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Piracy - You can't have your cake and eat it (broadmuse.com)
271 points by willdamas on Jan 19, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 317 comments



The author has a fundamental misunderstanding of what laws mean, and how they change.

In England, it is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas day? Why? Because centuries ago England was governed by a despotic, fundamentalist Christian regime that did not approve of Christmas celebrations.

Should I then refrain from eating the mince pie? No. I and millions of my fellow countrymen eat mince pies, and most are completely unaware of the existence of Cromwell's mean spirited law.

Why is this crime tolerated by the authorities? Because they do not go about like Robocop, enforcing laws as though they are some kind of computer program. Instead they understand that laws are a crude human attempt to model current social norms. Those social norms change over time and often the written laws don't keep up with the pace of that change.

The Internet has made copyright law outdated. Social norms are in the process of adjusting to the new situation. It's perfectly rational and normal for activists to hasten that process by defying the law, and encouraging others to do likewise. Obviously, the copyright lobby will react by trying to strengthen the laws, and step up enforcement. That's fair enough too.

Which side will win? Well opinions vary, but to suggest that breaking the law is in itself an immoral and irredeemable act, is naive.


The Internet has made copyright law outdated. Social norms are in the process of adjusting to the new situation.

Well, the Internet certainly has led to a generation of young people who are accustomed to downloading freely from various sources without regard to copyright restrictions and, in this sense, I would concur that social norms are changing.

Unfortunately, the law itself is far from changing and, while some of this has to do with corporate lobbyists, the greatest reason is that copyright is a key part of many forms of commercial activity whose nature is not changed by the Internet and whose deep-seated roots require the continuation of copyright.

Just as one example, Steve Jobs had funded Pixar when it was a fledgling company primarily trying to design a hardware solution while also supporting a team of animators who were doing primarily experimental things. In time, it became clear that the hardware piece was not going to be promising but that the animation team might just produce a breakthrough in animated films. The problem: it took someone with tons of money and a huge appetite for risk to carry this through. A whole team of creative people and their families suffered through that one and did not come out whole even as it was - but they stuck it out, as did Mr. Jobs, who invested countless millions in the venture at a time when that strained his personal resources. The outcome: Toy Story (and the whole Pixar legacy). The outcome without copyright: a big goose egg. Why? Because the participants in this venture underwent great hardship to get to the final result and the only hope of a financial payoff lay in being able to have a film that would be owned, controlled, and marketed by the Pixar venture and that might become a large commercial success. This is indeed what happened but only because of the protections afforded by copyright.

Now take the whole universe of startups as a larger example, where founders are today offering massive incentives to highly skilled developers in order to develop key functionality based on proprietary code whose value lies precisely in the fact that it is protected by copyright. If all this were simply public domain, then funding for these ventures would vanish or the business models radically restructured. Unless and until someone comes up with a model by which public domain code can be used to gain competitive advantage in the standard startup of this type, copyright will continue to play a huge and important role.

Such examples could be replicated many times over. My point, though, is that, insofar as the law is concerned, copyright law is hardly "outdated" and the reasons for its existence and its commercial value have not gone away. That body of existing law does indeed protect the interests of mega-corporations who are using lobbying efforts to gain special privileges at the expense of us all, and this is despicable. But it also protects countless other people who create things - writers, musicians, film makers, software developers, etc. - whose livelihood in the economy as currently structured depends on it. Unless and until the needs of such creative people to control their works change, copyright law will persist as before (I did a lengthy post on the reasons for this here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3479959).

I am not saying that it is justified to mount a moral crusade against acts of infringement. But to suggest that a radical change in the law of copyright is imminent - or that it is about to be abolished - is, in my view, to misread the legal landscape in a serious way.


Thanks for your thoughtful posts on this topic. I can only agree when you say that "copyright is a key part of many forms of commercial activity whose nature is not changed by the Internet and whose deep-seated roots require the continuation of copyright" - however, it seems this begs the question whether society wouldn't be as likeable without those forms of commerce, and with others in their place?

I think you're right that in a world of weaker IP, Pixar wouldn't have happened, for want of capital. However, Toy Story might still have happened - perhaps it would have taken a few years more, until the cost of making it would have dropped enough to make it worthwhile investing in even though you'd only get a few weeks of box-office revenue?

Perhaps, also, many movies would be closer to "Dogville" (shot on a bare film set) than to "The Wolfman" (last year's remake, costing ~150M dollars). But, as Boldrine and Levine argue in their book "Against Intellectual Monopoly", maybe actors would compensate for their lower income by making more films per year (they look to the adult film industry to back up this suggestion, arguing that that is a reasonable model for a world of weak copyright). That is, creative output would not necessarily drop.

> ... whose livelihood in the economy as currently structured depends on it.

Your careful wording here tells me that we don't really disagree: certainly a reform that brings weaker copyright laws would cause a lot of pain to many established trades. With a well-designed transitional period though, I suspect that in the long term they would adapt, rather than simply cease to be creative.


Some movies wouldn't be made without large budgets and associated risks but technologies improve and lower the costs. I'm perfectly happy to wait 10 or 20 yeras for a a given movie to be made with desktop class pc instead of hiring 1000 people and sinking a real ship or two.

Big budget movies are expensive only because they can be. They are huge waste of resources enabled by copyright.


What happens if everybody eats mince pie on Christmas? Life goes on as usual.

What happens if nobody pays for a copy of Windows 8? There won't be a Windows 9.

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


Since it seems to be impossible, from a technical standpoint, to prevent piracy, then maybe we have to accept the free rider problem and produce intellectual property on a public basis. One option would be a grant system, as is used in scientific research (solving the free rider "problem" that anyone can read your paper and use your research).


There are numerous other ways to approach it. For one, you can compete with free, and many do precisely that ( Cory Doctorow gives away digital copies of most of his work, but still makes his living mostly by and from his writing.) Another is to sell the associated scarcities rather than necessarily the copyright system itself (as Red Hat does).

And trying to produce it on a public basis produces problems in deciding what to fund. You run into this in public funding of science to, but there often are at least some public goals which helps guide this decision. It would be much more difficult to do with other forms of intellectual property (though we do in fact already do it to a limited degree, look at the National Endowment for the Arts).


The BBC is a better example. They make some truly great content and seem to have no problem staying close to what consumers want.


You say that like it's a problem.

Look at it this way: Does Ubuntu or OS X suffer from being pirated? Not really. Windows needs to figure this out for themselves.


Microsoft does benefit, greatly, from piracy of Windows.

Gates has said so himself: http://www.itwire.com/it-industry-news/market/23137-how-pira...

Gates has also, in the past, confirmed how important piracy is to Microsoft: "Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software... Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."


I'm convinced Photoshop is intentionally easy to pirate. They make money from business customers, and everyone willing to pay, and because it's essentially free for people unwilling to pay, there isn't much room for a competitor.


Look at Craigslist for another example.

All listings are free. With the exception of job postings and agent housing ads in NYC. The exceptions provide enough revenue for the small (~40) staff of CL to keep things rolling. The free postings zero out revenues for anyone else looking to compete in the same space, establishing a large marketplace with strong network effects and an effective monopoly.


We certainly don't want all OSs confined to closed hardware like OS X.

Ubuntu (and open source in general) works because of inverse-free-riders, "free helpers" we might call them. That seems to be a sustainable model, but it likely won't work for annoying grunt programming - note the poor driver support in many Linux distros. For some tasks, someone needs to be paid.


A big couse in pour drivers support is that companies dont publish specs to their devices. If there was only one dominant free OS like linux, companies that make hardwire would want their devices to work with it and so will write drivers or at least publish full spec.


I disagree that it is really sustainable on an industry wide scale. Who pays the salaries of the free helpers so that they have the free time to contribute?


Windows doesn't write driver software either. It's up to the hardware companies to make their hardware compatible if they want to sell it. Windows just happens to have the largest market share. If Linux had even one tenth the share of windows, drivers wouldn't be an issue.


So you’re saying that because people are stealing their software, Microsoft should throw away their business model?

If people were stealing iPads from Apple stores, would you suggest Apple should “figure [that] out for themselves”?


First of all, copying is completely different from stealing, but we've been over that before.

Secondly, stores actually do deal with shoplifting--they euphemistically call it "inventory shrinkage" and just chalk it up as an expense. "Unauthorized" copying isn't even an expense!


Fair point — I was being a bit facetious — but the fact remains that if a critical enough mass of people steal/copy Windows, it’s no longer economically viable. Every user who hasn’t paid for it is being subsidized by those who have.

Windows may not be the best example since it’s so massively profitable, and sells a lot to enterprise customers and OEMs who won’t pirate it. That said, I suspect the business case for producing high-budget, non-mass-market consumer content (say, HBO shows) is starting to tip. How many people pirate Game of Thrones for every one that pays for it?

In the end, we live in a capitalist society — the people making software, movies, music, books, etc. have to get paid for the stuff be made.


So MS would announce that it is no longer making Windows, and companies would then have to decide whether they want to stay in business by moving to another OS or not. I'm sorry, but I think there is a STRONG argument that if something can be obtained easily for free, or worse can be obtained MORE easily for free, then trying to defend the model by making free illegal is much like trying to make people pay a wave tax or it's illegal for them to touch the water at the beach...


"Wave tax"... not bad. I've been trying to work out an analogy myself, flush-right law. Imagine it, we could set up a paradigm in which the plumber who installs a toilet includes a little gadget that makes sure you don't flush a toilet without buying a flush-right from him by authorizing a little payment. Call the technology a Effluent Rights Management (ERM) system. It would need to be complemented, of course, with some legislation making it illegal to circumvent ERM, etc, etc, wouldn't want flush thieves simply taking the devices off their toilets.

And there it is, an artificial market created through technology and legislation, just like the copyright market. I'm sure plumbers would be eager to point out the virtues of having such a system.


They don't have to make that stuff. They can try to find something else to do instead.


If there was legitimately no demand for these products, then sure, they should move on and make something else instead. But there is a demand for them — it’s just that many of the people consuming it are stealing it. This is what laws are there for.

Again, I know this analogy isn’t perfect, but what you’ve said is not all that different from telling a shop owner who was robbed that maybe he should do something else instead.


We're talking about large-scale sharing of movies and software, not 'stealing'. It isn't desirable or practical to have the government regulate the Internet and punish offenders to stop this sharing, so content owners are going to have to adapt.

A more suitable analogy would be to a bookstore owner who's struggling because of (legal) Kindle downloads. Sucks for him, but time marches forwards. Perhaps he should partially convert to a coffee shop or similar.


The word "stealing" is an emotive slogan, not a neutral or accurate description. You must realise that by using it you make yourself appear partisan. That diminishes the impact of any point you are trying to make.


Yeah, it's fine to steal from stores because they budget for it, it's fine to steal from people's homes because they have insurance, etc. Nobody loses!


It likely is a problem for all those people who pirate Windows


> What happens if nobody pays for a copy of Windows 8? There won't be a Windows 9.

LOL. Is that a threat?


I think you meant to say is that a promise? :-)


I'm curious who your employer is and what your response would be if the parent said "What happens if nobody pays for a copy of <your company's most profitable product>?"


You mean 3rd most profitable product :-P

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/windows-drops-to-no-3-ca...


You stop working for that company and work for one better able to adapt to changing technology/society.


What happens if everyone in the entire world only reads books from libraries?

This is not a new problem, nor is it without solutions.


You can't compare libraries to copying because you keep your copy forever.


That explains why they are not identical, that does not explain why they are not comparable. In both cases a single bought copy is shared with an indefinite number of non-paying readers.


There are some very important differences that make it incomparable:

* libraries have a limited amount of copies. So the amount of non-paying readers is not indefinate

* the readers have to return the copies of books or DVDs they have rented

These inconveniences makes buying a copy for personal use much more attractive for the consumer.


Sounds like win-win. Now, what happens if I don't pay for my copy of Fedora?


What happens if nobody pays for a copy of Windows 8? There won't be a Windows 9.

That would never happen unless MS charged an outrageous sum for it.

If any company finds itself in the position where nearly all of the users are pirating, then there's something wrong. They're charging too much or the DRM is too onerous, or something.

EDIT: if you charge a fair price and make something available, people will buy it rather than pirate it. Louis CK and lots of other people have shown this.


"EDIT: if you charge a fair price and make something available, people will buy it rather than pirate it. Louis CK and lots of other people have shown this."

There are two problems with this assertion. The first is that people's current working definition of a "fair price" seems to be $0.00. Are we really to believe that paying $1.29 on iTunes, or $0.99 on Amazon, for a DRM-free music track is "unfair"? Or that the user experience on either of those services is horrendous and painful? Come on. People pirate, in large part, because they prefer not to have to pay for something if they can get it for free. Let's be honest about that fact. If there's an impulse to "stick it to the man," so be it. I'll be the first to admit that the targets of this mentality -- the entertainment and software industries -- could use a good sticking-to. But let's not pretend that the moral-crusade argument is the sole -- or even the primary -- motivation behind most people's piracy of content. The primary reason is the price, i.e., zero.

