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WAREZ
December 13, 2009 12:17 AM   Subscribe

Copyright... we've all followed the various debates, and we know theres all kinds of morally ambiguity and grey areas and stuff involved. But where there isn’t much grey area at all are sites that are explicitly for the warezing of mass quantities of digital media. Could we not link to them or offer them our breathless support on the front page or use the site for the swapping of invites for them? Plenty of other places for that. Thanks.
posted by Artw to Etiquette/Policy at 12:17 AM (541 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I strongly disagree.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:22 AM on December 13, 2009


Good luck, Artw. Be strong.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:22 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I vote no. Demonoid's return is news. I have them to thank for my complete Doc Savage collection.

Just an opinion.
posted by irisclara at 12:23 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of content on demonoid that has nothing to do with "warez". Anyhow, that's not how the post was framed. It was framed in context of many posts on Metafilter discussing bittorrent sites - including a recent one that highlighted how a site went "dead". This is the flip side.
posted by VikingSword at 12:24 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, if anyone has an invite kicking around, pm me.
posted by mullingitover at 12:24 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The begging for invites is tacky as hell, I don't know what people are thinking doing that in the blue.
posted by saturnine at 12:26 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


No. The return of Demonoid is the best news I've had all day and the second-best news I've had all week, and your clinging to a regime of artificial imposition of pre-infocornucopic scarcity for the benefit of no-one but avariciously rent-seeking corporations does you no credit, sir, no credit at all.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:26 AM on December 13, 2009 [35 favorites]


I'm almost astounded how quickly blu-ray rips are showing up on torrent sites now and damn if they don't look sweet on the new Bravia the wife bought.. Huh? What are we talking about here? Oh, sorry.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:27 AM on December 13, 2009


FWIW, I agree with you, but having gone through this before, your view will simply not gain much purchase here. Metafilter loves getting and rationalizing getting paid stuff for free. So it goes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:27 AM on December 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


I thought the post was a bit thin myself. What I normally do in those circumstances is flag it, and move on.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:29 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The begging for invites is tacky as hell, I don't know what people are thinking doing that in the blue.

That, combined with the usual self-righteuos twaddle about how warezing shit is somehow a net benefit to humanity, is the main thing that pushed me over the edge into no-doubt-deeply-unpopular Meta territory.

I mean, don't get me wrong here, everybody warezes shit from time to time. The overal negative effect of each individual doing so is pretty minimal. At the same time, nicking shit is nicking shit, whatever vague justification you wave around for it, and I see no reason why the blue should be an active conduit for that.
posted by Artw at 12:31 AM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Actually, what I have more of a problem with is the self-righteous twaddle from the "it's STEALING!" twits. It's like the kids at high school who would go tattle to teachers about the kids sneaking across town to smoke cigarettes.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:32 AM on December 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


Ah, I just peeked in that thread and this begging for invites things is really craven nonsense. Nuke that shit now or risk setting a nasty precedent.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:35 AM on December 13, 2009


I assume that the sticklers for the letter of the law would be sticklers in general - like for precision. But then they go on about "stealing", "nicking" and whatever other exaggerated terms they can come up with - and all of a sudden it seems pointless. You have a beef? Then specify it precisely - don't exaggerate and don't misrepresent.
posted by VikingSword at 12:36 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


But then they go on about "stealing", "nicking" and whatever other exaggerated terms

Please don't misrepresent the word "exaggeration" when they are pretty fair descriptions of what's going on. Simply disagreeing with their use doesn't validate contrary rationalizations, either.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "ooh, it;s not like stealing a physical thing!" line of argument really is tedious nonsense. Theft of service is still theft, and that's what you're taking advantage of someones work while circumventing the methods for paying for it.

So no, I am not representing or exagerating - you can argue over the degree but the degree to which people who warez are harmful parasites, but they are still parasite.
posted by Artw at 12:43 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's sad that the people who believe INFRINGEMENT = STEALING are so short sighted that they fail to see the greater theft, that of the mountains of works which should be entering the public domain in a timely fashion, and instead are locked up under copyright for what will certainly be the rest of our lives.

I have yet to see a member of the simplistic argument crowd acknowledge that epic, historic theft from our civilization.
posted by mullingitover at 12:44 AM on December 13, 2009 [65 favorites]


Please don't misrepresent the word "exaggeration" when they are pretty fair descriptions of what's going on. Simply disagreeing with their use doesn't validate contrary rationalizations, either.

It would be fair, if "theft=copyright infringement". Seeing as it is not, I call it exaggeration. I think it happens, because copyright infringement doesn't have the sting of "stealing". It not having a sting is seen as a problem, so the user grabs onto something that has - thus exaggerating. After all, we don't hear copyright infringement called something more euphemistic - it's in the other direction. I think we all know why that's so.
posted by VikingSword at 12:45 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


...and this is why I hate teenagers.
posted by Artw at 12:47 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Warezing? Never heard the word used that way before.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:49 AM on December 13, 2009


The begging for invites is tacky as hell, I don't know what people are thinking doing that in the blue.

We're thinking we want some invites.

The copyright issue is definitely gray area, but I think #1 has deemed it okay so long as it's not outright infringement through Mefi (I may be wrong here).

you can argue over the degree but the degree to which people who warez are harmful parasites, but they are still parasite.

This sort of categorical dismissal of pirates is something I don't get. As far as I can tell, folks who illegally download content usually weren't going to buy it in the first place. It's often more convenient to actually purchase the original content (without the threat of malware). Then there's the issue of programs like Photoshop. If you're some kid who can barely afford a computer, you're not going to have any money to spend on the software, so if you want to break into the graphic design biz, what exactly are your options? Chances are, you pirate Photoshop, and eventually buy it once you start using it commercially. From an ethical point of view, I don't really see what the big issue is.

I'm curious, though -- Artw, are you in an industry that gets its content pirated regularly? I don't mean to put you on the defensive, but it seems like you're taking this issue sort of personally.
posted by spiderskull at 12:52 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've never heard warez being used as a verb before.
posted by hattifattener at 12:54 AM on December 13, 2009


your clinging to a regime of artificial imposition of pre-infocornucopic scarcity for the benefit of no-one but avariciously rent-seeking corporations does you no credit, sir, no credit at all.

Fuck, man, I'm a writer, not a faceless corporation.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:00 AM on December 13, 2009 [14 favorites]


ANy kind of IP related industry is affected periferally.

Mainly I just think it's scummy, and don't want it on the site any more than I would want links to escort services or perscription meds by posts rackets.
posted by Artw at 1:00 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


*raises hand half way, winks sheepishly, mumbles something like if you've got any kicking around...*
posted by Rinku at 1:03 AM on December 13, 2009


"Asking for invites" comments should probably get the axe, considering they're exposing the poster to legal liability ala "anybody got some CP" or "how do I dispose of a dead body"
posted by tehloki at 1:06 AM on December 13, 2009


Also let's not have THE GREAT COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS/IS NOT THEFT DEBATE in here, I'm really sick of reruns.
posted by tehloki at 1:07 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


At the same time, nicking shit is nicking shit, whatever vague justification you wave around for it
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:08 AM on December 13, 2009


Mainly I just think it's scummy, and don't want it on the site any more than I would want links to escort services or perscription meds by posts rackets.

I'm not gonna debate you, Jerry.
posted by Ritchie at 1:16 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I assume that the sticklers for the letter of the law would be sticklers in general - like for precision. But then they go on about "stealing", "nicking" and whatever other exaggerated terms they can come up with - and all of a sudden it seems pointless. You have a beef? Then specify it precisely - don't exaggerate and don't misrepresent.

Trying to act like it is not stealing because you call it "copyright infringement" doesn't make it stealing. Since you brought up me being a lawyer, stealing is depriving someone of a right to property which they are entitled to. Joyriding in a car stealing. Taking someone's intellectual property is stealing. The fact that police departments do not have the ability to go after persons stealing doesn't somehow make it not theft. You are taking, without permission, the copyright of others. You can make up all the justifications you want, perhaps they have merit.

But it is still illegal and you are commiting a crime. Nor is it a victimless crime because the person you are stealing from has more money than you do.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:20 AM on December 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


Maybe we can ban all mention of torrent sites as soon as jailbreaking cell phones is a verboten topic on askme.
posted by bunnytricks at 1:20 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


There are a lot more victims of the theft that the content industry has committed by perverting the copyright system. Yet somehow none of our copyright puritans are bothered by this.
posted by mullingitover at 1:23 AM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Yet somehow none of our copyright puritans are bothered by this.

Oh when will thieves stop beating their poor wives?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:25 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


§ 506. Criminal offenses6
(a) Criminal Infringement. —

(1) In general. — Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement was committed —

(A) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;

(B) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000; or

(C) by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution.



A crime. Stealing. Are we clear on this? Copyright infringement is stealing and is a criminal offense. Please do not place my favorite blog in the position of facilitating copyright infringment.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:25 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are a lot more victims of the theft that the content industry has committed by perverting the copyright system. Yet somehow none of our copyright puritans are bothered by this.

The laws have been duly passed sir. They are what they are. There is no "ideal copyright law" that has been strayed from. The fact that they do not facilitate you getting music for free doesn't make them perverted.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:27 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The laws have been duly passed sir. They are what they are.

Occupation: I'm with the Resistance

Liar.

(unless you're deep undercover like Obama)
posted by bunnytricks at 1:31 AM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Are you being deliberately obtuse, Ironmouth? If you're a lawyer, shouldn't you be able to wrap your head around the fact that there are crimes other than stealing?
posted by hattifattener at 1:36 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


So from a legal point of view, theft is defined in exactly the same way as copyright infringement? So why has one been treated as a tort offense and the other a criminal one? Yes, laws change:

But it is still illegal and you are commiting a crime.

So is smoking pot. Big deal. There are also many laws which it is the moral thing to do to break. Civil rights were obtained by doing illegal things - breaking the exiting laws. Something being illegal does not equal morally reprehensible.

Nor is it a victimless crime because the person you are stealing from has more money than you do.

Except it is not stealing. Why don't you call it by its proper name: copyright infringement? Why this reluctance to call it what it is? Why this compulsion to keep calling it something different? That's a sign of a weak position - like the fashion of calling some mundane transgression "terrorism". It's simplest to call it by its name. If it fits, why resort to some other incorrect names?

And as to being victimless - can you prove that bittorrententing victimizes an artist? There seem to be reports claiming the opposite. This is an assertion that needs to be proven. Otherwise, it's more baseless rhetoric.

Fact is, copyright laws in this country are dysfunctional. We need a sensible overhaul that protects both the artist and is of benefit to the society at large - which was the whole point of copyright laws in the first place. As is, it's not working right now.
posted by VikingSword at 1:37 AM on December 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


"A crime. Stealing. Are we clear on this?"

Can you point to the portion of the statute that equates criminal infringement with theft? Using the wrong words for things is a kind of insanity.
posted by mullingitover at 1:37 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


A crime. Stealing. Are we clear on this? Copyright infringement is stealing and is a criminal offense. Please do not place my favorite blog in the position of facilitating copyright infringment.

In your cites, I see "crime". I still do not see where it says "stealing". Please be precise. Thanks. And as to placing the blog in legal jeopardy - well, again, this has been addressed in the past, and there appears to be no such danger. Of course, someone may claim otherwise, but then so can others claim that discussing certain political topics amounts to supporting terrorism. But those claims are worth nothing much. More empty assertions and posturing.
posted by VikingSword at 1:40 AM on December 13, 2009


We need a sensible overhaul that protects both the artist and is of benefit to the society at large

Dude, just pay for the music, for fucks sake. Quit trying to rationalize getting something for nothing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:44 AM on December 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


Dude, just pay for the music, for fucks sake. Quit trying to rationalize getting something for nothing.

I'm curious as to how you feel about out of print materials, musical or otherwise.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:46 AM on December 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Seriously, why do you give a shit about it so bad? Lots of people post stuff I don't necessarily agree with or support, but you know what? In some cases I flag it and move on, or more usually just move on to the next link. There's plenty for all.

You don't like torrents - don't torrent. Please don't get all up in my bidd-ness if you have the luxury of living in a country where you can:
a) buy or watch/listen to pretty much everything digitally
b) for a reasonable price (I pay double most for media that you do in states - even the digital stuff! - for no apparent reason)
c) at a reasonable time (I prefer not having to wait 7-13 months of the latest episode, thanks).

Forgive me if I don't shed a tear for Warner Bros, or Fox, or Sony or EMI - businesses that have made millions fucking over both their patrons and the artists they bleed from like gigantic leeches, resolutely refused to get with the times and offer what everyone wanted, and then choose to sue the flipping bejesus out of poor broke fools who had the temerity to download literally a couple of albums for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I'm not arguing what I sometimes do is legal, I'm not even saying it's a net positive necessarily, what I am saying is I sure as shit have other things to worry about in life with much bigger stakes and frankly I'm shocked that anyone doesn't.
posted by smoke at 1:48 AM on December 13, 2009 [17 favorites]


TBH I wouldn't even care if you had any degree of intellectual honesty about it. By all means go do your piraty crap, just do it somewhere else and don't give me any self serving bullshit about how you're fighting The Man when you're just indulging in a petty crime of convenience.
posted by Artw at 1:49 AM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm curious as to how you feel about out of print materials, musical or otherwise.

Most of the stuff being distributed through the venues we're discussion is not out-of-print. That's how I feel about the post in question, at least.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:50 AM on December 13, 2009


s/discussion/discussing
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 AM on December 13, 2009


Clearly Ironmouth is with the establishment.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:51 AM on December 13, 2009


Dude, just pay for the music, for fucks sake. Quit trying to rationalize getting something for nothing.

This is kinda out of left field. I do pay for music. I have a huge collection of CDs - as a matter of fact, I was answering a question today (before my FPP) about building CD shelves, wherein I revealed that I own over 5000 CDs. I bought them. Frequently as a result of exposure to an artist through bittorrent. So, you may want to direct that statement to those who borrow their friend's CD - perfectly legally, and enjoy the music and pay the artist NOTHING. Legally. Whereas I download - try before buy - and then buy. Benefitting the artist. There are many reports about bittorent downloaders buying more music than non-downloaders. I believe it. So whatever the beef is, it's not "pay for the music", because I do - plenty.
posted by VikingSword at 1:51 AM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Artw, I'm not sure you're interested in discussing the topic at all, and want it to not be discussed. Is that fair or unfair?

Most of the stuff being distributed through the venues we're discussion is not out-of-print. That's how I feel about the post in question, at least.

Fine, but that isn't an answer to my question.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:52 AM on December 13, 2009


Clearly Ironmouth is with the establishment.

It's like straightedge- they're punk against punk!
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:53 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm curious as to how you feel about out of print materials, musical or otherwise.

I feel that the discussion of them in this context is a pretty naked attempt to cover for materials that are quite blatantly not out of print or otherwise hard to get hold of.
posted by Artw at 1:54 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


You've pretty much spoken without a shred of nuance or admission that downloading may not be totally wrong in any circumstance, so I think bringing up the fact that not everything is available for purchase is a valid response to that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:55 AM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's hip to be square!

Oh, wait, it's not.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:57 AM on December 13, 2009


So, you may want to direct that statement to those who borrow their friend's CD - perfectly legally, and enjoy the music and pay the artist NOTHING. Legally.

As far as I know, it has never been legal to copy commercial, licensed music and pay the artist nothing. It doesn't really even matter whether that person buys the music later on or not, that's not even relevant.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 AM on December 13, 2009


I shouldn't say "admission that downloading may not be..." because that carries the implication that I'm right, Artw knows it, and is refusing to admit it. Better to phrase that as "acknowledgement of the argument that", which is more neutrally phrased.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:58 AM on December 13, 2009


Fine, but that isn't an answer to my question.

With respect, I'm not positive that your question is relevant to what's being discussed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:58 AM on December 13, 2009


So is there where we come from demonoid invites or what? My email is dan.glickman@mpaa.org. My buddy Mitch needs one too. He's at mitch.bainwol@riaa.com.
posted by birdherder at 1:58 AM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


As far as I know, it has never been legal to copy commercial, licensed music and pay the artist nothing.

BP, you are being uncharacteristically imprecise. Nowhere did I say "copy". I said "borrow". Borrowing a CD is legal. Even if you keep it for 7 or 9 years. And enjoy. Or give back after a day, then re-borrow again, as your fancy strikes. As a matter of fact, that CD may make the rounds of many friends. All with zero payment to the artist. Perfectly legal.
posted by VikingSword at 2:00 AM on December 13, 2009


As far as I know, it has never been legal to copy commercial, licensed music and pay the artist nothing. It doesn't really even matter whether that person buys the music later on or not, that's not even relevant.

The question is the purpose that the laws serve. You seem uninterested in whether a particular act is beneficial to the artist/record company/society/whatever and only interested in whether or not it breaks the law. I'm kind of baffled, because you of all people are not going to persuade anyone on MetaFilter that you think the law determines morality.

With respect, I'm not positive that your question is relevant to what's being discussed.

Why not?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:01 AM on December 13, 2009


Borrowing a CD is legal.

Borrowing a CD is not equivalent to using bittorrent to illegally distribute copies of commercial, licensed creative works.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:04 AM on December 13, 2009


I am not entirely sure I know what the fuck you are talking about Pope Guilty. I would certainly make it clear that I'd have no objection to Metafilter
promoting Demonoid if it were simply a repository for out of print materials and linux distributions and whatnot. But you know and I know that it isn't, so I don't see what you are getting at.
posted by Artw at 2:04 AM on December 13, 2009


Incidentally, can't you make a legal copy as a backup for something you purchased? And then lend out the original... funny how that could work. All legally.

Instead of playing BS games of legal gotchas, I think it far more sensible to reform the laws so that everyone benefits - the original purpose of copyright laws. I support artists rights and I want them to make a living - otherwise I could not enjoy the fruits of their labors. And I put my money where my mouth is.
posted by VikingSword at 2:04 AM on December 13, 2009


I would certainly make it clear that I'd have no objection to Metafilter
promoting Demonoid if it were simply a repository for out of print materials and linux distributions and whatnot. But you know and I know that it isn't, so I don't see what you are getting at.


Downloading out of print materials isn't legal, however. So is your position that some illegal downloading is acceptable and some isn't?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:05 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why not?

Because, for the most part, people do not use bittorrent to redistribute out-of-print works. For the most part, people use bittorrent to redistribute in-print, commercial works. Thus, your question is mostly irrelevant to the content of the post and comments being called out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:06 AM on December 13, 2009


Borrowing a CD is not equivalent to using bittorrent to illegally distribute copies of commercial, licensed creative works.

And nobody claimed otherwise. My "borrowing" statement was in context - of how an artist may benefit or not, financially. I claimed that sometimes the illegal action of bittorrenting may benefit the artist more than legal borrowing of a CD.
posted by VikingSword at 2:07 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I claimed that sometimes the illegal action of bittorrenting may benefit the artist more than legal borrowing of a CD.

You know, the last time we discussed this, I talked about how a friend of mine giving me some Depeche Mode mp3s led to my owning damn near the entire DM catalogue. The response I got at the time was that illegal downloading was so abhorrent and terrible that no amount of benefit it caused to the artists- the people who actually worked to make the music- was sufficient to make downloading okay.

So honestly, I don't know why I'm bothering to argue- force of habit, maybe? I'm not convinced that people like BP and Artw are more concerned with an act's repercussions for actual human beings than with making sure the law's followed- which is, as I've said, baffling considering their posting histories- and I'm increasingly confused about why I'm bothering to talk to people who feel that way.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:12 AM on December 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Downloading out of print materials isn't legal, however. So is your position that some illegal downloading is acceptable and some isn't?

I'd say that some infractions of copyright law are certainly more harmful than others, and that the mass copying of material that would otherwise have a chance of being paid for is at the end of the scale where I don't beleive we should be promoting it.

Which, you'll note, is more or less exactly how I started the discussion.
posted by Artw at 2:16 AM on December 13, 2009


Incidentally, can't you make a legal copy as a backup for something you purchased? And then lend out the original... funny how that could work. All legally.

{ Borrowing a CD | non sequitor | etc. } is not equivalent to using bittorrent to illegally distribute copies of commercial, licensed creative works.

Playing word games to justify the latter should immediately raise red flags. Instead of playing dishonest word games, one can simply compensate the artist. Respect the creators and pay them, if they make your life more pleasant with their life's work. Respect yourself by being honest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:18 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a whole lot of standards of right and wrong. The law is only one of them, and it's mostly made up of what people with money have been able to defend.

In this case, I say fuck the law. I'm not going to avert my eyes to the infocopia just because I'm broke.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:18 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


And yes, I do beleive that the more harmful form of copying does have repurcussions for actual human beings, some of them actually the original producers of the content. It's a shocking heresy, I know.
posted by Artw at 2:19 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Which, you'll note, is more or less exactly how I started the discussion.

Well, no, it isn't. You make no mention of the characteristics in the post. You make references to grey areas, but your argument throughout the thread appears to be that it's wrong, full stop, don't even discuss it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:21 AM on December 13, 2009


why aren't the pitchforks of COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS ALWAYS WRONG brought out on the mixtape threads - is it the volume that concerns you? also, asking for an invite to a torrent site is akin to asking for child porn, tehloki? are you high?

the passing around of music that wasn't paid for is an argument as old as the media to support it.

C30 C60 C90, GO!
posted by nadawi at 2:22 AM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Artw, are you in an industry that gets its content pirated regularly? I don't mean to put you on the defensive, but it seems like you're taking this issue sort of personally

I am, yet I wholeheartedly support torrenting for a variety of reasons. Prime among those reasons, finding materials that have long since been out of print. Yes, we really do exist. Almost everything I've ever downloaded has been an obscure and very old film or jazz recording that no retail shop could get me. Many of the albums (their original format so i'm not gonna call them cds) I've downloaded were recorded by my grandfather and children's albums & OCRs by my god mother (user 1362) that are out of print. I even found a recording of the children's school show choir she was a member of in the 1960s, an alumni uploaded it & I found it & boy did it make my god mom happy! Anyway, there are as many reasons for torrenting as there are people, and a lot of the time the law is wrong.

If anyone has a spare invite my family would love to have it, pretty please!
posted by zarah at 2:25 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


lets also not forget that many studies have found that file sharers spend more on music on average than those that never launch a torrent program.
posted by nadawi at 2:28 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not about getting money to artists, nadawi, it's about enforcing copyright, which is far more important than supporting artists because
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:31 AM on December 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


As far as I know, it has never been legal to copy commercial, licensed music and pay the artist nothing.

I can't be bothered going through posting histories to check, but: ever linked to anything on YouTube? Did it contain music? Was that music covered by copyright? Did you pay the artist? If not, was the artist's permission sought? If not, was it fair use? Do you think the artist would agree? Can you say for certain you haven't infringed at some point? Can you say for certain you won't do so in the future?

Piracy is here to stay. Torrent trackers can be shut down, but they come back, or other trackers pick up the slack. Scolding people for downloading has nothing to do with helping artists and everything to do with serving some need within yourself. The truth is, if you gave a shit about the artists you would be telling everyone within earshot, everyone who would listen, that there are ways (ways, not just a way) to make money from freely downloaded music.

People will download. You want to make a moral case against it, go ahead and die on that hill. I won't lift a finger to stop you. Personally I'm not hung up on whether it should happen, because that cat's out of the bag - it is happening and it will continue to happen. I'm not going to justify it - it's illegal and everyone knows it. So what? It happens anyway. Might as well learn to adapt.

Myself, I'd rather point out that artists can make and are making a good living because of (not despite) widespread downloading. There will be no cultural armageddon. CDs and DVDs may disappear, but the content is here to stay. More art will be created than ever before, and more money will be made from it than ever before. That's the direction the evidence points.
posted by Ritchie at 2:32 AM on December 13, 2009 [19 favorites]


Ah, false equivalency bullshit.
posted by Artw at 2:34 AM on December 13, 2009


Ah, false equivalency bullshit.

Substantiate that or retract it. Mass copyright infringement is mass copyright infringement.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:38 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've harped on this matter before, such that my biases and interests are fairly evident. [for those new to MeFi: Hey! Stop copying my stuff and reducing its scarcity and value and thereby stealin' my money!]

I don't expect anyone to reconsider his or her opinion.

It's just interesting that fr33torrentz seems to have become a kind of social program: Look, kids, it's true that college now costs so much you'll probably leave school with a five-figure debt you'll spend the next ten years repaying. And it's also true that middle class jobs are disappearing, so if you're not a coder, prepare to work in a service job. But cheer up... here, have some free songs!

A social safety net is much more expensive for a government to maintain than an entertainment safety net.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:40 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eh.. On one hand, I find the penalties for copyright infringement to be out of line with the penalties for physical theft.

On the other hand, who here would say that if they had a Demonoid invite, they'd only use it for legal materials, or at the very least, materials which are out of print and/or commercially impossible to obtain with any benefit to the copyright holder?
posted by Saydur at 2:44 AM on December 13, 2009


If illegally copying and distributing digital reproductions of audio, video, and text documents; violating copyright' stealing intellectual property; endangering the economic model of the record, film, and publishing industries; transgressing national and international laws; wearing an eye patch; sending mangy seamen to their watery graves in Davy Jones's locker; and liberating candy from the sticky, imperialist fists of tyrannical babies is wrong, I don't ever want to be right.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:44 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why p2p distribution of copyright works is held to be a different kind of activity from broadcasting them over the radio. And publishers pay to have stuff broadcast over the radio, even when they're not supposed to.

It seems to me that if the rules around p2p distribution were closer to those around radio broadcasting than those around boosting cars, most people involved would end up better off.
posted by flabdablet at 2:51 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


ever linked to anything on YouTube? Did it contain music?

Probably, yes. I'd have to look at my posting history. It's been a while. You can't be bothered, as you said.

Was that music covered by copyright?

I'd expect so, yes.

Did you pay the artist?

No.

If not, was the artist's permission sought?

Since it is on YouTube, the artist or artist's label almost certainly posted the material for promotional purposes. Thus, I expect the artist tacitly granted permission.

If not, was it fair use?

NA

Do you think the artist would agree?

If I'm wrong, I expect that the artist will have had the material pulled by now, and my post is now filled with dead links.

Can you say for certain you haven't infringed at some point? Can you say for certain you won't do so in the future?

Of course not. Who can? But I think the answers above make it 100% clear that I made a pretty reasonable attempt not to rip off the artist.

The truth is, if you gave a shit about the artists you would be telling everyone within earshot, everyone who would listen, that there are ways (ways, not just a way) to make money from freely downloaded music.

I think I've made my support for Creative Commons and for artist autonomy on this site pretty clear in the past. You can't be bothered, as you said, to go through my posts to know that, but I can assure you personally that I've made that much plain, at least.

Artists should be able to decide for themselves how they want to distribute their work. And you, the audience, have moral choices: you can either pay or you can walk away. But if you choose to steal/copy/foobarbaz their work: committing the act of taking their work without giving them due compensation that they request (whether that is monetary, if they wish, or by respecting the terms of their CC license, if they choose that option), then you are disrespecting artists and you are disrespecting yourself. If you can't respect the law, fine, but you should least figure out how to develop your own sense of integrity.

So what? It happens anyway. Might as well learn to adapt.

I'll go out on a wild limb and say that telling creative people who get ripped off to "suck it up" is fucking shady.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:57 AM on December 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


"Since it is on YouTube, the artist or artist's label almost certainly posted the material for promotional purposes. Thus, I expect the artist tacitly granted permission."

Contact your accountant immediately, I have a once in a lifetime deal on a bridge that I think you'll be interested in.
posted by mullingitover at 3:02 AM on December 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


Contact your accountant immediately, I have a once in a lifetime deal on a bridge that I think you'll be interested in.

I very seriously doubt that any living musician with a contract and a lawyer has created a music video that he or she did not already grant tacit approval (contractual or otherwise) for its creation. A real-life counterexample would be so bizarre as to be a genuinely welcome surprise.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:06 AM on December 13, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: Did it contain music? != music video
posted by Skorgu at 3:09 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Did it contain music? != music video

Lending a CD != bittorrent
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:10 AM on December 13, 2009


You made a very specific statement that appeared to say that all music on youtube was artist-created music videos. Please confine your ire to someone actually arguing with you.
posted by Skorgu at 3:12 AM on December 13, 2009


You made a very specific statement that appeared to say that all music on youtube was artist-created music videos.

I think you may need to re-read. Here's what I wrote:

"Since it is on YouTube, the artist or artist's label almost certainly posted the material for promotional purposes"

which is in response to Ritchie's claims about posts I may have created (if they contained YT links). In other words, it's about the links I would put into a post, not about every music post on YouTube. Sorry if that was not clear enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:18 AM on December 13, 2009


... telling creative people who get ripped off to "suck it up" is fucking shady.

It is fucking shady. But striking a pose that suggests the moral question is the be-all and end-all of this particular argument is delusional.
posted by Ritchie at 3:19 AM on December 13, 2009


Wow. A lot of crappy, self-serving arguments.

Except it is not stealing. Why don't you call it by its proper name: copyright infringement? Why this reluctance to call it what it is? Why this compulsion to keep calling it something different? That's a sign of a weak position - like the fashion of calling some mundane transgression "terrorism". It's simplest to call it by its name. If it fits, why resort to some other incorrect names?

What's stealing? Embezzlement is stealing. Grand larceny is stealing. Grand theft auto is stealing. Stealing is "to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right." This may blow your mind, VikingSword, but any time you take something which is not legally yours to take, it's stealing - even if it has additional names! It's really you who's hiding behind labels - choosing less offensive terms for things to make your position seem more "allowable." Further proof of this is the really egregious comparison of copyright infringement to the protest of laws that prevented equal right for all people:

Civil rights were obtained by doing illegal things - breaking the exiting laws.

Most of the existing laws which civil rights activists fought and/or ignored ran counter to the US constitution - the highest law in the land. So the reality is that laws which allowed for segregation and mistreatment of minorities were always, essentially, against the law. That situation (more or less) was corrected, not changed. And there's a fundamental difference between laws which serve to actually oppress people, and a law whose purpose - however wonky - is to protect the rights of property holders. That's just a hideously egomaniacal comparison to make . . . your rights aren't oppressed simply because it's illegal for you to scam whatever you want from illegal online sites, although I must admit I get a laugh from the mental image of a bunch of computer geeks gathering with banners and singing "We Shall Overcome" about the fact that the closure of their favorite bittorrent site is closed down and they can't conveniently download the new Star Trek film.

And as to being victimless - can you prove that bittorrententing victimizes an artist? There seem to be reports claiming the opposite. This is an assertion that needs to be proven. Otherwise, it's more baseless rhetoric.

If I'm an artist who does not want my work freely disseminated, I am victimized when a bittorrent site allows dissemination of my work. There's no need to prove anything like loss of income. My work is mine, at least for some time, and it should be protected from free distribution, regardless of what some may perceive as "exposure" benefit. And regardless of whether or not the illegal downloader has bought a lot of other crap with his or her money. Those are red herring arguments and have nothing to do with anything - actually, they're what's "baseless rhetoric." You're essentially arguing that if someone has a big mansion with many bedrooms and possesses tons of money that you should be allowed to move into one of those rooms for free - because it won't hurt him (hell, you might even buy him dinner now and then), and in fact he will benefit from publicity of your free stay . . . everyone will think he's a really swell guy for letting you stay there! Maybe the mansion owner doesn't give a damn what people think, and maybe he doesn't want the exposure.

Fact is, copyright laws in this country are dysfunctional. We need a sensible overhaul that protects both the artist and is of benefit to the society at large - which was the whole point of copyright laws in the first place. As is, it's not working right now.

I wholeheartedly agree. Big corporate interests like Disney have stretched things way too far, and this has a stagnating effect on many forms of expression. And it was done for reasons of greed. Periods of allowable copyright should be much shorter. But again, this is a red herring argument, because most of what's illegally downloaded isn't in the realm of 1939 Mickey Mouse cartoons, but rather recent material that would be under copyright even if the copyright periods were 20% as long as the currently are. This argument is a poor justification for probably 95% of what's illegally downloaded.

I can't be bothered going through posting histories to check, but: ever linked to anything on YouTube? Did it contain music? Was that music covered by copyright? Did you pay the artist? If not, was the artist's permission sought? If not, was it fair use? Do you think the artist would agree? Can you say for certain you haven't infringed at some point? Can you say for certain you won't do so in the future?

Unlike bittorrent sites, YouTube has some remedies for parties who don't want to see their works posted. They're not perfect, but they're improving. Some record labels don't mind if works they control get posted on YouTube. Others do, and there have been (and still are) certain bands and labels whose work you can't find there. Additionally, the quality of things there is much lower than at bittorrent sites, so it's not generally perceived as that big a threat to sales.

lets also not forget that many studies have found that file sharers spend more on music on average than those that never launch a torrent program.

That doesn't really mean much. I know people who haven't bought (or downloaded or copied) any music in more than a decade - people who never buy anything are unlikely to ever launch a torrent program. People who quote this sort of thing seem to imply that file sharing equals in increase in music purchasing, but this probably isn't true for most people. There are plenty who buy 4 CDs a year and illegally download another 500, but comparing them to your grandmother who doesn't buy CDs or own a computer at all is just pointless. The real question is, does someone who illegally downloads a lot of music buy more music than they would otherwise. Not much evidence of that.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:20 AM on December 13, 2009 [36 favorites]


You're making a leap which I don't follow from "links to YT" to "music videos on YT". There are videos on YT that contain music that are not "music videos", are you simply saying that you wouldn't link to those?
posted by Skorgu at 3:21 AM on December 13, 2009


What's delusional is trying to have your cake and eat it too. You argue for a different system that still rewards artists, while you continue to argue for ripping them off at the same time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:21 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know this is a bit of a derail, but can we at least agree that shaking down buskers for royalties is taking the whole business of IP a little too far?

Also, seeing as everyone is taking this as an opportunity to rehash old arguments, I'm going to follow suit. Even if we take as a given that copyright infringement is wrong, and also that it is killing the music industry, how can governments realistically expect to stop it given present technology? I don't really see that being accomplished without the kind of control over and surveillance of communications characteristic of a police state.

If concern for artists is the genuine motivating factor here, why aren't more people calling for greater public funding for the arts? What if America took 10% of the pentagon's budget and instead dumped it into the NEA? If preserving the great font of creativity that is American culture is so important, why can't the government provide assistance? I would hope that the average American voter identifies more with America's cultural and artistic industries than the makers of killing machines.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:26 AM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


You're making a leap which I don't follow

I don't believe I am making any leap. I suggest you re-read Ritchie's questions and my reasonably clear answers to them. If I made a post that contained YT links — or any links, at all, YT or otherwise — I wouldn't post to what would be obvious to me to be non-artist-sanctioned material. That said, YouTube regularly takes down material reported to infringe on an artist's rights, so even if I had found and had posted a link to such a video, it would in all likelihood have become a dead link by now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:27 AM on December 13, 2009


Ah, so yes you were saying that you wouldn't link to such. I didn't find that clear at all, thank you for explaining.
posted by Skorgu at 3:30 AM on December 13, 2009


DX: Stealing is "to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right."

I thought we were talking about government protected monopolies on reproduction of works, not property. If someone's breaking into the homes of artists and taking their stuff, I'm against that.
posted by mullingitover at 3:31 AM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


home taping is killing music!
posted by nadawi at 3:39 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


The real question is, does someone who illegally downloads a lot of music buy more music than they would otherwise.

That's not the real question. The real question is: has downloading resulted in decreased music sales overall? No-one knows. What is clear is that every year there are more people downloading more songs, and at the same time more money from music sales. Correlation? Causation? I won't presume to interpret.

You argue for a different system that still rewards artists, while you continue to argue for ripping them off at the same time.

Not arguing for either. Simply pointing out what is, in fact, taking place, and making a prediction that this trend will continue.

I'm not endorsing one system as being morally better than the other anymore than I'd say that homo sapiens is a better creature than it's ancestors, I'm simply saying that there are numerous counterexamples that constitute evidence against claims that artists cannot make a living from their art where widespread downloading exists, and that these counterexamples are multiplying. Taking that as a starting point, I am suggesting that in 10 or so years these counterexamples will be the norm.
posted by Ritchie at 3:41 AM on December 13, 2009


Not arguing for either.

The truth is, if you gave a shit about the artists you would be telling everyone within earshot, everyone who would listen, that there are ways (ways, not just a way) to make money from freely downloaded music.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:44 AM on December 13, 2009


I haven't spent much time on bittorrent tracker sitesl but most of the open source software I download is via bittorrent. I agree with not offering breathless support to tracker sites focussed mostly on infringing copyrights of recent works, but I fully support linking to such sites in any fpp on the subject that is not worded as an endorsement. I trust the membership of mefi to generally behave morally, and also trust that they could find the link in a minute if motivated. The darkside of the Internet is not exactly hard to find.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:45 AM on December 13, 2009


Who are these "artists" everyone's talking about? Every time I check out torrent sites all I see is entertainment.

THAT'S RIGHT I SAID IT
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:57 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're essentially arguing that if someone has a big mansion with many bedrooms and possesses tons of money that you should be allowed to move into one of those rooms for free
I would support this.
posted by Abiezer at 3:59 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


If someone's breaking into the homes of artists and taking their stuff, I'm against that.

More stuff for me!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:02 AM on December 13, 2009


Dee Xtrovert: Periods of allowable copyright should be much shorter. But again, this is a red herring argument, because most of what's illegally downloaded isn't in the realm of 1939 Mickey Mouse cartoons, but rather recent material that would be under copyright even if the copyright periods were 20% as long as the currently are.

