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Swiss Government: Downloading Movies and Music Will Stay Legal (torrentfreak.com)
389 points by Uncle_Sam on Dec 2, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 212 comments



Wait.. what is this? A Government talking sense! Wow!

Most of my friends 'acquire' digital content. All spend money on cinema, entertainment events, video games and legit DVD's and box sets of things they really like.

In all cases the decision to go pirate is convenience + cost. A DVD at £14 is seen as too expensive. Similarly 79p for a single audio track file which you only need to play on your iPod seems a little pricy. Since Spotify came about everyone I know has cut back on music downloaded. Apart from iPod tracks there is no reason to get the actual file.

If pirated content disappeared overnight I personally would mostly live without. If I did buy a DVD for a silly price, that would mean I wouldn't be visiting the cinema that week. I think the majority of my friends would do the same.

The trouble with law makers is the influence the music and film industry have on them. The facts are there to be seen. Someone who goes out of their way to get a pirate copy of something will typically spend more on entertainment than those who don't.

The music industry likes to believe that every track downloaded is 79p they could have had. That isn't the case at all. If you took away all pirated material you would restrict discovery of new entertainment. Film / Music people may get slightly more money from certain people but the majority of this money would come at the expensive of other things.

I am not saying piracy is good but it certainly isn't the devil which many law and policy makers make out it is and its nice to see this acknowledged by an EU state.


'Since Spotify came about everyone I know has cut back on music downloaded.'

Musicians still seem to lose out on this model as they do not make that much money from it.


I keep seeing this argument and I keep not understanding it. Is it an economic argument? What is the economic point? The economic point to me seems to be that musicians were previously making money on inefficiencies that streaming services have now solved. Just like newspapers made a lot of money on classifieds before craigslist. Sucks for musicians, but it's an economic reality.

Or is it a moral argument? That musiciancs deserve to be paid a certain wage, and that streaming services are taking that away? This seems pretty absurd to me.

I think musicians need to come to terms with reality, which is not that different from old reality, actually: recorded music is basically a commodity, unless you win the megahit lottery. The way to make money as a working musician is through the scarce products you can provide: live performances, merch, and relationships with your audience. Google Amanda Palmer.


The argument is that the music labels have basically thrown in the towel against piracy and are resorting to an extremely un-lucrative streaming model supported primarily by advertising (free Spotify is still an amazing service for consumers), because at least they'll be getting SOME earnings from people who refuse to pay for the music they listen to (previously, pirates). It's sad for the labels, and even sadder for the musicians who get virtually nothing.

Spotify would be going nowhere fast if it wasn't for the enormous piracy problem.


Piracy will be a problem because marginal cost of distribution is ~0. There's not that much money to extract from distribution anymore because the industries are not providing that much value. They only really provide value to the few artists that they promote well enough to become megahits. Artists that try to play that lottery generally get what they deserve.

Industry wants you to conflate its incentives with artists' incentives, but that's never been true.

Again, musicians need to focus on where they can actually provide value. Recorded music isn't it. They'd be better off considering it marketing. They should be happy that distribution is now basically free, instead of previous situation where they basically had to pay labels for it.

The means to create music is getting cheaper all the time, and there are more ways to fund it than ever before.

In short, the old business model doesn't work anymore, if it ever did. Find a new one.


I suppose authors should rejoice now too, since those troublesome distribution costs have disappeared, marketing is free and they can travel about the country providing real value through public readings and book signings.


Sure, if they can get that to work. It's not the way I would try to provide value if I were an author. The point is that artists need to deal with the realities before them and stop listening to the lies that industry tells them.

You again seem to be making some sort of moral judgment about the situation. I'm talking about economic reality.

If authors think that they can make money by charging for copies (which have a marginal cost of ~0) because they think their product is that much superior to everyone else's, then that's great, but that will obviously only work for a small minority of authors, if at all.

I'm saying extracting money from copies is the old game, and it's over. The new game is trying to figure out how to make money from the value you can provide. And the fact is that the technology that's destroying the old model is also enabling new ones. The most obvious business model going forward is toiling in obscurity on your own dime and releasing a free product. If it's good enough, i.e. if people value it enough, then you can crowd-fund (a la kickstarter) the production of subsequent products. Here your value is as a creator of products, not a distributor. That's just the first thing that occurs to me after ten seconds of thinking about it. I'm sure there are many other viable models.

To me, the future looks vibrant and refreshing. There are fewer gatekeepers to our collective culture, we have more direct access to creators of culture, the experience is more interactive, the barrier to entry is lower, and the exchange of ideas is freer. I hope it's a future filled with more Amanda Palmer and less Avatar.


There's two issues here.

1. Pirating other peoples work is morally wrong.

2. You're kidding yourself if you think the economics that ruin labels and retailers are not going to just as quickly ruin independent acts.

As is painfully obvious from the example of authors - they rely entirely on people honouring their intellectual property and would have basically no income without selling 'copies.'

Just because musicians have a few alternative options, eg. live performances, doesn't change the underlying argument. What goes for authors, or filmmakers, should go for musicians or any other artists.

Why do you keep talking vaguely about alternative business models? There are none. Nobody's going to invent an ingenious new way of making money out of music. There's live performance or there's selling intellectual property. That's it.


Ah, so it's two separate arguments, a moral one and an economic one.

1. I disagree. I'm curious as to the precise moral dimension you're talking about here.

2. You're kidding yourself if you think you can stop it, or that by plugging your ears and closing your eyes you can make it all go away.

Most of your argument seems to be that because artists rely on selling copies now, that it must always be so. The fact is, artistic expression predates copying technology. Art fits into the technological capabilities that exist, not the other way around. Before image copying tech, artists made paintings, drawings, and sculptures, and sold them. There were other business models as well, like private and religious patronage. In ancient times, oral poets travelled and essentially gave live concerts. Dramatists had state sponsorship. Many of these business models and even entire mediums died out as our technology changed. That's what happens.

Maybe authors as we know them will figure out a way to survive, or maybe they'll die out. Same goes for filmmakers, musicians or any other artists. There's nothing special about the particular art forms we have now.

I keep talking vaguely about alternative business models because we're at a transition point. They haven't been invented yet.

"Nobody's going to invent an ingenious new way of making money out of music. There's live performance or there's selling intellectual property. That's it."

That's the spirit! You'd better tell Amanda Palmer, though, I don't think she got that memo.


It is true that artistic expression predates copyright. But isn't it the case that, before copyright, full-time artists either had wealthy patrons (Roman Catholic Church, the nobility) or lived in poverty? Copyright made it possible for an artist to make a living without having a wealthy patron.

I don't think we want to go back to a world where artists are funded by rich people because in that world, the rich decide what works get created.

Copyright is the only proven way of producing an abundance of art CREATED FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC, not for the Church or some nobleman. Just look at how many books and songs we got in the 20. century. Thousands of consumers each paying a small amount is a fundamentally democratic idea.

I think it should be possible for a writer, musician or developer to make money from ACTUAL creative work -- not from concerts, book signings or t-shirts. I don't see why so many people seem to wish for a world in which a hairdresser gets paid for his work, but a composer or software developer gets nothing. Do we really want a system which rewards the creation of tangible products like tables and haircuts, but not the creation of ideas? In the 21. century? Seriously?

To those who ask "why create artificial scarcity?": For the same reason we have environmental regulations. Environmental regulations also create artificial scarcity. We make it artificially expensive to release CO2 into the air or to fish cod out of the sea above a certain limit. Why? Because this is necessary to ensure continued abundance.

Unless someone proposes a better model which enables people to make a living by creating reproducible works, I will remain a (critical) supporter of copyright. In general, I think we should strive to create a system which rewards contributions to our society.


"before copyright, full-time artists either had wealthy patrons (Roman Catholic Church, the nobility) or lived in poverty? Copyright made it possible for an artist to make a living without having a wealthy patron."

Even if the former is true, I don't think the latter is.

"I don't think we want to go back to a world where artists are funded by rich people because in that world, the rich decide what works get created."

How is this not the situation now? Musicians and filmmakers work at the pleasure of large corporations, who have neither the general enrichment of the culture nor the livelihood of the artist as a priority.

"I think it should be possible for a writer, musician or developer to make money from ACTUAL creative work..."

That's not really the way capitalism works, though. They don't have a natural right to be compensated for the work they want to do. If they did, I'd sit at home and write essays on my blog for 40 hrs/wk instead of going to my government job. Artists have to figure out how to get paid just like the rest of us. Copyright isn't working. See Amanda Palmer for a model that's an alternative both to being owned by a corporation and to starving. It involves a lot of direct relationship with audience.

(You'd think HN of all communities would get this.)

Environmental regulations are not really artificial scarcity, though. It's more like trying to internalize tragedy of the commons externalities. I think of it like an insurance policy, where you charge people who are having a negative effect that won't be felt until later, so you can pay to deal with it when the time comes.


Your reply conflates two things: copyright and big labels. The control of artistic expression landed in the hands of big corporations because only big corporations could handle three expensive things: 1) production, 2) distribution and 3) promotion. All three of these things have recently become way cheaper thanks to digital tech. Big labels are becoming less powerful every minute. It is now perfectly possible for an unsigned band to produce their own recordings in a home studio, sell them on the Web and promote them on the Web as well. If copyright is abolished, this will no longer be possible because the band will no longer have any right to profit from the use of their songs. Even if a million people love their song and listen to it every day, they get zilch.

In short, I see the big label problem, but the problem was never copyright. The problem was expensive production/distribution/promotion.

"They don't have a natural right to be compensated for the work they want to do."

Copyright does not give people the right to get compensated for what they want to do. It compensates people if they make something that other people want to use.

I don't want to talk about "natural rights". I find the notion fuzzy and suspect. I think it only complicates the issue at hand.

I would like to live in a world where people get rewarded when they contribute to society. (Someone who writes a song or book or software program that a lot of people like is a contributor to society.) Either you find that vision desirable or not.


If I conflate the two, it's because big labels are generally the only ones with enough resources to enforce their copyrights.

"Copyright does not give people the right to get compensated for what they want to do. It compensates people if they make something that other people want to use."

Fair point. But the economic argument I'm making is that copies of music, for example, is a commodity at this point, because of the ~0 marginal cost and more or less substitutable.

My point is that I believe that artists will figure out how to get compensated for the contributions to society. Charging for copies isn't going to be part of it.


> I don't think we want to

Who is "we" and when did those "we" give you the right to make claims in our name? Neither you nor anybody else can decide what "we" want. Only we can decide what we want. Let stop making assumptions and simply have a vote on copyright policy.


>Copyright made it possible for an artist to make a living without having a wealthy patron.

Excuse me, but that is bullshit. You seem to have exactly zero clue about the origins of copyright. Since I've explained this countless times here already, let me just quote myself from an older comment of mine:

The fact is, copyright was never meant for creators. It was invented by distributors for distributors. The first copyright law was a censorship law to limit the amount of books printed when the printing press was was getting widely available in England that gave a total monopoly on publishing to a guild of publishers, without even attributing a book to the original author, but instead to the guild member who registered the book, attaining its newly invented "copyright".

So no, copyright was never meant to "make it possible for an artists to make a living".

>Copyright is the only proven way of producing an abundance of art CREATED FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

Proven? Your throwing around fallacies here. There's nothing proven about this, it's quite the opposite already. Unlimited sharing has enabled the creation of more art than ever before.

>I think it should be possible for a writer, musician or developer to make money from ACTUAL creative work

If he or she can find a way to make money from it, sure why not. The point is, you cannot make that money with distribution anymore. That's a reality and there's nothing you can do about it.

>Do we really want a system which rewards the creation of tangible products like tables and haircuts, but not the creation of ideas? In the 21. century? Seriously?

Again your throwing completely unrelated things together.

- A table is indeed a tangible good. You make one, then you can sell it, and have to make another.

- A haircut is not a tangible good, it's a service. The hairdresser gets paid for the work he/she has done.

- The creation of art isn't a tangible good either. It's best likened to a service, except many people do it proactively instead of waiting for someone to pay them to create art.

Yes, we as a society should find ways to reward the creation of art. Copyright is not, and never was, the solution.

>Environmental regulations also create artificial scarcity.

Except there already is scarcity in nature. If there would be an infinite amount of fish, it would make no sense to regulate catching. Huge abundance != no scarcity. With reproducible art, there is truly no scarcity.


You made a logical mistake of confusing these two statements:

1. "Copyright made it possible for an artist to make a living without having a wealthy patron" 2. "Copyright WAS MEANT to make it possible for an artists to make a living without having a wealthy patron"

You seem to think that by disproving (2) you also disprove (1), which is false. (1) is true. (2) may well be false, it doesn't matter.

Your comments about a haircut being a service, not a product, have no bearing on my point that we are approaching a situation in which a hairdresser is rewarded by society for his work, but a songwriter is not. I'm sorry, but pointing out mistakes like this (and if you'd applied the principle of charity you would've seen that it is not quite a mistake) only distracts from the actual discussion.

