You can get around this by making sure it's (much) smaller than the original and only copied on one side.
"They think illegal downloads happen because people want to steal, we think they happen because people what better digital distribution. Send them money [real, actual payments] so they think 'holy shit, look how much money we just got sent, think how much more we could make by offering good digital distribution'."
Which would be a more interesting, more thought-provoking campaign, in my opinion - though one with obvious flaws, and I certainly wouldn't personally endorse it.
I would call it a digital media consumer's union, where a person pays in a certain amount per month and then the total is allocated to the copyright holders proportionally to the amount that their media are consumed by the members of the union. Consumption statistics for music are already tracked by things like last.fm (and libre.fm), and it would not be hard to build a tracker for things like movies, books, and possibly websites and computer programs.
The monthly bundle of money would obviously be the carrot, and if one of the companies getting the money decided to sue a member for copyright infringement, then the money would be coverted into a stick in the form of a legal defense fund.
What about free riders? There would obviously be some, but I think a lot of people really do think that digital distribution is terrible and would pay if given the chance.
What about trust? Whoever was doing the collecting would have to have a great reputation and be completely transparent. It should probably be a non-profit and regularly audited.
Would it be be sued into oblivion? IANAL, but it seems like giving people money should not be actionable. The big guys would probably try to get the list of members, so being paranoid about privacy seems like it would be a good idea.
What would it do to the incentives? This is my favorite part. Instead of the publishers attempting to lock everything up, the incentive would be for them to make content that is as consumed as possible. That is, the publishers would want their stuff to get out there so that people see it and give some of their share to the publisher. Things like digital locks would become counterproductive.
Things like flattr provide some precedent for this idea, though they obviously don't go track down people that aren't part of the system.
I'd love to hear critiques of this idea, because if it can't work, then I can stop thinking about it.
The main problem I can see with your system is the difficulty in finding the appropriate person or organization to pay for every single file that the union downloads.
I think the biggest problem would be convincing people to do it - right now you can get it free (or a slight fee from some download services) illegally or paid legally... how many people are going to chose the brand new third option of paid yet still illegal?
Perhaps a more viable idea would be to do the same thing, but rather than having the aim as trying to win over the likes of the RIAA/etc. just try and win over artists. The Louis CK is now pretty well known, but he had to make that decision before finding out its success. What if anybody who downloaded anything could go through a service that would give money to the artists, without legally admitting to any wrongdoing?
For example, I download a Justin Bieber album, or a Ricky Gervais stand-up DVD, go onto this site and say "here's £5 because I think the DVD/album/whatever is cool", and that money then goes directly to the artist - without me ever having to say that I actually downloaded it illegally, that's just left as an assumed fact.
Of course this becomes harder on the administration side, and much harder when it's something like a big film where you pretty much have to go through the studio or you'd never be able to split money between everyone involved. And, thinking about it, I guess even for individual singers/standups/etc, there's still the issue that not everybody who makes money from a CD without being the artist falls into the moneygrabbing category. Do sound mixers, studio techs, etc etc etc etc not deserve a cut?
Anyway, just babbling on... would love to see someone give this a real shot, but really no idea if it could have even the tiniest chance of success.
Wow, talk about missing the point.
Digital copies of movies and music are just as valuable as the originals, particularly as CDs and DVDs become obsolete. Copies of dollar bills are somewhat less so - you can't buy stuff with them.
If you actually want to argue against the movie and music industries, you'll need to use real facts, not convenient, pretend ones.
The real argument is that they are just copies and literally cost the studios nothing--that is, the studios do not have to spend any money on your downloading the film from a third party. So, by extension, you pay them in a way that does not cost you anything, by using a copy of money.
The only value a copy--distinct from the media its on and the bandwidth it takes--is through copyright. If you do not believe in copyright, or at least not in the system as is, (and I imagine the person who set this up does not) then these copies do not really have value. The analogy is to the smell from a restaurant--it costs the restaurant nothing, so if somebody outside enjoys it, they do not have to pay the restaurant anything.
I understand the argument that you and this site are trying to make, but it's fundamentally flawed. Ultimately you're going to have to convince both government and the music industry of whatever solution you're proposing.
