"Well the marginal cost of a copy of [some digital good] is 0 so it isn't stealing!"
That argument is actually completly irrelevant.
I took a train the other night, and there were only 2 people in my whole car. The previous week it was packed. Both times I had to buy a ticket at the same price.
If you don't see what that has to do with pirating music (or software, or movies, or TV), then you don't really understand economics.
Everyone compares it to widgets where there is some fixed cost and some marginal cost, and suddenly the marginal cost is 0 so we should be able to have it for free right? Right?
Wrong. The train has 0 marginal costs, and all fixed costs. Whether that train is empty or full, they pay for the conductor, the engineer, the maitanence and the gas. But you are expected to pay for your ride whether you are 1/1000th of the total population on the train or 1/20th. And if you don't pay, you are breaking the law. Stealing services.
Digital goods are things with a high fixed costs (software developers, authors, directors, actors etc) and 0 marginal costs. There are plenty of other things out there with the same economic model and you are expected to pay for all of them. The only difference is that it is far easier to steal from content creators than service providers.
So please correct everyone you see making that arguement. The fact that copying the music costs nothing really doesn't matter. It comes down to dividing the fixed costs by a certain amount of customers, or there simply won't be content creators anymore. Maybe the songs need to be 2 cents each, I don't know, but the fact is there are high fixed costs and they need to be covered somehow by someone. The lack of marginal cost just doesn't matter.
You are technically correct (according to Futurama, the best kind of correct).
But you're also repeating the digital-communist newspeak also. "Piracy is not stealing" is not identical to "Piracy is not wrong". I realize that's not the position you're trying to push, but bear in mind that "Piracy is not stealing" is way too often used to justify piracy itself, as if mere infringement makes it morally acceptable, but stealing is not.
Associating piracy with stealing is problematic, technically incorrect, but is not entirely without merit.
Similarly, dissociating piracy from stealing is problematic but not entirely without merit.
The "I'm just copying your couch" argument that the internet likes to make is about as sensical as the "You wouldn't steal from a store would you?" that the MPAA/RIAA like to make. Both are attempting to use weasel words to justify their own position.
The copyright-based industries have tried to present infringement as a fundamental moral wrong. It is not. Quite the contrary, communication is good, as people unconciously know and feel.
You're making his point. You could also the same thing about anything.
That is not accurate. Many laws -- those we probably most respect -- are grounded on actual basic factual effects. They have a justification prior to conventional or legal constructs.
For example, if you take a material object from me, you deprive me -- directly and physically. That is the core justification of normal property, and there is no such justification for IP.
What about identity theft? You aren't actually "stealing" anything. The original identity is still there.
Counterfeiting (currency and things like ipods) is another example. It's illegal and you aren't actually depriving anybody of anything.
Music "piracy" is copyright infringement in the eyes of the law. End of discussion.
So I equate it to "theft of services". Let's say I get a massage, and then I just walk out the door and don't pay for it. I have clearly stolen that person's valuable time. Which isn't a perfect analogy becuase they have finite time vs being able to make infinite copies, but either way someone worked hard with the intention of getting paid for it, and there are people out there depriving them of the money they would have gotten (and please don't say "but I wouldn't have bought it anyway! which is also crap, becuase most people are downloading music they would have bought, its just the nature of blockbusters vs the long tail). So I don't know what the word is, but it is definitely closer to theft of services than anything else I can think of.
Not just in monetary cost.
So; ethical theft?
Authors often get advances against royalties. Let's say BigPublishingCo pays you $10,000 to write a book. Let's say your book doesn't do well. What are the odds you'll get to write a second book? As an author, you're looking at your future and trying to figure out how you can increase sales.
One way to do that is to make the pirate copies disappear.
That's what publishers try to do, so they can stay in business.
Let me know if you see any issues with this arrangement.
Typically, by the time a band has "recouped" its advance and has only began to start earning for the artists and has theoretically broken even according to the bizarre accounting of the studios in actuality it has resulted in a return on investment to the studios of several hundred percent.
Book publishing is similar but generally not quite so evil.
The basis for IP law is to encourage the production of creative works. The moral imperative is to allow science and art to improve people's lives. IP law should be a practical set of rules to create a free market for these works.
Does the current system do this? Not very well. Neither does infringement in most cases.
The idiots are still laughing all the way to the bank.
> So; ethical theft?
No, copyright infringement.
But even when I do everything myself, I'm using high-end equipment and software that I've paid thousands of dollars for. It's not free of charge for me to be able to record music. And even if I were to deem those to be irrelevant sunk costs, to assume that my recordings ought to be free of charge just because they easily can be copied suggests that my time and expertise is worthless, if nothing else.
[Edit: of course, I'm just some random guy on the internet, and certainly not nor attempting to be a full-time musician. I'm presently content to make money building software, and any income that results from my music is just a bonus. Full-time musicians surely feel even more strongly about such matters.]
Likewise, I see nothing wrong with musicians giving away copies of music free of charge (and I've done so), but it should be their choice.
