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I thought we'd already concluded that copyright infringement is not stealing. Neither is linking. Fair use is fine. And that ideas can't be stolen.

So, is Curebit wrong because 37Signals is one of us?

I'm not suggesting what Curebit did is right. But I doubt any HN user of any length of time can ignore the similarities with other copyright cases where the community here is opposed to the "37Signals" side.

I'll have to remember this thread next time someone suggest that copyright infringement is okay because copyright infringers have been shown to buy more copyrighted material, or that it helps advertise, or some other argument.




Agreed, it also seems a massive over reaction to what is, after all, a very small startup committing a victimless crime. Naming and shaming should be enough without dragging them through the streets of the web for a public stoning.


They are (a) copying other people's work, (b) passing it off as their own, (c) doing so for profit, and (d) unable to see why this is wrong.

This isn't a gray area at all.


An honest question (and thank you for not using the term stealing!=)), but you listed 4 reasons. Just curious about where it crosses the line for you. If someone does A, is it still a grey area? Is it because of B? C? D?

Personally, I see it as A. B, C, and D merely exasperate the situation, but without A, B, C, and D aren't an issue.

Of course, the follow up is if it's because of B, C, and D that it isn't in a grey area?


They're not in increasing badness.

I don't think copying other people's work (a) is particularly wrong, unless you do so for profit (c). Otherwise it falls under the banner of "fair use".

Taking credit for other people's work (b), even in a not-for-profit context is something I consider wrong. In combination with (c) only more-so.

I think (d) is also a real issue, because it signals a certain sense of oblivious righteousness. It's an attitude that, regardless of the specifics of the situation, I consider really harmful. When people criticize one's actions -- whatever the reason may be -- you got to take a step back and reflect for a moment. Try to understand the other point of view. Failing to do so is, I think, a moral failure.


Thanks for the answer. I didn't mean to imply they had increasing badness, it just happened to work out that way.

I find it interesting that copying others people's work is okay with you as long as you credit them and don't do so for profit. I'm guessing it's mainly a "You know it when you see it"-porn kind of thing.

I agree with your point on D, especially as it relates to this. I think the community would be somewhat more forgiving if they'd just come right out and said "We fked up!" 37Signals did this a couple weeks ago with the cat.jpg incident.


> I didn't mean to imply they had increasing badness, it just happened to work out that way.

Ahh, ok. My bad.

My moral intuition with regard to copyright probably isn't entirely consistent. For instance, if a poor kid wants to learn but the parents can't afford books, is it OK for him to pirate those books (either with a photocopier or digitally)? I think it is okay, and it's definitely in the best interest of society. After that it's just a slippery slope towards a very free interpretation of "fair use", regarding music, art and so on.

As for D, society punishes people harshly mostly for being unstrategic. After all, they should just do a "We fked up!" post regardless of their beliefs, because it's obviously the strategic thing to do. They didn't do that right away, so they are effectively punished for their poor strategy, not for their moral judgement. Even a transparently disingenuous apology is (erroneously) judged (by the public) as an apology of sorts, even though it only means that the company in question did a cost-benefit analysis.

Effectively we're browbeating companies into giving the sort of apology we want to see, regardless of what they believe they did was wrong. That's sort of messed up, when you think about it.


> Effectively we're browbeating companies into giving the sort of apology we want to see, regardless of what they believe they did was wrong. That's sort of messed up, when you think about it.

That's a real good point. I hadn't considered that. We all say "actions speak louder than words," and the ugly truth is, apologies based on a public outting probably wouldn't have happened otherwise.


It's only vague inasfar as the words themselves are vague.

"COPYING" is abused. RIAA and other organizations have really tried to grossly expand the definition and that has tainted the discussion. For the next paragraph, "COPYING" means literally using the same assets (or a digital replication).

The line is drawn at "literally copying assets". Putting up your own assets that are inspired by another site isn't copying. Putting up another company's assets (or downloading and self-hosting other company assets) crosses the line.