From his site: All content copyright © 2011-2012 Get.com, Inc. -- All rights reserved
Looks like he believes in copyright :)
Think of it as mp3 money.
Failing that, some Nyan Cat money!
(hollywood likes sequels, doesn't it?)
Why don't we actually give the RIAA millions of dollars?
Like, the argument from all advocates of digital freedom isn't that artists don't need money to survive, but by making things simple and easy, people will quite willingly part with their money.
So why not solve this "chicken and egg" issue by hurling a few eggs their way to get the ball rolling?
Let's give them shitloads of money to prove that people will willingly pay for their product.
If one was truly inclined to pay the artists who produced an album (or the equivalent in a different content industry), it would be best to send it to them directly. Then they'd realize (a la Louis CK) that the publishers are unnecessary middlemen in the creator/consumer relationship, thus obsolescing that entire segment of industry and the RIAA/MPAA with it.
As do image editing softwares. 
"They've made it very clear that they consider digital copies of physical property to be just as valuable as the original."
What is an "original"? With food I understand. smell:food::sound:coins. Or even smell:food::picture:money. So in this case, picture:money::torrent:??
What is the 'original'? The physical medium containing the footage original? A live performance?
If you were to pay for the movie - just as one might pay to eat actual food - what would you pay for? If not a copy of the movie's bits on your hard drive, what? Or do you think nothing at all?
The original article was saying that there used to be a scarcity in the act of watching a movie: you had to go to the theater. Now that scarcity, the problem of "how shall I procure this entertainment" has been solved.
But movies themselves still cost money. Movies themselves are scarce! We can watch movies as easily as we breathe air. But we cannot make movies as easily.
"Your grandmother has been a terrible person all those years for sending you money in your birthday card >:V"
People have been making music for as long as we have recorded history, why would that change now?
Remember they used to hang people over this. Newton watched with glee as coin shavers he had caught were executed.
Mmmm move on. Not quite right.
A DVD version of avatar sells for say $20 and Riaa gets some percentage of that. Joe blow downloads avatar for free from google or some other website, ptp or sneakernet. Joe blow sends the riaa some percentage of $20 in photocopied money. That does not provide the same utility for riaa as the avatar.mp4 did for Joe blow.
Whether or not Joe blow's download of avatar for free is unfair against the store that stocks the DVD, the trucker who moved it, the actors, producers and supporting staff or the media ads that promoted it is another question. The question comes down to how much Joe blow WOULD have paid for avatar.mp4 had his only option been to purchase a DVD, wait and rent it, or watch it at a friends house.
When we replace avatar with "schematics for a 3d printable car/computer/cup" then we will have to deal with this problem of rewarding the creators of valuable data according to how badly people want it, preserving our freedom from censorship and preserving net neutrality. Yarr!
Good old Adam Smith teaches us that value in exchange is often the opposite of value in use. (His example is that we pay very little for water, which is vital for survival, but lots for a diamond that has very limited value in use, in comparison.) Joe's utility for watching the movie is thus almost irrelevant to the question of how much he should pay for the privilege.
>The question comes down to how much Joe blow WOULD have paid for avatar.mp4 had his only option been to purchase a DVD
Not true, considering our entire economy runs on consumer surplus:
For example, a rabid "Twilight" fan may readily spend a hundred dollars to see the movie, but will actually end up paying just as little as the guy who was dragged in by his fiancee.
That's because, as brilliantly as Smith was able to demonstrate his ideas, the concept of marginal utility wasn't among them. Nearly a century later, Jevons, Wenger, and Walras brought about the "Marginal Revolution", which gave us the understanding that the reason water is so cheap for us is because we've already got so much of it. And this, in turn, allows us to understand that both sides of a transaction are unloading something they hold in (relative) excess for something that would increase their total utility function.
If the price of water went up, people would stop using it for purposes with lower utility, in order to be sure to have enough for purposes with higher utility (like drinking and cooking). So the marginal utility of water would still be equal to its price.
See David Friedman's text, Price Theory; in particular Chapter 4:
He discusses this exact case (diamonds vs. water).
In any case, let's go back to the original issue. And, for the sake of argument, let's agree with the marginalists. Aren't all the marginal values and costs for a digital creation, which can be easily replicated millions of times, practically zero?