It's absolutely your choice. If you want to keep control of it, keep it private.
But once you (by your own choice) make it available, don't be shocked or surprised if people share it without sending you money for every copy.
The system we have for paying artists is clearly broken. It has been for a very long time. The digital revolution is just putting the final nails in the coffin.
But even before filesharing on the internet, artists were getting screwed left and right, and very very few could make a living creating art.
Now it's clearer than ever that we have to find some other ways to compensate artists for the work they do. Some suggestions that I've heard along these lines are:
- Put a PayPal (or choose your favorite non-evil payment system) icon
prominently on your home page and ask for donations.
- Release your music for free, but ask for money
so that you can work on your next album. Don't release
your next album until you've gotten enough of a payment
to make it worthwhile. If you're good and have developed
a large enough fan base, this should be quite
a reasonable business model.
- Give away the music for free, but charge for
live appearances (make money touring).
- Make it clear to your fans that you are giving away
your music for free, but need them to chip in by buying
tangible merchandise like t-shirts.
At least with all of the suggested payment methods above, the artist gets to keep a lion's share of the profit, instead of begging for pennies on the dollar when going through the established record company system.
If you don't want your car to be stolen then don't leave it in the street. If you don't want to be run over then don't walk anywhere. ...
Seriously, if you one day forget to lock something up do you really think people should be free to help themselves to it?
If you don't like the current music regime, don't buy music from those who've established it and maintain it. If you want free music then only get tracks that artists are giving away as free and/or licensing with free-gratis licenses.
There are a number of underlying assumption in your analogy.
- The first is that, like the car, the music you create is owned by you.
- The second is that, like the car, the music you create can be stolen.
- The third is that it is as unethical to share music as it is to steal cars.
All of these propositions are very debatable.
"Seriously, if you one day forget to lock something up do you really think people should be free to help themselves to it?"
I think you're missing my point. I wasn't trying to be a moral arbiter regarding the ethics of sharing music. I was merely trying to say that in the world we live in, you'd have to be pretty naive to release your music to the public with the expectation that people wouldn't share it without compensating you for it. If your goal is to keep your music from being shared, your best bet is not to release it at all.
I wasn't saying that the music could be stolen, just taken in a way that is against the law. Equally the car can be "borrowed" it can be taken without denying you use - we still find it illegal even if your car is taken against your will when you wouldn't have otherwise be using it (perhaps this is wrong but I wasn't expanding the locus to consider alternate legal/societal structures). This speaks then to your final point.
You deliberately scope the use of copyright works without permission as "sharing" because this is almost always used in a positive sense. Well taking your car without asking is also sharing if you wish to spin it that way; I didn't say they damaged the vehicle, you still can have it later when you wish to use it.
For sure the analogy breaks down but not as badly as you portrayed.
You may have been attempting to withhold moral judgement but your tone conveyed the sense that the onus is with the creator of artistic works, the copyright holder, to hide their work and not with the public to not rip off that work. Note that we as a society (at least those countries that are democratic and signed up to Berne Convention and TRIPS IP provisions) have made a deal that we will protect creators of artistic works from being ripped off and ensure they get paid fairly as long as they will release their works to the public domain after a given period but before that we will enable them to enforce a monopoly on control of those works. This deal has been sullied over time by big business but it's still in place.
Yes, if no one can be trusted to keep to their promises or indeed to obey the law then it's naive to assume the law will be obeyed. I'm not at that place where I assume everyone in a democracy is so uncivilised and self-seeking that they care nothing for the rule of law.
A car is a locked(presumably) metal box, it would be more apt to say: "If you don't want your cds stolen, don't leave them in the middle of the street"
You're assuming we want to 'take a stand.' You're assuming 'taking a stand' would actually do anything. You haven't said what 'taking a stand' actually _is_, other than some vague idea of 'doing something!1!1'
I, for one, will be very sad if our industry tries to 'take a stand' against piracy. It's a fool's errand.
Books and music are in kind of a funny space, the costs of production have fallen through the floor; you can literally buy a computer and some fairly in-expensive equipment and record good quality recording. If you have a little more money you can do a completely professional top of the line recording.. Second, the industry is completely built around selling a finished commodity, you buy the book or the CD and it's done, there is no more business. Third that comodity is very easy to pirate. With music it seems like they could put concert tickets in with the CD or coupons to get them more cheaply or buy other merchendise, that caters to a fairly small market though. Some other sort of value-add that justifies the expense seem like the only options with the industry as it is. Maybe they could not distribute recordings and make a subscription radio service that played the content exclusively (that seems lame though, but people didn't like the idea of SaaS or pay per cycle in the old days either)
Personally, I bought the pick-axe book a handful of years back, read it, did some stuff, put it on the shelf. Then the 2nd edition came out, I bought it, unfortunately life and other things got in the way of that one so it just sat on the shelf. Now there is a 3rd edition.. I'd have paid maybe $15 more the first time around if I got some free upgrades, I'd have probably paid $15 more the first time AND paid $5-10 for an upgrade when it came out. The $40 or $45 each time though.... It doesn't feel like you get that much. I'm not going to pirate it but I can't say that I don't see why people would.