Second, while I agree that Louis C.K.'s release shows promise, he seems to be an exception to the rule so far. Who are the "lots of other people" that have "shown" that charging a fair price leads to buying over pirating? Let's take the highly-touted example of Radiohead's pay-what-you-want release of their album "In Rainbows" in 2007. According to the post-release data, 62% of all downloaders of the album paid $0.00.[1] The next-largest segment, 17% of users, paid somewhere between $0.01 and $4.00. If Radiohead were not Radiohead -- i.e., not enormously successful prior to the release of the album -- then they'd not have been able to bear the razor-thin margin on the sale. Essentially, Radiohead gave the album away because they could afford to do so.

When Trent Reznor and Saul Williams released an album online that same year, in the Radiohead model, they gave users the choice between paying $5 and paying nothing. Approximately 154,449 users downloaded the album, and 28,322 users (about 18%) paid for it. At $5 per unit, that's a grand total of $141,610 in revenue for the album, and more likely than not, the production costs met or exceeded that revenue.

And those were hardly releases by big, onerous, anti-consumerist conglomerates, either. Those were pro-consumer, digital-friendly artists willing to put themselves out there to test precisely your proposition: that, if given the choice, people will pay. It seems that, by and large, they won't.

[1]http://financeprofessorblog.blogspot.com/2007/11/study-free-...


>grand total of $141,610 in revenue for the album, and more likely than not, the production costs met or exceeded that revenue.

Then the business model needs to change. $100K+ is way more than enough to produce an album with modern technology, and it's only going to get cheaper. Music doesn't make as much money as it used to, there isn't room for dozens of middlemen siphoning off the inefficiencies.


In retrospect, I have come to partially disagree with my own assessment. I did not account for the fact that Radiohead also released an $81 box set with the digital download, and that 100,000 loyalists bought the set -- earning the band a cool $8.1 million in addition to the revenues they earned from the digital download (believed to be in the ballpark of $3 million). When you factor this in, the band did very well for themselves. Not quite as well as they usually do on big-label albums (even after middle-men's takes). But for an experiment, I would call it a success.

What's fascinating about "In Rainbows" is that roughly 8% of the users accounted for approximately 80% of revenues from the site. That speaks volumes, and it dovetails really well with recent blog posts (linked here and elsewhere) about the new metrics of success in digital distribution: i.e., monetizing loyalists. A small core of loyalists who are willing to follow you to the ends of the earth are worth more than fairweather fans.

I'm actually contemplating doing a more in-depth analysis on this, Louis C.K., Reznor, and others in this space. While I believe the jury is still out, and I believe that most people will pay nothing if offered the opportunity, there are clearly those who will pony up -- and even those who will pony up big. Piracy -- or free acquisition, in this case -- doesn't seem to matter too much if the loyalists are there, and you can differentiate the product for them. (In this case, the notion of a "fair price" actually seems to be relative).

It's interesting how Radiohead seemed to succeed by recognizing this fact, whereas Reznor's experiment failed to account for it. And Louis C.K. avoided the free option altogether, which is another way to go.


You are not putting forth an argument against my statement. I said "a fair price" and did not include $0.00. Louis CK charged $5. Radiohead and Reznor/Williams let buyers choose. These are very different experiments.

Lastly, I was a huge Radiohead fan until their "In Rainbows" release. I thought it was horrible. After previewing the songs, I didn't buy/download it. I wanted to very badly, because I wanted the experiment to work. I think they did the experiment on that collection of songs because they knew they sucked.


While I understand and see your first point, I strongly disagree with your assessment of the album. It was one of their best, IMO, and critics and fans seemed to have loved it. Go figure.

I wasn't the biggest fan of "The King of Limbs," however.


You are merely restating the problem, not putting forward a solution. That's not really adding to the debate.

Copyright exists to solve a genuine problem. When it was conceived in the 18th Century, is was explicitly to encourage and reward the creation of new works (such as Windows 9) that would enrich the public domain.

Few people would argue that the problem has gone away. The current debate is whether the copyright mechanism is still a viable solution.


Was there ever a software company, or music artist, or movie studio that decided not to put out a product because of this so-called free rider problem? Just curious.


Speaking from experience, piracy has a very strong influence on how much money video game companies are willing to spend on development. Piracy is the reason that PC gamers have to put up with games that are primarily designed for consoles, with very little invested in adapting them to a PC interface. Few companies are willing to spend money on PC development when you can only expect a few hundred thousand sales.


> Speaking from experience, piracy has a very strong influence on how much money video game companies are willing to spend on development.

The PC gaming market is very healthy, probably healthier than ever, so I honestly do not know what you are talking about here.

Triple-A games aren't targeted to consoles because of pirates, they are targeted to consoles because consumer demand is higher for console games. Only a few genres are more popular on PC, like RTS, MOAB, and MMORPG.


> Triple-A games aren't targeted to consoles because of pirates, they are targeted to consoles because consumer demand is higher for console games.

The estimated PC install base for one of the console-led titles I've worked on is in the same ballpark as each of the consoles.* The actual sales on PC, however, were far, far less than the consoles.

* We know this due to, e.g. number of people pinging the multiplayer servers, checking for updates etc.


The PC gaming market is almost entirely multiplayer games, console ports, republished older releases, flash games, and independent games sold through Steam. Almost no one is investing significant budgets in easily pirated, single-player PC games. I'm not saying the PC gaming market is unhealthy or dying, but you should realize that every decision PC game developers make is driven by the need to make money in spite of rampant piracy. The OP asked for evidence that piracy has an effect on business decisions - it definitely does for PC games. In fact, I think it's probably the most important factor.


Can you know that developers would put in more money into ports if piracy was eliminated and they had more sales at no cost to them?


The PC is certainly seen to be less profitable than consoles, which is why it's given a lesser priority.

For multi-platform titles, typically 360 and PS3 titles are developed in parallel. Often the PC version comes later, after the console releases have finished and a small subset of the console devs have time to polish the PC port.

Usually two reasons are given. One is that it's not worth the extra management complexity and dev time to release at the same time as the PC. The other is that the piracy rate on PC is so high that launching all platforms at the same time actually cannibalizes both PC and console sales.

PC games generally cost less at retail, but manufacturing costs are lower and no subsidies go to console owners. Dev costs are slightly harder due to the challenges of developing for a wide range of hardware vs two fixed targets. I think that the profit per unit sale is slightly higher on PC than console (I could be wrong).


Yes, absolutely. The fact that PC sales are normally very low (around a tenth) of console sales for the same title and games without multiplayer are pirated at a much higher rate than multiplayer games is common knowledge and entirely uncontroversial within the game development industry, and always factors into decisions about how much money to invest in PC titles. Pretty much all the major shifts in PC gaming since the late '90s - cheap console ports, the emphasis on multiplayer, MMOs, Steam, etc - have been responses to piracy.


So you're saying that since the difference in PC game sales versus consoles can be accounted for primarily by piracy (not difference in demand), and that PC game sales are 10% of console sales--that 9 times as many people pirate PC games as buy them?

That doesn't take into account that many of the pirates wouldn't have purchased the game if piracy wasn't an option. If we consider that, then we'd need many more pirates, maybe twice as many (18 times as many pirates than purchasers in total), to account for the lower PC sales.


That's not really the way the harm actually plays out.

The free rider problem generally won't affect entities that are very large, rich, and established. Microsoft has a ton of profitable relationships that won't just go away. Besides, they have so much money in the bank that they could easily fund the development of Windows 9 even if they did not receive a penny of revenue from Windows 8. Likewise, Radiohead is not checking the latest rates of piracy before deciding whether to put out another album. They have a big enough fan base that it doesn't really matter.

But, if the free rider problem is bad enough it harms the ability of new entities--who do not have deep cash reserves or established relationships--to grow large enough to challenge the incumbents. To go from garage to professional success means making enough sales to either bootstrap or convince investors to buy in. If most customers are taking the product and not paying, that obviously is going to be a lot harder to do.


You would gave to think that reduced revenue from music has lead to less artists getting funding to produce an album. Of course they can still make it but it might make it harder. Book advance sizes and quantity gave gone down.


impossible to know


What we do know is that many companies who do put out software are implicitly, and sometimes explicitly as in Gates quote elsewhere in this thread, okay with some users pirating as long as their main revenue streams are not threatened.


What happens if nobody pays for a copy of Linux? There is new constantly improving Linux in every software niche it can get into.


Most authors make far less than minimum wage after everything is said and done. Yet they keep producing books.

There may not be a windows 9, but you can bet there will be 200 flavors of Linux.


> What happens if nobody pays for a copy of Linux 3.2? There won't be a Linux 3.4.

I think the business model needs to change a bit. That's all.


That is not your decision to make.

By the way, are GPL violations equally just anachronistic hippie pipe dreams or real crimes?


GPL violations are hypocrisy. We can judge people on their proclaimed beliefs without sharing those beliefs ;-)


"You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices"


GPL violations are copyright violations. Where's the hypocrisy?


your suggestion is the status quo (nobody pays but oem's, the ridiculous "retail price" is just a tool the oem's use facing their customers, Look how much more it would cost to build it yourself!). pick a better example :)

maybe adobe's creative suite.


Those who say "Only those with something to hide will have something to fear" are those that fail to recognize we're all criminals. We've all broken some sort of law at some point in time, and most break dozens of laws every day in the course of their life.

There are so many things that are technically illegal. There are too many laws that aren't up to date with what people expect to be able to reasonably do.


The Internet has made copyright law outdated.

Sir, what make you think our situation is historically unique? If you read the history of copyright, you would realize that our is not so special. Rather, the current situation is a continuation of debates that started centuries ago.


The ability for 1/2 the people on the planet to distribute content without meaningful cost barriers is vary new. It's caused people to create and publish far more interesting content in a single day than you can consume in a single day. We are transiting through a tipping point where locating and filtering content is becoming more valuable than creating it.

Consider, on average do you enjoy reading HN posts? In what ways are people compensated for creating them how is copyright relevant for that compensation?

PS: Imagine a clearing house where authors pay random people to read their works in the hope that they might simply up vote it and even paying those who down vote their content.


Have you been to a bookstore recently?

I think you need to look up the printing press and it's relation to the copyright law debate.

The internet (on that front) is not as new and amazing as you think.

btw 1/2 the people on the planet are not on the internet it's actually more like 1/3, and of that a smaller subset 'create content'.


Printing enough books so that 10 million people can read what you created costs ~1/2 a million dollars. Hosting a torrent with that same content costs anyone with a regular internet connection less than a cup of coffee from Starbucks.

PS: Many people use the internet without actually owning a computer. In this case language and cultural barriers are more important than internet access which says a lot about the world IMO.


It's caused people to create and publish far more interesting content in a single day than you can consume in a single day. We are transiting through a tipping point where locating and filtering content is becoming more valuable than creating it.

I doubt that this is very recent. This has been going on for the last 150 years, if not 200 years. By the time the internet become widespread, we are already trapped in a deluge of information.


I'm pretty sure no one is trying to make a living by creating new HN posts with interesting content. If he is, I need to send him a couple of boxes of ramen so he can eat next week ;)


Your stuck with Post > Money. Some people have gone Posts > Better Job > Money other have gone Post > investor > Lost of Money. That ignores the value of some of the HN discussions I recently had an respond to my post with something 1/4 the size of the linked article. While money did not change hands I suspect we both benefited for level of discourse.


Following this logic, if someone really, really rich creates intellectual property, it's okay for the rest of us to pirate it? It's not like they're creating it to make a living.


Not at all. Actually I am against the logic that you should be able to pirate something just because it is easy and you won't get in trouble. People create works because of copyright protections so that they can make a living.


Can you explain how "if someone really, really rich creates intellectual property, it's okay for the rest of us to pirate it" does not follow from "I'm pretty sure no one is trying to make a living by creating new HN posts with interesting content" in response to "Consider, on average do you enjoy reading HN posts? In what ways are people compensated for creating them how is copyright relevant for that compensation?"? Or am I misreading your first post?


Now people downloading tons of content are "activists"?

I don't buy it. If they're doing so publicly as a challenge... maybe, but that doesn't seem like the case for many people who are doing it.


Some are activists. Most are simply conforming to new social norms.


I don't really understand these posts that simply declare that the correct choice is not to use their stuff, that piracy is wrong, and it's not your choice.

I happen to agree with the overall conclusion that one should seek alternatives in these cases, but this is just an argument by shouting. It's foolish to simply declare, "it's not your choice". Clearly, people think it is their choice. If you want to convince them, you had better back it up with reasoning. The right to control is simply not an obvious, mostly-universally-held right like the right not to be murdered or the right to physical property.

The copyright debate is getting awfully stale. I wish the participants would come up with something new to say instead of just constantly declaring that piracy is not allowed on one side and that piracy doesn't hurt anybody on the other side.


People don't understand how Ethics works.

On the anti-piracy side there are two groups: The first are artists who believe, without any evidence, that they can make more money when copyright is enforced. The second are people start out assuming that the right to control information is a moral right. They then derive the ethical implication that people shouldn't pirate.

On the pro-file sharing side there are two groups. The first are libertarian-inclined utilitarians, which require people to prove actual harm before something should be outlawed or have tried to start a tech company and been threatened with a patent lawsuit. Every piece of evidence not created by the middle-man industry I've ever seen has supported their position. The second are people who oppose the idea of "intellectual property", starting from moral principles such as freedom of expression, utility maximization or historic precedent.