Then you would no longer have a free market; people would be prohibited from engaging in transactions that they would have chosen to engage in without the prohibition. In that case, yes, price is no longer equal to marginal utility.
> Alternatively, consider that blood plasma and many life-saving medicines that have no other use are still cheaper than diamonds.
A better example, yes. I would tend to say the "market" in these things is not exactly free either. Somebody should ask Friedman about that one. :)
> And, for the sake of argument, let's agree with the marginalists. Aren't all the marginal values and costs for a digital creation, which can be easily replicated millions of times, practically zero?
> Then you would no longer have a free market;
Additionally, (and this is a point I argue with those proposing wholly market-based solutions to public education) a theorized free exchange with unshackled supply/demand curves assumes perfect information, which we don't have. (In this case, partly due to the long tail of attention.)
Point being, any argument that relies on a micro framework is bunk because we've reached a level of technology where convex production sets are no longer an obvious assumption.
This is so transparent and obvious a flaw in the assertion that no trained lawyer (aka lawmakers) will suffer it, and the non-torrenting general public will remain mostly unconvinced. And when the ultimate goal is to force the content industry to open up, to switch from a business model based on artificial scarcity to one based on abundance, this argument is only going to do more harm than good.
I think it would be much more productive to instead focus on the fact that the fundamental problem is that articifical-scarcity-creating, rent-seeking cartels like Hollywood and the music industry have no place in our emerging culture of digital abundance. That their attempt to maintain control of a resource, limit supply, and charge rents for access is increasingly only possible with government force.
Further, as Steve Blank observes , we've seen this same thing play out over and over throughout history, any time a new technology made content more easily distributable, the content cartels vigorously opposed it, until finally losing, being forced to adapt, and eventually making more money than previously.
There is a win-win-win way forward, that is just as if not more profitable, but it doesn't include things like DRM, DVD region codes, SOPA/PIPA, etc. Neither the content industry nor the current generation of lawmakers will be able to get us there, so it's up to those of us on the bleeding edge of technology and culture to, but making silly , easily-refuted arguments won't help at all.
I think our metaphors of property and theft are stretched to the breaking limit with digital content. When social rules first appeared, it was clearly wrong if Fred Flintstone made himself an awesome hat and Barney Rubble took it away; but not so clear if Barney just copied the exact design and made his own. Copyright and patents only appeared in the 18th century. They extended the notion of property into a sphere where it hadn't applied in the previous millenia. They also relied on the fact that, at the time, books and technical drawings couldn't be reproduced by the average person.
Now here we are in a new millenium, with intellectual content trivially easy to duplicate, and we try to stretch some already strained notions much further. I think we need a paradigm change in this matter (and there are some interesting attempts going on out there). The RIAA's version of morality is not handed down from Heaven, you know: its rectitude is at least as questionable as its practicality.
Actually, I think it was quite clearly a good thing if Barney made his own copy and they both had dry heads.
This remains true until everyone decides it's better for Fred to spend all his time designing hats rather than hunting, and we need a way to be sure to feed Fred. For this to happen we need technology to advance to the point where we have a surplus of the more basic needs, but also the cost of producing hats has to be cheap compared to the cost of designing hats. Otherwise a significant part of Fred's value is producing the hats, which is something he can easily get food for since it would require force to coerce him to produce a hat, while it requires no force to copy a hat's design.
Specialization of labor became widespread around 3500BC, with the appearance of civilization. After that point, potters, goldsmiths, tailors etc. kept on freely copying designs from each other and "got away" with it for over 5000 years. (In times when punishment for theft was often physical mutilation.) If there was something obviously immoral about "stealing" intellectual "property", someone would have noticed, I think.
And I'm certainly not making any argument that there is anything immoral about "stealing" intellectual "property", I do not believe that is the case.
"It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs.
But while it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all, it would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors.
It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance.
By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it; but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it.
Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society.
It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property.
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.
Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it.
He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.
Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from any body.
Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea.
In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices."
from, The Letters of Thomas Jefferson: 1743-1826
I find the argument that copyright and patents appear only recently in historical terms unconvincing. Following that line of reasoning shoudln't we be even more wary of e.g. universal suffrage and civil rights laws?