I'm glad to see that you have compiled summary data on the downloading habits of The Internet. Please share them at your earliest convenience.

Regardless of the validity of your specific numerical claims, this is an argument I have wanted to put forward for a while. The fact that no one is clamoring to download all this old, crusty shit means that the copyright extensions set up to "protect" it weren't worth the effort and long-lasting effects they have.
posted by fake at 4:06 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


So far the conversation has centered on how peachy keen widespread piracy is for the music industry. Can someone explain, and really I'd like to hear, how someone, like me, who works many hours a week coding video games that people derive great joy from playing, and also enjoys having food and a place to sleep indoors (I suppose this makes me "rent-seeking" in the sense that I seek money with which to pay my rent,) can benefit from this "post-infocornocopiatic society"?
posted by blenderfish at 4:10 AM on December 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Well it's true that I do endorse that artists should be able to make a living, and therefore one should prefer effective methods of making that happen over ineffective methods. So you got me, sort of? I'm mostly definitely arguing in favor of evidence-based approaches, as opposed to morality-based. I was trying to illustrate a disconnect between your implied goals (we both agree that Music is Good, right?) and the ability of your approach to deliver on those goals.
posted by Ritchie at 4:10 AM on December 13, 2009


My copy of uTorrent bears the inscription "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS" in a tasteful san-serif font.

When I turn it over and read the finely printed instructions densely engraved it says many things, but a relevant point is this: Whenever in doubt about a creator's will or intention about file sharing - just ask. Most musicians that aren't selling out arenas are highly approachable, and even many that are selling out arenas are also approachable. Many respond to the issue of file sharing pragmatically - along the lines of "Wow, you have all my albums? That's great!" or "People are still listening to that?" or even "Hey! I'm touring! Come see my show and buy a t-shirt!

If the artist or content creator in question responds negatively, well, it's highly likely you can delete them from your drive and never download them again because they probably suck anyway.

Music should not be owned. Media can be owned, substrates can be owned, but owning music is an abomination to any sane individual. Owning the rights to music is a terrible, recent invention. For centuries and eons artists, performers, musicians and songwriters stalked the land and sang for their supper - or composed for commission. But these same creators covered and borrowed other songs, often re-purposing or re-writing them with abandon.


You can't steal music any more than you can steal a wink, an earnest compliment or a rainbow. It floats freely on the vibrating air. You pick it up and whistle a catchy hook after it's hooked you. Music comes from your jangling teeth when you walk, the clatter of putting the kettle on for a cup of tea or the wobbling thump of a pair of wet sneakers in the dryer. Music comes from the drip of a faucet on a pan, from the cycles of your breath and the remembrance of the beat of your mother's heart in the womb.

Music has and will always be free. People forget that music is never the same thing twice. People forget that "records" or "cds" aren't even actually music. The map is not the territory. A CD isn't music. A CD is actually just a bunch of pits and grooves on a cheap plastic disk. It's not even an approximation of music until you pair it with a CD player and some headphones and speakers.

And even then it's not music until long after it reaches your ears and your brain does magical things with it, because hearing is not actually listening.

Do you pay your favorite artists extra because you're listening to their CD more than average?

How would you feel if you had to pay more every time you listened to an album you've already bought multiple times on several different media?


All that being said: Out of the many rules of art and creation is that appropriation is the very first rule. Without free appropriation we have nothing. Art finally becomes merely "content" and we're through, doomed to spend the remainder of our dwindling civilization wallowing in nostalgia, starving for innovation, a juxtaposition - any new idea at all.


Fuck the laws. I am a (very small) content creator. I've met very few content creators that don't agree with the above. My anecdotes are mine and mine alone, but for fuck's sake, quit legislating or commodifying art. It was a bad idea when Edison was selling wax cylinders. It's an even worse idea now that we have magical tubes to spread it on merit alone all around the world for fractions of pennies.

Music will be free. There's nothing you can do about it. You might as well try to stop the moon from rising or the sun from setting.

People are still having sex.
posted by loquacious at 4:10 AM on December 13, 2009 [36 favorites]


A simple, related argument is:

Most people are not downloading out-of-copyright works, or works created more than say, 30 years ago. Since most of the works being downloaded are relatively recent, the rights holders are most likely large media corporations, labels, publishers, etc. Not artists.

We all know that publishers, labels, etc fuck artists as much as they can. We all know that artists, authors, etc, get 50 cent royalty checks in the mail while the recording industry cashes in.

Thus, the first-line thieves are the labels, publishers, and other middle-men who rape a work for profit (and by extension, the creator).

Crying "THEFT" at a downloader misses this first-line theft entirely. I'm looking at you, Blazecock Pileon. If a downloader "robs" the artist of a penny through a publisher proxy, I don't feel it's quite as egregious as a publisher selling a thousand copies and delivering a 50 cent royalty check.
posted by fake at 4:11 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fact that no one is clamoring to download all this old, crusty shit means that the copyright extensions set up to "protect" it weren't worth the effort and long-lasting effects they have.

Disney doesn't want people to do to them what they did to Robert Louis Stevenson (among many many others.) Disney is essentially wholly based on what you call "old crusty shit."
posted by blenderfish at 4:12 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yes, Disney made much of their empire on folk tales, which were in the public domain, more or less. The problem is that they don't allow any of their own product to enter the same commons, even though it was derived from the public domain. By claiming that material, previously public, and actively encapsulating new material, they suck the oxygen out of the room.
posted by fake at 4:15 AM on December 13, 2009


So you got me, sort of?

More like I'm pointing out that you're advocating that artists should somehow get paid by giving away their work for free, whether they want to or not. Not only does this defy economic sense, but it seems to plainly violate their autonomy, which shocks me since you seem to argue that you're the only one in this conversation who "gives a shit" about artists.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:15 AM on December 13, 2009


echo, echo
posted by fake at 4:15 AM on December 13, 2009


I'm looking at you, Blazecock Pileon

?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:16 AM on December 13, 2009


But what you're missing, BP, is that publishers don't much help artists get paid for their work, either. I can pull up Steve Albini or a huge load of other people discussing the sick way this works if you want, but I know I've seen you in those discussions.

Placing the onus of artist pay strictly on downloaders is deliberately ignoring the way the entire system works. The most the downloader can deprive the artist, in most cases, is some fraction of a royalty check.
posted by fake at 4:17 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This whole RIAA thing isn't working
posted by loquacious at 4:17 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whereas a publisher or music label can deprive them of payment entirely, through their bizarre "cash advances" and elaborate accounting schemes.
posted by fake at 4:18 AM on December 13, 2009


Placing the onus of artist pay strictly on downloaders is deliberately ignoring the way the entire system works. The most the downloader can deprive the artist, in most cases, is some fraction of a royalty check.

That's not your decision to make. There's no law that says they had to sign with a label. They could have just stayed unsigned and uploaded their music to the Internet, if that's what they wanted. The fact that they signed with a label was them making the choice that, yeah, they'd be a part of the system if it meant they had a chance of getting paid. _MAYBE_ you could make that argument for someone who signed their most recent contract before people shared music on the internet. But I doubt that's the common case.

Everyone along the line takes a cut. Pretty much everything works that way. I can't walk into a grocery store and say "well, I'm going to take this tomato, because only a fraction of the price would actually make it to the farmer." Or even "I'll take this tomato, and mail the farmer a nickel."
posted by blenderfish at 4:25 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


But what you're missing, BP, is that publishers don't much help artists get paid for their work, either.

Replacing one parasite with another doesn't seem like much of a solution. Nor is the vaporware that torrent proponents are advocating much better, with vague and nondescript promises of equitable compensation for artists, while the audience gets its music for free.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:26 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's not your decision to make.

I'm not making any decisions, man. Just pointing out that the levels of "thievery" here are more than one layer thick, something that has been ignored in this discussion so far.

They could have just stayed unsigned and uploaded their music to the Internet.

That's what I did.

"I'll take this tomato, and mail the farmer a nickel."

Point is, cut the middleman out and you can give her a dollar at the farmer's market. Good luck doing that otherwise.

Replacing one parasite with another doesn't seem like much of a solution

One distributor costs money and your copyrights and does not guarantee distribution or payment, the other costs effectively nothing and guarantees distribution but not payment.
posted by fake at 4:33 AM on December 13, 2009


More like I'm pointing out that you're advocating that artists should somehow get paid by giving away their work for free, whether they want to or not.

Again, not 'should', do get paid. Those that have a sensible business plan that takes into account that people will download and share music, anyway.

Not only does this defy economic sense, but it seems to plainly violate their autonomy, which shocks me since you seem to argue that you're the only one in this conversation who "gives a shit" about artists.

It makes perfect economic sense. There are examples of free giveaways everywhere, not just in the creative industries (where the ad-supported model was only recently toppled). And for the record, I know you care about artists. I just happen to think you like scolding people even more.
posted by Ritchie at 4:36 AM on December 13, 2009


> The fact that no one is clamoring to download all this old, crusty shit means that the copyright extensions set up to "protect" it weren't worth the effort and long-lasting effects they have.

The length of copyright protection is a legitimate subject of debate-- of course, if creative works are only temporarily protected, technology is suddenly going to look like a comparatively weaker place to invest than, something tangible and finite, like land or oil or drinking water... which in turn might make for some very fierce resource wars.

The emotional value of art, particularly music, tends to be contextually contingent. Fifty years from now, almost all the Hip Happenin' Finger-Poppin' Daddy-O stuff of the year 2009 is going to be viewed as old, crusty shit. Why? Largely because listeners of the future won't have had that music swirling around them as they first partied with friends, first got wasted, first fell in love, first got laid, first got dumped, first experienced make-up sex... etc., etc.

So, sure, it'll all fall out of favor... but artists should have their work protected, while they are still alive and while their presumed customers are still alive.

At any rate, I'm curious how opinions on this matter vary by age; I assume that Struggling Students generally favor free stuff, but as respondents age and become more prosperous (and/or have stuff people would like to steal), the prospect of creative work becoming uncontrollably distributed seems less and less attractive.
posted by darth_tedious at 4:36 AM on December 13, 2009


Ah, finally this debate can be resolved once and for all.
posted by cmonkey at 4:40 AM on December 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


Point is, cut the middleman out and you can give her a dollar at the farmer's market

bittorent != farmer's market

At least, no one uses a torrent client that collects money and pays artists by the download.

One distributor costs money and your copyrights and does not guarantee distribution or payment

Get a lawyer before you sign a record contract, kids. Hell, get a lawyer before you sign any kind of contract. At least with a contract you have a reasonable chance of getting some kind of distribution and payment arrangement.

the other costs effectively nothing and guarantees distribution but not payment

This other method costs the artist her copyrights, and there's no guarantee of distribution when p2p networks are blocked or disassembled. Ultimately, there's little to no hope of the artist being paid for her work with p2p sharing. It is the worse of the two options, because the artist loses more.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:41 AM on December 13, 2009


My copy of uTorrent bears the inscription "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS" in a tasteful san-serif font.

I see that tossing the word "Fascist" around with no clue in hell what it means is a habit not confined to Right Wing Tea-Baggers. Explain to me how someone who says "Hey, I spent two years writing this book, and I was hoping you could give me twenty bucks in exchange for reading it" is a fascist. That's effing retarded.

If the artist or content creator in question responds negatively, well, it's highly likely you can delete them from your drive and never download them again because they probably suck anyway.

Maybe works for hip indie bands. Doesn't work for acts with widespread appeal, or multimillion dollar movies, or operating systems. "Like, man, if Microsoft doesn't want people to use Excel for free, it probably sucks anyway." Anyway, if people download something, it de facto doesnt "suck" since obviously they have expended effort to obtain it.

A CD is actually just a bunch of pits and grooves on a cheap plastic disk.

Your bank account balance is a bunch of magnetic polarities on a fairly cheap metal disk, but I think it probably possesses a bit more meaning than that.

How would you feel if you had to pay more every time you listened to an album you've already bought multiple times on several different media?

Format shifting. I believe this is fair use. I also believe that if less people stole stuff, we wouldn't have to have draconian DRM and DMCA laws that make it impossible or difficult to do this.

Fuck the laws. I am a (very small) content creator.
"Small" being code for "I don't rely on it for income," or, less charitably (and I'm not necessarily saying this applies to you in particular) "my work isn't high quality enough to pay for." Some people are in a different boat.

quit legislating or commodifying art. It was a bad idea when Edison was selling wax cylinders. It's an even worse idea now that we have magical tubes to spread it on merit alone all around the world for fractions of pennies.

Legislation in this case is attempting to protect art and entertainment medias' existence. And the "it's easy so it should be legal" argument doesn't seem to generally pan out.
posted by blenderfish at 4:41 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


At any rate, I'm curious how opinions on this matter vary by age;

It is more likely that opinions are explained by having grown up with easily copyable data and personal computers, versus wax rolls and women's suffrage disputes.

Digital data are one of the first things humanity has ever faced that are so inherently un-scarce. I'm not surprised that people are having a hard time with it. Hell, the general public has had only 10-20 years of dealing with it. The corporations, publishers, and organizations trying to make it like the old, physical products are much older than that.
posted by fake at 4:43 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Point is, cut the middleman out and you can give her a dollar at the farmer's market

bittorent != farmer's market


I never mentioned bittorrent, mister straw-man. Digital distribution has many, many more possibilities than Demonoid. NIN had some best-of-class examples recently. While their approach won't work for everyone, it's a clear vision of a distribution model without middlemen.
posted by fake at 4:46 AM on December 13, 2009


It perhaps bears some mention that the Trent Reznors and Radioheads of the music world started out on major labels. They were able to apply the direct model because they had the financial independence to do so. It's not obvious the direct-to-listener model would work for lesser-known acts, when peer sharing offers an immediately, free alternative. So, again, we're back to most distribution models (whether through major labels or through p2p) relying on parasitic behavior.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:52 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


NIN had some best-of-class examples recently.

You mean that thing that Trent Reznor did once on a lark, right after making millions of dollars as a widely successful act, but right before quitting to persue other interests? That doesn't quite sound like a paragon of sustainability to me.

Digital data are one of the first things humanity has ever faced that are so inherently un-scarce. I'm not surprised that people are having a hard time with it. Hell, the general public has had only 10-20 years of dealing with it. The corporations, publishers, and organizations trying to make it like the old, physical products are much older than that.

You realize that people toil, often for literally hundreds or thousands, of man years to create these things, right? People go to school to create these things? People give up jobs they could be taking in other fields for these things? Peoples' marriages fall apart because they spend too many hours a week working on these things? Some people try to make these things and fail, and end up broke, depressed, or even committing suicide?

Un-scarce my ass.
posted by blenderfish at 4:55 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain, and really I'd like to hear, how someone, like me, [...] can benefit from this "post-infocornocopiatic society"?

You didn't see these FPPs? (1) (2)

Just one example to get you started. I'm sure there are others if you look.
posted by Ritchie at 4:56 AM on December 13, 2009


You didn't see these FPPs? (1) (2)

Okay, so, "stop making high-end games that try to rival movies in terms of graphical appeal and cinematic immersiveness, and instead start working on my own '2D Boy' or 'World of Goo'." Gotcha. What a bright, and presumably 2D and Gooey, future we have ahead of us.
posted by blenderfish at 5:01 AM on December 13, 2009


I feel somewhat responsible since I was the first to mention acquiring Demonoid invitations as a joke. I saw the front page of Demonoid.com, saw that it was 'invitation only' and thought "How many Google Wave invites (which have become the new century's equivalent of AOL disks) equal one Demonoid invite? 10? 100? Or that number I put in there with a hundred zeroes... a googol..." GET THE JOKE?

That joke netted me a Demonoid invitation via MeFiMail and a couple more offers. I was surprised and amused. Will I use it? Will I use it illegally? Good questions.

I also made a post today of a YouTube of a TV special, uploaded from an old 12-inchvideo disk complete with the 22-second copyright warning. No way that was legal, and it made me think twice and three times about posting it, but I did anyway. I'm a bad boy. And Google's not any better for hosting it, and counting on copyright law's requirement for them to be notified by the copyright holder before taking it down to keep a lot of great content they shouldn't be providing on YT.

The problem here is a very old one. Any kind of copying of copyrighted material runs afoul of the law. But there are coin-operated copiers in every public library, and the money earned from them do NOT go directly to the authors and publishers of the specific works copied. Hmmm.

And decades ago, record companies made the stupidest deal ever, giving away records to radio stations to play, believing that hearing the music for free all the time was the best way to entice people to buy the music. ASCAP and BMI made sure the composers were compensated for every time they were played, but the performers got NOTHING. It did help sell, in some categories more than others, but its value has diminished over time, while planting in 2-3 generations of music consumers that music is basically free. When I worked for a radio station in the 70s, I never bought records, I brought home ones labeled "FOR PROMOTION ONLY NOT FOR SALE". And there was a legendary record store in L.A. that used to have a legendary $1 CD sale once a month, and easily 80% of what they sold was labeled "FOR PROMOTION ONLY NOT FOR SALE". The only thing standing in the way of truly massive copyright violation was the fact that copying wasn't that easy, but it kept getting easier, until mp3 digital formats and bittorrent made it almost effortless.

And if other media are suffering, in spite of doing a better job protecting their copyright than the music biz did, they should look at the record companies as virtually the originators of the "free media" mentality.

But there are two big BIG reasons why Copyright Infringement is NOT stealing, even if it is criminal (and it is).

(1) When you steal physical property, you totally deprive the legal owner of it, but when you take 'intellectual property', the owner still has it, you only reduce its value to its creator and that value never reaches zero. Stealing a book or a record is not the same as copying it. Period.

(2) Then there is the matter of copyright expiration and Public Domain. Intellectual Property was never intended to last forever (despite the recent stretching of the copyright time). Have you ever seen a car that was legal to go joyriding in because it was over X years old? TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

And please don't forget: the Rights Holder is NOT the same as the Creator. It's usually whoever paid the Creator (most often buying the rights, but also frequently paying an advance royalty that never gets paid off) and paid for the mass production and distribution of the media vessels the content is contained in. It's not right (or often legal) to deprive these businesses of their Return On Investment, but it is usually NOT stealing directly from the Artist/Creator.

It's a complicated mess, but saying "Copyright Infringement Is Theft" is as dishonest as... well, Copyright Infringement.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:02 AM on December 13, 2009 [18 favorites]


BP: It's not obvious the direct-to-listener model would work for lesser-known acts

Yep, I agree. However, the Internet is great at recommending things, so I'm not too worried.

BF: That doesn't quite sound like a paragon of sustainability to me.

I said it wouldn't work for everyone, are you reading my comments?

You realize that people toil, often for literally hundreds or thousands, of man years to create these things, right?

I linked my album above. Took me five long years to make. Costs $10 a year to distribute, and it's been downloaded 16,000 times as of today. Stop confusing production with distribution, and don't be so emotional.
posted by fake at 5:04 AM on December 13, 2009


It's not obvious the direct-to-listener model would work for lesser-known acts, when peer sharing offers an immediately, free alternative.

Does Corey Smith count? That guy's so indie he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. And free music was part of that. Not the sole part, but definitely included in his overall plan.
posted by Ritchie at 5:04 AM on December 13, 2009


Can someone explain, and really I'd like to hear, how someone, like me, who works many hours a week coding video games that people derive great joy from playing, and also enjoys having food and a place to sleep indoors (I suppose this makes me "rent-seeking" in the sense that I seek money with which to pay my rent,) can benefit from this "post-infocornocopiatic society"?

In case you hadn't noticed, you're part of the fastest growing entertainment industry, and sales are outpacing the film industry's blockbusters as of this year. Your industry is rolling in billions in cash like never before. Seriously. It's all the business world can talk about.

Stop whining.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:10 AM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


...vague and nondescript promises of equitable compensation for artists, while the audience gets its music for free.

You just described the basis of Advertising-Based Media, which we all grew up on with broadcast radio and television.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:10 AM on December 13, 2009


Okay, so, "stop making high-end games that try to rival movies in terms of graphical appeal and cinematic immersiveness, and instead start working on my own '2D Boy' or 'World of Goo'." Gotcha. What a bright, and presumably 2D and Gooey, future we have ahead of us.

Actually, this is the main reason these conversations get tiresome. If I point out an example of a small indie outfit that makes it, people will respond that it wouldn't work for a large outfit. If a well-established enterprise manages it, people claim it can't possibly apply to indie producers who are just starting out. If I show both examples, people raise the issue of artist autonomy. I'm left wondering exactly what would constitute acceptable evidence in their eyes. These goalposts, you keep moving them.
posted by Ritchie at 5:14 AM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


You just described the basis of Advertising-Based Media, which we all grew up on with broadcast radio and television.

Again, bittorrent does no advertising, collects no ad revenue, and has nothing to recompense creative people with.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:17 AM on December 13, 2009


Okay, so, "stop making high-end games that try to rival movies in terms of graphical appeal and cinematic immersiveness, and instead start working on my own '2D Boy' or 'World of Goo'."

Please do! Games that try to be movies usually suck hard. Bioshock would have been a great film but was a boring slog gameplay wise. Cutscenes and DX10 effects do not a fun game make.

May I recommend that you make a new 4x space game? There hasn't been a good one since MOO2.
posted by bunnytricks at 5:20 AM on December 13, 2009


My age-old Demonoid account still exists in good standing, so I have invites available for the beanplaters in here.

Send me a memail, I'll comment again when I run out.
posted by blasdelf at 5:21 AM on December 13, 2009


These goalposts, you keep moving them.

Likewise.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:22 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I also believe that if less people stole stuff, we wouldn't have to have draconian DRM and DMCA laws that make it impossible or difficult to do this.

Problem is, the genie is out of the bottle. You might as well say people shouldn't smoke pot. Maybe you think they shouldn't. Even so, they will. Draconian DRM and legislation isn't really the right direction, IMO. I'm no teenager, believe me, and I made my (meager) money in the music business for many years. I pay for everything. Even so, railing against the people who are filesharing is not productive and may even be counterproductive. Do what you will, but I don't think anything is going to go the direction you want. Why not try to make it work the way it is?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:22 AM on December 13, 2009


I linked my album above. Took me five long years to make.

So, digital data _is_ scarce? Which is the opposite of what you were saying earlier. Unless you were saying that pressed CDs (or the capacity to press CDs) aren't scarce, in which case you're correct.

And, I'm glad you have a system that works for you, but assuming you are giving your work away for free/super cheap on the internet, there are two possibilities. One is that it is not worth paying for. The other is that it is worth paying for, and what you are doing is a loss leader to promote your band's music, or live performances. Which is fine, but this is a choice you should be entitled to make.

Stop confusing production with distribution, and don't be so emotional.

I'm not sure what that means. Production is the thing people often risk/sacrifice a large part of their money/lives to do, and distribution is the thing that compensates them. Unless, of course, people bittorrent their work, and they don't get compensated, and they lose their investment/royalties/job/house/car. This prospect of this sort of thing tends to make people a bit upset. And I understand this doesn't resonate with the "I wrote a flash game/a couple songs once in my off hours, I don't see the big deal, I would have _loved_ people to distribute it" crowd, who can't possibly see why someone would get emotional about a game/album they worked on, or what they had given up to do so.
posted by blenderfish at 5:25 AM on December 13, 2009


(Thank you to the generous folks who sent me invites! I've used 1 & sent the others back)
posted by zarah at 5:28 AM on December 13, 2009


Even so, railing against the people who are filesharing is not productive and may even be counterproductive.

I think it's less "railing against you for filesharing" and more "reminding you that you're ripping off creative people", which is even more counterproductive in the long run, if you're trying to get rid of DRM. That's just me, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:32 AM on December 13, 2009


So, digital data _is_ scarce?

If you, a programmer, continue to argue that it is not inherently easy to copy and distribute bits, I will argue that you do not understand how computers work, which is clearly not the case.
posted by fake at 5:32 AM on December 13, 2009


Likewise.

You've never offered anything in the way of evidence or example, so I don't see what you have to complain about. In fact, you've never even claimed there was any evidence to support your arguments. It's like you have supreme confidence in your viewpoint as having been derived from Holy Writ. I wish I had one-tenth your certainty. At least I'm trying.

And now, it's bedtime, so please excuse my failure to participate further. Thanks to everyone who argued with me, and to those who agreed, and to those who (wisely) said nothing and just lurked. Usually I'm in the third group.
posted by Ritchie at 5:35 AM on December 13, 2009


this is a choice you should be entitled to make

Realistically, how much do you think you can control distribution? I agree in principle, but I am not sure how we get to the point you would want without creating locked distribution channels. I think we may be going in that direction anyway, with the device connected to the Internet gradually transforming from an open-platform computer into an entertainment appliance with Industry ApprovedTM content, which is tied to a unique ID, tied to your bank account. In which case I get my music elsewhere, like before, like now, because I'm rarely interested enough in the big label stuff to be buying through those channels anyway.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:38 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you, a programmer, continue to argue that it is not inherently easy to copy and distribute bits

Why be dishonest in this way? Blenderfish was clearly pointing out that scarcity arises from the effort required to create novel works, and that you acknowledged that your music "bits" had to be arranged over a time period of five years before they could be copied and distributed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:40 AM on December 13, 2009


Please do! Games that try to be movies usually suck hard.

Okay. Maybe _you_ think Bioshock sucked, but millions of people who paid for it, as well as millions who did not pay for it (see, I didn't say "steal" because, technically they didn't deprive anyone else of their copy, as if that mattered in the least,) do not with your assessment. And a lot of people would be sad if games like it ceased to exist.

(Not that I'm saying the situation is that dire... luckily enough people are ethical [or I guess 'gullible' by some peoples' reckoning] to pay for these games that they still get made.)

You might as well say people shouldn't smoke pot

I might as well say people shouldn't shoplift or litter. Which, of course they will anyway. But, of course, they shouldn't. I do not think the onus is upon the grocier to come up with a system which "works" with shoplifting. Obviously, they have to be pragmatic, but again, the "it's easy so it should be legal" argument just doesn't fly.

Even so, railing against the people who are filesharing is not productive and may even be counterproductive

Not so much railing, as at least hoping that people would at least feel slightly bad about what they're doing instead of blithely rationalizing the guilt away. I realize people are going to pirate crap, and it doesn't make them the devil, but at least we can maybe put some of these ridiculous hand-wavey rationalizations to rest. (And can we maybe take a rest from the whole "it is/isn't 'stealing'" semantic derail ?) If they're forced to actually think about things, just maybe people will, when they honestly can, pay for some of the works that make their lives so much more enjoyable.
posted by blenderfish at 5:42 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's less "railing against you for filesharing" and more "reminding you that you're ripping off creative people", which is even more counterproductive in the long run, if you're trying to get rid of DRM. That's just me, though.

Ah, OK, if that's how you want to put it, how's that working?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:43 AM on December 13, 2009


I might as well say people shouldn't shoplift or litter. Which, of course they will anyway. But, of course, they shouldn't. I do not think the onus is upon the grocier to come up with a system which "works" with shoplifting. Obviously, they have to be pragmatic, but again, the "it's easy so it should be legal" argument just doesn't fly.

The content distribution industries have gradually taken the idea of copyright to an extreme in the law, and they were milking it for years. The backlash is inevitable. Of course people want to support artists, and they still do, in case you hadn't noticed. You're fighting the wrong battle. It's not that filesharing is morally correct. It's that if nobody cares about the law, then the law is an ass.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:46 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


You've never offered anything in the way of evidence or example

Actually, I mentioned Radiohead and why it was probably not a representative example of a working business model for nearly all other (lesser known) artists, which seems to be supported by how literally few examples there are of self-promoting musicians.

You came into this thread with several accusations of bad faith directed at me, none of which were substantiated with any proof whatsoever ("I couldn't be bothered to look at your posting history") so you really have no cause to throw insults.

Usually I'm in the third group.

My advice would be to keep lurking.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:48 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]



Why be dishonest in this way? Blenderfish was clearly pointing out that scarcity arises from the effort required to create novel works,

Dishonest? Hardly.

When I said scarcity above, I meant scarcity in the sense of tomatoes, gold, etc. As it is normally used, and referring to distribution. When you want a digital copy of something, it is easy to make as many copies as necessary. It is hard to make as many tomatoes as is necessary to meet demand. Digital data is inherently un-scarce and easy to distribute. This is obvious, and evident in the fact that your comments appear on this site and on my screen.

I agree that creating works that people will pay for (or even that people will like at all) takes some work. There is clearly value in labor. I agree that labor creates value, but laboring to create digital data does not create scarcity. We can make as many copies as we like. Both you and blenderfish acknowledge the copy-ability of digital data by acknowledging piracy, which is making copies of said data.

The number of works that people will pay for may be limited, and you can call that "scarcity" but it's a poor use of the word because the ability to copy those works infinitely, to satisfy demand, is inherent in their medium.

And come on, my album did not need to be massaged for five years in order to be copied and distributed, it was made of digital data from day one. Every bit in it was always ready to be copied in and out of memory, across networks, etc. I worked on producing it for five years so it met my production standards. During that time I was able to distribute demo mp3s and CDRs to friends for feedback at zero cost to myself.
posted by fake at 5:51 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, OK, if that's how you want to put it, how's that working?

We still have DRM, stronger and more widespread than ever (even if a few geeks here and there can circumvent it), and torrent sites are still being shut down. Governments seem willing to work hand in hand with each other and other corporations to keep tightening the screws on the Internet. Maybe ripping people off isn't working so well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:52 AM on December 13, 2009


We still have DRM, stronger and more widespread than ever (even if a few geeks here and there can circumvent it), and torrent sites are still being shut down. Governments seem willing to work hand in hand with each other and other corporations to keep tightening the screws on the Internet. Maybe ripping people off isn't working so well.

Is it because of your complaining on Metafilter? If so, I'm impressed. That's what I was referring to.

What sort of an effect is all that you mention having on filesharing?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:56 AM on December 13, 2009


Is it because of your complaining on Metafilter? If so, I'm impressed.

Yeah, OK. I think I've seen enough of this nonsense. Thanks, anyway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:58 AM on December 13, 2009


Ah, OK, if that's how you want to put it, how's that working?

I realize that some (sadly greater than negligable) percentage of people just plain don't care what effect their actions have on others, and I also realize that many people don't care what effect their actions have on others outside maybe a couple dozen of their personal friends and family, so I suppose with those sorts of people, not too well at all. But I think there is a significant group of people who do care what effects their actions have on others, and I think, based on some of the causes people take up around here, a number of those people are members of this community. And I think at least a couple of those people have honestly never been given a reasonable, non-condescending argument as to why piracy is wrong, or have never really deeply examined the vague "you can't fight the future" "stand up against the evil corporations" or "you can't own bits" pro-piracy arguments. As I stated earlier, I hope that some number of those people will take some of the points people are making into consideration in the future. And I obviously don't have any data, but I have optimism. I think it's working okay.
posted by blenderfish at 5:59 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


And hey, maybe its fun to talk about social issues with smart, engaged people. That's working out okay, too.
posted by blenderfish at 6:02 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


A crime. Stealing. Are we clear on this? Copyright infringement is stealing and is a criminal offense.

No, copyright infringement is not ethically or legally equivalent to theft. Re-read the law. It's its own thing, and presents its own moral choices and legal consequences.

Since unauthorized copying is clearly not theft, a huge part of its popularity comes from people rejecting a clearly false equivalency to theft, which seems to be the big PR push against it. So saying that downloading a torrent or popular song is stealing is doing no favors to the artists, authors and producers who are being harmed by it.

This is one, rare instance where if the level of the debate isn't raised, you're going to lose that debate with the general public.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:03 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


GUYS, THIS ISN'T WHAT THIS META IS FOR.

It's for giving an invite.

To me.

Please? Thanks!
posted by kbanas at 6:04 AM on December 13, 2009


I realize that some (sadly greater than negligable) percentage of people just plain don't care what effect their actions have on others

Man, don't even do that. OK? You have to have a discussion in good faith or I'm not bothering with it.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:06 AM on December 13, 2009


Sorry, that wasn't directed at me. I'm tired ...
posted by krinklyfig at 6:07 AM on December 13, 2009


"you can't fight the future" "stand up against the evil corporations" or "you can't own bits" pro-piracy arguments.

Characterizing all arguments against the current distribution model as pro-piracy is disingenuous.

We agree that content creators -- programmers, musicians, artists, writers -- should be paid for their work.

It is the distribution model that we disagree on. My personal argument is that the middleman should be cut out as much as possible, to give creators the maximum benefit of these nascent technologies. Denying the copy-ability of bits just props up the old model.
posted by fake at 6:10 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The twaddle-calling really turned up the suck on this thread pretty fast, huh?
posted by fleacircus at 6:16 AM on December 13, 2009


saturnine: The begging for invites is tacky as hell, I don't know what people are thinking doing that in the blue

Seriously. You guys should try to bum invites to a site that is good.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:22 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mefi at its worst, right here.

Same old gang bullying everyone into submission.

I hope some of you get your income stolen from you by self righteous thieves dome day too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:28 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hmmm. All this talk about music and none about TV/Film. I basically use - er, I mean MY FRIEND basically uses demonoid for downloading television shows [The Wire, BBC shows, etc.], documentaries, and other assorted video treats. Whereas a CD can be produced for very little money and artists make money touring, a television show needs to generate its income through ad revenue or DVD sales. I suppose you could say that I could run out and buy The Wire box set (and in fact I've done that - er MY FRIEND has done that) but the fact is, film production budgets are often quite large. The impact of piracy certainly does hurt a certain model of filmmaking and distribution. Not that I really care. I mean, I do care, but for the wrong reasons. See, some of my friends are really successful television people, writers and editors and producers and stuff, and their lives are really great, they make lots of money and are always having fun, so driving them out of a job would work really well for me, as it would finally sort of knock them down a peg and I wouldn't be the only one living in a cold, lonely world of regret and malaise, downloading shows on a Friday night and watching March of the Penguins on my laptop at the local Barnes and Noble on a Tuesday evening.
posted by billysumday at 6:29 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


(SOME day)
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2009


After skimming the thread, I have to agree that it is a terrible thread and that the Filter would be better off without it.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2009


Since unauthorized copying is clearly not theft, a huge part of its popularity comes from people rejecting a clearly false equivalency to theft, which seems to be the big PR push against it.

I think it's "clear" in a lot of peoples' minds, but I don't know how piracy is that much different than, say, hiring a plumber, then saying "haha, screw you" when he gives you the bill. A service is provided, but compensation is withheld. Since nobody is 'deprived' of anything, is that technically "theft"? I'm not sure, but most people wouldn't do it, and almost everyone would at least claim they didn't. (Rather than giddily pop into a thread and brag about it.)

I think the real difference is the lack of intimacy--if you stiff your plumber, or you take a bike from your neighbor's yard, or even a CD from a shop, you're directly interacting with a victim. Whereas with piracy, you are only dealing with a intermediary, whom you are not wronging. The victim is far, far away, and may as well not exist. Of course, this is where the "I paint sets and when you pirate movies, you're hurting me" ads come in. Which are of course, laughable.

Obviously, the MPAA/RIAA has brought a lot of this on itself with some of its egregious business practices; maybe they're just reaping what they've sown. But, as collateral damage, the content creators end up getting doubly victimized by the MPAA and by pirates.

Yeah, my post above about sacrifices/divorces/suicides/etc. was maudlin, too, even though it's true. I really don't know what the answer is, PR-wise.
posted by blenderfish at 6:39 AM on December 13, 2009


Oh christ, this shit again? Really? I'm glad Demonoid is back, but usenet is where it's at though for home-grown DVR.

As for invites, I'm sort of wary of this.. inviters are accountable for the actions of the people they invite.
posted by cj_ at 6:41 AM on December 13, 2009


"SELF RIGHTEOUS BULLSHIT MEGA-TSUNAMI ALERT!"

True, but it turned out to be the copyright Hall Monitor self-righteous bullshit. That's actually what I thought you were talking about, but then you went crazy.

"The begging for invites is tacky as hell, I don't know what people are thinking doing that in the blue"

Remember how we thought Eternal September was finally over? It's not. Begging for invites is the new "me too." Also: demonoid? Really? Whatever for? I don't even have memberships to private torrent sites any more, but when I did, the reason was obsessive quality control. And demonoid sure shit doesn't have that.
posted by majick at 6:48 AM on December 13, 2009


We still have DRM, stronger and more widespread than ever (even if a few geeks here and there can circumvent it).

Yeah, I download all my ripping software via bittorrent as well. Those software producers who think they can charge for stuff that lets me rip off other content producers must be having a laugh.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:54 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope some of you get your income stolen from you by self righteous thieves dome day too.

You mean the globalization people?
posted by DarkForest at 7:00 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it Dome Day already? And me without my turtle wax.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:00 AM on December 13, 2009


Anyway, despite taking on a "self righteous hall monitor" demeanor, I don't even really have that big of a problem with casual piracy, and kids with no money pirating crap, or you guys rounding out your collection of some obscure musician, or last week's episode of whatever. I just hate to see people institutionalizing piracy, enshrining it, embracing it, and making it so easy your grandma could do it. Enough of that and, yes, things will have to change, but I have pretty huge doubts it will be for the better.
posted by blenderfish at 7:21 AM on December 13, 2009


The copyright laws do not exist at the center of human morality*. They are just some shit we made up several centuries ago, in an completely different technological environment, when we thought that society would accrue some benefit by them.

By their massive participation in copyright infringement, society has said very clearly that it believes free copying to be a greater benefit to itself than the old laws. Now you may think it mistaken. But if the matter were to be settled by democratic vote, rather than who can hire the most expensive lawyers, copying for personal, non-profit use would already be legal - and the scolds here would have to bust our chops about something else, like jaywalking.