I don't think you can define "copying" clearly for this purpose. Is it still copying if a person is wedged in the replication loop? I think you're going to try to divide my hypothetical into two scenarios, and it's not going to be clear cut what the distinction is.


You don't think hotlinking images and CSS is stealing bandwidth?


Technically, no. They are linking to an image on another server. It's akin to me linking to someones article. In one case, the visitors browser automatically fetches the image. In the other, the visitors browser fetches it at the users request.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not defending the action. But no, it's not stealing. Defining it as such is just as wrong as defining copyright infringement as stealing.


I'm sure all those 300-byte images have the 37signals servers at melting point.

I don't think this is the horse you want to ride.


I'll take that pony ride.

Someone who's happy to steal from someone else just because that person is richer than them and they're only stealing little things still, IMO, lacks morally. With proviso's which aren't I don't think pertinent to this current situation (eg immediate life-preservation).

Your argument is basically the shoplifter's manifesto - the store is rich, I only took some of their stuff, it's barely a drop compared to their profits, etc..


No, my argument is that of all the things wrong with this situation, stealing 300-byte bandwidth is so far down the list it's unimportant. That's what I meant by this is not the horse - there are far better horses to ride in this race.

It's nice of you to tell me what my argument is, but you have it utterly wrong.


>nice of you to tell me what my argument is

How you've reiterated it here appears to match my interpretation of what you said. So perhaps you can say what your argument actually is - FWIW my comment had several upvotes so it doesn't appear to be just me being a dullard.

>stealing 300-byte bandwidth is so far down the list it's unimportant

So you're saying this is nothing like the argument 'stealing a snickers from Walmart is such a small amount, it's not important'?


So you're saying this is nothing like the argument 'stealing a snickers from Walmart is such a small amount, it's not important'?

Will you stop trying to paint me as only talking about one issue? That's where you get my argument utterly wrong.

It's akin to saying "Mao Zedong's China was bad because the dog-catchers weren't licensed properly".

Like it or not, the legal system regularly drops small, less important charges when bigger ones are present. The murderer who exceeding the speed limit trying to escape from police doesn't get a speeding ticket. That doesn't mean that speeding tickets themselves are unimportant or never get pursued.


We're discussing this issue which you raised. It's fallacious to consider that one is only concerned with a single facet of a situation because that is all that is being addressed. Others have addressed the other points in the thread.

So, going back to my initial comment (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3523870) you're saying that it's wrong of me to characterize your argument this way because I've failed to mention that it's a corrupt tycoon that is shoplifting. Because they've also committed greater crimes we have to ignore the shoplifting?

Or to recapitulate you'd nab a shoplifter but only if they'd not done something worse as well?

Got to say I still don't follow the reasoning and still consider image hotlinking to be bad; and that, for a company, it indicates some sort of corruption.


"this issue which you raised"!? What the hell are you on? eropple was the one that raised bandwidth stealing, not me.

Or to recapitulate you'd nab a shoplifter but only if they'd not done something worse as well?

The legal system already does this - if someone sets fire to the shop but takes a Snickers on the way out, no-one really cares about the shoplifting. The legal system doesn't prosecute it, and the media doesn't report "the arsonist and shoplifter was in court today". People reading glossy magazines don't gossip "oo, that arsonist - did you know he also took a candy bar? the nerve!".

Anyway, absolutely nowhere have I said that hotlinking is okay. If that's what you think I've said, then you have grossly misunderstood me.


You keep saying that I've misunderstood that you didn't say anything that your words are implying but still failing to say what you did mean. This doesn't exactly help get your point across.

"I'm sure all those 300-byte images have the 37signals servers at melting point."

If that's not about stealing bandwidth then what is it? It's clearly sarcastic, by ordinary reading the point of the sarcasm is to downplay the idea that taking a small image from 37signals server is wrong; the justification in the sentence is that it won't cause a large harm to the 37signals server.

So, go on, what are you saying here?

FWIW arresting people for minor offences has long been a technique of law enforcement personnel when gathering evidence on more major crimes.