Free Software/Open Source.
There is a large amount of software developers who have a completly different attitude from the music industry towards people digitally copying stuff.
Not have bought it anyway has a strange way of turning into bought the whole damn thing.
I have no trouble at all with people who pirate to dabble, but I do have trouble with people who pirate software and then use it to make money.
Actually, I don't use Photoshop at all these days, and haven't installed it on my last couple machines. Paint.NET meets my meager needs.
However, I guess the argument still exists for anyone who still can't afford it, or who wants to learn but isn't a student.
Well then, apply that to your own reasoning.
>“Books are priced too high,” said Berntsen when justifying his work. “One of the reasons why the pirate world is so big, is that publishers take crazy prices for something that isn’t even in physical form.”
This is actually one of the better arguments in favor of piracy I have seen, though I'm sure most people don't see their pirating this way, pirating books isn't really the solution, and it is quite a bit misguided.
The specifics of digital books is a little bit different from music, you do have those fixed costs but the argument is that the marginal costs make up for it. What a good amount of people don't realize is that with many books the marginal costs are actually pretty close to zero so an ebook doesn't really cost that much less to make.
My personal problem with digital books, which I avoid by going to used book stores (So I guess I'm not really supporting anyone other than the book store), is that some publishers think there should be a convenience charge to the customer in order to obtain a digital copy, I believe in no way should an ebook cost more than the cheapest copy (be it paperback or hardback) available from the same store new.
Which, if you think about it, seems totally backwards. A paper or hardback book can be sold secondhand, and some of the value recouped. With an ebook, there's no way to resell and regain some of what you've spent. However, if you aren't discussing reselling, this is kind of a moot point.
That's not meant as an ethical argument. Simply a forecast.
So trains are fundamentally different, because to ride one is to use someone's property against their will, and so you violate a natural right. When you pirate music, you are only breaking laws. Although breaking the law might be considered immoral, it is for a fundamentally different reason. There are definitely more cases where people think it's acceptable to break the law, especially if there net utility to society goes up. Examples of this would be
(1) parking in one of many handicap parking spaces at night when there is negligible chance that they will all be filled
(2) pirating music that you would not buy if you had to pay for it (you sincerely claim!).
- Making a copy of a file isn't stealing because it doesn't deprive anyone else of the good.
- When vendors claim that X pirated units of a product whose retail price is Y amount to X*Y of lost sales, they are full of shit, because this assumes that all the pirates would have bought copies at full price had piracy been prevented.
- If the product were reasonably priced I would buy it, but it's not, so I steal it. This is the argument of the 19 year old in the article, and probably the one you're reacting to, but it's not the same as your straw man. Your straw man says, "it's not stealing," whereas the real person says "yeah, it's stealing, but it's stealing from thieves, so it's morally acceptable."
I don't mean to advance any of these arguments personally, just to point out that they're arguments that some people actually make, unlike the one you so convincingly refute.
This is blatantly wrong. They do not know that they would have sold X albums if it weren't for pirates. Furthermore, if a person pirates an album, it does not mean that they would have bought it if they couldn't pirate it or if they were more ethical.
The people I know who horde large amounts of music do it exactly because it doesn't cost them - if they had to pay for it they simply wouldn't have even close to that much music. They wouldn't go and buy all the same albums. They also wouldn't be enthusiasts at that scale.
tl;dr: Fallacies exist on both sides.
For music piracy the only cost is the potential lost sale of the music to the "pirate".
Edit: to follow up, I'm a music pirate and proud of it. In my experience there are three types of people who pirate music. There are casual pirates who occasionally download the most popular songs of the day. There are hardcore pirates and digital packrats who refuse to pay for anything they don't absolutely have to and download music they might not even like, just to have it. And there are music lovers who have an insatiable hunger for lots and lots of music and enjoy discovering new music. From a financial perspective for the artists piracy is not generally a serious problem. Casual pop-music pirates generally download only songs that are already mega-hits, and the artists have been compensated thoroughly from. Hardcore anti-business pirates aren't necessarily a significant impact on artists because they wouldn't have paid for the albums they've pirated regardless.
The really interesting aspect comes from the 3rd category of pirates. Music lovers may "pirate" music but they also buy music too, and being exposed to more music means only that they end up buying more music (and going to more concerts), which is nothing but good news for those artists. Some of my favorite music I've discovered only by first pirating it, and in many cases this has lead to supporting artists financially (through album sales, merch, and concerts) that I never would have known about and never would have given a dime to previously. I can't see that as anything other than a good thing.
The current hypothetical non-piracy model for music is broken, and it always has been. There is too little variety on the radio and 30 second or 1 minute clips of songs don't cut it. Sometimes you just need to borrow an album and listen to it a few times before falling in love with it. This is the way it has always been. There's always been borrowing and copying in music, but the internet has made it infinitely more effective and so cast the issues into much sharper relief.
