replica, however accurate. For the sake of this analogy I’ll consider that, like a pirated CD, the replica is exact and indistinguishable.

    I’ll reply to the questions as honestly as I can:

    1) You’re not obligated to make replicas of your own work, or for that matter obligated to do anything you don’t want to.

    2) See #1.

    3) No, it’s not morally wrong to exact a fee for your work – you’re spending hours of your time and your own clay to make this replica. That needs to be compensated.

    4) No; it’s fine to receive payment, to sell copies, and to expect to be paid for every replica you make.

    What changes with CD’s and music? Nothing.

    The problem that I see is with the scenario you’ve put forward. I’ll ask several concurrent questions that describe piracy more accurately (with my answers to them) and let’s see where our differences lie:

    1) The statue is on display in the public square. You haven’t started selling replicas yet. I (aspiring artist) sit nearby with some clay and craft a replica. I then display it in my home for friends and family along with a plaque saying your name and “replicated by Ivan”. Is this morally wrong?

    My answer: no.

    2) I decide to make more replicas and give them to my friends as gifts. This will reduce the amount of orders you get to make replicas, and thus your income. Nonetheless, is this morally wrong?

    My answer: no.

    3) Instead of giving away replicas freely, I decide to sell them. I don’t ask you for permission. Is this morally wrong?

    My answer: resounding yes.

    But perhaps I misunderstood your analogy.

    This is only a partial response; I’ve yet to come up with an answer to your “music is entertainment, entertainment is a service that you should pay for” train of thought, that I find really persuasive.

  • lenora said:

    Ivan

    “Fair enough, I hadn’t considered that – I was more relying on writing as an example, which requires almost no financial investment and lots of time – and if you have talent, the publishing company invests in you.”

    I wasn’t trying to quote you out of context or make it seem like you had said something you didn’t. I appreciate that you pointed out any misunderstandings I had. I think you’ll see from my previous post that I disagreed and think writing DOES cost money. It costs time, usually an ability to play an instrument which possibly means an investment of lessons that could go back years and years. My own training started at the age of 5 and cost $20 a lesson, every week, for 15 years. Add it up. Doesn’t make me good at it necessarily, but if I every do have a hit, and no longer get paid for it, that would blow balls. Really. I also think that the problem with misunderstanding your quote is because the argument turned into file sharing in the form of MP3 and not just about sheet music. So debating the subject includes MP3s.

    Artists DO need to find other ways of making money. The entire landscape has changed, but the consumer cannot demand things without a full understanding of what goes into the product. Say all the recordings and sheet music is free, okay, well if you are a performer who writes your own stuff, fine, you can try to make money in other ways. Syncs, touring, product endorsement, etc… If you are just a songwriter, this is very difficult and some of our most classic songs come from writers who don’t play out. Also, touring is EXPENSIVE. Very expensive. Has anyone been following Bob Lefsetz blogs about Live Nation and Ticketmaster? Even the big names can’t seem to make ends meet when touring. Syncs and product endorsement – just because you write a song and need a way of making money, do you have to sell it to a McDonalds type corporation? Does the artist believe in factory farming and all the terrible things that go into many of the corporate sponsors and sync opportunities? Is that what you want from your artists? These are not easy things to do, choices to make or questions to answer for artists. To think that they are NOT looking at the landscape figuring out how to live in it is silly. They are but it’s new, it’s tough. I’m not talking about record labels, which are like dinosaurs so cumbersome it takes them years to change direction, I’m talking about independent artists. Many of whom DO choose to give their music away. Cut them some slack, it’s tough. Right now the law protects their right to make the music free or profit from it. Appreciate those who believe in the same thing you do and respect those that don’t. Right now the law is the only protection artists have in a quickly changing landscape that hasn’t yet been fully traversed and settled.

    I’m actually coming at this not as a pro-piracy or anti-piracy supporter. I’m interested in this debate because I’m trying to figure out where it’s going. Who has a solution? As an artist, I may not survive this, I get it. The only thing I can contribute to the debate is my experience and understanding of LIVING in this issue as a consumer and writer/performer/recording artist.

    ‎”It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

  • Ivan said:

    @ Lenora

    I think the problem is that we’re approaching this from completely different angles. You’re trying to find solutions for artists in a changing global environment; I’m just trying to answer the question “is it morally acceptable to pirate?”.

    The statement “music will decline as artists make less money” just struck me as very single-minded so I responded to it. In a global sense, I see nothing wrong with music being funded by private and corporate donors. The sheer enduring quality, diversity, and beauty of classical music leads me to believe that music and art generally can survive and even thrive in a top-down system where it’s the upper class, rather than the common man, that funds it.

    But I’m talking to real people whose livelihoods in some part depend on the existing system; and I’m straying dangerously close to saying “you’re replaceable” – something nobody deserves to hear about their calling. So I’ll stop here.

  • Mike said:

    @Geo

    I don’t completely agree that no one would buy a master. Lets say for example (and this is just off the top of my head), U2 created a new song. They then said that once they are payed $10M, they will release it to the world. They then put up a website with an account which collected donations. Then, it doesn’t matter of 20 million people each donated $0.50 or 10 very wealthy U2 fans each donated $1M, after the account fills up, the music is released to the wild and everyone can hear it. It sounds strange because no one actually “owns” it after that. But that has a lot to do with the fact that music is a limitless resource that’s almost impossible to restrict to a level of ownership (as seen by current events. You own a CD. I can download every song you own and it is physically exactly the same music. If you and I both have exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, do you really own it?) Almost none of the rules that apply to free market regulation of scarce natural resources apply to the regulation of non-scarce resources. Ownership of a non-scarce resource is almost meaningless.

    Am I suggesting this is the solution to the problem? Not at all. This has a whole bunch of problems. How do artists that no one has heard of make money (maybe like OK GO, and upload their video to YouTube in order to get fans)? How do you protect your work before you get payed (tons of tracks have been leaked before release)? There are tons of other questions I haven’t even mentioned. But, again, this is simply a different solution to the problem at hand. There are many, many more solutions out there, each with their own pros and cons. But, instead of exploring most likely better equipped solutions, the argument always boils down to trying harder and harder to fit a square peg into a round hole.

  • lenora said:

    @Ivan

    That made a lot of sense. We are approaching it from two different angles. And I agree, I don’t think music will necessarily decline. Honestly, I believe it already has, but that’s subjective and doesn’t work in arguments. A lot of classical music was funded by the government (or the royal family) and the rich of the time. Still is, that’s the community of classical music and the quality of music education and composition was very high.

    I really appreciate the sculpture analogy you made. It’s very thought out and I see that point of view clearly. The thing that was left out is a lot of art is commissioned, specially in an outdoor city setting, with tax payers money. Am I wrong? I really could be but that’s how I thought it worked. Or you pay to go into a museum, how does that work for an artist? Is it like the library? I don’t know. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some urban graffiti is amazing and I’m sure done just for the sake of the viewer with no compensation.

    Ivan, I’m pretty sure I am replaceable, unless someone finds personal value in what I offer them. I write and sing that one song that makes their own situation clearer to them or let’s them dance on a really really bad day, maybe they play it at their wedding. Then, I hope they have respect for how I’ve chosen to give them that entertainment, whether it’s coming to a show because I’ve made the song free or paying for the song. If they don’t like how I want them to have it, they can replace the song with a different one. I think that’s what RJB was saying. Whether the way he thinks will help or hurt him is yet to be seen, but can’t be played out if people continue to pirate his music. Take someone else’s sheet music who is begging to have people play his music, for FREE. Or are they just not as good as RJB?

  • Paul said:

    One point I think got missed earlier on is the question of having something stolen that doesn’t exist yet (future earnings). The point is that by creating a market for free versions of someone’s work, you remove their potential to earn, even if the overall amount of earnings is small. As mentioned earlier, if 10,000 people download your song, but only 1,000 would have actually bought it, why not be pissed off about losing that 1,000?

    Reactor, say hypothetically you write a book… on chatroom etiquette, for example…. and it starts off selling very well through Chapters. Things are looking great for being able to quit your dead-end day job and become a writer full-time. Well, one of the people who read your book thinks it’s wicked awesome and wants to get it to his friends. So, me makes a copy of the entire book, and arranges for his friends to meet him in front of Chapters to pick it up. While he’s waiting there at his folding card table piled with copies of your book – a book you took two years to write, with exhaustive research and considerable personal investment, not to mention the years it took refining your writing skills to the point where you could produce something commercially viable – strangers also come up, and grab a free copy instead of going into Chapters and buying one. Your book is now EVERYWHERE, but you’ve earned peanuts, and still need to keep your day job (one would assume something in the service industry based on your charm).

    Would you or would you not be pissed off if you happened upon this card table full of free books while out for a walk? Honestly? Or would you be thrilled simply that people dig your work and want to have it, and happy just that it’s out in the cosmos? If you said yes, and meant it, you live in your parents’ basement and get an allowance.

    I have heard people offer this argument for stealing music online, and I call BS. If a band wants to have their work out there for free to promote themselves and drive people to their shows, great, but don’t make that decision for the band from the comfort of your parent’s basement. Also, for what its worth, for many emerging artists, live shows are not much of a goldmine. People pay their ticket price, but don’t buy the merch (usually) because they already stole the CD and other recorded material online, and would rather get another beer than buy a T-shirt. Venues don’t pay bands especially well, so it’s tough out there (I know from experience). Major bands do better, but its not just major bands getting their content pinched.

    The reality is that for many creative professionals, their creativity is, as you might expect, their profession. They have bills to pay, kids to feed, a mortgage, etc. Most creative people I know are barely above the poverty line, so every penny counts. A small percentage of creative people are superstars, but they still have every right to earn their living. Fair is fair.

  • lenora said:

    What if an artist never released the album digitally and only made 4,000 numbered copies on CD? I understand it could become digitally available but still another solution. I think the artist might have to be well known though. Newer artists really just need to be heard.

    @Mike
    One thing about mp3s vs vinyl or CD, and some people don’t care about this, but they’re not the same. The sound quality is vastly different and sometimes this the argument people make for pirating it. CD’s and other, more tangible options, come with artwork. If the artists puts effort into that as well as quality into the casing, it can be a great investment that can be shared with others while listening. I was quite saddened after I spent many hours tweaking the mix for my CD and then uploading it to Itunes. Sounds crappy in comparison to the CD.

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    (Ivan)
    “For the sake of this analogy I’ll consider that, like a pirated CD, the replica is exact and indistinguishable. ”

    Perhaps my response will show why the above can not be said.

    (Ivan)
    “The problem that I see is with the scenario you’ve put forward. I’ll ask several concurrent questions that describe piracy more accurately (with my answers to them) and let’s see where our differences lie:

    1) The statue is on display in the public square. You haven’t started selling replicas yet. I (aspiring artist) sit nearby with some clay and craft a replica. I then display it in my home for friends and family along with a plaque saying your name and “replicated by Ivan”. Is this morally wrong?

    My answer: no.”

    My answer(Gio): No. You could see me perform one of my songs enough times to commit it to memory, go home, record it to your laptop, play it for your friends and family and it would be “XXXX by Gio, as performed by Ivan”. That’s fine too.

    You would have to go to great lengths to copy my statue exactly, to the T. Your copy will be an approximation of my statue, your version of it, but not identical, much as your version of my song would not be an exact copy of my song, my voice, my arrangement choices, the musicians on it, the particular aesthetics captured etc. Ie: my recording (statue).

    (Ivan)

    “2) I decide to make more replicas and give them to my friends as gifts. This will reduce the amount of orders you get to make replicas, and thus your income. Nonetheless, is this morally wrong?

    My answer: no.”