There is no need to come up with anything new to say: the conclusion one comes to depends on what principles one uses to derive ethical implications. Intellectual property is morally wrong, declares one side. Intellectual property is a moral imperative, declares the other. It is impossible for either to convince the other, since neither is basing their arguments on a rational basis where facts or evidence might play a role.

Anyone who might be convinced doesn't care, probably because they are just ignoring stupid laws anyway.


I totally agree. However I think we should include a third group in the pro-file sharing side: people who don't have the money to pay for content or just wont because they're cheap. The problem is that the anti-piracy side mostly sees this group instead of the other ones and that's why, imho, they claim that pirating is like stealing and that it causes the same damage.


There are people who want things for free. However before the internet those were the people trading bootlegs, buying $2 CDs from sketchy catalogs, borrowing cds from the library or friend, watching MTV, listening to the radio or simply not listening to music. I would argue that they are no more supportive of piracy than any other form of free entertainment.

Additionally, I don't believe most of them support piracy because they want free stuff (there are some horders out there, but that's an actual mental illness/tv show). Most of the people who "like free stuff" support piracy because they value the entertainment they get. By far the biggest group here are teenagers, and it appears that the more music teenagers without money download the more music they will buy legally later in life.

Right now teenage unemployment was 25% last summer and that's just among teenagers who wanted to work. Unpaid internships seem to have become the norm. If we don't give teenagers a way to get the medium of exchange we shouldn't be surprised that they develop parallel economies. That said, if they weren't going to buy music anyway or, as most studies find, people buy more music in the presence of file sharing, it doesn't imply that there is any theft going on or that creators are damaged in any way by more value being derived from the work they already did.

I think record companies see their control over the airwaves and their kingmaker roll slipping away. Like publishers, they are progressively less relevant and the services they do provide aren't worth nearly the percentage of profits they charge their artists. They don't need to believe it is theft for them to cynically exploit the argument in order to remain relevant.


If they don't have any money to pay, how is anyone losing any money when they download? This shouldn't hurt anyone in any way.


Of course if you have nothing you can buy nothing so the producer would get no harm, but this is rarely the case. I was a bit vague on this point but let me be more clear. "Don't have any money" doesn't mean having 0$ in your bank account, at least in this argument; it means that you are not willing to use the money you have to buy some things because in your opinion you have little money (compared to what you want to buy), so you decide to spend it for things you care about and can't get for free. Now, imagine a scenario where you can't get those things for free. In this scenario, you distribute your money differently in order to be able to buy the products you need. I can assure you there there are many people I know that have the money buy they tell me they don't have it to buy certain products, so they pirate it. They are being cheap. If they couldn't get those things for free they would pay for them. This kind of people cause harm to the producers. Talking about a real example: in my country (Italy) many people have breakfast at bars with 2-3 euros and nobody will question this price. At the same time these people don't want to pay for a 99 cents song that will entertain them for days. This is something wrong and I see why producers want to change this kind of behavior. The problem is they are "doing it wrong" by enforcing (or trying to enforce) laws that protect things that just can't be protected anymore.


Is this a separate anti-intellectual property view:

I like content and am greedy for it. Copyright helps me get more content by providing incentive. This is the benefit.

Whatever these are benefits of copyright, the practical collateral costs (to privacy, freedom, making everyone a criminal etc) of enforcing copyright law make it not a worthwhile.


I would group those people in with creators who think that copyright means they'll earn more money. That is, people who are swayed by arguments appealing to the "common sense" that "artists should make money off their work" without specific evidence in support of their views.

Since copyright can be used to prevent content creation (for example, cover performances, sequel novels written by other people or derivative works) it isn't at all obvious that copyright leads to more content. The internet has led to more music and better music being made, according to the recent study I saw comparing radio play of new music over time. Webcomics make most of their money selling books of comics available for free on the web. For most of human history we functioned under a deliver-first, pay-later or -indirectly method of exchange; the internet has allowed this model to scale almost without limit for goods with zero marginal cost.


> Every piece of evidence not created by the middle-man industry I've ever seen has supported their position.

Links?


I think that's only part of the argument. The other part is that, regardless of what's right or wrong, the OP thinks that using the software/service perpetuates it, and choosing not to pay for it isn't enough.


That's an excellent point, and in fact that's why I think people should cease consuming this content altogether rather than pirating it. If that was the focus of the argument, it would be great. But sadly, everyone who might listen will be turned off by the bit that goes, "you can't just choose to pirate stuff, because you just can't."


I agree. This article is a perfect example of argumentum ad nauseam[1]: if you repeat something enough, it must be true! Since this is a logical fallacy, this argument is not wrong--it's invalid.

[1]: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/argumentum_ad_nauseam


"Clearly, people think it is their choice." And that is where the author disagrees. People think it is their choice to either pay or not pay and get for free without consequences. That is wrong. If you choose to download without paying, you can't take the moral high ground because what you did is wrong.


This is just the kind of junk I'm talking about. I get that the author disagrees. The problem is that neither he nor you back it up with any reasoning. You're just declaring that you're right and that anyone who disagrees is wrong. What's the point of that?

The simple fact is that copyright infringement is not a universally-agreed wrong the way e.g. murder is. If you want to convince people that it should be, that's fine, but if you argue from the assumption that it already is, that's circular reasoning and won't convince anyone.


Here's my point of view: "intellectual property" exists as a solution to the under provisioning of public goods:

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

It's not perfect; indeed, it's a 'messy compromise'. Currently, one that's tilted too far in favor of producers. However, consumers should also realize that producers can't just create stuff for free: it takes time to write books, lots of money to do movies, and selling music helps bands do what they do full-time, rather than as a hobby, and thus create more music that you, a fan, presumably are happy with.

I'm not sure what the 'right' answer is, but I have a feeling that it won't be simple and 'easy', but rather a bit messy. I think that easy access to 'legit' stuff is definitely part of the solution though. By making the legal route the easiest one, it takes away a big excuse.

Something more people need to think about is life "at the margin", in the economics sense of the term. Don't think about Lady Gaga and Windows and stuff like that: think about people who are on the edge between making a living with some form of IP and having to pursue it only as a hobby.


An intellectual argument about morals requires a basis upon which to argue.

There are psychology researchers doing work in this area: http://www.yourmorals.org/aboutus.php

Is it moral to wear shoes into a Indian temple? How do you argue that without going circular?


Is it moral to wear shoes into a Indian temple? How do you argue that without going circular?

If you ask me, the only moral arguments that aren't going to be circular are those that are based on Utilitarianism (or some similar form of Consequentialism). Of course, the parties debating then have to agree on this basic premise, or they are going to get nowhere fast. But, if you ask me, those who reject all forms of Utilitarianism are just profoundly kidding themselves. This fact is shown quite clearly by the fact that no one would accept a moral theory that results in the most miserable of all possible worlds, even if it seemed at the start that the premises of the moral theory were reasonable ones. E.g., property rights being amongst the most important rights, or what have you.


I agree that it gets tough (although I think the Golden Rule answers the temple question, and a lot of others). The thing is, in this case, they aren't even trying.

The whole "you don't have a choice" bit rests on the assumption that piracy is immoral, and the posts themselves serve simply to remind people of that. It's rather condescending, and entirely pointless if they don't accept the assumption that piracy is immoral, which they almost certainly do not.


It can't quite be the Golden Rule .. "Do unto others as you'd have done unto you". I'm an atheist. I have zero holy places to profane. And yet I do think it is immoral to profane someone's holy place, despite my belief that it is a social creation.

I don't believe many serious people would ascribe to this 'GR' moral logic: "I don't care if someone appropriates my creations" (because I give mine away, or I have none) ergo "I am morally sound in appropriating others creations."

I agree with you that it may be pointless to argue piracy is immoral with someone who thinks it is moral. However, I don't think it is actually condescending to have that as a base assumption.


The Golden Rule just needs a little more depth to be applied here. You have zero holy places, but if you had property, you'd want people to respect it. Therefore, you should respect other people's property.

I think it's very much condescending if you treat the immorality of piracy as a base assumption held by both parties. If you treat it simply as your own base assumption, that's fine. But treating it as a base assumption of the other side and then arguing against their behavior based on that qualifies in my book.


Ok I see the difference. I'll answer more to your point. When a person creates a work, they have a right to decide how that work is given to others. They can leave it in their closet. They can sell a couple copies to friends. They can give it away to everyone and say "if you like this, please give me a dollar!" They can say, "here is one copy for you but I want it back if you ever decide you don't want it any more." The creator of the work can place whatever restrictions they want on the work.

That is my basis for calling people wrong. People who pirate argue that they disagree with the creators choice for how a work should be distributed. Thus because they disagree with it, they will just take it anyway. That is why it is wrong.


No, you're just asserting it without backing it up again. "[Creators] have a right to decide how that work is given to others." You just state this, as if it's a universally held fact, and then base the rest of your post off of it. Clearly a whole lot of people do not believe that creators have a right to decide this.


You can take the moral high ground. Because laws can be wrong, an breaking wrong laws can be right.

Imho the economics of scarcity that is behind copyright is morally problematic. Thus breaking copyright laws could be right under some circumstances.

Also see the following for some more reasons, and some alternatives: http://wybowiersma.net/pub/papers/Wiersma,Wybo,Enclosures_of...


I agree. It seems folks have dug in and staked out their positions, much as they have with abortion, and are now just screaming at each other from across the chasm. Awfully stale indeed.


At the same time, some positions are clearly less informed than others. And there seem to a fair number of mindless idiots on either side, serving no purpose aside from getting the mindless idiots on the other side so riled up that the screaming din makes intelligent debate exceedingly difficult in any remotely public setting.

The reality is that copyright law evolved over the course of three centuries during which the ability to duplicate and distribute was exceedingly capital-intensive, and therefor, practiced only on an industrial scale, by well capitalized industrialists. Not surprisingly, the law became industrial law, with all the trappings (like expensive corporate lawyers) that are par for the course at that level, but entirely out of reach for independent citizens.

Regardless of your position, we can all agree that if the power to duplicate and widely distribute HAD been available to independent citizens for the last 300 years, then the contours of copyright law (if there even were such a thing) would look VERY different today.

In truth, copyright law - as it exists - is fundamentally and irredeemably incompatible with a democratic society in which citizens have the power to duplicate and distribute at virtually no cost. Trying to make it work would be like trying to impose a law that only permits domestic imports via rail on the state of Hawaii.

So now that we have the internet, the law needs to change - a lot. And under a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, it's pure insanity to think that the people won't have a major say in deciding exactly how far property right should be allowed to go in the intellectual realm.

We already place very firm boundaries on their scope by way of Fair Use, limited terms, support for the Public Domain, and so on. And it's high time we placed a few more.


I would put your position into the "clearly less informed" camp, sorry.

Copyright originally was created as a legal concept shortly after the invention of the printing press* because individual small printers were making and selling copies of other people's books. At that time (about 400 years ago), there were no "well capitalized industrialists." The industrial revolution had not even happened yet, and the few corporations that existed at all were captives of the sovereign rulers who created them.

In addition, from the very beginning, copyright was an individual author right that accrued to people, not companies. That is how it was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution for instance, although at that point in time it was already an old concept. The idea that it has always been (or is even today) a matter of industrial law is not accurate.

> In truth, copyright law - as it exists - is fundamentally and irredeemably incompatible with a democratic society in which citizens have the power to duplicate and distribute at virtually no cost.

This is the exact opposite of how public policy works. It is the very ease of copying that creates the need for a legal framework to regulate it. Before the printing press existed, copyright did not exist either--because it was not needed.

In a free society where copying is free, the most precious thing is original throught, original opinion, original content. That is the last true scarcity, and must be protected. Otherwise how are we to distinguish one citizen from another?

* BTW it is worth spending some time reviewing the history of the printing press and the impact it had on the world. I would argue that it was much more of a revolution than the Internet has been so far, although of course the Internet is still in its early stages of development.


Dude, you're hilarious.

I mean, here you are calling people "uninformed" while asserting that the printing press was invented "about 400 years ago", which would be around 1612. In reality Gutenberg's press went into operation around 1450. That's 562 years ago, meaning you're off by more than a century and a half.

You do a bit better with copyright law. The first appearance of law that grants the right to copy to the author was, of course, the Statue of Anne (1709/10, depending on whether you're referring to the Julian calendar that was in effect in England at the time, or the Gregorian calendar which has since become the international standard). Here, you're only off by a century.

Unfortunately for your theory, it's a century in the wrong direction. In reality, there were a solid 260 years between the appearance of the press, and the emergence of individual copyright, and that's not "shortly after" by any definition.

Even if you start the clock in 1493, which is when the publishing business as such really came into its own with Anton Koberger, you're still off by a factor of more than 200 years. So any idea that individual copyright appeared as an immediate and necessary consequence of the press's invention is unsupported by the facts, as is the idea that there's never been a significant amount of time in which one existed without the other.

