Skepticism

AI: Piracy! Not the boat and eyepatch sort, arrr.

Come to me my fellow geeks, gather round the warmth of the internet and let us discuss a topic so hot it’ll burn your eyes if you read for too long. A couple of news stories to get the debate ball hurtling down the hill into an open can of worms:

Microsoft disconnect around 1million X-box owners who have modified their consoles to play pirated or unofficial games. Those users will now have to buy another machine to play online. Tracy’s verdict: ha ha! Good. It’s very clear in the terms (and by the fact that you can’t get the mod officially) that such things are illegal, and MS has every right to lay the smackdown on those who violate its terms. You take the risk, you pay the price if you get caught. Of course, no doubt there’s already another mod to get round the ban, but some people will do anything to defend their right to do whatever it is they got caught doing.

UK Govt (and, I believe, USA, but would like a decent source for that) is considering disconnecting file-sharers from their broadband networks. Tracy’s verdict: unless the Govt can prove that the file-sharer in question is the only person in the household to which the connection belongs, then this is nothing more than ‘group punishment’ and as such not only undemocratic, but plain old unfair. The trade-off seems interesting, in which the law would be changed to allow people to copy CDs to their iPod and for family, but without more detail it’s hard to say if that’s lip service.

Spotify delays its US launch. Some speculate that signals an end to the ‘free’ usage model. Spotify isn’t technically piracy, because it now has an agreement with music publishers whereby it compensates them like regular radio stations do. The trouble is, some artists have been complaining that the level of payment is far below that of a regular radio station, and many users of the service use software like Audio Hijack to download the tracks, which is straightforward piracy. Tracy’s verdict: Spotify is a house of cards. I noticed a while back that they’re no longer allowing new users to sign up to the free service, under what looks to me like the pretence of issuing limited numbers of ‘invites’. I’d be surprised if any invites are issued, given the estimated cost of running the service are millions. I don’t believe for a second that the number of paying subscribers plus the advertising revenue can be covering anywhere near Spotify’s costs, and while its business model didn’t include having to actually pay for the music it streamed, it was probably a great idea for the owners. Now it’s more or less ‘fair’, it’s a crappy business model.

The issues around piracy seem clear: some people like to get something for free when they can get away with not being caught. Many pirates disagree with the notion of ‘ownership’, claiming that to duplicate something takes nothing away from the owners. Others claim that if they like a pirated movie or album, they’ll buy a copy (I find that a thin defence. Imagine if you took that approach with meals you had. It doesn’t make it OK not to pay just because something isn’t to your taste, unless it is broken. That’s why there are demos, previews, trailers, etc. And many retailers will take back CDs, DVDs and games within 30 days, no questions asked). If the risks were higher, fewer people would pirate. Whenever there’s a crackdown, piracy rates fall for a while.

The trouble is, as demonstrated by published stats like “1 in 20 music tracks are illegally downloaded”, if enough people are doing it, it becomes unpolicable, a broken model. Entire generations have no ethical problem with piracy, but the music, game and movie industries HAVE to make a profit if they are to continue making new content. Very few people invest without wanting a return. If it costs a million pounds to market a new artist, that money has to come back, with profit. If it costs £100m to make a movie, the studios and investors want more than their money back. And they will plough some of those profits into riskier projects which aren’t directed by Michael Bay. The British game development market is in the toilet, and won’t attract new investors while profit is threatened by piracy. These are extremely difficult issues. Everyone wants quality product, but many don’t want to pay for it at all, many others only want to pay for it after they deem it quality, and those who do pay are overcharged. So, to my questions:

Is it OK to download something free when the maker intended you to pay for it? If the current model is broken, what is the solution?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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127 Comments

  1. If I like the artist/music/movie, I’ll pay for it. Period. Just about everyone I know does illegal downloads, and it disgusts me. I was going to loan a friend my Portishead cd until he looked at it and said,” Wow, a real cd? I haven’t seen one of these in ages.” His entire collection of music and movies was downloaded illegally.
    Yeah, everything costs too much, but that doesn’t make it ok to steal it.

  2. No, it’s not okay. It might be a screwed up system and video games might be ridiculously expensive and music artists get about twelve cents per CD, but that doesn’t make it okay to get it illegally or unfairly without paying for it. No, Lars doesn’t need another private jet, he’s doing just fine, but we still have to pay for the next crappy Metallica sell-out CD (or download or whatever the kids are doing these days).

  3. Copyright is theft from humanity.

    Period.

    It has been demonstrated time and again that one pirated ‘good’ does not equate to one lost sale. In fact, the trend is the opposite, as highly-pirated pieces of information tend to generate more revenue than expected.

    The law is wrong on this front, in both cited instances. The very idea that it is *illegal* to modify a device that you *purchased* is utterly insane. Banned from using an online service because of that modification, maybe – but *illegal*? Crazy wrong.

  4. @Briarking: Um, most people I know that download “illegally” will buy the songs/movies they enjoy once they have sampled them. I do this often, myself.

    Wow, a real cd?

    Also, most people I know who legally obtain their music do not buy cds. They download from iTunes or Amazon or somewhere else. Just because someone hasn’t seen a CD in ages doesn’t mean they don’t legally obtain their music.

    Also, if people think it’s too expensive and therefore aren’t buying it, that is the free market at work.

    I for one have illegally downloaded plenty of music, generally music that I only listen to a few times and decide I don’t really like. For the artists I really enjoy, I buy the songs or albums eventually, and I go see them live when I can, which is another way to support the artist.

    Also, I don’t have cable so I tend to download a lot of TV shows if I’m too impatient to wait for DVD (DEXTER!!!!!). If I really like a show I’ll buy the DVDs when they come out, or rent them again through NetFlix. Dexter is on my wish list and I will own them! I likely wouldn’t have ever considered buying them if I hadn’t fallen in love with the show through downloads.

    Downloading illegaly is not inherently evil.

  5. I’ll admit that I have illegal copies of some films / TV shows. BUT I do buy many many many DVDs, and usually the same ones that I downloaded.

    Sometimes though, I may download the illegal content because it is not available for purchase in the United States. An example is the third season of The Tick cartoon. It is not purchasable, so I have an illegal copy of it. Once I can legally purchase a copy, I will do so, and then delete the pirated copy. I did this with The IT Crowd.

    Personally, I think the ideal situation is a Hulu or Netflix type service, the latter with streaming available for all titles. I think iTunes is the wrong model entirely. I do not want to purchase permanent digital copies of movies. It works for music since they don’t take up much space, but for movies that I want to keep, I want the DVD.

    I’ve actually not watched live TV since I bought a Mac Mini and hooked it into my set – I stream everything I want to watch from Hulu, Netflix, and Joost. Live broadcasts are obsolete. If there’s live news to watch, then I can usually find that on ustream. Cable, satellites, and broadcast are dinosaurs.

    As far as music goes, I’ve only downloaded things I used to own on LP or Tape. I already bought the music back in the day, and shouldn’t have to buy it twice.

    So I’m mostly legit, with a few infractions. People who only steal stuff (also known as “freetards”) annoy me greatly.

  6. Illegal downloads are morally equivalent to any other kind of theft. You are not entitled to possession of that product. The fact that you cannot purchase it or do not want to spend money on it changes nothing. If you want it, buy it. If you can’t or won’t buy it, go without.

    I’m not aware of a single person who has died due to not having a song, movie or TV show, and if some do exist I’ll postulate that the occurrence of such is statistically insignificant.

  7. I’m with Briarking and James Fox here.

    It never ceases to amaze me how people who would never in a million years walk into a shop and take a DVD or CD off the shelf and walk out without paying for it are quite happy to download it without paying a penny. Stealing is stealing.

    If anything, illegal downloading is worse – in the former, at least someone has got paid somewhere along the chain.

  8. (rant warning)
    And the VCR and cassette tape will bring an end to the entertainment industry, right? That’s what the industry claimed. Didn’t happen.

    I’m with Zapski regarding piracy. It’s not a black or white issue. When the new Dr. Who came out, I couldn’t wait over a year for it to come to the US, I downloaded them. However, when they were shown on Sci-Fi, I still watched them again – and later bought dvd’s.

    Anti-piracy methods that cause issues for those who buy their media legally are not ethical. Two wrongs to not make a right. I’ve seen a number of games (Diablo II) had such insane copy protection that many legal users I knew couldn’t play it on their pc until the patch came out.

    It’s a shame that the methods that actually seem to increase the buying of video games might not apply as well to other markets. I think the xbox response is heavy-handed, but – as an it guy – I can see where it’d be hard to block online play just for the games that were pirated and permit the legal games through.

    Sure, most video game manufacturers will put in copy protection. But those are usually hacked in a day or two. However, most (pc/xbox) games get a lot more play online than they do offline. So, the industry started issuing unique product keys. You downloaded a cracked copy of Halo. Yay for you. Enjoy the brief single-player game while your friends that ponied up the cash play each other online and have a lot more fun. Unique keys are one of the most effective methods I’ve seen in decades of game playing. One step further might be to require that your key be authorized online before you can play. I could see it having issues, but it’s better than network man-in-the-middle snoop tactics that a lot of companies use.

    Business models that adapt to reality tend to work better. Those that try to force reality to change to suit their outmoded concepts have failed, and will likely continue to fail.

  9. unless i am mistaken (which *NEVER* happens by the way) currently in the US (unless you’ve purchased a very recent movie that includes a “digital copy”) and you have any ripped DVDs on your computer weather or not you have a physical DVD you have an illegal copy of the film. hopefully i’ve just misunderstood something somewhere along the line.

    personally i feel that if i purchase a CD or DVD i should be allowed to make as many digital, or other, copies i want for my own use. if i were to charge someone to view them, or to “lend” them without trying to get them back then i’d be breaking the law.

  10. The only thing I’ve had a pirated copy of was Windows Visio. I had to use it a lot in college (and it’s an awesome program). We had a computer lab just for our class, but it was always crowded and the heater was broken so it was way too hot.

    The school had a general computer lab with the program, but some teacher kept reserving all the rooms with the PCs without actually using them. If I tried to go in there though, she wouldn’t hesitate to kick me out. There were rooms with laptops that students couldn’t use independently (but teachers could reserve them for a class). I have no idea why that teacher never wanted those rooms, but that means nobody could use them. Then, the remaining to rooms only had Macs in them. At the time, there didn’t even exist a version of Visio that could work on a Mac, and I think that’s still how it is. That meant I had no computers available to me, and I would have to wait and come back to campus in the evenings.

    I finally got really sick of it, but I was too poor to buy the program myself. One of my friends found a copy somewhere online, and several people in our class downloaded it to their personal computers, including me. It might have been wrong, but I’m not sorry I did it.

  11. @Rebel 16: With the IT Crowd, the only way to view it at first in the States was to download it, which is how I knew I wanted to buy it.

    In that case (and in others) it was the illegal download that led to the legitimate purchase. Therefore, my immoral activity created the impetus to recompense the artists. QED. ;)

    It’s not always a bad thing. Most of my downloads have led to purchases. Purchases that I would not otherwise have made if I had not downloaded. Think of it as quality control, or “try before you buy.” The purchased copy is generally a much higher quality viewing expirience, and therefore worth it.

  12. Hulu is awesome. Shame they’re considering charging for it rather than solely using ad content.

    My issue about piracy isn’t whether or not content holders shouldn’t prevent theft, the methods are the thing.

    Most will agree that speed limits aren’t a bad idea at all. However, do you think that the government (or private industries) should be able to monitor locations of all of your cars via GPS, so they can catch any one speeding quickly an efficiently? Most present enforcement methods (in the US) limit speeding, they don’t prevent it entirely – and it doesn’t infringe on privacy or rights of an individual.

  13. Every time that some new technology comes along, whether it’s player pianos, radios, vcrs, cassette tapes, cd rippers, or file sharing, the people with the content claim that the freaking world is going to end if this technology escapes into the wild.

    It never does. Artists keep getting paid, movies keep getting made. The reality of the business changes, and businesses adapt themselves to this new reality or they die. To expect businesses to control reality and dominate it is just… reactionary, I guess, and foolish. The reality is there. Denying it won’t make it go away.

    This “piracy” war we’re in has exactly two endgames. In one, people are able to make copies of stuff at will, share them with their friends, and generally treat their digital possessions the same way people treat their regular possessions.

    The other possible ending is a police state so amazingly vast, terrible, and inescapable that we will all live in constant fear of being retroactively punished today for something that wasn’t even a crime yesterday.

    The reason for this is that–as Cory Doctorow points out–bits will never again be as hard to copy as they are right now. So the only way to prevent the illicit copying of bits is to completely hamstring the internet and your computer with an ever expanding array of surveillance hardware and software. The next thing you know, you’ll be cited for copyright violation and a takedown notice because your blog contains a photograph of your child in a Mickey Mouseâ„¢ hat, and you’ll have to spend a happy week on the phone with Disney legal arguing that this is fair use.

    In the police state, all the decent art will be underground art, and therefore not sufficiently licensed, and so you’ll get your network privileges revoked for modifying your machine to display that art or run that software.

  14. @Zapski: i agree. i’ve been burned a number of time purchasing an entire CD only to find out that there is only one song on the album, or that the radio mix is nothing like the CD mix. this has pretty much been eliminated, but the easily purchased individual songs today.

    if companies offered lower res, or lower video quality temporary files fo you to listen to, or watch a film before you purchase it that would be great. Just like the getting a demo of some software. After a certain date it no longer works. when you purchase the content you would get a hit quality song file, or HD quality video file. I don’t think a film trailer is adequate sample to decide if you’d like to purchase the film. I’m sure we’ve all seen a film that the trailer made look fantastic only to find out in the end that it sucked.

    If the media companies embraced digital delivery of their content they would not be hurting for funds.

    What I find most annoying about hulu and similar sites (and it’s a small-ish complaint) is that they only have the latest four, or so most recent episodes available. When I started watching Fringe I had to download the first few episodes because they were no longer available online. Was the wrong? It shouldn’t be wrong.

  15. I have two thoughts on that:

    One, disconnecting people from the Internet is never a legitimate punishment. Today, we need the Internet for more and more stuff. Banks are closing their offices, so we need the Internet to pay bills. More and more governments use the Internet for voting. Shops are closing, so we need to use the Internet to order goods. Without mail, it’s essentially impossible to apply for many jobs. We maintain social contacts using the Internet, we learn using the Internet, we communicate using the Internet. Disconnecting people from the Internet practically makes it impossible for them to live normal lives. If the crime is so bad that you must make it impossible for people to live their lives, don’t disconnect their Internet; put them in jail.

    Two, a high rate of piracy per se is not a problem. PC Gaming has had piracy rates of 95% and higher for the last two decades; that’s just part of the cost of doing business. The question isn’t how high piracy rate is; the question is whether you can make money with the people who pay. Look at it as a kind of progressive taxation. Those who can pay, pay. Those who can’t or don’t want to pay consume your media anyway, so at least they use your product instead of your competition’s product. Piracy starts to be a problem when the people who pay are not enough for you to sustain your business. However, for music, this is clearly not the case. In fact, today, despite high piracy rates, more bands are creating more music than ever before, and the labels are still making money, too. So piracy doesn’t seem to harm music at all; it even seems to increase output.

    If you’re only looking at piracy rate, you’re looking at a metric that isn’t really relevant.

  16. @sethmanapio: While I don’t think piracy is a good thing, I totally agree that enforcement is likely to cause as many or more problems. I’m also a complete hypocrite on this issue and accept bootlegged stuff from friends and watch shows my son down loads.

  17. @James Fox: I think it’s worth pointing out that iTunes sells songs with no copy protection, that can easily be transferred from computer to computer and sent to friends and so forth… and that they started this practice after experimenting with copy protected songs. In other words, Apple must have decided at some point that allowing piracy on songs they sold would be a better business model than fighting it.

    That’s food for thought. Piracy might actually BE a good thing.

  18. I do believe in supporting artists for their content, but it’s clear that a new model that centers on digital rights is going to have to be developed. Perhaps a form of “accountable piracy” could be made; you could download whatever you wanted, so long as you reported what you downloaded. The popular artists would be rewarded as such, while the non-popular artists would be basically giving their stuff away cheap.
    However as a side issue, I don’t think any such system can be established while a good portion (18%) of houses don’t have internet access. Any business would be crazy to abandon a system that reaches these people and going to a system that didn’t.

  19. I download alot of music and tv shows ive missed (dexter). Because of my ability to grab 1 song at a time of any artist, I have been introduced to a huge range of music I have come to enjoy and support . Record Labels brought this on themselves, 18$ for a CD with 1 good song and 10 pieces of crap , then due to the record contract the band puts out another album in a year of 1 or 2 good songs and more crap.
    im sorry, im not spending 20 dollars on crap when i want 1 or 2 songs. Due to downloading ive come to find bands that are great and i downloaded a song or 2 then bought the cd or go to see them live and buy a shirt or whatever. Downloading can be a very good way to get your band out there.
    Recod labels are jsut fear mongering that they will go under, jsut like they did with the cassette tape and vcr .