    My answer (Gio): No, in that your copy is not a copy of my exact recording(statue), and could never be. (see above) If people want a U2 song as recorded by U2, your rendition of the U2 song will not be adequate, so they will have lost no sales.

    (Ivan)

    “3) Instead of giving away replicas freely, I decide to sell them. I don’t ask you for permission. Is this morally wrong?

    My answer: resounding yes.”

    My answer(Gio): Yes.

    I really need to figure out how to use these tags……. ;)

  • Ivan said:

    Ah, but in that case both our approaches are inadequate.

    Pirated MP3′s ARE identical to the original, contrary to my assumption, which supports your argument.

    And copying MP3′s does not require the artist to put in any more work, contrary to your description, which supports my argument.

    I think we need a new analogy :P

  • Ivan said:

    Or rather, that is an answer to your question about what separates sculpture and music – a sculpture replica is never identical to the original, particularly if it is copied by someone else. MP3′s, though, are identical to the original MP3 regardless of who they are copied by. When I assumed that all sculptures were identical, I tried to make my analogy as close as I could to music.

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    “And copying MP3′s does not require the artist to put in any more work, contrary to your description, which supports my argument.”

    Well, that is one of my points of contention. Why should the ease (or not) of making said copy determine whether it’s OK to copy it? It takes the same amount of work to create it, no matter the method of delivery.

    Perhaps you are right, we need a better analogy, or at best, take one point at a time.

    Looking forward to you response to my “entertainment” musings.

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    “Or rather, that is an answer to your question about what separates sculpture and music – a sculpture replica is never identical to the original, particularly if it is copied by someone else. MP3′s, though, are identical to the original MP3 regardless of who they are copied by.”

    And that’s what gives the original sculpture more value than any copy.

    In recorded music, part if not all of the value of the original lies with the original performance/performer itself. There is only one Bob Dylan, for example. Anyone can copy (perform, re-record) a Dylan song themselves, but it’s not the same, and when viewed from this perspective, and in the case of MP3s, the copy is indeed as valuable as the original.

    IDK. I think the more I go on about this, the further I get from making my point!

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan,

    My journey to this thread started by reading a blog post that was written in 2006. The subject of the post was copyright infringement and plagiarism. The comments on that post continued from 2006 through July 14, 2010 at the time when I read them. Everyone had a story or an opinion. A link in a post on that blog led me to another blog on the same topic. Then I found Jason Robert Brown’s story, which led me here.

    This has been so much reading that I was only able to follow the discussion here for awhile before I had to stop reading.

    Your question: Is it morally wrong to copy ideas? interested me. I haven’t seen that you’ve received a direct answer to your question. To be honest, there may not be an absolute answer to your question. The concepts of “sharing” and “ownership” are societal constructs. This means that they diff among different groups of people and may evolve over time. People used to be able to own other people (slavery) and wives and children used to be considered chattel (property). Those practices were commonly accepted, but today most civilized societies, by our standards, consider slavery and treating wives and children as property to be against reprehensible, archaic institutions.

    Why would it be wrong to copy an idea or music, for example? They are, after all, intangible. The tools used to express the idea or the music may be separate, physical entities, like a book, piano or guitar, but might also be only a voice, a whistle or a hum.

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan – continued.

    For me, at least part of the answer is the value the creator of the work places on it. Some authors/composers/musicians/artists place a specific monetary value on their work. That value may be $0.00 or it may be $2,000,000. You have the right to say, “I don’t agree with the value you place on your work,” but you don’t have the right to say, “I don’t agree with the value you place on your work, and I will force you to give me the for what I want to pay you (even if that’s nothing).”

    The issue is confusing because it has many flavors. There is using the item yourself. There is sharing the item with others. There is selling the item. There is distributing the item to a large group. There are situations where people claim authorship when they did not create the work.

    Your original question related to morality, but the issues around copyright itself are legal, not moral.

    And regardless of the original goals of the people who drafted copyright laws, their intention was to clarify and safeguard legal ownership of created work.

    Because, to muddy the waters even further, the original author does not always “own” his or her own work product. If I create a work under contract, I may assign my ownership or copyright(but not authorship), to another person or company.

    Or a writer may be a ghost writer for someone, in which case it has been common practice for the actual writer to assign “author credit” to the titular author of the work. The actual writer may be paid a single fee for the work of writing, but royalties may be paid to the titular author. Or the actual writer may be paid a portion of the royalties. Everything depends on industry standard practice, the reputation of the ghost writer, and the legal contract between all parties.

    In these cases, the owner of the work, rather than its creator, may set the price at which they want to sell the work.

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan – continued

    You provided several examples.

    But is copying an [i]idea[/i] necessarily theft? For instance, if I went to a shop and saw a cool novelty – say a duct tape wallet – then came home and made my own wallet out of duct tape, that act would hardly be on the same level as shoplifting.

    Morally, this may be a gray area. Legally, if you made your own wallet out of duct tape, you might not be prosecuted. But if you started saying that your “knock-off” was the real-deal or if you started selling duct tape wallets that were copies of the original, it’s very possible that you would be. Designer clothes and accessories are knocked off all the time, but some designers will go after knock-offs and it is illegal to copy and sell these goods. (And, yes, I know that you’ll see copies of designer clothes on early morning shows about how you can get the “red carpet” look cheap. Some of those manufacturers or stores may have agreements with the designers to allow them to make the knock-offs, or the copies are not close enough to be considered “infringing.”)

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan – continued

    I’m a sculptor. I create a statue that for whatever reason ends up being displayed in the town square. There, it is out in public for all to see, free of charge. People like my statue. In fact, one person likes it so much, that he wrote me and asked if I would create a replica for him, so he could enjoy it in his home. I make this replica, and give it to him. Over time, people begin to come from far and wide to see this wonderful statue I have made, and eventually I get 5, 10, 50, up to thousands of requests for replicas of this statue. What do I do?

    People can see your sculpture free of charge in the town square. Either you, or someone, paid for the supplies and your time to create it in the first place. You either decided to donate your work, free of charge, or you have already been paid for your work.

    1) I could refuse, and say that if you want to enjoy my statue, you will simply have to go and see it. What about the people on the other side of the planet? They don’t get to see my statue at all, unless they travel to where it is being displayed. What if they cannot afford to travel?

    As an artist, you are not obligated to make your work available to everyone, unless you choose to do so. Maybe you sell photos of your work or make pics available online. That is your choice.

    2) I agree to make all these copies, and now begin task of making thousands and thousands of these copies. Am I morally obligated to do this?

    No. And unless you have a lot of money, you couldn’t afford to do this.

    3) I could suggest that I would indeed make them each a replica, for a fee.
    Is that morally wrong?
    4) They agree to this fee I have asked for, and I agree to make these copies.
    Is it morally wrong for me to accept this money? Is it morally wrong to sell copies of this work? Is it morally wrong for me to expect people to pay for the “copy” they get?

    This may be confusing, but as long as you, the original artist, make the “replicas,” each one is considered an original work of art. This is slightly different if you use molds to create the replicas. Usually, when an artist uses molds, he/she limits the production to a certain number of copies and each copy is numbered in sequence. This is called a “limited edition.”

    Now. Let’s substitute “music” for statue, and “CD or MP3″ for the replica.
    What changes? Why?”

    There is a third way in which artists can produce multiple copies of their art for sale or other distribution. They can create molds and set up a production line of other artists who complete the artwork. This is done for handpainted china, sculptures, glassware, and other decorative items.

    Music is similar. You can hear the artist live at a concert. Some concerts are free, but whether you get in free doesn’t matter; someone paid for the venue, transportation, security, facilities, etc. That’s the sculpture in the public square.

    The band may play limited engagements for select audiences. And they produce CDs.

    The difference is that the sculptor (or the manufacturer) controls the number of copies that are made. It’s harder to make cheap copies of a sculptor’s work. You still have to buy the materials and it takes a certain amount of time and skill to create. Anyone with access to a computer can download music. You don’t even have to burn it to a CD/DVD. You can copy it to other devices any number of times within seconds.

    Also, if you share your statue with me, I’m not very likely to copy it. If you loan me a music CD, I can fairly easily copy it myself.

    Someone who isn’t willing, or can’t afford, to pay for a statue is less likely to try to find a way to make a copy than someone who isn’t willing, or can’t afford, to pay for a CD. And you’re less likely to try to copy more than one statue, whereas, if you can copy one CD, why not 5, 10, 100?

  • Gio said:

    @Blaise

    “And you’re less likely to try to copy more than one statue, whereas, if you can copy one CD, why not 5, 10, 100?”

    Since I am the originator of this little story, can you answer me this?
    Why is it OK to copy this CD or computer file? Is it because it is easy to do?

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan – continued

    Here’s an example: Over a million academic papers are published every year for free – with their purpose being the advancement of human knowledge. Many of them are the result of years of arduous labor by teams of scientists who have devoted their entire lives to research (a very miserable, financially speaking, occupation). They contain brilliant ideas and insights into the workings of the universe; some may result in the creation of life-saving medicine or the beginning of extrasolar spaceflight. Now imagine that every single one of these papers is copyrighted and becomes intellectual property of the creator, or the creator’s institution. The institution will then sell this knowledge for huge premiums. Science will have become a business. It will no longer be possible to access any paper ever written for a simple maintenance fee – one will have to pay every single creator of every single paper on the topic.

    Can you see how much damage that would do to academia? To Science? To progress?

    Actually, every single one of these papers is copyrighted. They are the intellectual property of the author(s) and/or the author(s)’ institution. Institutions that make these papers available free are usually funded by the government or the work presented in the papers has been funded by a grant or other method. In other words, someone paid so that others would be able to have free access to the content, but that was a predetermined decision of the copyright owner(s). Science is one of the most expensive disciplines. So even if the content is free to you, it is certainly not free. I work in the environmental health & safety department of an engineering firm and we have to pay for scientific articles or borrow them from a library when we need references.

    You will find scientific papers free as a student that may not be free if you are not a student. Government-funded research may require free public access to the information. But tuition, alumnae donations, or government funding paid for that work, and it was performed with an understanding by the authors whether or not fees would be paid for the content. In other words, even if the content is free, it is free because the author(s) and/or the institution agreed to that in advance.

    If you acquire scientific papers that require payment from an unauthorized web site, it’s exactly the same as downloading music from an unauthorized web site.

  • Gio said:

    @Paul

    Tres cool.

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan – continued

    On an unrelated note: what about libraries?
    If getting a product without paying for it is theft, then taking out books at a library is too, despite being socially acceptable even for people who can easily afford to buy them.
    In fact, libraries downright resemble pirates – someone has to actually buy a copy of the book first, then (theoretically) the book can be enjoyed by an infinite number of people.
    While some people do enjoy actually owning books, I don’t derive any pleasure from having a large bookshelf as I seldom re-read. Everything I need from a book I can easily glean in the three weeks the library gives me. Is it then wrong to borrow a book from the library as opposed to buying it from the store? While it’s true that the library isn’t truly free (funded partially by my taxes), the author still only gets the royalties from that one book.

    As you may know, the first library in America was started by Benjamin Franklin and the members of a philosophical association called the Junto. These great minds could not afford to each buy and own personal copies of the books they needed to support their discussions, so they organized an institution that would purchase the books and provide free access to anyone. I don’t know if links are allowed in these posts, but you can find this if you search for The Library Company of Philadelphia. Their motto was “To support the common good is divine.”

    This concept of making books (and now CDs, DVDs, videos, etc.) available to people who either can’t afford them, don’t have room for them, only need them for reference, or other reasons is a socially acceptable, in fact institutionalized, method for ensuring that knowledge (and entertainment) is available free of charge (unless you’re late returning them).