For the record, the rest of your theory is as sketchy as your grasp of history - especially the bit about protecting "thought and opinion". Those are two things that Copyright absolutely DOES NOT protect. Nor has it ever. So clearly you've still got a lot of work to do, but that's all the time we have today.

Class dismissed.


Bonus error:

"At that time (about 400 years ago), there were no "well capitalized industrialists...and the few corporations that existed at all were captives of the sovereign rulers who created them."

Again, not so! Indeed, 400 years ago is when some of the fierest and best capitalized industrialists known to man emerged. Specifically, I'm talking about the Dutch East India Company - a private corporation which commanded a heavily armed fleet several times larger than those of the competing French and British Crowns combined. And it was wind-powered industrialization that supported the assembly-line techniques that made their ship yards so incredibly productive.

Obviously, theirs was a relatively limited enterprise - certainly nothing compared to what we now refer to as the Industrial Revolution. But that difference is a function of having wind rather than coal to run their mills, not the application of the techniques, or the systematic accumulation and pooling of capital needed to apply them. In terms of the capital-intensive industrial operations needed to run them, and a chartered corporation to manage it, the VOC (as it was known) was a force unlike any the world had seen, utterly dominating both the global trade routes to the East Indies, and the flow of commerce moving through their ports. Phillip II of Spain waged a furious fight to maintain his colonies in the Netherlands, but the idea that he did so successfully is the opposite of reality. When the Dutch finally sued for peace, they did so as a republic.

Getting back to the press - while I mentioned that the business aspect of if got off the ground in 1493, Anton Koberger's family didn't continue it when he died. Though it was profitable, it remained baffling to his relatives, who had - and continued - to trade in gold. In terms of the flow of ideas, the most influential presses emerged in Venice. This was a city that had it's own long history with industrialization. Specifically, the Arsenal, which is where it pioneered the heavy industrial techniques needed to build the fleets with which it dominated the Mediterranean throughout the Crusades.

This unmatched foundation in assembly-line work was easily transferred to publishing operations, which the Venetians also turned into an industry. It would be some time before work of equal quality and sophistication was produced North of the Alps. And Venice, of course, was a republic. Kings (and Popes, and Princes) were dominated by the Venetians, not vice versa.

Incidentally, nobody who actually knows what they're talking about refers to Kings as "sovereigns" until after 1648, and the Peace of Westphalia, which is what established the concept of the sovereign state as such; one (theoretically) secure in its borders and (again, theoretically) free from the external authority of the Pope. Ergo, the sovereignty.

Given the general magnitude of your historical ignorance, this must seem like a minor point, but still. I actually do know about this stuff, and hearing references to "sovereigns" operating in the early 17th century is like nails on a chalkboard. It's a bit like hearing people discus life in the "American States" circa 1720.


Oh wait, I just found ANOTHER error. Or at least another expression of the same big error.

"In addition, from the very beginning, copyright was an individual author right that accrued to people, not companies."

Assuming that you mean "from the beginning of printing" this is the EXACT opposite of reality. In England, where the Statue of Anne was passed, the privilege to copy accrued to guilds, not individuals.

Admittedly, I'm stretching definitions a bit since the guilds didn't have a 'right' either - it really was a privilege, and one granted by Royal Charter. Moreover, they weren't companies in the sense that we use that word today. But they were certainly incorporated entities seen as separate and distinct from any persons in particular. And they dominated the publishing trade for the better part of two centuries. The notion that lawful control of the ability to copy has "always" accrued to the individual is just so spectacularly wrong.

I'm sorry to go on like this, but I really can't remember a time when I came across another human who managed to pack so many layers of historical ignorance into such a small space. To cap if off by referring to others as "uninformed" just ices the cake. If you want to avoid looking like a complete idiot, avoid the use of history to ground your ideas about copyright. Seriously, it's like watching Kim Kardashian trying to play Scrabble in French and not understanding why "nobody lets me win".


Well you've obviously got a better working grasp of names and dates than I do, but I think you're mistaking precision for accuracy.

The Statute of Anne vested the copy monopoly explicitly in the author. Prior to that, guild members had the exclusive "right" to "copy" a manuscript, yes--but first they had to individually purchase the license to do so, from the author.

This is what I mean when I say that copyright (in the modern, IP sense) ultimately accrued to the author. There was not much time following Gutenberg when it was legal for printers to copy whatever the heck they wanted. Recognition of authorship was a social norm that predated the printing press, and was very soon incorporated into the regulation of the new technology.

To return to my broader point, try this thought experiment. Take snapshots of copying technology and IP law at 50 year intervals up to today. It doesn't matter if you start at 1450 or 1709. What you will find is that over time the marginal cost of copying has declined, and the legal protection of an author's IP has strengthened. Yet you're trying to argue that for some reason that trend will suddenly reverse. I don't see why it would.


"Well you've obviously got a better working grasp of names and dates than I do,"

Understatement of the week.

"but I think you're mistaking precision for accuracy."

Those are synonyms, making this a distinction without a difference. You either fail to grasp logic, or basic English. I'm not sure which. Regardless, neither of these words refer to your grasp of history, nor your ability to ground theory within it. I'm not "mistaking" anything for anything, as your concept is demonstrably devoid of both.

"This is what I mean when I say that copyright (in the modern, IP sense) ultimately accrued to the author. "

Stop lying. You meant no such thing and you know it. Indeed, you very clearly said the opposite. Specifically. "In addition, from the very beginning, copyright was an individual author right that accrued to people, not companies."

And again "copyright (in the modern, IP sense)" means the legal ability duplicate, distribute, and creative derivatives from. Those were activities that the guild system specifically BARRED authors from doing. To say their need to buy manuscripts means that, effectively, these privileges "accrue" to the author is not true. And about "buying licences"; there were no licences to buy. You just made that up.

Let's remember the whole point of your original argument; that copyright - as an individual right - has "always" been the authors, and that our legal tradition has recognized "since the very beginning of printing." As noted, this is completely counter to reality. And now you're saying this isn't really what you meant, but sort of is because of these imaginary "licences"? Aside from the guild's charters, there were no licences. Only physical ownership and control of the manuscripts themselves, which was exchanged for money on unfavorable terms from the only legal buyers in town. Yes, that was a crappy system. No, it didn't give authors their due. And it ended in 1709, which is about two and a half centuries after the advent of movable type. Moving on.

"There was not much time following Gutenberg when it was legal for printers to copy whatever the heck they wanted."

True, but that had everything to do with censorship by the Church, and not respect for the rights of authors. Indeed, those two interests have tended to be at sharp odds. See my point above about authors and rights and who could do what "at the very beginning".

"Recognition of authorship was a social norm that predated the printing press, and was very soon incorporated into the regulation of the new technology."

If a custom pertaining to simple credit is your example of early copyright (i.e. what prevailed for the first 260 years), then you simply have no idea what copyright even covers. Just...none.

Also, who are you to say "very soon" about anything? Haven't we already established that your grasp of actual history is a confused and distorted mess of near bottomless error? Given your hilariously awful track record, you have no business making assertions about specific timeframes without clear citations.

"To return to my (now demolished) broader point, try this thought experiment..."

I've got a better idea. Instead of acting like a person who is quite literally moronic, why don't you take a moment to realize that you have been completely and totally schooled. Everything, from your grasp of history, to your understanding of words, to the honesty of your arguments, to the clarity of your theoretical understanding has just been handed back to you in shit covered shreds, and now there is a smoking crater where your credibility used to be.

This is where the normal, decent, reasonably self-respecting human would think "Wow, I really put my foot in it. I actually have no idea about any of this stuff. The worst part is that I didn't even realize how clueless I was. And there I was, starting of my remarks to others with snide personal insults about who belongs "in the uninformed camp". Instead of continuing to behave like an idiot, I'm going to spend some time actually learning about all this, and then, perhaps, I can save myself some embarrassment, and maybe even answer my own questions."

Questions like "Why would a major paradigm change in the economics and distribution of a particular kind of technology upset the related body of law that developed over the course of three centuries under an entirely different paradigm?"

You'll be pleased to know that this is exactly what my original remark covered. Provided that you're clever enough to realize that you were under some very serious illusions when reading those remarks, and not understanding them at all as a result, try going back and reading them again, and see if you can figure out the answer to your own question.

If you can't, then study harder. You'll know that you've got a passable grasp of history, politics, economics, and publishing when the answer to your question about trends in the marginal costs of publication and the extent of authorial control appears to be the opposite of your present understanding, for reasons that should be self-evident.

Good luck.


I apologize in advance for the nitpick, but this is one of those things that just bugs me.

Accuracy and precision are not synonyms. Accuracy refers to how close you are to the true value. Precision refers to how narrow your claimed value is.

As applied to history, the statement that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor at 9:33:12AM Mountain Time on July 4th, 1953 is extremely precise, but horribly inaccurate. Meanwhile, the statement that the Japanese attacked Pearl harbor in 1941 is accurate, but not very precise.


Excellent point. I stand corrected. And thanks for the really solid example.


This article is interesting to read and think about from a theoretical perspective. Practically, though, it is completely and utterly useless.

Fact 1: Pirating is possible and fairly easy across the board.

Fact 2: Some content creators try to limit access to maintain "exclusivity" or to keep margins high. These guys get destroyed by piracy.

Fact 3: Other services strive to make it as easy as possible to get their products legally - Steam, iTunes, the Louis CK experiment. Their stuff is pirated a lot less and they generate a bunch of goodwill on the side.

These are facts, and no appeal to morality is going to change that. You can't just tell someone to suck it up and say it's not their "decision". Of course it's their decision - everyone decides whether or not to pirate! It is ABSOLUTELY their decision. The way to curb piracy is not to appeal to people's morality and tell people they SHOULD or SHOULDN'T do something. It's never going to work.

Curb piracy by making it easier, safer, and more reliable to purchase legally rather than pirate. Articles like this do nothing but reinforce the author's sense of moral superiority.


As creators, we can curb piracy by making it easier, safer and more reliable to purchase legally. As users, shouldn't we curb piracy by not pirating things?


As users we should, wherever possible, purchase media from the easier, safer and more reliable LEGITIMATE sources, and carry on pirating wherever the opposite is true ("locked down" content such as DRM, rootkits, cumbersome convoluted registrations and ages-long anti-piracy messages on legal media!)

To put it another way, it seems we need a "carrot" (legally purchasing) approach to the 'good guys' creators/developers and "stick" (illegally downloading) approach to the arseholes who put rootkits on music CD's etc.

...thats my humble opinion anyway


From a long-term perspective, it's probably more effective, as a user, to pirate everything that's not easily available for legal purchase, with the intent of making outdated, overpriced distribution channels unprofitable.

I'm not trying to make the argument that this is ethical or anything, but purely from the perspective of solving the "piracy problem", I believe it would be the most effective.


World of Goo launched on Steam and still saw 90% piracy.

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/12/my-software-is-bein...


This is the kind of thing that boggles my mind. World of Goo was a huge success! How the piracy rate fits into the relative success or failure of World of Goo is not at all clear. I don't see how anyone can believe that there's a possible reality where World of Goo would be just as successful as it was with a 0% piracy rate, and where information exchange is free. You can't have both! If World of Goo had made a pittance and its developers had died in poverty, maybe there would have been an argument to make there. But as it is, that piracy figure is just a number that has no tangible connection to the number of possible sales in a world where piracy is either morally abhorrent to everyone, or technically impossible. And that world is something for dystopian science fiction to explore, not one that I would ever wish to experience.


I've paid for World of Goo twice (When I first bought it when it came out, and once for the iPhone version). I've also pirated World of Goo three times. When I switched from PC to Mac; when I gave my iPod touch to my sister and installed it on my new iPhone as well (does this count as piracy? I have no idea. Its the same iTunes account running on two devices now...). And once on my Linux box when I wanted the linux version.

Does this count as piracy? Probably. I think they even have platform-free redownloads. I can't be arsed. I've paid for it. When I want it in a different version, I'll get it from the most convenient distribution channel that happens to be the pirate bay.

I also own like 4 Windows 7 licenses. But my Windows 7 computer is running a pirated version because: 1. I lost 2 of the license keys (the sticker at the bottom of the laptops burned out from heat). So much for that. I liked my home-premium install, too. But that's a non starter because the keys can't be recovered. I'm supposed to write down keys in case of this problem? What is this? 1999?

2. There are numerous version incompatibilities. 2 of my Windows 7 licenses are "academic versions" of Windows 7 unlimited because they ran some promo when it first launched that I bought. Apparently, despite being Unlimited, if you get the ISO off the pirate bay for the unlimited version, it doesn't work unless you have the academic version of the ISO. I have no idea how to get the academic version of the ISO, because the ISO downloader on MSDN academic is a Windows-only program. (At the time I had no Windows computers --- I was trying to get my first Windows 7 install up!). SO I got the same ISO from the pirate bay (the only place to get hassle-free ISOs). It's important to note that I have Unlimited-edition licenses. It's not failing because I paid for Home-premium and am trying to run Unlimited. This is different versions of Unlimited. It makes my ears bleed just how many different incompatible versions there are.