  20. Once you buy something it is your’s to do with as you please. Otherwise you haven’t actually bought it. If I buy an Xbox it is my Xbox. If I can’t modify it then it isn’t my xbox and never was. If I can’t open it I don’t own it. If I buy a book and let you read it is that piracy? What about if I let you copy it? Is it piracy if you sit there and type out the book word for word? If I buy a CD or a download and I want to share it with my friends I should be able to otherwise I don’t own it.

  21. As the wife of a game developer, where piracy really gets my goat is when small publishers get screwed over. For example, there are two excellent games, World of Goo and Torchlight (I’m not involved, just a fan), both made with low budgets and a small development team. Each game costs $20. If I remember the numbers correctly, 90% of people playing either game are playing a pirated copy.

    The gaming community considers piracy to be part of its culture. Too bad this “culture” ends up harming the most innovative and creative contributors, small independent game studios. If this doesn’t change, gamers will screw themselves into having to rely on boring derivative crap from the major studios, since there will be few alternatives.

  22. @Andrew Nixon:

    It never ceases to amaze me how people who would never in a million years walk into a shop and take a DVD or CD off the shelf and walk out without paying for it are quite happy to download it without paying a penny. Stealing is stealing.

    It’s a tricky issue, but one actually involves taking physical property with no intention of paying for it, and one doesn’t. Obviously the physical CD is partially just a representation of the artist’s creativity that you’re paying for. But on the other hand, being able to freely browse through music online allows people to become interested in an artist’s music without having to shell out $15 for every CD they don’t like. Which is why no conclusive evidence seems to show that musicians or moviemakers are losing profits because of the rise of freely downloadable media.

    Let me give you two situations to consider:
    a) Someone buys a CD (or downloads a CD’s worth of songs from itunes, whatever) every week, and listens to only a handful of new songs.
    b) Someone torrents hundreds of songs per week, and still buys one CD’s worth of music.

    In both situations the music industry makes the same amount of money. In situation b, people are listening to and experiencing more music.

    Companies are already adapting to this new business model, with what appears to be pretty good success. I think it’s insane to equate a 14 year old torrenting a CD with copyright theft and fining a few hundred thousand dollars.

    *ahem* FUCK THE RIAA *ahem*

  23. I’m not saying anything about the morals of piracy either way, but isn’t it a little funny that movie makers spend essentially as much as they want and then feel they are entitled to make all of that back and then some? What I mean is, people should be compensated for their work, of course, but why did they spend *so much*? Who twisted their arms? Spending money on a movie is a gamble regardless of piracy. Maybe that’s something that needs to be reigned in.

    I dunno, maybe if they spent less, they could charges less, and people would feel that they were paying a fair ticket price rather than that the movie studios are ripping everyone off (including the theatres themselves, making them sell a kernel of popcorn for 2 bucks each).

    And with TV shows – Would people be ok with pirating TV if they kept the original ads in? That seems to be the only difference – pirated or downloaded, they’re “free” (hidden cost of cable and internet service).

    There’s also the convenience factor. In Canada, for example, access to certain TV shows online when you can watch any time you want (from legitimate sites) is limited because of licensing issues between countries. So sometimes it’s download them, or don’t watch them at all if you aren’t able to watch on TV for whatever reason.

    All that being said, it’s certainly not fair for people not to be compensated for their work just because their work happens to be in the realm of entertaining others.

    I think part of the problem is we’re sort of in a shift from hard copy media into soft copy media, but the law and people’s attitudes haven’t caught up with that. They’re trying to push soft media the same way they pushed hard media (and consumers are trying to treat “ownership” of soft media the same way they treated hard media) and I don’t think that’s going to be tenable in the long run. Something’s gotta give between producers and consumers so that a fair solution is reached, but right now I’m not sure what that should be.

  24. To clarify my last paragraph – we need to define ownership or consumers are going to be rightly pissed off when they do buy something and a company screws with it (ex: when Amazon took books back from Kindles without notification) and producers are going to be rightly pissed off when people steal their shit.

  25. @ZenMonkey:
    ZenMonkey, do you have any data that shows that small developers, such as the makers of World of Goo, are getting screwed due to piracy? I think there’s a fallacy in saying that “90% of copies people own are pirated.” Well, do you really think all those people would have bought the game otherwise? Not a chance! It does nothing to a company to have people playing their game who otherwise wouldn’t have bought it, except maybe advertise for them. Obviously some people pirate who would have otherwise bought, the question is how the two forces balance themselves out.

    Here’s a blog post by 2D Boy, the makers of World of Goo:

    http://2dboy.com/2009/10/19/birthday-sale-results/

    They’re clearly very optimistic of their own success in the marketplace. In fact, 2d boy has stated that they actually oppose heavy DRM:

    http://2dboy.com/category/drm/

    So feel free to correct me, but as of right now I don’t accept the argument that video game piracy is killing small developers who make good games.

  26. The whole issue fundamentally hinges on the fact that information doesn’t behave like any other good that neoclassical economics traffics in- it isn’t conserved like matter and energy, and so persistently runs into this divide-by-zero marginal-cost problem where the industry-sponsored notion of “p2p downloading=robbing a 7-11” plows headlong into a far stranger reality. Stewart Brand pretty well summed up the landscape with his two rules: Information likes to be expensive (because it costs a lot to make once) and information, to exactly the same degree, wants to be free (because it costs nothing to make again.) We’ve actually been living between that immovable object and irresistible force for a long time- we were able to pretend otherwise because information still was mostly bound into persistent physical objects, but it wasn’t every really true. The fact is, most of the world is engaged in one form or another of unpaid appropriation of information without the consent of the producers that we for whatever reason do not classify as “theft” and for the most part, the world takes this in stride- and even promotes it. The digital world will have to follow suit.

    Just look at books. We look at libraries and used bookstores as cornerstones of neighborhood life, but both faced numerous bordering-on-unending legal challenges in past decades based on what amounts to RIAA logic- that anytime a book was read that wasn’t purchased out of the publisher supply chain by that reader, they were being robbed. These arguments were of course rejected-both provide books mostly to people that were not going to obtain a book at the publisher price, and if anything providing a reservoir for the out of print and a chance to sample the obscure.

    The end result is that we have come to accept a situation where each book printed has an average of four readers, and if one takes into account the fact that more than half of books printed are returned and pulped, the ratio rises to TEN readers for every instances of a publisher getting paid- a 90% “piracy” rate that we’ve come to view as a right, a civic good, and the content providers shrug off.

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/03/why_the_commercial_ebook_marke.html

    Illegal downloads, I would argue, are the next-gen equivalent, and the fact that content providers are being furnished with such copious reams of data about how things have, in fact, always been is causing them to loose their shit out of all proportion. The RIAA has sued for fines to Eastern European file-sharing networks by the simple math of purchase price x # of downloads, and have come up with numbers exceeding the GDP of the country that hosts it- right there, I think it becomes clear that the argument that every download is robbing them of revenue they would have otherwise received is nonsense of the highest order.

    More rigorous analysis suggests this is true. There have been a number of side-by-side in depth number crunchings of thousands of weeks of p2p data and record sales, and the overwhelming conclusion is that downloads have an effect on sales so close to zero it gets lost in the noise- if anything, it takes 5000 illegal downloads to displace a single sale- and that obviously doesn’t account for upticks in future sales of an artist’s work or concert appearance that such exposure may or may not cause.

    http://www.unc.edu/~cigar/papers/FileSharing_March2004.pdf

    As sethmanapio pointed out- there really are two choices- outlandish and easily subverted enforcement regimes or calming the hell down and trying to capitalize on new opportunities. The data suggests that the record industry is really just having the numbers that have always dominated information economies laid out in front of them, and is doing the equivalent of panicking at the realization they have in fact had large intestines with shit in them all this time, and overdosing on laxatives. Oh wait, I see that exact thinking in infomercials every night…

    It seems to me the future still has ways for them to make more money off us than ever before- streaming Netflix-esque libraries being the big one. That fundamentally provides me an experience that is better in most ways than owning it- for a cost smaller than expanding my library each month, I have no concerns about storage, physical or digital, or medium obsolescence, and with all the long-tail type effects of being bolder and more diverse in my choices since a dollar spent on good-bet A isn’t one I can’t spend on worse-bet B- providing a piracy experience, in other words, but with a nominal fee to make sure it all runs smoothly.

    The other big model (and this applies more to print news but perhaps to music, which is running into the same issues of advertisers and consumers noticing that news and the product placements that subsidize it aren’t tied together into a piece of matter anymore,) that I expect will step up to the plate more is that of public radio. Essentially every news outlet has been facing declining revenues, but NPR’s budget has been steadily increasing faster than inflation throughout the Internet era, despite the fact it would seem to lie at the center of the worst kind of piracy/freeloader tragedy-of-the-commons problem imaginable. They produce a high-quality product, tons of people are given access it, almost no one pays, but enough decide they receive enough benefit and have enough disposable income to prop it up for everyone else- year after year and more and more, it would seem. Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want album was in the same vein, and while unsurprisingly, most people chose to pay zero, enough people did that it earned a pretty standard, middle-of-the-road gross for that class of band.

    There’s a reason we all know people (often including ourselves) that would never rob a store but pirate music- because it is not the same- if anything, it’s closer to a trip to the library.

  27. And to get pack to the post- I’m going to have to take substantial affront to your Xbox logic. Construct an analogous situation- Ford sells you an otherwise souped-up car but with racing slicks so you can’t drive it in the rain, and the contract includes fine print saying you can’t put normal tires on it. You put something with tread on it, so you can drive it anywhere, and Ford sees you, assumes its for running drugs, and takes an axe to your car. Microsoft is essentially selling a PC of decent power at below cost with enough red tape to ensure that it doesn’t ever get used as a general purpose computer, and then gets high and mighty when someone uses the chips they got handed in the comfort of their own home. The fact it may be legal doesn’t alter the fact its a pretty horrific way to do business- let’s not forget the mods they targeted aren’t even a guarantee of piracy, since it just as surely unlocks the ability to run games off the hard drive or use third-party content, or run Windows or Linux, for that matter.

  28. OK, let’s go back and look at the question: “Is it OK to download something free when the maker intended you to pay for it?”

    Answer: NO.

    Is it OK for me to steal your shoes because, a) they spent too much making the shoes and should make them cheaper, b) the show store was crowded and too hot, c) I only wanted plain shoes, not ones with buckles on them, d) most shoes get stolen so selling them is a rip-off?

    If we were talking about cars, you might consider that they make cars with too many “extras” on them. So you don’t want power windows and cruise control. Does this mean that you should go onto a dealer’s lot and look for a base-model car so you can steal it?

    Theft is theft.

    Let’s take Lukas’ premise. He believes there is nothing wrong with there being a 95% theft rate for a game developer’s work. It is, after all, only a question of whether the other 5% make the game developer enough money. So, Lukas, I have a plan for you. You have to be a member of that 5% group for, let’s say, the next ten years. The rest of us get the stuff for nothing. Sound fair? You say no? Is it because you’re not the one who is free-loading? Or is it suddenly unfair to you that you have to carry the load so we can get our stuff for free? I’m sure I can come up with some very good rationalizations why it’s not unfair (well at least to me). Oh, and by the way, I’m coming over to your place of employment to try to convince your boss to only pay you for 5% of the time and effort you put in. Fair? Reasonable?

    Sporefrog, you think Zenmonkey’s estimate of 90% is too high. So what is a fair estimate of the number of people who are free-loading on the backs of those who pay? Would you say it is more than 50%? Do you think it is ethical for half of the population of gamers to free-load on the other half? Is that because we can guess which half you are likely to be found in?

    Several of you “have to have” something that is not available today. NO YOU DON’T. You want it and you can’t have it. Sorry, but want doesn’t equal need. I want a new truck. I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting one until I can afford one and there is one available that suits my needs. That’s just the way it works. Aristothenes, I can’t accept your analogy for one fundamental reason. If you went to the Ford dealer and wanted to buy a souped-up car, you could very well look at the tires and decide whether they were the right tires for your kind of driving. If you didn’t want those tires and the dealer said you couldn’t change them, YOU WOULDN’T BUY THE CAR. Why, because you really didn’t need that particular car. If every single car manufacturer gave you the same grief, you and all your friends would choose not to buy cars until they changed that marketing flaw. Ford would learn its lesson or end up like Studebaker. You won’t cure the problem by going ahead and buying the car, seeing how you can modify it and then whining when Ford refuses to honor the now void warranty.

    But, back to the point. If you don’t own it, all of the rationalization in the world doesn’t justify stealing it unless it will keep you from freezing, starving or drowning.

    Period.

  29. To address a couple of points raised here:

    I don’t know about the USA, but in the UK, libraries compensate the publisher every time a book is lent. This is because for every lend, that’s an opportunity to sell the book lost. If you borrow it free, you ain’t likely to buy it.

    The comparison of file-sharing to VHS or cassette tapes falls down. Blank VHS and cassette tapes (and latterly DVDs) still need to be
    purchased and stored.

    In addition, VHS and cassette tapes degrade from the first time you play them, and eventually become unplayable. DVDs and CDRs not so much, but as a physical medium they do get scratched and not always reliable to write (I find about one in six is ropey).

    Every copy-of-a-copy you make degrades further in quality.

    Finally, you need a physical hard copy of the thing you want to copy onto VHS etc, and the means to physically copy it over to the blank tape, which takes (I should say ‘took’, really), a not inconsiderable amount of time.

    None of that is comparable to clicking ‘download’ and within seconds having a perfect copy of something that duplicates equally perfectly every time, with next to zero investment of time or additional resource from the user. Under those circumstances, the motivation to buy the same track legally is very limited, as you’re not getting an improvement on what you already have.

  30. I realise that direct comparisons with shoplifting don’t wash with many pirates, so I prefer to use this parable:

    A homeless guy moves into your spare room without your permission. You weren’t using the room, it’s just a spare, and the guy is no trouble at all. He takes absolutely nothing away from you as you weren’t using the room anyway, and he never bothers you. In fact you never see him, but you know he’s living in your spare room. He justifies it by saying that you have more money than him, can afford a house with spare rooms, and that therefore he’s entitled to live in one of yours regardless of whether or not that was your intention when you invested in the house. Is he?

  31. downloading without paying for something that is available is wrong. what about downloading, watching once, deciding you don’t like it and deleting it? is that stealing?

    is it stealing to purchase a used copy from a local, or chain store? the creator of the content does not get any more money from the sale, and they lose a sale of a new copy. by many of the previous arguments it is stealing because the content producer does not receive payment for the copy. yet, i believe that purchasing a used copy is considered legal. why?

    downloading a copy, watching it, deciding you like it, then purchasing a copy. is that right? technically by today’s laws you’ve stolen the content, you are a pirate. it doesn’t matter that you later purchase a copy.

    personally i think that last scenario should be legal.

  32. @Tracy King: I’m not sure I understand your point about quality. And I’m not arguing a point here, I’m just looking for clarification.

    First, the quality of downloads isn’t always a perfect copy of the original. Also, hard drives can degrade over time or can be accidentally erased or destroyed.

    Second, the argument seems to be (and correct me if I’m wrong) that tapes etc are ok because they degrade over time and the quality dips.

    I’m confused about these points for 2 reasons:
    1) If bad quality is the deciding factor, does that mean bad quality downloads are ok? (I really doubt that’s what you meant – like I said, just looking to fully understand your point). And if time is a deciding factor, are downloads that take weeks ok?

    2) *Why* is quality and/or time the deciding factor(s)? These seem a bit arbitrary, but perhaps there’s some context I’m missing.

  33. @Kimbo Jones: I’m trying to explain why the oft-used “they said VHS and cassettes would kill the music and movie industries, but they didn’t, so therefore downloads won’t” argument isn’t necessarily true. Creative industries of all kinds ARE suffering as a result of downloads, and much of that is because the motivation to buy a ‘proper copy’ is lacking where it wasn’t with old analogue formats.

    Re: hard drives – you own the hard drive anyway. You’re probably using it right now as an integral part of the machine you’re typing on, unless you have an external hard drive only to store illegally downloaded content on, which I suspect very few people do. Backups, maybe, but that just reinforces the point that you can make a perfect duplicate.

  34. @Frankiemouse: In your download and then pay for it if you like it scenario, you remind me of the car thief who says, well if I steal it and get caught all I have to do is offer to buy the car. Nope, theft is theft no matter your good intentions to buy it if you end up liking it.

  35. @sporefrog: While I don’t have the data on Torchlight, here is the story about World of Goo’s 90% piracy rate:

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2008/11/acrying-shame-world-of-goo-piracy-rate-near-90.ars

    As you can see, it was their refreshing approach to DRM that ended up screwing them, very unfortunately.

    I’m not extrapolating that rate to other games (I regret I don’t have a source for the Torchlight info I was given). The story asks “The question is open: would the pirates have bought the game otherwise? Did the lack of DRM lead to more sales?” and those are good questions. But I think to call yourself a gamer and take pride in stealing from small, innovative developers is cognitive dissonance, if you really want the state of gaming to improve.

  36. While I make no claim that the following is a sustainable or even practical model, I have my own ethical rules for downloading copyrighted content:

    1. If the work was broadcast on TV, downloading is equivalent to time-shifting or borrowing a tape from someone, and therefore OK. (If it’s a program that’s not available yet in the States, like Doctor Who, it’s time-shifting from the future. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.)