The "arsonist" that also stole a candy bar gives you an insight in to the psychology. They're not a person, for example, only driven by an overbearing desire to see things burn; they're also a thief besides. This moves to suggest the character of the person is to disregard other's property. You can make a claim of temporary insanity (or in the current case that there is no copyright infringement in using 37signals site as inspiration) but then you also have to address the question of the theft (or in this case the hotlinking).

I said:

"Your argument is basically the shoplifter's manifesto - the store is rich, I only took some of their stuff, it's barely a drop compared to their profits, etc.."

Which is almost exactly what you've said here. The arson [copyright infringement] is almost entirely orthogonal to the theft [hotlinking]. The actions have very little co-dependency except in the moral decrepitude of the perpetrator.


No, he's saying that when a guy walks out of Walmart with a pallet full of flatscreen TVs, nobody cares about the snickers bar he also grabbed on the way out, and talking about the snickers bar is a waste of time.


It's only gray from your system. There are other systems that people live (and think) in, regardless of what the law (and "common sense") says.

If you consider that (a) the act of ctrl-c/ctrl-v is fine for any material, (b) hosting content on your domain does not imply that you pass off the inspiration of the work as your own, (c) everybody already copies under the radar for profit to some extent, then (d) becomes an issue of perspective, like I said.

If you accept that copyright law may be morally or economically inferior to other systems, this should be gray to you.

If you accept that you want to copy your peers' works for your own profit, and you can accept that your peers have the same rights to your productions, then you are a Kopimi, and there's nothing wrong with that either from what I can tell, (except that society will burn you down in today's day & age. Think of it as a modern day witch hunt.)


I meant that it isn't a gray area, that it isn't a moral dilemma for me, but something that is overwhelmingly slanted one way. I don't consider it a moral absolute, and it's easy to imagine a society superior to ours where copying is considered OK.

I think this is completely different from the Kopimi philosophy, which argues that the rights of others to enjoy existing work (e.g. music, movies, art) outweigh the right of the IP holder to deny others the right to enjoy the work in question.

As for (b) I think that when you put something on your site you're implicitly claiming the work is your own, and it's your responsibility to give credit where due. They didn't.

Your argument against (c) - everybody else does it -, I find completely unpersuasive.


I see what I said as corollary, rather than representing Kopimi.

What you say about (b) only follows from current social norms, which can change and I believe will change over time. I understand what you mean about attribution, but it is also difficult to give attribution to certain copyrighted works in today's climate without admitting "guilt".

As per (c), have you ever run Firebug against Facebook's site to see how they do things? If you haven't, you're missing out. :)


Yes. It was wrong. No one is defending that. Breaking a traffic signal is wrong and killing someone is wrong. The point I think the op is making is that, people have been way too rude for the level of the mistake they have done. They are already insulted and name called. Why take it further in the blogs, newspapers and so on.


Well they not only ripped off someone else's work, they picked the work of one of the most fiery, well-known personalities in the web business world (DHH). When you mess with the bull, you get the horns.


I don't know if there's more context to the quotes in the article, but DHH comes off as an annoying dick.

My startup uses CSS we bought off of themeforest.net.[1] Using it certainly doesn't require more design skill than copying 37signals. Is it original? I really don't give a damn, and neither do my customers.

[1] ...and subsequently had to reimplement nearly from scratch, because people with great design sense seem to be incapable of creating solid, structured CSS. Thank zeus for Twitter Bootstrap.[2]

[2] Even less original than "stealing" someone else's design.


> we bought

There's the difference. See: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3523402


Let's be rational.

Lets say that it is instantaneous and free to copy 37Signal's design, whereas to recreate it from scratch it costs the labor of a designer X units of dollar-time.

For the sake of simplicity lets say that Curebit and 37Signals are competing for customers in a zero sum game.

True, by copying 37Signals, Curebit has taken away some unknown X dollar-time worth of customers away from 37Signals during that 1 hour.

However, even though the customer space of 37Signal's and Curebit's enterprise may be zero-sum, the dollar-time measure of work is non-negative (and not zero-sum). It would make more sense for the industry as a whole to allow the copying of design, because overall it saves on design work time.

