On linking to copyright-infringing downloads October 28, 2010 8:51 AM   Subscribe

On linking to copyright-infringing downloads.

For the same reason that we avoid linking to sites that require registration, when recommending a book or record, I link to a download when possible - so that those interested can see it all for themselves. I am not aware that doing so creates any legal liabilities for the site. And anyone with ethical objections to copyright infringement are free to not download.

My most recent post was about the Battle of Stalingrad. The definitive history is Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad. Several commenters in the thread mentioned having read it and liked it. One of my below-the-fold links went to a page where it could be downloaded.

When changing that link to an Amazon page, jessamyn wrote:

folks, download links to rapidshare "get this in copyright thing for free" are really not what MeFi is for for a number of reasons

I have no argument with this position. But it does seem to contradict her earlier guidance to me on this matter, communicated in a MeFi Mail sent on February 23, 2009:

... we mostly don't care about copyright infringement in an OMG sort of way.

The issue seems relevant also to posts like this recent one - a kind I have made myself - where the entirety of a film has been posted to YouTube, most likely without approval of the copyright holder.

True, YouTube doesn't offer its own download link - although there are many browser add-ons and web services that will provide one for you. But the infringement issues would seem to be the same.
posted by Joe Beese to MetaFilter-Related at 8:51 AM (312 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

DOES ANYTHING MAKE YOU PEOPLE HAPPY THESE DAYS?
posted by wheelieman at 8:57 AM on October 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


Rapidshare and YouTube are pretty dissimilar, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:58 AM on October 28, 2010


No. Using a YouTube download took requires knowledge of their existence and the ability to download, install and use them. There's a whole lot of effort there that doesn't exist with a direct link to an AVI.
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on October 28, 2010


This is kind of a gray area, to me.

I think filesharing sites and torrent sites should probably not be linked directly, however, linking to someone's blog entry with some substantive commentary about the content that happens to include links to torrent sites and filesharing sites would be okay.

Mainstream videosites like youtube and vimeo should be okay, in general. However, linking to the latest episode of True Blood on Megavideo, for example, seems like it would be over some kind of line.

Of course, one of my first mefi posts was to 150 BBC documentaries on a sleazy video sharing site...
posted by empath at 8:59 AM on October 28, 2010


The issue seems relevant also to posts like this recent one - a kind I have made myself - where the entirety of a film has been posted to YouTube, most likely without approval of the copyright holder.

Alas you have selected a poor example. That film was posted to YouTube by MJJ Productions, Inc, the copyright holder.
posted by jedicus at 9:00 AM on October 28, 2010


DOES ANYTHING MAKE YOU PEOPLE HAPPY THESE DAYS?

Yes, I quite liked Joe's post about the Battle of Stalingrad, it was really good and reminded me I need to read more on the subject, it's so fascinating.

But yeah, the link to ebook needed to go. I'm happy the mods just changed the link,something they rarely do, as opposed to deleting the post and I'm sorry they're getting grief for trying to walk that fine line. I hope this doesn't mean they'll just delete the posts in the future, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did, just to avoid getting shit.
posted by nomadicink at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Joe Beese: folks, download links to rapidshare "get this in copyright thing for free" are really not what MeFi is for for a number of reasons

I have no argument with this position. But it does seem to contradict her earlier guidance to me on this matter, communicated in a MeFi Mail sent on February 23, 2009:

... we mostly don't care about copyright infringement in an OMG sort of way.


Yeah, this is kind of the downfall of making every single issue decided on a case-by-case basis.

Personally, I have no problem with people linking to things, but I can think of two good arguments against doing so: 1- it invites a certain group to derail everything all to hell, and 2- I think most people who want things know how to find them. 1 + 2 = I don't post download links, myself, though I have no problem with people doing so and the YouTube thing is a pretty perfect parallel, IMO.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2010


And by "effort" I mean "active intent to do something that violates YouTube's TOS." Every downloader tool comes with a EUA stating that the tool is not intended to and you're not supposed to use it to rip copyrighted material. When you link to an AVI without a disclaimer, you're giving them permission to download something you do not have the right to distribute in the manner you are distributing it in.
posted by griphus at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2010


Also, re: that Michael Jackson video, according to the article, it was posted by the Michael Jackson official account.
posted by empath at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2010


There is a big difference between something that is up and available to the entire public on YouTube and "here's a blind link to download copyrighted material" Sometimes people link to copyrighted stuff on YouTube that gets taken down.

So, to be more clear about my MeMail. Personally we don't have a "this is bad" value judgment about people linking to copyrighted material, or general copyright infringement. From a professional standpoint we absolutely do not want MeFi to become a place where people make posts that center around download links to pirated copies of things that are still in print/for sale/whatever. This is for a few reasons

- the "please don't bring the heat down on mathowie" reason
- the "don't make me go to rapidshare just to confirm that the link you included is really what you said it was" reason
- the "people flag the hell out of this stuff which gives us a feeling that there is a healthy group of people who feel that this is not okay" reason
- the "we have no idea if you upladed this to rapidshare/wherever yourself so we can't tell if this is a self-link of some sort" reason

It has nothing to do with whether something is downloadable or viewable online. And, like many things in MeFi, there is not an airtight rule. We have a sort of calculus of things we consider when we decide what to do about stuff like this. We can't figure out whether things are uploaded with or without the copyright holder's permission, but absent the author saying "yeah go nuts" we have to make some assessments. Other things that are not okay generally

- Pirate Bay links or other torrent stuff
- ScribD links for the most part
- "This link will die so I uploaded the content myself to this other site [link]"

I'm not sure what else. If you desire an airtight rule, there is not going to be one. If people want to discuss the way we make decisions here, that's fine but this is a decisionmaking process, not a strict and consistent application of a ruleset.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2010 [13 favorites]


I have no argument with this position.

Then I fail to see the point of all this.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:02 AM on October 28, 2010


YouTube doesn't offer its own download link - although there are many browser add-ons and web services that will provide one for you. But the infringement issues would seem to be the same.

The law is full of cases where an extra step that provides no practical protection still manages to provide nearly unassailable legal protection. Like how little cryptographic security is required to invoke the DMCA's anti-circumvention penalties.

Also, IIRC, youtube has revenue sharing agreements in place with rights holders that provide youtube with a means to monetize protected content that wasn't' uploaded by the rights holder. AFAIK, rapidshare makes no attempt to share revenue with the content producers it exploits. On the other hand, they do respond to take down requests, which brings up the other problem with linking to a pirate source, that the link is likely to stop working. And stop working sooner because of the explicit linking via metafilter.
posted by nomisxid at 9:04 AM on October 28, 2010


So wait... are we talking about front page posts, or in the comments, or both?
posted by crunchland at 9:08 AM on October 28, 2010


Then I fail to see the point of all this.