* Unless you want to liken copying the new Lady Gaga CD to coveting your neighbor's oxen. Which some people are doing. But don't you feel silly doing that?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:25 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Moral/ethical considerations aside, people who have the money and influence to sue the crap out of everyone in this room would likely not be thrilled to see the demonoid FPP on the blue, and since I care more about MeFi more than I do about your ability to get stuff without having to pay for it like a sucka, man, I am in favor of that FPP going away.

That said, I personally have no moral/ethical qualms about someone torrenting material that is out of print or unavailable in their country. Obviously, if something is out of print, no one stands to make money from it. And if something is being made unavailable to you because of geography...I mean, it's a little dicier when you're talking about something that will eventually be sold to you (e.g., a movie), but when it's a TV show that for reasons incomprehensible to all just won't be shown to you via conventional channels until it's over a year old? Well, shit. That's gonna be spoiled for your foreign (whatever "foreign" means to you) fans thanks to the internet if they don't find some way to watch it before you get off your ass and get around to letting them see it, so who can blame them? Yes, the networks own this stuff and can do whatever they want with it, but it really does behoove them -- in an age where major corporations cry hell about piracy -- to make this material as widely available as the web allows, if doing so costs them nothing, and as far as I can tell, it wouldn't cost them anything. "I wouldn't sell them this pizza, and they ate the pizza anyway!" doesn't impress me much, if your business is, like, selling pizza. Sorry you're such a shitty business person, but I'm not sorry you're out a pizza. I realize that downloading such materials may still be illegal (or it may be fair use? I don't know), and I certainly am not endorsing it, but I can at least see how there's an argument for it.

If you're torrenting something that is legitimately available for sale, though, I can't understand how you can call that anything other than stealing. The sample-before-you-buy idea doesn't hold much water anymore -- almost anything that appears as digital media can be sampled via legit means at this point. I'm not saying you need to wear the hairshirt about doing it or anything, I'm just saying, stop bullshitting yourself about it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:26 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


So we're doing this again, are we? That's too bad. I was hoping we could also discuss something easier to get a consensus on, like the Israel/Palestine conflict.

To Artw's request, I have to disagree. With all due respect for his and other's stance on torrenting, Demonoid is not solely for the express purpose of pirating. I got my last few Linux OS's through torrents, as one example. I have shared music and documents that I made with others, using torrents. Demonoid also happens to be one of the largest trackers, and it's come back, which pretty much makes it news. And I think people are welcome to praise Demonoid whether others are comfortable with that or not.

I guess a thread about Demonoid and the rationalizations people use for pirating made you lose your patience or something, and that's totally understandable, but if I were that opposed to torrenting, I'd avoid threads about Demonoid.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:35 AM on December 13, 2009


Could we not link to them or offer them our breathless support on the front page or use the site for the swapping of invites for them?

No because piracy is fun.
posted by delmoi at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2009


Moral/ethical considerations aside, people who have the money and influence to sue the crap out of everyone in this room would likely not be thrilled to see the demonoid FPP on the blue, and since I care more about MeFi more than I do about your ability to get stuff without having to pay for it like a sucka, man, I am in favor of that FPP going away.

Oh please, no one has ever been sued for discussing torrents or talking about what torrent sites are available. You have to actually participate in the infringement in order to get sued (i.e. actually start a torrent)
posted by delmoi at 8:03 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the self righteousness that gets me. People do more-or-less "bad" or illegal things all the time. They speed, they drink to excess, they take drugs, they don't pipe up if they're overchanged. But nobody tries to argue that they're unambiguous goods and that only if everyone did it we'd be in the sunlit uplands of utopia. Hell, even the LEGALIZE IT crew acknowledge that there is a debate to be had, and that evidence of health risks and societal impact needs to be discussed.

On this, however, even the hint that torrenting copyrighted stuff might a bad thing to do gets howled down, and any mention of theft (which it is, theft of the right to control the exploitation of your works*) gets excoriated. Which is strange. Can't people just accept that it is, at the very best, morally and economically tricky and then, you know, live with that?

If I torrent something, it's in the full knowledge that doing a whole lot of this would most likely have a bad outcome in the longer term, and I probably shouldn't do it if there's a reasonable pay-for alternative available. But I also drive at 90mph on the motorway. I'm big, I can cope with being called a naughty boy. I don't try and make the case that my behaviours are absolutely acceptable and society needs to change to accommodate me and my ilk, pronto.

*Ironically, this is a right beloved of Mefites, who iirc went apeshit nuts over the idea that somebody could reprint their copyright-protected posts and comments in a book or newspaper without getting their permission.
posted by bonaldi at 8:10 AM on December 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


By their massive participation in copyright infringement, society has said very clearly that it believes free copying to be a greater benefit to itself than the old laws.

Society may also decide free beer is a great benefit to itself, that doesn't make it a workable economic model. In fact, I think most people would vote for free beer without knowing anything about the economics of brewing, because hey, free stuff.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:12 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd love a demonoid invite. Would be happy to swap a Wave invite.
posted by brassafrax at 8:12 AM on December 13, 2009


People probably know my stance on this by now: theft? By law, yes it is. Works of mine are probably there, I don't want them there, and I should have the right to say what happens how my works is distributed. Even if you do not agree.

Linking to things that break US law on a site that is run by US people seems like a bad idea.
posted by andreaazure at 8:15 AM on December 13, 2009


Can't people just accept that it is, at the very best, morally and economically tricky and then, you know, live with that?

Sure, I can. I won't go over my rationalizations for using torrents to download copyright protected materials, but yes, I accept that it is illegal, however minor the infraction is, and not cut-and-dry in a moral sense. What I object to is the blanket assertion that torrenting is explicitly for pirating copyright protected material. It's not. It's a file sharing service. That's what it's for.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:15 AM on December 13, 2009


Oh please, no one has ever been sued for discussing torrents or talking about what torrent sites are available.

Oh please yourself. If you want to chance legal fallout by pointing people to a piracy enabling site on your blog, that's cool; if you want someone else's site to take that chance because, hey, what are the odds, that's less so.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:36 AM on December 13, 2009


i love being on a site where some people can argue one day that the police are fascists and can't ever be trusted, etc, etc, and the next day turn around and insist that the LAWS must be ENFORCED

and then when some anti-capitalist, anti-corporate people are confronted with one of the most effective means of subversion and wealth redistribution ever, they hate it

disconnect much?

don't you know a revolution when you see it?

by the way, your ancestors didn't kill anyone and steal their land to allow you to live where you're living now, right?

are you paying them royalties?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:37 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Short of a blatant post "ZOMG use this website so you don't have to pay for things11!!!" and even then, I'm not so sure, I doubt our Mods will ever bother deleting these types of posts. It just isn't an issue they really feel strongly about.

And by the way, this comment:

*Ironically, this is a right beloved of Mefites, who iirc went apeshit nuts over the idea that somebody could reprint their copyright-protected posts and comments in a book or newspaper without getting their permission.


Gold.
posted by Atreides at 8:37 AM on December 13, 2009


Dr Dracator: "Society may also decide free beer is a great benefit to itself, that doesn't make it a workable economic model."

Like I said, you may think society is unwittingly acting against its own best interest. You may even be right. But once you say "I'm going to criminalize an act that a majority of people enjoy because it's for their own good", you might as well apply for Drug Czar.

And of course the beer analogy falls flat (Beer! Flat! That's a joke, son!) because we can't have free beer without taking someone else's beer (or brewing ingredients) away from them.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:39 AM on December 13, 2009


don't you know a revolution when you see it?

It's a revolution in people not getting paid for their work. That's not a revolution!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:40 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a revolution in people not getting paid for their work. That's not a revolution!

Every revolution must have martyrs!
posted by Atreides at 8:41 AM on December 13, 2009


It's a revolution in people not getting paid for their work.

tell the people working at mcdonalds about that
posted by pyramid termite at 8:42 AM on December 13, 2009


Being illegal does not make it wrong.

Being easy or desirable does not make it legal.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:46 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


A performance of music is work. A recording of music is not work.

A plumber does not expect to receive royalties on each gallon of water dispensed through a pipe he installed. And he is making a clearer contribution to the general welfare than is the artist. And I say that as someone who likes art a lot.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:53 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


tell the people working at mcdonalds about that

The people who aren't getting paid for their work are the ones who are going to be WORKING AT MCDONALD'S. Yours is a revolution against artists. The Man is immune to your revolution. You cannot screw The Man; The Man screws you. What kind of dumbass revolution involves stealing records, for Christ's sake? Congratulations, you've accomplished nothing except helping to make people whose work you enjoy poor. You're the one, Neo!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:55 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like I said, you may think society is unwittingly acting against its own best interest. You may even be right. But once you say "I'm going to criminalize an act that a majority of people enjoy because it's for their own good", you might as well apply for Drug Czar.

If people enjoy some act that happens to be illegal, aren't they supposed to act responsible, work in an organized manner and vote appropriately to get things changed? There's an obvious political component to this debate, but I would expect people with a real agenda wouldn't want to be conflated with the freeloaders.

This discussion has been better addressed in the software field. The people arguing for free software have a clear opinion about how software should be made, copied and paid for, but you won't find most of them running a pirated copy of Windows and claiming Microsoft should thank them for the free promotion. Free software has a market share that is orders of magnitude larger than that of music that does not rely on copyright to make money. To me, this shows that there is a practical way to make quality software people want to use without charging money for a copy: I'm not sure the same can be said about music or films. I would wait to see it happen first before demanding all music be made this way.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:11 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I see that tossing the word "Fascist" around with no clue in hell what it means is a habit not confined to Right Wing Tea-Baggers.

FFS, it's a Woody Guthrie reference.

Please do not beg for invites in the Demonoid thread. Otherwise, please continue doing what you're doing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:14 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"A crime. Stealing. Are we clear on this?"

When you smoke pot, you're stealing. It might not be obvious, but in fact you're STEALING YOUR PRODUCTIVITY FROM SOCIETY, YOU LAZY STONER.
posted by delmoi at 9:17 AM on December 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


The people who aren't getting paid for their work are the ones who are going to be WORKING AT MCDONALD'S. Yours is a revolution against artists.

or the sense of class privilege some have over people who work at mcdonalds

but some of us are artists - god forbid they ever have to do anything nasty or illpaid for a living- they're SPECIAL

by the way, i say that as a musician who's got a regular factory job
posted by pyramid termite at 9:17 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Otherwise, please continue doing what you're doing.

I shall carry on decorating my Christmas tree.
posted by fixedgear at 9:19 AM on December 13, 2009


but some of us are artists - god forbid they ever have to do anything nasty or illpaid for a living- they're SPECIAL

by the way, i say that as a musician who's got a regular factory job


That's terrific and great for you, but if being an artist is something that we as a society value as much as we do any other profession, being an artist is something that people should be able to make a living at. If it's not, then we as a society have decided that the arts are really not all that important. I suspect we do not want to make that decision.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:35 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's terrific and great for you, but if being an artist is something that we as a society value as much as we do any other profession, being an artist is something that people should be able to make a living at.

some do and some don't - which is how it's always been and it's absurd to blame piracy for it - aside from the fact that we would have to move backwards 30 years technologically and start a police state to stop it, there's other factors at play here

first, we as a society have decided that the arts are really not all that important - a small minority of those who want to - of those who actually do worthwhile things in art - make a living at it

second, as others have pointed out, people's entertainment dollars are being spent on video games and movies instead

third, the market's saturated - i've got thousands of records and cds and i don't have time to listen to what i have - many people are just like me - if someone wants to sell music to them, it's going to have to be damned good

fourth, times are tough for everyone

add them all together and you get less artists making a living at what they do - and blaming piracy for it is wrong

people were arguing over this 25 years ago - it's not going to change
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


if being an artist is something that we as a society value as much as we do any other profession

This has never been true for more than a tiny percentage of artists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:50 AM on December 13, 2009


Man, this thread was a lot more boring than I had hoped. Way to go. SAME ARGUMENTS FOREVER!

"I might as well say people shouldn't shoplift or litter. Which, of course they will anyway. But, of course, they shouldn't. I do not think the onus is upon the grocier to come up with a system which "works" with shoplifting. Obviously, they have to be pragmatic, but again, the "it's easy so it should be legal" argument just doesn't fly."

I'm a gleeful shoplifter, lemme tell you why: I come from Michigan, where there's a consumer protection law that states, basically, that if a scanner at a store charges you the wrong amount, you're entitled to $5 or ten times the difference, whichever is less. That, along with the law that makes every item individually priced, means that there's a pretty heavy incentive not to rip off consumers.

Here in California, there's no such law, and routinely (couple times a month) I read over my receipt and notice that I've been mischarged, always—always—in the favor of the store. Sometimes, if it's a significant amount, I go back and have to spend my time arguing with the manager to get refunded. Sometimes, they're not even willing to do that. This has happened at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Von's, Albertson's, Ralph's… Basically, every grocery store around. The grocery stores have a strong lobby here, and basically broke the union a couple years back over a long strike—there's no recourse to state legislature to get similar laws passed here. And there aren't any real alternatives for where I could take my business.

So what do I do? I steal something of equivalent value. It might be a candy bar, it might be a magazine, whatever. I realize that this is unlikely to ever create systemic change (cue Abeizer criticizing my liberal individuality), and that the stores have no way of knowing why I do it. But by violating what I believe is the moral imperative of business transactions, that we both act with good faith, by deciding that it would cost them more to treat me honestly than it does to rip me off, I have decided that we are in a state of war (because I like Hobbes, and there's no compact with a Leviathan at Ralph's). I can't stop them from stealing from me on toilet paper, they can't stop me from stealing from them on ibuprofen.

I realize that there's the argument that by stealing from them, they simply increase all their prices across the board to deal with that. However, similar to the naive argument about how reducing piracy will reduce DRM, I have never seen the prices go down in reaction to lower shrinkage rates, either mine or in a group. So, I choose between being personally disadvantaged by the dishonesty of the stores and holding onto some cheap morality, or righting the scales—I have no obligation to treat morally those who systemically treat my immorally.

Onto littering: When I was in Seoul, one of the things that surprised me was that there were very few garbage cans on the street. My brother explained that the former mayor, now president, had decided that trash cans made the city look dirty. Instead, he hired corps of retired elderly to sweep up debris and paid them by the kilo. That meant that every tissue, every can that I left on the street did, Broken Window fallacy aside, contribute to the well-being of both the individuals who picked it up and society at large. It was weird to get used to littering; mostly, I tried to follow the social convention of leaving trash in little discreet, discrete piles. But Seoul was very clean compared to any other city that I've been in, especially of that size.
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 AM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also, Tristan Tzara made a film of his magazine The Bearded Heart in 1924. It's still under copyright, but I can't find a copy anywhere. Somebody wanna send it to me?
posted by klangklangston at 9:52 AM on December 13, 2009


The people who aren't getting paid for their work are the ones who are going to be WORKING AT MCDONALD'S. Yours is a revolution against artists. The Man is immune to your revolution. You cannot screw The Man; The Man screws you. What kind of dumbass revolution involves stealing records, for Christ's sake? Congratulations, you've accomplished nothing except helping to make people whose work you enjoy poor. You're the one, Neo!

With the exception of certain superstars, most artists aren't getting paid by The Man anyway. That's why a lot of people have no qualms with cutting out The Man and downloading the music for free. They can't afford an army of lawyers like the recording CD distribution industry can, but they can deprive that industry of their money.

Now, piracy may or may not be an ethical form of protest against that industry, as it could hurt some artists. The situation is clearly not black-and-white.

A better form of protest is for the artist to cut out the recording industry entirely. The internet offers a lot of possibilities to artists who embrace it rather than fighting it. Artists like Jonathan Coulton and MeFi's own Brad Sucks sell their music directly to their fans, and seem to be able to make a living at it.

We don't need "The Man" at all.
posted by JDHarper at 9:58 AM on December 13, 2009


This has never been true for more than a tiny percentage of artists.

Fair enough, but I'm going to argue you're not helping by not paying people for their work. I mean, you're also not single-handedly destroying the arts and forcing artists to be freegans. You're just not helping.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:59 AM on December 13, 2009


Also, Tristan Tzara made a film of his magazine The Bearded Heart in 1924. It's still under copyright, but I can't find a copy anywhere. Somebody wanna send it to me?

Sorry klang, doing so would be a violation of Tzara's right to control the distribution of his works forty-six years after his death.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:01 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Please do not beg for invites in the Demonoid thread. Otherwise, please continue doing what you're doing. -Jessamyn

We should just add to the FAQ that sites that offer illegal downloading are fine post material. Would cut short the long Metatalk threads.

So what do I do? I steal something of equivalent value. It might be a candy bar, it might be a magazine, whatever.


This sounds like a subplot from a Seinfeld episode or choice material for Larry David's Curb. I mean, really?
posted by Atreides at 10:02 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't have a problem with piracy, but I really think that the invite begging in this thread needs to stop.
posted by kylej at 10:03 AM on December 13, 2009


I listen to about 30 hours of music per week using free streaming sites and I can't see myself ever buying music again unless I live somewhere without internet access. I also use an adblocker, so I don't see ads on the sites I use. To me, this seems to have the same effect as torrenting - I am exposed to lots of new music, I share it with friends, it's free, and I am more likely to go and see the artist.

To expose me to this music, the marginal cost to the record company or artist is zero, whether through streaming or through torrenting. I suppose web-streaming is relatively new and internet specific so it will be interesting to see if it is profitable in the long term. It's hard for me to see the difference between the two options (aside from the fact that one is legal and the other is not).


(I realize that the artist gets paid a cent or two for each song I listen to but that seems almost insignificant)
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:04 AM on December 13, 2009


So what do I do? I steal something of equivalent value.

i can see your point, but ... is it really worth the risk? i don't think so
posted by pyramid termite at 10:05 AM on December 13, 2009


Yeah this thread kind of sucks.
I think the question of whether or not the post should continue existing is completely independent of the question of whether what goes on on Demonoid is illegal (or wrong, or whatever you guys are fighting about). As far as I know, Nobody has ever been sued for simply linking to a torrent site (see: google). It's not like the OP was giving us a link to a copyrighted work telling us to download it.

Secondly, this is still NEWS. Who cares if it's about something illegal? Something happened in the world and people deserve to know about it. The OP is telling the truth, lots of people love Demonoid, and a lot of people are celebrating that it's back. Does that mean that all of Metafilter should celebrate? No, though I suspect a good few of us are.

Also, please stop asking for invites in the threads, it's just plain ridiculous.
posted by azarbayejani at 10:05 AM on December 13, 2009


We should just add to the FAQ that sites that offer illegal downloading are fine post material. Would cut short the long Metatalk threads.

Long MeTa threads are not something that need to be avoided. This is also one of those guidelines that is better explained through discussion and not through ten words on a FAQ. The story of Demonoid coming back to life is one that is interesting to many members of the MeFi community and the post is not one of those "Hey guys download Avatar for free!" sorts of posts that actually are against the rules.

I would have loved if the post were more of a story about what happened and less a link to demonoid's website and a blog post [sort of lazy post actually, imo] but that's nitpicking and not really a reason to delete something that a lot of people were interested in talking about.

This is a topic that interests a lot of people in internet-culture land. So it is on MetaFilter. And in MetaTalk. And that's fine.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:10 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now, piracy may or may not be an ethical form of protest against that industry, as it could hurt some artists. The situation is clearly not black-and-white.

Most artists don't see a return on their corporate-label albums until those albums sell above a certain number. If you're keeping the album from reaching that number, you are making it harder for the artist to get paid. You are also keeping The Man from making as much money as he might be, but every album that IS legitimately sold is keeping The Man fat and happy. You are hurting both the artist and The Man, but you're hurting the artist more. Of course, one could argue that this system shouldn't exist at all, etc., and one could certainly argue that most artists are never likely to see a royalty under the best of circumstances, but in that case: One option (buying the album) helps The Man and possibly helps the artist, who really needs the help, and the other option (not buying the album) definitely hurts the artist (who needs all the sales they can get if they want a shot at making another album) and definitely hurts The Man, but The Man will be okay. The Man is Always Okay.

A better form of protest is for the artist to cut out the recording industry entirely. The internet offers a lot of possibilities to artists who embrace it rather than fighting it. Artists like Jonathan Coulton and MeFi's own Brad Sucks sell their music directly to their fans, and seem to be able to make a living at it.

We don't need "The Man" at all.


I'm not actually convinced that's true, as those in league with The Man certainly seem much more likely to make a living at what they're doing. There are exceptions.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:12 AM on December 13, 2009


One option (buying the album) helps The Man and possibly helps the artist, who really needs the help, and the other option (not buying the album) definitely hurts the artist (who needs all the sales they can get if they want a shot at making another album) and definitely hurts The Man, but The Man will be okay. The Man is Always Okay.

I am unclear on how otherwise-reasonable people can continue to operate under the assumption that an album downloaded is a sale lost.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am unclear on how otherwise-reasonable people can continue to operate under the assumption that an album downloaded is a sale lost.

I would think that tanking record sales ever since the napster years would be enough evidence of downloading leading to less sales.
posted by Think_Long at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2009


I am unclear on how otherwise-reasonable people can continue to operate under the assumption that an album downloaded is a sale lost.

I don't think it used to be, when downloading albums from a filesharing site was the best way to test-drive them, but there are so many alternative means to hear an album before you buy it now that I think most people who illegally download albums do so instead of buying them, yes. I'm sure that plenty of people download albums for free that they would pass up if they had to buy them -- either because they don't like the album that much or because there's only so much disposable income in their pocket -- but I'm quite sure that many illegally downloaded albums do indeed represent lost sales, yes. (Of course, we can't know which albums those are.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Certainly not what the RIAA et al claims it is. And certainly not zero.
posted by Artw at 10:22 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would think that tanking record sales ever since the napster years would be enough evidence of downloading leading to less sales.

Well, there's always this:
"[A]lthough it is true that someone who copies a digital version of a sound recording has little incentive to purchase the recording through legitimate means, it does not necessarily follow that the downloader would have made a legitimate purchase if the recording had not been available for free," said US District court Judge James P. Jones, in response to the RIAA's request for restitution against the former admin of Elite Torrents, Daniel Dove. ... "It is a basic principle of economics that as price increases, demand decreases. Customers who download music and movies for free would not necessarily spend money to acquire the same product. I am skeptical that customers would pay $7.22 or $19 for something they got for free. Certainly 100% of the illegal downloads through Elite Torrents did not result in the loss of a sale, but both Lionsgate and RIAA estimate their losses based on this faulty assumption."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:26 AM on December 13, 2009


Yeah, so 100% is unlikely. As is 0%. As is -%100 or whatever the "it's free advertising" folks are claiming.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon writes "As far as I know, it has never been legal to copy commercial, licensed music and pay the artist nothing. It doesn't really even matter whether that person buys the music later on or not, that's not even relevant."

FYI in Canada it is 100% perfectly legal to borrow a CD, copy the music from it (either to another CD or to your computer) and then return the original CD and not pay the content creator anything.

delmoi writes "piracy is fun."

If we're going to be pirates can I be Will? I love that guy.
posted by Mitheral at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2009


I would think that tanking record sales ever since the napster years would be enough evidence of downloading leading to less sales.

A cursory search doesn't really find anything indicating that profits are "tanking"- if anything, they're simply not rising as fast as the record companies believe they are entitled to have their profits grow by- but let's assume you're right. Yeah, I'm sure that's down to illegal downloading, and not related to the grinding recession of the last decade, the rise of paid downloads, or the slow but steady rise in the (already unreasonably high ten years ago) price of compact discs, or the general shittiness of modern music.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:31 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If we're going to be pirates can I be Will? I love that guy.

Really? I think you missed the point of that movie.
posted by Think_Long at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2009


That Johnny Depp is fucking awesome?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:33 AM on December 13, 2009


And manages to look manlier with eyeliner?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:38 AM on December 13, 2009


No, that entire franchise was done in order to settle once and for all that Orlando Bloom is a terrible thing. It was an offering made by Disney to offer-up Bloom as sacrifice to critics and audience alike, only it backfired and made them millions of dollars instead*.

* Could have made them millions more if it weren't for you thieving piratez
posted by Think_Long at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2009


Think_Long writes "I would think that tanking record sales ever since the napster years would be enough evidence of downloading leading to less sales."

Or competition from rising entertainment alternatives like video games. People only have so much disposable income. Also the rise of Napster coincided with the fall of people updating their personal back catalogues. IE: Initial CD sales, once players became affordable, were wildly inflated above sustainable levels because consumers were re buying 50 years of back catalogue to replace tapes and vinyl.
posted by Mitheral at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2009


Is this where we sign up to get our junior copyright detective badge?
posted by afu at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


HMM WHAT'S THIS AN FPP WITH SCANS OF A BOOK STILL COVERED BY COPYRIGHT
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:49 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


OMG THAT IS DIRECTLY EQUIVALENT TO DOWNLOADING RIPS OF AVATAR WHAT A HYPOCRITE!

Honestly, if you can't figure out the difference you are an idiot, and if you are not an idiot and you go throwing that hsit around anyway you are a fraud.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on December 13, 2009


Oh, and FWIW Blazecocks not currently on-site.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on December 13, 2009


mullingitover's point about the much greater theft from the public domain by corporate owners deserves at least a *little* attention from the WAREZ!! crowd.
posted by mediareport at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2009


So yeah, okay when you approve of it, OMG ILLEGAL when you don't.

It's nice to be proven right!
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2009


OMG THAT IS DIRECTLY EQUIVALENT TO DOWNLOADING RIPS OF AVATAR WHAT A HYPOCRITE!

Honestly, if you can't figure out the difference you are an idiot, and if you are not an idiot and you go throwing that hsit around anyway you are a fraud.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on December 13


What is the difference? The law's the law, as you both repeatedly stated. This is indeed literally no different than MeFi direct linking to a .torrent file. Click the link, boom, copyrighted material is downloaded to your computer.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2009


Oh, and FWIW Blazecocks not currently on-site.

This isn't a chatroom.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


yes yes, Pope Guilty, I'm aware your little semantic trap which you so lovingly set up and seem so incredbily proud of, and have pretty much addressed it directly when talking you above, and in the original post even. So award you self 1000 tedious bore points for not knowing what "grey area" means.
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2009


You're right, pointing out that you are inconsistent and hypocritical in your zeal for the law is a "semantic trap", well played Artw.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:07 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


OMG THAT IS DIRECTLY EQUIVALENT TO DOWNLOADING RIPS OF AVATAR WHAT A HYPOCRITE!

Might as well be. The only torrents available for Avatar are cam-in-theatre recordings. It's like being in the theatre, only the movie is more out of focus, the sound more reverb-heavy, but you still get your view blocked by someone getting popcorn, and you get to hear people loudly coughing or talking behind you, without being able to tell them to be quiet. Why people bother downloading cam recordings I'll never know. Maybe to post spoilers in movie forums?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:10 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is the difference? The law's the law, as you both repeatedly stated. This is indeed literally no different than MeFi direct linking to a .torrent file. Click the link, boom, copyrighted material is downloaded to your computer.

I'm sorry, is this a court of law and I was uspposed to be making a legal argument and I wasn't aware of it?

So, no, I am not aware to what extent various copyright laws acknoledge the difference in effect between linking to a small portion of something that is out of print and long beyond any capacity to make money and facilitating the mass copying ofthe entirety of movies that are still in cinema, but no, that does not mean they are the same.
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on December 13, 2009


It's the assertion that sites like demonoid be judged solely on the latter while your own activity be judged solely on the former that rankles, Artw.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:12 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


where there isn’t much grey area at all are sites that are explicitly for the warezing of mass quantities of digital media. Could we not link to them.

Disagree. YouTube is a massive copyright infringement tool, and nary a day goes by when I don't see SLYT.

The Pirate Bay, Demonoid, Isohunt, etc are like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo. It's all relative.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2009


You're right, pointing out that you are inconsistent and hypocritical in your zeal for the law is a "semantic trap", well played Artw.

My what?

I'm sorry, you're the one setting up all these little lawyerly cases and arguing for the abandomnet of any kind of common sense. It's weasely bullcrap, and fuck you for even trying it.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on December 13, 2009


We're not really getting anywhere, so I'm gonna go ahead and close this now.
posted by fixedgear at 11:16 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's the assertion that sites like demonoid be judged solely on the latter while your own activity be judged solely on the former that rankles, Artw.

Oh boo hoo, it's a fucking warez site.
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on December 13, 2009


So's YouTube.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:18 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, anyone links to the fukllversion of Avatar on YouTube gets my complaint too. Or that crappy Chinese site that checks copyright less.
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on December 13, 2009


I'm sorry, is this a court of law and I was uspposed to be making a legal argument and I wasn't aware of it?

From the beginning of the thread, which you started, you and BP have been saying IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW IT'S THEFT IT'S THE LAW.

Then I pointed out that BP posted a thread that directly facilitated copyright infringement - or theft as you would call it - and now you claim that it's not really a big deal. Why isn't it a big deal? It's still under copyright. You can't have it both ways.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:20 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, my beef isn't with you, Artw, it's with BP. I don't know why you're getting bent out of shape when I point out that BP is guilty of the very same thing that he castigates and shames everyone else for.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:22 AM on December 13, 2009


I'm sorry, you're the one setting up all these little lawyerly cases and arguing for the abandomnet of any kind of common sense.

You know what, you're the one who brought up the law. You're the one who made a thread for the purpose of kicking and screaming and throwing a tantrum about all this, and you're the one who on the one hand yells about how it's illegal and on the other insists that other illegal things are fine. If it's "lawyerly" or "weasely" to point that out, fine.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:22 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Rehasher talks about piracy.

If you had to guess, how many Rehasher CDs were sold in the first month? The actual number is 60 CDs. Illegal downloading is killing bands, and a band like Rehasher feels it.

The funny thing is that the guy saying that is also in Less Than Jake. He goes on to say that Rehasher can't even tour because they wouldn't be able to even recoup the costs of that, and he doesn't have enough dough from his LTJ billions to bankroll something like that. Illegal downloading has a real effect on small independent artists, and they're caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, nobody can deny that the internet has made it basically effortless to get your music out there and at least take a stab at building a fan base. The internet as a free music delivery device is great in that respect. However, artists also have to eat food, which costs money. This means that they have to get the people who clearly like and appreciate their work to voluntarily decide to start paying for it as opposed to getting it for free.

So now they're faced with the Music Ladder Theory problem which differs from the actual ladder theory in that it's not complete bullshit. Small artists who reaped the benefits of the ease of internet distribution early on now find themselves relegated to the musical "friend zone" and only the luckiest few manage to successfully leap into pay territory. This means that there's a counter-intuitive risk that pop music could become even more homogenized pap since the numbers required just to break even are so huge. Yeah you can record an album on the cheap these days, but who's gonna pay for it?
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:23 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is indeed literally no different than MeFi direct linking to a .torrent file.

OC, things go better for you (and us) here if you sort of dial back the allcaps angry sarcasm you're so well-known for. Would you consider that?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:23 AM on December 13, 2009


Mitheral: "FYI in Canada it is 100% perfectly legal to borrow a CD, copy the music from it (either to another CD or to your computer) and then return the original CD and not pay the content creator anything."

Any minute I expect the RIAA to argue that music copying leads to the horrors of socialized medicine.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:27 AM on December 13, 2009


He goes on to say that Rehasher can't even tour because they wouldn't be able to even recoup the costs of that

If you can't make enough money playing live shows to turn a profit, record sales aren't going to help you any.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:27 AM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I make my living as a writer for a teevee show, and I write fiction on the side, so I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and my conclusion is that you have to consider every act of downloading discretely as a moral/practical act.

The television show I work for isn't available online, because CBS is old-fashioned and hasn't embraced Hulu and whatnot. But they can afford to be, because their demographics skew old and bittorrent sites aren't busting at the seams with pirated copies of The Mentalist and NCIS:LA. If someone chooses to download an episode of my program, it's not a huge deal to me. If it were on the verge of cancellation and had a younger demographic that was pirating like mad, I'd feel differently.

And I give away all of my short stories on my website for free because I want people to read them, period. If someone plagiarized one of the stories, I'd be furious, but having people read my fiction is it's own reward. (But when I get my book deal, I'll hope people buy it so I can get a second book deal).

If you really love something and it's not a smash hit, you're obligated to get money to the people who produce it (and yes, that includes the studios) or you are not allowed to bitch that it isn't popular enough. If you download, or even if you only buy used or burn from friends, you aren't putting money into the system and therefore can't complain when the show gets canceled, the author doesn't get another book deal or the band gets dropped from its label. I'll download Metallica, but I buy Electric Wizard.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:29 AM on December 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


I think the big, shocking difference that I'm sure isn't obvious to anyone at all and all you guys are making a good faith argument here for real and I don't doubt but I think the incredibly obvious difference between linking a fifty-year-old Boy Scouts handbook and downloading Avatar is that no one stands to lose any money by linking the old handbook. The only real danger there is to the reputation of the Boy Scouts of America.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:29 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The semnatic quibbling about whether a torrent of Avatar is theft? Yeah, it is, both legally and in terms of common parlance. I think you wnat Ironmouth for the legal discussion. Is posting a couple of scans "theft" as well? Legally? Probably. No idea. No ones really going to care or pursue it. It's pretty much in that abandonware category. And it's not like anyone was thinking of popping out and buying a 1965 scouting guide but didn't because they could just download it off the intwerwebs, so it's not really the same thing as the Avatar torrent, is it?
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on December 13, 2009


OC, things go better for you (and us) here if you sort of dial back the allcaps angry sarcasm you're so well-known for. Would you consider that?
posted by jessamyn at 11:23 AM on December 13


Is the content incorrect, misrepresentative, or disingenuous? Or this this merely that it was in caps?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2009


If you can't make enough money playing live shows to turn a profit, record sales aren't going to help you any.

You aren't the one to dictate that.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2009


This isn't a chatroom.

That really does make taking swings at someone who isn't here so much classier.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on December 13, 2009


If you had to guess, how many Rehasher CDs were sold in the first month? The actual number is 60 CDs. Illegal downloading is killing bands, and a band like Rehasher feels it.

I've heard artists make this complaint before, and I can't fathom what is so difficult about the math involved here. Someone who downloads an album illegally, had they not been able to download the album in this way, would not have necessarily bought the album. They would have done as was done in the 80s - either taped it off a friend, or from a copy at the library. VCRs were supposed to kill Hollywood, too. But lo and behold, looks like Hollywood's fine. I don't deny that downloading copyrighted material is illegal, but the hyperbolic claims that it's "killing" anything, or that the medium of torrenting itself is a bad thing, doesn't help anyone.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:33 AM on December 13, 2009


Anecdote:

I love the show Frasier. Always have, ever since it came out. But I missed a few seasons due to various reasons (I didn't own a TV for years). Anyway, a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a website that had every episode available to be viewed (think youtube-like, not downloadable). So I watched. And every so often after I had seen the entire series, I popped over to see a couple of my favorite episodes again.

Fast forward to a couple of years later, and even though I still love the series, I'm not apt to watch it much anymore (since my thirst has since been quenched). The show's creators, actors, writers, etc. didn't see a dime from me, even though I'm an ardent fan. And now, I'm not motivated to buy the series on DVD or Blu-Ray, since my thirst is gone.

I've known for quite some time that I broke my own rule - I infringed, for purely selfish reasons (I can afford to buy the discs). Now multiply that by millions, upon millions, of people doing the same for music, and you can see a problem with this model. I am a willing and able payer, and the show might now never see a dime from me, even though it brought me years of pleasure and amusement. And at least I'm honest enough to admit that. The level of denial in this thread scares me for the sake of artists everywhere.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:35 AM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you can't make enough money playing live shows to turn a profit, record sales aren't going to help you any.

But that's just it. The time was you could play shows and sell records in a local market long enough to build up a little gas money and go on a tour. You wouldn't be rich at the end, but you probably wouldn't be in the hole that bad. Now though, the record sales aren't there to build up the fund.

I'm not saying that it's terrible to download music from the internet. I've done it myself and will probably do it again. It's great for getting my hands on music that's not easy to find at my local record store. At the same time, though, I have to acknowledge that perhaps one of the reasons it's so hard to find is that not many people are shelling out the dough for it. I'm also not saying that any band is somehow entitled to sales. Most bands will fail and that's how it's always been. I'm just saying that the internet is a double-edged sword for small bands that has the potential to really hurt them even as it ostensibly helps them. This problem could be ameliorated somewhat if people made a bit more of an effort to pay for the music they like. Who knows, their next album might be even better as long as they get a chance to make a next album.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:36 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


"You aren't the one to dictate that.

I'm not dictating anything. Nobody wants to go to their shows and nobody wants to pay for their music. It's great that they like making music, but that you have a band which you sink money into does not entitle you to financial success. That guy from Less Than Jake got successful during the pop-punk craze of the 90's and is now coming back to the punk scene and selling a tiny amount of music and being unable to recoup the cost of live shows. Guess what? Welcome to the reality of punk rock for the 99.999999999% of bands that didn't make it big during one of the periods in which the mainstream decided it liked punk again. This is reality, not music industry-promoted fantasy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:37 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, TBH Metafilters always a lot of barely concealed bubbling-under-the-surface resentment of anyone who dares to think they might make money doing something creative. See the scorn heaped on the writer who had the audacity to talk about the mechanics of getting paid.
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on December 13, 2009


The time was you could play shows and sell records in a local market long enough to build up a little gas money and go on a tour. You wouldn't be rich at the end, but you probably wouldn't be in the hole that bad. Now though, the record sales aren't there to build up the fund.