    In fact, even though an individual library may buy only one or two copies of an item, there are thousands of libraries across the nation. For some books, their biggest customers may be libraries.

    If a library member doesn’t return a popular book, the library has to buy another copy. And the library is a perfect way to review a book, CD or video before buying it. It’s sometimes hard to tell in a bookstore or at the music store whether you’ll want to own a copy of the item. The library allows you to live with the item for awhile. Most of the time, you’ll just return the item, but every once in awhile you may find something that’s important enough to own.

  • Ivan said:

    @Gio
    “Why is it OK to copy this CD or computer file? Is it because it is easy to do?”

    No, but because it’s me, not the author, who is doing it.

    If the author made a CD, even if it cost them 10 cents to make, I have no right to take it without paying for it. If the author performs a live concert, I have no right to barge in and watch without paying the admission fee. If the author uploads his music to iTunes, I have no right to hack into iTunes and take it for free.

    But if my friend bought a CD and I copy those MP3 files to my hard disc, I’m the one making a copy. And just as if I replicated a sculpture you made for my own enjoyment, I’m not morally in the wrong. (well, if you discount the entertainment argument. Still need to chew that over)

    @ Blaise

    Thank you for your, I think comprehensive replies – you’re clearly very knowledgeable on all the topics you cover. I will respond more fully, but first a note about the duct tape example – yes, it is illegal to SELL those duct tape wallets, but never to make one for myself and my private enjoyment. I don’t dispute that selling someone else’s art without permission is wrong both morally and legally.

    Again, thanks :)

  • Blaise said:

    @Gio

    Since I am the originator of this little story, can you answer me this?
    Why is it OK to copy this CD or computer file? Is it because it is easy to do?

    No, I’m not saying that it’s okay to copy the CD or computer file (easy or not). I was simply making a point of difference between copying something like a statue and illegally downloading music. Both are wrong. Ease makes it more likely that music will be copied, but it’s still wrong.

    (Also, I re-read some of my posts and several corrections I thought I had made aren’t showing, so please forgive misplaced words, redundancy, or confusing phrases. I could swear I deleted some words that are showing up in the messages.)

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan – continued

    I will respond more fully, but first a note about the duct tape example – yes, it is illegal to SELL those duct tape wallets, but never to make one for myself and my private enjoyment. I don’t dispute that selling someone else’s art without permission is wrong both morally and legally.

    IANAL (I am not a lawyer), but I believe this can be a tricky area of the law. Making a copy for yourself may still be illegal, but no one may care enough to come after you for that single infraction. It’s too expensive. And the duct tape wallets may not be sufficiently unique to be a “real” knock-off.” In some cases, what makes an infraction worth pursuing is the monetary value of the object and the originator’s ability to prove financial damages.

    In my next post, I’ll get to what I personally consider the “moral” reason to respect someone’s copyright.

  • Gio said:

    @Blaise

    I was just asking, from a moral standpoint, why ease of access would make people OK with it. Thank you though, for supporting my position far more intelligently and eloquently than I could ever manage.

  • Blaise said:

    @Ivan -

    For example, what if you took a photo and posted it on your web site? It took less than 5 minutes to shoot the photo, copy it to your computer and upload it to your online media library. It doesn’t matter what the photo is about. Although some photos will be more personally important to you than others, the personal importance is irrelevant for this example.

    Anyway, you’re proud of this photo. One day, you’re surfing the web and you see your photo posted on someone else’s web site! In fact, you start finding your photo on a LOT of web sites. Do you care? (I believe that most people do, but there are some who don’t care.)

    If you care, why do you care? It took less than 5 minutes of your time and it has no monetary value. You weren’t selling it.

    The moral reason not to copy someone else’s work is respect. You respect that it is their work, and you don’t always know what it means to them. A photo of a cute dog might be their puppy who just died. The sunset scene overlooking the ocean may be the last place they spent time with their parents.

    If you don’t copy CDs, it’s easier for you to say “no” if someone asks you to let them copy one of yours. Letting your friend make the copy doesn’t cost you anything, but enough pirating can make a difference for the artist. Will it stop an artist from doing the work? That depends on why they’re doing the work in the first place. But every band with music on the Internet isn’t rich. You might be surprised at how many live in apartments, work a day job to pay rent, and are hanging on to a dream.

    There are boundaries in life. You consider some things as belonging to you. Because they are yours, you want other people to respect your ownership.

    When you “buy” most software, are you aware that it doesn’t belong to you? What you have paid for is a license to use the software under certain conditions. No one reads the EULA (End User License Agreement), but it’s a legal contract. So, technically, you don’t “own” the software on your computer. The company that owns it is simply allowing you to use it in exchange for payment of money. You own the CD/DVD that it came on, but you are not allowed to change the software, reverse engineer it, etc. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to Open Source software.)

    When you purchase an artist’s work, or acquire it in some other legal way, you’re respecting that person and the terms under which he/she was willing to share that work with you. There are lots of things I want that I either don’t have access to or can’t afford. Just because I want it, or it’s cool, or everyone else has it, doesn’t give me the right to acquire it.

    If you want to “represent”, you show respect by honoring the other person’s rights and boundaries.

  • Gio said:

    @Ivan

    FWIW, I don’t think making a copy for yourself is inherently wrong either. Hell, we would make cassette copies of LPs back in the day for use in our car stereos. Talk about high tech! The difference though is those copies were for personal use, and not distributed world wide, to any one and everyone, for free.

    The biggest problem for me, now that technology has advanced to the level it has, is that single, personal copy can be uploaded and distributed to the entire planet, with no loss in quality (whether MP3 qualifies as quality audio notwithstanding). Where is the incentive to buy anymore? To me, being on the artist side of the fence, that equates to less sales.

    I think I’ll let this sit for a while, but am hoping to see your other response here at some point.

    Cheers.

  • Blaise said:

    @Gio,

    This is a fascinating topic. I have to apologize for my long posts. If I took the time to edit them, I could make my points more succinctly, but my thoughts are kind of rambling. I’m also very impressed by Ivan and if he can understand why pirating is not just illegal, but wrong, I think it will help him to navigate life on a more solid foundation.

    I wanted to make one final point about Creative Commons before checking out. Frankly, I’ve used Creative Commons copyright notices in the past. From where I stand, the problem with Creative Commons (CC) is that their licenses muddy copyright issues. The standard “All Rights Reserved” language is simple, clear and unequivocal. When a CC copyright notice is applied, there are a number of options that are difficult to enforce. Even if the tier 1 person copying the content abides by the CC copyright, we are expecting them to apply that same licensing policy to visitors of their site. That can become a nightmare to maintain since every content originator may have a different set of CC options. So some content may be copied but not modified, some content requires attribution, but can be modified, etc.

    Human nature, and the speed of the ‘net, being what they are, I wouldn’t expect site owners to be able to track or enforce tier 2, tier 3, etc. people reposting the info/images.

    It has also been somewhat confusing to me how to interpret the “no commercial use” option. Maybe I just haven’t read far enough into the CC web site. I’ve seen different content owners define “commercial use” as “don’t post on any monetized or business-related web sites (even internal)” and others interpret it as “just don’t sell my work on your site.” I don’t really want to spend time on this one point in this discussion. I was only using it as an example of how modifications to the “All Rights Reserved” language opens a can of worms.

    I applaud CC’s attempt to make some sense of how the Internet really works. Content can easily be hot-linked or copy-pasted so why not give the content originator a way of automatically approving certain types of usage without having to respond to potentially tens or hundreds of written requests. But there are unintended consequences and maybe the resulting confusion as to the meaning of “copyright” requires a different solution.

  • Blaise said:

    @Mike

    You gave an example of U2 getting $10M in donations to release a song.

    . . .[I]t doesn’t matter of 20 million people each donated $0.50 or 10 very wealthy U2 fans each donated $1M, after the account fills up, the music is released to the wild and everyone can hear it. It sounds strange because no one actually “owns” it after that.

    When U2 set up the $10M price, it sounds like they were making their version of the song available to the world. Actually, the composer, lyricist (if U2 didn’t write the song themselves and are only performing it), or music company may still own the copyright of the song (words and music), unless they explicitly relinquish that right and release it to the public domain. U2 might only be releasing the CD/downloadable version of the song for the $10M. They (or the composer, lyricist, music company) might still own rights to sell the sheet music or other forms in which the song is available. In other words, simply making it available in one format doesn’t mean they are relinquishing their rights to charge for other formats.

    But that has a lot to do with the fact that music is a limitless resource that’s almost impossible to restrict to a level of ownership (as seen by current events. You own a CD. I can download every song you own and it is physically exactly the same music. If you and I both have exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, do you really own it?) Almost none of the rules that apply to free market regulation of scarce natural resources apply to the regulation of non-scarce resources. Ownership of a non-scarce resource is almost meaningless.

    Music may be limitless as a generic item, but talent is not limitless. There is a lot of music out there and, with modern technology, it’s easy to copy in limitless quantities. But copying is not creating. When you buy a CD, you own the CD, but you don’t own the music on the CD and you don’t own the way the music was performed. On virtually every CD, you’ll find a copyright notice and credits.

    If the person who creates/authors/composes something releases it to the public domain, they are relinquishing their rights to profit from their work. They are not relinquishing their authorship of the piece.

    How long copyright ownership lasts depends whether the work has been published and when it was created or published. There are web sites that describe the different lengths that a copyright lasts.

    Copyright is a legal issue, which is independent of whether you can or how easy it is to violate it. In other words, just because I can copy a CD/DVD (outside of fair use guidelines) and everyone I know copies CDs/DVDs does not make it legal to copy CDs/DVDs.

    Technology has outpaced the ability of most copyright holders to afford defending their rights, but that doesn’t mean their rights don’t exist.

    The new paradigm does make it harder for violators to understand why copying, and sometimes imitating, is illegal, and harder to prevent and control theft.

    You, and others, are right when you say that artists, record companies, et al. need to find new ways to profit from their work that fits better with the real world. But, again, changing a marketing strategy or changing what they allow people to do with the work doesn’t affect the fact that they own rights in the work. And violations of those rights are against the law.

    I venture to say that many on this discussion who advocate free copying of someone else’s work would feel much differently if they were the creators of work that was “appropriated” by others.

  • MrJoe said:

    Really? Autotune? That’s why when you actually attend a concert, half the time the people can’t sing on key. That’s a SKILL. This could become an entirely different argument, but I think some of the people here have no idea what it is to learn how to play an instrument, sing on key, write a decent song, basically, be a musician.

    That is truly not needed anymore.

    I’d like to know what else you listen to, Mr. Joe. Because if this argument is all about the stuff people are making in their homes and no one cares about a well produced album anymore, than I don’t know what to say. I’m not talking Katy Perry whose record company spends tens of thousands on her recordings and co-songwriters, I’m talking about people like, say, Tom Waits, who could easily just record his songs with midi piano and vocal into a computer.

    If you look at the music that sells today, the music that makes the most money from the copyright system, it is the autotuned garbage you guys seem to hate. “Good music” according to your definition is NOT what people want, and copyright is designed to reward what people want.

  • MrJoe said:

    And regardless of the original goals of the people who drafted copyright laws, their intention was to clarify and safeguard legal ownership of created work.

    The original intention of copyright law at least in the USA is codified in the Constitution: “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, It says nothing about “safeguarding ownership” or anything like that. It even explictly said that such protections should last for “limited” times. Back then copyright and up to about 100 years ago copyright lasted 14 years. These days it is 95 years.

  • MrJoe said:

    How long copyright ownership lasts depends whether the work has been published and when it was created or published. There are web sites that describe the different lengths that a copyright lasts.