    2. Otherwise, if the copyrighted work is in print, it’s only OK to download if I’ve already pre-ordered the item and it hasn’t arrived yet. Once it’s in my hot little hands, I’ll delete the download, not only for my use but as a source for other filesharers.

    3. If the copyrighted work is out of print, with no sign of it coming back in print (e.g. anime soundtracks for old series), I’ll download or buy a bootleg. In my mind, this is equivalent to buying a used copy; through the Doctrine of First Sale, they’d never see a penny anyway.

    4. If a previously unavailable product becomes available again, I’ll buy or pre-order a legit copy, and I still play/read it. If I don’t, I’ll delete the download.

    5. Otherwise, I won’t download.

    Anime fansubbers (fans who subtitle works not available in the states) have similar rules. Fansubbers are part of the anime ecosystem, in that anime importers look to the most popular fansubs to determine what to bring to the States.

    Another precedent that shaped these rules are Wizards of the Coasts sale and then retraction of legit PDFs of TSR’s old Dungeons & Dragons books. At one time, WotC sold these PDFs for $5 or $6 each, through several distributors. Then they saw a pirated PDFs. (I’m not sure if it was a legit PDF or someone’s original scan.) In a panic they pulled ALL the TSR stuff from all distributors literally overnight. (Distributors allowed a grace period of noon to re-download and backup any purchased PDFs.) Now … the only way to get that material is through illegal downloading, or finding someone who’ll sell you an old book for $50 or more. Especially for people like me who are only casually interested in mining the old stuff for useful ideas, that’s just ridiculous. If WotC made their stuff available again, I’d comb through the (few) downloads that don’t have a corresponding paper copy, and buy them legitimately.

    If companies or artists would set up a tip jar, I’d gladly contribute. By letting something go out of print, they’re essentially saying they don’t want my money.

  37. Clarification to rule #3: I wouldn’t make a download of in-print material available to filesharers, although I’d keep a private copy until the real one arrived. This rule exists mainly because I’m tragically impatient.

  38. My wife (among other talents) is a writer of fiction, and has a a few novels available from an e-publisher. She polices file-sharing sites and considers the posting of her books there as stealing.

    This is different from lending a book or CD to a friend to listen to. Presuming for the moment that no copying of the book or CD takes place, the physical object presents a barrier to wide and rapid distribution. Furthermore, while the book is in a friend’s hands, you cannot read it.

    One might argue (and the pirates do) that by posting my wife’s books on a file-sharing site, they are making it available to a wider audience. Horsepuckey. It is already available to the wide audience at a reasonable price, via download. This is a business and my wife’s employment. It’s not about my wife feeling warm and fuzzy because lots of people are enjoying her work. Her warm fuzzies come from the satisfaction of people *paying* for her work.

    Now *maybe* someone will read a pirated copy and then buy it legitimately, or buy another of her books, but that is too hypothetical. She herself buys quite a few e-books that she decides she doesn’t like, and sometimes she doesn’t even finish them. She doesn’t complain.

  39. @Tracy King:

    Re: VCR etc.
    The VCR example was not an excuse for piracy. My point is that there is a huge difference between media companies adapting to changing times, and trying to squelch technologies in an attempt to head off perceived threats.

    And yes, the media companies feared VCR’s to such a degree that they tried to outlaw them in the US. It’s a very valid example of my argument. Companies need to adapt to changes in technologies.
    And you can NEVER make copying (or theft, or any other illegal immoral activity) impossible. Attempts by media companies to outlaw P2P is no different than trying to outlaw the record button on a VCR.
    The best thing is to adapt, and make it worth every one’s while to purchase legally.

    The ethics of downloading pirated media is fairly clear. However, what isn’t so black and white is the means by which companies try to pursue the “end of piracy.” And they are two separate issues. Those who think otherwise should apply the “ANY means are justified for the ends” logic to other things and see how well that works.

  40. @fmitchell: In your discussion of WotC’s decision to withdraw their product from the market, you are suggesting that you have some unalienable right to possess what is, basically their property. They own it. They decided to sell it to others. They decided to stop selling it to others. Now because (pay careful attention here) they decide they don’t want to sell their product any more, you have a right to steal it from them. Please stay away from my tool shed. I don’t care if the “…the only way to (get my personal tools) is through illegal…” means. I don’t want you stealing my tools. I really don’t care if you really, really want them. I really don’t care if all your friends have tools just like mine. Don’t steal what is mine just because you gotta have it.

  41. @Old Geezer: it’s more like test driving the car. if you test drive a car then purchase it are you a thief because you used it before purchasing the car?. if you test drive it then “delete” it by not buying it are you a thief? maybe if you were allowed to download 30 mins. of a movie before deciding to purchase it, or giving you a time limit after which it will not longer play without payment, it would be more like a test drive? trailers are a horrible way to judge a film. buying a film based solely on the trailer would be like buying a car based solely on a commercial. car companies do not force you to buy the car before you ever get to see how it performs. nor do they charge you to test drive the car. it’s not a perfect analogy. my point is there should be a better way to purchase music and films (typically you can hear and purchase individual songs so purchasing digital music currently seems pretty fair to me). you should be able to pay for them and either download them, or rip them to your hard drive for your use.

    downloading content with the intent to use it forever without paying for it is stealing. but the current laws in the US are ridiculously strict and totally unreasonable. to make a copy for your own use, so it’s more convenient, or so your children don’t ruin a movie by being careless and scratching the disc so that it no longer can be read is illegal. should you be allowed to download a copy of a DVD you purchased that has been rendered unusable without paying for it more than once? i think you should.

  42. @Frankiemouse: Apparently, you are suggesting that, if I don’t use a particular tool any more, it’s OK for you to steal it. Sorry, but I don’t think there is any reason for you to be taking something that I don’t want to give you. If I want you to be able to use it, I will make that clear. If I don’t, it is not up to you to decide how much I should value the mere ownership of my property.

    You answer your own question about the “test drive.” “…(I)f you were allowed to download 30 minutes….” Your test drive example hinges entirely on whether you sneak onto the lot at midnight and take the car for a “test drive” without permission, or whether you follow the car dealer’s requirements for a test drive. You see, the operative word in your discussion is “allowed.” If the dealer were to decide that you could take a car whenever you wanted, go for it. There are many authors like Cory Doctorow who want you to do just that. Go for it! But if an author or game developer doesn’t want you to have their product for free, any self-justification doesn’t change the fact that you are stealing.

  43. Old Geezer said about me: “He believes there is nothing wrong with there being a 95% theft rate for a game developer’s work.”

    You misunderstand what I wrote. To be perfectly clear, I never said that there was nothing wrong with piracy. I said that piracy was not a problem. There’s a difference. Whether something is wrong or not is a moral judgement. I’m not making a moral argument, I’m looking at the effects of piracy. I’m not saying piracy isn’t wrong (in my opinion, the individual person who pirates something acts unethically). I’m saying it very likely doesn’t have a negative effect, and may in fact have a positive effect.

    That doesn’t make it right at all, it just makes it an issue that is largely irrelevant to content producers.

    Old Geezer then wrote: “You have to be a member of that 5% group for, let’s say, the next ten years.” and “Is it because you’re not the one who is free-loading?”

    Why do you make that assumption? I pointed out that the facts say that piracy is not a problem. I did not, however, say that I’m pirating stuff.

    I’m already part of the 5% group. I pay for everything, and I’m pretty sure I buy a lot more media than most people here.

    I did not defend my own piracy, because I do not pirate stuff. I merely pointed out that objectively, piracy does not seem to be a problem.

    Here are the facts as I see them:

    – Piracy rate seems to be constant, regardless of what anyone does; debating piracy rate seems pointless, because it won’t change, and because it doesn’t matter as long as you can make money with the people who pay. If you’re trying to decrease piracy, you’re doing Sisyphus’s work instead of increasing the quality and reach of your product, which will actually help your game. Trying to convert pirates or prevent piracy probably won’t, and may actually hurt you.

    – Despite of piracy, more people make more videogames that are more innovative than ever before.

    – Despite of piracy, more people make more music than ever before (source: FREE by Chris Anderson).

    – Despite of piracy, more people make more money with music than ever before; the only one who make (slightly) less money are the labels, and that’s probably not due to piracy, but because the Internet removes the need for a middleman (source: the Times statistics linked above).

    – In my experience, the problem a game developer (and I assume most other people and companies who produce media) faces is obscurity, not piracy. It’s important to get your game out to as many people as possible. I look at piracy as part of my advertising budget. Every pirate who is playing my game is not playing my competition’s games and may get others to play my game.

    If you think that these things are wrong, I encourage you to tell me why they are wrong, rather than attacking me personally and calling me a pirate.

    By the way, if this isn’t obvious from what I wrote, I actually do develop videogames, although it is not my main job.

  44. @ZenMonkey: World of Goo’s 90% piracy rate is not an indication of failure. 90% is probably below the average piracy rate for videogames, and the developer (2dboy) seems to have made enough money with the game, so I’d call that a success.

    The fact that 90% or 95% of your customers are pirates simply does not matter because nothing you do will convert these people into paying customers, and because that rate is pretty much a constant for all videogames. The question isn’t “are 95% of my customers pirates”, the question is “do I make enough money with this game”, and in World of Goo’s case, the answer seems to be “yes”.

  45. @Aristothenes: COTW. It may not be written as a hilarious anecdote or conceived of a rapier wit, but it’s exactly the kind of well thought out answer that too often isn’t found when this subject is brought up. Bravo for presenting a point in a clear, levelheaded manner.
    The major problem with piracy is that it’s an arms race. The companies find a way to encrypt their data, and the people find a way to hack it. The companies threaten to sue, and the people make it unfeasible to prosecute enough people enough of the time for it to be a real deterrent. On and on and on it goes. We aren’t going to stop piracy, ever. But someone can figure out how to make it a nuisance, and not the number one way of obtaining music.
    The system is old, and the system needs to be brought into the future. I wish I was insightful enough to figure out how. (If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you, either. I’d sell the damn thing and make my own fortune.) :)

  46. @Tracy King: A homeless guy living in my spare room is an invasion of my privacy. I don’t care if he uses my room as long as I don’t need it and don’t notice him, I care about the fact that he’s in my home:-)

    You write: “Creative industries of all kinds ARE suffering as a result of downloads”

    What evidence do you have for this? Piracy rate alone is not an indicator of “suffering”, and at least when it comes to PC videogames, piracy rate has been around 95% for the last 20 years, and the videogames business is constantly growing (except for this year, which seems to be due to the economic collapse). For music, everyone except the labels is actually making more money – and the labels are probably making less money because the Internet has made them obsolete.

  47. I’m not a big fan of black and white moralizing when it comes to society-wide issues. It’s the same sort of misapplication of moral sentiment that leads us to lock up pot smokers and throw more money at the border, or throw Bibles at kids instead of condoms. Moral instincts are tools to be applied, but just like any other sort of gut instinct it is out of place at times, and million dollar fines directed at tweenyboppers for an activity engaged in by 60 million Americans would seem to be a surefire case of moral instincts run wild, and a situation where we are far better looking at the data and assessing the possible outcomes- being skeptical, in other words, which we are supposed to enjoy around here, though the quantities of fragile analogies and anecdotes seem to suggest otherwise. We’re dealing with a paradigm shift here in the digital age, and kneejerks reflexes are exactly the sort of responses that will get us into trouble, dancing with half-assed comparisons and loopholes.

    So, let’s get down to questions we can answer with data. Theft generally requires excludability- that someone does not have, or is not receiving, something because of some else having it, in this case revenue. So we have a question we can answer empirically-

    1) Does unsanctioned downloading drive out legal access channels and their revenue? And the answer, says the data, is no. The moderate decline in record sales does not correlate with replacement downloads, nor does the increase in downloads seem to be connected in scale to revenues. It’s easy to say otherwise- a little game developer (have those been successful to begin with in the last 15 years?) sees lots of illegal downloads, and a small paycheck, and decides that they MUST be taking money away from him, they reaaaally must, in the same way the sun must reaaaaallly be rising from beneath the flat earth. But the facts say otherwise. The number of people willing and unwilling to pay look about the same as they always have- it’s just the content providers get big pages filled with that information when before it happened in basements.

    2) Is this unprecedented? Again, the urge is to say of course it is, there was no Napster when I was a boy, etc, etc.- but again, the facts say wrong. If we strip away all the case by case information about whether VHS copies are perfect, or whether books lending is the same as book copying if I don’t read the copy are all the rest and just look at number of “accessors” the ratio of units paid for at provider price to number of accessors have been at 10:1 for years in all kinds of media, namely books, and most quoted instances of legal to illegal downloads are in that region- illegal : legal p2p downloading of video seems to run at about 5:1, for instance.

    More books by more authors than ever get published. Revenues for Hollywood movies get rising. The hordes of victims that should define such a preposterously large crime simply do not seem to be there. Hell, the iTunes store has decided they make more money when they don’t try to stop you from doing as you like with your downloaded data. They keep making more and more money. They have made a logical decision that letting the subsurface noise of mix tapes, YouTube soundtracks, and music emailed to their mothers is an acceptable part of doing business that doesn’t stop them from making money, and it won’t be long, I suspect before that becomes the dominant paradigm: A shrug, followed by making more content and money.

    To the indistinguishable from theft side, how does one propose I lend digital media to my friends? Give it away once I’m bored with it? Resell it for pennies at a yardsale? Can I copy it to them and delete it? What if I swear on my scouts honor that I’m never going to look at it again? What if I did just once? Could I watch it if they streamed it to me simultaneously so we could virtually watch it together, or is it tied to one screen that it’s okay to watch in the same room with them- or should I be paying by the set of eyeballs? I can get a book at the library for free, but its apparently okay because it eventually goes back (despite the fact that I got it for the experience it induced, and not the physical object)- so streaming would be okay but downloading wouldn’t? Is going to the library just okay because obtaining it is inefficient? What if the library is next door? If I watch something on YouTube that shouldn’t be there but I didn’t put there, am I a pirate? What if a playlist contains information that’s legal and some that isn’t- do I have a responsibility to check or can I let it play unattended? What if the media is under copyright, but has no contactable copyright authority, and is out of print- which happens to be the case for most of the books ever written?

    I’m going to make a prediction. In fifteen years, no one will purchase storage medium filled with content- DVDs or CDs or newspapers, though books will probably manage. And downloads to own will probably be reserved for niche applications like portable music, but even most of that will be handled by broadband streaming. Everyone will pay a surprisingly small monthly fee for access to streaming from a surprisingly large database of content, and that revenue stream will be sufficient to keep making Hollywood blockbusters and indie niche films alike, and said subscription will be considered better than ownership and as sure a fact of life as the phone bill. And that streaming library will be embedded in a vast soup of pirated media, some more obscure, some just popular but free, and that soup will get the same moral writeoff we reserve for passing around box sets or burning mix CDs or going to a used records store, because those activities will be as extinct as their storage media, and an informal economy of some kind will need to take their place for the propagation of the new, the continued post-profit existence of the old, and the provision of service to the poor and thrifty.

    Data isn’t matter. It plays by its own rules, and those rules have instances of when it gets paid for and when it doesn’t (and indeed, when you get paid to take it) seem every inch as baffling as quantum mechanics to us Newtonian creatures. But our solution is the same- go to the data. And the data says the DVD scared-straight trailer and the RIAA party line are full of it.

    And yes, I pay for my content- quite a bit of which I never would have been ballsy enough to buy if I hadn’t been able to watch it on YouTube first.

  48. @Old Geezer : @Old Geezer: I agree with you that piracy is most certainly theft.

    However, you seem to be assuming that the victim of a theft is always hurt by the theft, and that therefore theft is always wrong. Many of the posts here seem to indicate otherwise.

    I would tend to agree with the posters that say that business models must adapt to the new technology. Some companies manage to turn antipiracy measures into a sort of feature. I buy a lot of games through Steam because I know that they’ll stick with me between computers and present very little hassle.

  49. Imeem.com is the solution.

    It’s a website that lets you legally listen to any album you want live-stream. The only draw-back is you get a commercial once every 15 songs, but what’s a 30 second commercial compared to 1.5 hours of music and a clean conscience that what you’re doing is considered legal by all of the mainstream music companies.

    It’s truly the best route.

  50. I do actually have quite strong opinions on this topic, but I’m not going to bother with them right now. I’d like to bring up the subject of terminology. This is obvious stuff, I know.

    “File-sharers” is a bad expression. It is a result of low-grade media outlets and copyright-enforcement businesses trying to demonise people. File-sharing is evidently not illegal. I can share my pictures of my cockerel with any farmer without fear. I can use massive, legal systems which distribute media – for example, there’s a big buzz this year about Spotify, which I use at work, which shares the files I stream with other peers in order to provide faster and more reliable access. I can download a new OS for my laptop through bittorrent, thus easing the load on the provider’s servers and helping everyone to get it quickly as soon as it comes out.

    It may well be that the majority of file-sharing involves exchanging copyrighted work without the copyright holder’s permission. But in an extreme example, if the industry pushed the term “murderers” instead of “gun-owners” wouldn’t people think something was up?