You're missing the point, which is that not every band is good enough or liked enough to do that- which has always been the case- and that if nobody comes to your shows and nobody pays for your music, it's pretty clear that nobody likes you. A punk band that can't get people to come out to shows is a failure, full stop, and wasn't going to go anywhere.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:39 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Less Than Jake's still together PG. I saw 'em in March. Here's the followup that I should have put in my first comment. You're right about the reality of punk rock. Lord knows I've seen it. I don't think Roger's point was so that he's personally in a bad way because of the downloading situation. I think he'd be the first to admit that because he was lucky enough to be in a relatively successful band he's in a much better position than most small artists are these days. If you weren't lucky enough to be in Less Than Jake then the difficulty of making money with your band is just that much greater.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:42 AM on December 13, 2009


Yeah, TBH Metafilters always a lot of barely concealed bubbling-under-the-surface resentment of anyone who dares to think they might make money doing something creative.

As a matter of fact, one of the things I like to do with my spare time is mess around with board/card game design, with an eye toward eventually creating something that can be marketed. When I was in high school, I was in a punk band and made a bit of money playing shows. I'm not opposed to making money off of creative endeavors, but I am opposed to the ridiculous idea that having done something creative and doing creative things entitles you to a living based on your creativity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:42 AM on December 13, 2009


Oh, it was probably the initial all caps "HMM WHATS THIS." Fair enough.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:45 AM on December 13, 2009


Is the content incorrect, misrepresentative, or disingenuous? Or this this merely that it was in caps?

It's your general tendency to dive into an argument and start mocking and taunting the other people who are having a discussion in a nasty sarcastic way that seems to raise the level of ire and ill-will in a way that I don't think you intend. Since you don't seem to notice when it's happening, I thought I'd point it out. You're not the only one who done this, but you're maybe one of three or four.

I'm trying to be polite about this, but you need to dial it back because it is a problem. There is no "I'm right so I get to taunt and shame people" exception in MeFi generally and we're trying to make MeTa into less of a Thunderdome and would appreciate your assistance.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:46 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't that privilege sophistry?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:47 AM on December 13, 2009


but I am opposed to the ridiculous idea that having done something creative and doing creative things entitles you to a living based on your creativity.

It's fortunate for us all, then, that absolutely no one has expressed this idea.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:49 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's fortunate for us all, then, that absolutely no one has expressed this idea.

I think it's absolutely implicit in bringing up Rehasher.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:53 AM on December 13, 2009


Yeah, the contempt for artists that make any discussion of the mechanics of how they might get paid? Right there.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on December 13, 2009


but I am opposed to the ridiculous idea that having done something creative and doing creative things entitles you to a living based on your creativity.

I don't think anyone is saying that someone is 'entitled' to have a living based on their creativity, but the fact of the matter is that really great art can take time - if one of my favorite bands needs to focus on their music full time in order to produce something really special, I would not want to take that away from them.

But really, I don't quite get the idea that a band should be able to make a living off of touring and merch alone*. I thought that this model was developed because of the record industry's parasitic system of royalties in the first place - it's the only way a band could be able to make money. Does that mean that it's fair to take any possible profit from an album out of the picture?

*I am not in a band nor have I ever been, unless High School jazz band counts
posted by Think_Long at 11:56 AM on December 13, 2009


I think it's absolutely implicit in bringing up Rehasher.

Not really, although I don't think the Rehasher argument is an especially good one. I'm not trying to go all your-favorite-band-sucks here, but I can think of many reasons why this band might not be going platinum that have little or nothing to do with illegal downloading. I don't imagine that the Mighty Mighty Bosstones are selling altogether that well right now, either.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:56 AM on December 13, 2009


Ironmouth's citation of the criminal infringement statute proved the opposite point of what he was claiming re infringment being theft.
posted by chinston at 11:56 AM on December 13, 2009


I think it's absolutely implicit in bringing up Rehasher.

Whoa, dude. You misunderstood me then. I guess that quote I picked was more petulant than it should have been, so I reap what I sow there. In no way do I think that somehow Rehasher having a hard time of it denies them something they're "entitled" to. I was just pointing out that small bands do have a really hard time even though the internet can be helpful to them in a lot of ways. If you like a band, pay for their stuff because it will help them continue to be a band.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2009


What I don't get:

If a government's stance is that IP piracy through downloading is a crime, then that government ought to start punishing more illegal downloaders and more companies that enable illegal downloaders. If downloading an album is something like walking out of a store with a CD under your coat, and if letting many others download albums from your server is something like burning many CD copies and selling them (or giving them away) on the street, then law enforcement agencies ought to act as if that's the case. Fine and imprison downloaders. Fine and shut down ISPs and go after their responsible staff. Doing nothing while millions do what is supposed to be illegal and harmful is the same as saying "Go ahead, you crazy kids! It's not really a crime! No harm done!"

See, I am downloading something right now, as I type this, something I found through Demonoid, and because it's a torrent, I'm also helping other people download it. If I knew that other people around me were going to jail for this, or were at least paying fat fines for first offences and then losing ISP service rights and then going to jail if they didn't stop, I would stop immediately. I would never have started. I'm sure almost everyone else would be the same.

And it shouldn't be all that hard for my ISP to detect this shit and shut me down or even turn me in to the authorities with an exact description of what I took, byte for byte. With a little effort, the ISP could have the cops at my door before I finished.

But the knock at the door never comes.
posted by pracowity at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2009


There's some moves towards that kind ofpuinishment of ISPs in the UK. You know what? I'm actually kind of against it.
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2009


pracowity, I'm not sure your argument fits up to a moral lens - 'I'm not being punished, so therefore I can keep doing it' doesn't really work for me. That said, there are plenty of lawsuits pushed by the RIAA and other industries against downloaders. Personally, I find the civil suits against individuals (who were often just loaning their computers to their kids) kind of disgusting. I also don't support the government really cracking down on ISPs and the like - a bit too Big Brother for me.
posted by Think_Long at 12:05 PM on December 13, 2009


Yeah, the contempt for artists that make any discussion of the mechanics of how they might get paid? Right there.

You are ridiculous and have stopped participating in the discussion and started lashing out.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:09 PM on December 13, 2009


Really? you're pretty much nakedly said that they are crybabies and should STFU for daring to want to be paid.

But I'd ceratinly agree that discussingthis with you andf your seemingly limitless uply of strawmen, aspersions, lawyerish arguments and general bad faith bullshit is pretty pointless.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on December 13, 2009


I don't imagine that the Mighty Mighty Bosstones are selling altogether that well right now, either.

Yeah, but the Bosstones can at least tour. They put out a record this year that sold reasonably well and probably would have done even better if some of their fans decided to buy the thing rather than download it. Cracks about "the Bosstones have fans?" aside, the problem is not with people who don't like the band or are just nostalgic for the band and download the album, the problem is with the band's honest-to-god fans who download the album.

You know who I blame for all this? Metallica. They started off the discussion of this problem by literally making the band-fan relationship an adversarial one. They created the mindset that fans who don't pay for a band's work are thieves who should be collected from. That's completely unhelpful and, as it turned out, a completely unrealistic way of addressing the problem.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:23 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure your argument fits up to a moral lens

I'm not making an argument for or against the morality of anything at all. I'm not even saying whether I think downloading is right or wrong for me personally. Sometimes I do things I know I shouldn't do. I'm talking about enforcing the law.

When you set highway speed limits and then don't punish those who exceed them, you're telling everyone that you don't think speed limits really matter.

All the blather in the world is never going to convince people to stop downloading. Either you allow them to continue or you shut them down.
posted by pracowity at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2009


You are ridiculous and have stopped participating in the discussion and started lashing out.

I probably am somewhere in the middle on this topic (Most of my BitTorrent downloads were comics, but I stopped dLing new stuff after a previous MeFi discussion and now stick to the occasional old-timey or out of print book; I'll still download an album or movie here and there) but for the most part the 'compensation for consumption' crowd have displayed a lot less derision and bad faith than those contre.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:40 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


When you set highway speed limits and then don't punish those who exceed them, you're telling everyone that you don't think speed limits really matter.

All the blather in the world is never going to convince people to stop downloading. Either you allow them to continue or you shut them down.


Yeah, I'm guessing that no one here is arguing to keep laws as they are and enforce them (because really, aside from tremendously expensive and unpopular lawsuits, the gov. and industry has no recourse or ability to keep up with technology). I agree with what you're saying though, I stopped downloading more due to the *slim* possibility of facing repercussions rather than based on extended moral meditation.
posted by Think_Long at 12:47 PM on December 13, 2009


I just realized that this thread is going absolutely nowhere. Seeing as I missed all of the other epic copyright feuds though, I don't feel so bad about contributing to the nothingness of this pre-rehearsed debate.
posted by Think_Long at 12:49 PM on December 13, 2009


Yep, it's Sunday and people have extra time to bitch and snipe.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:50 PM on December 13, 2009


There really is something to this 'people get hella cranky during the holidays' stuff. Just like full moon/emergency room visits, I guess.
posted by fixedgear at 12:53 PM on December 13, 2009


I was about to say this is about the most contentious thread I've run into here in a while.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:57 PM on December 13, 2009


I just realized that this thread is going absolutely nowhere. Seeing as I missed all of the other epic copyright feuds though, I don't feel so bad about contributing to the nothingness of this pre-rehearsed debate.

Well it's kind of interesting in terms of finding out where the poles of the argument are.

Apparently "Swap your warez if you want to but it's a little bit naughty and you probably shouldn't use FPPs for it" is some kind of outlier far-right nazi extremist position.

I suspect that as mentioned above the ridiculous Metallica thing and the silly GNP-of-small-country level fines the RIAA have done a lot to poison debate on this.
posted by Artw at 12:57 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and in the other thread someones asking if I'm an agent of the RIAA. Joy.
posted by Artw at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2009


Apparently "Swap your warez if you want to but it's a little bit naughty and you probably shouldn't use FPPs for it" is some kind of outlier far-right nazi extremist position.

Pretending that that is the whole of your participation in this thread is dishonest.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:00 PM on December 13, 2009


Apparently "Swap your warez if you want to but it's a little bit naughty and you probably shouldn't use FPPs for it" is some kind of outlier far-right nazi extremist position.

apparently "close the tab and move on" is some kind of commie terrorist plot
posted by pyramid termite at 1:03 PM on December 13, 2009


Pretending that that is the whole of your participation in this thread is dishonest.

Not really beleiving that copying other peoples work makes you some kind of morally superior being kind of goes with the "bit naughty" part.
posted by Artw at 1:10 PM on December 13, 2009


apparently "close the tab and move on" is some kind of commie terrorist plot

Well hop to it then.
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on December 13, 2009


I'm giving everyone a hug and moving on.
posted by josher71 at 1:12 PM on December 13, 2009


OK, I'll just add my own 2 cents worth…

Several years ago, Mrs. Jabo and I wrote and self-published a book about the technique that we use to make our jewelry. While it was no NY Times bestseller, it's provided a good income for us along with all the other things we do to stay self-employed.

Last week, I found out that someone scanned our book and put it up on several file sharing sites (you know, for "educational purposes"). I spent the day searching for contacts and emailing each of them to remove the book. I noticed that all of them charged extra for memberships to get expanded downloading privileges. They also had advertising.

All of them removed (for now) the files but shifted the blame elsewhere (ex. "We are just a search engine" or "We can't control all the content of our site"). They are making $ from ads and memberships but those of us who are unwittingly providing the content are SOL.

It's not a good feeling to know that someone out there decided that our book should be given away and there isn't much we can do to effectively stop it. I'm now going to have to take time to search for this and send out more emails to try and stop it. Now multiply that by the other books, ebooks, videos, pdfs, etc. that we create (or will create in the future).

I know that this is a reality and file sharing isn't going away anytime soon. I agree with some of the points about listening before buying and creating new market models for distribution that can get more $ to artists without all the middle men. But please don't tell me that our book is no different than a rainbow or just a collection of lines and letters. It was hard earned and helps to put food on the table.

And while this is now a personal issue for me, I don't see the need to belittle those who believe otherwise. A discussion may help to find a solution, an insultfest wont.
posted by jabo at 1:15 PM on December 13, 2009 [21 favorites]


Apparently "Swap your warez if you want to but it's a little bit naughty and you probably shouldn't use FPPs for it" is some kind of outlier far-right nazi extremist position.

FWIW, I don't think you're a far-right Nazi extremist. I do think, as I said, that torrenting is not "explicitly for the purpose of warezing mass quantities of digital media". As sites like Megaupload, Rapidshare and Badongo are rife with adds, download limits, annoying Flash interfaces and what have you, torrenting is becoming more and more the file sharing medium of choice. It's especially helpful in the Linux community, as 700MB .iso files are a bit cumbersome to upload to Sharebee, for example. I think we wander into weird territory if we ask people not "praise" file sharing, let alone post links to file sharing sites and trackers. The medium has a number of purposes, so I'd rather say it's the material linked that matters rather than the medium itself, i.e., the difference between posting a torrent for a cam recording of Avatar, and posting a link to Demonoid.

I respect your position and I think tempers have really run high in this thread, which is a shame, but I guess that's to be anticipated whenever this subject is broached.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:17 PM on December 13, 2009


Yeah, I generally like you a lot, Artw, I just think you're being a dick in this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:22 PM on December 13, 2009


I was about to say this is about the most contentious thread I've run into here in a while.

You know, I wouldn't mind filesharing so much, if the main culprits weren't pregnant gypsy women, who always run red lights & chain their fixies up to the disabled bike racks at the pet store, when taking their cats in to be declawed.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:31 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I wouldn't mind filesharing so much, if the main culprits weren't pregnant gypsy women, who always run red lights & chain their fixies up to the disabled bike racks at the pet store, when taking their cats in to be declawed.

...in Israel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it's possible for us to disagree about something without your claiming that people who disagree with you hate creative people and hate creative people wanting to get paid for their work, and without your throwing a threadlong temper tantrum and flipflopping back and forth between "OMG IT'S ILLEGAL" and "well sometimes it's okay."
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:41 PM on December 13, 2009


I mean, seriously... "Substantiate that or retract it. " - what the fuck is that? Who the fuck are you that you get to interegoate me? Normally you "like" me but this time I've failed to kow tow to your bullshit lawyering and semantic games and general assholishness, so now i'm off you nice list? Fuck you. I don't need the approval of someone who pulls the kind of petty bullshit you and OC have been running.

Can someone tell me why all-caps sarcasm is worse than this?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:46 PM on December 13, 2009


flipflopping back and forth between "OMG IT'S ILLEGAL" and "well sometimes it's okay."

This is a bit like when people who eat meat get all appalled and morally outraged by vegetarians who sometimes eat fish.
posted by dng at 1:46 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just don't like arguing against people whose argument is whatever is most convenient at the moment.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:48 PM on December 13, 2009


It's almost as if "there's all kinds of morally ambiguity and grey areas and stuff involved". When you make it the strict black and white thing it becomes ridiculous, and that's strictly your thing, not mine.
posted by Artw at 1:51 PM on December 13, 2009


This is a bit like when people who eat meat get all appalled and morally outraged by vegetarians who sometimes eat fish.

No, it's more like rolling your eyes at a person who is eating a hamburger and simultaneously insisting he's a vegan.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:52 PM on December 13, 2009


My argument hasn't changed one fucking inch, it just isn't the argumnet you want it to be so you can score your bullshit point.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on December 13, 2009


Can someone tell me why all-caps sarcasm is worse than this?

I think that's an interesting observation, OC, and one I was thinking about myself. Your arguments (in this thread) seem pretty level headed for the most part. Artw, on the other hand, seems to have gone completely off the rails. Between seething with rage and telling people who try to engage with him to fuck off (among some other choice words), I don't see how he's helping to facilitate anything other than a thread that's going to end in tears for all involved and he should probably step away from the keyboard for awhile.

Maybe Jessamyn's comments were a reference to long standing behavioral issues of which I am unaware, but just looking at this thread it seems pretty clear at Artw isn't doing himself (or the site) any favors.
posted by kbanas at 2:00 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, remove from activity is probably overdue.
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on December 13, 2009


Holy crap, Artw, do you want a hug?
posted by azarbayejani at 2:10 PM on December 13, 2009


Artw, how do you feel about YouTube? Say, for instance, links to unauthorised uploads of, say, Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe? How do you feel about that?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:12 PM on December 13, 2009


Artw, on the other hand, seems to have gone completely off the rails.

Or understandably frustrated; the point of the MeTa is that he doesn't feel an FPP promoting a torrent site (And it is obvious that the post is about the site and its wares being made available again, not the legal/technical issues that caused it to shut down) is appropriate for MetaFilter, just as an AskMe soliciting warez would be a violation of the guidelines. Rather than a conversation of the propriety of such subject matter, it devolved into a bunch of people trying to justify their activity and presenting gotchas and hypotheticals.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:12 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not even a huge fan of the FPP, Alvy, but I do find it to be breathtakingly hypocritical that Blazecock Pileon can be such a hardliner about it when he made an FPP that was all about scans of a copyrighted work, no different than linking directly to an MP3 or AVI file. Why Artw took this as a personal attack on himself, I do not know.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:19 PM on December 13, 2009


Maybe Jessamyn's comments were a reference to long standing behavioral issues of which I am unaware, but just looking at this thread it seems pretty clear at Artw isn't doing himself (or the site) any favors.

Yes and yes, basically. I don't want to pileon either of 'em particularly, I like them both, but OC has been sort of high-frequency jerkish to a degree that is a recurring problem that we're kind of touchy about at this point, and Artw has been pretty overt in here which I think sucks too. That said, OC isn't bouncing off the walls at the moment and Artw seems to be making the smart move of stepping out of the thread at this point, so, okay.

Putting these things up in the middle of the night is not a great plan in any case. Doing the flag-it-and-move-on thing in the first place would probably have been the more perfect move here since I'm not sure what this thread provided the community other than a parallel discussion for the same arguments already going on in the main thread itself. The invite stuff in that thread (and to an extent in here) is crappy behavior and was rightfully called out and I deleted it when I got up this morning, but that probably could have stood to be either (a) dealt with via the contact form or (b) made the sole, focused topic of the metatalk thread instead of the more broadside thing we got here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:33 PM on December 13, 2009


Can someone tell me why all-caps sarcasm is worse than this?

It's not. I LEFT THE HOUSE for an hour. Two "fuck you" comments removed. You can give yourself the "hey this isn't okay for MeFi" lecture because I'm sure you all know it.

Pope Guilty, Artw and OC, knock it off. Your sort of crabby abusive behavior doesn't scale to a site with 50K active members and this "fuck you, no fuck YOU" stuff isn't okay for MetaTalk. You can choose how you want to deal with that information now that you know it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:36 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


So have we determined where the hell the verb to warez came from? Because it sounds awkward, unfamiliar, and nonstandard. Actually, the standard term I would use to describe it is "wrong," but a bunch of people on the "language means whatever the dude talking thinks it means, man, there aren't any conventions!" bandwagon would kill me if I said it sounds wrong.

Do people seriously use a verb form of "warez?" 'cause, yeah, I'd love to know where that came from.
posted by majick at 2:36 PM on December 13, 2009


I'm gerunding right now, and it's very pleasurable.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:38 PM on December 13, 2009


The verbing of nouns is a very, very old phenomenon and being surprised at it is just silly.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:46 PM on December 13, 2009


What's been great about demonoid is that it's well maintained, clean, and good for finding really obscure things, likely to be out of print or so expensive that a consumer would never find value in them.

It is a source for warez, yes, but a public tracker is easier with similar speeds, and a more private tracker that enforces ratios is much faster. Hence, I never really saw it so much as a "warez" site as a "I wonder if I can find that out-of-print audiobook there" source.

Yes, I could be buying used copies of those books, but that can get expensive, no money goes to the original creator, and I have no need for the physical medium. The files will just end up getting ripped to my iPod. It's nice for some albums, where album art and liner notes are good, but not everything needs that.

Acting like demonoid is purely a warez site is like saying that Google Images exists solely for porn. Porn may be what some people use it for, and it may even be the most popular use of GIS, but that shouldn't discount all the legitimate uses. And I'm not saying this in a phony "a bong can be used to smoke tobacco" way, either. I'm willing to bet that at least 80% of users here have used GIS for their work or school, and a good fraction of demonoid users have used it to hunt down obscure stuff they can't find or buy elsewhere.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the chain of logic that goes from "this is a grey area" to "let's remove it."

But I've posted lots of sharity vinyl sites, including ChrisGoesRock, which is always getting shut down because of complaints not from copyright owners (so far as anyone can tell) but rather rare psych record dealers who don't understand that having an out-of-print Bulldog Breed album is going to make people more interested in buying their $1000 eBay copy, not less (well, actually, bad example because downloading that album let me know that they sucked).
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


>
It's a scene term, left over from the BBS days. Short for software, which is truthfully pretty dumb. "Software" pluralized is "software," so you shouldn't add an "s" and thus shouldn't add a "z" in that silly late 80's to 90's fad.

But while we're at it, I don't care for the "I accidentally" meme. However, I can't kill it.

Language is constantly evolving and unfixable. You can moan about what works and what doesn't, but at the end of the day, people will truncate and mutate the shit out of what you learned in school.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:02 PM on December 13, 2009


mediareport: "mullingitover's point about the much greater theft from the public domain by corporate owners deserves at least a *little* attention from the WAREZ!! crowd."

*Crickets* Yeah but that's not as satisfying as dressing up and playing Internet White Knight.

I think it has something to do with:

Ritchie: "Scolding people for downloading has nothing to do with helping artists and everything to do with serving some need within yourself."

This. (and this)
posted by mullingitover at 3:03 PM on December 13, 2009


and that's why I don't like cricket
posted by jtron at 3:04 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think most of us can agree that copyright infringement is not the same as theft, but that it's also not without consequence. The tough part is figuring out something as abstract as how many sales were lost because of copyright infringement, and how many were saved by maneuvers like anti-piracy ad campaigns and DRM. Since it's hard to tell what actual harm was done to the content owners, it's awfully hard to tell what an appropriate treatment of the behavior should be.

And it gets really murky with abandonware and products that aren't for sale in the downloader's country.

Since the legal issues are so thorny and hard to enforce, the best move is really to focus on how to piracy-proof distribution. For example, games can handle copying by only letting people with a legitimate copy find online games and get free DLC, like Valve has done with many of their games. Offering instant streams would be a good solution for video and audio-based products is good, since configuration and latency are what slow down pirating a movie. If one can quickly view a movie on a subscription, it's more convenient, especially if it can be displayed on a TV.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2009


Browsed in for a while this morning when this thing was still less than 200 comments deep. Came back a while later, found it close to 300. And this time, finally, I decided, f*** it! I'll just read the most recent twenty-odd comments and if someone hasn't said the more or less brilliant thing I feel compelled to say, then I shall.

Anyway, I found this bit of genius from my favorite POPE:

I think it's possible for us to disagree about something without your claiming that people who disagree with you hate creative people and hate creative people wanting to get paid for their work, and without your throwing a threadlong temper tantrum and flipflopping back and forth between "OMG IT'S ILLEGAL" and "well sometimes it's okay."

Not only does it fill me on all the bile that I've missed but it also scoops my intentions, sort of, specifically the bit about hating creative people and hating them wanting to get paid for their work. I, it so happens, am one of those creative people (yup, I even get paid for it some times), and I download (or share in the bounty of other downloaders).

Do I feel conflicted about this, conscious stricken, hypocritical? No, nope and nah.

Downloading just is what it is; pretty much inconceivable to the vast majority of normal folk as little as fifteen years ago, now THE new paradigm for moving information around. How could a seismic shift such as this not spur conflict, confusion, harsh words between friends, thread such as this? This is how the shit will be worked out. With people arguing, agreeing, SHOUTING at each other, being sarcastic, apologizing ... and so on.

Should creative-types be paid something for their efforts? Yes.

Is falling back on the ways of the previous paradigm going to accomplish this? No.

Now that I no longer have to pay twenty bucks to hear the latest from Radiohead (or whoever), do I now take that twenty bucks and invest it in cocaine, porn, lottery tickets? No, I just buy more books, used vinyl, art, other things that fill me up aesthetically.
posted by philip-random at 3:16 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's also the issue that "warez" as an idiomatic neologism doesn't necessarily lend itself to more complicated methods of inflection and conjugation and so forth—because it doesn't particularly fit the mold of some existing irregular verb, say, it gets treated to very generic regular transformations.

So you can argue that "warezing" sounds bad, but you can't reasonably argue that it doesn't make sense: it's very natural, mechanically, to produce as the obvious go to choice of verb (or gerund) for the root noun "warez". Objecting to verbing is just so much off-my-lawn protestation, satisfying perhaps but not really useful for the whole wide world of language that exists elsewhere than on your own rectangle of verbal sod.

This is true of young words in general; irregular verbs like the copula or other high-frequency items get irregular inflections, but they're a mix of (a) old and (b) unusually core to daily language, and they're very much the exception to the rules of regular verb inflection and so forth.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:20 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do find it to be breathtakingly hypocritical that Blazecock Pileon can be such a hardliner about it when he made an FPP that was all about scans of a copyrighted work

I can see how you could interpret it like that, but I don't think you're crediting BP and Artw with enough nuance. I see their position as being fairly complementary to the 'Compensation For Consumption' outlook I mentioned before. If I'm reading them right, their stance is 'If obtaining this item through this channel actively hurts the item's creator, it's wrong.' Their objections* aren't grounded in a belief of the absolute legal sanctity of copyright, but rather the belief in a creator's right to receive recompense for their work. That they object to seeing a link to a site that facilitates cutting the creator out of the equation - and that bears the tacit approval of the web community to which they belong - is understandable and not without some validity.

The scanned guidebook FPP presents an non-commercial/obsolete version (Well, I doubt the 'How To Make a Fire Drill' section has changed much, but at least five more editions of the guidebook have been published in the last four decades) of a work that is largely available on-line with official sanction, so I don't buy that BP's post indicates any sort of lapse or consistency in his ethics or consistency.

*Apologies if I am misrepresenting anyone or projecting a bit too much of my own beliefs onto theirs.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:22 PM on December 13, 2009


It's a scene term, left over from the BBS days. Short for software, which is truthfully pretty dumb. "Software" pluralized is "software," so you shouldn't add an "s" and thus shouldn't add a "z" in that silly late 80's to 90's fad.

Yes, but I don't recall people in that scene using it as a verb, no more than I recall people in the ANSI scene saying they were "ANSIing" or people in the demo scene say they were "demoing". (But I can find references to "warezing" in google groups going back to 2000)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:25 PM on December 13, 2009


WHY DIDN'T YOU GUYS LISTEN TO ME NOW IRONMOUTH IS HERE AND OH GOD 300 COMMENTS @(#*!&@(!
posted by tehloki at 3:33 PM on December 13, 2009


FFS, it's a Woody Guthrie reference.

I was unaware of that. I still think it's wholly inappropriate. Perhaps more so.


but I am opposed to the ridiculous idea that having done something creative and doing creative things entitles you to a living based on your creativity.

Having done something creative and doing creative things that a great number of people choose to obtain and enjoy entitles you to a living based on your creativity. If someone sits in their garage and bangs nails into scrap wood all day, that doesn't entitle them to a living either, but if they make cupboards for your kitchen, I think they should get paid, yes.

Especially, keep in mind that the only way to create works of the quality people have come to expect is to spend hundreds or thousands of professional man hours (or years!) on them. Avatar wasn't someone's weekend project. And many of these people went to school, moved across the country, gave up lucrative jobs, sacrificed personal relationships, etc., for years to do this stuff.


mullingitover's point about the much greater theft from the public domain by corporate owners deserves at least a *little* attention from the WAREZ!! crowd.

I think people on both sides are in general agreement about this. Copyright terms are ridiculous. However, as someone astutely pointed out upthread, even if copyright terms were shortened to a fifth of what they are now, a vast majority of the things people are actually pirating would still be under copyright.

Also, I think most anti-piracy people (at least around here) believe in fair use. Personally, I think fair use should be expanded. It's just the wholesale, institutionalized, ripping-off of current, commercially viable works that makes me/us sad.

Also, yes, Marisa, we know that BitTorrent is used for legitimate purposes, too. But do you really need an invite-only underground server in Ukraine to torrent a Linux ISO? I submit that you do not.
posted by blenderfish at 4:09 PM on December 13, 2009


No. The return of Demonoid is the best news I've had all day and the second-best news I've had all week, and your clinging to a regime of artificial imposition of pre-infocornucopic scarcity for the benefit of no-one but avariciously rent-seeking corporations does you no credit, sir, no credit at all.

ALSO WE HAVE CAMERAS.
posted by Justinian at 4:09 PM on December 13, 2009


blenderfish: "I think people on both sides are in general agreement about this. Copyright terms are ridiculous. However, as someone astutely pointed out upthread, even if copyright terms were shortened to a fifth of what they are now, a vast majority of the things people are actually pirating would still be under copyright."

Even if the terms were shortened to one fifth of what they are now, it's still far too long of a term. A realistic copyright term, given the current state of distribution technology, would be measured in months. Remember that the much shorter copyright term existed at a time when books and other materials still had to be shipped around by boat, train, and horse-drawn carriage. Now a content creator can recoup the initial investment in a matter of hours.
posted by mullingitover at 4:29 PM on December 13, 2009


I think advocating that copyright be reduced to a few months is a pretty ridiculous position, myself. Might as well advocate eliminating copyright entirely. At least it's an ethos.
posted by Justinian at 4:33 PM on December 13, 2009


Justinian: "I think advocating that copyright be reduced to a few months is a pretty ridiculous position, myself. Might as well advocate eliminating copyright entirely. At least it's an ethos."

I don't see what's ridiculous about creating a respectable window of opportunity for rightsholders to monetize a work, and then making an incentive for them to create more.

The primary purpose of the copyright system is to create expired copyrights, not wealthy rightsholders. .
posted by mullingitover at 4:48 PM on December 13, 2009


Also, yes, Marisa, we know that BitTorrent is used for legitimate purposes, too. But do you really need an invite-only underground server in Ukraine to torrent a Linux ISO? I submit that you do not.

My Linux .iso file was just an example. I still maintain that the material, not the medium, is what it seems people object to. Railing against filesharing itself is pretty off the mark, regardless of what country is hosting the server.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:50 PM on December 13, 2009


"So you can argue that "warezing" sounds bad, but you can't reasonably argue that it doesn't make sense: it's very natural, mechanically, to produce as the obvious go to choice of verb (or gerund) for the root noun "warez". Objecting to verbing is just so much off-my-lawn protestation, satisfying perhaps but not really useful for the whole wide world of language that exists elsewhere than on your own rectangle of verbal sod.

This is true of young words in general; irregular verbs like the copula or other high-frequency items get irregular inflections, but they're a mix of (a) old and (b) unusually core to daily language, and they're very much the exception to the rules of regular verb inflection and so forth.
"

Yes, but warez is an old word, an archaism from ten or years back that's barely used today. Using it here in such an earnest manner (and even coining verbs from it) gives the conversation a strange, haughty feel, like we're supposed to be too high class to use common terms like download and torrent. It felt weird.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:03 PM on December 13, 2009


Yes, but warez is an old word, an archaism from ten or years back that's barely used today.

warez is an old word like Suri Cruise is an old woman. We are talking on different timescales here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:15 PM on December 13, 2009

Justinian: "I think advocating that copyright be reduced to a few months is a pretty ridiculous position, myself. Might as well advocate eliminating copyright entirely. At least it's an ethos."

I don't see what's ridiculous about creating a respectable window of opportunity for rightsholders to monetize a work, and then making an incentive for them to create more.

The primary purpose of the copyright system is to create expired copyrights, not wealthy rightsholders.
This sums up everything that's wrong with this debate here. Copyright gets painted as this thing that serves only big businesses at the expense of the poor joe in the street who just wants to get some music off the net.

Nonsense. Copyright is what, in a lot of cases, protects us and the things we care about. Copyright isn't about distribution or shipping items, it's about protecting the rights of creators to control how their creations are exploited economically and otherwise. In these days, as I implied above, we're pretty much all creators.

You want copyright terms of a few months, few years, or even 12 years, as they were in the original? Cool: in a couple of years, early Metafilter posts will be out of copyright. I'll get to work on the book. And in a few more years, just as Facebook is potentially facing the same irrelevance that MySpace is now, it'll suddenly find it has one of the world's largest photography archives, and nothing to stop it doing what the hell it wants with them, except a "privacy policy" that can be changed at random. Can't wait for some 32-year-old to find his college mishaps in the bumper Christmas hardback edition of "20-year-olds do the stupidest things!". Perhaps he could torrent a PDF of it. Or will he be too busy reading the special ad-sponsored edition of the "Hottest GMail messages from 12 years ago"? Google is already scary enough about privacy ... wait until there's no copyright forcing it to keep your creations in your control. Think this is farfetched? It already happens, far too frequently. Last time it was Yahoo using Flickr pictures to fill its game sites. With the copyright chains taken off, there'll be no holds barred.

There's more, too, because even going outside of copyright depends on ... copyright. Want to put a Creative Commons licence on something? That depends on you being able to control that work, which means copyright. Want to open source something? If you want to dictate to other companies what they can do with your code, you need to control it ... copyright again. No copyright means no GPL, means closed-sourced versions of Apache, MySQL, Webkit, Linux ... all sorts of things that will remain free for just a two-month window until they fall into the clutches of big business, with their creators having no say in their exploitation.

It's scenarios like this that make me boggle when delmoi and others say that it's not common sense that creators should be able to control their works. The only way I can make it make sense is to think that they haven't considered the real impact of that, and are just trying to reject the premises because it leads to a conclusion that boosting free music is bad.

We're increasingly moving into a world where instead of being abstracted stuff that we rarely bother about, intellectual property is going to move much, much closer to home. We're all creating content, and we all rightly want a say in how that content is used.

Is copyright going to get harder to work with, because infringing it is vastly easier when there's only bits to ship around? Absolutely. Does that mean we should give up? No, because the value of controlling our own works is only increasing, not decreasing.
posted by bonaldi at 5:24 PM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


So have we determined where the hell the verb to warez came from? Because it sounds awkward, unfamiliar, and nonstandard. Actually, the standard term I would use to describe it is "wrong," but a bunch of people on the "language means whatever the dude talking thinks it means, man, there aren't any conventions!" bandwagon would kill me if I said it sounds wrong.

The word you're looking for, I think, isn't "wrong" but "lame." It is, as other folks have pointed out, a perfectly standard thing to do in English to turn a noun into a verb — it's just that you sound like an outsider and a bit of a dork if you verb this particular noun.

It's like how "groovy" and "bodacious" are perfectly legitimate adjectives but bad things to say if you're trying to impress a teenager.

(Actually, for all I know, teenagers are saying "bodacious" now. It would serve me right for talking like I know what the kids these days are up to.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:25 PM on December 13, 2009


You want copyright terms of a few months, few years, or even 12 years, as they were in the original? Cool: in a couple of years, early Metafilter posts will be out of copyright. I'll get to work on the book.

will it be as soft as a sears catalog?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:31 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nonsense. Copyright is what, in a lot of cases, protects us and the things we care about. Copyright isn't about distribution or shipping items, it's about protecting the rights of creators to control how their creations are exploited economically and otherwise. In these days, as I implied above, we're pretty much all creators.

There are countries (such as France) where the moral rights of authors are recognized; they're separate from copyright.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:45 PM on December 13, 2009


bonaldi: "And in a few more years, just as Facebook is potentially facing the same irrelevance that MySpace is now, it'll suddenly find it has one of the world's largest photography archives, and nothing to stop it doing what the hell it wants with them, except a "privacy policy" that can be changed at random. Can't wait for some 32-year-old to find his college mishaps in the bumper Christmas hardback edition of "20-year-olds do the stupidest things!". Perhaps he could torrent a PDF of it."

That red herring looks delicious.

Ever hear of personality rights?
posted by mullingitover at 6:09 PM on December 13, 2009


"to produce as the obvious go to choice of verb (or gerund) for the root noun "warez""

Warez, worez, wurez.

"No copyright means no GPL, means closed-sourced versions of Apache, MySQL, Webkit, Linux ... all sorts of things that will remain free for just a two-month window until they fall into the clutches of big business, with their creators having no say in their exploitation."

You were goin' great until here (no sarcasm, it's a good point to remember that public domain can be used for evil) but you've forgotten the end result of copyright lapse, that things are public domain. The after-lapse version of Apache wouldn't be a locked-in pay version, especially two months after a free version. It would be that the free version is the default and part of the public sphere.

I'll also mention one other point (it was going to be two, but they're related): Arguments from consequence have to argue from total consequence. Saying that there will be evil shit done if large companies can use anyone's content for free is true, but must be balanced against things like the massive amount of new wealth in public hands and the ability and incentive to create new work. It's like saying that getting into a car vastly increases your chance of dying, which is true, but has to be balanced against the increase in your ability to get where you want to at the time you want to.

Off the cuff, my ideal scenario has copyright knocked back down to seven years or so, with a couple of renewable terms, and a huge, huge, huge increase in codification and defense of fair use. I break the law every time I make a mix for friends, but I don't feel bad. I like the idea of content control in some instances, but prefer Biz Markee to Gilbert O'Sullivan.
posted by klangklangston at 6:11 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even if the terms were shortened to one fifth of what they are now, it's still far too long of a term. A realistic copyright term, given the current state of distribution technology, would be measured in months.