It's just a confusing mess. I'm sure I count under the piracy statistics as a pirate user. But in reality, I have 3 computers, two of which have Windows 7 installs, both "pirated". The fact that I own 4 licenses, none of which I could manage to get activated, won't come up on the statistics, will it?


Blizzard deals with the redownload and key issue well, you can login to your account and download the game or any platform and access any key that you need.


I'm not saying that they missed out on 90% of their revenue (though it's fair to say they lost out on some revenue). Rather, they did everything right: a fun game that anyone can play, great press, broad distribution through multiple channels, and no DRM. And yet a huge audience still saw it fit to pirate their game.

It'll be interesting to watch the evolution of game distribution. Xbox and iOS are massively growing platforms that also bring built-in DRM that's significantly harder to circumvent.


Your point is valid, but it is still worth noting that a huge audience also did buy their game. They just sold their millionth game on the App Store alone. http://2dboy.com/2012/01/09/one-million-downloads/


Yes, and the price is dramatically lower as well: $2.99. I paid $19.99 on Steam three years ago. I'd be curious if they could do it all over again today, if they would do iOS first.


I think any game is still going to have the issue of kids not having access to the means to pay for it. Do they wait for heir parents and hope they decide to buy it for them or do they get it for free right now?


I couldn't agree more. Complaining about the piracy rate of a successful game is like complaining about the "people who didn't buy it" rate. Just think of all the people who didn't buy World of Goo! There must be billions of them!


But were they able to make a viable living from selling their game? 90% piracy does not equate to 90% loss of revenue. Not every pirate is a potential customer. Far from it. Were sales of the game higher because of the publicity due to the piracy? I don't know for sure and neither does anyone else. An instance of piracy is not necessarily something bad. Classical piracy is. But not digital 'piracy' necessarily. And by extension, high amounts of digital 'piracy' is not necessarily bad. Just some food for thought.


Why would it have been a better outcome if the same number of people had paid for the game and only 10% as many people got to play? It wouldn't have been better for the game-makers and it would have been far worse for the population.


The fundamental argument for anti-piracy is that at least some of the pirates would have paid for the content if piracy was not available. It's not all the pirates, and it's not none of the pirates. Nobody would care about pirates if they were 100% unmonetizable.

I'm making numbers up, but let's say 10% paid as usual, 1% converted to payment because piracy wasn't available, and 89% didn't want to pay and didn't play. The publisher gets 10% more revenue if piracy wasn't there.

Nobody knows what the actual percentage is.


Your example ignores the potential positive effect of piracy on sales. It's likely that at least some of the pirates purchased the game because they liked it. It's also likely that all the extra people playing it contributed to the publicity.


I've seen the most data from individual authors. Every report/experiment I have seen had the author making more money off books that were available for free.


> 90% piracy

Notably, that's not an actual calculated number. Even so, the unanswerable question is whether it'd have been 91 or 99% without easy distribution.


It's probably not completely accurate, but the publisher does provide some context as to how he estimated that. http://2dboy.com/2008/11/13/90/


Sometimes the HN, Reddit and other crowds forget they're not the only ones on the planet and in fact seem to make up a tiny minority—the enlightened ones. Sure, you/we may be willing to pay for an easy-to-use service though for now, because we're tech-savvy, we'll use a conglomerate of services and have it work on all our devices, etc while the mere mortal, common man struggles to avoid downloading smiley packages.

Why do the common people pirate? Because they want something without having to pay for it which is done primarily out of selfishness, laziness and wanting to pretend our actions have no consequences. On my Facebook feed, in conversations, etc they'll speak of BitTorrent or whatever and smile with an evil glint in their eyes and think they're awesome because they're getting all this content without paying for it.

The other funny thing is, you and others speak of needing to make it easier but for the common people pirating is so usually much harder—they have to keep their computers safe from malicious people and files, they need to figure out how Kazaa and BitTorrent works, they need to have the right codecs for Windows Media Player or Quicktime to play whatever the latest favourite container is, know which crack for Windows is reliable, etc. I know someone who proclaimed to be able to download torrents and she spoke of it as some great achievement and the people around her clamoured for her to download TV show x and music y.

Going down and hiring out a movie is easier for them, the majority. Going to a cinema is easier. Buying software which comes with a license is easier. Buying a CD is easier than them trying to download the whole album (Why is it do you think these people usually never download a full album and instead end up with a poor copy of popular song x and all these unnamed .mp3s?). There is the majority. Sure, the amount of people who use Steam and that is certainly relatively large but in comparison is still small.

It's nothing new to man to want something without having to earn it. Why else are 'get rich quick' or 'get amazing abs now' successful, or rather, even exist?

The post may reinforce the author's sense of moral superiority (And maybe he does have a superior sense of morals) but many of the counter-posts are simply doing the same thing for themselves.


I solved this problem the "hard" way a long time ago. I don't use windows, at all, but GNU/Linux (Yeah, I'm this sort of guy, too).

And you know what, as time goes by it's actually less and less of an actual problem; heck, I was even able to buy games for my box this year, thank you Humble Bundle! OK, this isn't free software, but at least you don't feel like you've been anally raped with barbed wire.

And music? Well, I still buy CDs, mostly; the time when CDs came with DRM apparently faded away, so I don't even need to screen for this anymore (yes, I've actively boycotted some artists because of this for a while). From time to time, for music I don't actually care about, I buy mp3s from Amazon.

I don't write this to emphasize my moral superiority but to emphasize that it isn't that hard. You don't agree with their policy? don't buy the frigging stuff.


I agree with you but I'm voting down. There's no need to use violent rape analogies when talking about someone requiring you to activate over the phone. Turn it down a notch please.


> when talking about someone requiring you to activate over the phone.

What about software that phones home and require some physical gizmo like a CD or dongle to use, after you've already spent a nice sum of money to acquire it? You're simply treated not like an amiable customer, but a thief, while actual thieves simply use it.


> What about software that phones home and require some physical gizmo like a CD or dongle to use, after you've already spent a nice sum of money to acquire it?

I still don't think this warrants comparison to rape.


Oh you!


I agree with you 100%. I haven't felt the need to be as extreme as you have gone, but any media I consume I either buy it or go without. More often than not, I find myself going without because I don't feel the price is worth it.

If people really wanted to take a stand they wouldn't buy OR pirate and would simply not consume. If everyone stopped consuming then changes would happen quickly.


I did the same thing, some five years ago. But what if someone can't go to Linux or OS X because this person needs software that is Windows-only or doesn't have the time or knowledge to learn a new operating system? Just shouting "don't buy the frigging stuff" isn't going to stop them.


> this person needs software that is Windows-only

Frankly, when I first migrated I spent a long time making Wine to work properly with various pieces of software, and I finally never actually used it because there are alternatives to about everything. Maybe they're not always as good as their counterparts, but in the end they get the job done. I've shared word documents with OpenOffice, I've drawn billboards and websites with Inkscape and GIMP, and it's good enough.


I can't wait for OnLive to have a Linux client. I'm going to seriously consider Linux for my primary OS at that point.

I'll still have to have Windows for things I can't do in Linux, but other than Games, that's a pretty small list.


The only problem I have with this article is this line:

"since when does that suddenly mean that you can decide that you are no longer going to pay for products that both legally and morally you are obliged to pay for, yet still use them?"

Legally obliged to pay for? Yes.

Morally? No. I have no moral problem with piracy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Those are the foundations of my morality. I would love it if people pirated things I made. That's my morality.


You have no idea what you are talking about, I'm guessing this is because you have never created anything worthwhile on which your livelihood depended. I'm sure you'd be quick to whine if your employer (assuming you are old enough to work) could decide whether or not you should be paid for your work after you had done it. I hope you congratulate the next person to steal from you with a cheery "well done, that's my morality too".


You have no idea what you are talking about, I'm guessing this is because you are too old to have grown up with tape trading, VHS copies of films and pirate cable. I have a contract with my employer, he is bound by that agreement to pay me. If he decides he doesn't want to, I stop working for him. If I write a book, no one is under contract to purchase and read it. I'd be happy if someone did, but I'd be foolish to assume that would happen when I started writing it.

I have created worthwhile things on which my livelihood depended, and those things have been cheerfully and rampantly pirated (piracy rates of video games estimated at +90%). And the company I worked for made great profits and paid me a nice bonus. Would it have made as much of a profit if those 90%+ of people who played the game, liked it, talked about it, reviewed it without paying for it, had never played it at all? I don't know. Would it have made more profit? I can't say. I doubt you can either.


As an employee, you have no basis for understanding the perceived loss that piracy incurs- you are paid 100% what you agreed upon for your creative efforts. Someone else is taking the risk and losing the profit. If you went to get your paycheck and found out that it was 40% lower than what you thought, you might feel some of that self-righteous anger that businesses are espousing.

More realistically the worst you will feel is a denied promotion, or lost a job because your company can't realize it's investment in you.

Unless you are directly culpable for the creation and distribution of a product and lose money on it because people won't honor your effort, you don't have a basis for passing judgment based on your personal experience (in other words, you're no expert :) ).


Now you are making a different argument, but I can argue just as effectively against this one. :)

In my role as copyright superhero have I not only worked as an employee at companies producing copyrighted works, I have also, personally, produced and sold copyrighted works that have, to some extent, been pirated. I have yet to feel any self-righteous anger. The only anger I might feel is a certain frustration where some of these copyrighted works have not been as successful as I would have wished them to be, but I would be foolish to lay the blame on piracy. More likely, the timing was not right and the quality was not high enough to ensure success.

Any business endeavor entails risk. I would hope that my employer has factored in piracy rates and other non-specific factors in the business plan before hiring me to create a video game for him. Sometimes, things don't work out as hoped and the result is a flop. That can happen for many reasons. I have yet to see a convincing argument where piracy was the reason something did not succeed. On the other hand, I can point to numerous examples were piracy was the deciding factor that let something become a success to begin with. The currently popular example is Minecraft, which spread entirely through word of mouth. How successful would that game have been if there had been no way to send it to a friend while telling them to check it out because it's awesome? I really doubt anyone would have known about it at all.


Well then, I stand corrected, you do have some basis for your statement. :)

Though it doesn't sound like you gained your livelihood from the production of such works. My dad is a farmer who wanted to pass on the farm to my brother. They had various communication issues, but one of the underlying complaints of my father was that my brother didn't understand the seriousness of being in business. He would say, "His nuts aren't in the ringer."

I don't think piracy ruins businesses. However, I don't think that anyone can make the argument that they ethically have the right to disregard the producer's terms for consuming their product, regardless of the form the product is in or how unreasonable those terms are. The creator of the product has the right to define their terms and if you violate his/her terms, it's a transgression. It's not a favor, a lesson, or a statement, you're taking without honoring their work in the way they've decided. Maybe it will turn out great for them in the end, maybe not- it doesn't matter, they set the terms and you violated them.

Piracy is parasitic, not productive, and everyone loses. We get these stupid censorship bills rolling through and resources are spent in trying to control the phenomena instead of innovating and addressing real issues.

Regarding Minecraft-- I did not realize that it was successful because it was pirated. I know that it got some good reviews on popular sites and I believe they sold a cheap development version and were successful because of this accessible model (versus a Microsoft approach). Wikipedia says that the developers decided to start their video game company and focus exclusively on it with the money they earned from their sales. To me, this does not sound like a pirate success story. It actually reinforces my belief that it absolutely requires resources to back any serious effort and this is something that piracy never provides.


No, I've never worked for myself as in paying the bills based on my own copyright, although not from a lack of trying. I, like many people, started out with dreams of fame and glory through music, but gave it up quite early as the risks involved in choosing that career far outweighed the potential benefit. Plus, this was during the first dot com bubble, so getting into computers seemed like a good deal.

I see you brought it back to a question of ethics, which is something that I think is ultimately not very interesting. Ask any horse-cart driver during the infancy of the car industry, and they would probably curse cars for being noisy and dangerous, and car drivers for being unethical and immoral for supporting this metal abomination. These days no one cares. In the same way, hopefully, we'll one day look back at the era of government anti-freedom bills and shake our heads in disbelief.

Because short of actually going into the heads of all the people who, unlike you, don't see piracy as a parasitic activity, what can you actually do about it?

It's so easy to copy works digitally that many people are no doubt doing it without realizing it. If you have a blog, and someone links to a youtube music video, and you like it and want to share the experience of seeing it with a friend.. you put a link to the video on your blog. But! Unbeknownst to you, that video was put there without the permission of the original creator, and you just committed a crime (by proxy, in this case, but a moral crime nontheless).

A short history of Minecraft, as told by me (guaranteed to be inaccurate in many ways):

Minecraft rose to fame by being heavily shared while in the alpha/beta stage at various indie game forums, 4chan, something awful and other places like these, from where the word of mouth spread wider and wider. From the start, it was for sale (I think for $10), it has never been a free game as far as I know. It was pirated like crazy from the beginning. By the time notch formed mojang, he was already a millionare from the sales of minecraft.

Of course he didn't become a millionare from the piracy directly. The piracy didn't stop him from becoming one, though. In fact, I don't think it's possible to say definitively what impact piracy really had, other than that it helped spread the word. Given the graphics of Minecraft, would millions of people buy it without trying it? Maybe. You say that piracy doesn't provide resources, but in this case it did provide that one elusive thing that every independent developer desperately needs: exposure.