Moreover, that these laws occured relatively late in human history is IMO unsurprising, even to be expected given the state of human evolution. At the risk dilettantism, here's what Wikipedia has to say about the history of "copyright":
> Copyright was invented after the advent of the printing press and with wider public literacy.
Whether or not one agrees with copyright law, I would argue that the relevant laws followed technological innovations at some lag -- and did not just appear randomly or as a result of some kind of conspiracy.
Wikipedia puts the original date for Patents at 500BC, but if you read a few sentences further the industrial revolution appears. So again, the argument applies: effort expended on legal action followed effort expended on technological process, at some lag.
And even if we look before the industrial revolution, and before the printing press, history provides us with a wealth of examples of groups of individuals trying to preserve or protect their "edge" in crafts (often acquired through hard work and ingenuity, sometimes, through fortune), techniques, or otherwise "patentable" methods, with often far higher consequences than what are being proposed currently. (Though, admittedly, that means nothing.) I'm thinking for example of guilds of various forms throughout Mideaval Europe, as well as China. My knowledge in this area is not that extensive, but there are a few colourful examples in "The Rise and Decline of Nations" by Mancur Olson, e.g. IIRC one guild in China collectively biting another master to death for taking on too many apprentices (copies!) for fashioning gold leaf -- gold leaf for the king (no less), whose protection was worth nothing to him in the face of the guild's desire to protect its "IP".
So I think a case can be made that IP of some form has been around for a long, long time; it's not some accident brought about by a single, poorly-written law. It's not a relatively recent, arcane (thus exploitable) area of justice. Mankind has been grappling with these issues, these tradeoffs, for as long as human progress has existed, and will presumably continue to do so at each "singularity". It's right and proper that we have this debate; it's right and proper that the creative industries demand a say in new technologies, insofar as those technologies depend on the transmission of creative works to be interesting and demanded.
> The RIAA's version of morality is not handed down from Heaven, you know: its rectitude is at least as questionable as its practicality.
Agreed, sadly, none in the filesharing camp has offered anything even remotely resembling morality. You tend to see something along the lines of "I'm not talking about morality, I'm just giving you reality etc" (followed by "want some of my cash? dance, bitch!").
How about this? Without copyright we could make the collective cultural works of mankind instantly accessible to every internet-connected person in the world, all the time, for free. Every book, every film, every recording. Would this be a good thing or do you think we should shutdown libraries as well?
If you think I'm being hyperbolic read-up on Google Books and Google Library. It's depressing the damage these laws have already done.
Far from me the idea that "younger" laws and institutions are suspect. I was just arguing that (unauthorized) reproduction of ideas and designs has been around for a long time, without being perceived as immoral. As you show, various interest groups have sometimes tried, and even succeeded, in legally banning certain forms of it. But it was never seriously accepted that duplication is somehow morally equivalent to theft.
There are laws against stealing physical property. Copyright infringement doesn't violate them. There are laws against copyright infringement. Copyright infringement does violate them. The question of whether "stealing" is good shorthand for "copyright infringement" is a total waste of time. The real point is whether the copyright infringement laws are good laws.
In fact, let's get technical about it. Here's what's going on under the hood. Both areas of law relate to the idea of "alienable rights" -- stuff that only you are entitled to do, that you can sell or give away so other people can do. For example, I "own" my bike. That means I have a bunch of rights over it. I can exclude anyone else from riding it. I can destroy it. I can sell the right to destroy it. I can sell the right to ride it on alternate Thursdays. I can sell the right to sell the right to ride it. Or I can sell the whole bike so someone else gets the whole bundle of rights. Lawyers, with a flair for the dramatic, analogize this set of rights over the bike to a "bundle of sticks" that can be separated or kept together.
Example 2: I rent an apartment. My landlord "owns" the property, but she's sold me the temporary, exclusive right to decide who can come on it and who can't. I can let neighborhood kids run through the backyard or tell them to take off. But I can't charge other people to sleep here -- she hasn't sold me that right.
Example 3: I "own" this comment. I can sell or give away the right to display it at ycombinator.com (in fact, that's what I'll effectively do when I click "reply"). I can sell the right to print it worldwide in any medium. I can sell the right to make a movie adaptation. I can sell the right to distribute it without my name attached -- or with your name attached. Or I can sell the whole thing and let someone else dispose of all these rights ...