That is insane. There are many, many popular books which had small numbers of early editions before they caught on. All you're doing by shortening the terms to that length is virtually guaranteeing that only corporations, who have the resources to do a big ad splash with every launch, will make any money at all. Individual creators would be completely screwed. Not to mention people who cared about the law would just wait a few months to purchase stuff if they knew it would be free. (I do, however, think something in the realm of 20 years is at least an arguably reasonable term.)
posted by blenderfish at 6:16 PM on December 13, 2009


The after-lapse version of Apache wouldn't be a locked-in pay version, especially two months after a free version. It would be that the free version is the default and part of the public sphere.

Without the GPL, the fear is that the after-lapse version would be a 'freeware' version, perhaps 'enhanced' by allowing it to run with a piece of vendor-supplied, expensive hardware, or 'enhanced' by letting it interoperate with another vendor-supplied system, with no source code available.
posted by blenderfish at 6:21 PM on December 13, 2009


Mullingitover: Were you just searching for a nit to pick that meant you could avoid the larger argument? It doesn't have to have a significant personality in it. I'd love to read the juice in even an anonymised selection of the best bits of Gmail's archive. Now, it's true that there are other ways we could protect personal privacy and moral rights without copyright, but they're nowhere near developed enough yet -- especially internationally -- and that'd still fail to address the other failings of an effectively all-encompassing public domain I outlined.

The after-lapse version of Apache wouldn't be a locked-in pay version, especially two months after a free version. It would be that the free version is the default and part of the public sphere.

The scenario I was envisioning here really involves WebKit. Microsoft is under huge pressure to fix IE, but doesn't want to use WebKit because then it loses all the proprietary advantages. If they could take the code and make it closed-source (which they still could in a copyright-free world), then they could take WebKit, add in ActiveX stuff, and ship a version of IE that's as fast as anything else out there, but with absolutely no means to force them to release their improvements back to the people who wrote it for them.

Sure, you can then copy the resulting binary with impunity, but they'd want that anyway.

Really good point about the total consequence thing, and I don't think I can effectively rebut it because I just can't predict how the new wealth of old material would play out, especially against the costs. I will say that I can't see an alternative incentive system that scales from enabling people to make a few hundred bucks from taking pictures all the way up to supporting the creation of $500m movies. More a failure of my imagination than your argument, I suspect, but the drawbacks of even a seven-year term seem much starker to me than the mix-and-mash benefits.
posted by bonaldi at 6:25 PM on December 13, 2009


Hopping in on request - someone said I should mention some etymology of the term "warez".

Warez is a corruption of "Wares", short for "Softwares", a spelled-poorly plural form used on BBSes in the 1980s. I have scanned printouts from 1984 showing use of the term "wares" and some people using the term "warez" instead:

http://www.textfiles.com/messages/wowie!!.msg

Earlier printouts than 1984 show "softwares".

In terms of citation for Warez as a verb, the easiest one within reach is the song "Warez Song" by Test of Time, which was released either 1998 or 1999:

Cops find out, it’s the second time, this time I go to jail
Not only am I broke, no PC, but warez plans have failed
I’m sitting in the slammer going to warez me a great big ginsu knife
I’ll be here with the next ten years can I warez a wife?

posted by jscott at 6:46 PM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


But with a 7 or 12 years copyright term, it's not the currently existing version of Linux that gets in the public domain: it's the one that existed 7 (Linux 2.4) or 12 years ago (Linux 2.0). The copyrights to all further enhancement still belong to their respective holders.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:59 PM on December 13, 2009


"The scenario I was envisioning here really involves WebKit. Microsoft is under huge pressure to fix IE, but doesn't want to use WebKit because then it loses all the proprietary advantages. If they could take the code and make it closed-source (which they still could in a copyright-free world), then they could take WebKit, add in ActiveX stuff, and ship a version of IE that's as fast as anything else out there, but with absolutely no means to force them to release their improvements back to the people who wrote it for them."

So you think it'd be more like Coca-Cola's formula, the code a trade secret? Wouldn't it get leaked or decompiled pretty quickly, especially once it was back in the public domain? Am I just not understanding this correctly?

"Really good point about the total consequence thing, and I don't think I can effectively rebut it because I just can't predict how the new wealth of old material would play out, especially against the costs. I will say that I can't see an alternative incentive system that scales from enabling people to make a few hundred bucks from taking pictures all the way up to supporting the creation of $500m movies. More a failure of my imagination than your argument, I suspect, but the drawbacks of even a seven-year term seem much starker to me than the mix-and-mash benefits."

I don't think anyone here can make a total consequences argument, honestly. It's an incredibly complex legal, technological and social issue, the sort of thing that even describing minor changes can spin out into pages and pages of dense academic text.

The reason why I mention a seven-year, but extensible, term is both because of the historical resonance and because I think that a radically shorter term would be really beneficial in allowing the vast majority of works that aren't being actively maintained to slip back into the public sphere quickly. I don't doubt that the Princess and the Frog would be extended, say to the limit of three times (fairly arbitrarily). That's a generation's worth of money, of legitimate exploitation, but avoids both the stagnation of perpetual rights and recognizes that the public mythos is where the story came from. Perhaps it's just because I'm 30, but it does seem like now is the time that things like the Go-Bots should be open to reinterpretation, to reinvention, by people outside of the original creators. But that's presuming that things like that or the Munchichis would have even been renewed—without active interest, copyright should die. And with media like video games, that makes even more sense, in that seven or even fourteen years is a lifetime for games—abandonware shouldn't be held up by missing publishers and creators. I think that a system that allowed for the default to be a reasonably quick return to public domain along with the ability to extend to a reasonable third of a modern lifespan is a fairly moderate stance, and I think that defending that would be easier to get the public behind, especially if it's balanced by a broader fair use that allows for wider non-commercial appropriation. (I'd also lower the barrier to work being considered transformative, Wind Done Come or not).
posted by klangklangston at 7:04 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


So you think it'd be more like Coca-Cola's formula, the code a trade secret? Wouldn't it get leaked or decompiled pretty quickly, especially once it was back in the public domain? Am I just not understanding this correctly?

Actually, back when you couldn't really copyright software, that's how AT&T tried to protect UNIX.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:10 PM on December 13, 2009


Yes, but warez is an old word, an archaism from ten or years back that's barely used today.

warez is an old word like Suri Cruise is an old woman. We are talking on different timescales here.


Heh. I find it amusing that a word coined in the 1990s is considered "old" by some. Welkin is an old word, and you probably don't know what it means unless you google it. Warez is still very much a familiar term.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:21 PM on December 13, 2009


But with a 7 or 12 years copyright term
Yeah, the longer term compared to mullingitover's "few months" really helps with this (though not so much with "private" content), though I think RMS would have a fit at even an eight-year-old version of GCC going closed.

So you think it'd be more like Coca-Cola's formula, the code a trade secret? Wouldn't it get leaked or decompiled pretty quickly, especially once it was back in the public domain? Am I just not understanding this correctly?

Yeah, you'd end up with a trade secret kind of thing -- source access would become incredibly difficult inside Microsoft (well, if they weren't all too busy running around screaming and trying to make hardware keys and all sorts of manic DRM to try and stop unlicensed yet legal copies of Office from running).

It's a problem scenario because in software, strong copyright with long terms actually protect the commons: Apple got a leg-up on building their own browser because they could use the Konqueror source to do it, and the Konqueror guys were happy about it because they got Apple helping fix their browser for them. Likewise, Apple doesn't mind that their browser is rapidly becoming a de facto standard, because WebKit is used in all sorts of new places, as no company sees it as a risk. Google used it in Chrome, and you now have an effective Apple-Google alliance, with none of the usual corporate drawbacks. This is great for everyone who wants a faster browser, and all depends on controlled rights.

It's bad for Microsoft, though, because they now have to try and compete against Google-Apple-the world on their own. And they can't just use the WebKit source, because IE has to support ActiveX. If they used WebKit and added in the ActiveX (or whatever closed Microsoft tech is next) stuff, they'd also have to publish their source, and then everybody could have ActiveX. Disaster for Microsoft.

Without copyright, however, they could make the changes and then never have to release their own stuff. The whole thing breaks down at the point -- what's the point of Apple or even the Konqueror team busting their balls to make the best stuff, if Microsoft can then just steal it? (This is assuming that Microsoft can keep their code secret, but I don't think that's out of the realms of plausibility given what's at stake -- and also given the equally broken state of patents).

I think that a system that allowed for the default to be a reasonably quick return to public domain along with the ability to extend to a reasonable third of a modern lifespan is a fairly moderate stance, and I think that defending that would be easier to get the public behind

Yeah, I actually agree with all of this -- the benefits of much shorter copyright terms seem self-evident to me. It's only recently that I've realised that we are also all becoming personal copyright holders on a huge scale, and that means newer and pretty serious disadvantages to consider as well. I'm not over worried about things I made online in 2002, but I have a lot of sellable work on online services, and there's nothing in their policies that protect me in a world with a 7-year copyright. In 2016 I could well be bitten by some really nasty unforeseen consequences.
posted by bonaldi at 7:35 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Welkin is an old word, and you probably don't know what it means unless you google it.

Think where you're posting this, then apologize ;)
posted by jtron at 7:39 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Joe Beese: “By their massive participation in copyright infringement, society has said very clearly that it believes free copying to be a greater benefit to itself than the old laws. Now you may think it mistaken. But if the matter were to be settled by democratic vote, rather than who can hire the most expensive lawyers, copying for personal, non-profit use would already be legal - and the scolds here would have to bust our chops about something else, like jaywalking.”

I don't really have a horse in this race, and I'm not that concerned about this issue. I don't think infringement of currently-existing copyright laws is theft, and I think those laws should change, but lately I've been making it a point not to participate in infringement whenever I can help it.

Why? Because it seems like Joe Beese's statement above is actually the complete opposite of the truth of the matter. Complicity in copyright infringement is the inverse of civil disobedience; specifically, it isn't a statement that 'free copying is a greater benefit than the old laws;' it's a statement that personal convenience is more important than the rule of law, especially where that rule of law is almost impossible to enforce. And it started to occur to me a few months ago that it's pretty silly for us to speak of downloading TV shows, music, and movies freely which we would ordinarily have to pay for as a moral and political stand when it's clear that we're just rationalizing something we do merely to amuse ourselves. When we download music, movies and TV shows illegally, we aren't making any kind of political statement at all; we're just getting stuff for fun, and we stringently avoid making political statements in that context to protect ourselves. We don't walk around proclaiming "hey! I illegally download music!" and none of us (if people are anything like me and my friends) would submit to being arrested for one minute merely for the sake of the right to download episodes of Battlestar Galactica. And when we do hear about people who get arrested for this kind of thing and invariably sued for ridiculously large amounts of money, we don't hop on a bus to protest or write letters to our congressmen or wear t-shirts saying "I download stuff illegally too!" We mutter "poor sod" under our breath while we update our proxy server to make sure we won't get caught.

I mean, what are the classic examples of civil disobedience? Rosa Parks? If Rosa Parks had done warez-style 'civil disobedience,' she wouldn't have just stayed in her seat and submitted to being arrested; hell, she wouldn't have had that problem in the first place. If she'd done it the warez way, she would have put on whiteface and acted like she belonged there and never said anything to anybody about it afterwards to be sure that she got away with it. She submitted to certain arrest and mistreatment to make the very clear point that the law was unjust. The only statement downloading music, TV shows and movies illicitly makes is: 'I don't think laws really matter.' If anybody really, really cared about committing themselves to civil disobedience to point out that copyright laws are draconian, they'd at the very least be doing their downloading in front of RIAA headquarters in DC and announcing immediately to the RIAA that they'd done so.

And, frankly, since it's only an indication that people don't really care about laws that aren't likely to hurt them personally, and therefore that they don't really care about the law so much as their own convenience, copyright-infringing downloading in fact makes it less likely that this country will ever have good copyright laws. Most people think it's unfortunate that two or three or four people a month out of billions get arrested and have their lives ruined, but they don't think it's so unfortunate that they'd want to do anything about it. Whereas if people cared a lot about the laws, following them carefully even when those laws were personally inconvenient, it'd be a lot easier to communicate the point that freeing up the copyright laws isn't just for the sake of easy entertainment for people who can't be arsed to pay for it; it's for the sake of freeing information, which really ought to be as free as we can make it. But if people don't really care what the law is and will circumvent it when it's convenient to do so anyway, what's the point of making the law correct?
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 PM on December 13, 2009 [14 favorites]


Beneath the starry welkin
On chill nights I would go walkin'
Wearing nothing but a jerkin
And a somewhat threadbare merkin.
'Sooth, 'tis indeed an odd thing
Jack Frost nipping at thy 'bodkin'.
posted by Abiezer at 8:50 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


bonaldi: Webkit is LGPL, and would be amenable to having ActiveX implemented as a native plugin (not NSAPI). The license landscape is quite friendly to Microsoft, but that was never the problem anyway.

I've sent out 7 Demonoid invite codes today via MeMail, I'll send out more when people start using/returning them or when they let me generate more.
posted by blasdelf at 8:53 PM on December 13, 2009


Is this the line for invites?
posted by Balisong at 8:55 PM on December 13, 2009


koeselitz, as the MetaKing, is always right, but he's especially infalliable here. Both sides are full of colorful bloviating and equivocation--the truth is an ugly and difficult gray.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:24 PM on December 13, 2009


pracowity writes "When you set highway speed limits and then don't punish those who exceed them, you're telling everyone that you don't think speed limits really matter.

"All the blather in the world is never going to convince people to stop downloading. Either you allow them to continue or you shut them down."


There are some interesting parallels between speeding and infringing copyright: bonaldi writes "Nonsense. Copyright is what, in a lot of cases, protects us and the things we care about. Copyright isn't about distribution or shipping items, it's about protecting the rights of creators to control how their creations are exploited economically and otherwise. In these days, as I implied above, we're pretty much all creators."

Copyright is not about protecting the right of creators. That is merely the carrot used to entice the creators to support the goal of expanding the public domain. Expansion of the public domain is the goal of copyright legislation. Unfortunately the rights holders, lead in large part by the mouse, have managed to prevent anything from entering the public domain since the 1930s. Stuff hasn't entered the public domain since my grandfather, now dead, was born. This strip mining without remediation of the public domain is a travesty. Copyright holders aren't holding up their end of the deal, admittedly aided and abetted by legislatures, so I see no reason why the public should uphold their end of the deal. There is nothing in it for us.

The loss of the early Dr Who episodes is a classic example of the loss of culture as a result of a lack of a flourishing public domain. Big chunks of numerous episodes are now only available because of "pirating" of the aired episodes. Hardcore adherence to the "Respect my Copyrights/Content creators owners should be able to control in perpetuity the exploitation of their works" camp would have seen those episodes lost forever.

I'm glad I'm alive to see the defacto end of the exploitation of the Public Domain in many areas even if it's not yet the legal end.
posted by Mitheral at 11:17 PM on December 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Let's privatize EVERYTHING!
posted by ageispolis at 12:25 AM on December 14, 2009


The loss of the early Dr Who episodes is a classic example of the loss of culture as a result of a lack of a flourishing public domain

Could you explain this?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:41 AM on December 14, 2009



Could you explain this?


The Doctor Who missing episodes are the installments of the long-running British science fiction television programme Doctor Who that have no known film or videotape copies. They were wiped (or "junked") by the BBC during the 1960s and 1970s for economic and space-saving reasons. There are 27 incomplete Doctor Who serials, with 108 of 253 episodes from the first six years of the programme missing. Many more were thought to be lost until copies were recovered from various sources, mostly overseas broadcasters.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:00 AM on December 14, 2009


I guess it's a modern sensibility that makes me horrified at the idea of destroying the only known copies of narrative media. Yikes!
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:44 AM on December 14, 2009


"In terms of citation for Warez as a verb, the easiest one within reach..."

Thanks. Looks like it's been in uncommon usage for some good number of years, now, but wow, does it sound mighty awkward compared to the vastly more common noun usage.

cortex, my man: Lawn. Off. NOW. *shooing gesture*
posted by majick at 5:27 AM on December 14, 2009


Copyright is not about protecting the right of creators. That is merely the carrot used to entice the creators to support the goal of expanding the public domain. Expansion of the public domain is the goal of copyright legislation.

Citations aplenty required. Which'll be tricky since you're talking about laws started centuries ago. Carrot or no, what few stated goals there are -- like in the UN declaration of human rights -- are very specifically about protecting people's rights to not have their creations exploited outwith their control.

This strip mining without remediation of the public domain is a travesty.

It can't be strip mined because it didn't exist. The public domain wasn't exactly a bulging place of cartoons, TV and movies before copyright was introduced, because it was introduced when much of that media didn't exist. All the losses are purely theoretical -- and Disney et all will argue (falsely in my opinion, but nonetheless) that if copyright wasn't the way it was, they'd never be able to create the content that you'd use to fill this public domain.

I see no reason why the public should uphold their end of the deal. There is nothing in it for us.

There's lots and lots in it for us, as I said, including open source software, creative commons licences and protection of the stuff we upload to content-sharing sites.

The loss of the early Dr Who episodes is a classic example of the loss of culture as a result of a lack of a flourishing public domain. Big chunks of numerous episodes are now only available because of "pirating" of the aired episodes. Hardcore adherence to the "Respect my Copyrights/Content creators owners should be able to control in perpetuity the exploitation of their works" camp would have seen those episodes lost forever.

It's a classic example of something, all right. With no copyright, nothing would have changed in this scenario since you're talking about the 1960s. There was no way for anybody at home to copy those programmes, so home taping wouldn't have happened. Their commercial rivals wouldn't have copied the broadcasts since a) they were already deleting their own programmes anyway and b) once aired, there was no commercial future in the material -- no DVD aftersales, etc.

In fact, it was only long-term copyright that meant there was any value at all in the BBC investing in restoration and digitisation of the oldest extant parts of its Doctor Who archive and putting them up for sale on DVD for modern fans to enjoy. Otherwise it's wholly plausible they'd have languished there forever.
posted by bonaldi at 5:58 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have a horse in this race, either, other than to advise people to consider less crappy trackers and less playing of the Hall Monitor, but...

"Citations aplenty required."
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

-- Article I Section 8, United States Constitution
Expansion of the public domain -- the body of science and useful arts common to us all -- is indeed the goal of copyright. It says so right there on the label of the box it came in.
posted by majick at 6:20 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's no "common to us all" in the quote, though, no mention of public domain. It'd be better if there were, as it'd make The Disney antics harder to pull off.

But the actual stated goal there is promoting science and arts, which copyright does, even in its current bloated form.
posted by bonaldi at 6:24 AM on December 14, 2009


btw when people pirate commercial GPS programs it's called "wherez" fyi
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:51 AM on December 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Lawn! OFF!
posted by majick at 6:56 AM on December 14, 2009


illegally redistributed episodes of gritty Baltimore-centric dramas are called "wirez"
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:59 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes yes, and if you only download on the full moon, they're "werez."
posted by majick at 7:00 AM on December 14, 2009


There's no "common to us all" in the quote

the first three words of the constitution are "we the people" and the first sentence also mentions promoting "the general welfare", which one certainly can argue that having a public domain assists

don't be so obtuse
posted by pyramid termite at 7:06 AM on December 14, 2009


yeah, and if it involves finding some guy with glasses it's warez waldo
posted by pyramid termite at 7:06 AM on December 14, 2009


Those pirate knitting pattern sites all provide "wears."
posted by cgc373 at 7:14 AM on December 14, 2009


warez: the beef.
posted by gman at 7:24 AM on December 14, 2009


Pirating Acme Novelty Comics: Warez!

wait, I don't think i did that right....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a place for us,
Radar Rat Race for us,
Karateka and Double Dare -
Literally gallons of zero-day warez!

Somehow!
Someday!
Some warez!


(You guys are all on C64s too, right?)
posted by mintcake! at 8:18 AM on December 14, 2009


"But if people don't really care what the law is and will circumvent it when it's convenient to do so anyway, what's the point of making the law correct?"

Does the law exist prior to the will of the people? I'll cop a little Rousseau here and say no. If most people break the law and speed on a certain stretch of road, the actions of the people are the moral force—the law is wrong, inaccurately reflecting the will of the people. It should be changed, or only enforced in instances where an actual immanent danger may be felt by its lack of enforcement. Otherwise, given the ability to fine, it's essentially governmental rent seeking, alien to our public body. Rousseau would say that the prosperity of a people relies on how closely the laws reflect the general will and, though I think that's generally a specious assertion, it's worth considering here.

I'd also point out that calling on the same campaign of civil disobedience, looking for Rosa Parks (plural), is fallacious, though a tempting response to overheated rhetoric. When the legal penalties are so steep and the risk of being caught is so low, and the general morality so nuanced, it makes far less sense to look for martyrs and much more sense to simply encourage more people to do it, knowing that there's safety in numbers.

Finally, and I know I've mentioned this philosophy before, while our legal system can't overtly condone it, a probabilistic approach to law breaking often makes sense. I think that it would be more moral and more right to raise speed limits in a lot of cases, e.g. straight, long stretches of the West. But I'm fine with a nominal speed limit to deter most folks so long as I can make my own decision about my risk (and fuel economy). The goal of speed limits is now generally to prevent accidents, and if not everyone has the skill to drive quickly, I'd prefer that they obey the speed limit, and a curved police response can help ensure that those who are egregious get busted while allowing most of us to break the law comfortably. The same can be said for copyright, though if it was a saner system it would be easier to tailor response to severity of violation.
posted by klangklangston at 8:40 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


A crime. Stealing. Are we clear on this? Copyright infringement is stealing and is a criminal offense.

Um. No. First of all, "stealing" isn't a legal term of art. Please don't take this the wrong way because I respect you immensely, but your significant expertise, training, and experience in the legal world doesn't give you any authority on what is or isn't "stealing" -- a lay concept.

It's clearly not theft/larceny, which is the taking of a person's property with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. Copyright infringement is disanalogous on both the property prong and the deprivation prong.

"Intellectual property" is only "property" in a law & econ sense -- it's the subject of a right of exclusion, as in "property regime" vs. "liability regime." Not only is this a very niche use of the term, it's becoming less and less accurate. See eBay Inc v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388 (2006) (weakening the right to exclude by holding unanimously that patent infringement should not automatically result in an injunction).

Furthermore, knowledge is non-rivalrous. Your knowing the Pythagorean theorem doesn't prevent me from knowing it. Your memorizing the whole of Moby Dick doesn't prevent me from memorizing it. Your singing a song doesn't prevent me from singing it. Nor does your putting down your memorized Moby Dick on paper prevent me from putting down my memorized Moby Dick on paper, neither does your public performance of that song prevent my public performance of that song.

You're taking a semi-excludable, non-rivalrous good, slapping the label "property" on it, and trying to extend the law of larceny and the concept of stealing to it. This has no basis in law and no basis in the lay conception of stealing. It is certainly true that copyright infringement is ostensibly illegal; it is in violation of the U.S. Code. But it is substantively different - and in my opinion morally different - from stealing. Your citation to the U.S. Code doesn't address that. I can cite to the U.S. Code for all sorts of things that are criminalized but arguably comprise a moral right, let alone that comprise a morally ambiguous or neutral act. Copyright is a regime for incenting economic activity. It's a market tweak, not a codification of natural law against taking other peoples' things. It's no more a moral sin to violate copyright than it was for Filburn to grow his wheat.
posted by jock@law at 8:40 AM on December 14, 2009 [14 favorites]


bonaldi writes "It can't be strip mined because it didn't exist. The public domain wasn't exactly a bulging place of cartoons, TV and movies before copyright was introduced, because it was introduced when much of that media didn't exist. All the losses are purely theoretical -- and Disney et all will argue (falsely in my opinion, but nonetheless) that if copyright wasn't the way it was, they'd never be able to create the content that you'd use to fill this public domain."

Well I guess we'll never know for sure but I'd posit that the experience with books, plays, operas, magazines, newspapers and player piano rolls can be expanded to movies, tv and cartoons.

bonaldi writes "It's a classic example of something, all right. With no copyright, nothing would have changed in this scenario since you're talking about the 1960s. There was no way for anybody at home to copy those programmes, so home taping wouldn't have happened. Their commercial rivals wouldn't have copied the broadcasts since a) they were already deleting their own programmes anyway and b) once aired, there was no commercial future in the material -- no DVD aftersales, etc.

"In fact, it was only long-term copyright that meant there was any value at all in the BBC investing in restoration and digitisation of the oldest extant parts of its Doctor Who archive and putting them up for sale on DVD for modern fans to enjoy. Otherwise it's wholly plausible they'd have languished there forever."


I'm going to agree to disagree with you on this one. I don't agree that the only value of older works is in the on going ability of the owners to exploit and control those works. I'm of the opinion that a healthy and appreciated public domain that contains works people still living remember would have incentivized people to record programming, even to film, which is the only reason audio of all the episodes exists, and would have encouraged overseas broadcasters to hold onto their film copies anticipating the ability broadcast them free of charge when they entered the public domain. Many of the film copies of the show weren't destroyed until after they would have been in the public domain if the limit was still 14+14. The flip side is the artist unions that pressured the BBC to destroy in the first place would have had more strident voices.

As it stands today there is little public incentive for me, as a member of the public, to preserve artistic works either personally or via funding for public institutions. Even legally obtained works created before my birth, are unlikely to enter the public domain before my daughter dies. I'll never be able to make public use of those materials and in fact can be penalized just for having them in my possession and then passing them on to my future grand-daughter.
posted by Mitheral at 9:04 AM on December 14, 2009


koeselitz: "But if people don't really care what the law is and will circumvent it when it's convenient to do so anyway, what's the point of making the law correct"

I have a problem with the assumptions about the purpose of laws in our society that seem to underlie this statement. I think that it is corrosive to a society to have laws that are not enforced or even agreed with by large segments of the population. I think that the current copyright system is a good example of money corrupting the process of legislation. In a system where the laws more perfectly represented the interests of the people, copyright would be moving in direction of loosening to reflect the changing attitudes of people towards the copying and sharing of works.

Regarding the use of the word fascist in the context of this debate, there have been a lot of meanings attached to the word fascist but in the economic corporatist government sense I feel like it actually may be more appropriately used in this debate then elsewhere.

Also, most of what was going on in the middle of this thread was really terrible from the perspective of a reasonable discussion of the issues. If you feel like you need to call people names in a Metatalk thread, than I think it's pretty clear that you should take a time out.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2009


You can stop sending me invite requests, It hasn't let me generate any more for a while, and I've got quite a backlog of you guys.
posted by blasdelf at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2009


¿Vale, dond' estan mi guerez?
posted by everichon at 10:32 AM on December 14, 2009


me: “But if people don't really care what the law is and will circumvent it when it's convenient to do so anyway, what's the point of making the law correct?”

jefeweiss: “I have a problem with the assumptions about the purpose of laws in our society that seem to underlie this statement. I think that it is corrosive to a society to have laws that are not enforced or even agreed with by large segments of the population. I think that the current copyright system is a good example of money corrupting the process of legislation. In a system where the laws more perfectly represented the interests of the people, copyright would be moving in direction of loosening to reflect the changing attitudes of people towards the copying and sharing of works.”

I think you misunderstand my assumptions, then. I agree with every one of your statements: the current copyright system is indeed clearly an example of the corruption of good law by capital and corporate interest; most people would indeed vote in favor of loosening copyright, I think; and, most importantly, I agree that it's quite corrosive for a society to have popularly disregarded and unenforced laws. In fact, the fact that you've said this last bit indicates that you actually agree with me. If you really think it's corrosive for society to have popularly disregarded laws - why? My own conviction is that it's generally healthier for people in society to have a real and healthy respect for laws, and it's corrosive when the laws aren't really worthy of respect at all. The fact is that this should give us urgency to change copyright law as soon as possible, and so most of the people in this thread have it right in focusing mostly on determining what changes would be best.

But my main point, which by the way no one seems to have disagreed with, was actually this: illegally downloading copyright-infringing media doesn't help the copyright situation. It makes it worse. The point of political action shouldn't be to circumvent the law, but to change it and perfect it. It's pretty obvious at this point that copyright law as it is clearly differs from the will of the people. The trouble is - and let's be honest here - while copyright law is arcane and nearly impossible to enforce, it seems to me obvious that breaking or not breaking the law is a matter of the mildest convenience, and it wouldn't hurt anybody to simply stop infringing on those arcane copyright laws. So when people get used to breaking the law casually, merely for the sake of the mildest convenience, they get used to thinking about law as an unimportant abstraction unworthy of any respect at all.

That's not good. Of course the main responsibility here is for government to change the arcane law and put an end to laws that are difficult to respect and encourage a disdain for involvement in the political body. Anything else is bad government, and politicians can largely be blamed for not understanding this and fixing it. However, though I certainly don't want to lay blame on people in general, everyone finds themselves having to decide: what am I going to do with regard to copyright law? And when I ask myself this question, I realize, first of all, that this is supposed (at least) to be a democratic regime with laws that I should at least have some modicum of personal connection to; and, second, even in the most practical light, it's not really worthwhile for me to infringe on copyright. Why? Because I use Linux, I agree with Richard M. Stallman on most points, I think copyright law should be made freer, and I want to make copyright freedom respectable. I want people to know that when I say "copyright should be freer" or "source code should be provided with software," I'm not just making a self-serving rationalization; I'm making a real statement about the way the law ought to be. And even aside from my own respectability in the matter, casual circumvention of the laws encourages us to think of law as an inconvenience and a hindrance rather than something we have personal and political responsibility for.

klangklangston: “Does the law exist prior to the will of the people? I'll cop a little Rousseau here and say no. If most people break the law and speed on a certain stretch of road, the actions of the people are the moral force—the law is wrong, inaccurately reflecting the will of the people. It should be changed, or only enforced in instances where an actual immanent danger may be felt by its lack of enforcement. Otherwise, given the ability to fine, it's essentially governmental rent seeking, alien to our public body. Rousseau would say that the prosperity of a people relies on how closely the laws reflect the general will and, though I think that's generally a specious assertion, it's worth considering here.”

Well, I think even Rousseau would say that there's a very real difference between “the will of the people” and “a personal convenience or preference,” no matter how many people act on that personal choice. The social contract isn't an unspoken impulse or desire that's commonly shared; it's a set of agreements which all the people in a regime stand up and agree to, officially or unofficially but at the very least by submission to an authority that states those agreements explicitly. In fact, I think Rousseau would see an injustice here precisely because the formal law, which is the contents of the social contract simply because no one seems keen to stand up and disagree with it, conflicts with the desires of most people.

In fact, I don't think we really disagree much. I'm only saying that infringing the admittedly arcane current copyright laws isn't a way to improve those laws but rather a way to make them worse. It's absolutely true that those laws are bad and should be changed - that is, in fact, the first priority we should have in this case. I argue against infringing on current copyright law simply because I think following the law whilst arguing passionately against its current form is the fastest way to change it.

“Finally, and I know I've mentioned this philosophy before, while our legal system can't overtly condone it, a probabilistic approach to law breaking often makes sense. I think that it would be more moral and more right to raise speed limits in a lot of cases, e.g. straight, long stretches of the West. But I'm fine with a nominal speed limit to deter most folks so long as I can make my own decision about my risk (and fuel economy). The goal of speed limits is now generally to prevent accidents, and if not everyone has the skill to drive quickly, I'd prefer that they obey the speed limit, and a curved police response can help ensure that those who are egregious get busted while allowing most of us to break the law comfortably. The same can be said for copyright, though if it was a saner system it would be easier to tailor response to severity of violation.”

I disagree about probabilistic approaches to law. It think they may be a necessary evil of modern nation-states as they're arranged, but it seems to me that they're an indication that something is probably wrong somewhere. Laws should be laws which everybody can follow, on principle; if we all have to enact speed limits lower than all of us can conveniently follow simply because most people can't handle higher ones, it indicates that either (a) we're legislating where we shouldn't have to legislate, and we should put more effort into educating people; or (b) we're legislating on entirely too grand a scale that can't possibly take into account the niceties of the many individual situations involved. Of course, practically, that's what regimes have to do, and I know there's really no other way; but it's striking to me that this is almost always the case with US law, which is spread so thin that it almost loses meaning. Even individual states are hardly ever small enough to be able to cover legislation in a sufficiently particular way.

Take, for example, a case that's much more controversial: abortion. Legislation regarding abortion doesn't even make sense, and can't make sense, on anything but the most local level. There are probably cases (individuals and communities) where abortion is done far too often, and ought to be taken more seriously; there are certainly cases where abortion is forbidden or at least severely obstructed and yet where it ought to be much easier and more available to patients. Since the latter concern is much more pressing, frankly, than the former, it's true that legislation regarding abortion should be characterized largely by freedom, especially at this juncture in the US, but I really don't think society has fulfilled its duty to the individual merely by providing free and easy abortions. This is one area where every single case has individual nuances, where every person considering an abortion deserves to get to talk to an open, honest doctor who's willing to take the patient's decisions seriously and act on them and a community that will support them no matter what decision they make, via health care and otherwise. In short, I can picture a government that could be healthily and justly involved in that very personal process, but the government I picture isn't anything like the government of the US. It's a lot more like a town council or a small city-state's careful legislators. Only on an extremely local level can legislation about such matters make sense.

But I'm sort of off topic here.
posted by koeselitz at 10:38 AM on December 14, 2009


If it involves software to control a small dam, it's weirez.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2009


And it shouldn't be all that hard for my ISP to detect this shit and shut me down or even turn me in to the authorities with an exact description of what I took, byte for byte. With a little effort, the ISP could have the cops at my door before I finished.

I work for an ISP. We do DMCA takedowns, because we're required to by law, but we don't get involved in monitoring traffic for content. That has a lot of ugly legal liabilities, and none of us want to become the Police of the Internet. If it comes to that, I'll find another way to make a living, and I'm not at all joking.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2009


Posting right now from Ciudad Warez.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:10 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: I think you misunderstand my assumptions, then. I agree with every one of your statements: the current copyright system is indeed clearly an example of the corruption of good law by capital and corporate interest; most people would indeed vote in favor of loosening copyright, I think; and, most importantly, I agree that it's quite corrosive for a society to have popularly disregarded and unenforced laws. In fact, the fact that you've said this last bit indicates that you actually agree with me. If you really think it's corrosive for society to have popularly disregarded laws - why? My own conviction is that it's generally healthier for people in society to have a real and healthy respect for laws, and it's corrosive when the laws aren't really worthy of respect at all. The fact is that this should give us urgency to change copyright law as soon as possible, and so most of the people in this thread have it right in focusing mostly on determining what changes would be best.

But my main point, which by the way no one seems to have disagreed with, was actually this: illegally downloading copyright-infringing media doesn't help the copyright situation. It makes it worse. The point of political action shouldn't be to circumvent the law, but to change it and perfect it. It's pretty obvious at this point that copyright law as it is clearly differs from the will of the people. The trouble is - and let's be honest here - while copyright law is arcane and nearly impossible to enforce, it seems to me obvious that breaking or not breaking the law is a matter of the mildest convenience, and it wouldn't hurt anybody to simply stop infringing on those arcane copyright laws. So when people get used to breaking the law casually, merely for the sake of the mildest convenience, they get used to thinking about law as an unimportant abstraction unworthy of any respect at all.
"

I understand the point that you are making and I think that you may have missed my intent. The media companies that have the most stake in copyright extension are the ones who acts as gatekeepers of public opinion. They also have deep pockets to bribe legislators with campaign contributions and the implicit threat of negative press coverage for legislators who act counter to their wishes. Lawrence Lessig spent a great deal of time fighting for a more open copyright system and he decided that it was a waste under our current system of governance. The laws will not be changed in favor of shorter copyright terms and less restrictions on copying and derivative works. I think that the question that we are faced with is what will our response be to a dysfunctional legal system. It seems as if a common response is to act as if the laws do not exist. I think that we agree that having laws that are widely ignored is not a good thing for society, but absent the possibility of the laws changing we are left with fewer good options.

It seems that your opinion is that we should follow the law and let the pressure build up to change the law to something that would suit us better, but I don't believe that the laws will change. I think that we are already headed towards more draconian laws and enforcement regimes, and this trend will likely continue into the foreseeable future. This is a consequence of larger trends in the way that economic and political power has aggregated in our society. The people who control the debate have the power to decide what options are considered reasonable and in this case they have no interest in presenting the opposing side of the argument to the people.
posted by jefeweiss at 11:31 AM on December 14, 2009


I like illegally obtaining copies of indie comics via scans. I call them Chris Warez.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


That is insane. There are many, many popular books which had small numbers of early editions before they caught on.

Each subsequent edition has a copyright as well, which is why you often see books with multiple editions listed as 'Copyright 1995-2005,' for instance.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:47 AM on December 14, 2009


"But my main point, which by the way no one seems to have disagreed with, was actually this: illegally downloading copyright-infringing media doesn't help the copyright situation. It makes it worse. The point of political action shouldn't be to circumvent the law, but to change it and perfect it."

I don't think this is supported—downloading illegally does send an aggregate message to politicians that people act more permissively than the law requires, ergo the law should change to reflect that. It also isn't necessary to assume that those downloading illegally forgo other political action.

"Well, I think even Rousseau would say that there's a very real difference between “the will of the people” and “a personal convenience or preference,” no matter how many people act on that personal choice."

I think you haven't read your Rousseau in a while; the General Will is tautological. ;) The General Will is how people behave in their own interest, and one of the best (to my mind) criticisms of Rousseau is that he gets all muddled when trying to argue on the state's behalf against apparently contradictory impulses within the General Will.

"The social contract isn't an unspoken impulse or desire that's commonly shared; it's a set of agreements which all the people in a regime stand up and agree to, officially or unofficially but at the very least by submission to an authority that states those agreements explicitly."