There is an even more important point at play here. And that is that a train line can prevent you from sneaking onto a train without a ticket fairly easily, but it is nigh impossible to put the music piracy genie back into the bottle. Music piracy is going to happen. The technology makes it too easy now, and there is a cultural desire for it. There is no choice to stop it, the only choice is to figure out how to live with it.
P.S. Some people might enjoy listening to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdRAQWp73S4
(perhaps this is an experiment?)
a) when you sneak onto a train and get a free ride, it only works once. If you make a habit of this, you'll probably get caught. If you download a song illegally for free, you can listen to it for the rest of your life unless you lose or delete the copy you have.
b) the exclusion of another passenger in any case only becomes significant when the train is full. If the train is half-empty, you're riding for free but nobody else is worse off because there's an abundance of seats. Of course you have a tiny negative effect on the fuel consumption of the vehicle, but that's much less important than the principle.
c) In any case, when you ride without a fare your offense is against the train operator. You don't get sued/prosecuted by the passengers who had to wait for the next train. The issue is not whether or not there was a seat available to someone else, but whether or not the service provider received the due cost of the ride/song/whatever, which cost is levied for market availability rather than for availability to an individual buyer standing in line behind you.
Now I quite agree with you that there are so many economic incentives in favor of digital piracy and such perverse incentives for the publishers' preferred way of doing business, that something has got to give and that's why we're seeing such upheaval in the media industry. I just think that one a philosophical level the argument isn't as clear-cut as you are suggesting.
The point was that stealing that train seat really is stealing. That means that the argument "there is no marginal cost" is not a sufficient defense of music piracy. It does not exclude some other defense of music piracy.
krschultz: "Trains have zero marginal cost. We call them stealing. Therefore, zero marginal cost does not prevent something from being called stealing."
InclinedPlane: "Trains are different from music, in that the latter never fills up. Therefore, it is possible for zero marginal cost to be a defense."
You: "InclinedPlane, just imagine a train which doesn't fill up."
Me: "You are right that the half-empty train and piracy are similar. This still doesn't justify calling it stealing."
You: "[Snarky comment]. All I was claiming is that they are similar."
...and I agree. I wasn't saying you were wrong in your initial comment, I was saying that you were right but it doesn't complete krschultz's argument.
No need to get snarky. Not every reply to your comment is an assertion that you're wrong.
Now you've rewritten your comment to remove the part about taking money out of someone's wallet and summarized it as "Your statement is true but that doesn't justify a conclusion [that you never asserted]". But the wallet part of your comment was important to your comment and is the reason I replied as I did.
The topic of my comments was about the parallel btwn no marginal cost activities (someone denied it with a bad argument, and I said so), so your reply to me (yes it was a reply to me, or you wouldn't have it nested under me) was off topic and missing the point of what I was talking about. It now sounds like you wanted to be talking to the original poster, krschultz, not me, which would have made more sense.
I am going to simplify a lot here, but let's say that the train operator has a fixed operating cost and has a profit target, from which they know the gross revenue that they want over the next quarter. They know how many rides they expect people to pay for, so they divide the target gross revenue by the number of trips to get the ticket price. Assuming that the train timetable is fixed, more paying passengers means they can charge less per ticket and still hit their targets.
So in the case of stealing from someone's wallet, the victim takes a $50 hit. In the case on not paying for a train ticket, the operator will have to charge a slightly higher rate to paying passengers, so between them, the paying passengers take a $50 hit. If there's only one person not paying then that doesn't make much difference. But if 1% of passengers aren't paying, or 10%, or 50%... then that can start to affect the paying passengers quite significantly.
Or if the train operator is a bit less charitable and doesn't raise/lower the price in response to number of passengers, then the train operator's profit takes a $50 hit, which is passed on to the share holders, who may well be (in part) yours and my pension fund.
I would say that just because the $50 loss is divided by a large number of people, it doesn't make it any more morally defensible.
In fact, piracy in this case seems to partially solve the fundamental economics problem. The marginal cost of music is zero, so if people who wouldn't pay full price aren't getting the music, then there is lost utility for society. By giving those people music for free (and, unrealistically, holding everything else constant) it's a Pareto improvement.
(And I'm not trying to avoid the argument that stealing $50 from society is morally he same as stealing $50 from a single person; it pretty much is. I'm just saying that the reason that we correctly intuit that sneaking on to a train is less worse than stealing from a wallet is because of considerations like those I've described.)
The parent to my comment had made a hypothetical more complicated by adding a special case (about the train getting full) and I suggested he reconsider without that complication.
Actually, no. If you intend to return it in the original condition, so they can still sell it, then legally speaking it isn't theft. (It may still be illegal, I don't know.)
Just to clarify, I'm not claiming anything about piracy here.
Actually, I'm not sure that US law is the same. But that's how it is in England.