    Copyright is a legal issue, which is independent of whether you can or how easy it is to violate it. In other words, just because I can copy a CD/DVD (outside of fair use guidelines) and everyone I know copies CDs/DVDs does not make it legal to copy CDs/DVDs.

    You aren’t really saying anything useful. Everyone here knows that copyright infringement is illegal. They are just questioning the relevency of the law. Technology (esp. the Internet) has put copyright’s relevency into question like no other time in recent history. Even those who are militantly pro-copyright (and pumping money into lawyers and politicians) can not stop the fundemental thing that Internet provides: free and universal access to all the world’s information.

  • Mainer said:

    I just wanted to say that Eleanor was right on one point – I never would’ve heard of Jason if I hadn’t seen his post on this matter listed on a writing site. She actually did introduce him to me.

    I still haven’t heard his work, but if he is in fact the next Stephen Sondheim, then hats off to him, and thanks for the interesting discussion.

  • Blaise said:

    The original intention of copyright law at least in the USA is codified in the Constitution: “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, It says nothing about “safeguarding ownership” or anything like that. It even explictly said that such protections should last for “limited” times. Back then copyright and up to about 100 years ago copyright lasted 14 years. These days it is 95 years.

    Actually, Article I,Section 8, Clause 8 states:

    The Congress shall have Power To . . . promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

    While you’re literally correct that the intention stated in the Constitution doesn’t explicitly state “safeguarding ownership,” the actual language: “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” sounds very much like protecting (safeguarding) their ownership rights for a period of time.

    And apparently our Founding Fathers believed that this protection would promote science and the arts.

  • Blaise said:

    You aren’t really saying anything useful. Everyone here knows that copyright infringement is illegal. They are just questioning the relevency of the law. Technology (esp. the Internet) has put copyright’s relevency into question like no other time in recent history. Even those who are militantly pro-copyright (and pumping money into lawyers and politicians) can not stop the fundemental thing that Internet provides: free and universal access to all the world’s information.

    The Constitutional basis of copyright law recognizes two things: 1) if people do not have rights in work they create, they will be less likely to make that work generally available; and 2) if ownership rights are perpetual, innovation may stagnate. It’s interesting that concern for progress in science and the arts was considered sufficiently important to include in an essentially political document.

    The Copyright Clause of the Constitution recognizes aspects of human nature that value incentives, protection of rights, and opportunity. It also recognizes that it is necessary to explicitly declare a creator’s rights in his/her own work precisely because someone, through ignorance or avarice, may appropriate it.

    I am also not against creators distributing their work in any way they please. I’ve benefited from free information, software, music, art, etc. I believe that copyright law allows the copyright owner to distribute their work in any way they choose (but I am not an intellectual property lawyer).

    However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my concern with Creative Commons (CC) (and I’ve used their license format myself) is that there is no easy way to ensure that the copyright owner’s original terms of use will be communicated or followed by subsequent users. For example, I copy and provide attribution of some work, following the original copyright holder’s (let’s call him “Tom”) terms. Someone (Bill) comes to my site and my CC terms are different from Tom’s. Bill copies Tom’s work from my site, and follows my CC terms. He posts Tom’s work on his site and, as it happens, his CC terms are different from Tom’s and mine. It can get confusing.

    We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe. ~John Henry Newman

    I believe that copyright law is relevant precisely because it acknowledges the rights of artists, authors, scientists, and inventors in their work product. It has always been difficult (and sometimes expensive) to defend those rights.

    I hear the arguments that hold copyright law as irrelevant, but it’s not clear to me what is being proposed as a replacement. If the argument is that “the new reality” of easy access means anyone can copy anything, anywhere and all content should belong to whoever wants it, I also believe that will result in erosion of the Internet. I don’t predict its demise, but I do believe it will become less useful.

    Even now, when I do research and find information on a web site, I always continue searching because too often I’ve found exactly the same information, word-for-word on other sites. What is the actual source of the information? What do I cite? For the work that I do, identifying primary sources is critical. I may use multiple sites as background, but I can only cite author-owned sites, institutional sites, and government/agency sites as actual sources.

    There may be authoritative web sites out there, but their value as source material is diluted due to plagiarism.

    What is the alternative to copyright law? I guess, for me, that is the question.

  • MrJoe said:

    The alternative is what we had before copyright law: government/institutional sponsorship of creative works. We still have that today, but it can be expanded.

  • MrJoe said:

    There is already a “music tax” in most of Europe. In theory this pays billions of dollars to music artists. There is a lot of opposition to it though. People don’t feel what amounts to entertainment is worthy enough to create a tax for.

  • Luis said:

    I steal stuff online, and my justification is simple. For music, I will download an album. If I don’t like it, I will delete it. If I kinda like it, but not love it, I will keep it and might listen to it, based on the idea that I can stream it free from legal sites or listen to it via radio for free, and there was no problem with people recording from radio to cassettes, so therefore I should be able to keep a digital copy. If I like it, I will usually buy it. If I REALLY like it, I will download and then buy more albums. If I really, REALLY like it, I will probably also buy tickets to concerts, merch and vinyl.

    Besides, musicians make more money from tickets, door cover charges, vinyl and merch than CDs anyway. Plus, good musicians usually offer downloads for free to their fans.

    For TV and movies, I figure that if I can see them free on TV and record free-to-air TV on PVRs and DVD recorders, therefore I can have it free from the internet. If I like it, I’ll buy it on blue-ray or DVD. If not, I’m probably not likely to download more than a few episodes anyway.

    For games, I will play demos for free, then use those to decide if I want to pay for the game or not. Yes? I’ll buy it. No? I won’t. If a developer can’t be bothered giving us a sample, it makes it hard to decide if I want to pay a premium price for the game or not.

    So, here’s how you can get us to pay for things: give us samples for free. All my favourite bands have their music available for free online. I listen to them, love them, and then buy their albums, t-shirts, pay cover charges, buy tickets and buy vinyl. Games and TV should do the same.

  • Mike said:

    @Blaise

    This is exactly my point. Everyone continues to refer to this issue under current system. The point I’m trying to make is that the current system is flawed. The system has been flawed for some time, but not so bad as to bring the system down. But, now the system is flawed to a point where the system isn’t stable anymore. All of these rights you speak of are completely artificial. The only reason they “exist” is through the might of the government. The reason these rights were created in the first place was to try to fit a non-scarce, non-physical resource (which the free-market is completely NOT equipped to handle) into a scarce physical resource (which the free-market is completely fantastic at handling). All of those rights are based upon keeping track of reproduction onto physical media. It’s all about taking something limitless and non-physical (like lyrics to a song), and tying it to something physical and scarce (like a CD). The idea originally, when they created the laws, was that the best way to determine how much to compensate the artist for their work was to unitize it (put it onto a physical media), then only allow certain people to create more of it (artificially limit the supply, making it scarce). And at the time when the laws were created, they worked fairly well. It wasn’t great, but it worked well enough to get by (the system is NOT set up to reward the best art, only the most popular art. Example? Milli Vanilli). As long as cost of reproduction was prohibitively high, the system worked. Sure, you could create a mix tape by recording music off the radio. But that was time consuming, and the quality was very low. What you got was NOT as good as what you could buy in the store. Sure you could create a copy of a CD your friend bought. And sure, the quality was exactly as good as what he had, but it was still to inconvenient and costly to create massive numbers of copies. The system still worked. It strained under the weight of the flaws of the system, but it still worked. Now, things have changed. Creating copies of music is so trivially easy and inexpensive, that a four year old can do it, and you could literally give every person on the face of the earth a copy of a song for practically free. The system, as it’s set up, can not handle this. The only, ONLY reason why anyone is making money on distributing music online is convenience. It is simply more convenient to find a song on iTunes then P2P. And the price point reflects this. $1.00 is basically a convenience charge. Hell, in most cases, it’s less then what you spend to take money out of an ATM. What would happen if a system came along online that was more convenient to get music from then iTunes, and it was completely free? No more iTunes, that’s what. And there is not much keeping this from happening.

    The most disappointing thing about it all is that the most popular response from the artists (or at least it has been for a long time), was DRM. Cripple the technology. Put the genie back in the bottle. Don’t try to fix the system, slow down/reverse progress to protect/preserve the current flawed system.

  • Blaise said:

    @MrJoe

    The alternative is what we had before copyright law: government/institutional sponsorship of creative works. We still have that today, but it can be expanded.

    The government, institutions, and the rich have virtually always supported some aspects of the arts and science. That doesn’t necessarily address the issue of rights in how that material is used or distributed. Copyright and patent laws attempt to respond to the need to identify who has rights in creative, scientific, invented, and similar items.

    There is already a “music tax” in most of Europe. In theory this pays billions of dollars to music artists. There is a lot of opposition to it though. People don’t feel what amounts to entertainment is worthy enough to create a tax for.

    I have no problems with how art/science are paid for, per se. That, to me, is a only one part of the issue, and only impacts those artists who actually are paid at all.

    In addition, if Europe is collecting and spending billions on music, what about visual, performance, and other forms of art? How much would that cost?

    There is lots of copyright infringement that affects more than just music artists and the recording industry, and more than just artists or scientists who are paid, in any way, for their work.

    For example, I’ve been told many times in the past, that when someone posts in a discussion like this, their posts are technically copyrighted to the original poster and this discussion would be copyrighted to digitalsociety. If my information is correct, I could not legally copy all of your posts and publish them (free or for money) without your permission. Under Fair Use, I can quote portions of your posts and include them in an editorial or some other writing I create, but I would attribute the quotes to you and the source as this discussion on digitalsociety.

    If you take a photo of your dog, copyright law says that I can’t take that photo and use it on my web site, to promote my product, to use as an icon or avatar, or for any other use without your permission. Creative Commons licenses provide a semi-formal description of the types of use a particular author might allow. You are also perfectly free to release your work to the public domain if you want.

    The license to use and being paid for your work may be related, but it’s always been my understanding that all of this is based on the author’s/creator’s rights of authorship/ownership in their own work. I may choose not to be paid for my work, but I still don’t want people to have a legal right to take it from me, claim it as theirs, or use it in ways I wouldn’t approve.

    Jaywalking (crossing the street against traffic signals/signs) is against the law. Lots of people break the law. A few get tickets. Does that mean we should eliminate that law just because it’s frequently ignored? It is not a totally useless law, just because lots of people violate it. It modifies the pedestrian right-of-way and supports traffic safety.

    Just because it’s easy for me to copy-paste your posts in this discussion, doesn’t mean that it’s right for me to do so, without your permission. Copyright clarifies for me what is and what isn’t legally allowed.

    It gives me, you, or any person creating original work the right to say how that work is used. When someone violates that right, they are saying that you don’t have the right to tell them how to use your creativity. If you designed and built an extraordinary chair and someone bought it, then made a hundred copies of your design and sold it in their store or gave it away to all their friends, are you saying that it shouldn’t matter? And how would a government subsidy improve that situation?

  • Blaise said:

    @Mike,

    This is exactly my point. Everyone continues to refer to this issue under current system. The point I’m trying to make is that the current system is flawed. The system has been flawed for some time, but not so bad as to bring the system down. But, now the system is flawed to a point where the system isn’t stable anymore. All of these rights you speak of are completely artificial. The only reason they “exist” is through the might of the government. The reason these rights were created in the first place was to try to fit a non-scarce, non-physical resource (which the free-market is completely NOT equipped to handle) into a scarce physical resource (which the free-market is completely fantastic at handling). All of those rights are based upon keeping track of reproduction onto physical media.

    Copyright and patent law are to define the rights of an author / creator / scientist / inventor in their work. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t matter whether the created object is a scarce physical resource or not. Plagiarism and copyright infringement have always been comparatively easier than stealing, say, a car. The ability to copy-paste and download and digitally share material has simply made certain types of copyright infringement easier. That doesn’t make copyright, in principle, archaic any more than the Ten Commandments are archaic, just because most people don’t follow them. Most people never did.