I agree on ethics. No one can prove right or wrong, so it has limited charm. I think though, that most would understand that beyond ethics, piracy is directly compromising the agreement that the producer sets out- similar to lying or stealing in that it's not admirable behavior, regardless of how many Johnny Depp posters you have put up (like one of the pro-piracy blogs that was posted earlier.)

Don't get me wrong, I don't support these asinine bills, however I do see people who pirate as directly supporting them. Which is upsetting because they're creating a demand and a rationale for censorship, which affects everyone.

On the same note, I see bandied around that the bills creators don't understand the fundamental architecture of the Internet and the damage it would cause. I see, "pirates," as not understanding the fundamental architecture of capitalism and ignoring the damage it causes.

Specifically, the exchange of resources where both parties benefit.

If a provider wants exposure and wants to give away their product for exposure, that's up to them, not anyone else. And for digital products it's a hell of a lot easier to provide them public domain or open source than it is to sell them.

However, exposure doesn't pay the bills. I am self employed and I see similar sentiments expressed on a regular basis. Product or service provider, if what I provide is valuable enough for you to ask for or steal, I obviously don't need the exposure that bad. There was a $6,000 photograph post up earlier that expressed the same idea.

If you liked Minecraft, there is nothing to prevent you from paying for it and touting it. Minecraft is an especially relevant example because the developers set the bar so low in regards to price and people still pirated something they claimed to love? That's so bizarre to me- I want to support independent developers much more so than the big guys and they weren't asking for much.


Okay, so the problem that I'm seeing is that in your mind, you are equating a pirated copy with a lost sale. But that's an outdated and incorrect assumption, and hopefully one that time will deal with (when we've all grown up with infinite copies available from birth). A pirated copy is definitely not the same as a lost sale.

Plenty of people payed for and touted Minecraft, obviously. A huge category of people didn't pay, but still touted it.

Would that category of people have paid if piracy was impossible? Well, I've argued against that reality since making piracy impossible would most likely also make Minecraft impossible (since you'd have to distribute through government-approved channels). I don't see how someone could possibly create an independent product and be able to self-distribute if piracy is technically impossible. And arguably the environment that spawned and formed the successful indie game maker is heavily dependent on free and easy peer-to-peer sharing of information, code and software.

Secondly, clearly these people didn't have any moral issue with pirating the game while at the same time loving it. It may be bizarre to you, but a huge number of people will happily break the law if it's to their benefit, without feeling bad over lost sales. Most likely, these people wouldn't have paid even if they couldn't have had the game. They would just have gone without the game.

I'd even go so far as to say that generally acting in their own self interest with little regard to people outside their closest circle is a fundamental human behavioral constant, and it's shocking to me that this is so shocking to other people. You do know that children are starving to death in poor areas of the world? You certainly have the means to save at least one of them. Yet you don't, why? Because their plight is too remotely removed from you. You have no emotional connection to them.

Closing the emotional gap is key to exploiting the modern economy: see the success of pay-what-you-want schemes, where people end up paying more than they would have with a set price. I'd argue that this demonstrates another interesting detail: the humble bundle, which was available as pay-what-you-want, was heavily pirated! Why? It was essentially free already! Perhaps because people like to share, and the distribution model and the economic profit margins of the creator are both lesser forces than the innate emotional desires to have and to share.


I wouldn't equate a pirated copy with a lost sale, but that is an approach that the businesses behind SOPA/PIPA are doing and they are pursuing censorship as an end result. Whatever a pirate may say or intend, they are supporting their opponents argument for censorship in the form of, "lost sales."

Censorship is as morally baseless as piracy, but I do not like it either, and like piracy it has a negative effect on everyone.

Maybe sales would increase if something prevented piracy, maybe they wouldn't. I expect that they would increase a significant percentage, but probably not even close to 100%.

People everywhere act out of self interest all the time, not just some of the time, all the time. It's just that for some people self interest involves having the perception to see beyond the immediate benefit of an act. Others do not, and eat donuts until they have diabetes, sleep with their best friend's spouse, steal cars, and act on each impulse as soon as it arises.

That people act in ways that are short sighted and then try to explain away their shortsightedness is only human, but it's not admirable, and it does no public service.

I have nothing against anyone saying, "I breach the contract between provider and consumer. I'm a leech off of others labor. I inhibit growth that would otherwise occur. I take and give nothing back and then lie and say I would do otherwise if only X business did Y. I will only act fairly when forced to by a parent figure, which will probably be the government if I can get others to take on this attitude."

The same as I would have no problem with someone saying, "I'm a habitual liar and a cheat," versus someone saying, "I help people to be more careful and to investigate what it is told to them. I help people to be more cautious. I'm a Highwayman, a Bandit!"

I have long addressed the question of whether I'm going to live my life righting every wrong and looking for people to save. That I do not save kids in Africa, does not mean I haven't considered it. I live my life with integrity to what I value and I don't have to make elaborate arguments as to why, I just do the part that is mine.

The reason I'm shocked that Minecraft was pirated as you say, is that I see "pirates" complain that they would buy this product if it didn't have DRM or that product if the cost was reasonable. Here we have a project in its early stages that is valuable and made easy to attain. Will they support it. Will they help make it better? No, the lousy excuse is now exposure. And then, "Why isn't this thing finished yet!?" Ha, ha.


I don't disagree with your viewpoint, but I think there are more ways of looking at it. Taking a systemic view instead of focusing on the specific transaction in question - that is, look at the pirate, not the piracy - might shed some light on why I think that ultimately, piracy is not a destructive force:

There is research showing that pirates, on average, spend more money on the things they pirate than non-pirates. While this may sound counter-intuitive, on reflection it makes sense. There are those who pirate for the sake of pirating, lets call them hoarders. They download everything they can, with no intention to ever pay for any of it. These are not potential customers. The other category of pirates are people who, lets take music for example, who really love music. They spend a lot of money on music each month, but they also have an active network trading music with other enthusiasts. In fact, this trading network is what provides feedback and drives their interest in music to begin with. So the piracy, the downloading of music that they engage in, is the fuel that drives their consumption up beyond that of a regular, law-abiding consumer.

I'm not saying that this is the only truth, but the statistical evidence from several studies done on musical piracy (I recall one in particular done in Holland) supports this view.

So in this case, your characterisation of the pirate as a leech is not an accurate account. In fact, this pirate is the perfect customer, and it is the piracy that made him.


This misses the fundamental difference between someone choosing to distribute their work for free, and working under false promise of financial reward.

Ignoring the condescending tone of this comment, there are many 'creators' in the world who have no desire to personally profit from their work. That is not the issue being raised.


If you are creating something on which your livelihood depends, do so ‘under a promise of financial reward’. It would be foolish to do otherwise, isn't it?

But if you choose to publicly distribute your work—accept inevitable risks. Don't like that—go get a real job. You can do contract work writing music, or doing illustration / design.


More generally, if you want to be paid then do work under a contract. There are many cases where you will willingly accept promise of financial reward - look no further than Y Combinator - but you're a fool if you don't accept the risks or pretend you should be immune to the illegal actions (rather than seeking compensation after the fact, anyway).

Even in something like retail, your product can be stolen and there's no guarantee you'll get recompense. Yet laws regarding shoplifting have remained rather constant and non-draconian in all that time. The problem with the internet is that it's all too easy to get something without paying for it, but people all-too-often forget that the benefit of the internet is that nobody can deprive you of your goods (bandwidth notwithstanding).

Yeah, piracy sucks, but look at what other sectors of the economy have to deal with. Risk's everywhere; deal with it.


Another comment on HN[0] said it better, by citing Francis Ford Coppola:

> "We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

> This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

> In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it."

[0] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3491678


I think your logic is a bit facile. If you want people to take your creations, that is not piracy, more or less by definition.


So, your boss will be happy he doesn't have to pay you. The question is how're you going to afford to live and how long will you work for someone who doesn't pay you anything?

Don't get me wrong I'm for communism and intentional communities; but are you really advocating that?


Your argument makes no sense. If my boss doesn't pay me, I'm not working for him. Thus, he is no longer my boss. How is that relevant to the morality issue of piracy? Do you mean in the sense that if I pirate something, the creator of that something doesn't get paid and thus doesn't create the thing that I pirated? But that argument is backwards. If you mean that no more things will be produced in a world with piracy, that's demonstrably false. We've had rampant piracy since the first printing press, the world we live in now is not free from piracy, yet there's more creative work created every year.


I think you summed it up perfectly. If your boss is no longer paying you, he has no right to your time. Just like with the pirated content, if you don't pay for it, you have no right to it.


I think the piracy "analogies" are getting out of control here.


What you and most others miss is that people don't really care about the right of things when they pirate. It's a non-issue.


Pirating is immoral regardless of the pirate's opinion on the matter.


Merriam-Webster: "Definition of IMMORAL : not moral; broadly : conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles"

Based on this, whether piracy is moral or not depends on people's opinions. I would argue that society does not consider copyright infringement to be especially immoral.

Sing 'Happy Birthday' in public without paying the guy who bought the company holding the copyright to it. Is your audience disgusted by this immoral act?

Now the owner of the company holding the copyright sues you for your unauthorized use of 'his' song. Would more people think that you acted immorally, or that the copyright holder is acting immorally?


But with the pirated content, the pirate never entered into an agreement to pay for the content.

Also, the creator of the pirated product has only lost a potential sale (one that I would argue that they don't have a right to anyway), whereas the unpaid worker has experienced a 'theft' of their time and work.


Legally obliged to pay for? Yes.

A technicality, but if you commit copyright infringement you are not legally obliged to pay for it, you either have commited a crime or you are liable to be sued. You can't just download and then owe the person money. This isn't like when you go into a hair dresser, sit down, get your hair cut and now legally have to pay them.


Are you morally obligated to not violate someone else's wishes in the general case?


If he is, I hope he doesn't go to /b/.


> "Morally? No. I have no moral problem with piracy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Those are the foundations of my morality. I would love it if people pirated things I made. That's my morality."

I assume, therefore, that you invite those with an interest in sadomasochism to inflict pain on you?

(No, I don't think sadomasochism and piracy are alike, but the idea of making and breaking laws based on what one person is happy to have done to them is IMO ridiculous.)


Do me a favor, wouldja? Please cast this particular tenet of your moral code into the form of the golden rule. Exactly what are you doing to others that you would have them do unto you?


On morality: given how widespread the piracy is, we probably shouldn't assert that the moral side of the things is obvious here.

Regarding the law, that's one way to look at that. Another way is that the role of copyright is about to change, and disobeying the law en masse might be one way to help that change.

(Disclaimer: I'm not much of a pirate myself, I have a US iTunes Store account despite living in Russia just to be able to buy music legally. Also I'm earning money by writing software. But being able to copyright music and software is not a given, it's just how things work today, and as the world changes, this concept will also evolve.)


The morality question isn't necessarily obvious, but the pervasiveness of a particular activity has nothing to do with its morality. Was slavery more morally correct when the majority approved of it, or at least looked the other way? Absolutely not.


Actually, it was. You can't judge the morality of practices from the past from your present point of view. You shouldn't be convicted that your morality is absolute and will always be the only correct one.

Not to mention that software piracy is on a completely other level than slavery.


> You can't judge the morality of practices from the past from your present point of view.

Cultural relativism is certainly a valid school of ethical thought — one with which I happen to disagree. On matters like piracy, which is certainly less detrimental to society than slavery was, the consequences for believing what is popular and what is right are relatively low. But to suggest that you can apply this principle across the board, in all situations, is, in my view, absurd.

You're suggesting there that we cannot judge anything that has happened in the past because our views on the matter are now different. But that means we cannot judge ANYTHING that has happened EVER because, by definition, now is different from then.

> You shouldn't be convicted that your morality is absolute and will always be the only correct one.

I'm not. I'm just not convinced that, because a certain activity is widespread, it is therefore morally correct.


I'm sorry, I should have been clearer.

What I try to say is that you can't judge both piracy and slavery from your present point of view. I feel that because in the past slavery was commonly accepted, that it was morally justified then. In the same way, given the huge proliferation of piracy, I feel that copyright infringement is somewhat morally justified now. This view might change and in the same way, the morality of piracy might change too. I would take the common views of society as the definition of what is morally justified and what isn't. It is possible you see this in another way and that is fine (and not absurd).

Also, this change in zeitgeist is continuous, not as discrete as you overstate it is. We are perfectly justified to judge what has happened yesterday. Judging what happened during World War II is murkier and judging what happened when slavery was still extant is an almost meaningless activity.


Has it been proven that "piracy" is detrimental at all to society?


Morals are not natural laws. People did not generally feel guilty or immoral for using slaves until the morals themselves changed. Similarly today with piracy: it doesn't feel morally wrong enough to warrant legal action to the minds of many. There needs to be a larger discussion about what is intellectual property (in fact, whether it exists) in the digital age. Legal experts should be discussing these issues but they seem too occupied with chasing pirates.