I agree with that. My main concern is not people who make unauthorized copies of music and then later buy copies; I personally think that's great, and ought to be somehow legal. I am concerned about people who make unauthorized copies of music with no intention of ever paying for it and just flat out don't care because they don't feel it's worth paying for, even though they clearly see it as something of value, since they listen to it.
The huge difficulty is, how can you reliably discern between these classes of unauthorized copying?
The internet is a communication device, and we should be using to its max. All questions about distinguishing different kinds of copying, and whether one is moral or not, do not reach the real heart of the matter. All copying (assuming good stuff) is good, ultimately, and we ought to fit our commercial system to that, not the other way around.
The problem is how do you make it possible for the best people making music (or whatever other internet good) to completely sustain themselves via things they put online.
This isn't true freedom. I am not allowed to copy open source software into my commercial application without releasing my revisions.
It's also funny that you mention open source, because it's eventually going to bring down the wages of developers. This is because the difficult parts (IE: the software that needs to be engineered) is given out for free and businesses only need the mechanics to make changes (lower education, skillm and pay requirements).
For books it's a little different. Few people write long stories for fun and it's much harder to write a good book then it is to make a good song. Thus, there are not that many good books around and their value is higher. In this case, I would say copying is bad.
However, my own opinion is that the world just has to adapt to it's own developments. Copying is easy? Writers get less money for their books? Then writers will have to change their profession. Sometimes markets shrink or disappear.
Probably. It might be more equivalent to compare a book with a whole album, or a chapter with a song. I'm not sure what quality of music you have in mind, or what quality of book, but I don't think writing good prose is of necessity significantly more difficult than producing good recorded music.
Sometimes markets shrink or disappear.
Certainly. But when markets disappear because the producers in the market say "I would like X dollars in exchange for this product" and the consumers say "No, we'd rather violate copyright law and procure your product free of charge", it seems to me that something is going on beyond the simple disappearance of a market.
Consumers still want recorded music, and written prose, and all sorts of things that are easy to copy. Many of them just don't feel compelled to give the producers anything in exchange for their work [if they can avoid doing so]. Their work must have value, or else the consumers wouldn't want it.
isn't that capitalism 101?
With digital products, consumers have the (possibly illegal, unauthorized) option of getting a copy free of charge from someone other than the producer.
If consumer is willing to pay for the product, and if the producer is not authorizing copies of it, then the consumer (in theory) ought not get the product. But yet they are getting the product, because they are sidestepping the producers copyright.
People pirate things, because to them in their minds, emotionally, it isn't like stealing. After all, who are they stealing from? It's extremely hard to put a face on an entity like a record corporation and it's just that psychologically people can't relate to or grasp the concept at work over here.
Our sense of morality is closely tied with our sense of empathy, but when there is nothing to empathize with what happens then? The central problem with the systems we now create is that our brains still look at it emotionally, while being unable to grasp at the true consequences of them intellectually. Think about the stock market; it operates on rational principles and belief, but now do you think anyone truly understands it? All that's left is messy human belief in a system no one truly understands. In shorter terms, we've created a recipe for disaster.
I think that all of the problems we see today is a symptom of our short comings as a species. I really wish I knew how to solve this, but then again I have faith that someone else will. ;)
Paying $30 for a CD with 12-19 songs, and not all songs being equal, it seems that there would be some dissatisfaction with the price per product.
You could view the current pirating activity of the general public as a back-lash to this long lasting penny pinching business. Couple this with the celebrity high-life led and promoted by the musicians and record industry, I for one don't want to be lining the pockets of these rich people. When I only get paid the equivalent of $30/h before tax, why the hell should I spend several hours of my time working in order to support the lives of richer people. Producing a remixed version of an old 80's song and adding the words 'dirty beat' does not mean you deserve several cars and houses and gold teeth. Its the fight club generation that does all the hard work, so we are going to take what we can from the corporate overlords.
Pirating will lessen when the market properly reflects the actual value of these products, and the industry embraces the ease of the digital format. Online subscription services should allow several cds worth for $5/month. If they are worried how easy it is to copy mp3's, then find ways to make the actual music a by product. Offer sneak previews to new albums, and discounts on concert tickets and merchandise. Imagine if I was one of 50 people to attend a private gig of some awesome band. It would make a lot of other people sign up as well.
I'm going to guess out loud at it, and hopefully somebody will jump in and help me.
1) In the case of goods or services with minimal marginal costs and large fixed costs in proportion to total costs, you are expected to pay for them.
2) If you don't pay for them you are breaking the law.
Therefore, the argument that if marginal cost is zero on some digital good, then [something number 1] isn't stealing is completely irrelevant to [something number 2].
I'm sure that "something number 1" (referred to as "it") is related to free riding, due to a shared metaphor, and I'm going to assume that it is "a use of that good or service without paying," again due to the metaphor, where a single person took a single train ride without paying.
