This isn't a gray area at all.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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 don't think this is the horse you want to 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..
It's nice of you to tell me what my argument is, but you have it utterly wrong.
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'?
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.
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.
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.
"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).
"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.
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 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.
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. :)