I'm glad you agree we should find ways to reward the creation of art. I am open to possibilities other than copyright. But so far all I've seen is a lot of handwaving and no workable model.


1. We could go on for several pages about the 'precise moral dimensions' but we both know that taking somebody's work, for nothing, against their wishes, is not cool. If you don't want to pay for it, do without it. Civilisation is built on mutual respect of rights.

2. Maybe piracy is here to stay. I just resent the sneaky suggestion that its only the lumbering, dinosaur labels with their outmoded industrial apparatus that are going to suffer. It's not true at all. The people with the most to lose are the artists themselves - especially the more intellectual ones, eg. authors. In your brave new world, The Beatles would have continued touring pub venues and only the lucky few who got to see them would realise how much they stood out from the 10,000 other bands doing the same thing.

Oh and religious and aristocratic patronage as a primary 'business model' royally sucked - that's basically why the copyright model and the arts have thrived over the last few hundred years. Its why we get to watch 100MM budget movies. It's a bloody good system and it's a crying shame to throw it away just because of piracy.


1. "we both know that taking somebody's work, for nothing, against their wishes, is not cool."

I'm really not sure I agree with that.

"Civilisation is built on mutual respect of rights."

Which rights are you talking about in this case exactly? The only one I can detect from your position is the right to be compensated for your work, which doesn't sound like a natural right at all.

2. Well, my position is that a lot of artists are suffering now, under the thumbs of the dinosaurs (to mix metaphors) you're trying to defend. In the future, those artists (as well as those industry players) who cannot or will not adapt will suffer.

"In your brave new world, The Beatles would have continued touring pub venues and only the lucky few who got to see them would realise how much they stood out from the 10,000 other bands doing the same thing."

But in my brave new world, I actually get to take part in deciding who stands out and who doesn't, instead of waiting for big labels to tell me, and I can rapidly communicate my decision to many other people very quickly. I take a more direct, decentralized stake in my cultural heritage. I find this pleasing.

"religious and aristocratic patronage as a primary 'business model' royally sucked"

I wasn't saying it was great. I was saying that artists adapt to the circumstances. They will continue to do so.

"why the copyright model and the arts have thrived over the last few hundred years"

I neither grant this premise, nor understand the causal connection you present.

"Its why we get to watch 100MM budget movies."

I've found that by my own measure, in the last couple of decades, the quality of a movie has had a generally inversely proportional relationship with the size of its budget. My theory explaining this is that with a larger investment, you need a broader base audience and relatively "safe" content, which translates to bland, soulless, lowest common denominator fare. I'll be happy to see this die.

"It's a bloody good system and it's a crying shame to throw it away just because of piracy."

I really don't think it's a good system at all. Its primary purpose was to promote continued innovation and creation. I've yet to see convincing evidence that it has done so, or that innovation and creation would suffer in its absence.

BTW: Thanks for indulging the argument without resorting to the ugliness that so many of these threadsd tend to devolve into. Even if neither of us convince the other, I find this exchange meaningful and clarifying of my own thoughts. I hope you feel the same.


The copyright model and the arts have thrived for the last few centuries because copyright was such a vast improvement on what came before it. It led to an explosion of creativity and entertainment industry.

Now while a fatted arts industry will always contribute a lot of bloated, formulaic works (although I think people would have to admit that even the more braindead hollywood titles have a lot going for them beyond the plot and script), it also allows big money to spent on worthwhile projects. Think of all the great movies that have been made in the last 70 years - they may not have been the most expensive for their time but they were generally still pretty damn costly to make. And even the shoe-string budget attempts probably would not have been made if the possibility for a massive pay-day did not exist (eg. Blair Witch Project).

I think people have got their priorities mixed up. Accessing art is not the problem. We have limited leisure time to spend, so even if we could, we would not want to buy every album/movie/book we could. These items are cheap, though, so since price is not really a concern, our worry should be ensuring that artists and the creative industries have economically viable roles. And do we really want to live in a world where the quality of the TV and film output never rises above the level of, say, Spain?


"The copyright model and the arts have thrived for the last few centuries because copyright was such a vast improvement on what came before it. It led to an explosion of creativity and entertainment industry."

You keep saying this and I keep not believing that that's all there was to it. It was also a matter of people having way more disposable income and leisure time than ever before, as well as the means of production becoming readily available to the masses.

You're also mostly talking about an era during which the marginal cost of distribution was significantly greater than zero. That's not the case anymore.

"our worry should be ensuring that artists and the creative industries have economically viable roles"

I disagree with this. I think most of our enduring works of art come from a time before copyright. Some, e.g. works of oral tradition like Homer, the Ramayana, the Bible, Gilgamesh, etc. actually depend on the unrestricted free exchange of ideas.

We just passed through a historical window in which the confluence of surplus disposable income and leisure and scarce distribution models made a few artists very rich (but a few corporations even richer). I would argue that this was never an optimal distribution. Anyway, it's coming to a close. Art will go on.

"And do we really want to live in a world where the quality of the TV and film output never rises above the level of, say, Spain?"

The only Spanish works I'm familiar with are Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone and various films by Pedro Almodovar. They were better than anything on, for example, this list:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_films#Mo...


You can argue the morality of it all you like, but practically, piracy (or free distribution) isn't going anywhere. It's too easy to copy digital goods. The entire internet is built on copying. Everything you use is copied several times just to get it to you.

You're not going to stop it, so if you are an artist or author you should try to find new ways to make money. Crowd-sourcing is one way. Hell I'd pay several hundred dollars to George R. R. Martin to get him to hurry up on his next book.

Edit: Accidentally wrote Robert Jordan instead of George R. R. Martin


> "Hell I'd pay several hundred dollars to George R. R. Martin to get him to hurry up on his next book."

Put me down for a wad of cash too, maybe not that much though.

But you/we don't need to appeal to a hypothetical on these things, the crew of SMBC Theater got 5 times the capital they asked for from their fans using Kickstarter to produce a movie.


Robert Jordan is dead, so I'm not so sure what you expect to happen through that donation...


Oops.. Not sure why I typed that, I was thinking of George R. R. Martin. Thanks for pointing that out.


> 1. Pirating other peoples work is morally wrong.

No it isn't. It's your word against mine, who's right? There is no other way to find out what the majority of people think about copying than to let them vote on it. Copyright policy should be decided in a democratic manner. If the people want copyright to exist and be enforced, enforce it. If they dont want it to exist and want to copy stuff, just let them. This is how democracy works.

> 1. Pirating other peoples work is morally wrong.

This (you making a proclamation) isnt how democracy works.


The reason I pointed out that it was morally wrong was so we could separate that from the economic argument. I could go into detail about why it's morally wrong but what's the point. People are just looking for excuses to justify their behaviour. Imagine you pass an artist with a stall on the street. You say you like one of his paintings, but it's £500. You say that's too much for you, so he shows you a print you can buy for a modest price. You then say you won't buy the print, but then proceed to take a picture of it, make your own copy, and then start selling copies to other people. All against the express wishes of the artist. Does that strike you as a decent thing to do?


> People are just looking for excuses to justify their behaviour.

You're right. My point was that if the majority of people want to copy stuff, it should be legal.

> but then proceed to take a picture of it, make your own copy, and then start selling copies to other people. (...) Does that strike you as a decent thing to do?

You are intentionally conflating filesharing and "selling copies" with the intent to make filesharing be in the same category. But these two imho are different things. In my experience, a large number of people who consider filesharing not morally objectionable, _do_ consider selling copies objectionable.

> All against the express wishes of the artist.

What the artist wants is irrelevant. The point of a democratic vote on copyright policy is not to fulfill artist's wishes, but to have people vote how _they_ want copyright to be. Democracy. Not just some bribeable politicans deciding whats best for authors and the industry.

> Does that strike you as a decent thing to do?

I consider selling copies without the author's consent wrong and I would vote for it to stay illegal. I consider non-commercial, private filesharing not wrong, even if authors oppose it because it may leads to less sales, and I would vote it to be fully legalized.

I just want me and millions of other interested people to be _able_ to directly influence copyright policy by directly voting on it in a fine grained way. I dont want to just give a party my vote and then let them allegedly "represent" me, because at least with respect to copyright, they dont. I want direct democracy.


Having a copyright law that allows consumers to make copies but prohibits the sale of those copies doesn't seem very workable to me. You'd be saying that making money from other peoples work is wrong/illegal, but at the same time saving money by copying without permission is right/legal. In both cases one party is extracting value from the work of another, against their wishes. Seems that the copyright system we have now where the creator is the 'owner' of the intellectual property and sets the conditions for its disposal has a much stronger foundation.

At any rate, surely you'd have to agree that if we changed copyright laws, it would only apply to work created from that point onwards. You couldn't reasonably shift the goalposts for works already published under the guarantee of copyright protection - that would be like raising income tax then applying it retrospectively.

So what it seems to me is that people want to have their cake and eat it. They want free access to the works of a copyright funded/enabled culture, but they'd rather not be left with the lacklustre non-protected output.

At any rate, let me rephrase my question. Would taking a picture of the print an artist was trying to sell you and then making a copy strike you as a decent thing to do? Would you happily say to their face, 'I'm not going to buy your print, but I'm going to take a photo of it so I can make my own copy?'

(we could go a bit further and mention distributing other copies to all your friends so none of them will buy it either, but I don't think that's even necessary)


> we could go a bit further and

No, sorry, I dont think you make any point worth further discussing.


Nice way to dodge the question again. First time you said it was because it conflates two issues, second time you said it was because I asked you already.

I'll ask you one last time. Do you think it's decent behaviour to turn down the purchase of a print that you like, and tell the artist that instead you are going to take a photo and make your own copy for free?


I disagree completely. Artists are loosing out because people who buy legitimate music are switching to Spotify.

I buy the music of bands I really like. I buy their albums as a conscious choice to support them. For other bands I would download their music, the artist would get £0 from me unless I went to see them live.

Since switching to Spotify, artists whose albums I would have'pirated' are getting a few cents which they wouldn't otherwise have got. They are winning.. if you could call a few cents winning.

The problem the music industry has is that non-pirates, people who otherwise would have purchased an album are switching to Spotify for recreational listening. If a CD is worth £8 to various people it means that shops, labels and artists loose about £7.90 if the person chooses Spotify instead of purchasing.

Artists and Labels can work around this. They can not put latest albums on Spotify. They can withdraw their music in the hopes they can negotiate a higher streaming price. Both of these would lead to more piracy.. MORE IMPORTANTLY.. this would lead to more casual listeners purchasing music and keeping the wheel's turning for labels.

Spotify is reducing piracy at the cost of reducing the number of non-pirates prepared to pay for music ownership.

Music label's say that piracy is the devil and they are missing out on millions. Spotify proves there is limited value in ending piracy. Spotify also proves there is a growing desire for people to have access to, but not ownership of, music. This is what should be terrifying labels, not piracy.


> Spotify proves there is limited value in ending piracy.

Oh, that is a wonderful insight! I might tone down the word "prove", but overall, that's a really important observation!


Switzerland is not an EU state.


No, but you could rent a VPN connection located there and permanently avoid EU harassment.


Suddenly the Swiss position seems quite enterprising.


As does Canada's rich and bountiful public domain.


Correct, but they subscribe to many of the same rules

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland%E2%80%93European_Un...


I don't think the facts are that easy to see. I'm not dogmatic about this issue at all but the constant entertainment spending assumption in this study seems rather questionable to me for two reasons:

1) People could behave very differently if the conclusions of this study became law everywhere, hence the conclusion may be self negating.

2) Even if entertainment budgets remain constant, the cost of providing the services doesn't. If someone downloads music for free and uses the money saved to go to a concert, they are consuming more in terms of other people's labor for the same price.


> I don't think the facts are that easy to see.

The Swiss report is a 13 page meta-analysis with 53 footnotes, many of which are citations of other studies.

> the cost of providing the services doesn't [remain constant]

Actually, you're right. The labor of producing that track is unchanged. The cost of distribution goes down. The cost of the concert is unchanged. So, net cost of 3 minutes of happiness went down.


> So, net cost of 3 minutes of happiness went down.

Yes, this is a key economic truth that seems almost completely missed.

Every pirated copy that is used actually adds value into the economy. It is sort of hilarious how upside-down the usual presentation is: all the figures of so many m/billions of losses are actually more like the opposite, they are gains to the public. The only possible loss anywhere is in reduced production -- but that is never demonstrated.


I have to say, that is an excellent point. I've never really considered the overal addition to societal utility that free distribution of a non-scarce good creates.


Neither do most people, and it seems like the most critical insight in discussions like this.

Copyright and patents exist specifically because the public wants more creative work produced, and at the time, granting temporary exclusive rights appeared to have the net result of enriching the public domain in the long run. They both represented tradeoffs: you can have a temporary monopoly if that gets you to create work that wouldn't otherwise exist, because after a relatively short time your work then becomes part of the public domain.