Does "something number 2" = "whether a use of that good or service is illegal or not"? Because that seems to me to be setting up as a straw man a question that no one is asking, then begging the question with an answer that is identical to your second premise.
Others have already pointed out that a train has a finite capacity, unlike copies of digital media.
Many things DO work by this model.
ie, art. Someone may pay for the 1st copy of a Picasso at 100 million dollars (the copy that actually required talent to make), but everyone else gets it at the marginal cost, free.
It also doesn't help that our intellectual property laws have a lot of inconsistencies. If I steal your ideas for a startup, that's ok unless you have patented technology. But if I make a copy of something that I own and share it with a friend, that's illegal.
Up until now there had never been a way to take a material possession and duplicate it at essentially no cost. I think that we have a long way to go before we develop strong cultural norms on how to deal with intellectual property.
It often does cost time and money to pirate things.
And now that RepRap and similar 3D object printers are becoming more popular, they will continue to come down in price. It won't be long before printing physical items is a possibility, and then wholesale pirating of things that used to be protected by patents will start.
And if you're having trouble imagining that happening, don't worry. It was just as hard to imagine music piracy before MP3s. It happened on a VERY small scale before that due to difficulty and media cost.
One of the first markets I can see this disrupting are things like war-gaming miniatures, and board gaming pieces, which have a HUGE markup, but could be reproduced in plastic relatively easily after a more few generations of this tech. I'm not sure about patents per-se, but it's certainly an intellectual property issue.
Once these printers gain the ability to draw circuits and build or insert basic electronic components, things will really take off, but even before then there are some big markets for what are basically hunks of plastic and metal that are only expensive because they're well designed/marketed.
Will you be printing off an iPhone in 5 years? Of course not. But that fancy $60 paperweight on your boss's desk? There's a big market for those too.
The tolerances, the plastics used, the pigments, all add up to a quality product. The difference is so large that you can tell the 'real' from the 'imitation' just by looking at them, you don't even need to do a trial fit to see which one is which.
It's not that there's anything patentable in these items, but the licensing deals associated with things like TV shows and movies takes a serious hit.
More down to earth and something you can make today with any of those: cookie cutters in any shape you want.
I remember when mp3s were too big to store or move easily, and couldn't be played portably. Piracy was purely a geek thing then. That situation changed incredibly fast.
I also wonder about things like: if you downloaded a file to print your own Glif, but tweaked it for your android phone and made it a different color you're starting to get a transformative work out of the thing.
Maybe the future is mixed atoms and bits (like when you buy a BluRay and it also has a "digital copy" on it for use on your PMP). Maybe when you buy a Glif they'll email you the plan to print your own that you can tweak up.
That's a pretty horrible analogy. It's not like you have a deal with the RIAA/MPAA equivalent to a marriage contract. The sole idea of that scares me. Also, if you ripoff your spouse and make her pay extra to get anything from you and only on terms that lets you control you forever, I think you deserve the cheating. You can go on exploiting your spouse like that and no expect issues.
In retrospect, might not be such a bad analogy ;p
People steal items from hotel rooms, catch a train without buying a ticket, hack cable TV circuits, use others' unprotected wifi, keep a 20 when they were expecting a 10, insure items after they're damaged, etc etc. My last two flatmates have left without paying their share of the utility bills and ignored my messages. None of this is piracy but it's similar behaviour.
A lot of people just have no spine and only the threat of prosecution keeps them in line. Which makes it hard to swallow any of these elaborate justifications of media/software piracy.
People know this unconsciously. A few million years of evolution have made us want to communicate. People copy because of the natural tendency to do something that is good for all of us.
That is a circular justification. People can only make a living from IP because of the law, so one cannot then justify the existence of the law because it helps people make a living.
IP law, by definition, invents an artificial obstruction of other people's rights to copy. There must be a good reason for that.
Consider if you made a living selling tea, but then a personal tea-making gadget is invented. Are you then justified in stopping people walking home with their newly bought tea-makers and removing them -- because they are impeding you in earning a living? No. You just have to make a living in a different way. People's general fundamental freedom trumps your right to particular commercial advantage.
Because IP is so long-standing we have become accustomed to expect it, to assume it as a fundamental right. This is mistaken. It is provisional and must answer to real fundamental rights.
There is a rational case for IP: that it is pragmatic. It does harm by restricting people's freedom to communicate, but overall it increases production and so serves the public's interest -- that is the proposition at least. This is the only argument for IP. But given the changes in technological circumstance it must be radically reassessed, probably best replaced.
People need to use their mind to survive --> people must be able to reap the benefits of their mind/creativity to survive --> people must control the produce of their work/creativity to survive --> people should have property rights protected by the government
Property, including IP, is just a natural extension of freedom and living, it's about as fundamental as it gets. Of course it's hard to protect IP, but that's one of the benefits of having a highly civilized nation. They have the right to benefit from their creativity, and you're obliged to respect that. The law allows them to make a living, yes, just like the law allows most of us to make a living without people ripping us off or stealing, thank goodness. It makes perfect sense to have these laws.