  51. @Old Geezer: Ford would be in its right to axe my car? I don’t know what sort of Kant-run-amok dystopia you live in, filled with unremoved mattress tags and kids playing with their King Creon action figures, but I’m glad I don’t live there :-P

    I kid, I kid. No flame intended.

  52. It’s far from a black & white issue.
    There have been recent studies, apparently, that (on average) the people who download the greatest amount of music (illegally) are also the people who buy the greatest number of CDs (legally).
    Making an illegal copy of a friend’s legally purchased CD (while illegal) may compel the copier to go out and buy the band’s next CD when it comes out. In this case netting the band a sale.
    And it’s certainly crappy that the money that goes into marketing CDs is recouped by the record companies through inflating the costs of buying CDs – including the ones that the marketing bucks weren’t actually spent on.
    And, let’s be honest, the music industry itself certainly isn’t terribly concerned about ethicality even if the companies generally stay within the law. Comparatively little of the money I pay for a CD actually goes to the artist.
    Some artists have experimented with other models. Radiohead and Einstürzende Neubauten, for example.
    EN are as indie as you can get and are literally their own record label. If I buy an EN album, I know that after the retailer and distributor have had their shares, the rest goes to the band. While you can pirate EN albums as easily as any other albums, it makes me definitely want to buy the actual CDs.
    (OK, I always buy the CDs anyway because I just plain like having the actual CD. I don’t even like buying from the iTunes store because I don’t get a physical prooduct. But I’m happier about buying EN CDs.)
    KMFDM gives the option of buying straight from the band on their website.
    I’m pretty certain piracy is here to stay and any laws against it (regardless of ethicality of piracy) will be unenforceable. So for reasons of practicality, I think we need a solution that works either with the piracy or by making purchasing the product legally more attractive.
    Many of these solutions won’t work for people like Justin and Britney who have little or no recognizable ability and couldn’t possibly have gotten anywhere without millions upon millions of marketing bucks but if they were to disappear, I can’t say that would exactly be a great loss to the musical landscape.
    – I understand (but may be wrong) that many artists make more money from touring than from album sales. Distribute the songs for free (with an option to buy a CD in an attractive case) and make money from the shows.
    – The EN solution.
    – Bypass the record companies and sell you CDs yourself. Additionally, make the songs (in high quality) available for download cheaply – if the price isn’t too high, the convenience may well outweigh the even lower price of pirating.
    – Set up a company that isn’t a record company as such that can handle online sales of CDs and downloads on behalf of bands for a small percentage of the cost. This company may need some fairly extensive marketing to begin with.
    Some of these may not work, the ones that do won’t necessarily work for everyone and there are certainly other possibilities that I haven’t thought of.
    I don’t know if there are any good solutions that will work for the record companies (rather than the actual artists) but I can’t say I really care. Ultimately, it’s the artists and the music I care about.
    (I’ve stuck to addressing music here – the whole topic is a bit big to adress sensibly in a blog comment…)

  53. @Lukas: That’s a very strange defense. “They seem to be doing okay” so it’s all right that only 10% of people playing their game paid for it?

    What if, and I know this is a shocking premise, everyone who played the game had bought it? They’d be doing a lot more than all right and probably in a much better position to make another great game.

  54. @ZenMonkey: Please, it’s not a defense. I’m not defending pirates; they are clearly acting unethically, as I have said before. I’m merely pointing out facts.

    All I have said is that World of Goo was not a failure. Nowhere did I say that it was okay to pirate the game.

    It’s pointless to think about unrealistic stuff like “what if everybody paid?” because that will never happen. What if ponies could fly? What if money rained down from the heavens?

    90-95% piracy rate is a constant, it’s always been that way for games (and, it seems, books, and probably pretty much every easily copyable medium), and it will never change.

    So it’s pointless to focus on piracy rate. A high rate of piracy does not mean that something is a failure. The important point is whether the people who create the content make money.

  55. Downloading is nothing like test driving a car. I already pointed out the myriad ways in which you can hear a track or try a bit of a movie before you pay. The most important way in which it’s not like test driving a car is that you wouldn’t ever test drive a car if the garage didn’t want you to. You wouldn’t test drive it without their permission, and you certainly wouldn’t test drive it without their permission if to do so was illegal. But of course, because the value of the product is higher, the penalty for being caught is higher. As I say, if those who illegally download had a greater chance of being caught, they wouldn’t do it. Risk/reward.

    This is where a grey issue becomes a black and white one: if the rightful owners of the content DO NOT WANT you to download it illegally, by what justification are you overriding that with your own ethical code of “I want it, therefore I will disregard what you want”.

    It’s the same with the homeless guy in the spare room. Someone said that’s not OK because he’d be violating their privacy. Which translates as “it’s illegal because it takes something intangible away from me, and I don’t want that violation of what I have a right to dictate usage of”. That is exactly the same as content providers, yet millions of people wilfully ignore their wishes in favour of their own material gain.

    Let me ask another question to those who illegally download: have you ever done it motivated by anything but greed?

  56. I guess the real question is: Is it OK to infringe someone’s copyright?

    I don’t think it is, however Copyright Infringement Is NOT Theft.

    That said I find it perfectly ok for the purposes of time shifting, sampling and where the author has no legitimate means of being compensated.

    I generally download music prior to release, with the intention of buying once it’s available; but I won’t delete or not listen to an album on principle just because I currently don’t have the funds to make the purchase.

    To me piracy is the unauthorised redistribution of content for ones own personal gain i.e. selling CD/DVD etc (or the digital equivalent). File sharing is not in of itself illegal and the idea of disconnecting suspected users of copyright infringement is just a means for the BPI et al to punish users without pursuing them in a civil court.

    In the realm of digital media the lack of a simple solution for an individual to compensate the author is the issue.

    Yes I like your content, so let me pay for it and without restrictive terms or DRM. I no long require a physical box collecting dust, cut out the middle man and release your content digitally with the ability for me to pay for it. And if I happen downloaded your content from a third party give me the option to pay you for it direct.

    I don’t have a problem with modding consoles or anything else that you may own even if it is to play copied content. But I think MS are perfectly within their rights to restrict the services they provide to unmodded devices

  57. @Tracy King: My privacy is not comparable to copying one of my games just because both are “intangible” to me. It’s a false equivalency. I think that in general, these comparisons to cars or other things are pointless. I also think calling people greedy won’t drive the discussion in a positive direction.

    Since this is a skeptical blog, we should probably try to push this thread towards a more facts-based discussion :-)

  58. @Lukas: Nope, the motive for piracy is precisely what I want to discuss (as well as alternative business models). If ‘greed’ is too emotive a word, let’s replace it with ‘personal gain’.

    The reason it’s important to discuss motive is because piracy is an ethical issue. The content owners and providers don’t want people to pirate, yet some people do it anyway. This is a case of deciding their own priorities are more important than those of the people creating the content. So I would like to discuss the motives behind the decision, and also find out whether those who download have considered the ethics and decided they’re being ethical, considered the ethics and decided they’re being unethical but don’t care, haven’t considered the ethics, etc etc.

    Plus, I didn’t say there AREN’T other motives than greed, I am asking what they are.

    For example, you could say that those who can’t afford to buy the content (young people, students, those on low income), are entitled to a social contract whereby they’re equally as informed about popular culture as their peers, in order to participate in society fully.

    It’s not really OK to say you download without thinking about it, because it’s illegal. But I would very much like to know what the motives are. I think ‘personal gain’ (aka greed) is the main motivation, but I am looking for other perspectives. If personal gain IS the main motivation, then it’s less of a black and white issue, because no-one is entitled to personal gain at the expense of others, in law or in society.

    I don’t doubt that some people will be uncomfortable with acknowledging that their motivation for piracy is greed/personal gain/getting something that is worth money for free, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss it.

  59. I find this whole thing very interesting. I have freinds who will not go to the movies because they will just download it later. I love going to the movies, if I enjoy the movie I usually buy it. How many people have downloaded crappy movies just so it’s “part of the collection”. I guess I just find that odd.

    As for music, if I hear a song on the radio or online I go to that bands website. I haven’t found one yet that did not have there current album available for streaming, and in most cases previous work too. If it’s good I buy it. This has been great as I remember only being able to hear whatever songs were played on the radio, or had a video on MTV. Yes there used to be non stop music on MTV not jut crappy reality TV. We had to make a decision about our hard earned allowance based on that alone. You should see my collection there were many poor decisions.

    Sorry but piracy is theft and it is wrong.

  60. @ZenMonkey: You’re assuming, though, that the other people would have paid for it rather than just going without the game.

    @Rei Malebario: “making purchasing the product legally more attractive”

    Yes, I would argue that anything that makes owning something a huge hassle actually makes buying the product even less desirable for some people. There is definitely a market for anti-piracy measures that don’t “punish” legitimate buyers.

  61. A few more, not necessarily connected thoughts:

    Discussing the morals/ethics of piracy is futile and pointless.
    Because moral or not, it’s a 100% certainty that it’s not going away.
    So all that’s left to discuss is how to deal with it. And, as far as I’m concerned, the only practical way of dealing with something that you absolutely, positively cannot cause to go away is to embrace it and try to take advantage of it. If the record companies can’t (or won’t) do this, they’ll likely perish (again, regardless of whether it’s “right” or “wrong”).
    Most of the technical steps taken to prevent piracy merely delay it for a few hours while being annoying to legitimate users forever. (For example, my legally purchased copy of Civilization IV will only work with the DVD in the drive – if I’d instead downloaded it illegally, I’d have gotten a clearly better product. The step the producer has taken to prevent piracy has given me a stronger incentive to pirate their product.)

    I don’t understandd pirating DVD’s. Or at least not of DVDs of anything other than very rare films that are difficult or impossible to find in your area. Within a year or two of their release, I can usually find DVDs of most films for not significantly more than the cost of the GB they’d take up on my HD.

    Games are the trickiest, I think. They have a fairly short window in which to be profitable before the hardware they’re supposed to run on becomes obsolete. I have a shitload of legally purchased Mac games that I can no longer play because I really can’t be fucked to get my old iMac out of storage. I’ve found that I can rarely finish a computer game before I need to upgrade my computer quite possibly rendering the game unplayable. So I don’t, by and large, play games on my computer anymore. (I have a DS and a PSP instead).

    Something that record companies often do that gives the public a great disincentive to purchase (as well as creating a great deal of animosity towards them) is, a year or so after the release of a new album, releasing the same album again. Only cheaper and with bonus tracks. If I’m a fan and bought an album (at full price) on the day of release, this makes me feel just ever so slightly shafted causes me to think that I’m an idiot for not just downloading it illegally over a torrent site.

    I generally think the best solutions are the ones that give a strong incentive not to pirate the item. But I may be biased simply because I just prefer buying my stuff legally anyway, and this method gives me a little something extra.

  62. @Tracy King: Okay, I missed the point of the discussion then. As a developer, I don’t really care about the psychology or motivation behind piracy, I care about its effects on me. Discussing whether something is right or wrong is a discussion about morality, and I leave that to the religious people :-)

  63. Trent Reznor of NIN has taken an interesting take on this. He releases a lot of his music online for free now, including NIN’s entire last album, and then he goes on tour, which is where they make most of their money. He also has taken to supporting new artists, and using his popularity and money to support them. He is of the mind that the big artists need to start taking control of the music industry, and take the control away from the big wig record companies.

    I think this is a great idea.

  64. @marilove: It is a great idea, but it’s not feasible for most artists. NIN built up their popularity before going independent, which allowed their move to be a success. NIN certainly isn’t the first artist to suggest and act on that model, but Trent Reznor has certainly been most successful with it, given that he already had a massive group of fans.

    That being said, I don’t download music or movies unless I’ve already paid for a copy. For instance, if I’ve bought the DVD, but it hasn’t come in the post, I’ll either wait until it comes (most likely) or download a copy if there’s a really, really good reason other than just wanting to watch it. I don’t illegally download books, as I’ve got a Kindle and most are usually available through that. TV shows are generally on the broadcasters’ websites or Hulu now, so no worries there. I’m happy to watch the ads and whatnot.

    However, I don’t pirate software on principle; if the developer wanted me to have a trial, he/she would give me one. Plus, I speak to a lot of first-time developers who make many of the programs that I use, and I can’t bear the idea of taking money from fantastic people like that. They sometimes spend hundreds of hours creating something fantastic, and I’m supposed to take that away simply because I don’t feel like I can pay, or just don’t want to? If I know that I can’t afford their program, I have been known to email them and ask about a student/teacher discount, etc. They’re usually quite happy to oblige, and some even give me a free, legal copy if they know that I could’ve just downloaded a cracked copy. Mac developers are nice folk like that. ;)

  65. @Tracy King: Oh, and it’s not really stealing because A) You’re taking from either an evil nameless corporation or a filthy rich popstar B) You’re not exactly stealing the food from people’s mouths and C) It’s not really stealing unless you’re actually bashing someone over the head down the back of an ally

  66. @marilove: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. The model that is flawed is the “Parasitic Record Label Model”.

    Until recently actually making a physical record was really expensive and beyond the means of pretty much everyone except large evil coporations, prior to the internet advertising and marketing was also expensive and difficult.

    These days anyone with talent and £1000 can set themselves up recording their music, sometimes literally, in their bedroom and advertise “virally” over the internet.

    Frankly, the whole “piracy is wrong” thing is the last dieing gasp of corportate music. If anything downloading will shift power from the label back to the talent, who’ll have to do more live gigs to make a living (if they’re even going to be full time musicians)

    Take for example the great band The Voltaires (who is that rocking Bass player?)
    http://www.myspace.com/thevoltaires

    No evil corporate bullshit or ad-men to pay off

  67. @Lukas: Really? “It’s pointless to think about unrealistic stuff like ‘what if everybody paid?’ because that will never happen”? I could not disagree more. I accept that you don’t think it matters that almost everyone playing the game didn’t buy it, but I don’t believe thinking about this situation and how to do better by indie developers is pointless.

    @Kimbo Jones: No, I am not assuming. In a previous comment I noted the remarks in the story about World of Goo concerning exactly that question: “The story asks ‘The question is open: would the pirates have bought the game otherwise? Did the lack of DRM lead to more sales?’ and those are good questions.”

  68. @ZenMonkey: Since World of Goo was not pirated more than other games (numbers show it was pirated *less* than other games), there is absolutely no evidence that suggests that it would have sold better with DRM; if anything, the opposite is true. This is exactly why it’s pointless (or perhaps even dangerous) to waste time with the 90-95% number: It causes people to try to solve the wrong problem. Instead of trying to get pirates to pay, developers should invest their time in making their games more well known so that the 5-10% who will pay will be 5-10% of a bigger number of people.

    Pirates will not pay, and since they will play *some* game, I’d rather if it was mine.

  69. @Tracy King: The motives are perhaps the absolutely LEAST interesting part of the equation, because they are infinitely varied, ultimately mundane and wholly inscrutable. People pirate things to have things and it seems a sensible way to do it, despite the illegality, just like they smoke weed to get high because it’s a sensible ways to do it, despite the legality, or why they drive over the speed limit.

    I’ll put myself out there as a child of the online era: I downloaded still-copyrighted Atari 2600 games because the odds of finding those cartridges was essentially zero, and no one was collecting revenue off them in the meantime. So I pirated once because the media was orphaned. I had a copy of a flight simulator and the disk got scratched up in a move, so I pirated a copy, and minus the DRM and needing to run off the disk, it ran better. So I pirated because I paid for data, not a five cent piece of plastic, and it was the most sensible way to recover it. I pirated three episodes of an old ’80’s sci-fi show to see if bogging down my Netflix cue for with the box set was worth my time, since no one was streaming it- turned out it was. So I pirated to be better informed about a payment decision. I burned a friend a copy of a show off of TiVo because he couldn’t drive to my house to see it. I’m not even sure if I pirated there, given the odd language about time shifting and private use- I just know no one came to my door. When I was 14 I Napstered a couple albums because I had no money, the radio didn’t play them enough and they were always checked out at the library-albums I probably ended up listening to less than if I had waited for them on the radio. So yeah, I pirated because I had no money and wanted something and was more empowered than careful. I doubt there is any person that came of age alongside the Internet that doesn’t have a pretty similar rap sheet- from which I think we can draw just one conclusion- who cares? There’s no Big Answer down that road- there’s just a phenomenon to be dealt with, just like pot smoking or any of the other grey zone social ills, if they are indeed ills. I pay through the nose for my cable and my Netflix and my Steam games and my iTunes and there have been scattered instances when that was simply not the most sensible choice of action to do what (I dare say pretty damn harmless) thing I wished to. Call me a 5% pirate, throw your stone, and let the rest of us get on with it.

    As soon as the RIAA starts reporting losses greater than their revenues, it becomes pretty clear this can’t be a case of simple cut and dried theft- I can’t take a million dollars in gold from Ft. Knox and leave the building with two millions dollars in gold. And indeed, the smart content providers have stopped looking at their wares as artifacts but as experiences on the network- how would one even determine how many “copies” exist of a streamed Hulu show? And right there is the better perspective- piracy in the modern age is *best* characterized as a misuse of the network, not as theft of an object.