If we are going to reduce morality to the way a majority feels about an issue, then in a democratic society, does it make any sense to differentiate between morality and legality? Shouldn't the democratic process eventually result in laws that reflect the morality of the majority? How can you say a law is immoral without taking a vote? For example, if the majority in California voted for Proposition 8, how can it be immoral?

(Note: I believe morals are natural laws. They are just not as easy to discern as physical laws because it is harder for us to be morally neutral observers.)


If we are going to reduce morality to the way a majority feels about an issue, then in a democratic society, does it make any sense to differentiate between morality and legality?

Of course it does, for two reasons: first, there is still a difference between the morality of an individual and of society as a group. Secondly, the fact that society fells something is wrong doesn't mean it has to feel OK with giving the State power to crush it. A good example is Free Speech.

Shouldn't the democratic process eventually result in laws that reflect the morality of the majority?

That would depend on a more pure and direct democracy. But generally they do; when the difference between them becomes too great, people tend to revolt.

But you should remember what I said above: people might feel its wrong to legally punish wrong actions. There's no contradictions in this.

How can you say a law is immoral without taking a vote? For example, if the majority in California voted for Proposition 8, how can it be immoral?

Assuming morality is relative, there's no such thing as an immoral law, because morality is not a property of a thing, but a relationship between a person (or a group of them) and that thing.

So I can say Proposition 8 is immoral, if I find it immoral. Which doesn't mean it's immoral for another person or society in general.

Note: I believe morals are natural laws.

I always found that interesting, because I never found any evidence for that. In what do you base your belief? Or is it pure faith?


Many people think that way about their own morals, that's the problem.


I don't understand pirates that think downloading the content is a form of protest.

If you want to make a change and win then you have to think like your opponent. This is how the greedy suits think:

"Our product has sold X copies, but Y people downloaded it. That means there are X+Y people interested in my product! We must make it so X+Y people buy it and 0 download it!"

NO! Stop! Bad pirates! By downloading the product you're telling the company you want their offerings but are too lazy or greedy or whatever. Vote with your wallet and avoid the product! That way when the suit looks at his charts he can figure out why no one wanted the product in the first place. If his inbox is chock full of "drop the DRM" then maybe he'll consider it.

You are not making a stance by stealing it. You're reaffirming their decision to put on DRM and pass anti-piracy laws. You're giving them the excuse to invade your rights/privacy. Stop it.


Stop with the disingenuous false dilemmas. A perfectly valid message is "we want what you offer on better terms". The actions strongly broadcast that message, perhaps better than just having an offering that doesn't sell.

If everyone keeps playing this stupid "there can be only 2 positions in any argument" game, we end up with posts like this - completely ignorant of a multitude of other options. Stop it and consider that this may not be binary.


My point isn't so much about how we go about things but more of a plea to have people work on their opponent's terms in order to win.

Each side on the issue is drawing their line in the sand but that line is too far from one another to ever reach a form of compromise or conclusion. There's this large valley between what the piracy community wants and what the industry is willing to give. Which side is willing to crack first? While pirates get their jollies there's still too much of a community of people that are paying for the products that keep industries afloat. Are we going to try and convert enough consumers to finally "hurt" the industry? Will that even be enough once the government tacks a law onto consumer products that goes towards the industry companies?

What about the "legal" approach. Is boycotting going to work? Is telling the companies the exact message you wrote going to change anything? Actions definitely speak louder than words but is pirating something going to send that message or will it send the message "we want what you offer"?

I agree with your statement that its not binary. Nothing is black and white in this situations. But the people vocally advocating piracy are doing no better where they say "my way or the highway".

I maybe shouldn't offer up too much opinion on the matter because there's evidence on both sides of the matter that show both progress and regression. On one hand we're seeing more services like netflix offering things on terms "pirates" want: convenient, accessible and quality. But on the other end we're seeing things like worse DRM and new bills. Have we really made progress or not?


That there can be other inferences from someone's behavior is not the question. They could infer from the acts of piracy many other possible reasons. However, the argument that the pro-censors are making is that they're losing money ("costing American jobs"). This is not really rational, but by pirating you do support their argument by being part of the numbers that, "would pay if forced."

Whereas if you chose from alternatives that conducted business on better terms than they would be forced to infer other reasons for losing money, such as, "we are losing money because we are assholes," and would not have the platform of lost sales to fool themselves or lobby politicians.


You are right technically. TheCapn is right politically.

While we may agree with you about the real reasons and motivations of the pirate, that isn't how corporations and governments look at things. I agree with TheCapn in how Big Media interprets it: theft, lost revenue.

There can be only 2 positions in a political argument, and yes, that breeds ignorance.


> You are not making a stance by stealing it.

Stop using theft as synonym for copyright violation. When someone copies a movie, they create a new copy. They don't take someone else's copy away.


Pretty sure stealing means to take without permission or right. Just because you don't take another person's copy away doesn't mean you had a right or permission to take a copy at all.


You didn't "take" a copy. You made one. Without permission, that's copyright violation, not theft.

Stop spreading confusion.


If you consume the product, you've achieved the same goal as if you had legally paid for it.


So if I break into a theater when it's closed and make a reel-to-reel copy of a movie with my own film stock, then I didn't just steal it?

Good to know.


No. You are guilty of the copyright violation and the break in. As long as you don't steal anything, it's not theft.


But at the same time, if I give my money to these corporations, then that is X more dollars going to lobby Congress for things like SOPA that take away my freedom. It is a vicious cycle.


Then don't give it AND don't pirate it. Problem solved.


By downloading the product you're telling the company you want their offerings but are too lazy or greedy or whatever.

In most cases it says, "I want your content, but you are failing to provide it to me."

Look at Napster. People used it not because it was free, it was because there was no other choice. Once the music industry finally got around to approving iTunes, it became a huge and successful business for not only Apple, but the music industry too. If iTunes was available from day one, Napster would have never rose to fame.

Now look at the movie industry. I know of a lot of people who happily pay for Netflix and pirate content that is not on Netflix. If that content was on Netflix in the first place, the content owner would have received their money no questions asked.

There are some pirates who are plain cheap. But in most cases, it is just a power struggle. If you do not respect others, they will not respect you.


Ok. I hope I'm not going against the rules of HN discourse here but I'd like to go out on a limb and say any article in which the author doesn't bother capitalizing the first word in his sentences is not an article I'm going to bother to read. One of the few things I miss about the world before the internet is a proper adherence to grammar. If he were ESL, I would be more forgiving, but this post just smacks of lazy writing.


It's obviously a deliberate choice, there are no capital letters on his entire site. I don't know much about the OP but in the design world the style isn't that alien.

It originated in the 20s and 30s in the Bauhaus, Herbert Bayer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Bayer was one of the more prominent supporters, designing typefaces that contained no uppercase letterforms at all. He even experimented with designing entirely new alphabets that were phonetically based.

Jan Tschichold was another Bauhaus guy experimenting in the same realm. From Wikipedia: "Between 1926 and 1929, he designed a “universal alphabet” to clean up the few multigraphs and non-phonetic spellings in the German language. ... The alphabet was presented in one typeface, which was sans-serif and without capital letters."

It's interesting that it was born out of choices made to German, where they have many more capital letters in each sentence than we do in English. Regardless, it's clearly a stylistic choice, and one that the OP might even have to work harder to maintain, if he is accustomed to writing in sentence case.

There's that old saying that you must first learn the rules and then you can break them. That is exactly what is going on here, and the OP isn't unique in this. Throughout my time at design school many of my teachers, who had been educated by Bauhaus instructors, would email in only lowercase—they adopted the style. And others have adopted it from them (here's one of my design school friends' site: http://traceychan.net/ where she has).

I quite like the style myself.


That's fine for typeset print where other aids to scanning are used, such as a double space between sentences. HTML, though, removes the double space. Which means you have to consciously read every single word rather than scan and parse it in bulk.

To a fast reader, without visual cues it is a jumbled mess. I gave up after forcing myself to read three sentences.


It appears to be a style of his site. There isn't a single capital letter to be found. It's intentional rather than lazy, although it doesn't make it any less grammatically incorrect.


Intentional or not it makes people look upon his content as immature. You're not trying to win the opinions of like minded individuals, you're trying to sway opponents and to do that you have to work on their terms (formal, coherent writing)


I'd say he was probably going for more uniqueness factor. Lack of care of capitalization, shows just that - lack of care and possible desire to break the norms.

You would be right if his goal was to impress someone but I doubt that was intention of his blog.


Considering how consciously-designed his site seems to be, I assumed it was a deliberate choice.


It does go against the rules -- you are supposed to post interesting comments. If you don't want to read it, that is fine: simply close the tab and move on. No need to make a fuss.


Shrug That doesn't bother me nearly as much as all the instances I've seen lately of someone writing "it's" when they meant "its".

I guess we all have our little pet peeves :-)


Agreed--not a good design decision whether intentional or not. This works for logotype sometimes, but your eye needs the capitalization to make the reading easier and to help you identify where you're at in the text (especially longer text).


I skipped it for the same reason. I knew it was a stylistic choice, but I still didn't care to read what he had to say. I probably would go back and put up with it if the comments here made it seem like he had anything new to say on the piracy topic anyway, but I'm getting the opposite impression.


I would say you are being equally lazy as a reader. Do you stop reading when someone writes "ain't", or uses a slang term, or something else that doesn't conform precisely to Strunk & White?

I'm not exactly willing to die on this hill, though -- the article is not very good in any case.


you won't take 2 minutes to read the article for what it's worth, but will take 3+ minutes to write that you won't read it because he didn't capitalize his first word? haha.

edit: removed all capitalization so you can reply to me about how you won't read my comment because i am too lazy to capitalize a word.


It's an 85 word comment. Unless the author is unusually slow at typing (which is quite unlikely given the largely programmer-based audience here), it probably took them about a minute to write the comment.

Lack of capitalisation interrupts the way you read a block of text. People make poor design choices all the time, and this is one of them.


More more poking fun at the fact that he took more time to reply about why he wont read the article (which is ridiculous) than it would have taken to just read it and respond with valuable input instead of being snobby about it.


Reading this article, let alone reading and responding with valuable input, takes more time than writing a two-line comment, and not just because it's hard to scan sentences written without capital letters.


I think that many people seem to believe that property is some intrinsic thing. But, in fact, property is a socially construed thing and a granted privilege. Furthermore, property means many things, and there are many different kinds. Each kind should be treated differently.

Most of the confusion of 'piracy' (such a strong word, btw) stems from people misusing concepts related to physical objects and translating them equally to ephemeral things like 'intellectual-property' and 'digital-property'. The later things should be treated differently (in this person's opinion).

'Stealing' is a bad word. It's an age-old word that causes physical reaction in many. We learn very early on not to 'steal'. But, downloading a digitally compressed song is not the same thing as taking a toy from another kid.

At some point, power has shifted from owning physical objects to these new sorts of things that aren't physical. We need new laws and new social norms. We need fair reasonable treatment, for these things.

Sadly, the power-holders are writing the laws that grant themselves the most privileges. Instead, the society should write the laws that beget the best society.


Not that I disagree with a word of this article, but he's accepting the premise of those two articles: that the distribution mechanisms are a worse UX than pirating. My response:

Are you high? Once upon a time I pirated content, he's an approximate recap of what my expierience looked like:

* Search pirate bay

* Look at 2000 results, none of which look right.

* Ok, found one.

* Crap it's French with Arabic subtitles.

* Ok this one looks good.

* Shit, no seeders.

* Ok, this one has seeders and is english.

* Go get a bagel because it's going to take an hour to download.

Here's the UX of Netflix, rdio, or hulu:

* Search.

* Press play.

In my time using Netflix, rdio, hulu, and last.fm for my media needs there has been one title I couldn't find.

EDIT: I'll be clear, my comments on these services apply exclusively to the US, I know nothing about the status of these services elsewhere.


Agreed that the UX of existing sites have much better UX than the pirating options. However a much more common experience on Netflix is:

* Search

* Whoops, this movie isn't available on streaming.

On Hulu:

* Search

* Only the last four episodes are available.

The content distributors are strangling themselves because they're trying to protect their existing means of distribution and refuse to adopt new ones that people actually want to use and pay for.


> The content distributors are strangling themselves because they're trying to protect their existing means of distribution and refuse to adopt new ones that people actually want to use and pay for.

In 2008 Starz and Netflix entered into an agreement where Netflix would be able to license and distribute Starz media for $30 million. Said contract expired, Netflix offers $300 million to renew, and Starz rejects the offer under the premise that their content is worth more.

Now Starz, like HBO (eg. HBO Go), is planning to roll out their own streaming service--which I would say is both an attempt to protect their means of distribution as well as an effort to adopt to new models.

As an aside, I tried to use HBO Go a few weeks ago...and was prompted to enter the details of my cable tv service in order to gain access. I didn't have the time/patience to proceed and decided to read instead.

All I can say is if every content distribution company expects users to pay a separate fee, etc, for streaming content they're SOL. Evidence of Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and the like show that people prefer one-stop shopping.

Edit: typo


I don't know what you're talking about, I do most of my searches on Pirate Bay only once, then sort descending by seeds (which not only indicates which is fastest to download, but also which is the most popular) ... then the download is over in 5 minutes.