Right. The Social Contract isn't the General Will; it's the codification of the General Will reified in order to assure the prosperity of a society. But authority precedes from the General Will, not from submission to those agreements—the Contract Rousseau lays out is his beliefs on how to codify the General Will most effectively for stability and prosperity. But yes, you me and Rousseau all agree on the injustice of copyright laws as they stand.

"I disagree about probabilistic approaches to law. It think they may be a necessary evil of modern nation-states as they're arranged, but it seems to me that they're an indication that something is probably wrong somewhere. Laws should be laws which everybody can follow, on principle; if we all have to enact speed limits lower than all of us can conveniently follow simply because most people can't handle higher ones, it indicates that either (a) we're legislating where we shouldn't have to legislate, and we should put more effort into educating people; or (b) we're legislating on entirely too grand a scale that can't possibly take into account the niceties of the many individual situations involved."

They're a necessary evil in that the map of behavior is (or should be) the laws, but the territory of behavior will never be the same as the map. They will always be a simplified abstraction of justice, of the will of the people, of the national character. But the philosophy I'm (poorly) articulating is a reaction to the inherent tension between the fairness of equality and the fairness of individuality—All men should be equal before the law, but all circumstances are different. If we make a blanket rule on speed limits, we legislate on too grand a scale. If we legislate instead that no one may go too fast for conditions (e.g. German autobahn), we leave open the possibility of abuse at a local level. Our nation was founded with a profound distrust of power and government, and sought to avoid these questions as much as possible by limiting the scope of said government. Here on Metafilter, I don't mind (even encourage) the idea of a small group of people using their judgment. In New York state, that idea applied to law gives us rampant abuses.

And each law has, unfortunately, a rather binary distinction, at least here in America (I don't know enough about other countries' laws)—you're either guilty or not guilty, and we try to weight the system so as to have as few not guilty people found guilty as possible, because it's understood that we can only apply a penalty or not apply it as evidence demands.

Thus, falling back to the judgment of each individual in the face of codified risk and probability seems the best systemic approach to mitigating behavior that's hazardous to society. There's no inherent justice in the law, as the law is artificial. We must strive to make that law's enforcement and penalties, the risk, most accurately represent the General Will's uneasiness or disapprobation of the behavior. It's easy to say that because copyright infringement is something we'd rather that not everyone do, that we reserve the right to punish the most egregious, even if "the most egregious" is not a concept that can be codified into the binary language required of law—any decision is going to be as arbitrary as voting at 18 or the monetary shift from larceny to grand larceny. So instead we ask each individual to see if they believe their behavior is egregious, and allow them to weigh that against the risks. This is a reasonable and natural reaction to the realization that laws are arbitrary and artificial, that people are the most important factor in the law, and that Hegel is dead and his approach to government should die with him (and I do apologize if I'm inadvertantly calling you a Hegelian).
posted by klangklangston at 11:47 AM on December 14, 2009


Copyright is a regime for incenting economic activity. It's a market tweak, not a codification of natural law against taking other peoples' things. It's no more a moral sin to violate copyright than it was for Filburn to grow his wheat.

I think of it as a contract-- I expend some amount (or a great deal) of effort/risk to create something you'll enjoy with the understanding you'll pay for it if you choose to partake of it. If you don't want to accept the contract, that's 100% fine, since you can choose not to enjoy the work I have produced. If you enjoy the work I produce without paying for it, you are breaking the contract. It's not a large leap to see how doing this breaks the "I do something for you and you compensate me" human convention which probably predates "law" by tens of thousands of years. Admittedly, the contract is structured in a bit of an unconventional way, in that the terms are pre-determined. But it is still voluntary.

In other words, if you really really honestly disagree with Copyright law, or even want to 'stick it to the man' or whatever, then don't enjoy works produced under it. That's your recourse, and nobody is stopping you. Do that enough, and the industry will take notice. But if, instead people just pirate the stuff they want to watch/listen to/play en masse, the Powers That Be will just regard them as self-serving leeches, and ignore anything they have to say.
posted by blenderfish at 2:51 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Each subsequent edition has a copyright as well, which is why you often see books with multiple editions listed as 'Copyright 1995-2005,' for instance.

That's not how that works. It's not as if the copyright term for the base work resets in 2005 or anything. (Unless they are claiming copyrights on changes made to the work in 2005-- in which case, if copyright terms were 6 months, as you suggest, people would just have to pirate the 2004 edition and be content with not having the edits until next year.)
posted by blenderfish at 2:54 PM on December 14, 2009


That's not how that works. It's not as if the copyright term for the base work resets in 2005 or anything.

No, but the copyright for the new edition is the year it was published, including any material in the new edition which was present in older editions. Even though copyright is limited, this is OK, because protecting an out-of-date work which was superseded is not necessarily the best use of legal resources, and it's certainly not what was intended by having it put into our constitution.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:05 PM on December 14, 2009


To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

-- Article I Section 8, United States Constitution

Expansion of the public domain -- the body of science and useful arts common to us all -- is indeed the goal of copyright. It says so right there on the label of the box it came in.


It doesn't say expansion anywhere. I don't remember the history of that clause, but the language seems skewed toward the securing, not the limited. If the limit was the point, it wouldn't be hidden in the middle there. Something more like this, I would expect: To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by limiting the time for which authors and inventors may secure the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries

It seems that the intent was to give inventors the security of knowing their inventions would be protected so that they could invent and publish/manufacture without having to worry someone would come along and steal their ideas/methods.

Anyway, what does the copyright actually stop anyone from doing, except purporting themselves as the author of someone else's work and deriving profit from that? (AFAIK, the Disney issue is more of a trademark issue now, not a copyright one.) I can't think of a situation where copyright gets in the way of anyone creating their own works.

jock@law- you are trying to squeeze the common law of theft of tangible items to intangible items. Even so, you hit on a specific concept that a lot of people miss: if theft is an unlawful taking with the intent to deprive the owner of it, the only difference between stealing a digital copy of music versus a cass-ingle from a store is that you've stolen slightly more in taking the actual object. Either way, I have deprived the author/owner of the work the opportunity to sell that music to me, and anyone I share it with. I have satisfied some of the demand for that product without compensating the seller. That is a taking with intent to deprive just as much as anything else.

Theft, as far as I know, doesn't count what the manufacturing cost of something is, only the value of the item. Otherwise, stealing paintings would be no more serious than stealing a yard of fabric. Which it clearly isn't. Paintings are valuable because people want them- they are SO valuable because they are rare. Media as we are talking about is by no means rare, but still has value, as evidenced by the fact that people pay money for it all the day. Even at the itunes store- if those songs had no value, nobody would pay for them, right? People want to hear music (and use software and watch movies), and therefore those products have value, no matter what the delivery method or wholesale cost is.

In other words, the theft is in using the work, not the actual act of copying bits of data back and forth. I suppose if you could prove that you downloaded something and never actually viewed it, and never shared it with anyone else, you might not be guilty of any kind of theft.
posted by gjc at 3:09 PM on December 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I found something oddly related to all this talk of the purpose and effects of copyright.

Back in the 60's-70's, there was a series of juvenile sci-fi books, Tom Swift Jr, which itself was a continuation of a prior series, Tom Swift. All the books were 'written' by Victor Appleton II, a pseudonym for the stable of authors used by the series. Today, you can find the books on Ebay, and an even newer "New Tom Swift" adventure series, but the originals are out of print, and some of the later, more rare, books go from a pretty penny used. (But are available for close-to-free thru Interlibrary Loan Service)

I've been building a collection of them, and kindleizing them by hand. It's a tedious process, and out of frustration at how long it is taking, I did a little googling about to see if anyone had already done the job. Indeed, I find the site TomSwiftLives, which seems to have most of the books in html form. sorta.

Seems he took the covers, the titles, and the plots, and reworked them all. Towards the end of his list, he has some books that never even existed in the original form. Some books are closer to the originals than others.


From "Tom Swift and his Triphibian Atomicar", physical book:


"Tom, your new atomic sports car is absolutely dreamy!" said Phyllis Newton.
Eighteen-year-old Tom Swift Jr. grinned at the pretty, dark-haired girl's excitement as his sleek, bronze racer glided along the highway leading out of Shopton. "You should call it the Silent Streak!" suggested Sandra Swift, Tom's seventeen-year-old blond sister, who was riding in the back seat with Bud Barclay.
"Good name, Sandy," Tom agreed, "but the publicity releases will call it a triphibian atomi-car."



From "Tom Swift and his Triphibian Atomicar", ebook:
“TOM, your new atomic sports car is absolutely dreamy!” enthused Bashalli Prandit.
Young Tom Swift grinned at the pretty, dark-haired girl’s excitement as his sleek, bronze racer glided along the highway leading out of Shopton. “Don’t forget, Bash, it’s not actually an atomic sports car — not just yet. But thanks for the com-pliment.”
The Pakistani managed to combine a nod with a frown.
“Every now and then I run across an English term that I don’t quite understand, I fear. Does not ‘dreamy’ mean ‘like something seen in a dream’?”
...several more paragraphs not found in the original...
You should call her the Silent Streak!".


His cover images are strange. Some are obvious updates to the original artwork, while others seem changed at random.


He offers printed/bound copies of his versions. With the originals at 30-40 years old, it would seem like this reworking effort is exactly what the founding father intended for copyright.
posted by nomisxid at 3:19 PM on December 14, 2009


nomisxid- agreed, if the original owner has relinquished their right to do the same thing. Copyright should encourage holders to "use it or lose it". In fact, I think it does, but I have no idea how it works.

On the other hand, consider what the result would be if those books had a living author and an intact copyright. Maybe this author is in his basement right now, reworking his stuff for a Kindle release, and some clown on the internet is doing it for nothing? I'd be pissed off.
posted by gjc at 3:35 PM on December 14, 2009


Anyway, what does the copyright actually stop anyone from doing, except purporting themselves as the author of someone else's work and deriving profit from that? (AFAIK, the Disney issue is more of a trademark issue now, not a copyright one.) I can't think of a situation where copyright gets in the way of anyone creating their own works.

It stops people being able to be directly influenced by other works, and incorporating elements of them into their own work, which can lead to a culture that only goes one way, and a general atrophying of art and literature (especially as lots of the best works of art are derivative of others).

If the Bible was still under copyright and the church could control who and how the characters and stories within it could be used by others, we'd have never had ET.
posted by dng at 3:40 PM on December 14, 2009


I have deprived the author/owner of the work the opportunity to sell that music to me, and anyone I share it with.

Irrelevant. There is no legally-protected right to that transaction. The author does not "own" the opportunity to sell that music to you or me or anyone who does not wish to present to them that opportunity. I also "deprive" them of that opportunity by refusing to listen to their music; such a deprivation is not a crime because it is not deprivation within the meaning of larceny, because such an opportunity is not their property (nor their right).

Your analysis is sloppy. It is not merely necessary that the copyright holder or licensee feels, in some subjective sense, some ill-defined deprivation. It must be my action, concretely, which actually deprives the owner of his property - not of extraneous rights, privileges, or "opportunities" which may or may not be afforded by virtue of holding some synthetic right the government has invented in order to incent scientific and artistic creation.

you are trying to squeeze the common law of theft of tangible items to intangible items

No. That is what you are doing and what others like you are doing when they try to suggest that copyright infringement is theft instead of the malum prohibitum offense it actually is.
posted by jock@law at 3:51 PM on December 14, 2009


Must you always be so unpleasant in your dealings here, jock@law? It's generally possible to have a good and courteous (and I don't mean the cold courtesy of the lawyer) discussion even when people are deeply invested in their positions. Anyway:

Irrelevant. There is no legally-protected right to that transaction

But, like you said earlier:

your significant expertise, training, and experience in the legal world doesn't give you any authority on what is or isn't "stealing" -- a lay concept.

gjc may be talking about legal theft, but his argument applies perfectly to the lay concept of stealing. In two ways: the first is that an infringer obtains something of value against the express wishes of the owner and without recompense. That pretty much covers "stealing" as I know it. The second is in the erosion or deprivation of the copyright holder's right to control the exploitation of their work. This isn't ill-defined: if the work is used or exploited in a way not sanctioned by the copyright holder, they have been deprived of that right.

Whether or not the right is synthetic (though the UN says it's a human right), or has or has not any weight in your moral calculations is irrelevant to the point.
posted by bonaldi at 4:09 PM on December 14, 2009


It doesn't say expansion anywhere. I don't remember the history of that clause, but the language seems skewed toward the securing, not the limited.

Remember, the constitution enumerated rights. Copyright is not one of them. It is a limited monopoly granted and protected by the government in order to further our knowledge and culture. "Public domain" is a term which refers to work outside copyright protection. The limit is precisely so that those works are not unlimited monopolies, although the companies which monetize copyright are seeking to make their monopolies last as long as possible, to the detriment of our knowledge and culture.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:24 PM on December 14, 2009


Remember, the constitution enumerated rights.

Sorry! Bill of Rights, of course, which technically is not the Constitution.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:25 PM on December 14, 2009


Theft, as far as I know, doesn't count what the manufacturing cost of something is, only the value of the item.

The problem is that you keep using terms like "theft" and are using some legal language around it, but you fail because you haven't defined "theft" as the law sees it. In fact, you refuse to even acknowledge that you are incorrect that the law doesn't use the same terminology, which makes these terms you're using meaningless, and the law doesn't try to get into questions of morality.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:36 PM on December 14, 2009


If the Bible was still under copyright and the church could control who and how the characters and stories within it could be used by others, we'd have never had ET.

The Bible is tricky. There are copyrighted versions and copy limitations in place by some copyright holders. Chick Publications has some details on how and why versions change, though it missed that one reason was to control unauthorized editions.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:45 PM on December 14, 2009


bonaldi writes "Must you always be so unpleasant in your dealings here, jock@law? It's generally possible to have a good and courteous (and I don't mean the cold courtesy of the lawyer) discussion even when people are deeply invested in their positions. "

I'm not sure what you're talking about here. The only vaguely adversarial item I can find in his comments are "your analysis is sloppy," which is correct.

Calling infringement 'theft' is straightforward hyperbole. It's a useful gut-punch tactic in this argument because it appeals to primitive instincts and reduces a complex argument to something that resonates with a simple mind. That's why the people who brought us 'forever minus a day' copyrights love it. However, it is empty rhetoric, and ultimately it only degrades the proponent of this claim. Claiming victory with this argument is like declaring victory in a chess game after beating your opponent with a tire iron.

tl;dr: Son, I am disappoint.
posted by mullingitover at 4:46 PM on December 14, 2009


Tone's a tricky thing, the post read very snappy and not at all friendly to me; perhaps I was mistaken, but I'd registered it before from him and that brought it to mind. As for him being "correct", well, sure, but you can be correct when you call a fat kid a fat kid, it doesn't make it playing nice.

However, it is empty rhetoric, and ultimately it only degrades the proponent of this claim. Claiming victory with this argument is like declaring victory in a chess game after beating your opponent with a tire iron.

I think it's attempting to "claim victory" at all that makes copyright discussions on Metafilter so frustrating and futile. This is a mountain of grey, and attempting to posture like it's actually clear-cut black-and-white gets us absolutely nowhere. Theft isn't technically accurate: absolutely. But nor is it vacuous: copyright infringement has effects on society and individuals and some of those effects have consequences not a million miles away from having something stolen from you.

It may be uncomfortable that it's also an emotive charge, but, well, that's just a facet of copyright infringement that a lot of people happen to see. Any counter-argument in favour of infringing cannot simply try and deny it; it must take that into account, or else it'll never persuade those who see infringing as a problem. If that's not a concern, we're just back to grandstanding and posturing, and we can do it all again in a couple of months.
posted by bonaldi at 5:01 PM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


bonaldi writes "It may be uncomfortable that it's also an emotive charge, but, well, that's just a facet of copyright infringement that a lot of people happen to see."

It's not uncomfortable, just wrong and thus shameful to those who use it. Lots of people might think otherwise, but those who care don't matter and those who matter don't care.
posted by mullingitover at 5:27 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


we're just back to grandstanding and posturing, and we can do it all again in a couple of months.

The good news is that eventually this entire debate will wither and die, because everything will have been said, and nobody will be able to make a single point without repeating the words of a previous comment.

And, as we all know from the bottom of the pages here, "All posts are © their original authors", so nobody will be able to say anything without infringing copyright.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:49 PM on December 14, 2009


"I think of it as a contract-- I expend some amount (or a great deal) of effort/risk to create something you'll enjoy with the understanding you'll pay for it if you choose to partake of it. If you don't want to accept the contract, that's 100% fine, since you can choose not to enjoy the work I have produced. If you enjoy the work I produce without paying for it, you are breaking the contract. It's not a large leap to see how doing this breaks the "I do something for you and you compensate me" human convention which probably predates "law" by tens of thousands of years. Admittedly, the contract is structured in a bit of an unconventional way, in that the terms are pre-determined. But it is still voluntary."

Pish tosh. You may think of it as a contract, but that's like declaring that I have to take your art seriously in order to interact with it (a claim some have made)—it's not a contract I'm bound to honor. If you don't like that, well, don't make art. Likewise, claims that "I do something for you and you compensate me" justifies copyright by virtue of existing for thousands of years is nonsense as there's an older—and given the history of art's relationship to commerce—model of doing something and not receiving any compensation, or doing something that makes both people richer and not getting any external reward or any number of ways of doing things that have no profit motive.

Bonaldi might have thought jock's reply brusque, but muddled thinking and emotional appeals really do deserve a blunt rebuttal, and that's what you got.
posted by klangklangston at 6:07 PM on December 14, 2009


Irrelevant. There is no legally-protected right to that transaction. The author does not "own" the opportunity to sell that music to you or me or anyone who does not wish to present to them that opportunity. I also "deprive" them of that opportunity by refusing to listen to their music; such a deprivation is not a crime because it is not deprivation within the meaning of larceny, because such an opportunity is not their property (nor their right).

Actually there is, as evidenced by the constitutional clause quoted above. Exclusive right to writings and inventions. If someone has a copyright to a work, and someone else wants a copy, they must adhere to the copyright holder's wishes. If the copyright holder has put his work up for sale in some form, and you use some means to subvert that transaction, you have committed a theft.

So of course they have the right to that opportunity, it's right there. You have the right to not buy the product, and they have the right to define the terms through which their work is distributed. Consuming their product without compensating them is theft. Again, doesn't matter whether the thing is tangible or not, an exclusive right IS a property grant.

Your analysis is sloppy. It is not merely necessary that the copyright holder or licensee feels, in some subjective sense, some ill-defined deprivation. It must be my action, concretely, which actually deprives the owner of his property - not of extraneous rights, privileges, or "opportunities" which may or may not be afforded by virtue of holding some synthetic right the government has invented in order to incent scientific and artistic creation.

It is property the same way a contract is property. You are purposely construing theft more narrowly than it is meant to to make your point.
posted by gjc at 6:35 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pish tosh. You may think of it as a contract, but that's like declaring that I have to take your art seriously in order to interact with it (a claim some have made)—it's not a contract I'm bound to honor. If you don't like that, well, don't make art. Likewise, claims that "I do something for you and you compensate me" justifies copyright by virtue of existing for thousands of years is nonsense as there's an older—and given the history of art's relationship to commerce—model of doing something and not receiving any compensation, or doing something that makes both people richer and not getting any external reward or any number of ways of doing things that have no profit motive.

It still remains that it is the artist who gets to decide what to do with the work. If they want to give it away, nothing is stopping them.
posted by gjc at 6:40 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pish tosh.

... 'Kay.

it's not a contract I'm bound to honor

I guess, in some sense, you're not really bound to honor any social contract. You could just take stuff from somebody; "ownership" at all is an artificial human concept. However, if we didn't have "ownership," and people could just take anything from anyone else at will, then nobody would buy anything because it would just get taken. So, we codified "ownership." Copyright is an extension of that concept of ownership. I guess you're not really bound to honor either.

If you don't like that, well, don't make art.

Applies to ownership as well: If you don't like stuff being taken from you, then don't buy stuff.

there's an older—and given the history of art's relationship to commerce—model of doing something and not receiving any compensation, or doing something that makes both people richer and not getting any external reward

We should all work for free, man? Maybe I can convince the grocier to give me some food for free, or my landlord to let me live here for free since it, like, really makes us both richer. "Do it for free" might work if you're writing haikus, or hastily produced songs, but doesn't quite cut it for professionally produced works, like movies, video games, albums, novels, etc. Enough piracy, and that stuff stops being produced, and all the sophistry in the world won't change that.
posted by blenderfish at 6:43 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


gjc: "It is property the same way a contract is property. You are purposely construing theft more narrowly than it is meant to to make your point."

Sorry, but Justice Blackmun disagrees, along with Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O'Connor, William Rehnquist, John P. Stevens, and William Brennan:
"Since the statutorily defined property rights of a copyright holder have a character distinct from the possessory interest of the owner of simple "goods, wares, [or] merchandise," interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The infringer of a copyright does not assume physical control over the copyright nor wholly deprive its owner of its use. Infringement implicates a more complex set of property interests than does run-of-the-mill theft, conversion, or fraud."
We can at least agree that there is rampant disregard for the law. Whether that law is fair and just is another matter. The powers that be choose not to enforce the law in the overwhelming majority of cases. If they did so, they would confront a beast that could destroy the status quo, and that's not something they're willing to risk. So it is what it is: the system stands, we don't like it, but defending it as just and going through contortions to equate it to something that is socially much less acceptable does a disservice to our capacity for understanding.
posted by mullingitover at 7:13 PM on December 14, 2009


This thread is awesome if for no other reason than reintroducing me to the verb "warezing." Used to have a pal who would say that all the time - "I was warezing around this morning on Hotline and got a copy of Photoshop 5 and Mac OS 8.5"

Much more fun than just saying "I was downloading some warez."
posted by porn in the woods at 7:31 PM on December 14, 2009


does a disservice to our capacity for understanding

Ripping off an artist is not curing cancer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 PM on December 14, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: " does a disservice to our capacity for understanding

Ripping off an artist is not curing cancer
"

See now, there's a perfect example of what mullingitover is talking about when he says "does a disservice to our capacity for understanding." Who said anything about curing cancer? Where does the idea even come from? What exactly are you equating with curing cancer? Not downloading music? That wasn't even what he was talking about. If you want to engage with the opinion of the Supreme Court on whether copyright infringement is theft, then have at it.

I thought we were doing pretty well talking about the ideas here and not just thowing out one liners.
posted by jefeweiss at 4:40 AM on December 15, 2009


Ripping off an artist is not curing cancer.

it's more like scanning a boy scout manual
posted by pyramid termite at 5:59 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


gjc may be talking about legal theft, but his argument applies perfectly to the lay concept of stealing. In two ways: the first is that an infringer obtains something of value against the express wishes of the owner and without recompense. That pretty much covers "stealing" as I know it.

Your statement is objectively false. The copyright infringer obtains the underlying work (which is not owned by anyone) and does not obtain the copyright (which is owned by the copyright holder). Throughout this discussion you have tended to conflate ownership of a legal right and ownership of the thing the right pertains to. This is an important distinction and one which you must internalize if you want to have a productive conversation.

The second is in the erosion or deprivation of the copyright holder's right to control the exploitation of their work.

This is wrong for two reasons: (a) the violation of a right and the deprivation of a right are two entirely different things; (b) copyright does not grant a "right to control the exploitation of the[] work." (a) is trivially obvious - if violation of any given right resulted in deprivation of that right, then rights would not meaningfully exist. violation of copyright leaves copyright intact; otherwise it would not be possible to seek enforcement of copyright in the courts after a violation. (b) is a simple matter of law. copyright does not have the boundaries you think it has. if copyright-holders had "control" over "the exploitation of their work" then Jon Stewart would be out of business.

This isn't ill-defined: if the work is used or exploited in a way not sanctioned by the copyright holder, they have been deprived of that right.

The right has neither been deprived nor necessarily violated. You severely overstate your case and are saying things which are not true about the contours of copyright to do so.

Whether or not the right is synthetic ... or has or has not any weight in your moral calculations is irrelevant to the point.

If this is the kind of behavior you're going to exhibit, then I will no longer engage you. You do not get to throw out a moral description - "stealing" - and then claim that moral assessment is inappropriate. This is egregiously disingenuous of you.
posted by jock@law at 6:10 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The copyright infringer obtains the underlying work (which is not owned by anyone) and does not obtain the copyright (which is owned by the copyright holder).

The copies of the work are things of value. The value would have accrued to the copyright holder, had a copy of the work not been taken without their permission and had the infringer purchased it legally. This is true and fits the lay description of stealing even without recourse to the notion of the legal right itself being eroded.

(a) is trivially obvious - if violation of any given right resulted in deprivation of that right, then rights would not meaningfully exist. violation of copyright leaves copyright intact; otherwise it would not be possible to seek enforcement of copyright in the courts after a violation.

I may have been better to say deprivation of the full exercise of that right. Example: If a photograph is printed in a paper in violation of copyright, then it is no longer possible for the photographer to sell exclusive first-run use of that picture. All that can be sought in the courts is redress for the lost income, the holder has been deprived of an ability they once had. The right has both been violated and the copyright holder has been deprived of an important portion of its exercise.

(b) is a simple matter of law. copyright does not have the boundaries you think it has. if copyright-holders had "control" over "the exploitation of their work" then Jon Stewart would be out of business.

If we didn't have fair use exemptions, Jon Stewart would be out of business. Copyright would operate exactly as you appear to be saying it wouldn't.

You do not get to throw out a moral description - "stealing" - and then claim that moral assessment is inappropriate. This is egregiously disingenuous of you.

In your rush to offence you missed the point: your moral calculation is irrelevant to the point of whether or not it is appropriate to call copyright infringement stealing. This is a matter of simple logic. It is fallacious to say that "stealing is bad; I say copyright infringement isn't bad; ergo copyright infringement can't be stealing".

The moral calculations in the second part have no effect on the first premise, or the conclusion. Copyright isn't a moral sin for you? Fine. It can be still be called "stealing" in everyday language.
posted by bonaldi at 7:22 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


meat is murder
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:46 AM on December 15, 2009


kill the hippies
posted by bonaldi at 7:49 AM on December 15, 2009


eat the rich
posted by pyramid termite at 8:20 AM on December 15, 2009


(but don't eat the hippies because the meat is stringy)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:42 AM on December 15, 2009


revolution is the opiate of the intellectuals
posted by philip-random at 9:21 AM on December 15, 2009


FRANKIE
SAY
RELAX
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:33 AM on December 15, 2009


Sous les pavés, la plage!
posted by Abiezer at 9:54 AM on December 15, 2009


blenderfish writes "'Do it for free' might work if you're writing haikus, or hastily produced songs, but doesn't quite cut it for professionally produced works, like movies, video games, albums, novels, etc. Enough piracy, and that stuff stops being produced, and all the sophistry in the world won't change that."

It's self evident that stuff would still be produced sans copyright, and not just three line poems and hastily produced songs. Plenty of books, even good ones, were written before the advent of copyrights and after the invention of the Gutenberg press and movable type. Lots of music that endures even to this day (though I suppose it's possible it was hastily produced, I'm not a music historian and can't be bothered to find out). I'd also put forth that Music is proof that people will create art without the carrot of commercial exploitation. It may not meet your "professional" standard though and I supposed by the dictionary it's amateur stuff..

gjc writes "Anyway, what does the copyright actually stop anyone from doing, except purporting themselves as the author of someone else's work and deriving profit from that? (AFAIK, the Disney issue is more of a trademark issue now, not a copyright one.) I can't think of a situation where copyright gets in the way of anyone creating their own works."

Yesterday I posted a SLYT to the front page (not a stunt post I swear. I just thought of this now) that infringes the copyright of Peter Gabriel. Strict adherence to copyright law would prevent this video from having some the impact (for people who remember the first run of the Sledgehammer video anyways) it does.
posted by Mitheral at 9:59 AM on December 15, 2009


See now, there's a perfect example of what mullingitover is talking about when he says "does a disservice to our capacity for understanding." Who said anything about curing cancer?

It was more a statement about the verbiage and rhetorical gymnastics used in this thread to rationalize ripping off artists. Rationalizations are doing a major disservice to our capacity for honesty.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:29 AM on December 15, 2009


I for one would like to hear the rationalization for charging a dollar per song.

Go ahead, try.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 AM on December 15, 2009


I for one would like to hear the rationalization for charging a dollar per song.

It's what the market will bear. If you don't want to pay for the music, don't listen to it. Your sense of entitlement doesn't make ripping off creative people okay.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Plenty of books, even good ones, were written before the advent of copyrights and after the invention of the Gutenberg press and movable type

Yeah, but look at who the authors were – almost exclusively members of the Priesthood and upper class. Neither of these groups were reliant on their creativity to survive.

It may not meet your "professional" standard though and I supposed by the dictionary it's amateur stuff..

I don’t think it’s fair to imply that your opponent doesn’t respect or value the work of amateur artists just because they think that making music, movies, or other work should be a full time pursuit for some individuals.
posted by Think_Long at 11:38 AM on December 15, 2009


Blazecock Pileon writes "It's what the market will bear. If you don't want to pay for the music, don't listen to it. Your sense of entitlement doesn't make ripping off creative people okay."

Or just record music off the radio, which is free and legal.
posted by mullingitover at 12:18 PM on December 15, 2009


(BP):Ripping off an artist is not curing cancer.

it's more like scanning a boy scout manual
posted by pyramid termite at 6:59 AM on December 15


On the one hand, I don't elevate our book getting scanned and fileshared into the greatest crisis of humanity. But I really don't understand the "hey it's no big deal" attitude.

My sole income comes from the things I make. I want the right to make a living from what I create. Call it stealing or copyright infringement or whatever but don't tell me it doesn't matter.

You can have my copyright when you pry it from my cold etc. etc.
posted by jabo at 12:20 PM on December 15, 2009


it's more like scanning a boy scout manual

You mean like this?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:23 PM on December 15, 2009


jabo writes "My sole income comes from the things I make. I want the right to make a living from what I create. Call it stealing or copyright infringement or whatever but don't tell me it doesn't matter. "

Or checking it out from the library? Seems like a lot of the arguments against file sharing apply equally to libraries:

- People get stuff without paying, which is obviously ripping off creative people
- Other people (parasitic librarian scum!) make a cushy living off the sweat of the artists' brow

Have you checked your local library to be sure they're not letting people steal your book?
posted by mullingitover at 12:35 PM on December 15, 2009


I for one would like to hear the rationalization for charging a dollar per song.

Go ahead, try.


This probably isn't what you meant, but the other day i was walking out of the subway and passed some carolers, who happenned to be doing a really good job. I liked the song they happenned to be singing at that moment (if it had been another carol I might have walked on by, I don't really love christmas music) so i tossed a dollar coin into their hat.

I didn't even get to bring the song home with me. I just felt like I'd enjoyed it, and they deserved some money for being so good.
posted by ServSci at 12:37 PM on December 15, 2009


btw, that anecdote isn't intended to do more than suggest that people do enter into exchanges with art they emjoy, and the ones who are fair minded recognise the value of that exchange and are willing to support art. I know it doesn't help either the pro-piracy or anti-piracy crowds at all, but i think i does respond to the idea that people want to steal from artists or have them work for nothing... I realize the guy who wrote 'silent night' won't see a dime of that dollar, but i don't mind the group of singers getting some support.
posted by ServSci at 12:42 PM on December 15, 2009


Or checking it out from the library? Seems like a lot of the arguments against file sharing apply equally to libraries

Except they don't except on a spurious fighty level, and everyone except the just flatly trolling accepts that's one of the many false equivalences around the subject that lead only to derail town.

You've already said that the people who feel differently to you on this subject simply don't matter, so why are you still here? Just to bring the noise?
posted by bonaldi at 12:45 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


bonaldi writes "Except they don't except on a spurious fighty level, and everyone except the just flatly trolling accepts that's one of the many false equivalences around the subject that lead only to derail town."

That's just a rationalization for the wholesale theft that libraries commit!

The librarians = thieves argument holds just as much water as the infringers = theives claim. More so, even, since the supreme court hasn't shot down the librarians = thieves assertion yet.
posted by mullingitover at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2009


Or just record music off the radio, which is free and legal.

Just to keep your comment grounded in the warez context in which this thread resides, I suspect that if you were to make digital copies of digital radio or internet radio, and then shared all those bits on the internet through p2p, you would have earned yourself a lawsuit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:58 PM on December 15, 2009


Seems like a lot of the arguments against file sharing apply equally to libraries

You know that there are real-life laws in the US and specific copyright exceptions that allow libraries to legally do this sort of thing, right?

That said, there are many times when I am showing patrons how to use some stupid technology which is hard to use specifically because of copyright laws [Overdrive Media Console, Windows Media Player, DVD players on some laptops] and I do take pains to explain to patrons that this software doesn't HAVE to be hard, but that software and hardware manufacturers who are trying to be perhaps overly conscientious about making sure people can't use their computers to circumvent copyright have built these hurdles into it. And then I explain why it's very hard to copy a DVD as opposed to a CD. And then I tell them to put Overdrive Media COnsole away, I will just show them how to rip a book on CD on to their laptop.

It's really hard to be in a service industry that at the same time has to deal with some of this nonsense. I have mixed feelings on freely copying and downloading/uploading music, but I do NOT have mixed feelings about how copyright laws have made companies create software that is completely user-unfriendly in the interests of being corporate-friendly, and that's sort of a shame for Farmer Bob who just wants something to listen to while he hays.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:40 PM on December 15, 2009


Have you checked your local library to be sure they're not letting people steal your book?

Well… I don't think my local library sells memberships or ad space like the file sharing web sites that I found my book featured on. I don't think my local library would scan a copy of my book without checking to see if it was ok with me to do so.

But maybe they would, I'll go check.
posted by jabo at 3:24 PM on December 15, 2009


jessamyn writes "You know that there are real-life laws in the US and specific copyright exceptions that allow libraries to legally do this sort of thing, right?"

I was aware of that, just observing how the black and white reasoning put fourth here by some folks (~"If you consume media without paying for it, it naturally follows that you are stealing from the rightsholder and are a thief and a cad") applies just as easily to library patrons and radio listeners.

jabo writes "Well… I don't think my local library sells memberships or ad space like the file sharing web sites that I found my book featured on. I don't think my local library would scan a copy of my book without checking to see if it was ok with me to do so.

"But maybe they would, I'll go check."


Libraries are funded by taxpayers so you've already paid them for your membership. As for the library scanning your book...yeah.
posted by mullingitover at 4:01 PM on December 15, 2009


I do NOT have mixed feelings about how copyright laws have made companies create software that is completely user-unfriendly in the interests of being corporate-friendly

I hate DRM too, but there is certainly no obligation under copyright law to add DRM to your work. In fact, if people obeyed copyright law, there wouldn't be any need for DRM. DVDs have DRM precisely because CDs, which did not, were being ripped and copied by the time DVDs were designed. Unless someone comes up with another, scalable, end-to-end way to make money by giving stuff away for free, DRM might be the only way to make money if copyright law didn't exist (of course, once people crack that first copy, you're kinda screwed, but that's the case now, too.) Or you might have to do some kind of theater model in which you have to come to a special locked down room to use a valuable piece of software, watch a movie, or listen to a song. In other words, in the absence of copyright, there may be much more draconian controls.

Blaming copyright law for DRM is like blaming shoplifting laws for annoying anti-theft tags at stores.
posted by blenderfish at 4:02 PM on December 15, 2009


Blaming copyright law for DRM is like blaming shoplifting laws for annoying anti-theft tags at stores.

I blame zealous over-enforcement of copyright laws, actually, not the laws themselves. DRM does a bunch more stuff than just protect copyright. It actively keeps novice users from being able to use media they actually have a legal right to. And I think the problem is actually just poorly-implemented DRM most of the time.

As for the library scanning your book...yeah.

I do not want to get bogged down in the rest of this conversation but let me just say that

GOOGLE IS NOT THE FUCKING LIBRARY.

Ahem.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:06 PM on December 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


I suspect that if you were to make digital copies of digital radio or internet radio, and then shared all those bits on the internet through p2p, you would have earned yourself a lawsuit.

The fact that this suspicion is probably grounded in reality is a perfect example of why the law is an ass on this issue.

If it's legal for me to acquire a given bit pattern without paying for it, simply by monitoring a bunch of Internet radio channels until it turns up and then collecting it, I can see no reasonable argument for the illegality of collecting the same bit pattern via a p2p network, and therefore no reasonable argument for the illegality of making that bit pattern available via a p2p network.

Where's the beef?
posted by flabdablet at 4:08 PM on December 15, 2009


jessamyn writes "GOOGLE IS NOT THE FUCKING LIBRARY."

Sorry, got ahead of myself. These are the libraries that are scanning books for google. That was just a link to the opt-out page for authors who've already had their books reproduced without consent.
posted by mullingitover at 4:12 PM on December 15, 2009


It actively keeps novice users from being able to use media they actually have a legal right to.

Yeah. The sad irony is that the pirates, who download something stripped of DRM, end up with a more useful version of it than the people who pay money for it.
posted by blenderfish at 4:22 PM on December 15, 2009


These are the libraries that are scanning books for google.

The libraries are just allowing Google to scan their books in return for some totally non-cool amount of access to the scanned copies, in my opinion. Maybe from the outside this seems like the library is doing the work and reaping the benefits of the digitized copies. To me it's always seemed like Google is trying to hide under the library exemption to even get access to the books in the first place, and then making a sort of ungreat deal with the libraries as to what can be done with the digitzed versions.