Since jessamyn addressed her notification of the link change to "folks", rather than to me personally, I thought it the community as a whole might benefit from a discussion of the issues involved.

I'd encourage you to flag this post if you have a problem with it. But it appears that the mods are already aware of its existence.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:09 AM on October 28, 2010


I rarely care what people link to in comments, but "hey here's a torrent/scribd/rapidshare link to the thing we're talking about in the post" is usually not that great. I'm pretty sure Joe Beese is talking about posts.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:09 AM on October 28, 2010


But the infringement issues would seem to be the same.

Legally, perhaps. It's complicated. But morally? Or with regard to the actual harm to the copyright holder? I don't think so.

For example, the book in question costs $12.24 on Amazon. That's on par with an entire album. I think the mods would look askance at linking to downloads of an entire album. Compare that to the $.99 cost of a single track.

Also, an electronic version of the book contains the full content of the book and with an ereader can even be enjoyed in much the same way as the book (shoot, Amazon sells a Kindle version). But a music video or film on YouTube will tend to be of low quality, both audio and video. There's a quality loss there that leaves a greater incentive to purchase a legal copy.

And with regard to music videos specifically, they're basically ads for the single or album. I don't think very many people purchase copies of music videos.

I'll admit, I made an FPP about German country music that was shot through with YouTube links of questionable provenance. But not all of them were infringing (some were legitimate, a couple were home movies of the musician). And a lot of the music was stuff that's unavailable or at least extremely hard to get legitimately in a lot of the world, particularly the US, which is where the bulk of the MeFi userbase resides. I like to think there was also a lot of value add from the selection, arrangement, and annotation of the links.

Compare that to a post that's basically just "here is a free, infringing copy of this book/film/album."

It's a balancing act, and I think the mods mostly get it right.
posted by jedicus at 9:10 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought it the community as a whole might benefit from a discussion of the issues involved.

Since bitching discussion isn't likely to make linking to rapidshare accounts an acceptable practice around here, I guess I still don't see the point of all this. *shrug*
posted by octobersurprise at 9:16 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


So it's ok with you that someone can steal an entire book if it's relevant to your post? Because it's only a book and not a movie or a song, perhaps? Or because you think information wants to be free?

Stealing is wrong. Why MeFi needs to debate this always escapes me. It's not harmless. It takes money out of the pocket of professional creators, many of whom this site counts among its members. It undermines the entire system by which creative work is compensated. You may not like it, but for those of us who make any part of our living off the production of creative work under copyright, it's our only option for doing so that you're laughing off.

I think perhaps someone should alert Anthony Beevor to the theft of his intellectual property in the original link. Perhaps I shall.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:21 AM on October 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


And before you go all open source on me, the principle of an open source creative license is that you share with permission, not because you feel it's ok.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:22 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


So it's ok with you that someone can steal infringe copyright on an entire book if it's relevant to your post?

Yes, it's OK with me.

But since it's not OK with the mods, that's that.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:25 AM on October 28, 2010


I think perhaps someone should alert Anthony Beevor to the theft of his intellectual property in the original link. Perhaps I shall.

No, you fool! You'll kill us all!
posted by griphus at 9:26 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


fourcheesemac: Stealing is wrong. Why MeFi needs to debate this always escapes me. It's not harmless. It takes money out of the pocket of professional creators, many of whom this site counts among its members. It undermines the entire system by which creative work is compensated. You may not like it, but for those of us who make any part of our living off the production of creative work under copyright, it's our only option for doing so that you're laughing off.

How, exactly, is the net effect for the author any different if I go and borrow the book from the library and read it for free or if I download an ebook and read it for free?

Either way I have already paid whatever pittance the library cost divided by the number of tax payers is, and neither way does he get a single cent more.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:28 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


First off, cool post, Joe!

Second off, I think this is a gray area. If the book was out of general circulation, or was prohibitively expensive or was significantly older, I'd feel better about the infringement. Ten, eleven years for a book that's still pretty much out there, it gets a little more uncomfortable for me, but that's just my personal calculus.

I do tend to think that most of the copyleft folks around here acknowledge that it's a gray area and have different personal ethical lines and principles that they follow, and I do tend to be annoyed by what I see as knee-jerk absolutism from the folks who disagree. (Were I feeling broad with my analogies, I'd compare the copyleft folks to current Democrats and the others to the hardline reactionary Republicans, but that's not tremendously helpful).

I do also think that looking for precedent and perfect consistency is a mug's game here, so I'd be careful about appearing to push for some sort of "ruling," rather than encouraging a discussion about what we'd like to accomplish as a community broadly with the restrictions we place on linking to copyrighted material. I think Jess has done that somewhat already from the mod perspective, and I'm trying to do that a little with my user perspective.
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Previously.
posted by zarq at 9:32 AM on October 28, 2010


And on non-preview, fourcheesemac helpfully illustrates what a dogmatic, reactionary position looks like, full of the usual talking points, misrepresentations and fear-mongering. Thanks, Fourcheese!
posted by klangklangston at 9:33 AM on October 28, 2010 [18 favorites]


I'd encourage you to flag this post if you have a problem with it

I think the mods have said that flagging Meta posts is pointless.
posted by smackfu at 9:42 AM on October 28, 2010


I think perhaps someone should alert Anthony Beevor to the theft of his intellectual property in the original link. Perhaps I shall.

I TORRENTED THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION!!!!!!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:44 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


How, exactly, is the net effect for the author any different if I go and borrow the book from the library and read it for free or if I download an ebook and read it for free?

Isn't this too much of an "I got mine" argument? I mean, obviously, if everyone did that no one would have bought the book but libraries.

I admit a certain amount of ignorance about these matters, klangston, and I'm genuinely curious what fourcheesemac is misrepresenting. Yeah, "stealing is wrong" is a little naively blanket for me, but when it comes down to it every illegally downloaded copy is mostly likely one that Beevor would have been paid for, yeah? I know there are libraries and used copies to factor in, but those don't make it ok to never pay anyone for their work.
posted by Roman Graves at 9:44 AM on October 28, 2010


How, exactly, is the net effect for the author any different if I go and borrow the book from the library and read it for free or if I download an ebook and read it for free?

For one thing, you're adding to the library's usage numbers, which helps justify funding for an important community resource.