So when we talk stealing and infringement, we're talking about violations of someone else's alienable rights. When you take away all of my alienable rights over my bike, that's called stealing. When you take them temporarily, it's "wrongful appropriation." When you take my right to exclude people from my property, that's called trespass. When you take my right to decide who rents my bike, it's theft of services. When you take my right to decide where this comment gets published, it's copyright infringement.
So at this point the copyright debate becomes a little clearer, right? The question is which alienable rights should attach to instantiated ideas (intellectual property), and how long should each right last, and what should be the consequences for infringing each right, and can we give artists something that works as well for them as these exclusive alienable rights, and so on. When people say "copyright infringement is stealing," it's intuitive, emotional shorthand for "the same arguments that justify the rights attached to physical property also justify the rights attached to instantiated ideas." When people say "nuh uh," that's shorthand for "nuh uh."
So the answer to whether copyright infringement is stealing is that there's a bunch of reasons we attach various rights to physical property, and there's a bunch of reasons we attach various rights to IP, and some rights and reasons apply to both and some reasons apply to just one or the other. Which is to say, it's a pointless question. The analogy is kind of right and kind of wrong, in a totally unhelpful way. The useful question is whether the particular rights bundled into "copyright" are the best way to do the things we're trying to do.
Seriously, when I think about it, I can't believe how many hours have been spent on the internet debating this pointless question. The next time you're tempted to start, just link to this comment instead. Then take that time to make something. Anything you like. Even a LOLcat or a drawing in MSPaint. Put it in the public domain. It'll be better for the world.
 You know how the Declaration of Independence says we're all endowed with "inalienable" rights? That's inalienable as in the opposite of the "alienable" rights I discussed above. That's why you can't sell yourself into slavery -- your right to liberty isn't alienable.
The More You Know.
The category distinction is vital IMO as it is right that there is greater protection under the law against someone who steals your belongings vs someone who merely duplicates them.
If one considers that right to free enjoyment of ones personal property is oft considered a basic human right then it can readily be seen why denying someone ownership is considered to be a greater wrong, generally, that denying someone sole rights to reproduce a particular work.
Moreover the level at which the state intervenes has become twisted (at least in the UK) wherein the state is beginning to get involved (under USA's pressure it seems) in very low value tortfeasance on behalf of large corporations whilst at the same time ignoring rather higher value crimes (such as theft) against individuals. Indeed, though I'm not really on top of this one [perhaps you can elucidate], it seems that more copyright infringement is being treated in the USA as criminal than is elsewhere.
In short whilst, yes, copyright infringement is still illegal even if it's not criminal I don't agree that you can claim all denial of alienable rights is equal, or even nearly so, which appears to be the thrust of your argument.
"or with your name attached" is only true with provisos; there are several laws under which I could object to your passing off (in the common sense) of this work as mine which would prevent you from legally selling the right to do so.
Here's a cool example that includes both civil law and criminal law: in America, if you trespass on someone's property without being told not to, that's a civil violation, and the only thing the owner can do is sue you for any actual damage you caused. But if you trespass after they tell you not to, it's also a criminal violation and they can ask the state to prosecute you. That's why you see warning signs saying "no trespassing - violators will be prosecuted." It skips the first step.
Point being, sometimes the legal system even treats infringement of the same alienable right under entirely separate branches of law, depending how many times you've done it. And with trespass, it's calibrated pretty well.
Copyright in America is calibrated terribly. It's mostly civil rather than criminal (you can tell because it's "RIAA vs." instead of "United States vs."). But unlike most civil suits where you're basically compensated in rough proportion to the harm you suffered, there's this incredibly punitive fine of up to $150,000 for each mp3, which is collected by the civil party suing rather than the government. So it looks a lot like criminal enforcement. It's grievously weird.
(Actually, there is an analogous law I can think of, the Clean Water Act. Under that law any citizen who lives in a polluted area can sue a polluter and recover a large bounty for winning the case, even if the actual damages that citizen suffered are trivial. This basically offloads the work of enforcing pollution laws from the government to private citizens, which presumably made the Clean Water Act cheap enough to pass. And that Act has been incredibly successful -- we've gone from like 2/3 of America's waterways being impaired to 1/3. So maybe the copyright laws are just the right tool for the wrong job?)