I think this project is the best thing since sliced bread for non-controversial out of copyright works, and I'll be aggressive about what I think should happen with orphan works, but I think authors are being strongarmed into allowing their books to be scanned [often at the behest of their publishers who actually own the copyrights] via this project and it's a land grab of the sort we're unlikely to see again for digitzed works.

Honestly the only reason libraries went with Google is that for some reason they seemed to be unable to launch their own scanning program and they know digitzation is important and Google showed up. The Internet Archive has a much more dignified setup, in my opinion, but they don't have the bottomless moneypockets that Google does and they're also arguing that they're not getting access to places that Google's already in because librarians are not wanting to scan books twice. It's super duper ugly in my opinion and I think it's a lot more complicated than "libraries are scanning books for Google" but I'm willing to admit that I have a dog in this fight and allow other interpretations.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:27 PM on December 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


I was aware of that, just observing how the black and white reasoning put fourth here by some folks (~"If you consume media without paying for it, it naturally follows that you are stealing from the rightsholder and are a thief and a cad") applies just as easily to library patrons and radio listeners.

Did anyone here say that? In my experience, copyright's defenders are nearly always supportive of libraries. (There are some, like EA, who hate the whole idea of used sales, but there's a difference between supporting the idea of copyright and being the RIAA).

For me, it's all down to the copyright holder's control. Very few of them object to libraries; even fewer to radio listeners -- in that case they all want more airtime, not less. On the other hand, lots and lots of them object to being shared p2p -- and those that don't are generally able to get their products shared p2p legally.

This is all this boils down to for me: You haven't yet explained why creators should have no say in what happens to their works, and how they are distributed. Well, you granted them a couple of months, but I imagine you'd support 0-day rips anyway. You complained about the excesses of copyright terms, but an actual argument for forcing people to give their work away? Absent.

This distinction matters here, too:

I can see no reasonable argument for the illegality of collecting the same bit pattern via a p2p network, and therefore no reasonable argument for the illegality of making that bit pattern available via a p2p network.

if I it is legal for me to take a promotional can of soft drink from a company's representative in the mall, I can see no reasonable argument for the illegality of swiping a can from the company warehouse, and therefore no reasonable argument for the illegality of making that can available by giving it to somebody else. Oh, wait.

(The number of times you say "bit pattern" suggests that you're itching to start Mefi Copyright Derail #3324: "It's just a string of numbers, therefore you can't apply real-world restrictions or really any common sense at all to it", but I really need to bow out before that one rolls around.)
posted by bonaldi at 4:31 PM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can see no reasonable argument for the illegality of collecting the same bit pattern via a p2p network, and therefore no reasonable argument for the illegality of making that bit pattern available via a p2p network.

That you cannot see a reasonable argument does not mean one does not exist.

For a start, how about the fact that you are not a radio station?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:36 PM on December 15, 2009


blenderfish writes "The sad irony is that the pirates, who download something stripped of DRM, end up with a more useful version of it than the people who pay money for it."

Pirates, and also people who already own a copy of the work and aren't able to format-shift it. DRM actually goes a long way in legitimizing unauthorized reproduction and distribution, because it robs end users of their lawful fair use rights.
posted by mullingitover at 4:46 PM on December 15, 2009


if I it is legal for me to take a promotional can of soft drink from a company's representative in the mall, I can see no reasonable argument for the illegality of swiping a can from the company warehouse, and therefore no reasonable argument for the illegality of making that can available by giving it to somebody else. Oh, wait.

False equivalence. The music I save from a promotional Internet radio broadcast doesn't disappear on first use.

(The number of times you say "bit pattern" suggests that you're itching to start Mefi Copyright Derail #3324: "It's just a string of numbers, therefore you can't apply real-world restrictions or really any common sense at all to it", but I really need to bow out before that one rolls around.)

No, I was using "bit pattern" to make it absolutely clear that when I'm talking about digitally encoded music broadcast via Internet radio versus digitally encoded music shared via p2p, I'm talking about bit-identical content. I wasn't trying to start a derail so much as avoid an encoding-quality red herring.

For a start, how about the fact that you are not a radio station?

My point starts by looking at what a radio station listener is allowed to do perfectly legally, comparing that to what p2p downloaders are frequently chastised for doing, and noting that both activities have exactly the same endpoint: a chunk of digital content on the listener's own PC or other music storage device, available for that listener's unlimited repeat use at any convenient future time.

Given that radio broadcasting, and by extension Internet "radio" broadcasting, is generally agreed to be good for sales, then it simply makes no sense to assert that a p2p data replication mechanism, different in technical implementation detail but resulting in an identical end effect, is somehow bad for sales.

The music industry frequently huffs and puffs about "lost sales", but the fact remains that the number of billions allegedly lost is always based on an unmeasurable figure pulled straight out of some industry executive's arse (the percentage of people who would have paid for a given chunk of art if they had no way to acquire it "for free") and there is never any credit given for equally unmeasurable billions saved in promotional costs.

The sad irony is that the pirates, who download something stripped of DRM, end up with a more useful version of it than the people who pay money for it.

Even Apple noticed that, in January this year, and dropped DRM from content sold via the iTunes Music Store. As a result, they're making more money now because what they're selling is more useful. One side effect of ITMS pushing out a hell of a lot of unprotected content would presumably be that it turns up on p2p networks even faster than it did before. And yet, not only is ITMS making more money, it's selling more tracks. This suggests to me that music transfer via p2p does not reduce music sales.

On another tack: I'm old enough to remember the introduction of cassette tape, and remember the music industry raising a very familiar sounding ruckus about that. Apparently, the existence of a new method for people to make and share high quality re-recordings of commercial vinyl pressings was going to spell the death of the recording industry.

Didn't happen.

Nor did VHS tape recorders kill the movie industry.

Nor will p2p file sharing kill any of those industries today.

It's all just broadcasting, one way or another, and broadcasts drive sales.
posted by flabdablet at 6:41 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


False equivalence. The music I save from a promotional Internet radio broadcast doesn't disappear on first use.
Uncharitable dodge. The marginal cost of a can of Coke to the Coca-Cola corporation is vanishingly small. That's why I chose the example.

I could make a really convoluted example that used digital data, but it'd all be to make the same point: the difference between the radio broadcasting and your unauthorised p2p sharing of an internet radio rip really boils down to "unauthorised". The copyright holder doesn't want you doing it, and it is their moral and legal right to decide.

It's all just broadcasting, one way or another, and broadcasts drive sales.

But some of it is sanctioned, or otherwise put up with thanks to the courts stepping in on our behalf, and some of it isn't. You can make the case that it improves the copyright holder's income for them to allow p2p, but it is their decision to make all the same, until the courts rule against them -- which they've been loathe to do so far.

And I don't know if you're just being disingenuous, anyway. Low-quality radio rips are a rarity compared to the majority of stuff being torrented. These things are perfect substitutes for a purchased copy (in a lot of cases, they're better substitutes as they don't have DRM around their necks) in a way that none of your other examples are. How could increasing distribution of perfect substitutes increase sales of the original?

And, even if it could, the ultimate question still stands: why is it right to force people to do this, to give their work away?

I suppose I can see a civil disobedience argument there (Disney has harmed the commons enough by its copyright antics that we should take some redress), but it's hard to really make it swing when the answer to "what are you fighting for?" is "free entertainment, with no recompense to the creators and no say for them in the matter!"
posted by bonaldi at 7:03 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


bonaldi:"These things are perfect substitutes for a purchased copy (in a lot of cases, they're better substitutes as they don't have DRM around their necks) in a way that none of your other examples are."

Not a substitute at all. Downloaded music has zero cash value.

"And, even if it could, the ultimate question still stands: why is it right to force people to do this, to give their work away? "

*cue violins*

Nobody's forcing you to publish. As soon as you release something into the wild, you have given it away. Fair use allows people to use your own work to cruelly mock you and make money in the process, and you have no control over that.
posted by mullingitover at 7:30 PM on December 15, 2009


Not a substitute at all. Downloaded music has zero cash value.

Substitute goods are goods that can be used to satisfy the same needs, one in the place of another.

Nobody's forcing you to publish.
Er, yes, I think this is the point. That's why we have copyright control, to give people an incentive to publish. You want to force people into giving their work away, but you have no means of forcing them to publish.

Darnit, pesky economics.
posted by bonaldi at 7:39 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pirates, and also people who already own a copy of the work and aren't able to format-shift it.

In the US, at least, breaking DRM is illegal, so your options are being a pirate or having crippleware, full stop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:02 PM on December 15, 2009


God, the stupid came out again, didn't it? Aside from Bonaldi, it doesn't even seem like the pro-copyright people are interested in having a discussion. Rather, they want to state their case and dismiss or mock anyone who disagrees. For all the talk of gray area, none seem willing to concede any meaningful territory (not curing cancer? Seriously? That's weak sarcasm instead of argument. Bump up or go home.)

A quick point regarding the relationship between consumer and producer: For the vast history of recorded media, the power laid with the producers, generally by controlling the means of distribution, and it was generally a physical power, a physical restraint. That's no longer true, and so there's a strain of argument that posits that that control was essentially a moral right, something that still exists abstractly after the physical reality is no longer there. The law supports this, though not as strongly as some here would like to posit, because the law recognized the abstract and artificial nature of copyright back when copyright still did involve physical objects. But even the law is essentially neutered in this debate; I can get nearly any popular album, movie, software pirated with next to no personal risk. Even better, I can get it for marginal cost (time, storage), often faster than the official version, and usually without onerous DRM that makes it harder for me to exercise my legal rights with the content. And none of us have any real illusions—things like the RIAA going after record stores for selling used albums in the late '80s, or Sony's rootkit, show that rights holders have no respect for the legal rights of consumers. They are, as I alluded above, in an effective state of war against their consumers (or at the very least, in an emotionally abusive relationship with their consumers).

But they lack the power to enforce that. So, there are two real ramifications: Without that coercive inherent power, consumers are free to examine what was termed a "contract" above. Blenderfish stated that it was one-sided, effectively making it a compact (for those of you who remember your Hobbes). But consumers now have the power to reject that contract wholly and respond with their own terms, which are often even more than an inversion of the previous terms; consumers can have better stuff for free, if they want it and are willing to risk it. If the previous terms were effectively, pay me or don't listen, e.g. $20 or nothin', the rejoinder is that I'll give you nothing and still enjoy it, thank you very much. The contract becomes, Accept that you're giving away a lot of copies for free or don't put it out.

The second, and much more practical point, is that rights holders have to move from a discourse that assumes that coercive force, to one of persuasion. The power is inverted, and people need to be convinced to pay. This is, luckily, similar to the real advantage that major labels provide, in that marketing is already focused on asking people to pay for things they don't need. It's a short step to asking them to pay for things they don't need to. Moral and practical suasion is necessary if we start from the assumption, and I think we can, that consumers don't need to pay to enjoy media. That can take the form of the indie guilt, or why I also pay for Electric Wizard and infringe on Metallica. It's altruism to help out these bands that I enjoy, and my spending patterns are similar there to how I contribute to causes—Local needs first, in small, impulsive chunks, and as a reward for people who I think are doing good work. The practical suasion takes the form of actually offering a better product. I was talking with my father about eMusic, which we've both been members of, and how now after their deal with Sony, how they've changed their model to make it much harder to get a fair price on full albums and how they're doing things like limiting redownloads, meaning that music I paid for once but have lost and counted on being able to get from them (outsourcing my storage) I now no longer can. Or how they'll change versions of an album and no longer offer some tracks, or even sometimes have labeled things incorrectly and then make you go through a rigmarole to get credited. He said, "It's like they want you to steal it!" Which yeah, one of the reasons I gave up on eMusic was because they shifted the model so that I was getting less music for more money—given that I can get all of this for free, I'm only in it to support the model, so they should make sure folks don't feel alienated. After spending two hours on the phone trying to get credits for interrupted downloads, I just fired up soulseek and found the damn John Zorn albums so that I could hang up and not worry about it. Was I entitled? Yeah, because I paid for that music. Because I've continued to get my Tzadik like that, I'll pay extra at the merch table the next time he comes through, but the power there rests with me.

I remember, way back in the wilds of '02, I had won one of the first Mastercard Priceless Edge music business internships, which basically meant a six-week crash course at Belmont University and working with Big and Rich (one of the other songwriting groups wrote one of their first hits. It's all our fault!). For one of the seminars, an RIAA lawyer whose name escapes me, came in to lecture on copyright and file sharing. This was after Napster had died, but in the salad days of Kazaa and Limewire and Bearshare (someday those references will really date me). He told the class that they were going to find everyone who downloaded music illegally and sue them, and that this would both stop downloading and return the record industry to profitability. I said, "Good luck with that."
"We already know the websites, we're shutting down file sharers as we speak. We'll end it."
"Good luck with that."
"Oh, we will."
"Good luck with that."
"We will!"
He ended up shouting at me for a good couple minutes, because I was blithely sure that he wouldn't stop file sharing, that file sharing was a canard to avoid dealing with real systemic problems in the music industry, and that he would never win back sympathy by suing fans. He was certain he was right, but he didn't realize that he was totally impotent to stop me and my peers from using the university computers to swap hard drives full of music that very night. I see a similar blindness and anger here, at least late in the thread, from folks who don't realize that their morality is not the only valid morality, that their assumptions are not unquestionable, and that ultimately the only way to get someone to stop downloading blithely is to get them personally involved in the media they'd otherwise pirate. I let bands I'm friends with know when their music is being swapped online—some care, some don't, some encourage it—but that's because I know them and I want them to be successful. Kanye? I don't know him, I don't really care if he's successful, there'll be someone else functionally equivalent if he stops making music.

Will moral suasion be enough to support a diverse and profitable media sphere? I don't know. What I do know is that righteous anger will fail.
posted by klangklangston at 8:17 PM on December 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


Oh, and anti-copyright folks: Radio at least nominally pays royalties at a statutory rate, internet or terrestrial (or satellite). I really wish there was an effective p2p system that ran ads (likely banners) and paid royalties to artists. There's something really close in Last.fm, which, as a site, has cut down on a tremendous amount of my illegal downloading. I just stream stuff that I'm curious about, if they've got it, rather than downloading it first, then listening later. I hear Spotify is similarly awesome. Especially since one of my big beefs was that buying shitty albums made me less able to support good albums, given limited resources. Listening in whole first and being able to decide that I like it but not enough to own it is a huge, huge boon.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Substitute goods are goods that can be used to satisfy the same needs, one in the place of another. "

Thank you for the link. However, you're not demonstrating how a physical product with scarcity and a market value is a perfect substitute for an integer.


"Er, yes, I think this is the point. That's why we have copyright control, to give people an incentive to publish. You want to force people into giving their work away, but you have no means of forcing them to publish.

Darnit, pesky economics."

This is a great point, because history shows that before copyrights nobody published anything.

Oh wait. Darnit, pesky facts.
posted by mullingitover at 8:30 PM on December 15, 2009


It's all just broadcasting, one way or another, and broadcasts drive sales.

But that's not your decision to make. If I, shortsighted copyright holder, choose to limit access to my work, that is my right.

Sorry, but Justice Blackmun disagrees, along with Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O'Connor, William Rehnquist, John P. Stevens, and William Brennan:

That's not so much a disagreement as an admission that it doesn't track dead-on with stealing a car. Your cite doesn't apply exactly here, it was alleged that the actual record albums were stolen materials, which they clearly weren't since he manufactured them. You also missed the first part of the quote:
The phonorecords in question were not "stolen, converted or taken by fraud" for purposes of [section] 2314. The section's language clearly contemplates a physical identity between the items unlawfully obtained and those eventually transported, and hence some prior physical taking of the subject goods.
Where he says that he is only talking about a specific section of law, and that there is a distinct difference between the thing stolen and some other thing derived from it. Just because there is not yet a legal precedent for filesharing doesn't mean that it isn't a form of theft.

mithereal- that's different because there of how music is published. You can use that song because the owner has some kind of agreement with youtube to allow publishing in the manner it has been. Not an infringement. If that agreement wasn't there, for the sake of argument, sure, you infringed. I'm not sure what that proves, it's not like you couldn't make a video of whatever that was without that song.
posted by gjc at 8:33 PM on December 15, 2009


klang- copyrights were never about physical objects. They were always about the intangible work, to which the author was granted exclusive right to copy. The only difference between "then" and "now" is that it was easier to enforce when those copies could only be tangible objects.
posted by gjc at 8:38 PM on December 15, 2009


"Where he says that he is only talking about a specific section of law, and that there is a distinct difference between the thing stolen and some other thing derived from it. Just because there is not yet a legal precedent for filesharing doesn't mean that it isn't a form of theft."

Dude, you have no idea what you're talking about. Sorry. At issue in that case was whether or not copyrighted work (recorded performances) were stolen goods. As they were not goods, they were not stolen. As they were not stolen, copyright infringement is not stealing. As CI is not stealing, CI is not theft. Wanting to use sloppy language is fine, but recognize that sloppy arguments get rejected, both here and in court. Wanting to use sloppy language in the service of an emotional appeal is sophistry.

It's like you keep trying to say that someone who was jaywalking was trespassing, because they were on a piece of property from which they were forbidden, and you keep saying it because you know that very few people really care about jaywalking. But naming my dog Obama does not make it the president; calling copyright infringement theft—even if very important rights and privileges are abridged—does not make it stealing. You will continue to be wrong every time you present this argument, and every time you present this argument there will be someone on the internet to point out that you are wrong. Be glad that it's here, because at least you can move on and present a real, nuanced and well-balanced argument that will be considered.
posted by klangklangston at 8:48 PM on December 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


"klang- copyrights were never about physical objects. They were always about the intangible work, to which the author was granted exclusive right to copy. The only difference between "then" and "now" is that it was easier to enforce when those copies could only be tangible objects."

I don't mean this to be condescending, but because most of my comment was about how—and maybe I just didn't articulate it clearly enough—the lack of physical object has shifted the locus of power in dictating the terms of the contract, maybe you should read it again rather than simply restate something that is already clear to everyone in here.
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 PM on December 15, 2009


However, you're not demonstrating how a physical product with scarcity and a market value is a perfect substitute for an integer

I'm not. I'm saying unauthorised copies of copyrighted material can satisfy the same needs as a legitimate licensed copy would: you can get the same needs served by listening to a torrented music file as you can listening to the same file ripped from CD or bought from iTunes. (It may even be better or worse: substitutes don't need to be perfect fits. If the price of gas goes through stratospheric, bicycling becomes a substitute for driving).

This is a great point, because history shows that before copyrights nobody published anything.
You know, Klang's point about dismissing anyone who disagrees and never giving any ground applies to a whole lot of the anti-copyright folks in this thread too.

Of course material was published before copyright. But it was done under completely different economic models, models that would be extremely undesirable options today and really weren't that great then, either.

It's very difficult to compare anything close to like-for-like between now and then, but before the US recognised international copyright, even Dickens was having trouble making a go of it there. We created and honoured copyright not for shits and giggles, we did so because it was a much better model for all of us. And when we did there was an explosion of creativity.

That it's difficult to enforce -- that the power balance has totally shifted as klang correctly says -- still doesn't mean that the model is no longer serving us. It especially doesn't mean we've got anything better waiting to replace it. Being smug about all the shit you can get for free and how haha nobody can stop you seems like the most blinkered and short-sighted approach of all to take. Golden geese don't just keep laying.
posted by bonaldi at 9:03 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


calling copyright infringement theft—even if very important rights and privileges are abridged—does not make it stealing.

On the other hand, though, saying that lawyers don't call it theft doesn't mean that lay people calling it stealing are wrong. If you kill someone, a court might call it manslaughter, murder or no crime at all. People will still say that the person was murdered, with varying degrees of accuracy.

This legal definition thing reminds me of the fallacy where you say if something's a crime it must be morally wrong. Say some lunatic court somewhere did find that copyright infringement could be theft. Would it suddenly be appropriate for people to call it stealing? Language doesn't work like that. The Supreme Court isn't the Academie Francaise.

In ordinary language, you can steal ideas. You can steal a march. You can steal someone's thunder, and you can steal the show. Obtaining things of value without permission or recompense is easily as close as these other things to some Platonic ideal of "stealing".

Is it legally theft? No, and people who say it is will be wrong. Is it unreasonable to call it stealing in ordinary language? I haven't seen a good argument against it yet; and without one the pushback stinks of people trying to avoid the charge because they don't like the emotional overtones.
posted by bonaldi at 9:19 PM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It's very difficult to compare anything close to like-for-like between now and then, but before the US recognised international copyright, even Dickens was having trouble making a go of it there. We created and honoured copyright not for shits and giggles, we did so because it was a much better model for all of us. And when we did there was an explosion of creativity."

That's a fair point, but… let's not put too much causality in correlation. There were huge explosions in creativity, but I'm going to dial in my inner McLuhan and argue that technology and new media drove that more than copyright. For example, I think it would be hard to make the case that the governing curve of media production was more influenced in the US by the DCMA (which added a tremendous amount of value to copyrights, thus making future copyrights more valuable) than the explosion in internet access.

"You know, Klang's point about dismissing anyone who disagrees and never giving any ground applies to a whole lot of the anti-copyright folks in this thread too."

Yeah, and everyone probably suffers from sympathetic reading—I skim over the glib and sarcastic parts from folks I agree with, but am galled by stupid digs from folks I disagree with.

"It especially doesn't mean we've got anything better waiting to replace it. Being smug about all the shit you can get for free and how haha nobody can stop you seems like the most blinkered and short-sighted approach of all to take. Golden geese don't just keep laying."

The number one thing that keeps me from being a publisher is that I don't think there's any really good model for really good content that doesn't rely, essentially, on charity. I don't think that advertising is effective, certainly for the money required to support quality content—the best models of the new millennium have all been advertising revenues based on SOMEONE ELSE'S CONTENT (whether google or craigslist or youtube or facebook or even Metafilter). Actually paying the folks who produce work enough to have middle-class lives seems nigh impossible, and getting free content to support a for-profit enterprise takes a lot of ethical balancing (and there are so many terrible, terrible places that prey on young writers). But perhaps this is just my endemic ethic of poverty speaking.
posted by klangklangston at 9:26 PM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course material was published before copyright. But it was done under completely different economic models, models that would be extremely undesirable options today and really weren't that great then, either.

But over the last 40 years, the economic model has changed drastically. 40 years ago it wasn't economical for a consumer to copy books, records or movies. Only big series were economical, so you needed large organizations to distribute stuff. But the economic model has changed: whether you do it with the creator's authorization or not, making a copy of a book, movie or record has negligible cost in itself.

And so we need to change the way we deal with copyright to deal with the current means of production.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:31 PM on December 15, 2009


If I, shortsighted copyright holder, choose to limit access to my work, that is my right.

Sure, and far be it from me to gainsay that right.

However, since there is absolutely no difference in end effect between having an internet "radio" station broadcast your stuff versus having it available on p2p sharing networks, an argument against p2p sharing on the basis that p2p costs sales while radio promotes sales is not sustainable.

And since the lost-sales argument is always what I hear whenever a publishing industry rep gets to put the publishing industry's position via the mass media, it appears that these people actually believe it's the most convincing argument they've got.

All I'm saying is, it's not. It's a dead horse, and if the industry is truly interested in shifting people's opinion on this issue, they should stop beating it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:33 PM on December 15, 2009


But perhaps this is just my endemic ethic of poverty speaking.

Or maybe it's... THE CONTRADICTIONS OF LATE CAPITALISM.

(I mean, I tend to think it is)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:34 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


(oh wait it't late-stage capitalism innit? I'm no good at terminology)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:36 PM on December 15, 2009


*cue violins*

If anyone wants evidence that you argue in bad faith, there it is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:51 PM on December 15, 2009


there is absolutely no difference in end effect between having an internet "radio" station broadcast your stuff versus having it available on p2p sharing networks

Ultimately, the end effect is that having it available on p2p networks takes away the rights of the creators. You are taking away the rights of the creators to distribute their work how they please. That is a very significant effect, perhaps the most significant in that it is what drives adoption of copyright law in the first place.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 PM on December 15, 2009


Ok, here's my last 2 cents worth.

I don't hate libraries. I don't hate downloading. I don't think a copyright should be held forever. I don't hate the public domain. I think there are perfectly fine cases where my work can be freely used. I don't think my morality is better than anyone else's. I still have a pile of old Maxell UDXL-90s sitting in the closet that were taped off of albums I borrowed, so I'm not innocent nor am I unsympathetic to some of the points being made here.

I put forward my own experience as an independent creator and copyright holder to show why I think it's important to have creator rights. I don't think anyone should be able to co-opt my hard-earned work and essentially use it to make $ for themselves (through website ads and memberships or whatever) UNLESS I AGREE TO IT.

For that, I'm accused of black and white reasoning, that my collection of dots isn't really worth anything because (cue the violins) nobody forced me to publish it (and once I do, it's as free as the wind!), I'm lumped in with Sony and Disney, and now I'm apparently part of the stupid. Ouch.

It's now possible for artists to create and publish their works and distribute them directly to the consumer without any middlemen. That doesn't make it worthless because it's easy to download or it doesn't come in a package.

The "everything should be free so I'm gonna take it" philosophy won't hurt the big, bad record and publishing co.s. They have great big piles o' cash to spend on legal and lobbying dept.s to sue and legislate their way to success. And the endless supply of American Idol contestants and wanna-be novelists will keep their talent pool nice and shallow.

Ultimately, it hurts those independent artists that are trying to buck the current system and create a new content delivery model. You know, the ones you say you support? Remember… you get what you pay for.

Oh, and all of you are cads. Happy Holidays.
posted by jabo at 12:19 AM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


A creator who chooses to put their stuff out there on internet radio, or conventional radio come to that, is also relinquishing control of who ends up with copies of it; that's the nature of broadcasting. And yet, doing this is conventionally held to be a smart marketing move, while p2p distribution is conventionally held to cause loss of potential sales.

I'm not arguing that unauthorized p2p subverts a creator's right to control distribution. It clearly does do that. But what is that right actually worth, and how many knots need we tie ourselves in to protect it?

I have yet to see data demonstrating that, in practice, unauthorized distribution actually causes the kind of industry-threatening consequences that are generally attributed to it. In other words, it seems to me that the financial worth of a copyright holder's moral right to control distribution is nowhere near as high as is conventionally asserted. Consequentially, denial of that moral right causes nowhere near the kinds of harm that would actually justify clueless legal idiocies like the anti-DRM provisions of the DMCA.

If broadcasting one way is good for sales (as it surely is, given the history of the relationships between publishers and broadcasters) then broadcasting any other way - be it authorized or not - will surely be similarly good for sales.

Once that's clearly understood, perhaps we can all get past the ZOMG P2P WILL MAKE ALL OUR ARTISTS STARVE noise and have a reasonable discussion about sustainable business models that actually take advantage of general Internet availability instead of trying to pretend it's not there. ITMS strikes me as a pretty good starting point. It certainly seems to be working well for Apple.
posted by flabdablet at 12:35 AM on December 16, 2009


A creator who chooses to put their stuff out there on internet radio, or conventional radio come to that, is also relinquishing control of who ends up with copies of it

No, she did not relinquish control to just anyone. She only relinquished control to radio stations licensed to play her work. People deliberately making and redistributing unlicensed copies are violating her autonomy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:52 AM on December 16, 2009


Also, before I get accused of doublethink on creator's rights to control distribution: I fully agree that creators and publishers have such rights, and ought to have such rights, for some reasonable time after creation.

BUT

Where's the foetus going to gestate? Are you going to keep it in a box?

When non-enforcement of an acknowledged right causes no demonstrable harm, what purpose is served by enforcing it?
posted by flabdablet at 12:54 AM on December 16, 2009


When non-enforcement of an acknowledged right causes no demonstrable harm

We have someone in this thread whose personal experience directly contradicts this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:58 AM on December 16, 2009


No, she did not relinquish control to just anyone. She only relinquished control to radio stations licensed to play her work.

She authorized distribution control to a broadcaster.

She has zero control over what is done with the broadcast. Some people might choose to listen to it in real time, and discard their cached copy. Some people might choose to retain the cached copy for later, repeated playback.

People deliberately making and redistributing unlicensed copies are violating her autonomy.

Are you claiming, then, that if I believe that unauthorized redistribution is both immoral and illegal, I should believe the same thing about the commonly-accepted practice of saving broadcast material for later use? Is that a position you hold?
posted by flabdablet at 1:11 AM on December 16, 2009


We have someone in this thread whose personal experience directly contradicts this.

The plural of anecdote is not data.
posted by flabdablet at 1:11 AM on December 16, 2009


She has zero control over what is done with the broadcast.

Of course. But that never meant she authorized any and all uses of that broadcast, including putting her stuff up bit-for-bit on a p2p site when you can just as easily buy it on ITMS or Amazon, etc.

The plural of anecdote is not data.

I really don't know what to tell you, other than that one counterexample is enough to falsify your broad assertion of how the world works.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 AM on December 16, 2009


I think you're still confused about the two scenarios I'm comparing. You seem to be assuming that when I'm talking about loss of control due to the decision to broadcast via internet radio, the data path I'm proposing goes creator->broadcaster->listeners->p2p->who knows where. In fact I'm talking only about the shorter path, creator->broadcaster->listeners, and attempting to make the point that in the act of releasing content to a broadcaster, a rights holder voluntarily relinquishes control over who ends up holding copies of that content, even in the absence of cross-transfers among listeners.

one counterexample is enough to falsify your broad assertion of how the world works

No, it really isn't. You might as well claim that one instance of an adverse reaction to a flu shot is enough to falsify a broad assertion about the overall safety and efficacy of vaccination.

If your aim is to convince me (and others who think similarly) that the overall effect of unauthorized p2p distribution is to reduce artist and publisher incomes, you will need to point me to well-conducted statistical studies that demonstrate at least a consistent correlation between the advent of content's appearance on a p2p network and a reduction in its rights-holder's revenues. I doubt you'll find one, because I think the recording industry would rather continue to promote spin and FUD than conduct one, but I'm perfectly prepared to change my view about the functional equivalence between broadcasting and unauthorized distribution if given good evidence that it is, in fact, misguided.
posted by flabdablet at 2:51 AM on December 16, 2009


oh my god it's still going have these people never had the copyright infringement debate before don't they know it's just a way for everybody to express their laughably inconsistent views against or in favour of piracy and not listen to anybody else
posted by tehloki at 3:03 AM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


You might as well claim that one instance of an adverse reaction to a flu shot is enough to falsify a broad assertion about the overall safety and efficacy of vaccination.

I'm simply pointing out that there is evidence that contradicts your very broad assertion. The onus is on you to defend your claims. I don't really intend to change your preconceived notions — you're arguing that ripping off artists is okay, so everything else you assert derives from that axiom — but I will point out that your assertion has less apparent basis in reality than you may think.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:08 AM on December 16, 2009


I don't really intend to change your preconceived notions — you're arguing that ripping off artists is okay

No, I'm arguing that the assertion that unauthorized p2p content distribution amounts to "ripping off artists", in the specific sense of causing a general reduction in the income that creators and publishers are able to derive from the sale of creative works, is not necessarily supported by anything more than kneejerk emotional reaction. It may well be, given the obvious parallels between broadcasting stuff on high rotation and having it widely distributed by unauthorized means, that such distribution works to increase the total amount spent on purchasing creative works.

Since I have never seen a reliable study that actually demonstrates which of these effects is predominant, I'm simply not willing to accuse p2p content sharers of doing any harm to anybody. This isn't a preconceived notion. It's a fairly thoroughly thought-through position.

If publishers were at all interested in making a serious case for amping up the penalties for copyright infringement, they'd be directing attention to studies of this kind instead of endlessly sloganeering.

it's just a way for everybody to express their laughably inconsistent views against or in favour of piracy and not listen to anybody else

I'm more than happy to listen to anybody who offers a better-supported line of reasoning than "piracy is bad, m'kay?"
posted by flabdablet at 5:48 AM on December 16, 2009


there is absolutely no difference in end effect between having an internet "radio" station broadcast your stuff versus having it available on p2p sharing networks

I think your argument still rests on the mistaken idea that there's no functional difference between an internet radio stream and a p2p share of the same file. Putting aside the fact that internet radio stations have much more trouble getting music than ordinary radio stations do, there is still the same fundamental difference between time-limited transmission and free-for-the-taking. One is broadcasting, the other is distribution.

If I want to get a song from internet radio, I have to be temporally present to hear it, or time-shift my presence by recording. I can't just search "internet radio" for the song and hear it whenever I choose. This requirement cuts down the pure availability of the song, and makes the risk that buyer's need will be satiated acceptable to copyright holders. Your sharing it on p2p destroys that arrangement, and gives the song total availability. This is a fundamentally different system.

There are, now, services like Spotify and last.fm that do allow you to search for almost any song and hear it immediately, but they have two differences: 1) They pay royalties. Small ones, but actual cash all the same. 2) You have to use their service to hear it, which means royalties for repeat listens as well.

in the specific sense of causing a general reduction in the income that creators and publishers are able to derive from the sale of creative works, is not necessarily supported by anything more than kneejerk emotional reaction.

I don't have the studies that would satisfy you. I'm not sure they could exist, really: there are way too many other changes going on at present that can't be controlled for. Are book sales down because of piracy, or because all the bookshops have been killed by Amazon? What about CD sales? The internet is changing all of our media, in multiple ways simultaneously.

The overall argument reminds me of newspapers, though. I've been saying for more than 6 years than the end was nigh, that the much-promised online news revolution wasn't happening, no business model was turning up ... and often the response was "well, good! Newspapers are shit anyway". Now the collapse has pretty much happened, and those same people are here bemoaning the especially nasty and polarised state of the healthcare debate and complaining that civic discourse has been reduced to posturing, ranting and Fox news. It's too bleak to even say "I told you so".

Same thing here. People can argue till blue that copyright infringement on a massive global scale doesn't harm the income of creators, but more and more potential publishers like klangklangston will stay away from the industry because it just doesn't make economic sense any more. We're already complaining about the safe choices of mainstream music. How long till the effects are too evident to ignore? The only plus point is that we've got massive backlogs of media to keep us warm, and will be able to watch a re-subtitled version of Hitler ranting about it.
posted by bonaldi at 6:57 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


gjc writes "mithereal- that's different because there of how music is published. You can use that song because the owner has some kind of agreement with youtube to allow publishing in the manner it has been. Not an infringement. If that agreement wasn't there, for the sake of argument, sure, you infringed. I'm not sure what that proves, it's not like you couldn't make a video of whatever that was without that song."

The youtube agreement is an accident orthogonal to the creation of the video. It was asked what kind of content would be enabled by works entering the public domain and this video is an example. I'm sure countless works referencing older material exist as it is the nature of art to build on what came before.

And before you dismiss "whatever that was" as still being possible without the song I suggest you actually watch "whatever that was" and, if you are either to young to remember (holy crap am I old) or have for some other reason never seen the Sledgehammer video, watch the Sledgehammer video. Sure the visuals would still have worked but it wouldn't have been the same art.

bonaldi writes "Is it legally theft? No, and people who say it is will be wrong. Is it unreasonable to call it stealing in ordinary language? I haven't seen a good argument against it yet; and without one the pushback stinks of people trying to avoid the charge because they don't like the emotional overtones."

How about this is metafilter and we're supposed to be better than the unwashed masses? Precision of language enables a higher level of discourse?

Blazecock Pileon writes "Ultimately, the end effect is that having it available on p2p networks takes away the rights of the creators. You are taking away the rights of the creators to distribute their work how they please. That is a very significant effect, perhaps the most significant in that it is what drives adoption of copyright law in the first place."

This is a very good argument, especially for stuff that was released pre home taping. But it implies a granularity of control that artist do not have access to. Exploitation of artistic works is an all or nothing package deal. How many song writers refuse to licence any of their songs because of the compulsorily mechanical rights that accrue as soon as it is released? Unfortunately immeasurable. Maybe better: How many acts release albums in the US but refuse to release in Canada because of our compensation free legal copying. I'm not aware of any.
posted by Mitheral at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2009


"I don't really intend to change your preconceived notions — you're arguing that ripping off artists is okay, so everything else you assert derives from that axiom — but I will point out that your assertion has less apparent basis in reality than you may think."

Man, you sure love them "beating your wife" gag, don't you?

Oh, you're seriously asserting that the foundational axiom is that ripping off artists is OK? That someone has said that, and that's not, say, a consequence of different axioms, that in order to support a system that ensures maximal freedom and exercise of some rights, it means that some content creators will indeed be ripped off?

That's the kind of snide bullshit peddled by Young Republicans in bowties. And since it's only been explained, I don't know, a million-five fucking times to you that it's snide bullshit, you don't really have any interest in knocking it off, do you? You think that because you can trot it out again and again that somehow it's still fresh or interesting and not just backstage cattiness from someone who can't articulate any real ideas in a debate between two competing goods, that of maximal freedom of information sharing and communication—freedom of expression even—versus the mutating understanding of property rights and, honestly, economic fairness and justice within information capitalism.

No, it's all about stealing everyone's content because we hate them. I mean, seriously, if you're going to write with that much bad faith, go big, go Hitler. Maybe talk about how he appropriated without regard for owner's property rights, you know, in the Holocaust. Because this picayune, po-faced bullshit isn't any more convincing and at least if you went with Hitler there'd be a spectacle to enjoy. Go back to spitting on Oral Roberts' grave, or whatever it is you do when you're not making specious arguments in bad faith.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 PM on December 16, 2009


Hi, klangklangston.