Another difference is that you can keep the ebook forever and make additional copies from it. You have to give the library book back, and it's impractical for most people to copy it. Any given book may not be available at a library, and many people don't live with easy access to a library of a significant size. But ebooks are small enough files that even someone with a dialup connection can download them in a reasonable timeframe. All of this puts a significant limit on how many potential sales can be lost due to library lending compared to downloads.

Finally, I suspect most authors are okay with libraries. Many aren't okay with online copyright infringement. I don't know if you put much stock in an author's preferences, but some people do.
posted by jedicus at 9:45 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Downloading copyrighted material is not theft, nor is it even illegal.
posted by empath at 9:46 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Previously.

Oh man, only 14 comments? This post has twice that in less than an hour.

it does seem to contradict her earlier guidance to me on this matter, communicated in a MeFi Mail sent

And just for the record, while we're happy to try to clarify policy sorts of things in MeMail for people who don't feel totally comfortable taking something to MeTa, we'd appreciate if every word we've ever MeMailed people wasn't saved for some sort of later "But ONCE you said THIS!" exchange later on. Quoting thirteen words from a longer MeMail that is nearly two years old feels a lot more like a "gotcha" than anything else in this context.

We know that, as mods, the "don't quote MeMail without permission or you will be banned" rule has to be relaxed somewhat but we'd like people to be responsible with their quoting. For the record, here is the entire email I sent, which was about Ask MetaFilter and making Pirate Bay links as answers to "where can I find this"?
Linking to Pirate Bay is like linking to the Anarchists Cookbook. It sets people on high alert even though yeah, I agree with you it's no more illegal than liots of stuff linked to here and we mostly don't care about copyright infringement in an OMG sort of way. If someone's looking for a way to steal something in AskMe, we'll delete the question. If someone's looking for a way to buy something in AskMe and someone links to Pirate Bay, we'll delete the comment. Generally speaking, while we all use and appreciate Pirate Bay we don't want it to become a de facto answer or resource on MeFi.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:47 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


when it comes down to it every illegally downloaded copy is mostly likely one that Beevor would have been paid for, yeah?

That's a strong assertion and one that hasn't been well supported by the evidence. There are a whole lot of impulse downloaders, obsessive collectors, and completionists with no particular interest in perusing the material, just having it. And there are try-before-you-buy types that go on to purchase legitimate copies. So it's hard to tease out what the effect is overall or in any given case.
posted by jedicus at 9:49 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, you are not responsible for determining whether what you are downloading from the internet has been approved by the copyright holder. It's not illegal to download anything online. It's only illegal to distribute copyrighted material, and only after you've been informed by the rights holder that the material is copyrighted.

Bittorrent is kind of a weird case because you are both distributing and downloading at the same time.
posted by empath at 9:51 AM on October 28, 2010


...we'd appreciate if every word we've ever MeMailed people wasn't saved for some sort of later "But ONCE you said THIS!" exchange later on.

But it was going to be a Christmas present :-(
posted by nomadicink at 9:53 AM on October 28, 2010


I don't see what this has to do with Obama.
posted by gman at 9:54 AM on October 28, 2010 [16 favorites]


Roman Graves: Isn't this too much of an "I got mine" argument? I mean, obviously, if everyone did that no one would have bought the book but libraries.

Super strawman, thanks.

jedicus: For one thing, you're adding to the library's usage numbers, which helps justify funding for an important community resource.

Good point, but I don't especially see how this makes it preferential to the author.

jedicus: Another difference is that you can keep the ebook forever and make additional copies from it. You have to give the library book back, and it's impractical for most people to copy it. Any given book may not be available at a library, and many people don't live with easy access to a library of a significant size. But ebooks are small enough files that even someone with a dialup connection can download them in a reasonable timeframe. All of this puts a significant limit on how many potential sales can be lost due to library lending compared to downloads.

It's pretty easy to scan or copy a book with a laser photocopier, but even without that: there is no limit at all on how many "sales" may be "lost" for library lending; only one copy at a time, sure, but thousands and thousands of times, easily.

jedicus: Finally, I suspect most authors are okay with libraries. Many aren't okay with online copyright infringement. I don't know if you put much stock in an author's preferences, but some people do.

I really, really don't give a shit how the authors feel about it.

All of this is also ignoring used book stores: I pay money, so I guess in some way I am punished for wanting the thing, but the author gets bupkis, so from his or her point of view I might as well have just downloaded it. The video game companies are trying to posit this exact philosophy about console games right now, that buying second hand is tantamount to outright theft of goods, and it is a pile of bullshit there too.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:54 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's a strong assertion and one that hasn't been well supported by the evidence.

It's not an assertion, it's a question. I don't know much about the evidence. Also, "mostly likely"? I don't know what was going on there.

Empath, I don't know about anyone else, but I could care less about the legality of it. Hiding behind the law really relieves the situation of its moral weight.
posted by Roman Graves at 9:56 AM on October 28, 2010


For that matter: shoplifting the book from a store gets the author paid his normal fee, while buying the book used gets him nothing. Is actual theft preferable to copyright infringement?
posted by paisley henosis at 9:56 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Downloading copyrighted material is not theft, nor is it even illegal.
...
It's not illegal to download anything online. It's only illegal to distribute copyrighted material, and only after you've been informed by the rights holder that the material is copyrighted.

This is just completely wrong. Please don't make such inaccurate, uninformed statements. What on Earth are you basing that on?

17 USC 106: "the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work"

In what universe is downloading a copy not reproducing the copyrighted work? This has been upheld repeatedly by the courts.

See, e.g., A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004, 1014 (9th Cir. 2001) (“Napster users who download files containing copyrighted music violate plaintiffs’ reproduction rights.”); Maverick Recording Co. v. Goldshteyn, No. CV-05-4523, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52422, at *8 (E.D.N.Y. July 31, 2006) (“Downloading and uploading copyrighted files from a peer-to-peer network constitutes, respectively, reproducing and distributing copyrighted material in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 106.”); London-Sire Records v. Armstrong, No. 05cv1771, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60458, at *3 (D. Conn. July 28, 2006) (unauthorized downloading of music infringed plaintiff's reproduction rights in the copyrighted works).

See also Maverick Recording Co. v. Harper (5th Cir. 2010)
posted by jedicus at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


How, exactly, is the net effect for the author any different if I go and borrow the book from the library and read it for free or if I download an ebook and read it for free?