    We don’t have many analogous situations of misuse of a network, but the closest one I can think of is speeding. It’s ostensibly a crime because it deprives other drivers of safety, but essentially everyone does it a little because they can, because it’s dumb in some situations not to, etc, etc., and the cops clamp down from time to time with no real statistically detectable effect, mostly to bolster their revenues (and indeed, some German record labels have realized they make more per track from pirated music- they don’t have to pay for storage, hosting, or bandwidth, and get to carpetbomb sharing networks with unenforced threatening form letters and expect 25% of them to return fines no questions asked,) and whenever anyone takes a close look at the real safety data, it turns out time and time again that speed limits don’t actually make anyone the least bit safer, and often less safe thanks to distraction and unnatural speed choices, law-and-order raving aside. We expect people that end up actually doing people grievous, empirically demonstrable harm to be dealt with in a sensible fashion and then the rest of us get on with driving 5 over the limit at no harm to others.

  70. @Aristothenes: I can clearly understand why the motives are, for you, the least interesting part of this discussion. They simply get in the way of your rationalizing your behavior. Let me address your contempt for speed limits before I go back to your contempt for the owners of content.

    It is obvious that you, unlike me, have never been run into by someone who had no disregard for the law. I, and those who were in the car with me, do not agree that “…speed limits don’t actually make anyone the least bit safer….” Please provide your cites for this statistic, because I just can’t, from personal experience, accept it on its face. What furthers my skepticism is the time I spent as a Firefighter/EMT. None of the dead or injured I helped pry out of mangled cars would have agreed (had they been able) with your expert analysis of traffic safety. None of the police and highway patrol officers I have worked with have ever suggested that they enforce the law either periodically or “…mostly to bolster revenues….” Any of them would have called “Bullshit” on you and invited you to ride with them to the next accident where the bodies had to be removed from the vehicle in pieces. I’ve been there. You obviously have not.

    As to the various reasons you give for stealing other people’s intellectual property, were the following:
    “I downloaded still-copyrighted Atari 2600 games because the odds of finding those cartridges was essentially zero” Not, mind you, because you had an ownership interest in the intellectual property. You just HAD to have it.

    “I had a copy of a flight simulator and the disk got scratched up in a move, so I pirated a copy…” Apparently, because you screwed it up, they owed you another one. I suppose you steal shoes when you wear them out too.

    ” I burned a friend a copy of a show off of TiVo because he couldn’t drive to my house to see it.” I’m not clear on this one, but your rationalization wasn’t that you had any rights to the content, it was that it was just too inconvenient for you and your friend to obey the law. Good move.

    “When I was 14 I Napstered a couple albums because I had no money, the radio didn’t play them enough and they were always checked out at the library-albums I probably ended up listening to less than if I had waited for them on the radio. ” So basically you were a thief when you were younger too. This was because of poverty, inconvenience and, what they heck, you didn’t use what you stole all that much.

    I am sure you will answer this with another group of rationalizations like, all of the intellectual property should conform to your needs and wants and they’re all too rich and they need to learn to be modern and give away everything like they tried to do in the USSR (well until they found out that it didn’t work) and…..

    Your situational ethics is appalling. I’m just glad you don’t live close to me. I can’t afford the number of locks it would take to protect what I’ve paid for, from your decision that tonight it might be just too tough to run to the store.

  71. @Tracy King:

    You may be trying to explain why VCR/Tapes aren’t a good analogy, but you’re failing. They’re a great analogy. The record/movie companies are making the same arguments now, with the same lack of rationality that they did then.

    You guys don’t understand: the bits are just going to get easier to copy. If your business model is based on preventing bit copying, you are simply screwed, and need to figure out a different way to make money.

    Skeptically speaking, this is the only possible position. To base a business model on a manifestly false view of reality is stupid, and if we buy into it as a society, we’re going to end up with unreasonable restrictions and constant monitoring… because the copy prevention is impossible. Trying to stop the impossible will neccesarily require draconian measures. We need to think of something else.

  72. @Katherine: It is a great idea, but it’s not feasible for most artists.

    ——–

    Cory Doctorow talks about this at great length. Basically, he calls BS on that idea. Most artists are going to fail, and the only chance you have of not failing is to be noticed, and the best way of being noticed and getting popular is GIVING YOUR STUFF AWAY!

  73. @Old Geezer: Let me give you an example of pure motives costing money to large corporations.

    Let’s say I own a machine shop, that I keep in my garage. Let’s further say that no one else on my block has any power tools, say because of some power surge, or because they’re all idiots. It doesn’t matter.

    Now, if I open up my shop as a lending zone, and everyone on the block takes me up on that, rather than buy or rebuy their own power tools, I am quite literally taking business away from the tool companies. These people would have bought power drills and table saws because those things come up from time to time here in the suburbs, and it’s a great disadvantage not to have them.

    So, if the makers of the power tools dislike that I am taking their business in such a way, do they have the right to come to me and say, “stop this or we’ll take legal action against you?”

    Why is it different for digital files? It’s perfectly legal to rip the music from CDs I’ve bought, and I do because it’s convenient. What right does a record company have to say to me, “this song you bought and paid for, you’re not allowed to share it with other people, even temporarily, because it might hurt our sales?”

    As well, I’ve downloaded a few albums, because there was literally no way to order or find them. The band has broken up, so I can’t buy straight from them, the stores in STL don’t have any copies, and there’s nothing for sale on Amazon. I have spent several days by now looking for some way to give them money, and no avenue is open to me. Is it some great sin to take something when 1. nobody will notice it’s gone, because it isn’t, and 2. it is literally impossible for me to acquire it more legitimately? I guess I just don’t see how that works. It’s like copying the works of an obscure Roman poet from an old library.

    @sethmanapio: I’ve seen bands written about in both local and national magazines that were only there because they were giving their music away for free online.

    Which reminds me, http://ptesquad.com/

  74. Old Geezer, I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding the difference between singular, tangible, physical objects, and plentiful, easily copied, intangible bits of data.

    The whole point here is that no data shows that pirating actually significantly hurts business, so it is not horrendously amoral to pirate, especially under certain circumstances that people here have given. Your greed analogies are so loose that you may as well say not giving away every penny except what you need to buy food is greedy. Well yeah, people do things for personal gain all the time. The major question, in my book, is whether it is doing damage, or whether it is causing gain. I’d say greater access to unprecedented amounts of information is a good thing for society, especially if there are proven business models (and there are, and there are more to come) that work within this framework

    There is no difference between buying one movie per month, and buying one movie per month and torrenting “illegally” 500 others, except the world watches more movies under the second scenario.

    @ZenMonkey:
    It’s been shown several times that World of Goo was pirated LESS than average, and it’s been shown that highly pirated games do not sell worse — in fact, people who pirate more media tend to buy more media — and World of Goo would likely not have sold any better, and, in fact, probably worse, if nobody was capable of pirating it . Indie developers are no worse off because of pirating. Please find data that shows otherwise and I’ll listen, but until then you’re not looking at the facts.

  75. @Old Geezer:
    Please, let’s put the ad hominem histrionics on the back burner. We’re here for enlivening and enlightening debate, and civility is generally a handy tool in rooting for the truth.

    Contempt might be a strong word for my thoughts on speed limits, if it is really pressing to address this particular tangent. Off the bat, your personal assumption about my driving experiences are more than a bit incorrect. I’m well acquainted with traffic collisions, thanks, and if one was really in need of a night of macabre entertainment, I’m sure I could locate x-rays of screwed-together pelvises, maybe even track down that last sliver of glass in my face too small to cut out, if one desired a souvenir.

    That familiarity does not mean I am unwilling to ask questions about what elements of the vast web of traffic rules, technologies, and enforcement techniques are the ones that actually serve to keep motorists safe, and which are unsubstantiated attempts to insulate drivers from risk with words on paper. There is a constellation of factors that lead to a collision, and singling out above-posted speed as the one knob to turn in the midst of a bevy of other reckless behaviors risks missing the forest for one particular tree. You are welcome to ask for data- granted, said data is complicated by the fact that data in the modern era from truly limit-free roads is hard to come by, but it does as a body seem to suggest that most drivers select a safe speed based upon conditions and road geometry in real time irrespective of the posted limit, that speed limits on low-speed roads are irrelevant, and that increasing freeway speed limits decreased fatalities by shifting traffic to safer roads.

    http://www.uctc.net/papers/069.pdf – the increased 65mph limit cut fatalities.

    http://trb.metapress.com/content/653hl14607h71267/ – Don’t know if you have academic access, but the gist is that speed compliance is not a predictor of safety and most drivers select a safe speed based on observed factors irregardless of signage.

    http://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/sl-irrel/index.html – Most posted limits are beneath the 45th percentile of the actual speed of the traffic-in short, most people are speeding.

    http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/speed/images/fig1.gif – Traffic fatalities are strongly correlated with deviation from mean traffic speed (which as above is generally far above posted limits) with the lowest accident rates on freeways being associated with slightly-faster than average drivers- what one would assume are the talented but not cocky. Again, in short, speeding with their neighbors is keeping them safe.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/features/archive/in_1998_speed_still_didn_t_kill-column/not_all_laws_help_page_2 – More of the same

    And just for good measure- http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html?pg=2&topic=traffic&topic_set= – Stop signs don’t save lives either.

    Messy data, sure. The takeway lesson, though, is that I have far more cause to be concerned with the reckless (which may include recklessly fast, to be sure) than the simply faster-than-posted.

    Back to the topic at hand. The laundry list of rebuttals was perhaps a little much, but so be it. The point was that a question was asked about why what is a majority in some broad and growing demographics engage in a frowned upon behavior, as though that would somehow illuminate the subject, and I was pointing out that one could spin one’s wheels just as uselessly trying to tease apart the thousand good and bad reasons people engage in any other activity. I wasn’t seeking validation or particularly trying to justify those instances- at least one definitely warrants a “bad choice” stamp in long hindsight, but if you’re of the mind that bygone Napstering indicates a character flow of sufficient scale to threaten your toolshed, you are a) similarly threatened by most of the computer literate world, and indeed, likely most of the denizens of this board, and b) missing an important part of the puzzle. Indeed, the simple statement that you would consider mild engagement in one activity to be a “gateway drug” to the other is a pretty potent indication you are not “grokking” the forces at work in this changing information sphere.

    Those forces are, to put it mildly, engaged in the opening volleys of a battle to determine just what it means to own data in a networked world. We’ve watched some of the first engagement- the bevy of legislation that appeared when MP3 players and CD burners hit the market.

    Record companies were operating under the model that someone was purchasing a piece of plastic, and then technologies appeared that were essentially predicated on the notion that what was being purchased were bits, delivered on a piece of plastic. Legal battles ensued, and for some time (and apparently still so in the UK) anyone that loaded up their Rio to go running or made a mix CD for their car was a pirate guilty of absconding with the purchase price of a CD. But then everyone came to their senses, the record companies decided that was really being purchased was not one, but SIX licenses for the bits contained on a disc, the prosecutions of device manufacturers stopped, the record companies went on with being music, and a whole class of people stopped being pirates and could get on with their jogging.

    Timeshifting was another one. TiVo spent a fair amount of time in deep water because the networks argued that not taking ads and content together was equivalent to robbing them, and making a perfect copy of the record of bits of a live broadcast was piracy, and burning a DVD from that was piracy again. Squabbles ensued, courts told the networks to calm down, TiVo users were allowed to step out from the pirate shadow, and everyone continued making money as before.

    The practical business side is following suit. iTunes got better sales when they realized they could sell a better product than people could pirate for free if they dropped the DRM enforcing their six-license vision of downloaded data and let people do as they please, as indeed they could if they copied, gave away, or borrowed a physical copy. And contrary to your rather colorful vision of me stealing shoes when they wear out, the existence of platforms like Steam is a pretty telling indication that content makers are onboard with the notion that when a game is purchased, someone is paying to have its bits at their beck and call from platform to platform, with the growth of the Internet data cloud rendering questions of where it is stored and how many discrete copies exist a question it is quite literally impossible to answer.

    And if we might continue to wander through your particular laundry list- abandonware, or software whose copyright belongs to organization that do not support it or do not exist, such as those Atari games, is currently in a state of officially sanctioned legal limbo- the power-that-be have come out and said if there is no possibility of money on the line, they are calling it decriminalized- but even there, recent years have seen the act of cracking copy protection on abandonware rendered legal, and again, a whole lot of people doing a pretty ordinary thing stopped being pirates when people came to their senses.

    Call them rationalizations if you like (and the Soviet comparison was especially delightful) but I’d first ask that you furnish exactly what activities slot into the same moral socket that a secondhand bookstore fills, or a lending library, or a loan to a friend, when there is no object that can trade hands and the act of transfer involves the creation of another set of identical bits. And yes, I recognize the difference between the distribution of content for free and for profit. One is piracy, the other is counterfeiting.

    In the meantime the rest of the world, business and law including, will be continuing to take steps down the path of adjourning this prolonged trial in which theft on a vast is charged, but no financial losses can be detected, no inventory is found depleted, and no provision was made on the part of the “warehouse” owners for their goods to be treated akin to their pre-digital equivalents.

    The organizations that realize the oncoming verdict will make money, the ones that do not will starve, and the law will come around to realizing that, like Prohibition, their time is better served going after people doing actual harm (as indeed is already emerging as the case- courts have essentially stopped issuing fines for the ticket price of files and simply asking those files be unplugged from p2p networks.)

    You don’t need your locks on account of me- far, far from it. I’m a far bigger fan of chipping in to defend the fort from the brigands myself. But a looking glass to peer into a future might be of use, because there is a whole profoundly odd informal economy waving back. Just wait until your car was designed by open-source collaboration from chunks of abandonware plans and was assembled by fablabs in your neighbor’s basement and paid for in a currency belonging to a country that only exists in a server farm, and is actually not something you own, but is furnished as a car-availability service (oh wait, all that has happened) and we’ll talk again to see if mixtapes by broke 12-year olds are still worthy of alerting the magistrate to a villain in their midst.

  76. @ZachTP: There is a fundamental flaw in your otherwise well crafted analogy. Assume, instead, that you own a tool store. Now assume that, because I don’t like the fact that I have to pay for a tool, I go to a friend, we break into your store and steal enough tools for our own use, for all of our friends and their friends and, in addition, loudly proclaim that it is just unfair that anybody should be upset about this, as the store probably makes enough money anyway. Now I know that you have to feed your family and pay the rent on the store and keep the lights on, but my friends and I really wanted those tools and your business model of having locks on the door is so old fashioned. And anyway, there is a commune in Berkley that does this, so why don’t you? Oh, and I couldn’t find those tools anywhere else, so I stole them.

    Those are all pretty silly excuses for taking something that belongs to some else, not out of need, but simply out of want.

    @Aristothenes: Well, I guess you’ve thoroughly researched the speed thing. I’ll post all your references in the Trauma Centers so the doctors will know that speed wasn’t the cause. Most of the ones I know have a good sense of humor.

    As to your continued justification for people who steal intellectual property I guess you win there too. I’ll just have to change my way of thinking. I was really thinking a nice 52″ LCD TV would be better to watch football on than the lousy 39 incher that I paid for. Since someday there will be places that just hand them out I might as well start the trend. Perhaps you’ll me as I carry it out the store. No heavy lifting on your part. You just tell the security guard how Samsung will make enough money that this one set won’t matter, I really really wanted it but was too impoverished to buy it… Wait a minute why am I telling you what to say. I”m sure you’ve got a whole inventory of ready answers.

    Don’t bother to answer this one. I’m going to be out looking at new TVs. Maybe some cars… Why the world’s positively wide open to the things I can steal and then rationalize reasons for. It’s a whole new era! You’ve opened my eyes!

  77. @Old Geezer: I fail to see how owning a store fits the situation better. When I’ve paid for my music, and I can’t share it. They’ve already got my money.

    But I’m somehow not free to do with my legally purchased property the same things I could do with a hammer, i.e. lend it to a friend.

    Is there an ethical problem with making another copy of a hammer? Why is data different?

    To try a different tack, what exactly is it that makes theft immoral? If it’s because you’re preventing someone else from using their own property, then file sharing cannot be immoral in the same way as theft, because the original owner still possesses his copy.

    It can’t be because I’ve acquired something without paying for it, because if that were the case, the settlement of the Louisiana purchase would have been immoral on the same grounds, which is patently ridiculous.

    On those same grounds, picking fruit, hunting, and for that matter mining would be immoral. To mine, I may have to invest resources, but so do burglars, if they hope to not get caught.

    So, why is theft immoral, and how does that apply to file-sharing?

  78. @ZachTP: “I fail to see how owning a store fits the situation better. When I’ve paid for my music, and I can’t share it. They’ve already got my money. ” I see your point clearly and, frankly have no problem with you giving your DVD away or selling it at a swap meet. I also don’t mind you gathering a group of friends together and allowing everybody to listen. I do, however, (and this is where the you-owning-the-store analogy comes in) have a problem with you thinking that, because you have paid me for one item, you have the right or duty to make infinite copies to give to your friends, their friends and people you’ve never met or known, simply because I’ve been paid once.