Those tradeoffs don't necessarily make sense now. The durations have gone up drastically, with no corresponding increase in the value we get. We also lose far more value during that time, because we've reduced the cost of copying to zero, and in the process created an astonishing number of awesome ways to work with media. The durations and rights of copyright should have gone down over the years, because authors can extract value from works more quickly (no 20 year ramp time needed), and because we lose so much by not having a work readily available to merge into our culture sooner; thus, we don't need to trade off as much value to get what we want.

When you see the whole mechanism of artificial scarcity as a society-wide "payment" for what we want, then you start wondering why we pay so much more for so much less, and whether we ought to stop buying entirely.


" If someone downloads music for free and uses the money saved to go to a concert, they are consuming more in terms of other people's labor for the same price."

Though due to the higher distribution of the content (since its at no cost to the consumer), more people are discovering it, and more people are going to the concerts. Lower margins, higher volume.


Not if entertainment budgets are constant, which is the assumption in that study. Constant entertainment budgets means there is no room for volume growth in terms of money, unless you are referring to developing countries where it's probably different.


Even in a flat market, of course there is room for volume growth for the individual proprietor, in this case, the artist. But a flat market requires more competitive rules to avoid monopolistic tendencies. In the Swiss regime, the distribution of sales will smear out over more small artists and fewer giants. The long tail gets thicker. My brother is an artist. I'm totally fine with that scenario.


Even if the money spent is constant, the money is moving from the distribution cost (marketing, CDs, etc) to the artist (concerts) in the case I described above.


Concerts need to be marketed as well and it takes a lot of time to perform on stage (I used to help with that and have done some myself). So if you work out compensation per hour, I'm not sure if concerts are really a better deal for artists. My guess is that it is a better deal only for the long tail of less well known artists who make almost nothing from media distribution anyway.


I assume entertainment budgets are a constant percentage of total discretionary spending. So they go up as income increases with economic growth.


True, but real incomes have been stagnant in the US and many other developed countries for over a decade.


You are talking saner than any of the world governments.


"The trouble with law makers is the influence the music and film industry have on them. The facts are there to be seen. Someone who goes out of their way to get a pirate copy of something will typically spend more on entertainment than those who don't."

I have yet to see any concrete evidence of this.

"The music industry likes to believe that every track downloaded is 79p they could have had. That isn't the case at all. "

It's funny. The excuses as to why people download pirated content changes every couple of years. Maybe it has to do with different age groups.

Remember when albums where $20 and everyone complained that the reason they were downloading rather than buying was because it was too expensive and they couldn't buy an individual song?

It put many stores out of business and many people lost their jobs. Nobody seem to talk about this though.

It's ridiculous to me that with so many legal services and songs at .99, people still pirate music. But it does show that it was all just an excuse. People that pirate just want free stuff.

"certainly isn't the devil which many law and policy makers make out it is"

Piracy isn't 1-to-1 theft. However, if companies don't do anything about it, people will just expect their content to be free and in the future, they won't be able to charge anything for it.

"If pirated content disappeared overnight I personally would mostly live without. If I did buy a DVD for a silly price, that would mean I wouldn't be visiting the cinema that week. I think the majority of my friends would do the same."

You think the price is silly, yet you still download it. You are getting enjoyment out of listening or watching the content and you aren't compensating the artists and many people that went into creating it.

How is this in any way honest?


I am in Switzerland, and I download stuff, but I am not a pirate, I am a ghost. I am not doing anything ilegal.

Here is my philosophy towards (primarily movie) piracy, and what piracy really is. As far I am concerned, to the eyes of the US Movie industry I am an inexistent customer:

- When US movie/tv industry first releases content they only focus on the US. Consequently they discriminate (they have the right to do so) against potential non-US consumers. It takes weeks/months to get that content in Switzerland.

- The imported US content, when in Switzerland is translated (French/German). I am not interested in translated content as much of the context/msg is lost in translation. I do the same with books, magazines, etc.

- Given that it is practically impossible to pay for the content released in the US from Europe, and the quality (translation) of it has decreased, I am no longer a potential customer; better said, I have become a ghost. I am not being targeted/catered by this industry.

The problem is not with consumers downloading content. The problem is that studios/producers, etc. have not got a business that serves these people.

I do not download music, I don't need to. I have Spotify, Grooveshark and iTunes that cater my needs. I am willing to consume that content. On the other hand no company is serving my movie/TV needs, hence I am not a customer nor a pirate. I am a ghost.


It's ridiculous to me that with so many legal services and songs at .99, people still pirate music. But it does show that it was all just an excuse. People that pirate just want free stuff.

Not true at all. Say I have a US credit card but want to buy Japanese music. Too bad, it's not for sale to me unless I trek to Japan and buy a CD with cash. So I pirate it instead.

Also, most $0.99 music stores sell compressed music, which is not acceptable to me. The pirates provide this to me for free, which makes the $0.99 song an inferior product. I do buy music that's distributed in FLAC format, however, like all of Jonathan Coulton's music. (There are also stores that cater to audiophiles and sell music at better than 44.1kHz/16-bit resolution. I buy music from them happily. The problem is they don't sell much music I like.)


100% agree. totally have the same issue with movies. if we are not catered for, why should we pay for a product that does not fit our needs. we are not the customers.


This seems to be the fundamental shift in thinking since mp3's have become so ubiquitous in the last 15 years. The thinking that, if this isn't offered the way I want (mainly priced at whatever I choose, or as close $0.00 as possible, or if it isn't available), then I am rightly justified to steal it.

Doesn't anyone else think this is a problem? I'm not saying I don't do the same, but I don't justify it in any other way than saying that I want stuff for free.


I personally don't think it's a problem, because I don't agree with your classification of the action as "stealing." It's problematic enough with content I do actually want (copying is not directly analogous to stealing just like potential income is not the same as income), but when the business doesn't offer a product you want (so there isn't even lost potential income), obtaining such a product in a way that doesn't cost the business anything (such as copying a file) from a third party is not stealing.


This argument comes up over and over again and it doesn't make any sense. If you are consuming the content then it does have value to you, therefore you should be paying for it.


> If you are consuming the content then it does have value to you, therefore you should be paying for it.

Who do I pay?

What if the value it has to me is less than what anyone would like me to pay for it?


The content creator? Can't pay them, don't want to pay them, don't like the price? Then you don't have the right to consume the content.


Arguing about "rights" doesn't mean anything. It's just as easy to say "if content creators won't sell lossless music files, they don't have the right to create the content."

Really, the market is just being efficient. Right now, people want X. They could buy X for the price of a plane ticket and a CD and spend 36 hours of their time to obtain it, or they could download a torrent and be done in minutes. People are going to do the second one, regardless of the fact that they have no "right" to. Why? Because it's easier, and humans are lazy.

As soon as every piece of music ever made is available from one store as lossless files, then there will be no excuse for music piracy. But as long as the middlemen want to segment the market artificially, the market is going to fight back. It's the recording industry middlemen that are hurting the artists, not the pirates. The pirates are just correcting the market.

(The same goes for movies. Get rid of bullshit DRM like HDCP and region coding, and suddenly your sales will go way up. People don't want to buy a special player / cable / monitor combo that supports strong cryptography. They want to watch a movie. So don't do that, or the pirates have you beat on features alone, even though you created the content. That sounds fucked up because it is! Movies are not designed to prop up failing consumer electronics companies' bottom line. They are designed to be watched.)


> The content creator? Can't pay them, don't want to pay them, don't like the price? Then you don't have the right to consume the content.

What kind of "right" are we talking about here? Moral, whose? Legal, in which jurisdiction?

Under your definition of right, do they have the right to deny me their content they won't sell to me, if my consumption causes them no loss?

If a bar won't let me in because I'm underage, but they position their TVs to be perfectly viewable by someone standing on the street, do I have no right to stand around and watch the TVs?


Your consumption does cause them a loss, this fallacy needs to quit being repeated. You value the content enough to consume it, so it is not 'free'. Why is it everyone thinks music is exempt from payment when value is derived from it? You don't expect to get a pair of jeans for free just because they are too expensive to afford do you?

By this standard you will happily then give me your paycheck for this coming week correct? I believe the output of your work to have zero value, therefore your work entitles you to zero compensation. This is essentially your argument. Why would an artist want to produce music if they can't afford to pay their bills because you deem it your obligation to have their work for free?


> Your consumption does cause them a loss, this fallacy needs to quit being repeated.

Repeating this doesn't make it true. A specific pair of jeans costs a specific amount to create from raw materials, and if not paid for causes a loss. The situation with a set of bits being copied is subject to interpretation and I don't see why your interpretation is any more valid than mine or anyone else's.

My paycheque is the result of an agreement between me and my employer, who does believe the output of my work to have some value. Whether the people who use Facebook apps I help build or the corporation that paid my employer for them agree is irrelevant. Artists and producers get paid by their label, in some degree, independent of efforts of the distributor, and certainly independent of the public's perception of the worth of their work. It might influence their next contract (just like everyone thinking my work is shit/great would influence my next job offer), but few contracts are written to be based 100% on distributor's performance.

However, I will be sending you a bill for reading my posts in this thread. You value the content enough to read and reply to them, and so you are causing me a loss not paying for the content.

Again: if a bar won't let me in because I'm underage, but they position their TVs to be perfectly viewable by someone standing on the street, do I have no "right" (under your definition) to stand around and watch the TVs? Why or why not? Is the bar functionally different from a music or film distributor?


This is another long winded argument basically saying the same as above. "Since I can easily steal it without paying for it, I am doing it". Damn the artist or whomever thinks they should be paid for their creative output. How silly of them.


I am beginning to lose patience with this conversation. I do not accept your point of view and your classification of my actions. You have done nothing to attempt to convince me that you're right except for repeating that you're right and strawmaning. You have not responded to my specific questions that might have helped me understand your argument. Have a pleasant day.


> You don't expect to get a pair of jeans for free just because they are too expensive to afford do you?

I don't expect to get a pair of jeans for free, but not for that reason. I don't expect to get a pair of jeans for free because nobody offered me one. If someone did, I expect Levi's to stay out of the deal, because it's none of their business. And more generally, I don't expect to get offered a pair of jeans for free because nobody can manufacture them for free, and because I can't trivially copy a pair of jeans. Given the availability of replicators in the future, I expect to get jeans and many other things for free.

Someone has bits and offers to provide a copy. Someone else wants those bits and takes them up on the offer. A copy occurs. Nobody else has any business getting involved; any third-party control over that transaction can only occur artificially. That doesn't represent a statement of morality, just a statement of how the world works. Re-examine your claims and consider what assumptions you've started from.

You don't have a natural right to get paid by someone unless they agree to pay you.


You've basically just said, "since I can steal music because it is easy, I am doing it." That is fine, but quit making excuses and just say that.


> You've basically just said, "since I can steal music because it is easy, I am doing it." That is fine, but quit making excuses and just say that.

I did not say that at all; for one thing, your use of the term "steal" implies a position I fundamentally disagree with. You've assumed a certain moral position which supports the idea of copyright, and you want everyone else to express their positions relative to your opinions on morality. I refuse to do so. I don't agree with your opinions on what you consider "right" and "wrong".


Your position is music should be free, or if you disagree with the price you can just decide what that price should be on your own terms?


Bits can and thus should get copied for free. That includes copies of music or anything else.

The original creation of those bits need not occur for free, as evidenced by the various crowdfunding platforms or other such mechanisms. The person with useful bits can decide how they'd like to distribute those bits, including if they'd like payment for those bits; they should have no control over copies of those bits.


> including if they'd like payment for those bits; they should have no control over copies of those bits.

These are contradictory no? What if I as an artist say that my wish is that no one should have a copy of my mp3, or listen to my music I produced without paying me for it. If you copy the music without paying for it you are directly going against the artists wishes correct? He produced this music and he'd like to get paid for it...

edit: Since I can't reply below.

Come again? So I as an artist should only be expected to be paid for one sale of my digital album? This makes no sense and sounds like some crazy argument just to justify copying music without paying anyone.


> Come again? So I as an artist should only be expected to be paid for one sale of my digital album? This makes no sense and sounds like some crazy argument just to justify copying music without paying anyone.

No, you as an artist can offer the product for purchase and/or download ("original" as in it comes from you). Real fans and People Who Want To Support Musicians can then buy it from you. People Who Suck And In Res0nat0r's Opinion Steal Music can copy one of the original copies.


> So I as an artist should only be expected to be paid for one sale of my digital album?

You can expect to get paid for creating your album in the first place. And once you stop thinking of it as "I sell one copy for $19.95 and everyone copies it" and start thinking of it as "Fifty thousand people all agree to buy it for $19.95 if I create it", it makes a lot more sense.