Well, if the physical book is popular enough, the library would have to buy more copies, which would definitely help the author.
posted by nomisxid at 10:03 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Empath, I don't know about anyone else, but I could care less about the legality of it. Hiding behind the law really relieves the situation of its moral weight.

Hiding? I don't think 'piracy' is immoral in the slightest, as long as no one is taking money that would have otherwise gone to the author, or as long as no one is taking credit for someone else's work.

As thomas jefferson said, "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

To me, it seems immoral to horde the light of knowledge when spreading it freely costs no one anything.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


In what universe is downloading a copy not reproducing the copyrighted work? This has been upheld repeatedly by the courts.

That's a case against Napster. Feel free to point to a single case where someone was popped for downloading and not subsequently sharing (or offering to share) files.
posted by empath at 10:08 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


there is no limit at all on how many "sales" may be "lost" for library lending; only one copy at a time, sure, but thousands and thousands of times, easily.

In theory, yes, but in the real world the length of time a book may be held by one person, the limited number of copies a library can afford to keep in stock, and the realities of how often a given book is checked out mean that it's unlikely to be thousands and thousands of times for the great majority of books.

It's pretty easy to scan or copy a book with a laser photocopier, but even without that:

Pretty easy? It requires either mutilating the book to make scanning easier (not doable with a library book), laborious manual page turning, or building special purpose scanning rigs. The cost of physical reproduction is non-trivial as well. A book of this length would at least run a few dollars in paper and toner.

I really, really don't give a shit how the authors feel about it.

As I said, some people do. The point isn't to convince every individual that a law is a good idea or should be followed, just a majority. That's how democracy works.

All of this is also ignoring used book stores: I pay money, so I guess in some way I am punished for wanting the thing, but the author gets bupkis, so from his or her point of view I might as well have just downloaded it

This is not true. The ability to resell a book to a used bookstore is in effect a delayed rebate on the purchase price. Thus, the first sale can be priced higher than it would be without the secondary market. The existence of a secondary market has a positive upward pressure on the sale of new books, especially since used books are not perfect competitors for new books, given the wear and tear of age and use.

Also, every used book was originally purchased. This is not the case with a download. A single purchase can (in theory) form the basis for every single downloaded copy.
posted by jedicus at 10:10 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Speaking as the partner of a not-very-well-paid content producer, I think that stealing is wrong and that jedicus appears to be pretty well informed with legality.

For those who are of the opinion that digital content should be free, my question is then, how will you get professionals who are uninterested in generating their own publicity or some parallel revenue stream to contribute to the worldwide content store?

I guess if you're okay with, say, Stephen King not having the wherewithal to be published and therefore not being published, that's cool. My partner is while definitely not a monetary peer of Stephen King, similarly not good at self-promotion. Without some form of pay for works created, published and sold, she wouldn't be able to even begin to make ends meet and be able to participate in the worldwide stage of authorship.
posted by kalessin at 10:11 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the fpp. The Eastern Front is not something I know a lot about, and the Battle of Stalingrad in particular, even less.

But why a link to a download of the entire book? It's not out of print. It's not hard to find in online bookstores, libraries, or brick-and-mortar stores. And it's not like anyone unfamiliar with the battle is going to read the whole book before commenting.
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Without some form of pay for works created, published and sold, she wouldn't be able to even begin to make ends meet and be able to participate in the worldwide stage of authorship.

There are plenty of ways to get paid that aren't necessarily the traditional publishing model, which is completely broken.
posted by empath at 10:16 AM on October 28, 2010


That's a case against Napster. Feel free to point to a single case where someone was popped for downloading and not subsequently sharing (or offering to share) files.

You're moving the goalposts. You said flatly that it wasn't illegal to do so, which is, as demonstrated, not the case. You also made another incorrect assertion about needing to be informed of the copyrighted status of a work first. The 17 USC 504(c)(2) innocent infringer defense is only a partial defense that reduces statutory damages; it is not a complete defense to copyright infringement, nor must an infringer be explicitly made aware of the copyrighted nature of the work in order to be held liable.
posted by jedicus at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


To me, it seems immoral to horde the light of knowledge when spreading it freely costs no one anything.

Well, that's great and all, but we live in a shitty capitalist society. That light of knowledge might not be produced if someone has to work around their horrible wage slave day job instead of getting extra time to focus on creating in the form of payment. Saying that everyone's creative work should be free in our society is just...I don't even know what it is. Childish, at best.

I really, really don't give a shit how the authors feel about it.

This seems to be what it comes down to for a lot of content pirates. You can talk about used sales and libraries and whatnot, but really you just don't care. So don't justify it, just say it.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:18 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really, really don't give a shit how the authors feel about it.

I do.

You are correct about used book sales. Except in the case of effectively DRM-integrated e-books and how the publishing industry is trying to stand the old traditions of used book sales on their head by not allowing resales, though, used book (and remainedered book) sales is an established part of the entire publishing lifecycle and as far as I know tolerated by most publishers.

Authors who care to talk about this sort of thing and who are arguing ethics probably wouldn't argue that you should shoplift a copy of their book in order to get the revenue stream to them. I certainly wouldn't advise that they do so.

I guess what matters to me is that you are aware of the consequences of and accept the implied facts of your opinion about copyright infringement. Depending on how the compensation gets to the content producer, infringing copyright can possibly take revenue away from content producers to the extent that they give up and stop creating content. If you are okay with that, then you and I just ultimately disagree about priorities. If you feel like it's not only your right to infringe copyright but also to expect people to work for free for your entertainment, then I get to say that you want to have your cake and eat it too and I feel that that set of expectations is unreasonable.
posted by kalessin at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Depending on how the compensation gets to the content producer, infringing copyright can possibly take revenue away from content producers to the extent that they give up and stop creating content.

Is there any evidence that this has ever happened?
posted by empath at 10:22 AM on October 28, 2010


Anyway, yes, as a practical matter these cases usually come up as a combination of downloading and uploading because it's easier to prove uploading by attempting to download the file in question. It's less practical to sit around offering files and waiting to be downloaded from. It also raises the issue of whether such honeypots even prove infringement, since the honeypot must be authorized by the copyright holder.

My inability to show a case where downloading was the sole issue does not change the fact that the courts have addressed the issue and come away with a uniform and well-settled precedent.

NB: I think copyright law needs massive reform. No statutory damages, no criminal liability, and either changes to the term or a system for putting orphan works into the public domain. But that doesn't change what the law is now, which is what Metafilter has to operate under.
posted by jedicus at 10:25 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the record, here is the entire email I sent

And to complete that record, here is the entire email I sent you to which you were replying:

Depends on the question, doesn't it? :-)

But seriously, I once had an AskMeFi answer that linked to the Bay deleted. On the other hand, I've repeatedly linked to equally copyright infringing blog pages without problem. Is it just that the latter passed without notice? Or do the mods make some distinction between torrenting and other methods of file sharing?