    “Is there an ethical problem with making another copy of a hammer? Why is data different?” Yes, there is both an ethical and legal problem with copying my hammer. The manufacturer spent research and development time and money to create the hammer in the exact form in which you bought it. He patented his design in order to have the exclusive right to manufacture a hammer of that particular design. He has a right to recoup his R&D investment and to make a reasonable profit on that investment. You and I can debate for ever just what constitutes a “reasonable” profit, but neither of us has the right to arbitrarily decide and act upon our own definition of the answer. Society has set up a system for that. Generally, under that system, people who violate a trademark are fined and/or jailed for it. If they sell or give away exact copies of that hammer, they are liable to the original patent-holder for damages and penalties. Do you at all see a parallel between the time a software developer puts into creating his product and the time the hammer maker puts into his? Each is probably derivative in nature, but each came up with an idea and developed it to the point of marketability before you came along and wanted to copy it.

    To those who suggest that I am opposed to lending tools or re-selling them, I am not. If I lend you my hammer, then I don’t have it any more. One person bought it and only one person can use it. Ditto for re-selling it. If you have it, I don’t. If I want another one, I have to buy it, thereby compensating the seller for there being two of his hammers out there. If the seller wants to give away his product (back when I was in college, cigarette makers did this on campus all the time) then it is his decision to do so. But just because Marlborough did it doesn’t mean it is an absolutely enforceable business model that hammer makers must adhere to. I personally think that Apple should give away all I-phones because they make enough off of apps for it.

    I don’t think I could convince a judge of that if I was caught stealing, or copying I-phones. He would think my idea might have merit, but was theft anyway.

    “On those same grounds, picking fruit, hunting, and for that matter mining would be immoral.” Yes, they most certainly would be immoral if you were picking the fruit from my trees, hunting on my private game preserve without permission, and digging for gold on my property without my knowledge. Even worse, if you made money running buses to my property so others could use my resources.

    “So, why is theft immoral, and how does that apply to file-sharing?” So, are we to assume from that statement that you condone theft in all of its forms? Anyone has a free right to steal anything from anyone else? Really? If not, what are the degrees of theft that make some theft OK and others not? How do we distinguish between a “moral” theft and an “immoral” theft? Is it, as others have suggested, as thin a distinction as whether “I really wanted it and didn’t want to wait” or “They have them over there so I should be able to steal one so I can have it over here”? It applies to “file-sharing” because, if you paid for it once and you are spreading it around to everyone you know, you are stealing the developer’s right to sell that product to others. Even more so in the example given way up there where the young lady didn’t want to hang around in a crowded and hot computer lab at school so she made a copy for herself and one for each of her classmates. She thought it was just, I dunno, spreading the wealth. I see it as theft.

    We are a society of laws, however antiquated that may seem. It is what allows you to walk down the street and believe that a robber will be punished if he holds you up. It is what allows you to drive through an intersection with the belief that cars will stop at the stop sign on the crossing street. None of these laws are foolproof, especially against those who pick and choose amongst the various laws they want to follow.

    Let’s say that the law against you making a copy of a DVD for your own personal use is unreasonable. I agree. The fact that it is unreasonable makes it no less of a law. If your case is strong enough, convince the lawmakers to change the law. Do not use your rightful anger about this aspect of the law to decide that “nobody gets hurt” or that “I know when they’ve made enough money” or “I’m sticking it to the man.” If you’ve ever bought a new car, to my parents who never could afford one, you are the man.

    And please don’t defend the volume counterfeiters out there because they are the moral equivalent of you and me, only on a larger scale. They are, but not in a good way.

  79. Can’t believe the level of the arguments in this discussion:

    “””Now, if I open up my shop as a lending zone, and everyone on the block takes me up on that, rather than buy or rebuy their own power tools (…)””””

    1. It’s not only that they won’t keep the hammer, it’s also that you could only lend your hammer one person at a time, which keeps things simple. Compare that with any single pirated episode of Battlestar Galactica and the whatever million downloads it gets. Would you be lending your hammer to one million people every day? Less than one second of use per person? That doesn’t sound as a very convincing lending scheme. It would take some time for each person to get the hammer, don’t you think they’d buy their own? THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS. That’s why that whole analogy is completely misleading. Tangible goods can only go be lent to a certain extent, and that’s what makes producing them a viable business. It’s amazing how one pirate was saying “don’t you see the obvious differences between intangible data and tangible things?” and another pirate said “why can I share tangible stuff but I can’t share intangible stuff?”. Consistency -67.

    “””As well, I’ve downloaded a few albums, because there was literally no way to order or find them. The band has broken up, so I can’t buy straight from them, the stores in STL don’t have any copies, and there’s nothing for sale on Amazon.”””

    2. Yeah, right, I am sure people who download all the Rolling Stones discography also count them as dead :-D Most downloads are not from dead bands.

    “It’s like copying the works of an obscure Roman poet from an old library.”

    3. Is it? Which Roman will claim the intellectual property rights, exactly, Marius or Claudius?

    4. Again, is it? Try doing the same as when writing the poem and, instead of downloading the music, playing it yourself. You’ll see how much fun.

    “””Old Geezer, I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding the difference between singular, tangible, physical objects, and plentiful, easily copied, intangible bits of data.”””

    5. As I said in 1. Also, compare with: “I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding the difference between singular, tangible, physical objects, and plentiful, easily copied, intangible bits of data. If I steal your computer’s screen, wow that’s terrible because you can actually tell, but if I erase all your files, which are just easily copied, intangible bits of data, you don’t really loss anything.”

    “The whole point here is that no data shows that pirating actually significantly hurts business, so it is not horrendously amoral to pirate, especially under certain circumstances that people here have given.”

    6. No, the main reason is that if you violate the law you’re a criminal, and you do so by pirating. No business case is needed, It’s all about the law.

    “I’d say greater access to unprecedented amounts of information is a good thing for society, especially if there are proven business models”

    7. Not aware of any such model which is not backed up by some other investment. Even Facebook, if somebody were to be profitable, still needs powerful investors behind it.

    8. Amount of information does not amount to quality of information. And also, really good information is very, very expensive (unless you can claim that science does not need money to e.g. carry out research).

    9. The human brain can only process a subset of all that information.

    “There is no difference between buying one movie per month, and buying one movie per month and torrenting “illegally” 500 others, except the world watches more movies under the second scenario.”

    10. Compare with “There’s no difference between having a girlfriend and having a girlfriend and “illegally” fucking 500 other girls behind her, except I am a bigger fucker under the second scenario.”

    11. Producing those 500 movies costs money. Therefore, somebody pays it, or they wouldn’t be produced. As a result, you have the people who make the movie possible and are spending money for that, and then a growing community of pirates who enjoy the movie anyway, thus stealing the money paid by the former group. That way, the pirate saves money and can pay for more services than the first guy, while at the same time enjoying, through stealing, all the services the other guy has. Due to increased wealth, the pirate will get to have a stronger position in a capitalist society despite his utter lack of ethics (with the well-known long-term Wall Street-like consequences), whereas the guy who plays by the rules gets less and less because of being honest and having decency. Punished because of having personal ethics.

    As a result, I really want the good guys to protect themselves. They pay and make things possible, so they can enjoy whatever they pay for and do it exclusively, because in order to do that they have to give up something else. With the act of production comes the right of use.

    “””Record companies were operating under the model that someone was purchasing a piece of plastic”””

    According to this, given that computer software is just data and has no plastic, it can’t be being pirated. Go figure.

  80. @Skepthink: . No, the main reason is that if you violate the law you’re a criminal, and you do so by pirating. No business case is needed, It’s all about the law.

    ————

    Oh. Well, I guess we can all stop thinking now. We’ve defined what makes an act immoral: it’s illegal.

    Thanks. I’ll stop worrying about morals, ethics, right, wrong, reason, reality based analysis of profit and loss, and what’s even possible to prevent or do now that you’ve sewn things up with your masterful analysis of “illegal = amoral.”

    Does this work in all cases? Are all illegal acts immoral? And does it work in the converse, where legality conveys morality?

  81. @sethmanapio: You forgot how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and why is there air. Without trying to speak for Skepthink, I think that a good jumping off point for your questions might be, if society in general has declared something illegal and no one can seem to make the compelling argument that causes the laws to change, then should we act in defiance of the law just because it is convenient? Yes, there are occasions where the law defies morality. A good example of this was segregated lunch counters in the south. When the people who defied that law chose to do so, they did fully well knowing that, if society and the courts disagreed with them, they would go to jail. They were willing to risk the penalty to show they were right. Yet, when pirates steal intellectual property we do not (I certainly have not here) hear the statement, “I’d be willing to go to jail in defense of my principles.” Instead we hear, “I needed to play that game so I stole it. What’s wrong with that?”

    When you can give a good argument for the morality of stealing intellectual property solely for the convenience and benefit of the thief, I’ll be all ears.

  82. @Old Geezer: Yes, there is both an ethical and legal problem with copying my hammer.

    ————

    But wait… It’s totally legal to copy your hammer in every substantive detail and lend it to a friend. It might possibly be illegal to SELL it to a friend but certainly not to GIVE it to a friend. The only thing you can actually protect is the name on the hammer.

    So now I’m all confused, because you and skepthink were all like, agreeing and stuff, but now you’re saying that something legal is STILL immoral (and weirdly enough, illegal) because the manufacturer is entitled to make money, but skepthink had the exact opposite point that it doesn’t matter if they would make the money or not, it’s the legal status that really matters…

    What’s really strange to me is that both of you probably profess to be skeptics. But neither of you is even remotely willing to consider the possibility that current models of ownership and payment are simply obsolete in the face of current technology. That’s not reasonable: from player pianos to streaming audio, models of payment have had to adapt to the technology of the times. Reality based thinking would seem to dictate that the models shift in the face of this new technology.

    Instead, you seem to be taking an absolutist position that piracy is bad–regardless of whether it ultimately has negative consequences to the actual creator–because some absolute moral code prohibits you from exercising reason rather than dogma. And that criminalization of piracy is appropriate, despite the fact that it is either going to be completely ineffective or will have to be a ramped up version of our already draconian, industry driven rules, because you want people to be punished for breaking rules.

    I don’t understand your comfort with a police state, or your desire to stifle expression, or your need to control the flow of information, regardless of the consequences. I don’t get why punishment is more important to you than the actual, reality based impacts of the thing you call a crime. It seems pathological to me. It sounds like the mindset of drug warriors and control freaks.

  83. @Old Geezer: When you can give a good argument for the morality of stealing intellectual property solely for the convenience and benefit of the thief, I’ll be all ears.

    ———–

    No, you won’t. You’ve demonstrated that pretty convincingly so far. Such arguments have been made, and you continually make innapropriate and occasionally erroneous arguments about real goods, not bits. And you’ve completely ignored any reality based argument I’ve made about feasibility.

    Maybe you aren’t understanding this: if even moderately effective enforcement of the law requires turning your society into a totalitarian surveillance state, this is a good indication that the law is wrong.

  84. @Old Geezer: When you can give a good argument for the morality of stealing intellectual property solely for the convenience and benefit of the thief, I’ll be all ears.

    ——–

    By the way, this isn’t even the argument. You have never defended the right of anyone to control their intellectual property. You have fully agreed that I may read your book and lend it to a friend, even if I have perfect recall. So intellectual property isn’t the issue.

    The issue is control over when and how bits are copied and who is able to view them. If, for example, I burn a DVD in order to have convenient access to a DVD that I bought, for my own private use, this is piracy. But if I do the same with a CD, this is iTunes. Intellectual property clearly isn’t the issue.

    The issue is control: preventing you from modifying your media, from creating mixes or mashups (both probably illegal) even though these may be new forms are artistic expression that communicate something valuable to the world. Mash-ups, remixes, and satire are the tools of protest, and any legal system that seeks to stifle and ban those tools threatens your right to free speech.

  85. @sethmanapio: Thank you for tossing in a few well phrased point that were eluding me.

    As for the continuing tempest, I don’t think there is any more data to be thrown at the problem and remarkably little coming this way. It would indeed be a delightful world where laws were perfect artifacts, and we need only voice our complaints in petition and sit on our hands while oracles with perfect knowledge of the future crafted new legislation to couple to new technology, but we don’t.

    Instead we have obstinate bureaucratic systems interfacing with vested interests with more money than balls or foresight, and a populace that muddles through and hopes the law and business catch up and recognize the facts on the ground. We have judiciary functions for a reason- to deal with the rough business of actually trying out things in a real, complicated world.

    To argue that a steadily climbing, soon to be majority fraction of the world’s people should be expected to sit on their hands for smarter legislation (which, if people are indeed patiently sitting on their hands, will never come,) while faced with the possibility to enrich their existence with an activity that *cannot* be stopped, will *only* get easier and *demonstrably, empirically, does not,* within a first-order approximation, create economic victims is so absurd I struggle to find a comparable situation.

    And please, please let us bury the comparisons to tools. Tools and televisions and cars have quantifiable, finite marginal opportunity costs and are exclusionary, and that’s why they are wrong to steal. Sit down with a piece of scratch paper and draw some production and demand curves for a self-replicating system with zero per unit capital input, and tell me what value it ramps to. That little drawing means something really profound, and you can stand about and chant that nothing has changed, or you can try and figure out what the world looks like now.

    Because that landscape is changing, and the next wave of business giants, heroes, and magnates are the ones who have caught up with those facts and are adjusting their beliefs and behaviors accordingly. The Cory Doctorows and Radioheads and Sun Microsystems (who started giving away their OS years ago and instead sold support and implemenation and are now considered the spearpoint in Oracle’s plan to bring down IBM) that recognize that maybe in this world it isn’t so wrong to borrow and share certain classes of data, regardless of what the law says today (and before Creative Commons, there wasn’t a legal architecture to give away source code *even if you wanted to,* so once again, pirates led from the front) will prosper.

    The ones that do best will recognize O’Reilly’s Sixth Rule- any free service will be supplanted by a similar but more functional paid one, (though without the elimination of the free) as seems to be the case with Netflix and Steam.

    We’ve seen this a hundred times before- Sousa testifying before Congress on the evils of recorded music, insisting it was a crime against the nature of music and would lead to its destruction, instead watching the number of listeners, performers, and money in the system climb without limit, or vaudeville performers fearing for their livelihoods when they moved to radio and could no longer charge a listener a ticket price, instead essentially inventing a new licensing arrangement and a branch of stasistical mechanics and becoming richer than they could have imagined, or VCR makers being dragged before Congress that the levels of piracy apparent in VHS markets would doom the industry and instead become the source of most of their revenue.

    In each case, the early adopters of a technology were branded as pirates, existed outside the law, were persecuted by the organizations surrounding the media industries, and then had their activities ignored, sanctioned, or even transformed into the dominant form of business as the cash flows continued to grow and diversify.

    One might view such early adopters, outside the law, as villains who would have been better served to sit on their hands, another as innovators in technology, business, and public opinion, but we could play that particular Kant vs. Rand battle until there was nothing but pulp.

    As empiricists, really all we can say for certain is that the pirates were successively time and again proven right about the possibilities of the technology and the inevitable direction of the market, the moral perception of their actions shifted, the law and enforcement regimes and policies that went with it followed suit, and the doomsayers and moralizers were sent packing.

    File sharing is that disruptive technology, the attitudes of the Tim O’Reilly’s of the world are the first glimmers of the moral shift, the victories of the EFF are the first legal rumblings, and the streaming content and cloud software providers are the next-gen cash cows that supplant the free- as indeed one would expect given that the world is still filled with people with money that want content and delivery, and people with no money good at making content and delivery systems.

    Whether or not you view your arguments as in line with deep moral code is a untenable morass, but I can say with great confidence they will be viewed within a decade as every inch as quaint as the arguments of Sousa, when the victims continue to fail to appear and more content gets to more people as creators continue to get paid.

    There’s a great little short story, written in 1945 by George O. Smith called Pandora’s Millions, where thanks to a perfect, near-zero energy matter replicator (atoms get transmuted too) physical objects do indeed start following the same ramp-to-free economics of data. A priest confronts the mayor, in essence, of a community that fulfills its material needs from replicators, and the back and forth pretty well sums up this situation-

    “Don’t ever hope to keep your position by telling people that material made with a duplicator is a product of Hell, Devil, and Co., because they won’t believe it in the first place and there won’t be anything manufactured by any other means in the second place….”

    The reverend flushed. “They wouldn’t listen to my pleas that they forsake this devil’s invention.”

    “Naturally not. Work with this thing and you’ll come out all right. But you’ve got to revise your thinking as well as the rest of the world has had to revise theirs, or you’ll fall by the wayside. Now good day, Reverend, and I wish you luck.”

  86. Sethmanapio, I am commenting on your remarks (from my tone you can tell that I don’t expect a reply):

    “Oh. Well, I guess we can all stop thinking now. We’ve defined what makes an act immoral: it’s illegal. Thanks. I’ll stop worrying about morals, ethics, right, wrong, reason, reality based analysis of profit and loss.”