After some run-ins with you in the past where you have acted in bad faith, as you do in your vitriol-filled ignorant rant, I am immediately reminded why I chose to refrain — for some time now — from responding to your comments on this site.

I'm breaking my streak here so that you understand why I will not spend any further time reading and responding to you.

I wish you peace and hope that you figure out what's wrong with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:38 AM on December 17, 2009


blenderfish writes "DVDs have DRM precisely because CDs, which did not, were being ripped and copied by the time DVDs were designed."

Is there any documentation from the DVD consortium on the motivation for DRM. While anti piracy was undoutably a contributing factor I've always thought that just as important was the ability to region lock the disks. A very real and immediate concern vs. individual piracy which was realistically a good decade away and impossible to prevent.
posted by Mitheral at 5:33 AM on December 17, 2009


"After some run-ins with you in the past where you have acted in bad faith, as you do in your vitriol-filled ignorant rant, I am immediately reminded why I chose to refrain — for some time now — from responding to your comments on this site."

Oh, bullshit. The rant was vitriol-filled but not ignorant—it fairly blasted your inane assertion. You refrain from engaging because you know that you don't know how to argue either with or without vitriol and you get your ass handed to you every time you step up against anyone with a modicum of skill. I usually disagreed with Dios but you never made your points as compelling or logical. Instead, you snipe from the edges, working up personal cases where you can play the martyr, and whining when you get called out on it.

You commented with nasty bullshit, I called it nasty bullshit, and now you're slinking off to pretend that big bad Klang has something wrong with him to make him pick on poor Blazecock, because that avoids having to think at all about what you said. I've been here long enough that I've seen you do this before to other folks, and I've stood up for you when you were actually being unfairly picked on. This isn't one of those times, and pretending it is only leaves you further thinking in terms of enemies and allies, rather than reason and truth.
posted by klangklangston at 8:17 AM on December 17, 2009


it fairly blasted your inane assertion.

No. You are having a bad day and making MetaTalk full of GRAR and I wish you'd stop.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:27 AM on December 17, 2009


No, I'm arguing that the assertion that unauthorized p2p content distribution amounts to "ripping off artists", in the specific sense of causing a general reduction in the income that creators and publishers are able to derive from the sale of creative works, is not necessarily supported by anything more than kneejerk emotional reaction.

Ummm, as a pretty much unrepentant downloader/p2per, I call bullshit on this assertion. Downloading has definitely undermined the existing recorded-music-distribution paradigm and as such, has caused " ... a general reduction in income that creators and publishers are able to derive". No, I have no falsifiable data to back this up, just common sense.

Please get over trying to WIN this argument and step up to the far bigger challenge of trying to make our new paradigm (whatever the fuck it ends up being) work in such a way that We The People get all the music etc we want and NEED, and those who created it don't end up living in cardboard boxes atop septic tanks.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 AM on December 17, 2009


philip-random writes "Ummm, as a pretty much unrepentant downloader/p2per, I call bullshit on this assertion. Downloading has definitely undermined the existing recorded-music-distribution paradigm and as such, has caused ' ... a general reduction in income that creators and publishers are able to derive'. No, I have no falsifiable data to back this up, just common sense. "

Downloading hasn't undermined the recorded-music-distribution paradigm, competition has. Video games are now a bigger-grossing industry than film or music, and the battle for consumers' entertainment dollars is a zero-sum game. The decline of music sales over the past decade has tracked in perfect harmony with the rise of video games.

In a world where there is perfect, swift enforcement of copyright, there are fewer music fans who listen to less music. I'm not sure how to help people understand that increased consumption of music leads to greater demand, not less. Debating this has helped me realize that the arguments in favor of greater information scarcity are religious in nature and have nothing to do with objective fact.
posted by mullingitover at 3:26 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Video games are now a bigger-grossing industry than film or music

I'm assuming you're talking about console games here. As an interesting aside, console video game DRM is for all intents and purposes based on selling a $300 box every 4-5 years. People just don't copy and redistribute console games in any way close to how and to what extent people will go to copy and redistribute music.

Even so, popular, big-budget games remain $50-60 apiece, the console hardware platforms are closed, and all the parties involved in selling hardware and software are either major media corporations (Sony, Microsoft, etc.) or subsidiaries thereof.

Games still move like hot cakes. If there were compelling reasons to stick it to the man, video games provide them in spades — and yet it doesn't happen. So that helped me understand that many of the arguments in favor of music piracy are either specious or, at the very least, applied very inconsistently compared with other media.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:09 PM on December 17, 2009


Blazecock Pileon writes "Games still move like hot cakes. If there were compelling reasons to stick it to the man, video games provide them in spades — and yet it doesn't happen."

Good point.
posted by mullingitover at 5:42 PM on December 17, 2009


Shortened URLs to hide being snotty are kind of rude and suggest you're arguing in bad faith. That aside, if you're claiming that console games get swapped around to any degree near to music, I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:21 PM on December 17, 2009


Sorry, I couldn't help myself, that was a ridiculous claim. I'll try to take your hilarity more seriously from now on.
posted by mullingitover at 6:42 PM on December 17, 2009


Okay, thank you for confirming that you were acting in bad faith. I apologize for responding to you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:52 PM on December 17, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: “I'm simply pointing out that there is evidence that contradicts your very broad assertion. The onus is on you to defend your claims. I don't really intend to change your preconceived notions — you're arguing that ripping off artists is okay, so everything else you assert derives from that axiom — but I will point out that your assertion has less apparent basis in reality than you may think.”

But is this about changing anybody's "preconceived notions" - or about determining the truth of the matter regardless of whose side we're on? Isn't the latter more important? What's more, if we're going to try to find out the truth about what copyright arrangement is the most just, and what we should do about it, is there really an onus on anybody to defend anything or to produce evidence - or isn't it better for us to discuss this kind of thing with an end to trying to lay out our own sense of the matter and to hear every else's side as well with an open mind? And finally, if we've decided with finality that we know what the truth of it is, what's the point of discussing it any more with people who disagree with us?

Oh, and here - everybody go listen to Professor Longhair do "Big Chief." It'll make you feel good. Man, that cat sure can whistle, eh?
posted by koeselitz at 7:19 PM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


koeslitz: "Oh, and here - everybody go listen to Professor Longhair do "Big Chief." It'll make you feel good. Man, that cat sure can whistle, eh?"

Seconding one of the youtube commenters, that is so fucking good.
posted by mullingitover at 9:59 PM on December 17, 2009


I'm not sure how to help people understand that increased consumption of music leads to greater demand, not less.

Greater demand for cheaper (free) stuff? Sure. Offering free stuff in direct competition with stuff you have to pay for? I'm sorry but I can't see overall demand increasing, except maybe for particular segments of the market, such as people with lots of disposable income or people who use media as a form of self-identification and take pride in having a large, paid-for collection.

Debating this has helped me realize that the arguments in favor of greater information scarcity are religious in nature and have nothing to do with objective fact.

This is in striking contrast to arguments for the other side, which are based on hard numbers and solid, falsifiable claims. I also applaud your subtle use of the strawman.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:14 PM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Greater demand for cheaper (free) stuff? Sure. Offering free stuff in direct competition with stuff you have to pay for? I'm sorry but I can't see overall demand increasing, except maybe for particular segments of the market, such as people with lots of disposable income or people who use media as a form of self-identification and take pride in having a large, paid-for collection."

Hi, my name is Josh, and I'm a music fan. Increased accessibility of unauthorized downloadable music helped me in two broad ways, really, an incredible amount. First off, I used to work as a music writer, so got the vast majority of my music for free—but not everything. We weren't a big magazine, and—believe it or not—musicians and their publicists often either forgot to send us promos of stuff we'd want to cover or didn't realize that we had actual deadlines, what with a printer and advertisers and everything. Getting that awesome Jim Roll album (hey, like Wilco-style alt-country? Check out Jim Roll, he's awesome) after we went to press meant we couldn't cover it. I discovered pretty quickly that I could usually get the same music faster by downloading it. That really did immediately translate into sales for these musicians, though I don't want to overstate my influence. Among my six regular readers, more bought recommended music than Roll lost out on downloads from me. Our magazine simply would not have been able to afford to run music reviews without getting promo music, and since nearly all the stuff I downloaded was coming out prior to the release date anyway, it was leaked promo copies. You can make an argument that what I did was unethical with regard to the rights holders, but since I don't think there was real harm and because my ethics were dictated primarily by duty to readership, not rights holders, I'm going to go ahead and disagree.

The second, and more salient point, is that free music greatly, greatly, greatly increases the amount of music that I listen to and that I buy. Even when I was writing for a living, I made it a point to, as much as possible, both buy albums I enjoyed and pay my own way into shows, even when I could get on the list (or I might buy merch once I was there if I got in for free). This was because I didn't want to have my opinions beholden, and there is a manipulation that comes from swag even if it's friendly (which downloading exempted me from), and also because I love music and want to support as much as I am able the folks who make music. I listen to more music because I can hear it for free, I then buy basically as much as I can afford of the music I love. This doesn't have really much to do with your uncharitable characterization—I don't have a huge amount of disposable income, this isn't really a self-identification thing, in that my music collection—while kick-ass—isn't really something I brag about to friends, and there's no difference in pride for me between having something that I bought or something that I downloaded. But by dowloading much more while my income stayed the same, my consumption habits shifted. I heard more great music, I bought more great music. I explored more, was more quick to cut out the crap and focus in on esoteric bits that I wouldn't have ever taken a chance on before—I wouldn't have bought This Heat's Deceit except that I downloaded it, listened to it over and over again, and so decided to support the record stores that stock it and the record company that keeps it (intermittently) in print. But without that initial download, I would have never heard it. Likewise, Yeasayer, Jay Reatard, No Age, Mika Miko, Fucked Up, Woods, Sic Alps, The OhSees (all recommended, OhSees especially)… My process for finding new music goes, basically, see something mentioned as coming up (usually on I Love Music), see if it's on Last.Fm, if not then download it from one of the myriad album blogs, listen to it, see if it sticks (sorry, Mae She, you suck), and if it does, I go find a place to buy it, ideally from them in person at a show. And by multiplying the pool of available music to draw from, I exponentially increase the amount of music I purchase.

So yeah, I buy more music because I hear more music because I can hear music for free, the music that I want to, any time of day or night.

Also, Yeasayer and The OhSees really do have two of the best albums that I've downloaded heard bought this year.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 PM on December 17, 2009


And if I used torrents to get my music (I don't because I could never figure out how to get the router to work properly) I'd be fucking chuffed at hearing demonoid was coming back.
posted by klangklangston at 10:52 PM on December 17, 2009


isn't it better for us to discuss this kind of thing with an end to trying to lay out our own sense of the matter and to hear every else's side as well with an open mind?

I don't think an open mind is obligated to grant truth to unsubstantiated hypotheticals and rationalizations for behaviors that are ultimately rooted in dishonesty and contempt for creative people who make the world a less dull place to live in. If we start from basic principles that at least make some effect to show respect for artists, I'd be more keen about the subject. The basic principle on display so far has for the most part been: "Getting shit for free? Awesome. Here's an account so you can do it, too." I'd argue that this doesn't deserve much "open mindedness" so much as harsh scrutiny and criticism.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 PM on December 17, 2009


Hi, my name is Josh, and I'm a music fan. Increased accessibility of unauthorized downloadable music helped me in two broad ways, really, an incredible amount...

Hi Josh. I can't fail to agree with you here: Free music is good for the people listening to it. I don't think anyone here is debating that. It's when we start to discuss the long-term effects on the people making the music that things start to get somewhat vague.

You can make an argument that what I did was unethical with regard to the rights holders, but since I don't think there was real harm and because my ethics were dictated primarily by duty to readership, not rights holders, I'm going to go ahead and disagree.

This is a question of ethics and therefore inherently nebulous: I don't much care about the metaphysical side of ethics, but rather the practical one. Will providing better music reviews to your readers increase sales for the artists you cover enough to offset the sales they lose to people who download the album and never buy it? I can't say I know the answer to this, but I'm not going to pretend that I do on the basis of personal preference.


This doesn't have really much to do with your uncharitable characterization (...) I bought more great music. I explored more, was more quick to cut out the crap and focus in on esoteric bits that I wouldn't have ever taken a chance on before...

I'm sorry if it came out a bit harsh, but my point still stands: Do you consider yourself an average music consumer? Do you think most people will act the way you do when provided with convenient access to free music? I have done the same thing myself, though I don't have the patience for downloading: I have copied albums from friends, liked the artists and went out and bought more, mostly because I prefer a pretty box that costs 8-10 euros to a free file I have to hunt around for. I find it somewhat naive to expect most people will do likewise, particularly when popular opinion rationalizes downloading for free.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:49 PM on December 17, 2009


and rationalizations for behaviors that are ultimately rooted in dishonesty and contempt for creative people who make the world a less dull place to live in.

Blazecock - Sorry to say it but there's more dishonesty and contempt in this comment than there is in the hearts of any downloaders that I've ever met. Seriously. You're slipping into making this a good guys versus bad guys scenario and it just isn't. Between your extreme logic as evidenced here and the position examplifed by flabdablet's content above which casually argues that there's no correlation between unauthorized p2p content and "... a general reduction in the income that creators and publishers are able to derive from the sale of creative works ...", I see two arguments that have NO interest in exploring each others positions, just having at it for the sake of "flinging shit" which, I'm sorry, just isn't fun anymore.

I happen to believe that we're at a pivotal point in the evolution of our culture here where, consciously or not, the long term course of future information exchange is being charted, plotted and engaged. At a point like this, we (the culture) need more than just angry, politicized argument from our THINKING members ... don't we?
posted by philip-random at 8:37 AM on December 18, 2009


Dr Dracator writes "This is in striking contrast to arguments for the other side, which are based on hard numbers and solid, falsifiable claims. I also applaud your subtle use of the strawman."

Falsifiable claims...hmm ok: Pirates buy music less than puritans.

False
. Again, False.

Serious props though for making a case against free music. I'm almost convinced to go picket a radio station for giving away so much music, clearly people are going to get used to that and never buy music again, any day now. Just you wait.
posted by mullingitover at 3:40 PM on December 18, 2009


which casually argues that there's no correlation between unauthorized p2p content and ... a general reduction in the income that creators and publishers are able to derive...

That's a misread. I'm arguing that I don't know whether there is such a correlation, not that no such correlation exists. I am arguing that way because I have heard plausible arguments both for and against the existence of such a correlation, so I'm reserving judgment on it until I can find some solid numbers.

Given the length of time I've been failing to find such solid numbers, though, it does seem to me that much of the law on this issue (specifically, the anti-DRM-removal provisions of the US DMCA) is an ass. It strikes me as bone-headedly stupid to criminalize format-shifting in response to an innovation (widespread availability of p2p) that has not actually been shown to be doing harm. I've got it filed in the same bucket as the War On Drugs: bad law based on nothing more than a lobbying-skewed version of common sense, that criminalizes a lot of behavior that does no harm to society along with a relatively small amount that does or may do, whose enforcement requires draconian revisions to other laws governing privacy and civil rights, and whose inevitably widespread flouting lowers respect for law in general.

Bonaldi, your point about distinguishing between broadcast and p2p distribution modes based on timing differences is an interesting one. I'd like to draw your attention, though, to the fact that bittorrent downloads (which, according to figures I actually have seen, are by far the most common kind) are also somwehat time-limited. Torrents quite regularly die or become unreliable from lack of seeds, and tracking down a p2p source for stuff that was being heavily torrented, say, two years ago is often quite a chore, and in many cases it's just easier to spend a buck on it at ITMS or Amazon, or grab a copy from last.fm or whatever golden-oldies channel still has it around.

It may well be the case that time-limited broadcast is good for artists while unlimited availability is not. But I think it's naive to assume that distribution derived from traditional licensed broadcasting models is all on one side of that fence, while unauthorized p2p is all on the other. As far as I can tell, there's more than enough overlap to make a simple "broadcast all good, p2p all bad" position untenable.

Please note that all of the above is presented in a spirit of reasonable skepticism, not point-scoring and shit-flinging. This topic is guaranteed to produce more than enough shit-flinging by its very nature, and I feel no urge to add to that pile.
posted by flabdablet at 5:07 PM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've got it filed in the same bucket as the War On Drugs: bad law based on nothing more than a lobbying-skewed version of common sense, that criminalizes a lot of behavior that does no harm to society along with a relatively small amount that does or may do, whose enforcement requires draconian revisions to other laws governing privacy and civil rights, and whose inevitably widespread flouting lowers respect for law in general.

Right on to that ... and sorry for the mis-read.
posted by philip-random at 6:43 PM on December 18, 2009


False. Again, False.

That's interesting - the study referenced in both of these links to seems to be based on measurement, rather than self reporting. Do we have any links to the actual study? It's the kind of thing this discussion needs more of.

Serious props though for making a case against free music. I'm almost convinced to go picket a radio station for giving away so much music, clearly people are going to get used to that and never buy music again, any day now.

You should do that, because playing random songs on the radio and paying for them with advertising money is exactly the same as downloading entire albums, along with scans of the CD inserts, and paying nothing.

I also like it a lot when I call my radio station and tell them to make the producer shut up, stop the commercial breaks and play the music of my choice. I haven't needed to buy a CD for years since they started doing that.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:08 PM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, radio stations don't 'give away' music. They play music that they've bought a public performance licence for. They're operating strictly within the copyright regime & the terms of their licence. The fact that listeners get to hear the songs for free is irrelevant - they've already been paid for.

(Although, it's not exactly as simple as a 1:1 between songs played & royalties paid, or at least, it wasn't when I used to DJ on radio. The bureaucratic overheads required to note down every single song played were far too high, so there used to be audit weeks, once every three months or so, which were then treated as if that same playlist was repeated for the whole three months*. During those weeks, we used to play a lot more of the artists & labels we thought most deserving, so they'd get our royalties. In this digital era, it might be easier to effectively pay for every single song, one by one; I don't know)

* a fair enough assumption for the majority of stations

posted by UbuRoivas at 10:11 AM on December 20, 2009


X is properly in classification A
X is also properly in classification B
Therefore classification A is classification B

X is installing an unpaid-for copy of Photoshop CS4
A is copyright infringement
B is stealing

And that is an invalid, fallacious argument, no matter how many possible Xs make our first two premises true with regard to our given A and B.

The simple fact of the matter is that the copyright regime is so ridiculously out of synch with social mores that to say that the simple act of its infringement ipso facto constitutes a lay moral judgment like "stealing" is indubitably incorrect. There are many situations which are both stealing and copyright infringement; but there are many situations which are only one or the other, and regardless of the overlap, they are not coextensive, they are not identical, and they are not equivalent. It cannot be said with any credibility that one is the other.
posted by jock@law at 3:40 PM on December 21, 2009


And yet, A can steal B's idea. Rats.
posted by bonaldi at 12:26 PM on December 22, 2009


Sorry, that was a little bit too mullingitover, even for me. In fuller:

so ridiculously out of synch with social mores
Out of sync with the social mores of many copyright infringers, perhaps, but that point is heavily begged for society as a whole. I think a great many people have an appreciation for copyright, especially if given a full understanding of how it applies to their own works. Regardless:

but there are many situations which are only one or the other
I can think of virtually no situations in this domain which are stealing but are not copyright infringement. That's because one is a subset of the other, they are not two separate spheres being compared ...

It cannot be said with any credibility that one is the other.
As I was alluding to in my previous post, you're still not showning that the ordinary usage is incorrect. The ordinary usage is not to make an equivalence, it is to expand the sphere of B to cover many acts within A. (It needn't cover all acts within A any more than every intentional killing need be murder). This is venn-land, not some Fregean identity nightmare.

X is in classification A.
Items falling under classification A also fall under classification B
X is therefore also in classification B.

You can argue the second premise, but the argument isn't fallacious.
posted by bonaldi at 12:47 PM on December 22, 2009


bonaldi, you could make that argument, but your second premise is contested and implausible and you've shown no evidence at all that it is true. your constant assertions don't make it true. and the very fact that this debate even exists at all, in my opinion, shows that its not true.
posted by jock@law at 2:25 PM on December 22, 2009


also your conclusion isnt contested. you've either completely missed the point or you're assuming what you set out to prove. the thread of discsussion i was addressing was the assertion that "copyright is stealing" -- making the conclusion you set out to prove into your second premise right there is the very definition of circular reasoning.
posted by jock@law at 2:27 PM on December 22, 2009


UbuRoivas writes "Yeah, radio stations don't 'give away' music. They play music that they've bought a public performance licence for."
UbuRoivas writes "Although, it's not exactly as simple as a 1:1 between songs played & royalties paid, or at least, it wasn't when I used to DJ on radio."

So when regular people don't have a 1:1 ratio between music paid for and music played, that's 'stealing.' When radio stations do this, it's called 'giving money to the most deserving.'

Got it.
posted by mullingitover at 2:58 PM on December 22, 2009


but your second premise is contested and implausible and you've shown no evidence at all that it is true.

Of course it is contested; It's the very thing we're debating here. I reject that it is implausible. I especially reject the idea that simply because a debate surrounds it this somehow proves that it is false; that seems flatly ridiculous, and I'm not sure you believe such a thing either.

also your conclusion isnt contested.
Incorrect. "Installing an unpaid-for copy of Photoshop is also stealing", which is the full formulation of my conclusion, is very hotly contested in this thread.

the thread of discsussion i was addressing was the assertion that "copyright is stealing"
I assume you mean the assertion that copyright infringement is stealing. Which is the second premise, as the identity argument you gave is effectively a strawman. I don't think anybody here is making the argument you set out. "Copyright infringement is stealing" as used in this thread cashes out as "copyright infringement is a form of stealing" not "copyright infringement is identical with stealing", which is your formulation.

My argument isn't circular. It follows from the second premise, which is something we can debate and the proof of which in no way depends on the argument. I don't think I've ever flatly asserted that premise, either. I have tried to show how it fits well with the common usage and without contradiction arising. I'm not clear how further you "prove" everyday language in a testing sense.

Ultimately, though, I prefer to thank you and agree on disagreement at this point. I don't see any other successful conclusion looming, and am offski.
posted by bonaldi at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2009


bonaldi, I don't think that's right. I don't see ANYONE disagreeing with the idea that "[i]nstalling an unpaid-for copy of Photoshop is also stealing" -- even if they are, *I* am not, and so any discussion you're having with me to that effect is non-responsive.

Without contradiction arising? Hmm? Wera Vang makes a dress and Minerva Wong rips it off by industrial espionage before WVcan bring it to market. That's probably akin to stealing for most people's moral compass, but not copyright infringement. Isaiah Avimos publishes an obscure cult sci fi novel in the early 50s, hugely embarrassing his 12yo son; Avimos Sr. then dies intestate, his son inherits the copyright, thereafter refusing permission for republication. The Regina, Saskatchewan Mob of Cult Sci Fi Fanatics distributes OCR'd versions of the book to its members (all five of them). This is probably not "stealing" to almost anyone, but is emphatically copyright infringement.

You reject the idea that because a debate surrounds it, this somehow proves that it is false? Considering the fact that language, especially rhetorical moral language, is based on broadly accepted social standards, I don't understand how you could possibly differ. A thing is not "stealing" unless the body of native English-speakers broadly agrees that the semantic payload and attendant moral content of "stealing" encompasses those kinds of situations. This thread, while not perfectly representative, provides a prima facie case that such a thing is not broadly agreed-upon. Absent statistically meaningful data predicated on a methodologically sound survey indicating otherwise, that conclusion will have to stand for the time being.
posted by jock@law at 4:01 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


So when regular people don't have a 1:1 ratio between music paid for and music played, that's 'stealing.' When radio stations do this, it's called 'giving money to the most deserving.'

Got it.


Obviously not.

The way it was, it was impossible to (figuratively) drop a coin into the record companies' piggy banks every time you played a song. Certainly not with paper records, multiple stations & multiple record companies. Each station would have to collate its playlists, distribute these to the record companies, and then the companies would have to disaggregate the information to pay the individual artists.

The bureaucratic form-filling time alone, song-by-song, would've cost everybody more in time & materials than the songs were actually worth.

Therefore, the stations & companies had a mutually-agreed system of regular audit weeks.

What the companies did with the info I don't even know. I assume that they'd simply pro-rata the total revenue due from total songs played, apportioned according to the relative store sales of each artist.

Within that system, the actions of one or two DJs on a community radio station would barely have made a drop-in-the-ocean of difference, with respect to the general margins of error that any business process would include, when handled at the level of abstraction that I've described.

But overall, the royalties for songs are paid to the record companies according to a predetermined & mutually agreed system. That system includes the possibility that one week's playlist differs from another's. That is always going to be the case, and business processes very often involve a tradeoff between 100% accuracy & whatever accuracy is possible within reasonable costs.

The kind of application of the 80-20 rule that I described is a pragmatic, real-world approach, and no business manager (within the stations or the companies) would ever pretend or assume that it is even plausible to have an exact 1:1 system of payment.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:32 PM on December 22, 2009


Curse iPhone Recent Activity and its lack of Remove link.

jock@law you're now either contradicting yourself or shadow-boxing an argument I don't even recognise.

I don't see ANYONE disagreeing with the idea that "[i]nstalling an unpaid-for copy of Photoshop is also stealing" -- even if they are, *I* am not, and so any discussion you're having with me to that effect is non-responsive.

vs

A thing is not "stealing" unless the body of native English-speakers broadly agrees that the semantic payload and attendant moral content of "stealing" encompasses those kinds of situations. This thread, while not perfectly representative, provides a prima facie case that such a thing is not broadly agreed-upon.

If you, or the people in this thread, who would argue against copyright infringement being stealing nonetheless also agree with the idea that the unpaid-for PS install is stealing then, er, what is the objection? It's surely not the bizarre identity argument, which nobody has actually advanced. That copyright infringement is a form of stealing is the only claim I can see, in various phrasings, but you say you aren't disagreeing with that. Except when you seem to be.

(Also: This thread, while not perfectly representative... is hilarious. That's like saying "Macs must be the best computers. After all, Metafilter, while not perfectly representative, says so". Of course you get maximum pushback here on the idea. It's MeFi. We like free shit. Further: how do you think broadly accepted social standards in boldface become broadly established? By debate, I'd submit. Is cat declawing inhumane? Is it mutilation? Is it torture? The answer to these questions does not lie in whether or not Metafilter can have a fight about them.)
posted by bonaldi at 4:36 PM on December 22, 2009


That copyright infringement is a form of stealing is the only claim I can see, in various phrasings, but you say you aren't disagreeing with that.

I never said any such thing. I STRONGLY disagree with that statement. I do not disagree with other statements. Please reread my participation in this thread before purporting to know what I do or do not agree with.
posted by jock@law at 5:04 PM on December 22, 2009


I did jock, and your last few posts appear to be making an argument I simply don't recognise. Either reread the other posts in the thread and hopefully realise that you're running on a totally parallel track, or please condescend to explain yourself again.

Your initial post was pointing out that copyright infringement isn't stealing under US law, which is a simple matter of fact. But you also added that it wasn't a moral sin, which takes the discussion into the realm of ordinary language. There was some talk about that, then a huff, then after an extended gap, you returned with a strawman argument that shows the fallacy of drawing an identity between copyright infringement and stealing -- an argument nobody made -- and ... then you just got bewildering.

If you agree, as you say you do, with "installing an unpaid-for copy of Photoshop is stealing" then where is the extra action that isn't copyright infringement here that means you can turnaround and strongly disagree with "copyright infringement is a form of stealing"?

Let's say there was no legal theft here -- the copy was obtained by torrent, not stolen from a shop. If you agree that by installing it something is being stolen, then suddenly you're making the same argument that virtually everyone else here who says copyright infringement is stealing is making. (What's more, you say that you haven't seen anyone else in the thread disagree with that idea, which means it must be broadly accepted and therefore true under your definitions for common usage.)

I really can't see any other space for your point here. The legal point has already been granted. Are you making some other, finer, distinction? Perhaps that the copyright infringement itself isn't stealing, but the actions taken with the copied file can be? There's possibly an argument there, but I think it's way too fine grained, when it basically amounts to what the pro-copyright people are saying anyway.

In short: what on earth are you objecting to?
posted by bonaldi at 5:34 PM on December 22, 2009


Perhaps it'd be easier if you just explained how installing the unpaid-for copy of Photoshop is stealing?
posted by bonaldi at 5:38 PM on December 22, 2009


To amend Ironmouth: stealing is depriving someone of a [socially recognized] right ... which they are entitled to

I believe most people recognize a right to profit fairly from your work. (For those who think Photoshop is priced outrageously beyond fair profit, maybe it wasn't the best example, but humor me.) Copying, installing, and intending to use a program, shortly after its release, with a non-defunct company selling it, without giving the author any recompense might be "stealing" for most people. Doing the same thing to NIBBLES.BAS (distributed as source with MS-DOS 6.0 QBASIC) is probably not.

So yes, you seem finally to have grasped what I'm talking about. And I disagree that it's "way too fine grained." Here's why:

The "pro-copyright people" are saying that copyright infringement is a form of stealing -- that an act which is copyright infringement is ipso facto stealing beacause copyright infringement is a subset of stealing. This is both technically incorrect and monumentally dangerous to the ordering of a knowledge-based society. What this sloppiness does is lend moral weight to a legal regime that is already infamous for its regulatory capture. What this sloppiness does, in short, is threaten to exacerbate regulatory capture into deep capture.
posted by jock@law at 5:56 PM on December 22, 2009


I am now going to excuse myself from the thread. Simultaneously channeling YB and JH is a little too weird for me.
posted by jock@law at 5:57 PM on December 22, 2009


I believe most people recognize a right to profit fairly from your work.
I think you'll find plenty of people here willing to argue against this, and especially to argue against the Photoshop install as stealing argument. "What is really lost, if the user installing was never going to buy it anyway", they will ask.

It's a very good point that thinking of all infringement of copyright as stealing on a par with that in the photoshop case is dangerous. But here's the thing. Taking it case by case -- "photoshop: stealing; nibbles.bas: not" -- makes it very difficult to describe the generalities. So you abstract: it's stealing in the case that there's infringement of this "profit right" you talk about.

So, by your terms, "profit right" infringement is stealing. But we call that profit right "copyright" in ordinary language, since that's the mechanism society uses to protect and ensure those profits. So copyright infringement is stealing, in ordinary language.

(In fact, if copyright only applied to things shortly after their release, with non-defunct companies involved, as term reform people want, there'd be effectively no difference between your "profit right" and copyright at all.)
posted by bonaldi at 6:16 PM on December 22, 2009


bonaldi, that entire last post was a contortionist argument made in bad faith. seriously. we're done here.
posted by jock@law at 7:15 PM on December 22, 2009


UbuRoivas writes "Within that system, the actions of one or two DJs on a community radio station would barely have made a drop-in-the-ocean of difference, with respect to the general margins of error that any business process would include, when handled at the level of abstraction that I've described."

How does it go from "Each artist has a natural, inalienable right to perfect granular control of how their work is duplicated and used in every circumstance, and depriving them of that is hideously immoral" to "Eh, we kinda fudge things a lot (and hey, who doesn't?) and it works out to being roughly fair." How is it ok when a for-profit business fudges the numbers constantly and doesn't think it's important to have an accurate system of accounting when they're profiting directly from an artist's work, but someone who is infringing occasionally and for non-commercial purposes is a dirty rotten thief? And this is just the radio stations. God knows how much the labels fudge things. I'm guessing the people who brought us the quote "So? Ten grand is nothing" aren't very careful about this supposedly all-important right to profit either.
posted by mullingitover at 6:51 AM on December 23, 2009


mullingitover - I assume that your tirade of rhetorical questions was aimed at the general audience & not at me specifically, because I've said nothing that I remember in this thread against consumer downloading*

Amongst other things, my radio station was a community one (as I mentioned, ie not-for-profit) and I've gone to some lengths to describe the real-world limitations that make accurate record-keeping impossible, and not a matter of deliberate "fudging" or "not thinking it's important" to have an accurate system of accounting.

Your incredulousness is understandable, though. The situation is a bit like how a kid shoplifting something worth a dollar can end up in jail for a year, while all kinds of abstract dealings happen in the white collar world, for hundreds of millions of dollars, with nobody really on top of the entire truth of where every cent went.

But the difference between an inherently inaccurate "best-effort" system of accounting for radio songs & consumer downloading is in intent: the radio stations are at least trying to make payments in a reasonably fair manner, even if it's too damn costly to run a system that's 100% scientifically accurate. The home "illegal" downloader apparently isn't making any attempt at all to pay. Not a flawed attempt within difficult business constraints. No attempt.

For the situations to be at all analogous, your home downloader would have to agree to, say, a week every quarter where all their downloads are monitored, and a full year's worth of payments (at full price) would be apportioned based on which artists & labels they downloaded during those weeks. (they would also have to download at their normal rate, just like how music statipns play music just about all the time - say, 20 hours out of 24, allowing for chatter & ads etc).

But yeah, it's funny how when big dollars are involved, the concept of "That's alright, we bleed more than that on a good day" comes into play. Your radio playlist is a fair compromise guess that doles out the money at around +/- 15%? That's alright, it's the best that can be achieved within the circumstances & constraints. Big business is often like that. Next year, a manager gets a huge bonus for tightening it up to +/- 14.8%, because even that takes a hell of a lot more effort from all parties than you might think.

* personally, i don't like it. i've probably downloaded a total of, like, three albums ever, and they were all replacements for things that i had originally bought but lost (or maybe the CDs died from overuse). that's because i like the product (packaging, labelling, liner notes etc) in its entirety, and no amount of thumbnail gifs of the album cover will make up for that. but that's just my taste, and nothing to do with the legality or ethics of downloading.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:13 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


(by the way, i'm also describing how things were a decade or two ago, when the playback media were a mixture of vinyl, cartridge & CD. i imagine that the record-keeping has tightened up a lot, in an era where stations presumably use some kind of industry-grade version of itunes-style software to manage their collections)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:23 AM on December 23, 2009


UbuRoivas writes "mullingitover - I assume that your tirade of rhetorical questions was aimed at the general audience & not at me specifically, because I've said nothing that I remember in this thread against consumer downloading* "

Unless you're supporting the idea that there's something inherently dishonest about listening to music that you haven't paid for, this wasn't directed at you.

UbuRoivas writes "But the difference between an inherently inaccurate 'best-effort' system of accounting for radio songs & consumer downloading is in intent: the radio stations are at least trying to make payments in a reasonably fair manner, even if it's too damn costly to run a system that's 100% scientifically accurate. The home 'illegal' downloader apparently isn't making any attempt at all to pay. Not a flawed attempt within difficult business constraints. No attempt. "

It's a specious claim though. Where's the evidence that downloaders aren't paying in other ways? There's evidence that the decline in music sales is caused by the rise of video games, and there's also the survey where downloaders report significantly greater expenditures on music than non-downloaders. Beyond that it's a lot of hand-waving.

This whole discussion is pretty hilarious. At the end of the day, we're arguing about scarcity. The anti-downloading argument is that it's important to preserve creative works' scarcity, because if the creative works aren't made scarce then there will be a scarcity of creative works.

Think about that.
posted by mullingitover at 2:30 PM on December 23, 2009


Where's the evidence that downloaders aren't paying in other ways?

C'mon, you should know you can't prove a negative.

there's also the survey where downloaders report significantly greater expenditures on music than non-downloaders.

Perhaps they're just more into music, bought or unbought? Correlation, causation and all that.

But I don't have a dog in this fight; I just felt like correcting the suggestion that radio music is "free".
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:08 PM on December 23, 2009


"But I don't have a dog in this fight; I just felt like correcting the suggestion that radio music is "free"."

Fair enough. I realize that radio pays someone, sometimes, to play music.

My point was about the fear of people not paying for music when they can get it for free. Radio has been giving people free music for decades (granted it's partially paid for in some form by the station, the point being that to the end user it's still free music). Not only is this not seen as a bad thing, but record companies have actually broken the law in their zeal to have their music given away because they know that wider broadcasting translates directly into more sales.
posted by mullingitover at 4:48 PM on December 23, 2009


My point was about the fear of people not paying for music when they can get it for free. Radio has been giving people free music for decades

I guess you missed my point then, which was that the free music you get from the radio does not compete with the music you buy at the store because of the different way in which it is selected and delivered.

(granted it's partially paid for in some form by the station, the point being that to the end user it's still free music).

The end user in this model is not the consumer, but rather the working medium: The radio station gives you short bits of music, in exchange for your attention and a chance to influence you by exposing you to advertising.

I would rather pay a reasonable one-time fee and get the music in a convenient form to listen to as I please, I will even agree not to distribute it on the internet if they promise not to give me technical grief with rootkits, activation servers and all this bullshit. As a side effect, this gives me a (tiny) amount of bargaining power, because I can vote with my wallet and not buy the music I don't like or otherwise do not agree with.

However, thanks to the tireless work of anti-copyright advocates, I might have to settle for add-supported music, which I am sure will not be bland bullshit targeting the lowest common denominator, or DRM hoops through which I have to jump through, and keep paying for the same music again and again.


Not only is this not seen as a bad thing, but record companies have actually broken the law in their zeal to have their music given away because they know that wider broadcasting translates directly into more sales.

They do this because the way radio works puts a natural cap on the amount of music that you can get. Most tracks of most albums will never be played on the radio because of time constraints, the people who want to get those tracks are one of the groups that translate into sales for broadcast music, as well as, for example, the people who want to listen to the entire album undisturbed, at their own time and place. Downloading does not give any such incentive to buy, except maybe for the desire to have a pretty box or sidestep all the ill-thought DRM crap.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:36 PM on December 23, 2009


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