    It’s all about taking something limitless and non-physical (like lyrics to a song), and tying it to something physical and scarce (like a CD). . . . As long as cost of reproduction was prohibitively high, the system worked. Sure, you could create a mix tape by recording music off the radio. But that was time consuming, and the quality was very low. What you got was NOT as good as what you could buy in the store. Sure you could create a copy of a CD your friend bought. And sure, the quality was exactly as good as what he had, but it was still to inconvenient and costly to create massive numbers of copies. The system still worked.

    You’re thinking too 20th/21st century. U.S. copyright laws originated at a time when music could be copied on pieces of paper (called sheet music). All things considered, it wasn’t that hard to either copy the sheet music or to simply memorize the song then, than it is to do the same thing now.

    The only, ONLY reason why anyone is making money on distributing music online is convenience. It is simply more convenient to find a song on iTunes then P2P. And the price point reflects this. $1.00 is basically a convenience charge. Hell, in most cases, it’s less then what you spend to take money out of an ATM. What would happen if a system came along online that was more convenient to get music from then iTunes, and it was completely free? No more iTunes, that’s what. And there is not much keeping this from happening.

    In some cases, it might actually be cheaper to buy a CD than to buy an iTunes download of the same number of songs. Besides convenience, iTunes lets you select the songs you like instead of forcing you to buy a CD when you might only like 1 or 2 songs on it. However, that misses the point that artists/recording companies give iTunes permission to make their songs available. It isn’t about how much it costs. Free is fine. The issue is who says it’s free — the person who created it, or the people who want it.

    Copyright law says that the person/entity that owns the copyright has the right to say how that material is used and distributed. It doesn’t care whether you want to give it away or sell it for $1M.

    What I read some people here saying is that it’s the person who wants the item who determines how the item is distributed. That is marketing. It doesn’t change the legal right of the copyright owner. It may, however, change how the copyright owner makes their work available.

    As some have noted, there are music groups that have made their songs available free in order to generate fan interest in other items (t-shirts, concert tickets, etc.). The concept of “loss-leader” is an old marketing tactic that has nothing to do with copyright.

    Others here have stated that they use free copies/downloads as a form of “try-before-you-buy.” That is also a marketing tactic, but it should be the right of the owner/creator to decide if that’s how they want to promote their music/creation. Some car manufacturers or dealerships are now advertising that you can buy a car and bring it back within 60 days if you don’t like it, but it isn’t the customer’s choice at any dealership for any type of car.

    What if a music group doesn’t want to use the “loss-leader” approach? What if they want to retain the right to distribute the music on CD or solely through pay-to-use options? Copyright says that they have that right.

    Fair Use and industry practice says that it’s okay to make backups of material you’ve purchased or to copy small portions, with proper attribution, in other works unless the copyright owner puts restrictions on that use.

    Marketing, distribution and controlling access to material are all in the process of evolving to catch up to the ways in which people use technology.

    Also, while I understand that people think that because anyone can make as many copies of something as they want, it’s a limitless resource, they’re wrong. The limited resource that copyright attempts to protect is talent, innovation, and the creative spark. It simply recognizes that what you create belongs to you.

  • Mike said:

    @Blaise
    “You’re thinking too 20th/21st century. U.S. copyright laws originated at a time when music could be copied on pieces of paper (called sheet music). All things considered, it wasn’t that hard to either copy the sheet music or to simply memorize the song then, than it is to do the same thing now.”

    My problem is that I’m thinking too 20th/21st century? Did you really just write that? The biggest problems that current copyright law can’t keep up with is NOT hand copying music, or memorizing songs. The biggest problems that we are seeing is that it is trivially easy to literally FLOOD THE WORLD with free copies music. You want to sit and photocopy some sheet music? Yes, it’s most likely illegal (barring any fair use arguments). It still costs money and time to do it. Yes it’s relatively cheap to do it. You can probably copy it at like $0.01 per copy. Even at that cost, making a 100 million copies is prohibitively expensive in monetary cost and time. Sure, (tying this back to what Brown was saying), even at that scale it can effect individual artist’s lives. But, I can make a hundred billion copies of a song with the click of a mouse and in a matter minutes, distribute this to EVERYONE who has a computer. And what’s the ONLY THING preventing this? The slim threat of legal repercussions and personal moral objections. This scale of copying effects more than individual artists. It effects the system as a whole (which is what I’ve been trying to say). The SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE UPDATED TO RATIONALLY TAKE THIS INTO ACCOUNT. Especially considering just how economically efficient this distribution model is.

    Again, all along I have been saying that ARTISTS NEED TO BE COMPENSATED FOR THEIR WORK. But, I think it is beyond short sighted to believe that the current copyright laws lay out the ONLY WAY for an artist to be compensated for their work. Not only is it short sighted, I’m starting to think it’s a bit arrogant. There are other ways of doing it.

    Anyone looking to respond to this post, PLEASE understand that I know what the current copyright laws are. I am advocating CHANGING THESE LAWS. Any rebuttals that recite what is currently considered a right, and who currently has these rights is irrelevant. I know this already. What I am saying is that the law is currently inadequate. It needs to be fixed. I also know that artists need to make money or else they wouldn’t do it (and I know this is debatable. Just look at how many starving artists are out there. If they were motivated by the profit motive, they wouldn’t continue to be an artist, despite being broke. But for the purposes of this discussion, lets assume that no artist would create art if they didn’t get payed for it).

  • Mike said:

    Here’s an example. For a very, very long time, when someone bought a plot of land, they owned everything from the surface going down to the center of the Earth, and everything from the surface going to the heavens above. This was perfectly fine until the Wright brothers invented the airplane. Not too long after that, commercial air travel came to be. But, this conflicted with how the law was currently set up as an air plane flying over someone’s plot of land would be considered trespassing (since all of the air above the plot of land was owned by the person who owned the plot of land). Now, they could have kept the law like it was (as that’s how things have been for probably thousands of years). Instead, they CHANGED THE LAW to account for this new reality. One of the Justices who ruled on the case (Justice Douglas) said, “Common sense revolts at the idea,”.

  • NashvilleDave said:

    Mike,

    You’re exactly right. The law does need to change to deal with this reality. And my common sense revolts at the idea that creators will no longer be compensated for their hard work. My common sense revolts at the idea that our artistic works are suddenly supposed to be valueless simply because it’s easy to steel them.

    The lockpick has been around almost as long as the lock, yet it is still illegal to break into people’s houses and take their things. Would you also suggest that the law should change to accommodate these technological changes?

    Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. If we rob our creators of ownership over their creations they will stop producing them. The fact that our society has such dramatic variety and depth of art is due entirely to the existence of Copyright law. A great many technological challenges have come and gone over the years, but the law has remained for that reason.

  • Mike said:

    Who said that artists will no longer be compensated for their hard work? We just need to find a new system of compensation. Trying to sell individual copies is not going to work for very much longer. You can lament it all you want. You can blame whoever you want to blame. But it won’t change that simple fact.

  • Eric Astor said:

    I appreciate this article!

    I do want to clarify one thing. I’ve headed a chapter of Free Culture at one of the most liberal colleges in the country, and I can confirm that Free Culture is NOT, fundamentally, a copyright-abolitionist group. Some people who identify with the group are, but the overall movement is not.

    Free Culture is about copyright REFORM. Our two biggest objections to the current state of copyright are:

    1) The current length of copyright, which we feel to be excessive. This is where the name “Free Culture” comes from, as Larry Lessig’s book makes clear – as it stands, many elements of the popular culture are now only available under license, and will STAY locked down that way for the foreseeable future. At this point, we feel that copyright has crossed the line from promoting the progress of the arts to restricting it – and the biggest factor in this is that nothing ever comes out of copyright anymore. Which brings me to our second objection.

    2) Congress has repeatedly RETROACTIVELY extended the length of copyright, with no sign that this will ever stop. Many people have noticed the odd coincidence that copyright has generally been extended by 20 years at a time, roughly every 20 years – generally about 5 years before the copyright on Mickey Mouse would expire. As Prof. Lessig himself argued before the Supreme Court, this threatens to become an effectively unlimited term of copyright, explicitly forbidden by the Constitution (as the section authorizing the government to establish copyright specifies that it should be “for limited times”). This is dangerous, and could easily stifle creativity.

    Free Culture is really about fixing these issues. Copyright abolition, as you call it, is one take on this – and one I strongly disagree with. I, and many others, feel that the copyright laws need to be revised, with the term shortened (possibly significantly), and no further retroactive extensions permitted.

    I, and many others, would strongly appreciate it if people would stop buying into the pro-copyright lobby’s idea of painting all copyright reform with the same brush, and recognize that advocating for copyright reform is not equivalent to demanding copyright abolition.

  • Blaise said:

    Who said that artists will no longer be compensated for their hard work? We just need to find a new system of compensation. Trying to sell individual copies is not going to work for very much longer. You can lament it all you want. You can blame whoever you want to blame. But it won’t change that simple fact.

    I actually agree with you that the compensation model has to change. However, this is not a legal problem that will be solved by changing copyright law. Compensation and controlling the points of distribution are issues that the creators, producers and distributors of creative/scientific work have to work out. Technology can be used against piracy as well as to do it.

    And, again, my points include people whose work is not directly compensated, such as blog writers, people who post their personal photos in albums on the web, and other creatives, inventors and scientists whose work belongs to them, and I am arguing for their right not to have others freely download, copy and/or claim their work.

  • Blaise said:

    @Eric Astor,

    Free Culture is about copyright REFORM.

    I can support copyright reform that limits the term of copyright. I agree that the term should be limited. As I noted in one of my earlier posts, extending copyright for too long can stifle creativity and innovation. I try to address each person based on the beliefs that they express. For example, I don’t believe that all Republicans, all Democrats, or all Tea Party members will support exactly the same solutions.

    I think the things that make education and enforcement difficult are: 1) it’s difficult to know what is actually copyrighted. Old books, sheet music, etc. still have “copyright” printed on them, and I’d guess the vast majority of people don’t know when the copyright term actually ends; 2) different disciplines/industries have different practices in applying copyright; and 3) individual authors, composers, scientists may apply their own specific rules. Creative Commons has done a great job of trying to formalize this, but unless everyone goes back to the original source of material, the copyright terms are not always attached to the object (e.g., digital photos or snippets of text).

    I see it as kind of a mess. The way I deal with it is to treat someone else’s work the way that I would want my work treated. Personally, I don’t mind someone copying portions of my work as long as they attribute the source, don’t claim it as their own, or don’t profit from it without at least asking.

    This has been a fascinating discourse and I don’t think the bigger conversation is over, by any means. I will follow with interest, how the copyright issues evolves.

  • Awful Copyright Arguments « Mike Vogt's Blog said:

    [...] will try to argue copyright and stealing are effectively the same. For example, someone claim that, “theft of a physical property deprives someone of past income, but theft of content [...]

  • Nick said:

    This is very simple. And it isn’t about the law. I can steal wood from the construction site next door and probably not get caught. Does that make it right? No.

    BMWs are expensive, and I can’t afford one. So should I therefore be able to steal one?

    And the argument that giving away music or intellectual property somehow promotes the artist’s career? Well some may agree, some may not. But that’s not for you to decide with MY property. I’m PRO-CHOICE.

    I may close with this: I’ll bet 100% of the people that somehow justify stealing have never created something for their livelihood.

    So do this please: work on something for a year or so, eating, sleeping and dreaming about your “project.” And when it’s finished put it up for sale, only to watch somebody take it and give it out to anybody that wants it.
    Then call me and let me know how your career is going.