    I honestly ignore what specific BS you are spreading right now. Person X was trying to argue in favor of piracy by putting forward a business case which justified criminal behavior on the basis of its profitability, and I counter-argued by putting forward a legal case in which that business case was effectively showed to be a crime and, profitability aside, doing what was claimed would lead you to jail, which should normally prevail as a higher reason to oppose the contended point. If X’s argument was fine, then mine is just as fine. You can keep thinking what you want, I wasn’t talking about what you think, but about the laws currently in force. You understand the difference, right? Because otherwise, if you think reason is in any way currently guiding your actions on this topic and if you really don’t feel logically compelled to stick to the current legal framework because Reason is on your side, then please prove it, go ahead and send a letter to your local police station detailing all your pirate history. If you haven’t or you won’t, you’re simply being incoherent, which is hardly surprising, BTW.

    “It’s totally legal to copy your hammer in every substantive detail and lend it to a friend.”

    Of course, we all know that all the hammers people lend and borrow from each other are not the originally purchased hammers, but identical copies of them we all spend our Sunday mornings crafting. You’re basically stating the commonality of a situation which virtually never holds, an absolute empirical impossibility. Congratulations, “skeptic”.

    “It might possibly be illegal to SELL it to a friend but certainly not to GIVE it to a friend. The only thing you can actually protect is the name on the hammer.”

    Keep going. After the above, this just adds more bullshit to your personal count.

    “I burn a DVD in order to have convenient access to a DVD that I bought, for my own private use, this is piracy.”

    Man, WHY THE F*** would you burn a DVD of a DVD you bought? Don’t you have the DVD already? You’re making no sense whatsoever.

    “But if I do the same with a CD, this is iTunes.”

    Burning a CD of a CD for my own use? Again, I have never done that. And in any case, the legal rules of iTunes may indeed be different from those for DVDs, it depends of the licenses and user agreements and all that legal stuff THAT YOU AGREE WITH when you click on “I accept”. Don’t pretend it’s not there, you must have eyes if you download movies illegally.

    “skepthink had the exact opposite point that it doesn’t matter if they would make the money or not, it’s the legal status that really matters”

    Did you really dream that? In your dream, what color was my hair? Because basically I didn’t even start to discuss the circumstance of making money or not, mainly because legal considerations settle the issue beforehand, not because financial issues don’t matter, as OldGeezer may contend on his part. From my not addressing a point you’re inferring that I opposed that point and thus disagreed, which is again as false as it can get, pure non sequitur. Congratulations again, “skeptic”.

    “What’s really strange to me is that both of you probably profess to be skeptics.”

    Not really, but it doesn’t matter anyway, now you’re simply ad-hominemizing, again bullshit. Our personal affiliations are not an issue here.

    “But neither of you is even remotely willing to consider the possibility that current models of ownership and payment are simply obsolete in the face of current technology.”

    You forgot to add: “… And since I believe that my new, undeclared, unspecified, undetermined, deregulated model is right, I hereby steal everything from you and offer no viable alternative content monetization option for the owners of the property I steal”.

    BTW, your whole point is, well, pointless. Why exactly must information digitization be taken to call for abolishing private property? You could keep all the current technology and all the current ownership models simply by eliminating pirates and other scum. Therefore, the technology in itself does not logically imply any particular business model. Again, a non sequitur. Actually, the just passed Net Neutrality legislation (shame on it, BTW) could have allowed internet providers to very efficiently regulate traffic in favor of legitimate content owners and in such a way that pirates and other scum would choke effectively. Obviously, Hufftington Post-like self-delusional ignorance of facts has prevailed and the Internet will remain as an increasingly money-losing freeway of piracy and porn unless corporations come up with a way to make it work/profitable.

    “Reality based thinking would seem to dictate that the models shift in the face of this new technology.”

    Rather the contrary.

    “an absolutist position that piracy is bad–regardless of whether it ultimately has negative consequences to the actual creator”

    You seem to have some doubt about those two claims. Let me clarify: a) Piracy is bad; b) It does have ultimately negative consequences to the actual creator (which you would know if you were a creator of something, but your greatest achievement in life is obviously being a pirate of somebody else’s property).

    “because some absolute moral code prohibits you from exercising reason rather than dogma.”

    I prefer dogma to parasitism.

    “be a ramped up version of our already draconian, industry driven rules”

    Yeah, let’s all put an end to the abuse of the Big Pharma!!! Oh, wait, wasn’t that the topic? You just sounded like Jenny MacCarthy.

    “because you want people to be punished for breaking rules.”

    It’s not about whether one wants, but that they must, out of coherence with self-imposed rules. You live in this society? You watch e.g. Shakira? Then you abide by the rules that make it possible. If you don’t want to pay, don’t pirate what I pay for, go get your free meal instead. What an utter and uber-rationalized lack of decency!

    “I don’t understand your comfort with a police state”

    Now you sound like anti-healthcare ignorants: is calling for proper regulation a call for a police state/socialism? Plainly idiotic.

    “or your desire to stifle expression, or your need to control the flow of information, regardless of the consequences (…) It sounds like the mindset of drug warriors and control freaks.”

    And you sound like pirate scum, but calling names does not make your tons of bullshit true.

    “Intellectual property clearly isn’t the issue.”

    Probably not, if you don’t have an intellect.

  87. @Skepthink: A lot of people make copies of their Pixar/Disney DVDs so they can let their children handle the DVDs. Some people prefer to use copies instead of originals for movies they watch regularly. DVDs are not invincible, and some devices (Xbox 360s, for example) have been known to scratch DVDs beyond recoverability. So while I personally see no reason to copy any of my DVDs, other people have valid reasons to do so.

    As for your claim that piracy has “ultimately negative consequences to the actual creator”, the evidence seems to suggest that the opposite is usually true.

  88. @Lukas: “A lot of people make copies of their Pixar/Disney DVDs so they can let their children handle the DVDs. Some people prefer to use copies instead of originals for movies they watch regularly.”

    Can you watch a DVD so often that the DVD wears out? I wasn’t aware of that. I’m tired of watching my LoTR collection and it still plays as well as the first day. Nobody can possibly watch any movie more than I watch those, so I see no argument here. On the other hand, I am almost sure license agreements would allow you to make copies for your family (i.e. your legal dependents). That wouldn’t be unreasonable at all, but nobody proposed that. Instead of writing to the companies, follow the rules and change the standards by convention, they started pirating left and right because that way they got all they wanted for free. As in science, the easy, “homeopathic” way is cheaper, but only because it harms.

    “some devices (Xbox 360s, for example) have been known to scratch DVDs beyond recoverability”

    Try to use legal/supported devices and you will have as few issues as I’ve had.

    “other people have valid reasons to do so.”

    I can’t see any.

    “As for your claim that piracy has “ultimately negative consequences to the actual creator”, the evidence seems to suggest that the opposite is usually true.”

    Of course, I am not aware of any such evidence. I only know all the artists, governments, industry leaders, decision-makers and consumers who say otherwise. Did you know decent people also exist? You’re probably dismissing them as “non-evidence” because you’re so into piracy that you’ve actually lost track of real people paying real money, but they’re there and they all understand that the only reason why piracy SEEMINGLY has no immediately obvious negative consequences on creators is because a majority of people still pay for content.

    Luckily for everybody, decent people’s honesty is persistent. But you can only push it so far.

  89. @Skepthink: Good post. I do want to correct an assumption that you may have drawn from some of my comments. I truly do believe that financial issues matter. I’m not sure where I failed to properly express that.

    I do not believe Sethmanapio knows the color of your hair simply because the unicorn you were riding his dream dazzled him. My guess is that he will drag out the old “…well if you still have the information after I have pirated it, then there is no harm…” defense for theft. I picture him (hair color and all) holding the exit door open for all of his friends to sneak into the theater. Then I picture him telling the arresting officer that the projectionist would still have to show the movie, the movie would still be in the can afterward, and anyway they’ve made enough off of the movie that letting all his friends in for free would create no economic harm to the studio or the theater owner. Lukas would be right there with him showing the officer all of his “proof” for each of these statements.

    I can also picture the officer’s response. As they say, hilarity ensues.

  90. @Skepthink: The idea is not that you “wear out” a disc, the idea is that children scratch it, or that it gets damaged by a faulty player, or that you drop it (which actually has damaged one of my DVDs). The more often you handle a disc, the more likely it is to get damaged.

    It’s nice that you’ve had no problems with your Xbox. Neither have I. However, a lot of people had problems with faulty Xbox 360 drives which scratched disks. If I remember correctly, the problem occurs with some Xboxes if you accidentally move it while it reads from the DVD. In some cases, this causes the disc to touch part of the drive, which causes severe damage.

    As for the evidence you are not aware of, here’s an example:
    http://labs.timesonline.co.uk/blog/2009/11/12/do-music-artists-do-better-in-a-world-with-illegal-file-sharing/

    Similarly, there does not seem to be any kind of negative correlation between piracy rate and profit for movies or games.

    Indeed, I honestly don’t put much stock in what people say, especially if said people are trying to get new laws passed. People also say that homeopathy healed them. That doesn’t make it so. So you’re correct, I do dismiss this as non-evidence.

    And finally, I will repeat that I write videogames, and that I make all of my income on copyrighted works I produce (presumably, most people here do). I do not pirate anything. I’m not sure where you got the impression that I do, or why you feel the need to attack me on a personal level, or what exactly I said that made you angry.

  91. @Lukas: I apologize if I sounded too strong to you, you’re right that my argument is mostly with Sethmanapio and I shouldn’t project my anger on you. On the other hand, however, I must observe that you seem to have sided with criminals on this debate, and I cannot honestly be indifferent about that.

    Anyway, your points have some validity (even if I take them to have a different interpretation), so I apologize for not making any distinction between you and Sethmanapio. It clearly exists.

    Now, as for your points proper:

    a) DVD scratched by children? Deny the children their monthly allowance every time it happens and it won’t happen twice. They have to learn not to scratch CDs some time in their lives, you can’t be copying every single CD. BTW, an isolated domestic accident does not justify a mass-piracy business model.

    b) DVD damaged by a faulty player? You can claim that! Complain to the company, they should pay the DVD and replace the player. If it’s a general problem and enough people complain, you won’t have to break the law to get what you’re actually granted by the law. Just enforce current laws, don’t break them because of failing to follow them in the first place.

    c) The more often you handle a disc, the more likely it is to get damaged? Well sure, but as I told, I have repeated the uber-complex operation of putting a LoTR DVD into my laptop’s DVD player one hundred times, and it still plays. God, Netflix must spend the whole day pirating DVDs to make for all the scratched DVDs they must get back from users!!! As a matter of fact, I am a very happy Netflix customer and I’ve never received a scracthed DVD, and never scratched one, to the best of my knowledge. If I can do it, even Sethmanapio can do it.

    “I honestly don’t put much stock in what people say, especially if said people are trying to get new laws passed (…) So you’re correct, I do dismiss this as non-evidence.”

    Then your link is also non-evidence to me and we won’t get anywhere. We are all happy, you keep stealing and we keep paying so that you can steal… or we can just pass new laws. Which way do you think we will go?

    “I write videogames, and that I make all of my income on copyrighted works I produce”

    Right, but you don’t say if your income is a lot or not, and you don’t give the piracy rate for your products, nor the scratching rate, and also seem to think that videogames are like movies or music, which they are not (particularly if we talk about games which require subscriptions for online playing and where piracy may not even be an issue, etc.)

    Whatever. Keep piracy going, you’re destroying the only remaining viable American industry.

  92. @Skepthink: As I have said before, I personally think that pirating media is unethical. This is entirely orthogonal from the question as to whether it is a problem.

    As I have also said, I personally don’t feel the need to copy my DVDs, I merely acknowledge that there are valid reasons for doing so. I think the children who watch Disney movies typically don’t yet get allowances, so I’m not sure that’s a valid way of keeping them from scratching DVDs. I also don’t think Microsoft replaced anyone’s scratched DVDs (although I could be wrong). It’s also true that making private copies of DVDs has nothing to do with piracy, except that anti-piracy measures makes it harder to do.

    Why exactly is my link not evidence?

    As for your specific questions:

    – My income is an average American upper-middle-class income. Roughly 60% of it is from licenses to software applications. The rest is pretty equally divided between games, freelancing as a programmer, and writing tech articles for various publications

    – I do neither track nor know the piracy rate of my games. I assume it’s about industry average, 90-95%, but I have no evidence for this at all

    – Not sure what the scratching rate of a digitally delivered item would be

    – It’s true that piracy is less of an issue for games with subscriptions. Nothing I do relies on subscriptions

    And, as I’ve said probably half a dozen times by now, I do not pirate media. Also, I’m not American.

  93. @Lukas: “I’m still not sure what I said that warrants such responses.” Perhaps I’ve been too harsh, but here’s the thing. I do not appreciate the attitude that has prevailed here that, my mistake equals your loss. I owned a business for a while and had to figure out what I could charge everybody so that I made a decent living and did not overcharge anybody. I could not have stayed in business if every person who dropped and broke what I sold to them decided that I owed them a free replacement. Here is what you said up above: “The idea is not that you “wear out” a disc, the idea is that children scratch it, or that it gets damaged by a faulty player, or that you drop it” Notice that each of these actions are the result of your own use of the product, not of the maker of the product. Now, you want to lay off that fault on the maker of the product instead of manning-up and saying, “I scratched this, MY machine scratched this, MY kids ruined this, I guess I’ll have to go buy another one.”

    Refer back to my movie theater analogy. In some peoples’ mind it’s no loss to the producer of the movie, the theater, or the guy who bought a ticket, that someone sneaks in to watch for free. I happen to think it’s just patently immoral. Now, to extend the argument to fit your thesis, what if, halfway through the movie, your kid throws up and the whole family decides they have to leave? Does everybody get to attend the next night for free because your personal circumstances led to your not getting all that you wanted out of the price of admission? What kind of no-fault world do you live in?

    “I honestly don’t put much stock in what people say, especially if said people are trying to get new laws passed.” So I guess you don’t have much use for democracy. How sad, and yet you wonder why something you said set me off. Sometimes new laws are enacted to solve problems like the ones that plague you. But, since you can’t have it both ways, I guess you would oppose them as well because someone tried to get them passed.

    Careful with that gun. Your foot isn’t the only thing you could shoot yourself in.

  94. @Skepthink: Man, WHY THE F*** would you burn a DVD of a DVD you bought? Don’t you have the DVD already? You’re making no sense whatsoever.

    ————

    Good point. The only good point you made, actually.

    I rephrase: if I rip a DVD to my media server in order to have a convenient copy for personal use, that’s privacy. If I do the same with a CD, that’s iTunes.

  95. @Skepthink: BTW, your whole point is, well, pointless. Why exactly must information digitization be taken to call for abolishing private property? You could keep all the current technology and all the current ownership models simply by eliminating pirates and other scum.

    ——————

    Well, first of all, I never made a comment that implied that we should eliminate private property in any way. All I actually said was that you may not be able to use the same ownership and payment model for bits as you do for other things. That’s because bit copying cannot be prevented.

    Second, this can only be accomplished (in the case of digital media) by the creation of a complete surveillance state that inventories your hard drive on a weekly basis.

    Like I said, I’m not sure why you are so comfortable with this idea, or why you think that feasibility isn’t an important aspect of public policy.

    It’s sort of like how you continue to act as if piracy is going to destroy the music, game, and movie industry, in the complete absence of any evidence to support that claim. And in fact, people do make money despite piracy, so your claim is contradicted by the current facts and by the lessons of history.

    As for the rest of your post… you realize that if you just make stuff up that you imagine I would say, while ignoring the things I actually did say, you’re arguing with yourself, right?

  96. @Old Geezer: Then I picture him telling the arresting officer…

    ———

    Yes, but aside from your fantasy about me being punished for a crime I didn’t commit based on things I didn’t say, do you have any response to anything I *did* say?

    It’s odd that you lauded skepthink on his post. I mean, you are the one who created the hammer copying example that he was ridiculing…

  97. @Skepthink: On the other hand, I am almost sure license agreements would allow you to make copies for your family (i.e. your legal dependents).

    ———-

    And you are in fact 100% wrong. So basically, you’ve made an excellent case that you don’t understand the issues, the law, the technology, the feasibility of preventing piracy, the actual harm to the industry…

    But you do seem to be able to use my name in a sentence. Good job.

  98. Sethmanapio,

    “you realize that if you just make stuff up that you imagine I would say, while ignoring the things I actually did say, you’re arguing with yourself, right?”

    That explains why your replies were making sense! :-D

    “It’s odd that you lauded skepthink on his post. I mean, you are the one who created the hammer copying example that he was ridiculing…”

    False, false, false. As even you could realize had you the good will to ever admit some truth at all, I was ridiculing pirate scum’s strawmen of OldGeezer’s example, not his own. You just cannot help it, distorting and lying, can you?

    “I never made a comment that implied that we should eliminate private property in any way.”

    So, the World now knows that when Sethmanapio writes “the possibility that current models of ownership and payment are simply obsolete”, the fact that those models are based on private property and the claim that such models are “obsolete”, do not mean that those models must be changed; rather, the model of private property is obsolete, but we just keep it and conspicuously do nothing about it. You really haven’t realized that if you steal and you propose making stealing legal, you’re changing the model of private property, right? (i.e. the model of not stealing). Just saying.

    “That’s because bit copying cannot be prevented. (…) this can only be accomplished (in the case of digital media) by the creation of a complete surveillance state that inventories your hard drive on a weekly basis.”