The point of IP is that it's the produce of someone's mind, as direct a product as you can get. If you copy it without permission you know without doubt that you're undermining somebody's ability to benefit from their creativity, ultimately undermining their livelihood. That basically makes you a hypocrite.
The pragmatic argument (that without copyright/patents, innovation and investment would dry up) is secondary.
There is the flaw: the second does not follow from the first. There is no necessary requirement that produce -- in this context copies -- be controlled.
Consider the basic logic/physics of abstract goods. There is no necessary dependence of production on subsequent copies. In fact it is the opposite: the copies depend on production. It is perfectly conceivable that things be produced -- and the producers paid for that -- without any restriction of copies.
And this is clear in practice. Take an architect for example. They are commissioned and then design a building: they have done intellectual work and been paid for it, and so 'reaped the benefits' of their creativity to survive. Yet there has been no need for restriction on copies of their designs.
> The point of IP is that it's the produce of someone's mind, . . . If you copy it without permission . . . you're undermining somebody's ability to benefit from their creativity
But as explained above, this is not essential: it is only true for a particular, contingent, commercial arrangement.
You see that production is good, and also that copies are good too. What I ask is that you see that there is no essential need that one should restrict the other. And since both do us good, surely we would want to do both. What we want
is a system that supports people to produce and allows freedom of copying.
This is why the pragmatic argument is the only plausible one. If we don't need, for practical reasons, to restrict copies, why would we? How can it be moral? What good does it do us? The idea that people have some intrinsic right to interfere with others, based merely on creatorship, is nonsensical and utterly self-destructive.
Just compare the limit cases (and since it is already established there is no necessary dependence of production on copies, we can look just at the copying aspect). Either: with free copying/sharing, we all greatly magnify our access to good stuff, at no cost to anyone. In a group of 100, if each of us makes some music, everyone has 100 pieces of music to listen to. Or: with absolutist IP, we all keep our own stuff (our own 'property') to ourselves, and so we all have much less stuff available to us. If each of us makes some music, everyone has only one piece of music to listen to. -- And what could be the justification there? that we 'know without doubt' we are doing the right thing? -- Which community to join is an easy choice.
It is not possible to say a priori what particular structures of organisation or commerce are efficient. But it is possible to say the moral essentials mean we should prefer free-sharing rather than copy-restricting.
We should have cultural norms that encourage and support both production and copying -- they are both good, and mutually reinforcing. And we should build commercial systems around that, not warp our innate moral sense to fit some arbitrary market arrangement. If certain corporations don't like it they are the ones that need to reform themselves.
That said, as an artist I'm not too worried if somebody rips off my work to print for a personal hanging.
>"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."
>"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"
>"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."
>I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"
>Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!
“Pirated handbags? Yes, I do buy them,” she said. “I feel that the genuine Prada bags have such an inflated price.”
“You have a pirated MP3 collection,” Jo added, helpfully. “We copied the first 1500 songs from one place and 300 from another.”
“Yes,” admitted Ragbe. “There were a lot of things on the iPod.”
I feel that lumping handbags in here is wrong. There's probably a trademark infringement as well with the handbags. But, whilst there is copyright infringement in the design does the design have an artistic quality or is it "just" a design. The fact that there is a skill and materials expense in producing the handbags gives it a different quality IMO.
The important part with the handbags is the infringement of the Prada trademark whilst with the books and music it is the copyright infringement.
A fashion designer would probably disagree?
Music piracy is similar. Piracy works right now because there are enough people buying music and the margins are high enough that those legitimate buyers are supporting the pirates. Only at the point that creating music is unprofitable will piracy be affected (no more fish in the sea). I don't see that happening for a long time.
There are some devout pirates who simply will not buy, but I suspect they would not buy even if they had another option — these are the people who would tape songs off the radio and copy their friends' CDs. They're either people who just refuse to pay for things or too poor to pay for things. But you can't generalize this to "pirates."
Many (most) musicians/artists create music/art for the love of it. They make very little if any money doing it. Often, they even do it at a loss.
It has been this way since long, long before the internet and filesharing existed.
That said, authors and artists like the lady in the article are hurting themselves when they choose not to make their works available to people in the format they want, especially when it is very easy to convert those works into different formats, or at least easy enough that people are willing to do it.
One consequence, it seems, would be that a work would enter public domain as soon as the creator dies, since the only remaining resource (the digital work) is unlimited.
Not condoning piracy, but simply an observation. (I'm skeptical that people who pirate the e-books would necessarily otherwise purchase them, so I'm always uncertain about estimates of "losses" like in this article. Many times someone will download it to just check it out, similar to flipping through it in a bookstore, which you don't have to pay for.)
It makes little sense to claim that an author/musician is losing money through piracy when the likelihood is that the [majority of the] pirated copies would not have otherwise been bought.
The sad fact is that piracy is only getting worse. Even when you can get a song for 99 cents with no DRM or restrictions, music piracy is still rampant. I'm waiting for the next set of excuses.