    This is a ridiculous argument, simply because there IS no argument. But you thieves will soon get your wish, everything will be free but there won’t be anybody good making music anymore.

  • Qwert said:

    @Nick:

    The debate is about whether or not piracy is theft.

    [blockquote]I may close with this: I’ll bet 100% of the people that somehow justify stealing have never created something for their livelihood.[/blockquote]

    [blockquote]But you thieves will soon get your wish, everything will be free but there won’t be anybody good making music anymore.[/blockquote]

    Cory Doctorow defeats your arguments. Both of them. He writes books – NYT bestsellers, in fact – which he puts online for free and encourages people to download and share. He’s also one of the most “radical” anti-copyright activists. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not good.

    (If you object that books aren’t music, see Jamendo.)

  • Mike said:

    @Nick

    No one is stealing property. Property is a scarce natural resource. What you are talking about is a purely imagined notion. Creating a copy of a piece of sheet music is not changing Brown’s property one bit. He still has everything he had before. Creating a copy is taking property that you have (paper, ink, and the like) and using that property freely however you want (arranging that ink on the paper in a certain pattern). Not only is copying not stealing, it can be argued that Brown is infringing on the girl’s right to use her own personal property however she wants. Basically, the argument goes: Sure, you own the paper. Sure, you own the ink. Despite that, if you were to ever put your ink on your paper in a certain pattern, I now own it (as I own the pattern). See, it’s a purely imagined notion, one not found in nature anywhere. It’s only by threat of force (law), that it even exists.

    But that’s besides the point.

    “This is very simple. And it isn’t about the law. I can steal wood from the construction site next door and probably not get caught. Does that make it right? No”
    You are right. It is wrong. It is wrong because wood is a scarce natural resource that someone else owns. By taking that physical object, simply through the laws of physics (an object can only exist in one place at one time), the person who owns that object no longer has it. Because of this, he can no longer use it.

    “BMWs are expensive, and I can’t afford one. So should I therefore be able to steal one?”
    No, you shouldn’t be able to steal it. A BMW is a scarce natural resource. Exactly like your previous example, if you steal it, the person who owns it no longer has it.

    See, “rights” are not property. You can not steal a “right”. And that is all that a copyright is. Copyright is a right that the government created. It is not a “god given right”, and it is not a “basic human right”. And it is most certainly NOT property. The problem that we are running into here is that no matter how hard you try, no matter how many laws you pass, you CAN NOT OWN AN IDEA. It is physically impossible.

    But, that is all semantics. I’m sure what you are commenting on has nothing to do with stealing. You are most likely making a comment about the fact that the artist who created the music is not getting compensated for that individual copy of his work. Ultimately, I think you are trying to say that it is unjust that the artist is not being compensated (monetarily) for the copying of that sheet music (as ultimately, everyone is driven by the profit motive).

    To this I say:
    The current model is flawed. Many artists are not going to be able to depend on the exclusive sale of individual copies of their work for very much longer. It sucks, but it’s true. Instead of trying so hard to halt progress, maybe spend some effort looking for a new system in which the artists get fairly compensated for their work. It a bit insulting to assume that the current method of compensation is the ONLY method of compensation.

  • Gio said:

    @Mike

    1)Once a piece of music is recorded or put on paper it is no longer an “idea”. It is a work. It’s only an idea for the amount of time it’s in my head.

    2) Lets say music -was- an idea…….What would you say if you were no longer allowed to vote? Would you say your right to vote was taken from you? How can something be taken if it’s not property, but an idea? I bet you would fight for that back. What about civil rights? Freedom? These are ideas that have been paid for, dearly.

    So if someone “wouldn’t have paid for it anyway”, why would they even want it? It must have some value then.

    It seems the only ones complaining about the copyright laws are the ones who want stuff for free. Is it a “basic human right” to own music? At any rate, 0.99 for something you can keep forever seems like a petty good deal. I don’t see what the problem is, other than people just don’t want to pay for music, so they take it.

  • Mike said:

    @Gio

    1) It’s still an idea. It’s most certainly not anything physical that you created that you are being payed for. Using sheet music as an example. You still have the paper you recorded your music on. You still have the ink. That is all still in your possession. The piece of paper I have is my own paper that I bought. The ink that I wrote on it with is my ink. I can do anything I want with my paper and my ink, because they are mine. I own them. A funny thing happens along the way, though, if I happen to mark up my paper with my ink in a certain order. If what I draw on my paper matches too closely an idea that you have, I no longer own it. It has nothing to do with any physical possessions that you have. I never saw them, let alone touched them. No, the only thing I did was record information on a piece of paper. It literally does not matter what that information is. All that matters is that I don’t own it. I recorded some information, and I don’t own it. That is copyright. See, I can write anything I want, except for certain ideas that other people own. For example,

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    # 472-byte qrpff
    #
    # MPEG 2 PS VOB file ->
    #descrambled output on stdout.
    #usage: perl -l
    #:::: qrpff
    # where k1..k5 are the title key bites
    #in least to most-significant order
    s”$/=\2048;while(){G=29;R=142;if((@a=unqT=”C*”,_)[20]&48)
    {D=89;_=unqb24,qT,@
    b=map{ord qB8,unqb8,qT,_^$a
    [--D]}@INC;s/…$/1$&/;Q=unqV,qb25,_;H=73;O=$b[4]<>8^(P=(E=255)&(Q>>12^Q>>4^Q/8^Q))<>
    8^(E&(F=(S=>>14&7^O)^S*88^S<<6))<>8)+=P+(~F&E))for@a[128..$#a]}
    print+aT,@a}’;s/[D-HO-U_]?|$$&/g;s/q/pack+/g;eval

    Does someone own that? If I didn’t change it slightly as I wrote it (as written, this will NOT break the DeCSS DVD protection scheme), then yes. Someone out there owns that unique combination of English letters. So what is that? It most certainly is not anything physical. Much like a composer records his ideas on a piece of paper using musical notes, some programmer recorded this idea on a computer screen using a text editor. The sheet music is a set of instructions that a musician follows. Above is a set of instructions that a computer follows. Both record a procedure, which is an idea.

    2) The right to vote is exactly that, a right. It is most certainly not property. I do not own the right to vote. Some British citizen can’t come to my house, steal my right to vote, then use it himself so that he can vote. Rights are a completely different idea then property.

    3) “So if someone “wouldn’t have paid for it anyway”, why would they even want it? It must have some value then.”
    You breath every day (probably every couple seconds), and yet you don’t pay for that. Why would you even want oxygen if you aren’t paying for it. It must not have any value.

    4)”It seems the only ones complaining about the copyright laws are the ones who want stuff for free. Is it a “basic human right” to own music?”
    I’m betting that many people out there are not arguing this because they want stuff for free. They are arguing against the fundamental idea that you can OWN music (seeing as music is a non-tangible, non-physical idea).

    Personally, what I see in this argument is that there are a bunch of people trying very hard to hold on to a business model. For a long time (almost a hundred years now for music, MUCH longer for literature), the business model is to award an individual a monopoly on the RECREATION of copies of the art (not of the sale of the art itself). Basically, award an individual a monopoly on the supply of the art. But, as technology has changed as time has progressed, not only is it becoming MUCH, MUCH harder to limit the supply to only one provider, but it is becoming much harder to justify.

    Once again, no one is suggesting that artist NOT get compensated for their work. Making music (or at least making decent music) is very difficult, and very time consuming. The artists deserves to get payed for it. Everyone on the face of the Earth agrees with that. The argument is about HOW they get payed.

  • Gio said:

    @ Mike:
    The “air has value too, we don’t pay for it” argument always gives me a good laugh! We NEED air and food and water to stay alive. People WANT to have music. Will you die if you don’t have the latest release by “XXX”? No. You simply WANT it. Big difference. Value can be applied in many ways.

    -”The sheet music is a set of instructions that a musician follows.”
    Which when PERFORMED (or played back as in MP3, etc.) becomes………… a reproduction of writer’s own unique work of art. It’s also funny to me how people get bogged down with how music is stored or notated, where it’s function is much more than the sum of its bits. And that is mainly to entertain. Is being entertained now becoming a “basic human right”? Is it a “basic human right” to have a piece of music, be it sheet music or digital file, that was created by someone else? I argue it is not.

  • Mike said:

    @Gio
    I am confused a little about the point you are trying to make about the difference between needs and wants. The market doesn’t differentiate. Determining the equilibrium price of food is exactly the same as determining the equilibrium price of gold. It make no difference whether you need it or want it. The actual reason why air is free is not because you need it. No, the reason is that the supply of air is effectively infinite (obviously it is not actually infinite, but there is enough of it on the earth that when looked at from a market standpoint, it is infinite). When the supply of any resource is infinite, regardless of demand, the equilibrium price of that resource is $0.00. That is why air is free, and food is not.

    “Which when PERFORMED (or played back as in MP3, etc.) becomes………… a reproduction”
    Exactly. A performance is not a property. It’s non-tangible, non-physical. You can’t own it. I can’t steal your performance to prevent you from having it. I CAN steal your sheet music (because its a physical object). Regardless, copyright doesn’t care if the sheet music is ever performed. I could draw some notes on a piece of paper, and if it matches too closely an idea that someone else owns, it doesn’t matter if I put that piece of paper in a safe and never look at it again. I recorded that idea, and I don’t own it.

    “Is it a “basic human right” to have a piece of music, be it sheet music or digital file, that was created by someone else? I argue it is not.”
    Of course it is not a basic human right. It’s also not a basic human right for an artist to ever be compensated for his work. Just because you create art, no matter how good it is, doesn’t give you a basic human right to get payed for it. Especially when it can be copied retardedly easy and so cheaply that it becomes as plentiful as air. You have no basic human right to expect to change the equilibrium market value of a limitless resource. You have no basic human right to try to prevent it from becoming a limitless resource. From a market standpoint, who cares who creates anything? For everything else in the world, if you get payed for creating, you get payed for doing a job, and you only get payed for it once. Frank Lloyd Wright worked very hard and designed some beautiful architecture. He doesn’t get payed for it every time someone sees his house and admires beauty. Does that mean that everyone has a basic human right to enjoy his architecture? Of course not. Albert Einstein spent a very long time and a tremendous amount of effort to come up with the theory of relativity. More time and effort that just about any musician on the face of the earth. And it has benefited everyone. He never got payed for his contribution. Sure, he won a prize, but he was never payed for it. Realistically, there is effectively no difference between creating music and creating a theory.

    No, the reason musicians get payed has nothing to do with basic human rights. It has everything to do with a bunch of people getting together and deciding that they should be compensated for it. Then these people came up with a system that worked fairly well (for the time when it was created). But, this system doesn’t work that well anymore (how can it when you can increase the supply to basically infinity).

  • Patrick Landreville said:

    To those believing that copyright infringement is not theft I would advise you to read the following legal definitions:

    Theft: “Unlawful acquisition of property with intent to convert to taker’s use and appropriation by taker.”

    Appropriate: “To make a thing one’s own; to make a thing the subject of property; to exercise dominion over an object to the extent, and for the purpose, of making it subserve one’s own proper use or pleasure.”

    Infringement: “A breaking into; a trespass or encroachment upon; a violation of a law, regulation, contract or right. Used especially of the invasions of the rights secured by patents, copyrights, and trademarks.”

    Property: “Everything which is the subject of ownership, corporeal or incorporeal, tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, real or personal; everything that has an exchangeable value or which goes to make up wealth or estate.”

    Personal Property: “Personal property is divisible into (1) corporeal personal property, which includes movable and tangible things, such as animals, ships, furniture, merchandise, etc.; and (2) incorporeal personal property, which consists of such rights as personal annuities, stocks, shares, patents, and copyrights.”