Anyway! What's going on is: (1) copyright laws are all screwed up because only one side is at the bargaining table, and that side is panicking; (2) the internet makes copyright laws impossible to enforce, while also (3) greatly increasing the societal cost of copyright laws in terms of lost value to consumers. So we need a new deal. The better you understand the nuts and bolts, the better you can take part in crafting it.
We get a distorted view based on things like the current extradition of a British man to the USA for having a listings site with links to copyright material. And the whole Kim Dotcom business operated at the international level by USA Government's agencies.
No the argument people make when they differentiate between copyright infringement and stealing is that perhaps the copyright bundle of alienable rights doesn't even make sense. They are saying this whole thing is talked about as theft but the fundamental situation is different, lets get the emotional word "steal" out of the picture. Instead lets call it what it is, and make a note of why these are different and why the rights granted and defended are perhaps outmoded and out-dated.
I totally agree. That's the real conversation to have.
The only thing I would add is to be careful not to adopt the indefensible position that infringement is nothing like stealing. Some of the reasons we protect physical property do apply to copyright. We frequently defend physical property not because stealing deprives the owner of anything or even costs them money, but because stealing interferes with the economic model where you invest in creating something and charge for transferring your rights over it.
For example, consider stealing a newspaper from one of those coin-op machines. The paper was going to be pulped anyway, and you weren't going to buy it anyway. So you actually saved the publisher money. But it would sound absurd to most people to suggest that laws against stealing from newspaper vending machines should be abolished. Because the point isn't that you're depriving the publisher of the ability to read that particular copy of the paper themselves. The point is that our economic model depends on their ability to meter access to copies of the stuff they produce.
I hate these metaphors cause there's always a hundred reasons they don't line up. So don't look for the distinctions, just take it for the point that sometimes theft laws and copyright are protecting approximately similar interests. That doesn't mean copyright laws are a good idea -- it can be totally rational to protect papers in vending machines without protecting their online equivalent. It just means that you have to not trip yourself up at the start of the debate by suggesting that infringement and theft are nothing alike, or that copyright serves no purpose. It serves a purpose. It accomplishes useful stuff. It also costs our society a lot. The burden's on us to convince people we have a better plan to accomplish useful stuff with less cost.
I've thought about this a fair amount, and you still managed to explain it in a way that made it new to me.
You do credit to lawyerkind.
It doesn't really matter wether it's 100% legally irrelevant. It's 100% philosophically relevant.
The people who do seem to be responding to some sort of intuition of this form: "a free lunch is unfair." It's not, as we'd say, unfair to you, and not even to the copyright holders necessarily, but something about a free lunch just looks suspicious. So the first comment in this thread says that whether Joe Blow's actions are unfair "comes down to how much Joe Blow WOULD have paid for avatar.mp4." You saw that he would have paid for X but instead he got it for free, and you said "man, there's something unfair here."
It may sometimes be useful to regulate things which our ethical intuitions don't speak very strongly about. Our ethical intuitions don't speak very strongly about living in a messy room; a boarding school might nonetheless demand that its students keep their rooms clean. (I have heard a cute theory that we lack this intuition because our primate ancestors lived in trees and therefore literally did not have to handle their own crap.) Seatbelt laws, licensing drivers, and regulating CO2 emissions would also fit into the same category. So "who has the right to copy this book?" can still be a valid question, even when that book is a .pdf and our relevant moral intuitions instead say, "hey, I'm just giving the book I bought to a friend -- that's within my rights as a person who bought the book." That moral intuition, even if you have it, doesn't necessarily obviate the potential social value of that law.
In all kinds of stupid little cases, every day, lawyers hammer out what kind of people we want to be -- how our society wants to instantiate our morality. It's glorious.
Anyway, the copyright question is partly the legal question of what people should be allowed to do, and partly the moral question of what laws it's OK to break when there's no real prospect of enforcement. But it's all about laws.
To claim that the idea of copyright is pretty well-settled when it comes to digital works just illustrate the problem here.
It's not well-settled cause there isn't anything to settle as such. This is not a discussion about right or wrong but about whether it should apply to digital work.
Even a discussion of property on physical things aren't a settled discussion. There are no conclusion only a decision.