[emphasis added]

I am not looking to "get you". I am looking not to get reprimanded in my posts.

Had you said then privately what you are now saying publicly - "not what MetaFilter is for" - I would not have continued with the practice.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:25 AM on October 28, 2010


Is there any evidence that this has ever happened?

Anecdotally, if content were free, and there were no practical revenue stream for my partner, I know for a fact that she'd find another line of business.
posted by kalessin at 10:27 AM on October 28, 2010


Roman Graves: This seems to be what it comes down to for a lot of content pirates. You can talk about used sales and libraries and whatnot, but really you just don't care. So don't justify it, just say it.

I don't give a shit how the video game companies feel, either, but Steam offers a better product than piracy at a reasonable price with the best customer service, treatment, and respect in the marketplace. Literally 100% of my computer-game-buying-dollars have been spent over Steam, and I have spent a few hundred bucks.

NOT because I don't want to hurt their special snowflake feelings. Not because they are too damned sensitive to get a day job. Not because their inner creative glow *must* be rewarded with my money. But because they offer something I want in a useful format at a reasonable price.

People can whine about wanting people to buy their books, but the Kindle and iPad are only the beginning, and unless the publishers offer something *better* than piracy, they will be just as fucked as the record companies are now.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2010


For those who are of the opinion that digital content should be free, my question is then, how will you get professionals who are uninterested in generating their own publicity or some parallel revenue stream to contribute to the worldwide content store?

Those days are running out and fast. You're not getting anything off the ground without constant self-promotion and if you're not good at it, hiring someone who is is a part of start-up costs. There are plenty of creators who are good at the hustle to make up for the ones who aren't.
posted by griphus at 10:31 AM on October 28, 2010


Those days are running out and fast.

Is there any evidence of this? Secondarily, are we prepared for it?
posted by kalessin at 10:32 AM on October 28, 2010


Had you said then privately what you are now saying publicly - "not what MetaFilter is for" - I would not have continued with the practice.

You asked a different question about something different, and got an answer that was relevant in that context which was about a different part of the site and a different situation.

Sometimes we step in as mods and leave notes for various things. I'm sorry you feel that as a reprimand, but it's not. There's not going to be a surefire way to avoid that happening without refraining from posting links to things in this copyright gray area. I'm not saying you need to do that, I'm saying that if you continue to do that sometimes we might change a link or delete a comment.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


unless the publishers offer something *better* than piracy, they will be just as fucked as the record companies are now.

So, what exactly are you suggesting that authors can offer? I say authors because in ebook format everyone is equal and self publishing is about to become a lot more viable. They can offer you a book in epub/pdf/whatever for a cost...or you can steal it. Are you going to pretend that you'll ever see buying the exact same thing you can steal as a better option?

You really seem to like making fun of content creators, but the root of the issue here is that you like what they're producing. You just don't like having to give them anything for it.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:34 AM on October 28, 2010


Anecdotally, if content were free, and there were no practical revenue stream for my partner

Well, that's a pretty big if and an and there. There are lots of ways for creative people to make money that don't involve selling physical objects. People like paying for books. People like paying for music. I've downloaded thousands and thousands of mp3s from file sharing sites, but I've also spent thousands and thousands of dollars on music from itunes and beatport. And I've spent thousands of dollars going to clubs and bars supporting bands and djs. I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about downloading music for free, because I've done my part. This goes for games and books as well. And I think that most people who pirate stuff either have or eventually will spend money to support the art they care about, or they'll eventually create it themselves.

We are crippling ourselves by not taking advantage of this amazing technology to get more information into the hands of more people, and a country with less stringent copyright and patent laws is eventually going to out-compete us because of it.
posted by empath at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2010


Is there any evidence of this?

I do not know a single successful artist who does not spend equal amounts of time hustling and creating. It's a part of the job.

Secondarily, are we prepared for it?

I'm not sure what you mean; I don't see a correlation between quality and being able to self-promote, so there shouldn't be a change in quality.
posted by griphus at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2010


kalessin: I guess what matters to me is that you are aware of the consequences of and accept the implied facts of your opinion about copyright infringement. Depending on how the compensation gets to the content producer, infringing copyright can possibly take revenue away from content producers to the extent that they give up and stop creating content. If you are okay with that, then you and I just ultimately disagree about priorities. If you feel like it's not only your right to infringe copyright but also to expect people to work for free for your entertainment, then I get to say that you want to have your cake and eat it too and I feel that that set of expectations is unreasonable.

If I want to read [A_BOOK] I can either go to Amazon or a box store and pay whatever the cover price is, or I can go to a used book store (or AmazonMarketplace) and buy it for a good bit less. I opt for number two, because I'm not made out of money any more than you are. I could save even more money buy torrenting the book, but I don't, because I hate reading books on the computer.

The point is that without any expectation of having my cake and eating it too, I will be drawn to the better bargain. This is the way of things, tough cookies. The fact is that the better bargain and piracy both have the same end result for the author. If you think that downloading a version of a work is tantamount to or equal to theft, then you are in reality arguing against libraries, lending to friends, used sales, and personal back up copies, all of which are currently totally legal and all of which let me consume the work without paying the creator a dime. So either come out and say "I am against the doctrine of first sale" or admit that bit torrent is no change in substance for the creator, only a change in surface.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's not going to be a surefire way to avoid that happening without refraining from posting links to things in this copyright gray area.

A gray area I will be happy to avoid from now on. Thank you for the clarification.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2010


How, exactly, is the net effect for the author any different if I go and borrow the book from the library and read it for free or if I download an ebook and read it for free?

In the UK at least, aggregate loan data is tracked and authors receive annual compensation based upon loans of their books as a percentage of total loans. This is very different.
posted by tallus at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2010


Is there any evidence that this has ever happened?

Verifiable proof, where we allow piracy in Universe 1 and then in Universe 2 we don't and we see that the creator is destitute in Universe 1 and rich in Universe 2? No, such proof is impossible. But we do see, for example, games being massively pirated and game studios going out of business. It's only circumstantial evidence, and there are always other factors one can point to, but it's evidence.