    Definitions: Black’s Law Dictionary, Fourth Edition, copyright 1957 West Publishing Co.

    (I’ve used definitions from a 1957 edition of Black’s to illustrate that this is not a new idea in response to the current mass infringement but has existed as a legal concept for quite some time.)

    Music falls under the heading of “intangible or incorporeal” property. When an unlawful copy is made that is an appropriation of property, the property being the information, that is the music, contained in the original. That information, though intangible, is the actual property of the copyright holder. Regardless of the fact that when a digital copy is made the original may still exist, intact, in the owners possession, property has still been appropriated. Hence unlawful copying, or copyright infringement, is in fact legally defined as theft.

    In light of what you’ve just read, I appeal to you to retire the use of the nonsensical argument that infringement is not theft.

    For further clarification: If you are under the impression that when you legally buy sheet music or a CD, tape, vinyl or digital version of a song that you have actually purchased the music contained therein and therefore may do what you wish with it, I assure you that is not, and never has been, the case. Since the beginning of recorded music what the consumer actually purchases is the physical media on which the music is encoded and a limited licence to use the music within certain legal restrictions. The music itself remains the property of the copyright holder.

  • Patrick Landreville said:

    For those labouring under the notion that the “internet” is a new medium and therefore previously existent laws do not apply:

    1. The internet dates to the 1970′s, so it can hardly be considered a “new” medium.
    2. The medium used in the commission of a crime is irrelevant to the application of law.
    Example A:
    Suppose in the commission of several identical crimes of fraud the perpetrator’s contact with the victim in the first case was solely by telephone and in the second case contact was made solely by letter and in the third case solely by email the crime remains the same. The medium used to commit the crime is irrelevant. The court’s only concern is that a crime was committed, not how the crime was committed.
    Example B:
    Suppose I were to burn a hole in a person’s brain with a laser beam with the intent to kill that person. Do you think the courts would find me innocent of murder simply because I had not used any of the traditional methods of murder such as strangulation, bludgeoning, shooting, stabbing or poisoning of the victim? The defence of, “Killing with a laser beam is not murder as laser beams are a new medium for causation of death and as a new medium they are not mentioned specifically in existent law and are therefore excluded from existent law as a method of murder and until such time as new laws are written specifically including laser beams as a means of murder I am innocent of any crime.”, I suppose would not stand in any court of law.

  • Mike said:

    The problem with using a law dictionary is that the law is wrong. 200 years ago, certain human beings were property. Just because the law says it, doesn’t mean that it’s right. This isn’t a legal discussion. This is a systemic discussion. A system was created to “promote the advancement of science and useful arts.” This system (at least the US system) was based upon the idea that you could reward individuals by granting them a limited (and at the time, it was MUCH more limited then it is today) monopoly on supplying copies of that art. When this system was created, it should be noted that not everyone believed that it was a good idea. It was also created at a time when reproduction was an (prohibitively) expensive process that required a very large initial investment. This put reproduction (or at the very least, decent reproductions) out of the hands of individuals. Sure there were printing presses, but not many people could afford them. Reproduction by the common man usually meant hand copying the original. From a systemic standpoint, that scale of reproduction is negligible, and easy to police. But, as technology starting coming out making it easier and easier to reproduce, the system has been getting harder and harder to police. For example, the photocopier made it extremely easy to make reproductions very cheaply. But, even at making copies of a page at $0.01 per page, it’s still prohibitively expensive to reproduce things like books at a scale large enough to effect the system. In other cases, there was enough of a “generation loss” when making copies that the reproductions were not of the same quality as the original (recording music on cassette tapes). But, technology has continued to advance, and it is now possible to make practically an unlimited number of copies for practically nothing, in a practically anonymous manor. This rocks the current system to the core as it is ill-prepared to handle such advancements. The current solution is to try to put the genie back in the bottle, and make it so that you can’t reproduce so easily or cheaply. But this brings up the root of the discussion. Why? Why are we trying to make it harder to reproduce? Why are we trying to artificially limit the supply? When the technology exists to give something to every person on the face of the earth who wants it for practically nothing, how could anyone possibly be against it? Why do people think that artists getting payed and everyone getting the product for free HAS TO BE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE?

  • Mike said:

    @Patrick
    It’s still not theft. It’s copyright infringement. You don’t steal anything when you draw some notes on a piece of paper that too closely matches an idea that someone else owns. You infringe upon that person’s right to copy (or copyright). Lawyers love to frame it as theft because it’s easier for the average person to wrap their mind around. “Downloading a song is just like breaking into a store and stealing the CD.” Ordering a bunch of ones and zeros in a certain order (and it doesn’t matter how you happen upon that order of ones and zeros, you could come up with it yourself without ever seeing the original) on a spinning metal platter is difficult visualize a wrong. Breaking into a store and stealing a CD is very easy to see as wrong. Therefore, the comparison is drawn between copyright infringement and stealing (despite the fact that it really isn’t that good of an analogy to begin with). Regardless, it’s just semantics.

    “For further clarification: If you are under the impression that when you legally buy sheet music or a CD, tape, vinyl or digital version of a song that you have actually purchased the music contained therein and therefore may do what you wish with it, I assure you that is not, and never has been, the case”

    I thought I was clear when I wrote “Regardless, copyright doesn’t care if the sheet music is ever performed. I could draw some notes on a piece of paper, and if it matches too closely an idea that someone else owns, it doesn’t matter if I put that piece of paper in a safe and never look at it again. I recorded that idea, and I don’t own it.” But, this illustrates the problem with the system nicely. See, when I buy an orange, I own that orange. When I buy a pen, I own that pen. When I buy a song, I don’t own that song. This flies in the face of common sense. But, these are the sort of mental gymnastics you have to go through when you try to control a non-scarce, non-physical object (an idea) using a system designed to allocate scarce natural resources. It’s trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. A better system needs to be found.

  • Anselm said:

    Ivan,

    You’ve quoted the German poet Rilke several times: “If you can live without writing, don’t write.”

    The thrust of Rilke’s statement was that the only great artists will be one who is compelled to write, and who is a vessel for his art, rather than one who wants to be an artist and therefore strives to create something worthwhile. Your use of the statement above implies that Rilke was saying that “if you need art to make a living, go do something else instead”.

    There is in fact some overlap between the two meanings, and I don’t know what exactly you intended. But since you are an articulate and non-polarized voice here, I thought that a clarification might not fall on deaf ears.

  • Composer Busts Teen for Sheet Music Sharing: Moral Victory or Total Waste of Time? | 95years said:

    [...] downloading always” viewpoint common on tech media sites. A blog called Digital Society then used Brown’s post as a jumping-off point to attack many common pro-copying arguments from a rightsholder [...]

  • Fighting with Songwriters | Ruckmaking said:

    [...] I could pick a side and lengthily defend it, but this guy pretty much summed up everything I think about it quite well. Instead, I want to talk about the realities in today’s music [...]

  • Brad Sampson said:

    Thanks for defending the right of artists to produce new art for others’ enjoyment. I myself am a teenager, but I strongly believe that stealing is wrong, no matter what the form. If musicians or other artists aren’t able to make money because all of their intellectual property is stolen, they obviously won’t be able to produce new work, and professional artists of all types will vanish from the planet. I always try to let people know when I get into any discussion about music with them that burning CDs or copying music is wrong, eliminating the awkward “rudeness” in refusing to copy something for them, because they would never ask me anything of the sort.
    Anyway, thanks to Jason Robert Brown and George Ou for clearly articulating both the reasons people might rationalize stealing and the terrible implications to the music industry. Reading this was very enlightening.

  • jus said:

    music isn’t music if it isn’t shared :) jrb seemed like a condescending jerk the way he talked to that girl. i mean, come on!! he used Wikipedia to prove a point to a teenage girl. doesn’t he know that wikipedia is the one source everyone says NOT to use as a reference because ANYONE can add to it?? haha that’s basic high school knowledge. also, i tried out pianofiles.com to see if those people who wrote “not for trade” actually meant it. 2 people responded back to me with the sheets that i asked for. unfortunately, even though people wrote “not for trade” they are still trading, why else would they have the sheets listed? furthermore, just because he wrote a whole show about being a teenager doesn’t mean he understood Eleanor, that specific teenager. if he really cared about teenagers he’d know that yes, all teenagers are teenagers and many will act “typically,” but every single one of those teenagers is a person, a human being, a UNIQUE individual. maybe he should have considered when he said, “i wrote a whole show about teenagers,” that if he is so well versed in being a teenager, he should know that teenagers do NOT want to be spoken to in a condescending way. he should not have assumed that every single teenager is the same, or that all teenagers will disregard whatever he said. that was just…so rude!! not all teenagers are alike, and if he actually understood teenagers he would know that. well, mr. pompous, we get it, you wrote a WHOLE musical theatre show about teenagers and suddenly you understand every single teenager in the world right now. it’s as if you are a psychologist or doctor or something, doing really great things to advance medicine and better the lives of teenagers worldwide…or NOT. you wrote one single show that was a bust. if he made it into a pop-version-Disneyfied movie, then he’d be able to reach out to a lot more people (which i think he should do because it’d be pretty BA to see justin beiber in that role, just saying lol). i would just like to say to him, you’re a grownup musician, don’t act like you know a thing or two about the minds of teenagers. most teenagers don’t even understand the minds of teenagers, nor do the best teenage psychiatrists, nor do i. i wish jrb would remember that we are all people. he obviously doesn’t know his place. go ahead making a livelihood writing music while some people work hard fighting wars, fighting fires, or i dont know, doing open heart surgery.

  • Bruce Wagner said:

    This entire debate is so yesteryear. It’s tiring.

    If one only reads the headlines of your post, the words IN BOLD, then I would agree 100%.

    This entire debate is so tiring, I’ve decided to create an entire podcast devoted to the new Free Culture Movement.

    I’m going to call it The Free Culture Show. I just registered FreeCultureShow . com

    Stay tuned.

    Most who debate this issue — on both sides — are so very poor at debating. They get it all wrong.

    Copying is NOT Theft.

    By definition, theft must deprive the original owner that same property. Thus, copying is NOT theft.

    And if you want to say that people doing copying are depriving someone of SALES and INCOME…. Well, then Wal-Mart is depriving the stores on Main Street of SALES and INCOME too. So they must be STEALING. Wal-Mart’s business model must be THEFT.

    Nonsense.

    The saddest part of all is… 96% of the profits go to the publishers, the distributors, the lawyers, the retail stores, the theaters, the promoters — the “suits who make nothing, but money”. AND…. That same artist, if he decided to GIVE his works away, and then decide to humbly ask for a “love offering”, “donation, or provide a “tip jar”… would likely make A LOT MORE THAN THAT 4% HE WOULD HAVE MADE OTHERWISE.

    Which is MORE MONEY $$$$$ ?

    1% of the entire planet ~vs~ 4% of the limited sales

    Figure it out. Google: Nine Inch Nails.

    The album release that made the most profit for the artists in the shortest time in HISTORY…. was given away for free on the internet… And the artists asked for “donations”.

    Now THAT’s a fact they won’t teach you in RIAA, MPAA, Copyright school.

  • Greg said:

    I’m a playwright. I have *some* of my short plays available for free on my little-seen, needs-to-be-updated website,
    http://homepage.mac.com/gregmachlin. I chose to give away some of my plays for those who want to read them, in the hopes that this will lead to people producing said plays, and, eventually, publication.
    Before I put my plays online, I’ve had at least one of my plays illegally performed, without my permission–I gained absolutely nothing from the theft. The only way I got properly compensated was by tracking him down, and sending him a polite, but sternly worded letter and then calling him three times, whereupon he finally agreed to mail me a check. He did so.