How are fifty thousand people agreeing to pay $19.95 for it, if they've downloaded it for free instead? Note: I'm counting people that downloaded the album instead of buying it as lost revenue, because they value it enough to listen to it, so they should be rewarding the creator for the value they've derived from it.


> How are fifty thousand people agreeing to pay $19.95 for it, if they've downloaded it for free instead?

They haven't. They've agreed, in advance, to pay $19.95 for the creation of the album. You then create the album. You take all the payments of $19.95. Then you put the album up for download.


Why would I want to pay 20 bucks to an artist I don't know and haven't heard before? Pretty sure that is not how new bands are able to get off the ground and make it. You need to put out a CD and tour (and make revenue off both) to keep doing the same.


> Why would I want to pay 20 bucks to an artist I don't know and haven't heard before?

You wouldn't. Release some samples first. Play at venues. Make a name for yourself. Make people want more.

Why would you want to hire a hacker you don't know and haven't seen work from? Either you take a chance on someone who looks good on paper without seeing any of their work, or you look for someone who has already demonstrated their ability. The same thing applies to artists.


Not contradictory at all. I said that the artist can choose to require payment to obtain the original bits; I also said they should have no control over any copies of those bits.


(English isn't my mother language, forgive my writing errors)

Just because you can copy paste a file and then share it easily with the world, it doesn't mean those bits came to life for "free".

Maybe for you, the filesharer but whoever produced the first bytes you are (not) enjoying, the writer, the musician, the production team, they all have paid a price to produce it. They spent time and money learning the how-to and getting good at it, time and money they could have spent creating other forms of value to trade for other people's value.

You say that because there are no reproduction costs, does it make it a free meal for everybody? Not according to the cook, that could have decided to pay for it and give it away (open-source, everybody's happy) but decided to put it for sale on the market expecting honest buyers to choose it if the price and the quality is right.

"Is this a good deal? Is the value I'm getting worth the asking price?" That happens all the time, for every kind of product. "Is this custom Challenger worth the 50k the car dealer is asking?" If you can't afford a car or don't think the price is reasonable, would you steal it just because in any case you won't end up paying the costs spent to create it?

Somebody will, though.

A few weeks ago I discovered on Youtube a master at playing the guitar whose stage persona is known as Buckethead. His music teared me up inside (Check out "Soothsayer"...). I could not but think "Damn, I need to send some money to this guy as a BIG ASS THANK YOU MAN!". By giving him my money I'm encoraging him to keep doing what he is doing the way he's doing. I want him to keep making music.

What struck me is that Buckethead has been playing the guitar for almost 30 years now. He's spent dozens of hours playing it. Without people "thanking" him with their hard-earned money, he would have probably had to work a 9-to-5 job to make ends meet and then maybe play the guitar. He would have had less time and energy to play it "as a hobby", he would have never got so good nor ever seen a reason to record his music ("Dude I'm playing for myself") and distribute it to the world. A lot of people would have never been touched by his music, myself included.

That would have sucked. The world would have been a poorer place, I would have. Being able to enjoy art makes us all richer, so why not make artists we listen to happy by providing them the means they need to keep their art-creating business alive.

Why should I crowd-fund somebody I don't even know? I just buy his music if I like it and want to listen to more than a few times. It's simpler than messing around with crowd-funding platforms. You pay later instead of funding first.

If artists can't profit from their art, only the already-rich, philantropic artists will eventually be able to produce or sponsor "free" music.

What if I couldn't afford to spend 20/30 bucks to see him live once a year or 40-50 USD for the 3-4 albums of his I love to the point I want to own? Should I be pissed at him because he's not playing for the glory, living on food stamp, maybe working another job not enjoying his life as much as he's doing while expressing himself the way he feel, 24.7?

Hell no. Instead of looking for ways to "game" the system, I am (and we all should be) always looking to provide more value to other people, making more money so I can choose wisely how to spend it for stuff that makes my life worth the ride. Our levels of consumption and production need some kind of balance.

So stop making up excuses.

If you can't afford something, ask yourself if you really want the thing or not.

Don't confuse your lack of money with lack of motivation. Be ready to work your ass off and pay the price.


Supporting musicians can be done in ways other than obtaining copies of their work in a format you don't want by paying off middle-men you don't like. You have obviously found one by donating money to some guy on youtube, and there are many others. No one in this thread is against supporting musicians.


Do you consider even, say, iTunes' 256kbps AAC unacceptable?


I probably can't hear the difference. It's nice to have a lossless source so that you can re-encode to a low bitrate for your portable player, though. 256kbps lossy audio sounds good, but 256kbps lossy audio re-encoded to 128kbps audio does not. (Right now, I have enough "legacy" 128kbps MP3s to make re-encoding unworthwhile; everything fits on my 16GB micro SD card. But that will not last forever, and who wants to carry around a hard drive over a micro SD card :)

The real problem is that the people mixing the music probably don't have as nice a listening setup as most audiophiles do, so when you listen to that music you are listening to the inadequacies in the setup of the person who did the mixing. I still have brand-new albums in 2011 that are clipped! (Not to mention, more bass and treble than there should be. Cymbals do not make your ears bleed in real life.)


Yes. Not to mention that some "pirates" release recordings of such qualities, that you cannot buy on a CD/DVD (at least in my part of the world - Eastern Europe). For someone with a decent sound system these things DO matter, and 256kbps tracks are quite bad. Some 320kbps pirated mp3 albums are (almost) indistinguishable from a CD, and I would gladly pay to the people who ripped them :)


Also, have a look at this phenomenon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war Digitally mastered recordings DO SOUND BETTER on low-grade sound systems (that's the reason for their existence after all). But on a quality hi-fi system, those only make your ears bleed (as jockway mentioned). So every time I spend 15 Euro for an album, I'm virtually playing the lottery, as I have no idea what will I hear from it. There are regions (Japan mostly) where they sell way better (not digitally mastered) recordings, but as mentioned, I can't buy if I don't go there. So now guess why piratebay is the best source of music... (I can at least hear it before dumping it - if it's no good).


I don't really care if they can no longer run their business. We have more than enough musics and movies on this planet to enjoy for a thousand lifetime.

The music and entertainment industry need consumers more than we need them.


We may not need the publishers or the industry infrastructure, but I would argue we definitely need the artists.

However my belief is that eventually music and eventually film will morph into primarily a hobby or very small business over time.


The creation of art is a basic human impulse. Art of many types would continue to exist and flourish without the "publishers or the industry infrastructure" as we know them today. Far from needing government to underwrite economic inducements to ensure that, it would have to legislatively ban art and have stern policing of such bans to have any hope of eradicating art and artists.


"I have yet to see any concrete evidence of this."

Did you read the article?


> How is this in any way honest?

Through a paradigm shift, which is long overdue.

Should the public have free access to scholarly papers and pay to see the doctor, lawyer, and geneticist?

Should the public have free access to musical recordings and pay to see the artists live?

Seems to me in both cases the net effect, the consequence, would be a higher quality of public discourse and appreciation. And that would be in the public's interest.

By comparison, implicit in your argument is an endorsement of the current system, wherein 77 years of copyright is just fine. From a deontological perspective, perhaps. Certainly lawyers make their money perpetuating a purely deontological view of the world, claiming they're the only ones who can parse the ontology of duties.

This divide between the deontological position to a consequentalist position is exactly the bridge Lessig believes the Supreme Court wanted him to cross, and he failed to realize it. Free Culture was his mea culpa.

I'm not sure how old you are, but my personal observation at 35 is that the quality of public discourse has improved since the advent of the internet. It would be a tough sell to claim that more information is better, but more access to high quality information is worse. Fundamentally, it's not about honoring the terms of scams corporate lobbyists perpetrated as we awoke from a 50-year TV-induced coma. It's about the public interest. In that paradigm, a consequentalist paradigm focused on the public interest, more access to high quality information is better.

Building the quantitative body of evidence to examine the consequentalist position is exactly what scholars have been laboring at for the last decade. And arguably the most advanced, sophisticated, educated society on the planet has examined the evidence and found it sufficient to directly, explicitly, reject in whole and in part, the deontological arguments of the old business model.

I will stretch this a bit further: if you look at history, I think you will find progress is often a story that starts with a deontology, a consequentalist argument forms, which is then backed up with evidence, adopted, and then forms the foundation of a new, hopefully less misguided deontology. If you can identify a deontology, look for consequentalist arguments that oppose it.

edit in reply to geoffschmidt: How to implement? I think we have seen that grandfathering current stakeholders has historically been an effective path to progress in the long term. As the new rules apply to more people, the old rules enjoy progressively fewer supporters, and eventually the new rules prevail. In terms of defining their copyright as "property", we're getting into the merits of the term "intellectual property", which is a red herring. There is no such thing under the law, but it is a very useful conflation of ideas for patent lawyers who need to pay off their Maseratis. The facts will set you free.


Thank you for this post. I think it is clear-headed: whatever rules we make about copyright, we have to justify them in terms of public benefit, not some intrinsic, inalienable right to intellectual property.

Practically, though, if you could make any law you wanted: what would you do? How would you manage the transition from the current regime to some more permissive regime? From the perspective of copyright owners, that will look like a legislative taking, like seizing a piece of real estate or canceling a pension.

Would you grandfather in the current IP holders, or give them some kind of grace period? (And perpetuate the old system?) Or just take their property? (Do you think that's generally a good public policy? Or is this case an exception for some reason?)


I don't know why, but I wasn't allowed to reply to this comment earlier. My reply is at the bottom of my post above. Thanks, it's is a good question.


Thanks.

I'm curious about your comment about intellectual "property" being a red herring. I certainly don't mean to mean to defend the current regime, but I'd be really interested to learn more about your ideas.

From a historical perspective, why is the notion of intellectual property any less legitimate than the notion of real property? In both cases, we are granting to a private concern the exclusive right to exploit something that used to be in the commons. Land "ownership" seems obvious now, but once, it seemed absurd to many people that anyone could own the space on Earth that we all occupy.

In the case of both real and intellectual "property", there is a resource from which limited value can be extracted. There are a limited number of cows that can graze in a given number of acres, there is a limited amount of money that can be made by selling a particular molecule as a drug, and there is a limited number of tickets that can be sold during opening weekend of a film.

In both real and intellectual property, there are multiple possible uses of the resource, and they can conflict. If I chop down the forest and plant wheat, you can't hunt there. If you make Mickey Mouse porn and promote it in infomercials, it changes who Mickey Mouse is in our culture. (Maybe we think it's in the public interest to allow that to happen, but it could definitely conflict with what Walt Disney wants to have happen, and prevent them from starting creative projects that they otherwise would have started.)

So it seems to me that opposition to intellectual property can't come from "legitimacy," unless we also consider ownership of real estate to be illegitimate. That would be a sad state of affairs, because I think the human race would be worse off without the idea of land deeds.

Edit: RF spectrum is another example, I suppose -- there's a limited amount of value to extract (only so many channels), and there are conflicting uses that create different kinds of value (which applications to run on which frequencies with which propagation characteristics.) And the policy tradeoffs in spectrum "property" seem to be different again from those in real or intellectual property. For one thing, there's the rapid advance of technology, and the possibility of spread spectrum.


>From a historical perspective, why is the notion of intellectual property any less legitimate than the notion of real property? In both cases, we are granting to a private concern the exclusive right to exploit something that used to be in the commons.

The difference is as clear as day. Now matter how much you exploit an intangible good, you cannot deplete it. It's not scarce, so it makes no sense to hand anyone a monopoly over it.

Also, land ownership can be questioned as well. It's most often justified by reciting the Tragedy of the Commons, but private ownership isn't the only solution you could apply to the problem it describes (depletion of a shared resource), but I digress.


> why is the notion of intellectual property any less legitimate than the notion of real property

hxa7241, above, links his summaries of four deontological argumentations on this issue.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3305043


> In the case of both real and intellectual "property", there is a resource from which limited value can be extracted. There are a limited number of cows that can graze in a given number of acres, there is a limited amount of money that can be made by selling a particular molecule as a drug, and there is a limited number of tickets that can be sold during opening weekend of a film.

Land has scarcity; not everyone can use it at once. You've argued that the same thing applies to works currently controlled by copyright, but I (and many other people) fundamentally disagree. Movie tickets have scarcity because not everyone fits in the theater at once; just look at the lines outside theaters on opening night of a popular film. However, the film itself has no scarcity; that doesn't represent a moral statement, just a statement of reality.

That might mean that people making films have to find other ways to extract value, but as a culture that falls under "not our problem". For a film people want to see, clearly the existence of the film has value, and people have found ways to make that support the film; just look at things like Kickstarter for one example, which would work just fine without copyright. (They'll probably work far better once they become a necessity; right now they have to compete with the effectively subsidized development of works controlled by copyright.)

Also, the ability to interactively change our culture represents a feature, not a bug. (Among many other things, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix_culture .) We deal with media we find distasteful by giving a collective "ewww" and moving on. That doesn't invalidate the huge value of having a rich public domain. (And in the case of Disney and numerous others, note that most of their movies couldn't exist without a rich public domain for them to have drawn from.)