This Slashdot thread gives at least two examples: Bilestoad for the Apple II and Frantic Freddie for the Commodore 64. The first was a failure due to piracy; the second was widely pirated, and the developer gave up on games as a result.
posted by jedicus at 10:38 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I'd be happy to support some kind of tax on the internet or computers to support artists, if, as part of the bargain, copyright laws were fixed.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on October 28, 2010


empath, what you are describing are generally non-copyright infringing uses of digital technology. I have no problem with this and neither does my partner. In those cases, she would either be paid a fixed or royalties-based license fee for her content. And that's just fine.

As far as I know some of her publishers are more behind the times than others, but most of them are at least dipping a toe in to e-publishing. What I thought we were talking about was copyright-infringing use.

I do not know a single successful artist who does not spend equal amounts of time hustling and creating. It's a part of the job.

You and I know different people. The ones I know aren't good self-promoters. The assertion that you have to be a good self-promoter to be successful is I think only partially true in my experience of the publishing business that I've been exposed to. Self-promotion certainly helps, but is not absolutely required.

I'm not sure what you mean; I don't see a correlation between quality and being able to self-promote, so there shouldn't be a change in quality.

It seems to me that you are arguing from the point of view of averaging it out. You might not get MY special snowflake author but you might get some DIFFERENT special snowflake author. The types of special snowflakes I know are pretty unique. If my partner stopped writing the books she writes, I rate it as unlikely that a different special snowflake would write in the same niche. But if you don't care about the edge cases, I see where you're coming from.
posted by kalessin at 10:40 AM on October 28, 2010


"I admit a certain amount of ignorance about these matters, klangston, and I'm genuinely curious what fourcheesemac is misrepresenting."

Well, start with the fact that copyright infringement isn't stealing, just as trespass isn't burglary. "Stealing" is a rhetorical trick used to inflame emotions; it's what might be termed ad hominem argumentation (though it's more common to use ad hominem as attacks, it can also apply to appeals). It's signaling that he doesn't want to have an honest discussion on the merits, he wants to present his views as fact and pillory those who disagree.
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


tallus: In the UK at least, aggregate loan data is tracked and authors receive annual compensation based upon loans of their books as a percentage of total loans. This is very different.

That is awesome! Totally cool!

We don't do that in the States, so for the example of me personally it changes nothing, but that is a fantastic system.

kalessin: Secondarily, are we prepared for it?

People who aren't planning on making a living primarily from being content creators are prepared for it just fine. The rest are mainly either complaining about how unfair it all is, or buying shit tons of DRM, or making threats directed towards content consumers; in many cases all three.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:43 AM on October 28, 2010


So either come out and say "I am against the doctrine of first sale" or admit that bit torrent is no change in substance for the creator, only a change in surface.

But it is a change in substance. (Virtually) Every used book and library book was once a sale. There is a 1:1 ratio of sales to copies in existence at a given moment. With downloads, there is no limit on how skewed the ratio can be. One sale can be thousands and thousands of copies.

And library books and used books are imperfect compared to a new copy, and library books have limitations on how long you can keep them. An electronic version is exactly the same whether bought from the Kindle store or iBooks or downloaded via bittorrent or Rapidshare.

They are similar in some ways but different in others.
posted by jedicus at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Self-promotion certainly helps, but is not absolutely required.

In that case, yes, we are observing two very, very different worlds. Outside of getting a chance and immediately proving yourself to a moneyed publisher with a marketing department, I'm not sure how one would create awareness of their product without significant self-promotion.
posted by griphus at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2010


I am not against the doctrine of first sale. But to me the difference between a library and bittorrent is pretty substantial and significant. The truth is that libraries can influence the publishing industry very strongly from the point of view of anticipated sales and reprint projections. There is an arguable revenue stream coming from libraries as well as a correlation with publicity and other parts of the great publishing monolith.

Bittorrent is, on the other hand, not. Bittorrent scares the publishing industry. They don't know how to cope and don't see any (or at least very few) opportunities to integrate it into the publishing cycle. Also, I don't think a lot of publishing industry executives care to try, given the very low overheads and poorly understood dynamics of Bittorrent or digital content distribution at all.
posted by kalessin at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2010


kalessin: It seems to me that you are arguing from the point of view of averaging it out. You might not get MY special snowflake author but you might get some DIFFERENT special snowflake author. The types of special snowflakes I know are pretty unique. If my partner stopped writing the books she writes, I rate it as unlikely that a different special snowflake would write in the same niche. But if you don't care about the edge cases, I see where you're coming from.

Oh come the fuck on, if an infinite number of monkeys with laptops can hammer out Othelo, I'm sure they can cover this, too.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:45 AM on October 28, 2010


griphus, I am thinking of literary agents, which are not really PR or publicity, but good ones serve that role within the confines of the publishing industry's relatively small pool of publishers and editors.
posted by kalessin at 10:45 AM on October 28, 2010


paisley henosis, you seem to be a little wrought up. I'm contributing to the conversation from the point of view of a 2nd-hand view of a content publisher.

It seems like we simply disagree and you're going to get impatient. I don't really need the added stress of this kind of conversation.
posted by kalessin at 10:47 AM on October 28, 2010


Depending on how the compensation gets to the content producer, infringing copyright can possibly take revenue away from content producers to the extent that they give up and stop creating content.

Is there any evidence that this has ever happened?
posted by empath at 1:22 PM on October 28 [+] [!] Other [8/9]: «≡»


I quit newspapering when my bosses said they no longer wanted to pay for content. I was an editor and they told me to get as much content as I could (that means "all of it") for free - basically for the glamor of being published. When you don't pay for content, you lose the ability to dictate the quality and timeliness (schedule of arrival) of content. I am not putting my name on a paper like that - a paper that is basically all press releases and glamor/family photos.

Look in any newspaper that's not NYT (hell, for all I know, they do it too). Look for author/photo credits that say "By so-and-so, special to The NameOfPaper". These are generally unpaid contributions, and they usually have a promotional motive somewhere in them. If your hometown paper has a lot of them, it's time to get your news elsewhere.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:49 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I'd be happy to support some kind of tax on the internet or computers to support artists, if, as part of the bargain, copyright laws were fixed.

That's a fine bargain for you, since by your admission you've downloaded "thousands and thousands of mp3s from file sharing sites." It seems rather unfair to people who never or rarely engage in copyright infringement or who just don't spend a lot on media of any kind.

And of course not all internet connections or computers have anything to do with media. Would the tax apply across the board (unfair) or could you get an exemption for, say, a business computer or the wireless internet connection of a weather monitoring station? It would be pretty complex to administer on the collection end.