    BS, as usual. Just make download speed dependent on fees for accessing whatever content is downloaded, and you will make torrenting effectively impossible, thus eradicating piracy for most purposes. As I told, that’s what the Net Neutrality legislation COULD HAVE BEEN: the more traffic, the more you pay, which could easily reflect on what the user is charged (the more you download, the more you pay). Also, the kind of information Google collects would be a good starting point to fight against pirates, and nobody complains about Google, so they can’t complain about other companies doing the same.

    “It’s sort of like how you continue to act as if piracy is going to destroy the music, game, and movie industry, in the complete absence of any evidence to support that claim.”

    I’ll do the math for you: if service/product X costs 10, and I pay 5 and you steal 25, then the industry loses -35. Yes, it’s wrong because I said I was doing the math FOR you.

    “people do make money despite piracy”

    I already explained that (you better read my comments before replying). It’s like herd immunity, you pirates only get things for free because the ones paying for them are still the majority. That’s why things are profitable DESPITE piracy. Now, go ask record companies if they are making money despite piracy.

    “so your claim is contradicted by the current facts and by the lessons of history.”

    I guess record companies are no longer “facts” because they’re already “history”, due exactly to piracy. Ask also Blockbuster how’s the movie business going. I dunno which world you live in.

    “On the other hand, I am almost sure license agreements would allow you to make copies for your family (i.e. your legal dependents). —- And you are in fact 100% wrong. So basically, you’ve made an excellent case that you don’t understand the issues, the law, the technology, the feasibility of preventing piracy, the actual harm to the industry…”

    Taken right from my iTunes Help:

    “If your computer is connected to other computers over a local network, you can share items in your library with up to five of those computers. (…) You can use Home Sharing with up to five computers.”

    WTF else do you want, people? You buy one thing and get the RIGHT to share it with five other people as a part of the license. And you still complain?

    You’re just nuts. I don’t want to play God, when I was younger I also thought it was cool to download things, but then I grew up and now that I am an adult with a job I am proud to say that, by now, the stuff I’ve bought exceeds by far what I’ve ever downloaded (plus I have the original covers for the discs :-)

    “But you do seem to be able to use my name in a sentence. Good job.”

    You should see the sentence that I am writing right now. I’ve used your name not just once, but twice! Don’t you feel doubly important already?

  99. @Old Geezer: You’re saying if Microsoft produces broken Xboxes which destroy somebody’s disc, then it’s the owner’s fault and not Microsoft’s, and the owner of the disc should man up and buy a new one, and creating a copy for his own use was theft. And you do not appreciate *my* attitude. Wow. I guess at this point, this discussion is truly over.

  100. No one here is suggesting the end of private intellectual property. What is being suggested is that every generation has had to beat out what the hell that term means. Any notion of private property is really a negotiated grab bag of the things one may legally do with one’s stuff (and what one may do and be considered polite,) and every generation has a dozen instances where a new technology or new data changes just what that grab bag contains-adding protections against certain classes of unwarranted government searches or preventing the emission of pollutants. When radio emerged, the broadcasters were pirates and songwriters decried the end of their intellectual property. Then someone figured out everyone still made a living, the pirates came in from the cold (and indeed everyone forgot they were pirates) and a whole lot of people who could not or would not experience music got to for free (and even ad free if they were quick on the dial.) Consider the alternative- they could have tried to ban the components of crystal radios and had direction finders wandering the world for rogue AM stations. And like it or not, that’s the same place we are today.

    Net neutrality would certainly not stop file sharing- it would just make it move to darknets faster than it already is- use one of the dozen onion routed, virtual address clients and all of a sudden the NSA couldn’t catch you, much less Comcast. Heading down that road is an arms race the ISPs would lose ground in at an exponential rate- brute force attack times tend to get worse, not better, and even that won’t help virtual addressing, which requires an adversary control an unrealistic fraction of the p2p nodes.

    And just to clarify, the law says six copies of un-copy protected music for personal use. If the laws said six copies for sharing (and that applied equally to all media) we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The powers that be would see that the payer/viewer ratio of everything from ebooks to movies to games was somewhere between 3:1 and 9:1, within sight of the legal limit, the difference would unenforceable and monetarily irrelevant, and everyone would go to lunch. But in a world where my next box set of a TV series won’t have a physical media to pass to a friend, or to load into a handheld device, or mail to a kid in college, or borrow from the library or buy secondhand, file duplication and transmission for purposes we treat as sanctioned today for hard media will suddenly be on the wrong side of the law.

    In the longest possible view, it’s not a matter whether this phenomenon is something the likes of the RIAA has a right to squall about- their first reaction is to assume their toes have been stepped on, of course. But in the long run, whatever your particular view of an individual act of file sharing or illegal copying, they are going to look more and more like an old man calling the cops on kids retrieving balls from his yard- yes, it’s trespassing, but the kids don’t hurt anything and even clean the walk in the winter.

    That’s where it stands. The evidence is quite clear- go through any of the three or four well done, peer reviewed, honest to goodness studies posted above, though the lack of analysis of them suggests they may not have been read- piracy does not cause net revenue drop, just audience increase, and that second factor often increases lifetime revenues especially for smaller content providers. It cannot be stopped- every form of DRM has been cracked by those who are interested, and those who didn’t crack didn’t buy, because they were fundamentally being present a choice to buy something less functional than what they could pirate- and that’s certainly not the way to appeal to angels of better natures. And the likes of MUTE and Tor will mean the RIAA will have fewer and fewer chance to identify people to send C&D notices to, deep packet sniffing on the part of the ISPs or not.

    So they have an unenforceable law against an act that does no net harm, might do some net good, and is being viewed as frivolous by a steadily increasing fraction of content providers (witness the crowding of MySpace music and the YouTube sonybmi and universal channels)

    The choices are simple- continue as present, unable to stop 60 million Americans except by periodically attempting and failing to make examples of suburban moms by dragging them into court for an hour of music and threats of a quarter million dollar fine and steadily increase the righteous anger directed their way, while fewer and fewer actual creators stand by their actions, or simple be pragmatic, decide that, in the face of no documented losses, new technology, and increasingly hostile popular opinion, that their definition of private IP doesn’t have to exclude noncommercial sharing, same as private land doesn’t exclude aircraft flyovers when some once proposed it did, and suddenly 60 million people in the US alone stop being criminals.

    And if they are smart, they can monetize it. The numbers suggest that people buy about as much music per head as they always have through download services, but they could stand to make a new revenue stream if they are smart.

    It’s called voluntary collective licensing, and its based on three premises I think we can all agree on- artists deserve compensation, file sharing cannot be stopped, and part of its allure is superior availability thanks to the broadness of collections tied into the network.

    Just have the labels form new collection societies akin to ASCAP, and offer cheap monthly licenses to share as much media as they like, bundle the license into ISP fees so they are ubiquitous and transparent to users, and have the collection agencies do proportional fee disbursement to copyright holders based on market research, like ASCAP or Nielsen families. Suddenly, once again, 60 million people stop getting counted as criminals, move to file sharing networks that run faster thanks to the lack of need for secrecy, the record industry gets an extra 30% revenue a year, and all the ineffectual overblown lawsuits and software arms races and mutual moral indignation goes away.

    http://www.eff.org/wp/better-way-forward-voluntary-collective-licensing-music-file-sharing

    Or they can continue to sit and shout “RAR! But it’s MIIIINE!” as the same number of people as before pay for downloaded, discless media and paperless books and share it with 3-9 people, same as when it was on paper or discs, and those wondering why that weird old record man keeps shouting about the good old days when he was a radio pirate.

    Also, just some thoughts from a another guy with skin in the game and an eye on the future who isn’t sweating it out:

    http://openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2002/12/11/piracy.html

  101. @Skepthink: As even you could realize had you the good will to ever admit some truth at all, I was ridiculing pirate scum’s strawmen of OldGeezer’s example, not his own.

    ———

    So, OldGeezer never made the patently false claim that “Yes, there is both an ethical and legal problem with copying my hammer. The manufacturer spent research and development time and money to create the hammer in the exact form in which you bought it. He patented his design in order to have the exclusive right to manufacture a hammer of that particular design.”

    Interesting. I guess that I’ll have to look in the comments above and see if you’re wrong about that.

    Other than that, what’s most notable about your post is how you dance around. For example, you pretend that you are “right” about being able to copy DVDs for friends and family because you can share music on a network while you are connected to it.

    But you aren’t right. You’re wrong. And you continue to demonstrate that you don’t actually understand either what the law currently says or what steps would be required to eliminate piracy.

    For example, you seem to think that all piracy is file sharing. But it isn’t. If you rip a DVD that you own onto your own hard drive for personal use, that’s piracy. Stopping that would require scanning your hard drive. You can pretend that isn’t true all day, but that won’t change reality.

    It’s almost as bad as your fantasy world math. Your math is based on an assumption: every act of piracy is equal to a lost sale. But that assumption is demonstrably false, and people have linked to studies that demonstrate it’s falseness. I’m sorry, but your naive, made up numbers don’t constitute evidence that piracy hurts artists.

    Look, why don’t you just go read Cory Doctorow’s excellent book “Content”? You can buy it if you like, or you can download a free PDF with the blessing of both Mr. Doctorow and his publisher. Maybe after you’ve got a basic understanding of the history and the issues, we can have a real conversation.

  102. @Skepthink: “when I was younger I also thought it was cool to download things”

    So, basically, you’re admitting when you didn’t have money, you pirated. I wonder if that means that you consider yourself scum?

    “now that I am an adult with a job I am proud to say that, by now, the stuff I’ve bought exceeds by far what I’ve ever downloaded”

    Oh, I see! You’ve bought more than you download. That’s nice. But of course, it doesn’t make up for all those “lost sales” way back in the day. Even if you bought the exact same music that you originally stole (your word, not mine), you spent money that you could have otherwise spend on new music, so it’s still a lost sale. I mean, if I use your fantasy math.

    It’s funny that you justify your own piracy, and you’re proud of your track record, because once you had money, you preferred to buy music. So in your case, the music industry ultimately made more money by NOT suing you and turning you off to them forever than they lost by letting you listen to music. But somehow, you think that your case doesn’t scale. Why not?

    “Now, go ask record companies if they are making money despite piracy.”

    I did. Look at the second graph in this article. They are. And artists are making a greater share of that profit.

  103. “So, OldGeezer never made the patently false claim that “Yes, there is both an ethical and legal problem with copying my hammer (…)”

    Actually he did, I confirm this wasn’t part of your dreams and that he did say that. Now, however, you tell me how the fact that he said X even relates to my assertion that I was refuting somebody’s strawman of X. Look, it’s as if 1) person A said “If Sethmanapio was as intelligent as he thinks, Einstein would have never existed”, 2) somebody paraphrased that as “Sethmanapio is stupid”, 3) I contended the latter by saying “That Sethmanapio is not even 1/1000th as clever as he thinks does not mean that he’s stupid” and 4) you took me to be disagreeing with A’s claim. WTF?

    “Other than that, what’s most notable about your post is how you dance around. For example, you pretend that you are “right” (…) because you can share music on a network while you are connected to it.”

    I don’t pretend to be right, it simply happens. The question is, you pay for one copy of the content for yourself and you’re able to share it with 5 people without breaking the law and also getting rid at the same time of the apparently essential problem for you pirates that having the plastic represents. Okay then, with network sharing you don’t have to keep the plastic and you get 5 times as high a sharing rate, which is more than reasonable for an average household. Unsurprisingly, according to you this has nothing to do with purchasing/sharing/content/licenses/piracy, but that doesn’t mean that that’s not what it is (which it obviously is). Hey, you’re right, that’s just the issue at stake, nothing more.

    “And you continue to demonstrate that you don’t actually understand either what the law currently says or what steps would be required to eliminate piracy.”

    And this and that, and so on and so forth, blablabla, blebleble.

    “If you rip a DVD that you own onto your own hard drive for personal use, that’s piracy.”

    Because it’s nonsensical if you already have the DVD. Who, being sane, would want to waste hard drive gigabytes in something he watches only once in a while? There’s not even a meaningful way to compare storing/listening to 5-minute songs to storing/watching a 90-minute movie. That you somehow even tried to establish some kind of apparent connection between uselessly ripping DVDs and ripping music CDs is… well, the kind of thing you would do.

    “Stopping that would require scanning your hard drive.”

    You mean, like when normally syncing all sorts of applications for a number of valid reasons, which gathers your system’s information in a variety of ways? Please read those user agreements you’ve agreed with. At best, it would only take a couple of additional clauses to have you fully comply with the law, and no less privacy that you already have/have given up.

    “Your math is based on an assumption: every act of piracy is equal to a lost sale.”

    Oooh nooo, you’re right! And you’re right because, actually, most pirated material would not even have been purchased, so one act of piracy clearly does not equate to a lost sale, it most probably equates to one sale plus the indignity of stealing plus the indignity of cheating plus what you get for the money you saved stealing (let’s say, another DVD. So, it’s actually two sales: the one lost, and the one the pirate can make instead, which counts negatively because it’s a lie -like not only not counting a rightful vote, but also adding a false vote against the former-). People break the law just out of habit and not because they actually need it. It’s pure greed, you do it just because you can, not because you really have to.

    “and people have linked to studies that demonstrate it’s falseness.”

    I’ve read one linked “study”, which was pure crap: over a sample of 0,01% downloads, and only in the USA (Spain doubles USA piracy rate not even relatively, but in absolute terms -with app. 1/8th of the population-), and apparently not even taking the variable time into account. And I’m not sure, either, what exactly they measured. If you expect me to waste my time on any such studies, make sure it’s worth it.

    “your naive, made up numbers don’t constitute evidence that piracy hurts artists.”

    You’re all the evidence that I need.

    “So, basically, you’re admitting when you didn’t have money, you pirated. I wonder if that means that you consider yourself scum?”

    Looking back, of course, I have no problem admitting it. It’s as if you asked “I wonder if that means that you consider yourself to have been younger in the past?”. Evidently. Were you trying to prove something?

    “Oh, I see! You’ve bought more than you download. That’s nice. But of course, it doesn’t make up for all those “lost sales” way back in the day.”

    Of course it doesn’t. I make up for lost sales by means of various donations. I mean, substantive donations. You cannot even start to image, so please don’t assume BS.

    “It’s funny that you justify your own piracy”,

    I haven’t at any point. Dreaming again? Please place a sign to let us know.

    “So in your case, the music industry ultimately made more money by NOT suing you and turning you off to them forever than they lost by letting you listen to music.”

    BECAUSE NOW I PAY (seriously, which part of the English basic vocabulary are you missing, “because”, “now”, “I” or “pay”?). If, like you, I had stolen before and I still stole now and I never paid, then they would make no money whatsoever at any given point, which according to you still amounts to making money (!). Hey, I know that’s my faulty math, but, as bad as it is, it’s not as bad as the fact that I’m still waiting for something better from you explaining how, accounting-wise, -$14 + -$26 + -$66 > 0.

    And you should not confuse (but you will keep doing it, I know) the fact that I got away with something due to lack of proper regulation, with the fact that it was okay to do it. Technical feasibility does not amount to practical/ethical suitability in any meaningful way.

    And also, you should not confuse the fact that I did something stupid as a teenager with the fact that I can disagree with it right now, unless of course you’re willing to assume the immutability of human mind over years and that if somebody peed on himself when he was 2, he will keep peeing on himself when he’s 30 (and, according to your logic, probably making a profit out of it at the same time).

    “Now, go ask record companies if they are making money despite piracy. — Look at the second graph in this article. They are.”

    That’s bullshit, there’s no baseline. That’s the money they’re making, but we don’t know how much money they may be making without piracy. Where are those companies’ estimates for the same periods? You just proved that something grows, not that it grows as much as it may have to.

    Child.

  104. @Skepthink:
    “Now, however, you tell me how the fact that he said X even relates to my assertion that I was refuting somebody’s strawman of X.”

    ———-

    Because my reply related directly to X. He said “X is illegal and unethical” when it is not illegal. I pointed out that X is not illegal.

    So it relates by demonstrating that your assertion is false.

  105. @Skepthink: That’s the money they’re making, but we don’t know how much money they may be making without piracy.

    ————

    I agree, we don’t know how much money they would be making without piracy. It might be less, it might be more.

    You assert–without any evidence–that it is less, much less, catastrophically less… yet in your own personal narrative and as far as any actual evidence suggests, they make more.

    So basically, your entire case rests upon the assumption that piracy is always equal to some number of lost sales, and that pirate behavior never contributes to more sales… despite the fact that your own personal experience contradicts this assumption.

  106. @Skepthink: Because it’s nonsensical if you already have the DVD. Who, being sane, would want to waste hard drive gigabytes in something he watches only once in a while?

    —————

    Anyone with a media center and a large movie collection, or someone who was working on a mash-up and needed the digital file in a different form, or etc. etc. etc.

    It isn’t illegal because it’s nonsensical, it’s illegal because they want you to buy the content twice and control every aspect of how you use it above and beyond fair use guidelines.

  107. @Skepthink: You mean, like when normally syncing all sorts of applications for a number of valid reasons, which gathers your system’s information in a variety of ways?

    —————-

    No, not like that. System updates do not gather, (and cannot legally gather) a complete manifest of my hard drive.

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