> So it seems to me that opposition to intellectual property can't come from "legitimacy," unless we also consider ownership of real estate to be illegitimate. That would be a sad state of affairs, because I think the human race would be worse off without the idea of land deeds.

"Understatement" doesn't quite cover the implications of not respecting the exclusivity of property. But no, your premise doesn't hold; no natural scarcity exists for copyright and patents as presumed by the loaded phrase "intellectual property", the way it does for real estate.

Classic sci-fi thought experiment: if someone invented the replicator tomorrow, what else suddenly has no natural scarcity? Real estate would rapidly become the only component of the physical world with scarcity; apart from that, only services would have value.

> Edit: RF spectrum is another example, I suppose -- there's a limited amount of value to extract (only so many channels), and there are conflicting uses that create different kinds of value (which applications to run on which frequencies with which propagation characteristics.) And the policy tradeoffs in spectrum "property" seem to be different again from those in real or intellectual property. For one thing, there's the rapid advance of technology, and the possibility of spread spectrum.

RF spectrum absolutely does have scarcity, albeit somewhat flexible scarcity since we continuously find new ways to pack more into less. I don't think we currently handle spectrum regulation in the most efficient way (auctions don't necessarily seem like the right approach), but RF spectrum does at least have a legitimate claim as a limited resource that needs some kind of special handling. That said, the value of special-purpose RF protocols has gone down significantly, compared to just finding ways to connect devices to the Internet.


My argument is that there is natural scarcity not of copies of a piece of information, but of the value that can be extracted from it. Scarcity is relevant to movie tickets because only so many people want to see a particular movie this Friday night. Let's say that in San Francisco there are 1000 such people. If only 5 movie theaters can show the movie, they might sell 200 tickets each. If 50 movie theaters can show the movie, they're not going to sell 200 tickets each. Collectively they will still sell at most 1000 tickets. They have to divide a scarce resource -- the value of the information to moviegoers on that particular night in SF. Once the information is adequately distributed, no matter how many copies you make, you won't increase that value.

So, instead of tracking the physical copies -- which I think we'd both agree are an irrelevant artifact of an antiquated distribution system -- I think we should talk about the value that is created for humanity when someone comes up with a new piece of information. When I make a movie, I've added a certain amount of value to the world. When I establish that a molecule can safely be used to treat a disease, I've added a certain amount of value to the world. It is hard to find units to measure this value (revenue potential in USD is a distorted one), but it is undoubtedly finite, and different for each movie or drug. None of this changes with your sci-fi replicator.

The question is, should I as the creator of the information be able to capture all that value? Some of that value? None of that value?

If we thought of IP as a natural right, we'd say "all." Copyright would be perpetual and there'd be no fair use. In a post-scarcity world where everyone got food and housing and paint and movie cameras for free, we might say "none" and hope (correctly I think) that people would still create for the pleasure of creation.

Historically in the US we've said "some," nominally because we think it maximizes the rate of production of value for the commons, but in fact because of the natural vulnerability of our legislative system to capture by rent-seeking copyright aggregators. It is like a resonant frequency of democratic capitalism.


It sounds like you've said not that scarcity exists in the supply, but rather than a limited amount of demand exists. That much certainly seems true (consider YouTube's statistics on how many days of video get uploaded per minute). However, I don't see how that leads to the conclusions you suggest; it certainly doesn't have the same effect as scarcity of supply.

> The question is, should I as the creator of the information be able to capture all that value? Some of that value? None of that value?

You have the right to try; you don't have any fundamental right to succeed, but you can certainly try.

I agree with the concept that you create value when you create new information, rather than at some later time. That seems like the perfect time to attempt to extract value, since you can choose not to create the information if you can't get value for it, and you can choose to focus on creating information for which you can derive value.

That model fits nicely with systems like Kickstarter: raise money to create something, then create it. If those become the primary model for funding creative work, they'll almost certainly attract more interest and more funding, which would otherwise go to copyright-subsidized creativity. Seems to me like a pretty reasonable model. Other sensible post-copyright models almost certainly exist; people just haven't thought of them yet, or haven't demonstrated that they can succeed.


There is a delay, during which replies to comments replying to yourself aren't enabled. I believe it's designed to prevent a flame war comment thread.


> From a deontological perspective, perhaps

That actually seems even less defensible than the normal pragmatic, consequentialist position. See Koepsell and Wilson, as summarised in this article: http://www.hxa.name/articles/content/copyright-ethics-agains...

Also, one can see a simple question that no moral argument for copyright/IP seems able to answer: why impose a restriction on a beneficial abundance? (where there is no need and no gain). Copyright creates an entirely artificial restriction. How can there be duty in that, or derivable from that? Why would we want to make a rule to restrict a beneficial abundance? It does not seem possible for that to make much rational sense.


Thanks for the article! My fundamental reason for not arguing deontologically, just as a rule of thumb in life, is that such systems suffer tremendous instabilities stemming from the nuances of their axioms and the higher your construction, the further they fall.


Totally agree. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that the onus is on 'intellectual property' proponents to justify their position, instead of vice versa. It does not seem obvious to me that people have a natural right to make money on intangibles.

Even copyright and patent law wasn't in inception about natural rights, so much as it was about 'encouraging continued creation,' but I've yet to see convincing evidence that intellectual property rights actually have this effect, or that lack of intellectual property rights discourage it.


I'd like to live in a world in which people are rewarded for their contributions to society, how about you?


I reject your world. I'd like to live in a world where access to culture is unrestricted by artificial monetary barriers.

If that means that music is only created by those passionate enough to make it themselves as a hobby without any thought of remuneration ... well, that actually sounds like a pretty good filter to me. If you think that that means that music will die out, then that probably means that nobody cared enough about it in the first place. If you think that that will decrease the overall quality, I've been surprised at what dedicated volunteers can do, see open source.

Growing up as a kid, I was excluded from the culture of my peers as my parents (despite my pleeding) could not afford it. The plight of the starving movie director does not convince me.


A bartender is allowed to make a living, but a songwriter or independent software publisher is not. Interesting perspective.

I guess we could exclude other professions as well -- why not doctors? Medicine should be practiced only by those who are passionate enough to do it for free, don't you think?


Sure. How do you measure it? The way capitalism measures it is by how much people are willing to pay for it. Seems to work pretty well, or at least (to borrow Churchill for my purpose) less badly than any other system.

The upshot of this system, though, is that people have to figure out a way to get people to pay them for their contributions. It doesn't change for artists. Charging people for ~0 marginal cost copies is rapidly becoming not a way to get people to pay you. I think artists are going to do fine.


If you agree that people should be rewarded for their contributions, then you should support a system which does that. The system of paying for zero-marginal-cost copies at least attempts to reward people proportionally to the perceived value of their work. Surely that's better than no system at all.

Creating a system that rewards desirable behavior is the job of regulators. I don't see why we should succumb to defeatist claims like "It's all over. Just accept that your work is now worthless". No, we should do something about it, just like we are tackling pollution, crime, etc.

One crucial step would be to make it easy for a creator to sell their work over the Web with a one-click interface, like buying an iPhone app.

(BTW, I agree with the "less badly" assessment. Capitalism has been known to reward total crap.)


It's not no system at all. It's capitalism. I guess I think capitalism is a sufficient system for people to get rewarded, generally.

And I think copyright introduces lots of opportunity for abuse, as well as introducing weird notions (like "intellectual property") into the culture. I don't like that people think they can own ideas. Just look at the state of patents.

I suppose you could introduce technologies that make it so cheap and easy to buy music that it's not worth the effort to pirate, but I don't see that as a very good source of revenue.

I think things like what Amanda Palmer is doing are great. I also think Kickstarter shows that we're only just beginning to see the possibilities for new ways to reward people for their contributions without having to resort to extra regulations.

In short, my attitude is not defeatist, it's optimistic for a decentralized, entrepeneurial, directly participatory future of art and culture!

And, btw, thanks so much for the lively discussion (on this and the other thread) without devolving into flaminess! I feel enriched for having had the exchange.


I haven't seen a single workable model (other than copyright) that rewards creative work rather than "added services" like performing concerts. What if you're a writer or an independent software developer? What if you are a 40-year-old musician with a family, and cannot be on tour for the better part of the year? What if you are terrible live, but a great composer?

I think the best approach is to reward the actual creative activity, not "added services". It's a basic management principle: reward for what is actually valuable. For example, if you ask programmers to provide their software for free and charge for support services (which is often proposed as a substitute for per-copy charges), you are incentivizing them to design hard-to-use software. Similarly, if musicians are only able to make money on concerts, this will incentivize the creation of music that sounds good live (not all good music does) and caters to the concert-going demographic (usu. young people with no families).

Kickstarter is nice, but I don't see it as a real source of income. How many people are going to pay for the promise of a product vs. for the actual product? I don't know what Amanda Palmer is doing. From what I can tell from her site, it's the "live shows + t-shirts" model I've already discussed.

I don't know what abuse of copyright you have in mind, but I am the first to argue that copyright law should be reformed. I would shorten the copyright term, for example.

Finally, I would like to address something you've brought up repeatedly in this thread: the issue of zero marginal cost. There is no rule that says that the cost of something should be equal to its marginal cost. Do you believe the cost of a book should be the cost of the paper + distribution? Or that if there are free seats at a movie screening, I should be legally allowed to watch that movie for free (since the marginal cost of another viewer is zero)?

Time to wrap up. Thanks for the discussion. I would like to change somebody's mind on the Internet just once. So far it hasn't happened (I've been on the Web for 16 years). Maybe next year will be the year.


Your point about added services is interesting, but a bit askew, I think. For a performing artist, the actual creative activity is the performance. For no one is the actual creative act the distribution of recordings. A 40 y/o musician with a family might not have a market. Some people don't. A great composer might have to sell to other musicians. This is already a thing.

I think Kickstarter is potentially game-changing. Not only can you market-test an idea before you even execute it, but you can form a relationship with your audience and form a community. People don't really know about it yet, but I for one would gladly fund the efforts of some of my favorite artists.

Amanda Palmer isn't just doing concerts and t-shirts. She's doing all kinds of stuff like comics, weird collaborations, short films, plays, etc. She's doing everything and seeing what sticks, but she's also always forming relationships with her audience.

re marginal cost: I think it's a fairly basic rule of economics, that in a competitive market, the price of a product falls to its marginal cost. I wasn't making a moral judgment, just an economic observation. Maybe you're arguing that this is a special circumstance that doesn't apply? I'm curious as to how.

re changing my mind: I was for intellectual property before I was against it. Someone on the internet changed my mind. It happens, probably not very often, but it does. I guess a pertinent question is: what would it take to change your mind?


I said you have to reward for the value that is provided to society. That's the ideal system. For a recording musician or independent software developer, value is demonstrated when people use their work. That's why the reward must be tied to the use of the product.

If you proposed another system in which a recording (not performing!) artist or software publisher gets rewarded proportionally to the value people place on their work, then I might be convinced that copyright should go away.

Kickstarter is interesting and if it worked, it might be able to fulfill this need, but I am not optimistic because it encourages free-riding. If I'm a fan of Stephen King, it does not make sense for me to fund his next book on Kickstarter. The optimal strategy is to wait for others to bear the cost, then consume the work for free (since there's no copyright). I'm not absolutely certain that Kickstarter won't work, but I wouldn't bet on it.

I am not okay with saying "if you're a musician with a family, then you'd better find another job". A recording musician with a family can produce valuable works of art. In an ideal world, he would produce these works and society would reward him. For me the only question is, how to bring about that ideal world? Copyright is closer to that world than free copying.

re: economics: I'm not sure why you're bringing up that economic rule. We are talking about what SHOULD HAPPEN, not what HAPPENS in a free-market economy. I don't think either of us believes the free market equilibrium is always optimal for society. Arguing whether that rule really holds (and BTW I don't think it does in the real world) would serve no purpose here.

re intellectual property: Notice that if there were no IP laws at all, then I could take someone's song and claim I wrote it. Then I could make money by performing it. I mean, once we accept that intellectual property doesn't exist and that the original creator doesn't own his creation in any way, what's to stop me? I think you actually support a middle-ground system, where I am allowed to make a copy of anything and give it to anyone, but I am NOT allowed to profit from it -- only the creator gets to do that. If so, then you support IP to some degree. (Just an observation. No real argument here.)

re changing your mind: Did you change your mind in an Internet discussion or after reading some article? The latter seems much more likely to me. In a public discussion, people never say "Your arguments convinced me and now I believe the opposite of what I said in the beginning." Doing so would mean conceding the other party's intellectual superiority and would make one appear inconsistent. The best you'll get is something like "Okay, there's some merit in what you're saying, but...". Translation: "Alright, you won this one, but don't think you're such a smartass".