    @Bruce
    “And if you want to say that people doing copying are depriving someone of SALES and INCOME…. Well, then Wal-Mart is depriving the stores on Main Street of SALES and INCOME too. So they must be STEALING. Wal-Mart’s business model must be THEFT.”
    Wal-Mart and the stores on Main Street are in direct competition with one another, both selling goods made by third parties that both Wal-Mart and Main Street Stores have legally purchased from wholesalers. By your logic, every single store in the universe is “stealing” from someone else. Pizza Hut is “stealing” from Domino’s, and Domino’s is “stealing” from Papa John’s, which is “stealing” from both Pizza Hut and Domino’s. Home Depot is “stealing” from Larry’s Lumber, which is in turn “stealing” right back from Home Depot. Obviously, this is not the case. Something has gone very, very wrong here, and I think it’s your attempt to create an analogy.

    Here’s a counter-example: Matt Ruff worked very hard and spent several years training to become a better writer to write his novel “Bad Monkeys.” I buy a copy of “Bad Monkeys.” If I photocopy every single page of Bad Monkeys, staple them together, do this a bunch of times, I could stand outside the independent bookstore Powell’s (in Portland, Oregon) giving them away. Let us assume for purposes of this hypothetical that 50 people take the handout–45 of them were going to buy Bad Monkeys anyway, and 5 of them had never heard of Matt Ruff.
    I don’t think anyone would argue that I’ve deprived Matt Ruff of at least 45 sales. I have illegally and immorally appropriated his work. I owned the paper and ink and stapes; nonetheless, I’ve deprived him of income. (The fact that this income was “potential” up until they got inside the store really has no bearing on this discussion. Matt Ruff is not a millionaire. Ruff gets about $.50 per sale of “Bad Monkeys.” If I distribute 1,400 copies instead of 45, I’ve deprived Ruff of $700… which is my monthly rent. This stuff matters in smaller margins than people think.)

    Also important to note: You can certainly argue that I haven’t, technically, stolen any *physical* property from Ruff or the bookstore. I used my own paper, ink, and staples, and no copies of Ruff’s book vanished from Powell’s. But I sure as hell deprived him of 45 sales today, and if I do this for 30 days, I’ve deprived him of a full one month’s rent.

    Here’s a question: What, exactly, is different about me posting a pdf of Bad Monkeys online/emailing that pdf to other people versus standing outside the bookstore (assume for the sake of argument I’m on public property) and giving away paper copies of Bad Monkeys? Is there really a moral difference between physically photocopying or digitally copying? Ignore the semantic question of whether it’s theft or not for the moment–is it moral? Am I really helping Matt Ruff? Are those who download his work “helping” him in any way? It is illegal, and rightfully so, for me to stand outside a bookstore handing out photocopies of Bad Monkeys to people who might otherwise buy them, and it’s illegal for me to send around a pdf of Bad Monkeys to anyone who might potentially buy “Bad Monkeys,” and the ‘might potentially’ field is pretty damn large.

    By the same token, ddes keeps making this absurd argument that somehow depriving someone of “potential” income is perfectly okay, and is somehow different of depriving someone of “actual” income. (the semantic argument of whether or not this is theft is, for the amount, irrelevant). Another, straightforward, counter-example. I work for a tutoring company. The tutoring company mails me my paycheck. If you stand at my mailbox, pretending to be me, and take the check from the postal employee, and then deposit it, you haven’t deprived me of *actual* income–the check never made it to my bank account, after all. You’ve only deprived me of *potential* income, but I don’t think any rational person would argue that what you’ve done is moral…or legal.

    But what about the 5 people who’d never heard of Ruff?, you’re saying. Won’t they go out and buy more of his works, having read and enjoyed “Bad Monkeys”? Maybe; maybe not. See, maybe they’ve learned not to pay any much money for his work–they’ve subconsciously absorbed the message that “Matt Ruff = FREE” and will resent Ruff when they walk into a store and see that “Sewer, Gas, Electric” costs $15 in trade paperback. “Screw that!” they’ll think. “I got ‘Bad Monkeys’ for free! Who does Ruff think he is, trying to charge people for his work?” And they’ll storm off in a huff.

    “But they never would have bought ‘Bad Monkeys’ anyway!”
    Here’s the problem: we don’t know that. They might well have seen the cover in the store and liked it. Maybe a very enthusiastic bookseller would have recommended it to them. Maybe they would have overheard someone discussing it in a coffee shop and picked it up from the bookstore. The blanket claim of “never would have bought it anyway” simply cannot be applied.

    Mike said:
    “The problem with using a law dictionary is that the law is wrong. 200 years ago, certain human beings were property. Just because the law says it, doesn’t mean that it’s right. This isn’t a legal discussion.”

    @Mike: did you really just compare copyright law to slavery? I’m calling shenanigans. That’s like comparing politician X you don’t like to [Insert really, really evil person here]. Slavery was a brutal, dehumanizing system that destroyed families, resulted in the premature deaths of millions (many because they were murdered), and enshrined disgusting, racist bigotry into law. Copyright law sure as heck hasn’t killed anyone, and your attempt to imply that those defending copyright law are defending slavery is more than a little offensive. Try to stick to less inflammatory analogies.
    And yes, it is a legal discussion, since that’s one of the things that’s in dispute here.

    As for those who keep bringing up Cory Doctorow–Cory Doctorow distributes at least two of his novels for free, online as a form of advertising. It’s worked for him. That’s his *choice,* and God bless him (seriously–he’s a smart guy and an excellent writer). By contrast, Matt Ruff sometimes posts individual chapters of his work as samples, but not the whole novel. That’s also *his* choice. Artists can, and should be able to, distribute their creations as they see fit. For every Cory Doctorow, there’s a writer making money *without* distributing their work online (Patrick Rothfuss, for example, does not have “The Name of the Wind” available for free download, and, given “The Name of the Wind”‘s status as an international bestseller, I’d say he’s doing just fine.) Some artists, somewhere, have *chosen* to distribute their work on the internet for free, in the hopes of increasing their sales. There are a number of artists who have tried this and, for a variety of reasons, failed to increase their sales. It does not logically follow that because some artists choose to distribute their work for free, and because some unknown percentage of these succeeded, all artists should have to distribute their work for free. Philip Roth doesn’t even have a website, and his sales are great.

    “Copying is NOT Theft.
    By definition, theft must deprive the original owner that same property. Thus, copying is NOT theft.”
    Did you not read the legal definition above? “Everything which is the subject of ownership, corporeal or incorporeal, tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, real or personal; everything that has an exchangeable value…(2) incorporeal personal property, which consists of such rights as personal annuities, stocks, shares, patents, and copyrights…”
    Here’s another definition: “The term theft is sometimes used synonymously with Larceny. Theft, however, is actually a broader term, encompassing many forms of deceitful taking of property, including swindling, Embezzlement, and False Pretenses. Some states categorize all these offenses under a single statutory crime of theft.”
    I think one can make a pretty good case that distributing copies of a work for free to people who might otherwise buy it is” false pretenses.” But even if you reject that, so what? Is what you’re doing–giving away the work of an artist to people who might otherwise buy it–actually helping the artist? Even if I do accept the premise that copyright law is incurably broken–a highly dubious proposition–you’re still *not helping the artist,* and saying “well, the artist should have to find new sources of revenue” is more than a little self-serving. They have to find new sources of revenue *because you [and many other people] are depriving them of one of their current sources of revenue.*
    “The saddest part of all is… 96% of the profits go to the publishers, the distributors, the lawyers, the retail stores, the theaters, the promoters — the “suits who make nothing, but money”. ”
    The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t address those who, like John Scalzi (work published & distributed by Tor books), Patrick Rothfuss (work published & distributed by DAW books), or Todd Haynes (films produced by Christine Vachon/Killer Films, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics), are satisfied with their publishers, and, yes, lawyers, and those who work to distribute on their behalf. Or Neil Gaiman and Dreamhaven books. Dreamhaven Books is an independent bookstore that Gaiman goes out of his way to promote; he’s probably boosted sales there by 5%? 10%? Your argument that all artists hate their distributors is deeply naive at best, and dangerous at worst. I myself am immensely grateful to an independent Hollywood producer I worked with who paid me $2,000–$1,000 up front, $1000 on delivery–for a stage adaptation I did for him.
    Or, for that matter, the creators of [title of show] and Ghostlight records, a theatrical recording company with low profit margins that’s deeply committed to releasing recordings independent musicals and making sure they can be heard by more people. Stealing from big bad record labels easy to rationalize, but stealing from Ghostlight–definitely the good guys, speaking as a theatre artist–is (I hope) harder to justify. Not all artists have an adversarial relationship with their producers/distributors, something I suspect you’d know if you had actually had someone else produce/release your art.

    I’m hoping to hear a response on the whole standing-outside-the-bookstore-depriving-Matt-Ruff-of-sales vs. distributing-on-the-internet-depriving-Matt-Ruff-of-sales distinction, because I really don’t think there is one.
    These are my thoughts, as someone who’s been paid to write and seen his work produced. But those who keep claiming they’re somehow helping artists strike me as as misguided at best.

  • Bruce Wagner said:

    One More Point:

    You can NOT use the “legality” of something to prove, or disprove, the “morality” of something. It is the law itself that is immoral, and needs to be changed.

    People are constantly using terms like “illegally copying”. That proves only one thing: The laws need to be changed. The current laws themselves are censorship, and are immoral.

    In some fundamentalist Muslim countries, “the LAW” says that you must kill your own daughter if she wears makeup… or your own son if he is gay… Does the LAW make the action MORAL…?

    I think not.

    Are you “illegally refusing to murder your own children”?

  • Digital Society » Blog Archive » Research: Digital Society’s Top 10 Posts of 2010 said:

    [...] 4) Jason Robert Brown Debates Rationalization of Theft [...]

  • Anthony Peterson said:

    I work in a government organisation whose role is to protect intellectual property. I constantly have these conversation with other staff who think its OK to steal. It completely amazes me how they can justify anything. I mean anything. These are the folk who would have applauded Nazis goostepping into Poland. I fell like slapping them and spitting in their face.

  • Coltrane said:

    Information should be free when everything else is. If artists didn’t need to worry about income to cover their material needs, intellectual property rights would be pretty meaningless. Perhaps someday we’ll overcome our need to rely on a capitalist system in order to deal with the problem of limited resources, but that’s probably a long ways off. The ease with which intellectual property can be ‘shared’ is a precursor to how the world will one day function. It just arrived out of sync with the reigning political structure.

  • Nick R Brown said:

    Limited resources? Do tell.

  • Eric Mesa said:

    I’m not sure if you’re still responding to comments because this article is pretty old by this point, but I have one problem with the entire basis of this article. It starts off with:

    “For composers, they’re struggling to communicate to the public that they have a right to make a living off of their creations.”

    I don’t think they have a RIGHT to make a living off their creations. They have a right to control who makes money off of their creations – that’s what copyright gives them. But copyright doesn’t guarantee anyone the ability to live off of their creation. Maybe the marketplace and society is no longer willing to support this. See http://gizmodo.com/5747656/francis-ford-coppola-maybe-the-downloaders-are-right about how artists earning a living from their creations is a historical anomaly.

  • Social Media’s ability to spread conversation and ideas « ashale said:

    [...] The exchange published on Jason Robert Brown’s blog – pleasingly with the permission of both parties – sparked debate that not only resonated throughout the musical theatre community across the globe, but further into mainstream media (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/theater-talkback-who-owns-sheet-music/) and onto other, seemingly unrelated, blogs (http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/07/jason-robert-brown-debates-rationalization-of-theft/). [...]

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