Besides, how will the money be distributed? Absent massive government monitoring of the internet and media consumption patterns, how will we know whom to give the money to as compensation for unpaid copies?

Such plans have been proposed, but they've got big problems. And anyway, a truly fair version would just amount to paying for what you download, so why not do that in the first place?
posted by jedicus at 10:50 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


griphus, I am thinking of literary agents...

Right, yeah. I was thinking of literary agents when I mentioned the whole "if you can't do it, it's a start-up cost" thing. I completely forgot they were mandatory.
posted by griphus at 10:51 AM on October 28, 2010


jedicus: But it is a change in substance. (Virtually) Every used book and library book was once a sale. There is a 1:1 ratio of sales to copies in existence at a given moment. With downloads, there is no limit on how skewed the ratio can be. One sale can be thousands and thousands of copies.

And library books and used books are imperfect compared to a new copy, and library books have limitations on how long you can keep them. An electronic version is exactly the same whether bought from the Kindle store or iBooks or downloaded via bittorrent or Rapidshare.


But there is not a 1:1 of purchases to reads, that's the whole point. 1 library purchase might equal 1,000 or more Reads. And apparently in the UK that means that the author gets 1000x[compensation] which is awesome, but in the states it is still 1000:1 Read:Buy. Similarly, if I buy a book and put it on some torrent site and it gets a thousand snatches, that's the exact same 1000:1, there is no difference at all.

And library books and used books aren't imperfect copies, unless people go around tearing out pages. It's the same damned book, just previously leafed through.

kalessin: Bittorrent scares the publishing industry. They don't know how to cope and don't see any (or at least very few) opportunities to integrate it into the publishing cycle.

Again, the feelings of the people trying to profit off of the authors' works really aren't relevant. If they don't like people reading on the toilet, I am under no obligation to not do that, and if they don't like people buying used books I am under no obligation to cease doing that, and if they don't like bit torrent, then they can bury their heads in the sand until they are bankrupt or they can figure out something less stupid.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:51 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Frankly, part of that is because people no longer want to pay for content, because the quality of the free content is "good enough."
posted by klangklangston at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


It seems rather unfair to people who never or rarely engage in copyright infringement or who just don't spend a lot on media of any kind.

And funding public schools with the taxes of people without children seems unfair until you realize you're doing a societal good and that it isn't about what you are doing or not. I don't support the tax idea, but it's not without merit.
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The legal term for "a 2nd hand perspective" is hearsay, and if you don't like the fact that the substance of your argument is "baww my person is special and shouldn't have to get a day job because he or she is sooo special no one could evar do what he or she does!!!" then I suggest you come up with something a bit stronger.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


copying is not theft.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:55 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Again, the feelings of the people trying to profit off of the authors' works really aren't relevant.

Are you unaware of the fact that except with respect to a few edge cases, like Cory Doctorow, the vast majority of the participants in the modern publishing industry make a living off of how the publishing industry makes and disburses shares of revenue?

My partner currently has no ability to make additional private revenue off of the content that she creates for publication by the traditional publishing industry. If she tried, she would likely be sued by her publishers against general licensing agreements inherent in her publishing contracts with the publishers.
posted by kalessin at 10:55 AM on October 28, 2010


On posting, paisley, I've really lost my patience with your attitude. Please feel free to abuse someone else with you arguments.
posted by kalessin at 10:56 AM on October 28, 2010


if an infinite number of monkeys with laptops can hammer out Othelo, I'm sure they can cover this, too.

Can your monkeys do Cirque du Soleil? If so, stop worrying about downloads. Take them on the road. You'll be rich!
posted by octobersurprise at 10:57 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


"That's a fine bargain for you, since by your admission you've downloaded "thousands and thousands of mp3s from file sharing sites." It seems rather unfair to people who never or rarely engage in copyright infringement or who just don't spend a lot on media of any kind. "

Yes, however, if people are given an easy, free way to download (or even stream) thousands and thousands of MP3s for free, a lot more people will engage with that content. It's not unfair to people who haven't, as they, under the new scheme, could. It would be unfair if they didn't want to, but given that we often pay in society for things we don't use under the understanding that it makes all of our lives better, I'm not tremendously concerned with this hypothetical unfairness (the devil would be in the details, and we're in no way going to accurately hash out details here).

"Besides, how will the money be distributed? Absent massive government monitoring of the internet and media consumption patterns, how will we know whom to give the money to as compensation for unpaid copies?"

Well, the easiest way to do it would be similar to Canada's tax on blank media, though that obviously does have some problems. You could also use the money to fund grants so that content-creators don't have to worry about selling their work. But then, I'm not afraid of "socialism."
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 AM on October 28, 2010


The fact is that the better bargain and piracy both have the same end result for the author

Not really true, it's more complex than that - it might seem that used item sales don't benefit the content creator, but by buying used goods you're ensuring that there's a market for used goods. Which in turn makes the primary market more healthy, because things have inherent resale value. How many people would buy a brand new car if they thought they'd never be able to sell it?
posted by The Discredited Ape at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


kalessin: My partner currently has no ability to make additional private revenue off of the content that she creates for publication by the traditional publishing industry. If she tried, she would likely be sued by her publishers against general licensing agreements inherent in her publishing contracts with the publishers.

So you are suggesting that the buggy-whip industry *must* be protected, because selling buggy-whips is the only way she knows how to make a living.

Tough shit for her, either find a way to sell whips to people who want whips and live on whatever money that brings in, or get a job that people actually care about and enjoy your whip making hobby in whatever time you care to allot to it.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:05 AM on October 28, 2010


The Discredited Ape: Not really true, it's more complex than that - it might seem that used item sales don't benefit the content creator, but by buying used goods you're ensuring that there's a market for used goods. Which in turn makes the primary market more healthy, because things have inherent resale value. How many people would buy a brand new car if they thought they'd never be able to sell it?

But if no one can sell used cars, then wouldn't *everyone* have to buy a new car, sooner or later?

I see where you're going with this, I do, and just for the people who wonder: I hate trying to read ebooks, the library in this county is fucking embarrassingly bad, and there isn't a used bookstore for an hour in any direction, so I actually buy pretty much all of my books new.

Ethically, though, downloading them has much, much more in common with borrowing a copy or buying one used from a thrift shop than it does with shoplifting (which, as I said before, actually compensates the author.)
posted by paisley henosis at 11:08 AM on October 28, 2010


Tough shit for her, either find a way to sell whips to people who want whips and live on whatever money that brings in, or get a job that people actually care about and enjoy your whip making hobby in whatever time you care to allot to it.