What Curebit did appears to be wrong because it appears as though they are outright cheating. However, if you understand that designers gain their chops by reverse-engineering the productions of others, and that this happens routinely in the real world, perhaps it's time to accept copying as a legitimate part of the equation.

In this case, 37Signals was given free rein to track Curebit's customers. Sounds like a good deal to me.


To understand the reasons why many people who will argue strongly for fair use, etc., still find this wrong, you have to look two steps ahead.

Let's say 37 signals has done the extensive work to create a page design that really converts. And we live in the world where anyone else who wants to lift their carefully-researched design can do so in 10 minutes, and reap the same benefits.

Unfortunately, that would put 37 signals at a serious disadvantage -- assuming that customers don't know who first created something really good, the actual creator always loses. All of the copycats get the same benefit with a cost of 10 minutes vs. 10 days.

So the only way 37 signals can benefit from their work is to find a way to make it more work to copy than to recreate.

To do that, they'd need, what -- some kind of heavily-obfuscated Flash? I'm sure if the need were there, we'd find a way to really lock down web UIs.

> In this case, 37Signals was given free rein to track Curebit's customers. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Unrelated to my points above, but never mind tracking... a hotlinked image is the perfect invitation to tweak your own layout, then change the original image files. Sadly, it looks like 37 signals missed their opportunity to paper over Curebit's page with animated penises.


Yes, they are at a disadvantage, but they would still be at a local and global advantage. Local because they are first to put the innovation out, and they will naturally gain attention. Global because this system lifts everybody up overall. There is this midway hump that people can't seem to see over, but if what I say is true, the barrier will be broken and stay broken one day.

Plenty of good innovators (and artists) innovate for the joy of innovating, and this "protection" gets in their way. DRM and obfuscation hurts everyone involved.


This is days old now, but I don't cycle back often, unfortunately....

This doesn't add up, though. They're only at a very local advantage, because if their competitors have the same feature the next day, only very few folks will realize who had it first.

And globally, everyone gets the same advantage (everyone is lifted up), but the creators who put in X months of work have paid X months for that advantage, and everyone else paid nothing. So, add that up and you get red, for the creators only. Everyone else can thus charge pennies for whatever service, while the creators need to recoup their costs, so they can't... so they go out of business.

Or they change their strategy.

It gets pretty clear that to "win" in this game, you need to either be the #2 site with any new feature (be ready to snap it up as soon as the competition brings it out), or find some contorted way you can innovate without anyone else nicking it.


What Curebit did was more like, taking the new Mission Impossible movie by Paramount Pictures, renaming it and changing the credits. Then releasing it as their original production.


Imo it's also because it's no style; copying source code, linking to resources from another site, copying logo's,.. It's like going to an English gentlemen's tea party clothed like a beggar & shitting all over the place. And then replying on twitter "why do you care i shitted all over the place? what's the big deal?"


Who concluded that copyright infringement is not stealing?

Opposition to SOPA etc does not necessarily mean people don't believe in copyright. There is a very broad range of views on that particular question.


> Who concluded that copyright infringement is not stealing?

You've got that question backwards. Whose concluded that copyright infringement is stealing?

> Opposition to SOPA etc does not necessarily mean people don't believe in copyright.

That has absolutely nothing to do with what I said. You clearly don't understand what I'm saying. I oppose SOPA and absolutely support copyright. And that doesn't contradict anything I've said.

> There is a very broad range of views on that particular question.

Broad range? I figure there are 2 views: those that want frame copyright infringement as stealing, and those that understand the difference.


Whose (sic) concluded that copyright infringement is stealing

That's the facts under the law as it stands at the moment.

I figure there are 2 views

There is a broard range of opinions ranging from a major criminal offence, to a minor offence to a non-criminal civil offence to not wrong at all to a duty of all people.


There's copyright infringement for personal reasons (i.e. I really wanted to watch that movie) and there's commercial plagiarism. It's a completely false equivalency.




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