The desire to be consistent means the more times you publicly state your point of view, the more invested you become in it. So each subsequent exchange between you and me actually decreases the probability that one of us will change his mind. If either of us changes his mind, it will be long after this public exchange is over. This makes convincing strangers on the Internet a very unrewarding activity, as I will probably never find out if you changed your mind eventually (and vice versa).

You may want to check out this talk by Jaron Lanier. He was not the one who convinced me of the value of copyright, but his book ("You Are Not A Gadget") provides some nice examples and arguments.

http://zocalopublicsquare.org/full_video.php?event_id=359...


"gets rewarded proportionally to the value people place on their work, then I might be convinced that copyright should go away."

Of course, there is no such system, but capitalism is the closest we've gotten. Copyright is an attempt to get closer to that system than pure capitalism, but I don't think it works.

Kickstarter has already enabled the creation of lots of stuff that simply wouldn't have been possible before. But you're right that it might not work for infinitely copyable art. We'll see. My real point, though, is that Kickstarter shows that new technologies are enabling models that weren't possible before. I think Kickstarter is only the beginning.

"In an ideal world, he would produce these works and society would reward him. For me the only question is, how to bring about that ideal world? Copyright is closer to that world than free copying."

Again, the problem is how to decide who provides value. Capitalism is the best system we've come up with. It's not perfect, but I'm arguing that copyright is worse.

Re economics: But I'm saying that a mostly free-market economy is the closest we've come to making things happen the way they SHOULD. In my view, copyright is an artificial restriction that doesn't do what it's supposed to, which is to encourage artistic works. It just changes the type of art that gets created, while enriching middle men.

re IP: I think what I'm against is the conception of ideas a property. I'm not against attribution, or enforcement of attribution, but notice that attribution has nothing to do with property if you just think of it as not lying. Ideas as property also reinforces the, imo faulty, notion that there is any one single creator of any idea ex nihilo. Ideas come from other ideas, and circumstance, and brilliance, and the more ideas can move around, the more ideas we'll have.

re changing minds: I changed my mind after many online discussions, offline discussions, and reading. And generally for me, when I do change my mind, it's not during a discussion. Instead, it's usually after I have a discussion in which I refuse to give ground, and then later I simply realize that I've changed positions.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." I think the desire to be consistent is real, but not always helpful.

My question is: if you don't think anyone changes their minds from online discussion, why are you engaging in this one?

I've read Lanier before, and I find him fascinating, but I don't ever really follow him to his conclusions. I'll check out the link. Thanks!


First of all, thanks for sticking to the point and keeping this discussion civil. Would be nice to have a little debate over a couple beers.

"copyright is an artificial restriction that doesn't do what it's supposed to, which is to encourage artistic works"

I'm not sure copyright doesn't encourage artistic works, but I would actually dispute that this is the only goal of copyright. I would say that the goal of copyright is for a creator of reproducible works to be rewarded proportionally to the value they contributed to society.

Consider this thought experiment: Suppose we had absolute proof that doctors would still heal people exactly as much as they do now if we stopped paying them. They would live in poverty, but they would practice medicine out of their passion for the field, desire to do good, whatever. Would it then be right to institute a system of "free medicine"?

I am inclined to think it wouldn't be right. Contributions should be rewarded, even (or perhaps especially?) if the contributor is not doing it because of the reward.

re IP: I think you support more restrictions than just correct attribution. Can I take someone's song and perform it for money without paying them, provided I credit them? Can I burn the song on CDs and sell them in a store without paying them? Can I record a concert in HD and sell streaming access to it? Can I take Microsoft Windows, crack the copy protection, and legally sell the cracked software in an online store? If not, can I distribute it freely on a website on which I sell advertising?

Notice also that a policy of free copying would introduce an arbitrary distinction. If you host a word processor on your server ("software as a service") and sell access to it, you can make money. If you sell a word processor that runs on your customer's computer, you cannot make money, because then customers will be able to legally copy the software among each other. This is arbitrary -- in both cases the value provided to society is the same, it's just that in the first case, you obscure your code from your customers to prevent copying.

Apart from the arbitrariness and, well, unfairness of this system, it would encourage centralized software provision and draconian DRM schemes (for example, people would write desktop apps in which crucial parts of the code run on some central server, so that the customer's computer never "sees" the code). This is bad for the customer -- you have to be online to use the app, it eliminates privacy, it encourages obscurity which is bad for security, etc. We'd be telling software developers: "You can make money only if nobody ever gets their hands on your code. So you'd better hide it really well".

I realize we already have some bad DRM schemes (esp. in games), but it would be worse if copying was legal. Right now copyright restrictions stop many people from using pirated software. Not so much individuals, but think about businesses. The only way for Microsoft, Adobe, etc. to make money would be to run large parts of Windows/Office/Photoshop on some central server. That wouldn't be good.

Of course software makers would still be better off than songwriters and authors -- they cannot hide their work from the world.

"if you don't think anyone changes their minds from online discussion, why are you engaging in this one"

I'm not sure. Two answers come to mind: 1. I can't stop myself when someone who appears smart writes things I consider to be false on a subject I consider important. 2. I believe (as I've previously suggested and you have confirmed) that sometimes people change their mind after the discussion is over, even if they won't budge during the actual discussion.


"First of all, thanks for sticking to the point and keeping this discussion civil. Would be nice to have a little debate over a couple beers."

Likewise! I don't really enjoy drinking, but if you're ever in Portland, OR, let me know!

"I would say that the goal of copyright is for a creator of reproducible works to be rewarded proportionally to the value they contributed to society."

I've never actually heard this as a rationale for copyright. Even so, I don't think it holds as a justification. Because you're starting from the premise that these contributions have an inherent value. But the premise of capitalism is that the best way to determine something's value is how much others are willing to pay for it. In the absence of any restriction, these creators haven't created anything of value because it's easily reproducible. If you place the arbitrary restriction of 'copyright' on these works, then, yes, they become valuable through artificial scarcity. But that's true of anything that has very little value.

In your doctor thought experiment, you're sort of violating the basic premise of capitalism. You're also here making a deontological argument, that it's only morally right to support some sort of payment to these altruistic doctors, even though they have no actual value, since they'll work for free. In this world, how do you decide how much to pay them? In other words, how do you determine the value of their contribution?

re IP: "Can I take someone's song and perform it for money without paying them, provided I credit them?"

Yes.

"Can I burn the song on CDs and sell them in a store without paying them? Can I record a concert in HD and sell streaming access to it? Can I take Microsoft Windows, crack the copy protection, and legally sell the cracked software in an online store? If not, can I distribute it freely on a website on which I sell advertising?"

Yes, yes, yes, and yes, but no one will pay for any of it because it will be available for free.

"Notice also that a policy of free copying would introduce an arbitrary distinction..."

It's not arbitrary, though. There's a very important distinction: you can easily demonstrate your value and charge money without arbitrary legal restriction through one model, and you can't through the other.

"...it would encourage centralized software provision and draconian DRM schemes..."

Please notice that this is already happening? Why? Because it's an easier and more sure way to make money.

Centralization of software has its good and bad points. But the elimination of privacy and security are separate issues that aren't particularly relevant to copyright. Centralized computing is actually something I'm kind of worried about, but it's an orthogonal issue.*

"Two answers come to mind"

These are both great reasons! Let good discussions between open minds strive for truth in opposition! Let opposing minds passionately disagree, but remain amicable!

* I just recently wrote a post along these lines: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/13581915694/an-amateurs-lamen...


Sure, let me know if you're ever in Wroclaw, Poland. :)

"Because you're starting from the premise that these contributions have an inherent value."

Yes, things have value. You're not going to ruin everything by arguing that there is not such thing as value (other than market value) and that without market value we are in no position to say whether a cure for cancer is more valuable than the Holocaust, are you?

"But the premise of capitalism is that the best way to determine something's value is how much others are willing to pay for it."

And why would anyone accept that premise? It's absurd. I see people paying tons of money for things that have little value. If value were definitionally equal to market price or revenue, then it would be meaningless to say that someone wasted their money on something. In this worldview (which I would call "market fundamentalism"), if Patsy paid $10000 for a rubber chicken, then the rubber chicken is by definition worth $10000. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of how markets work knows that they are prone to groupthink, panic, irrational exuberance and other anomalies.

Another example: if you accept this "no value but market value" nonsense, you have to conclude that giving medicine to sick people in Africa has no value, since these people are not paying for the medicine (they have no money).

Value is ultimately a moral category. The goal of the economic system is to make sure valuable contributions are rewarded with appropriate economic value. At least it's one of the possible goals.

"In the absence of any restriction, these creators haven't created anything of value because it's easily reproducible."

It may be easily reproducible, but for someone to reproduce it, it must be created in the first place. The creating is the hard part, not copying bits.

"If you place the arbitrary restriction of 'copyright' on these works, then, yes, they become valuable through artificial scarcity. But that's true of anything that has very little value."

Yes, I see your point. You can inflate the economic value of anything through regulations. That doesn't mean, however, that all such regulations are wrong. To say otherwise would be to say "the market is always right".

You are okay with making money on SaaS because it happens "without arbitrary legal restriction". But the reason why a SaaS company can maintain the secrecy of their source code is rooted in arbitrary legal restrictions. One such restriction is that I cannot break into the 37signals HQ and copy their codebase. Why not? I don't see why I shouldn't be allowed to enter a particular building and have a look around, as long as I don't break anything (and even if I do, I can reimburse 37signals for broken locks, smashed windowpanes, etc.). So in a way, you can make money on SaaS because of an arbitrary legal restriction.

Just as we have laws that prohibit people from entering corporate buildings, we can have laws that prohibit copying of content unless authorized by the creator. Unless I'm making some kind of mistake in reasoning (I'm kind of sleepy right now), I'm not sure one of these is more arbitrary than the other.

"In this world, how do you decide how much to pay them? In other words, how do you determine the value of their contribution?"

The government sets the restrictions (e.g. the copyright term, fair use, penalties); the rest is determined by the market. The restrictions themselves are somewhat arbitrary, but any human-made formal system is somewhat arbitrary. For example, the government sets an arbitrary requirement that you should have your car checked every year. This creates a market for vehicle inspection services. The price for this service is determined by the market and depends on many things, including the supply of specialists. Similarly, environmental laws create artificial demand for recycling services, green technology, etc.

Why is this done? Because we believe road safety and a clean environment have more value than the free market assigns to them. It is a matter of public policy.


"Through a paradigm shift, which is long overdue."

As long as that paradigm shift includes open source software. I should be able to use open source software in any proprietary software application without having to release the source code.

Any time the GNU license is violated, many people here on HN talk about "theft" and "stealing". It's exactly the same thing as pirating software: the original piece of open source is never really taken. Bits are just shifted.

Also, people that pirate may think they are helping the software community. However, it will only push software companies and developers like me to release Software as services.

You now have to pay a monthly fee rather than a one-time price.


So, just to offer a particular example to test my understanding, you think that I'm saying that if Google runs their service on top of Linux, they should be able to hold their own source code in reserve, but any changes they make to the kernel should be returned to the kernel, but if they fail to do that, then the the Linux project should not have standing to hold Google liable in civil court?

No. I'm saying the legal regime that supports 77 years of copyright is profoundly flawed and a little civil disobedience is a reasonable way to keep the conversation moving forward. There is no law that those with enough resources cannot obey. It's those with limited resources who agitate for change.


"So, just to offer a particular example to test my understanding, you think that I'm saying that if Google runs their service on top of Linux, they should be able to hold their own source code in reserve, but any changes they make to the kernel should be returned to the kernel, but if they fail to do that, then the the Linux project should not have standing to hold Google liable in civil court?" If they can go after Google, I should be able to after someone in court for distributing my proprietary software without my consent. Both are license violations, but in different ways. You seem to be pushing for legalized piracy (or the inability for anyone to protect their intellectual property). Except in the case of open source software. This is the hypocrisy I've seen time and time again from people that are against copyright laws.


> hypocrisy ... from people that are against copyright laws

I'm arguing that 77 years of copyright is too long. Maybe 6 months or a year. That's the timeframe some scientific journals are moving toward for making their archives available. I would also argue the fair use exception should be made far broader, especially for education. Are you arguing that 77 years of copyright is acceptable? Do fully endorse the current system without reservation?


I hope that when this happens, I have lots of money stocked away.

I will wait until a smaller, successful company's copyright expires after a year and I will replicate it exactly. Because I have more resources, I will be able to easily compete and most likely put that company out of business.

After a big block-buster movie comes out, which costs a million+, I could make t-shirts and all sorts of things to make money..and I didn't have to put any of the work into creating it.


I suspect that most advocates of radical copyright reform would draw a distinction between commercial and non-commercial infringement. I would also treat different media differently, so e.g. software may have either stricter or more relaxed guidelines than music and movies.


I would say the couldn't,after 77 years, or 15-20 years.