Here's the UX of Netflix, rdio or hulu for me:

* content not available in your area


Well, that's fine for people in the US. But for everyone else (i.e., the vast majority) for whom Hulu, netflix, etc are not available, the legal onlines alternatives are for the most part crap or missing the content you want.


Then again Netflix isn't available in Europe and there are huge holes in the catalogue of any streaming service. With that said I think Netflix will be huge in Europe or at least in my native Sweden. As for your pirate bay experience here is how it goes today: 1. Search for content. 2. Sort by seeders. 3. Click magnet link. 4. Start streaming from uTorrent.

Total time consumed maybe a minute.


Netflix is available in the UK


If its "available" in the UK in the same way that it is "available" in Canada then you're lying to yourself.

They gimp the offerings on the foreign netflix due to licensing issues and it really hurts the service. I tried netflix but cancelled because the catalog of things aren't worth it.


Pirate Bay isn't the only way to find torrents. Private networks (such as what.cd for music) are hilariously easy to use, and generally much quicker than public torrents.


Not only that, but they always have a surplus of seeders and the quality of the music (or movie, or TV show, depending on the tracker) is always of the quality it says it is.


Civil disobedience, the most puissant form of protest, is breaking a law you believe to be unjust, and suffering the consequences if necessary.

If you break a law you believe to be unjust and expect to suffer no consequences, that's silly, but not immoral.

If you break a law you believe is just, then you're kinda evil.


Expecting to suffer no consequences is only silly if the probability of enforcement is high. If repercussions are unlikely then it isn't even silly.


Refusing to move to the back of the bus. Sitting down in the middle of the street to block the movement of troops from point a to point b. Walking from Montgomery to Selma. Downloading the Inbetweeners.

One of these things is not civil disobedience. In fact, trying to cast piracy as a form of civil disobedience is insulting to the people who actually got arrested, beaten by police, attacked by dogs, had the firehose turned on them, were tear-gassed, run over, and suffered any number of real consequences as they publicly defied laws and a society that were unquestionably wrong.

To cast content piracy as civil disobedience, one must accept that the act of murder is an act of civil disobedience because the murderer believes the law against it is unjust.


I do.


My thoughts exactly. You can't force a privately-owned company to sell you the product the way you want it to be sold. It's their right to make money the way they see fit, and if they decide it's okay for them to lose some of the clientele over DRM, it's their choice.

Piracy in the name of protesting against DRM is borderline hypocrisy. As others already said, morality is subjective, but here are two other ways I'd personally support :

- don't use the product,

- pay for the license, pirate the product, get it touch with the company to explain your problem to them.


I agree on software : alternative exists and the real way to say "fuck off" is to use the corresponding free software alternative or to develop it. This is true to the extent where Microsoft plays the rules of competition and IT correctly. If a government or a provider gives me a document in a format that Microsoft does not publish, they are effectively trying to make competition impossible and I feel entitled to pirate their software.

On music, I could not disagree more : there is a lack of a solution to pay artists directly. 90% of the artists I know today, I know from friends or web radio. I would like to repay them directly. I have no way of doing that. The alternative is just not there. Some artists accept direct donations but majors try to prevent that. This anti-competitive behavior makes it totally OK in my opinion to pirate music.

Oh, and don't tell me I am rationalising. I stopped being part of this game several years ago. I don't buy music, I don't download tunes (unless it is authorised by the band like Partition 36). I decided this whole show was stupid when I got my first DRMed CD and that I didn't want to fight on it or break any law. Nowadays the situation is such that this conflict can't be ignored anymore. "Piracy" is used as a pretext to put forward net filtering, restrictive laws, and tools of censorship.

I don't give a fuck about music and musicians. I can do without. I respect them and they deserve a pay, but the current system is completely FUBAR and its insanity is creeping in other domains. It should be stopped before it is too late.


If copyright were just to protect the investment of a company in development of an artist or product I'd broadly agree with this argument.

Where copyright seems objectionable to me, is where the initial cost of development was non-existent or large profits have been made for years. For example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You#Royalty_a...

For some copyright to last 95 years seems more like profiteering than protection of the creative industries considering creation is often based on the work of others.

I don't condone piracy, but I think piracy would be far less socially acceptable if: - the creator can be seen to benefit from their work - copyright better resembled its original intent of protecting investment in the creation of something new and not staking ownership over the work of others.


Playing "happy birthday to you" in public might be a legit act of civil disobedience .

Pirating last weeks blockbuster isn't.


That's an opinion. Stating opinion as fact is a worthless contribution, in fact a detriment, to healthy discussion.

I wouldn't argue that there's moral high ground here, I'd simply put it this way:

  Anyone who thinks there is a better way to keep people from pirating music than to make the legal means of acquisition simple, affordable, and to not play games with release dates, is a fucking idiot.


What's your point? I should prefix every sentence with "I think", people here are smart enough to put things in context.

Legal means of acquiring music is pretty simple. Legal DRM Free MP3 downloads are built into my music player and I'm a linux user.


The law is nothing but a piece of paper. I'm glad it exists, as it provides a framework that protects me from harm and allows me to life my live, but I feel no moral obligation at all to follow it.

This style of argumentation is starting to tire me. Obviously, this author thinks piracy is morally wrong. Other people have no such moral qualms about piracy. Both points of view are fine!

But implicitly or explicitly using morality as an argument for or against piracy is a bad style of argumentation and is almost an ad hominem. If I were to say that I am for piracy and someone told me that this was morally wrong, I would pay no attention to this person. But if he were to say that he personally feels piracy is morally wrong AND if he were to give me an argument as to why he feels that way, I would listen to this argument and at least think about it.


Except moral relativism is not any more defensible. Suppose the creator of a work asks you to pay for it, but a pirate chooses not to. Why shouldn't we call the pirate an asshole? They've disrespected the terms of use set by the author, as well as the author themselves.

It's that simple.


I'm perfectly okay with the "Pirates are assholes" stance. I am an asshole. I admit this.

What I'm not okay with is when industry groups distort facts by trying to get one crime confused as a completely separate crime.

Make no mistake.. both are crimes, but the attempt is to bring the loaded meanings of one term to a completely different word.

It's factually incorrect, and it needs to stop.

It's that simple.


+1 to you, and this is correct. The industry doesn't get called out by Congress when it claims billions of dollars of lost revenue by people who wouldn't have paid either way.

Of course, I've come to believe that intellectual honesty is a cognitive luxury for most people; especially politicians.


Read again, I didn't say you couldn't call the pirate an asshole. But in this article, and in many others, this is presented as an argument and not as the insult/opinion it is.

Besides, more often than not these terms are not set by the author of the work, but by for example a music label. Most artists of popular contemporary music don't hold the copyright to their own work any more.


Fact: People will pirate your software if you make it a pain to pay for it.

Fact: People will pay for your software if you make it easy to pay for.

Windows has proven this with their DRM.

Apple has proven this with their app stores and itunes.

In a slightly unrelated note:

This is why I wish there was an app store for web apps. The web needs easy way to sell access to web apps like in the app store. If all I had to do was click 'purchase' and enter my password to get access to web apps like turntable.fm for a reasonable price, I would gladly pay. This would open up a whole new revenue model for web apps. There is a whole class of web apps that are trying to rely on ads now but don't have the millions of visitors a month to make that feasible. A web app store could provide a place for these lower traffic but still very useful and relevant products. I envy mobile developers since they have this avenue as an option. Anyone else feel this way?


Someone mentioned 3D printers in another post and got downvoted for it. But think about it.

You invested a lot of time into creating an object everybody likes. People can get it in a online shop and it will be send to there address.

Now a clever guy scans the object with a 3D scanner and is putting the model online. Everybody can now downloading the model on The Pirate Bay and print it at home. And they all say: "fuck that online store, it is way too much hassle and costs too much".

It's a difficult discussion. Therefore I think it's way to easy to just call making a copy not stealing.

Edit: the post by randomdata: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3479581


One can say that record labels brought the piracy problem on themselves by looking to create barriers to content while pirates worked to create access to content.

However, it's erroneous for an individual to argue that he has a right to pirate because the industry created barriers to their own content. It's counterproductive to the anti-censorship movement.

Instead, we should focus on the fact that the music industry has been anti-effective and is now using censorship to compensate for their reluctance to change.


You're right, and it's just as erroneous for an individual to argue that he has a right to payment every time someone shares a new copy of his creation.

Competing interests will often be in conflict, and that's what we're seeing in this debate. You can safely translate "a right to piracy" to "no moral obligation to respect copyright". Once the moral argument is dismissed, all that remains is pragmatic conflict resolution.

One side could be destroyed, a compromise could be found, or a protracted conflict could ensue. In any case, moral arguments from either side are mostly useless.


"if you want to protest the crappy way these companies treat their customers, don't buy their stuff. but you can't have your cake and eat it. protest by not using or having it at all. they have something you want; even if you don't agree with their methods, it is still theirs to decide what to do with. all you are doing is supporting the industry in their drive to stamp out pirates; instead, support legal ways of obtaining this content through spotify and others. "

The one fault I see with this argument (mainly related to music) is this: There is no way to simply boycott the the recording companies' products without boycotting the artists as well. Recording companies have a monopoly on the artists they cover. While US contract law supports this arrangement, the model is broken in today's world of digital distribution.


Recording companies have a monopoly on the artists they cover.

And that's the artist's choice. The artist could choose to distribute their work in some other fashion. So, if you want the artist's product, you have to buy it via the means chosen by that artist.


That's a good point.

The next best thing may be to only buy used CDs. Then you legally get the music AND annoy them at the same time.

Of course, you COULD actually boycott the artists. There are tons of independent musicians on the internet you can support. If you think that only the big label ones are worth your time and money, then clearly your opinions on the big labels themselves are unfounded.

(Just to be clear, all of the above "you"s refer not to the parent, but to everyone in general)


Author Paolo Coelho operated a blog called Pirate Coelho where he published torrents to all his books. He still does this because it makes him rich. For example, in Russia nobody bought his books, sales were up to 15 000 books in two years. So he leaked the russian translations via BitTorrent. Soon, he saw that people started talking about them. Some time later, he saw the sales increasing. A lot. In one year sales of his physical books crossed 1 million in Russia. Source is himself.

Now, his publishers have finally realized the connection, so he doesn't need the anonymous pirate blog anymore. Instead, he links to the torrents from his own offical blog. He is also an avid SOPA protester: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/


That is his right to do so. It is also the right of other authors to be against free bittorrenting of their books because they believe it hurts their pocketbook. The key is the creator of the material makes this decision, not the consumer.


Actually, he did this illegally. His publisher had the copyright to all translations, not himself. So he routinely asked "to see them" and then routinely leaked them on The Pirate Bay. Again, this is according to himself.


Notice how this was the content creators choice to put his works online for free. Since he didn't own the works it is still technically wrong, but it is also wrong for Joe Blow consumer to decide to put up copies online of content from creators without their permission.

Why do I keep getting downvoted for stating a fact? It is against the law to put online content you don't own copyright to. Not sure why this is incorrect.


Why is it ok for copyright holders to have a monopoly over the distribution of their content?

If we go to the core of copyright law the original intention as I understand it was to encourage creation of stuff and my assumption is that the point of having such created is to have it distributed in an easily accessible manner. Yet we have no issue under the law with companies only selling to one distributor or just crippling it with DRM. Why?

Why don't we expect companies to make their content accessible to everyone and not just a in the ways they choose. I completely understand this when it comes to small resource limited companies. But I'm not talking about them, I'm talking about the huge companies that feel they should be able to pick and choose who gets their content. Don't get me wrong I am not arguing that I should get their content for free. But I should be able to get it from various sources at a comparable price.

In what way do exclusivity agreements help us? They give large businesses huge advantage over small businesses. How can someone compete with Hulu when the content owners won't license their content to anyone else at a comparable rate? (Yes I know Hulu is owned by the content creators but isn't that a conflict of interest when you only let your own properties distribute it over the web?)

I'm not sure what the answer is. But I don't see how allowing companies to have a monopoly over the distribution of their content helps individuals or businesses in the long term.


"it is not your decision"

I disagree. It is. Free will is something you still cannot remove. Sorry.

Even doing the most horrible things are still your decision. There might be consequences, but that's another story.


There is nothing immoral about copying data. It is a bummer that you worked so hard and didn't make the money that you thought you were going to but no one owes you that money and It's selfish to think distribution is going to work the way you want it to.

From henceforth and until the sun explodes, there will be massive amounts of piracy.

Thats it. Seriously. Factor it into your business plan. Think about it before you write your next song. If you still don't have a creative urge, then good, do something else. If that software isn't economically viable then good, do something else. But I guarantee you people will continue to make wheel barrows full of money regardless. And there will be music, and movies, and poetry and software. And there will be more of it than ever before.

This is actually a huge blessing in disguise. You no longer need to pay someone to distribute your creations, you no longer need marketing to reach your fans, you no longer need middle men. And best of all, you no longer have to worry about piracy. Because it is now fact.

So stop pretending like copyright law isn't fucked up. Stop pretending like you can have the same business model you did 5 years ago. Stop pretending like music, or movies, or software are going to cease to exist and make some fucking money.

Welcome to 2012.


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