In '99, it was because music was too expensive and the artists were getting screwed (which is a funny excuse, because 1% of something is something, but 1% of 0 is 0). Later, it was because DRM made it too difficult to play music. This is why you don't negociate with criminals. They will just keep bleeding you dry. The music industry is learning this lesson at the expense of their profits.
Now there is a new generation of kids that feel entitled to music, software, and movies for free.
This is one of the main reasons why I no longer sell applications. I have converted them all to services. This way, there is no way someone can pirate it.
I can remember being a kid in the 70s and 80s and we all borrowed albums from friends and made copies on cassette tapes.
Or at least all my friends did.... ;-)
I use an operating system (Ubuntu Linux) that doesn't support the main digital music download software and live in a country (Ireland) where choice is limited.
There are easily a billion people who can't legally purchase mainstream american music.
Here's a good one - listening to the radio at work in the UK is illegal unless you have a license from PRS or it's impossible for anyone else to hear the same radio (it never is).
Yes, when you listen to commercial radio where they've paid already to play the music and the radio station is selling you to their advertisers, it's still considered copyright infringement. So, listen to non-music stations? Still illegal (tortuous) as the PRS get to assume you're guilty if they can show you have a radio on at work.
They get schools too - schools here have to have a PRS music license if they want to show TV programmes in case any of the TV programmes have music in them (eg background music or interstitials, etc.). Crazy.
I rarely pirate music but, if I bought all my music on Amazon or iTunes I'd be paying thousands of dollars a year. For a large subset of the population, this is simply an unacceptable expense. Hence: piracy.
I've always gone to shows, though, to support the local artists as directly as I can.
too much??! really? $1 is hardly a lot of money for a good song.
I also forgot to mention that we now have the ability to preview almost any song before buying with services like Grooveshark.
This isn't true. When you don't attempt to prevent piracy, people think it's okay. They then feel they are entitled to getting your stuff for free...and the value will approach $0 (because nobody will be willing to pay you anything). This is already happening.
It's very similar to currency. A $100 bill is really just ink and paper. If society didn't believe it was worth this much, it wouldn't be.
I think we would be better off reevaluating business models rather than suffering the effects of trying to preserve out-dated ones.
What sort of business model do you think would be effective?
I buy lots of ebooks and music and the key for me is making it easy to pay for (Amazon and ITMS are great for this). I don't want to jump through hoops to give you my money.
Contrast this with the movie industry who I think are setting themselves up in a way that's pushing infringement with all the rules around renting, buying, streaming, and NetFlix. For example, I see a commercial that a movie now 'in stores' so I check NF. If it's not there and I really want to see it, I'll check the iTunes and xbox marketplaces. When I can't find it there I wonder if they really want my money? They are pushing me to buy the movie, but I don't want to buy the movie I just want to rent it and see it once. I think they are pushing many potential renters to just torrent the movie because they have made it so hard to actually give them money. By this point I'm usually so fed up with looking for the movie I forget about watching it until it shows up on NF.
I don't think he (the "pirat") has an idea of how much time has to be invested in the production of good books. I personally think that books are drastically undervalued and that people are not willing to pay enough for good books which has the consequence that they are either served well targeted bestsellers, which can be produced at that price, or junk. Big publishing companies and bestseller authors don't have that much of a problem selling their books at a lower price so that people are less inclined to download a pirated book.
I recently bought a Kindle, and every ebook in the Amazon store, without exception, is more expensive than the cheapest paperback version available at Amazon.
That's just ridiculous, and no matter how "close to zero" any marginal costs of a printed book might be - and I'd like some proof of that, because I find it hard to believe that handling, shipping, storage, printing, testprinting, typesetting, missed shipments etc, are so cheap - an ebook should never be more expensive than the same physical paperback.
And so the progress of virtual goods has turned their producers into teachers. The consequences are still unknown.
In order to thwart piracy, she refused to allow her latest novel to be released as an audiobook since the format is popular with file-sharers and also denied the publication of Russian and Chinese versions.
Isn't it like taping on the cover of the book: "Only for white"?
hmm..so there are no whites in Russia?
Most e-commerce companies where I've worked block both Russia and China due to massive piracy or credit card theft.
EDIT: changed "everyone agrees its wrong" to "everyone agrees hypocrisy is wrong"
If you assume they're failures, they don't have much bearing. If, however, you assume that people's actions reflect their beliefs more closely than their arguments do, the fact of hypocrisy regarding a given belief suggests rather strongly that even the person making the argument doesn't believe it. When an argument's proponents don't even believe it, I think it's reasonably strong evidence that it isn't true.
Are you saying everyone agrees piracy is wrong? In my mind that's very much still open to debate.
If that's the most obvious reading of my comment, the downvotes make a little more sense...
I think you'd find there are many people who find it acceptable to act contrary to how they expect others to act and moreover acceptable to pretend to be that which they are not.