There are a number of indicators hinting that it's far from settled when it comes to digital. Among other things the very fact that we are debating it and the very fact that many people don't seem to have a problem downloading things and don't consider it wrong.
And not just because they are cheap. But because the very fundamental idea of demand and supply, the idea of owning ideas that are themselves byproducts of others ideas is way way way too complex to just say. Done deal. There is something more fundamental in play here.
Perhaps for you, but not for me and many others.
> The useful question is whether the particular rights bundled into "copyright" are the best way to do the things we're trying to do.
Yes, the ultimate goal is to reform that, but I think the argument needs to be that there is a more optimal way of codifying copyright for everyone - content creators, consumers, and 'mashuppers' - that can create more abundance, dynamism, an opportunity for all parties.
But instead the prevailing argument seems to essentially be one of technological entitlement - that taking something for nothing without the consent of the creator/rights owner, at least as defined under current laws, has no consequence for the rights owner, and that it should be legal to do simply because it can be done.
No, it should be legal to do because there is ultimately more utility and value in it for everyone including the rights owners than under the old regime, so much so that they do it willingly like some are starting to experiment with now (NIN, Louis CK, etc).
That's the argument that must and can ultimately convince society, government, and Hollywood (or at least drag the latter to it kicking and screaming) that there is a more optimal copyright system. Spurious appeals to neo-entitlement will just fail there.
The way west society solved the question on how we pay the utility guys who maintain the water supply is with taxes. Copyright is an outgrowth of taxes. A private monopoly granted by the state that can be used to generate revenue without any unit cost associated. In any free market, if the unit price is zero, the then market price must be zero too.
The thing I personally wonder is, since copyright is a form of tax granted by the state, is this the best way to reward creators in the art of science and beauty?
Perhaps this might make it difficult for new artists to get off the ground or discovered. But maybe some ways around this would be for producers to invest in new artists they believe will be successful, and then collect a royalty on future work.
Anyway, I'm just throwing out ideas for discussion.
Form organizations which take the money and pay the artists salaries. Now becoming a new artist becomes similar to becoming a new programmer or architect or whatever.
I think artists should be paid by endorsements - like the old times, when barons would pay an artist to create a work of art. Only now, we can have people from the internet chip in small amounts. I.e., an artist proposes some art, and those who wants it can promise payment. Once the art is made, an infinite copy can be created, and every and anyone can access it.
So what incentivizes people to pay that initial bit, i hear you ask? Some people, especially fans, don't mind paying it. And that is where the value is extracted from.
Same question can be asked of any salaried worker.
Anyway, once said artist has got some experience and built up their portfolio, there's nothing stopping them from leaving the organisation to work freelance (and be paid by endorsements). The organisation idea was really just a middle tier to allow people to pool their resources and share the rewards, including allowing new artist a way to get into the system.
o what incentivizes people to pay that initial bit, i hear you ask? Some people, especially fans, don't mind paying it. And that is where the value is extracted from.
Recently kickstarter has been proving this to be true! Also the success of the humble indie bundles suggests this is true.
2. I'm sorry, but I don't understand how copyright is an outgrowth of taxes. One is a mechanism to generate funds for the government, the other is a means to protect intellectual property. Could you clarify your point?
It's not a tax per se, but a cost imposed by the state solely for the benefit of a private party. The original US copyright act allowed for 14 years of protection. Of course, a portion of the rent-seeking copyright cartel's revenue goes to lobby the congress for ever longer copyright terms, making the original intent of the constitution mangled beyond recognition.
Copyright is a [not so] limited-time state sponsored monopoly.
It is not rent-seeking.
Whilst copyright in the jurisdictions I know about is pretty much broken by over-extended time periods given to the monopoly rights holder at the [highly undemocratic IMO] detriment to the public domain it is nonetheless still given for creating new works. By definition copyright is granted on works that didn't exist before, new intellectual property has been created - how can this then be rent-seeking.
To recapitulate, using the Wikipedia definition thus (my emphasis):
"Rent [...] is obtained when a third party deprives one party of access to otherwise accessible transaction opportunities, making nominally "consensual" transactions a rent-collection opportunity for the third party."
Works would not be otherwise accessible if they were not first created.
I'll probably go along with a charge that extension of copyright terms (already granted) to the detriment of the public domain is rent-seeking behaviour however.