There's a reasonable and pragmatic expectation that a consumer is paying for an unlimited license to listen to whatever music they want (Spotify, Rhapsody, whatever). They are dealing with legacy devices by downloading tracks that work on those devices. In practice, this doesn't match the contracts that the unlimited streaming services have with the labels, but the nuance may be lost on customers who see this as simply "the music guys are trying to double-dip by making me pay twice when I'm already paying for an unlimited usage model".

Customer perception of dishonesty and corruption on the part of the music industry is... not new, and may well serve as justification there. Customer expectation that music is free (because radio is) and that recording songs off the radio (for old farts like me who used to do that as kids) is legit also plays a part of it.

Ultimately I suspect this amounts to "a ubiquitous celestial jukebox wins the consumer wallet", but we're not quite there yet.


I love. LOVE how the HN community downvotes me for merely having a differing opinion.

I chock it up to insecure computer geeks. I would not want to live in a world where I am silenced for my opinion.


Stealing something deprives the owner of 100% of its value or potential earnings.

Pirating something does not deprive the owner of 100% of its value or potential earnings. Nor is it 0%. It's obviously somewhere in between, on an aggregate level. Like between 30% and 70%.

(you;ve also got to analyse it from the perspective that pirates will download anything and everything, without even watching it. But on aggregate it probably means where they would have spent £30 a month on the industry, now they spend £0).

"Film / Music people may get slightly more money from certain people but the majority of this money would come at the expensive of other things."

Uh... that's a terrible argument. We're not talking about balancing the budget of the different departments within the same company or something, we're talking about the violation of peoples rights. Just because teens spend all their money on games, rather than music, now, doesn't not make it right.


> Pirating something does not deprive the owner of 100% of its value or potential earnings. Nor is it 0%. It's obviously somewhere in between, on an aggregate level. Like between 30% and 70%.

"potential earnings" does not mean "value". You have no fundamental right to get paid; you need to convince people to pay you. If you don't like it, don't provide your work in the first place.

Copyright deprives people of a non-zero percentage of the value of a work in the public domain; you claim people don't have the right to that value in the first place. My ability to resell a used lamp deprives the lamp maker of the value they'd get by selling a new one; they still have no right to prevent me from doing so.


Whatever. The point is that while content producers would not sell 100% of the stuff that gets pirated, nor would they have sold 0%.


You seem to have entirely ignored my point and just repeated yours. Your claim probably holds true, and I didn't dispute it, but that doesn't make it relevant.


If you weren't disputing it, why did you respond? I was replying to someone else entirely, specifically the point that pirated copies made doesn't equate to number of copies that hypothetically would have been bought instead.


> ...the Swiss government has been conducting a study into the impact downloading has on society, and this week their findings were presented.

This is where I stopped and took a moment. The government did research. Proactively. For the good of its people.

To the Swiss government, the people of the country (or, the impact to the people of the country) are/is considered before an external interest. That isn't to say the external interest isn't important, just not as important as the people.

That's the difference. In North America, we concern ourselves with jobs so much that it actually makes them go away. If you sympathize with the industry, the industry takes advantage and cements itself to a position of necessity.

Artists will continue making movies and music because that's what artists do – with or without the entertainment industry.

The entertainment industry needs us, we don't need them.


Switzerland has Direct Democracy.. with the result that - as far as I can see as an expat now living in CH - the government seems to respect the peoples wishes.

Yes, it's quite odd, but very good!


The United States government routinely does research. Some of it is actually quite good. See for example http://fpc.state.gov/c18185.htm

Of course that doesn't mean they always listen to the results.


"To the Swiss government, the people of the country (or, the impact to the people of the country) are/is considered before an external interest."

How would you consider the American music industry an "external interest" in the USA? While the RIAA and the labels aren't citizens, they're generally comprised of citizens. That is, when a music label gets special treatment, that means those citizens who work for that label get special treatment.

I'm not advocating the craziness that is current copyright law in the USA by any means, and while the above statement might sound like justification for all the evil the RIAA and the like have done over the years, the issue is hardly black-and-white.

"Artists will continue making movies and music because that's what artists do – with or without the entertainment industry."

I think this is a very broad, gross generalization. Sure, musically-inclined folks will probably still continue to play instruments or write songs as a hobby, even if there weren't a financial incentive -- but I hardly think the thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of people currently involved in the entertainment industry would all be starving artists/producers/technicians/special effects artists/movie theater operators/etc. purely out of some all-overriding drive to create/produce/engineer/operate.

Let's say we flipped the law and made it illegal to sell music & movies. On the plus side, we'd probably have relatively little low-quality "pop" music & remakes of remakes in the theaters. On the negatives, we'd almost certainly never have, say, the Beatles White album, 2001: A Space Odyssey, WALL-E, etc.. It's not because without a financial incentive the Beatles wouldn't have made music, they just wouldn't have been able to devote the time and resources that they did. Kubrick might have still made a film like 2001, but how possible is it he would have been able to make it of the same quality?

Again, I'm not saying I agree with our current system of basically entertainment industry-by-fiat, but it's not nearly as simple as "we'll always have art regardless of if there's an industry to support it!"


> How would you consider the American music industry an "external interest" in the USA?

The American music industry isn't American. It's international. When a corporation gets to be the size of, say, Universal, their interests are not bound to a specific country. To me, that makes their interests external to America's interests.

> I think this is a very broad, gross generalization. Sure, musically-inclined folks will probably still continue to play instruments or write songs as a hobby, even if there weren't a financial incentive.

It is a broad generalization to say that artists are fuelled by financial gain. I love designing and developing digital products and if I didn't work 9-5, I'd be doing it more often and probably with less restrictions, less overhead and less BS. We can't fathom this because it doesn't exist. The method provided is thought to be the only true way to "make it". And that's wrong.

> Let's say we flipped the law and made it illegal to sell music & movies.

You don't need to flip it. All you have to do is align with your peers and create communities that encourage artistic expression. Nothing wrong with people being the distribution network. There are thousands of years of cultural evidence that distribution of art & ideas is abundant when necessary.

> but it's not nearly as simple as "we'll always have art regardless of if there's an industry to support it!"

And yet art existed before the entertainment industry. Really, if Switzerland/Sweden's laws are such a threat to their profits, why haven't they pulled out?


American/british music is an "external interest" for most of european countries (music is net import).

Still they combat piracy as if they are gaining money on IP, not bleeding.

While USA is known for pirating like crazy and defending it at law level until they became net exporter in the first half of XX century. Then they started evolving towards IP protection, while ensuring they would not have to pay for older works but they would be paid for newer works.


Well, yes. It always was.

Using services like allofmp3.com in Switzerland was and is perfectly legal (if you can find a way to pay for it).

There's a reason for that: Swiss legislators believe that it can not be up to the user of a download site to judge if this site is legit and is licensed to sell downloads to Swiss customers.

This doesn't mean that uploading is allowed. As soon you upload files or even fragments of files you crossed the line into illegality.

The whole "It is very terribly illegal what you're doing here, downloader!" hokum was basically pushed by IFPI and the content industry.

It's a lie (at least in Switzerland).


Same in the Netherlands, although currently the government is trying to push through legislation that will change all that.

However, the majority of parliament is still against. Hopefully the minority government will think better of forcing the issue.


Unless I'm mistaken this is true in the USA as well. I hate that journalists and even websites like torrentfreak continue to perpetuate this myth. Headlines continue to says things like "Mom sued for downloading music" which isn't true at all.


Slovakia and Czech Republic too. It's not illegal to download copyrighted content, only sharing is. So using rapidshare and all that is perfectly fine. However, torrents and other kinds of p2p (or even hosting ftp) is not.


> This doesn't mean that uploading is allowed.

Wouldn't this effectively make swarm/torrent downloading illegal?


Of course; any kind of peer-to-peer service that actually uploads data you don't have a license to distribute is illegal. But fear not --- the Swiss have a solution for that, too: http://bitthief.ethz.ch/ "BitThief is a free riding BitTorrent client, that is, it downloads from BitTorrent swarms without contributing any resources itself."


This is I think a sensible balance. It recognizes that it is technically impossible to track down all downloaders and sue them, and placing the fault on the uploader is correct.


It's worth mentioning that in Switzerland only downloading copyrighted material for personal use is Legal, not uploading.

So P2P and file sharing is still illegal since you are uploading while downloading.


Some people have actually turned leeching to a whole new level by creating torrent clients which only download. As long as you're not using private trackers with ratio limits, you're able to download all you want without ever committing copyright infringement, at least in countries where downloading isn't illegal.


I think that will defeat the purpose of file sharing. The fact is that Switzerland is treating piracy like drugs.

It's not that bad if you use them, it's definitely bad if you are selling them.


Here is my experience:

• I took my family to see the Incredibles - cost $7.50 x $5.00 = $37.50

• I like it so much we purchased the DVD - cost $19.50

• Somehow the DVD broke, so in a fit I purchased it through iTunes - $14.95

• Lost that hard drive and had no back up - torrents save the day.

My philosophy is pixar has already made their mint on me. This one movie cost my family $71.95, and I'm not about to pay for it again.


What is it about European countries that make them so reasonable and open to progress? This is great news, because for once there's actually a law on pirating that's based on research, unlike US laws centered around "job creators" losing money.


As far as copyright is concerned, it has nothing to do with "reasonable and open to progress". The main differences are:

* The powerful copyright-industry mostly resides in the US. European countries that have somewhat of a copyright industry of their own (France, UK) are considerable less "reasonable".

* Success in European elections is way less dependent on corporate financing. Lobbying is way less effective if the politicians you target don't need your money. It's not less corrupt, but more about influence and favors, and the US copyright lobby has relatively little to offer in that respect.

In other words: the copyright mafia has less politicians in their pockets, and therefor less influence on public policy.


Because in Europe you have lots of very different countries that your mind cherry-picks the best parts out of when you hear these stories. Actually living in Europe requires that you pick one country, and involves compromising on something. (Germany doesn't really have freedom of speech. UK has big brother issues and crazy libel laws. France hates the internet. Sweden wants everyone to think they hate men. Etc.)

Of course, I don't hear a lot of negatives about Switzerland. Except from the IRS, of course :)


Lately Switzerland seems to have a small right-wing problem, first banning the construction of minarets and then voting to deport criminal foreigners. A few of my Swiss friends found this quite embarrassing and attributed it to the vagaries of direct democratic processes and voter turnout.

But as you say, each place has its crazy idiosyncrasies, and in the grand total, Switzerland scores pretty highly in the list of countries to live in. Unless you hate mountains and/or chocolate, of course. (Or they won't let you in, which might be an issue)


That's the price you pay for direct democracy. Sometimes really, really bad laws get accepted by the population in a referendum.

Actually the Swiss Popular Party (SVP, the right wing party) didn't do too well in the most recent elections. While they hoped to achieve > 30% of the popular vote, they're hovering around ~26%. A lot of their candidates for the smaller house of parliament (Ständerat, would be the Senate in the US) got actually hammered.

So from a perspective of reason things actually seem to be looking brighter.


Why would it be a problem to deport criminal foreigners? And if you think Switzerland is hard to get into, try to get into Denmark.


Do you still have to properly pronounce "rødgrød med fløde"?

The problem isn't deportation per se (which lots of states have), but the specific bill. First of all, it made it automatic deportation, is likely to conflict with international and EU law and references a few crimes by names that aren't the proper legal terms. IANAL and this is from memory, but it went a bit over the top for most people not on the far right. And the campaign for the referendum was quite on the fear-mongering side, if not a outright racist.

I think right now it's still in a state of flux. It passed, but the legal bodies now have to properly determine for which crimes it really applies. Might take a few years yet.

People aren't used to GOP-candidate-level craziness from the Swiss… (It barely passed, and was generally rejected by the French-speaking part of Switzerland. I blame the German grammar, it seems to create some kind of envy against every nationality who don't have to learn that many cases, genders etc.)


>Do you still have to properly pronounce "rødgrød med fløde"?

I've never been to Denmark myself, I just have several friends from there who complained about how hard it was to get in. Apparently even marrying a Dane isn't enough to stay there if you're not from the EU.

>And the campaign for the referendum was quite on the fear-mongering side, if not a outright racist.

Oh for sure. The SVP posters have been really awful for a while but I think it's starting to backfire with the public, so hopefully that will stop.

>People aren't used to GOP-candidate-level craziness from the Swiss…

That's a bit of an exaggeration. The SVP gets pretty dirty from time to time but the GOP is a caricature of a right-wing fringe group.

>I blame the German grammar, it seems to create some kind of envy against every nationality who don't have to learn that many cases, genders etc.

Keep in mind that Switzerland has the highest "auslander" percentage of any western European country. That's going to create a big of backlash.


Because what usually happens (or what makes people angry anyway) is that someone who's been living in the country for ten years gets deported because of a shoplifting offense also committed ten years ago. Violates the principle of no ex post facto laws.