How shall that be recovered?
A huge portion of our economy is based on buying services and not physical goods. If every service was exactly as described and advertised we wouldn't need Consumer Reports, Yelp, or Epinions. We'd live in utopia. And yet, here we are.
Consumer law in England doesn't let you do this. Many, but not all, shops do allow returns as a good-will measure. (Unless you buy online, where the Distance Selling Regulations give the customer remarkable rights.)
Doesn't "Buyer Beware" mean anything anymore?
A startup where you sell movies for prices according to how much the watcher enjoyed it might be a billion dollar idea.
So, they would have to watch it again?
Note: BitTorrent counts as doing both, by definition
So how do you answer that question. I would argue that many a Joe blow would have payed exactly $0.
I used to see a lot of free movies because my friend worked for the local movie theater. And there were a good number o f movies after which I wanted my "free" back. Yes a good amount of media is so close to garbage that the cost is negative (they would have to pay me to watch).
So assuming that pirate copy = a lost sale is a ridiculous argument.
This seems like a ridiculous counter-argument to me. You are basically trying to say that because a pirated copy is not exactly equal to one lost sale, then it's not an issue at all... forgetting the fact that the ratio doesn't need to be 1:1 for money to be lost. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that "100 pirate copies = a lost sale", on average. That's still a lot of lost sales in the grand scheme of things, and that's a very conservative number.
As a sidenote, your anecdotal evidence is just that-- you got lucky having a friend with connections, most people without said friend would probably bite the bullet and make the purchase if they couldn't get it online. Let me inject my own anecdotal evidence for a second: before the internet, I remember renting a lot more movies than I do now. The internet has cut down on the amount of money I give to these organizations, fact.
And finally, whether or not Joe Blow got his money's worth is irrelevant, so who cares if you wanted your "free" back? The argument about value has little to do with the economic stance, unless you're trying to say, "it's ethical to steal if what you are stealing is crappy". I'd disagree with that statement too. I think most sane people would.
So it is not clear (at least it is not ridiculously clear) whether money are lost because of piracy.
There is no moral obligation to support business practices based on obsolete technology.
Copyright infringement is not stealing.
But you didn't say whether you're now downloading infringing copies of those movies, or the Internet just showed you how obsolete the concept of physically driving to a store to obtain a physical object containing digital media is when the technology exists to convey that digital media at virtually no cost. Maybe you stopped renting movies because you have better things to do with your time than wait in your car, search the shelves, wait in line, and wait in your car again.
If Joe downloads avatar for free, he is not ripping off anyone who may have been involved in the production, distribution and sale of a DVD - he is ripping off those involved in the production, distribution and sale of a digital copy of avatar.mp4
The value lost is NOT that of the physical copy because no physical copy was stolen.
Anyway, people who are pro piracy will tell you that yes, it is in fact ok to pirate software too. I'm not saying I agree or disagree, just saying that the hardcore pro piracy people do not find anything wrong regardless of what is being pirated. They will also disagree with the term "piracy", but whatever.
is it okay for me to pirate all the apps from Mac App Store
Sure, why not! My most used "app stores" are the Linux package managers and everything on them is free, so not paying for apps doesn't mean that availability will be affected. No, I'm not saying I think its ok to pirate, but your comment does read as pretty disingenuous to me.
In any case, so many people share music, movies and software all the time without thinking about it, maybe its the businesses who should be adapting? If yesterdays business models are failing, instead of trying to shoehorn them to work through laws and regulations, maybe they should adapt? I'm personally involved in a music industry startup and we're doing exactly that - piracy is promotion to us. I'm also involved in other software things and spend a lot of time talking and thinking about game development and my conclusion is that piracy can largely be sidestepped in all of these markets by... adapting the business model to be piracy tolerant.
The utility and ownership arguments become more problematic in this context.
What does this even mean? It appears the message of this campaign is that digital music is devoid of monetary value.
Now the artist can own their recording equipment outright and no longer has to rent it and the distribution channel, while not free, is so cheap it is given away in order to help sell coffee.
So, digital music is not only nearly devoid of monetary value as it is no longer an industry in and of itself, but from a commercial perspective is the advert for the live show and so can even be viewed as a marketing cost.