Any citations on that? I've heard people claim that but in actual practice I believe it's only used against career criminals. The issue I've heard complained about is that if there is a career criminal dad, he can cause the whole family to end up getting deported (though I'm not sure that one is true either).


I don't hear a lot of negatives about Switzerland

It's probably one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit.

They probably hide a lot of the money of corrupt governments and world leaders.

Also this might be good or bad, but it's all very neat and tidy. All the roads in rural areas are all very good and all the grass is clipped. Makes the place feel totally tamed. (Though good roads is a plus, just makes for some not-as-interesting motorbike touring)


> It's probably one of the most expensive countries

This is said by everyone about every country ever. Is this fact, or does my previous sentence cover it?


    Germany doesn't really have freedom of speech
What do you mean? (I am German)


The whole "Volksverhetzung" thingamajig, i.e. you're not allowed to deny the Holocaust, display swastikas etc. The US has its hate crime laws, but these usually don't restrict free speech in the same way.

A few European countries share these specific restrictions by the way (or at least some of them). Including Switzerland.


And in the U.S. you aren't allowed to advocate the violent overthrow of the government, to shout fire in a crowded theater, to distribute child porn or to conspire to blow up airliners.

The only difference is that U.S. culture teaches you to believe that those exceptions "aren't covered by free speech", i.e. they don't count because we said so ... just as o1iver thinks about Holocaust-denying.


I'll go at this another way. AFAIK, you aren't allowed to do any of those things in Germany either. So it's not really an issue of these things are free speech in one country, and other different things are free speech in another country. It's kind of irrelevant what the US does, Germany has all the same "reasonable" exceptions, but then some more on top.


Except your examples aren't really even examples of speech, free or otherwise. Walking around with a swastika on your arm is quite different than actively holocausting people.


For convenience of argument I will retract the child porn example, but "conspiring", "shouting" and "advocating" are much closer to a common-sense understanding of the word "speech" than is "walking around with [any particular symbol] on your arm".

Unless you totally missed the words "conspire" and "advocate" in my post, I'm not at all sure what you're trying to say.


Doesn't the crime of conspiracy at least require one overt act?


Good call, but in the U.S., according to Wikipedia: "The Shabani case illustrates that it is a matter of legislative prerogative whether to require an overt step, or not to require an overt step in any conspiracy statute."

So conspiracy without an overt act is not constitutionally protected.


After you conspire to blow up an airliner, people die. After denying the Holocaust, nobody dies.


Conspiracy does not mean that you carried out the act, or even that you tried to.

Besides, people die after someone shouts fire in a crowded theater, but it's still speech.


To take this a bit ad absurdum, so is ordering someone to kill someone else (or a few hundred). I think we shouldn't confuse the dictionary with a legal text.


Good example (I think it's most similar to "conspiracy", though it might depend on what kind of implicit threat is backing up the "order").

btw, I'm not necessarily advocating free speech at all costs. If I'm going after anyone in this thread, it's the U.S. for hypocritically advertising "WE H4Ve phR33 5P34CH!!! unlike u european 1o5erz" and not being upfront about how delicate the line is.


Well, in the U.S., spending money is seen as speech, leading to many absurdities. So spending money in support of various abhorrent things is apparently the same as just talking about it. Except if it could be construed that you are supporting terrorism, of course, since then all constitutional protections are off.


> in the U.S. you aren't allowed to advocate the violent overthrow of the government

Yes, you can.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio


How much influence did the Americans, British and French (as occupying powers) have on those laws in what was originally Western Germany?


Yes, it originally was part of Allied regulations in the occupied territories and was basically included as is in the new German constitution.


Seems rather unfair then for people (especially Britains, Americans and French) to criticise Germany for these laws when they were actually imposed on the country!


This is a pretty complicated subject. Just because they were in existence before doesn't exactly rule out that they weren't wanted in Germany. Or even needed. The general trend was to both forget and prevent. So banning certain symbols, books, movies from the public eye was generally considered to be what's best. I know, it's not that easy, which caused a lot of problems later on and still is pretty hard to deal with.

And I don't get that much criticism about the laws. Yes, Americans generally look quite astonished on any country perceived to have fewer freedoms (and "socialist Europe" certainly applies for that), but the Brits and French usually don't mock us for that. They tend to be quite more panicked whenever some neo-nazis appear, and if they were using the original symbols this might get worse. (Never mind that France has laws against holocaust deniers, too.)


I wish we had the same restrictions regarding communist symbolism here in East Europe.


> Of course, I don't hear a lot of negatives about Switzerland. Except from the IRS, of course :)

That's your opinion because you're not an "Ausländer" (foreigner) living in Switzerland. See:

* http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Council_of_Europe_attac...

* http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/Specials/Parliamentary_elections...

* http://www.humanrights.ch/en/Switzerland/Human-Rights-in-Int...

I was thinking of moving to Switzerland, but in the end I had the feeling that there's a significant portion of the population who would like to keep it "Swiss." Also, immigration laws are rather harsh.


>there's a significant portion of the population who would like to keep it "Swiss."

s/significant/vocal and you're closer to the mark. The right wing party here routinely attempts to shift blame of every conceivable problem to the fact that there are lots of foreigners living here. It's not that there aren't real issues (e.g. abuse of asylum rights), but they tend to be blown vastly out of proportion.


"UK has big brother issues and crazy libel laws"

Nitpick: England has crazy libel laws.


"Of course, I don't hear a lot of negatives about Switzerland."

Apart from being a country that gets much of its wealth from hiding the blood money of dictators and criminals? Right.


> Of course, I don't hear a lot of negatives about Switzerland.

Take a look at the tax rates.


"Sweden wants everyone to think they hate men."

What does this mean?


And let's not forget the economy..


Because they import most of their entertainment form America, maybe?


"I buy the music of bands I really like. I buy their albums as a conscious choice to support them."

This argument is made a lot, but it's weird. Music isn't CHARITY! It's a manufactured good. I don't give KitchenAid $150 for a stand mixer to "support them and the great things they create." I do it to buy their stand mixer.

Just to be clear, I'm not a copyright advocate. Just think it's a twisted frame of mind to think about music as above.


Well, if you're not a copyright advocate then you pretty much believe that the cost of music ought to be the marginal cost of duplicating it (i.e. as close to zero as makes no difference).

If you think it should be higher then you _do_ support the right of the owners of the music to forbid others from copying it (i.e. copyright).


Just think it's a twisted frame of mind to think about music as above.

Most people who are serious about music buy merch at shows for the explicit purpose of supporting the artist. It is a pure form of voting with your wallet, "I want you to exist, sell me unrelated goods I have no need for".

I gave MC Lars $X for two t-shrits, not because I wanted T-shirts but because I wanted to support him and the great things that he creates. Hell, I even bought a floppy disk full of animiated .gifs from Math The Band. I don't even have a floppy drive, I just had a good time at their show.

It's a manufactured good

A good that, unlike a mixer, has no utility and the only reason for purchase is that you like it.


If people really only want to support musicians, it would make more sense to just hand them a nice note with some cash and walk away.

I mean, isn't it weird that they want to make music, and you want to hear music, but it doesn't pay unless they make and you buy a t-shirt that you don't want? It's like, you make software that I want, but I won't buy software. I require you to make and sell me a lawn ornament, which I will throw away.


Actually, this attitude is the traditional one, and your's is the more radical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patronage


If music was manufactured good, we'd be buying cheap Chinese knockoffs.


You need to do some reading up on the subject. You are also comparing apples with oranges with your KitchenAid example.

Even through legal and established channels Artists dont make much money through the actual music. Its all the stuff around the music which is profitable. Merchandise, concerts etc.


It's also worth mentioning that entertainment is quiet expensive in Switzerland. For example watching a 3d movie at the local theater will cost you around 21CHF (~17€ or ~$23). Wich is really expensive IMO.


I think it's about the same in San Francisco if you're watching a 3D Imax flick. I'd love to move to switzerland, but I've heard it is difficult to get a visa.


Getting a visa in Switzerland is extremely difficult (for non-EU nationals). The employer needs to first prove that they cannot find an adequate candidate in Switzerland, then they must prove that no adequate candidate can be found in EU countries. Once that's proven, they're free to choose from the "rest of the world".

That's step one. Then there are (naturally) plenty of other factors that go into the acceptance process, but those are generally easy.


I've heard that Swiss Google takes people in without much problems. Obviously they've figured it out.


I just assumed that Swiss Google primarily recruited EEA citizens. Do you know otherwise?


I know about (not personally) a couple of Russian who are currently employed there.


Wait... what is this? A Government doing research? Weighing solutions?

We should all print this article and mail it to our government


I would argue that what copyrights should do is give rights holders the exclusive right to make a profit off of them - other people should not be able to simply steal your ideas and sell them. That said, copyright does not mean that you must be paid for your work. If you can offer a service that people want to pay for, by all means go ahead. If people are not willing to pay for your work, find another job.

Back when distribution cost money, it was a reasonable service that was provided. Specifically, rights holders allow corporations to use and distribute their intellectual property and then people would pay for the service of distribution.

With distribution free in today's world, there is no longer profit to be made by controlling distribution. However, those corporations want to create artificial scarcity so that they can continue to use their old business model. We do not have any responsibility to sustain obsolete business models.

With no money to be made in simple distribution, content creators must focus on different services if they wish to make a profit. There are many different ways to do this. One option is to reform digital distribution - make it more convenient to purchase than it is to pirate (Netflix, Spotify). Another option presented earlier in this thread is live performances, but obviously that does not work in every industry. Yet another option presented is to monetize creation - appeal directly to fans, run kickstarter campaigns, etc. Find people willing to pay money for you to create more content.

Because at the end of the day, people focusing on the old model of distribution are offering me a service I don't need. I can obtain information for free - the costs of digital distribution are zero. Profits must be found elsewhere.

The exclusive right to make a profit should continue to belong to the content creator, so you still cannot sell copies. However, since distribution is free, I see no problem with giving away copies.


Easy for them to say. But are they also ok with people creating counterfeit Swiss watches?


There's a big difference between creating something that looks like a Swiss watch and selling it to someone who wants a Swiss watch, and creating something that looks like a Swiss watch and selling it to someone who wants something that looks like a Swiss watch. The first is fraud against the end purchaser, whereas the second is at most possible trademark infringement.

It seems to me that those pressing for "anti-counterfeiting" laws are trying to conjure up the spectre of the first case, to get popular support without giving people the chance to think too hard about what would be fair legislation for the second case.


That is a very different aspect of intellectual property. While related in the broad scope, as far as the constraints of this report and the subject of downloading copy-written materiel go it is irrelevant.


I don't think you understood my point. If Switzerland's economy financed movies and depended on the revenue from those movies to employ people, their government would have a different view of people downloading free movies and music. It is a different aspect of intellectual property rights, but the argument is the same in both cases.


It's still illegal to upload.

In other words, it's not illegal to buy a counterfeit watch, but it's illegal to make one. (Yes, the analogy still doesn't hold well.)


Mattee is still right that part of the decision from the Swiss gov comes from the fact that file sharing does not hurt the Swiss local economy (they explicitly say it).

I don't think there's anything wrong with it, they exploit their status of being a small country. The Swiss have always been ignoring other countries problems and only do what benefits them most (hence the fiscal situation and the protection of the bank industry).

If you can afford doing it, why not do it?


Funnily enough, if I understand it correctly, it is illegal to import counterfeited goods into Switzerland and border guards will sometimes check your purchases when returning from holiday to make sure you haven't any in your luggage.


I think you are confused. You are comparing completely different things.


New business idea: Setup proxies in Switzerland. Customers pay a subscription to download pirated content from their Swiss account. From there, you can transfer the customer's data to their home account in the US (or wherever). Seem perfectly legal to me. For extra value added you can do AV and other quality control to make help customers find and safely download pirated content.

I wonder if Switzerland foresaw such businesses...


"The other side of piracy, based on the Dutch study, is that downloaders are reported to be more frequent visitors to concerts, and game downloaders actually bought more games than those who didn’t. And in the music industry, lesser-know bands profit most from the sampling effect of file-sharing."

Hate to burst the bubble, but this is a pretty stupid conclusion if you're trying to advocate for piracy. People who download more tend to buy more. Why is this surprising? Obviously, the people who download more are the same people who care more about entertainment, so of course these are also the people who'll pay more.

That is absolutely irrelevant to the discussion of whether piracy is a net benefit. It's mixing up causation with correlation. Download more pirate content is not causing people to go to more concerts - the people who would "naturally" go to more concerts are the same people who would "naturally" buy more music, but are now simply downloading more music.

Note: Or at least, that's another theory, which is also the correct one in my opinion. My point is that this fact doesn't prove in any way that piracy is good.


I can't help but think of this scene from Cool Runnings after reading this article: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVrcnyn5ZZ4


Time to get a Swiss proxy account. ;o)


The MPAA and RIAA could declare war on Switzerland, but there are all of those mountains.




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