So...even though you apparently consume a lot of creative content, you don't particularly care if it gets created. Books, movies, music, etc, unimportant to you or the world. Got it.
posted by Roman Graves at 11:11 AM on October 28, 2010


So...even though you apparently consume a lot of creative content, you don't particularly care if it gets created.

I think it's more like, we think it will get created regardless, because 'creating content' is what people do. They can't help it. People who have something to say, will say it.
posted by empath at 11:23 AM on October 28, 2010


Man, pirates are such inflexible rules freaks "wait youcool with this but not this what do you mean use your judgment, everything must be black and white so I can be upset about it!"
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on October 28, 2010


empath, I get what you're saying on average, but I know as a process admin and policy creator that while you do get people creating/saying things, it's not the same sorts of people. The publishing system we have know works for a certain type of content creator. The kind you'll get if you change the rules is different.

For me the larger dynamics and changing the rules and so on are all fine (If my partner has to get a new job, so be it - though I'm sure she'd rather choose to do it on her own than be forced out of her current niche), but I am not convinced that you will be satisfied with the quality, style, and other things that are unique about the current professional class of creators that will be different (and no less unique) with the content creators who are able to publish under this other set of rules you are talking about.
posted by kalessin at 11:30 AM on October 28, 2010


if an infinite number of monkeys with laptops can hammer out Othelo

Fire that monkey!!!
posted by Trochanter at 11:35 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Equating books with buggy whips is kind of asinine and indicative that the person equating them has nothing substantive to say about copyright issues and just wants free content no matter what.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


My, that's a run-on sentence.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2010


The publishing system we have know works for a certain type of content creator. The kind you'll get if you change the rules is different.

I agree with this. This doesn't bother me, though. I like change.
posted by empath at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2010


And library books and used books aren't imperfect copies, unless people go around tearing out pages. It's the same damned book, just previously leafed through.

I didn't say they were imperfect copies, but rather imperfect compared to a new copy, by which I meant a new book. The content is the same as you say, but the used or library copy will tend to be worn and potentially marked up. Library copies also tend to have library binding, which some people dislike. This difference does not apply when comparing an infringing electronic version with a non-infringing one, and electronic versions are becoming increasingly popular.

It would be unfair if they didn't want to, but..we often pay in society for things we don't use under the understanding that it makes all of our lives better

I agree with that when it comes to things like roads, schools, hospitals, a reasonable military, a justice system, etc. These are definitely public goods. But entertainment? I can see giving grants to artists who don't otherwise have a way to make money from their art or who need startup funding, but I see no reason why any given member of the public should subsidize someone else's media consumption.

Well, the easiest way to do it would be similar to Canada's tax on blank media, though that obviously does have some problems. You could also use the money to fund grants so that content-creators don't have to worry about selling their work. But then, I'm not afraid of "socialism."

Neither am I. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you weren't trying to paint me as someone who doesn't know what socialism is or who sympathizes with, say, the Tea Party.

The Canadian tax is extremely problematic. Getting the money to non-label artists, small-time artists, underground artists, etc would be very difficult. As I said, the government would have to monitor everyone's media consumption in order to ensure the money was distributed in proportion to usage.

The problem with giving any content creator grants is that it opens the door to everyone saying "I'm a content creator, please give me money." Or, if the government picks and chooses, then you have the government effectively controlling what art does and doesn't get made. Or if it's a lottery system then it leaves a lot of people out arbitrarily.

And the ultimate problem with any such system is still that, okay, you establish some download:dollars ratio and artists get paid per download while it's free at the point of download. The problem is that either the tax is also proportional, in which case why not just pay for it outright or the tax isn't proportional, in which case it's unfair. Furthermore, any tax establishes a cap on the amount of money that can be handed out. The end result is that the government effectively says to artists "this is how much money you will make this year, collectively." That is actual socialism, and regardless of its merits there's no way in hell it will ever pass in the US, not within a couple of generations at least.
posted by jedicus at 11:41 AM on October 28, 2010


but I know as a process admin and policy creator that while you do get people creating/saying things, it's not the same sorts of people.

Who gets weeded out though -- the artist, or the money grubbing hack? I'm talking long term, big picture, end of the day, and other clichés.
posted by Trochanter at 11:43 AM on October 28, 2010


Who gets weeded out though -- the artist, or the money grubbing hack?

This is also my question. From my point of view at least part of what my partner does is art. I know that if the market changes significantly so that her literary agent is not sufficient to put her into the revenue stream sufficient to her living needs (she is very not well paid as it is), she'll quit and find something else to do with her time. She's not likely to just do her writing as a hobby, but that's just her personality.

To both of us, it seems like the direction the market's heading towards, wherein to be successful she'd have to be good at self-promotion, is biased towards making money grubbing hacks more successful.

Certainly some of the things we haven't been talking about here like the services that are part of the traditional publishing stream (e.g. copy editing, fact checking, proofreading and other services that are just built into the publishing workflow) are pretty lacking in both the smaller publishing houses as well as in the self-publishing spaces. So as we gear further toward self-publishing and self-promoting we are already losing those services from the folks who participate more directly in the publishing market.

I think we'll just have to end up seeing how far we go and where the new point of equilibrium lies when we get there. I don't honestly know if it'll ever get to the point where my partner throws in the towel or not.
posted by kalessin at 11:54 AM on October 28, 2010


Huh, so Joe Beese quoted Jessamyn as writing "we mostly don't care about copyright infringement in an OMG sort of way," implying that she was giving him the go-ahead to post links to copyright-infringing resources. What she actually wrote, in full, was just the opposite:
Linking to Pirate Bay is like linking to the Anarchists Cookbook. It sets people on high alert even though yeah, I agree with you it's no more illegal than liots of stuff linked to here and we mostly don't care about copyright infringement in an OMG sort of way. If someone's looking for a way to steal something in AskMe, we'll delete the question. If someone's looking for a way to buy something in AskMe and someone links to Pirate Bay, we'll delete the comment. Generally speaking, while we all use and appreciate Pirate Bay we don't want it to become a de facto answer or resource on MeFi.
In other words, don't post links to stuff that directly infringes copyright in an obvious way. And that, friends, is why you don't selectively quote an email to make a point--their response might make you look like you have reading comprehension problems.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:57 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I agree with that when it comes to things like roads, schools, hospitals, a reasonable military, a justice system, etc. These are definitely public goods. But entertainment? I can see giving grants to artists who don't otherwise have a way to make money from their art or who need startup funding, but I see no reason why any given member of the public should subsidize someone else's media consumption."

I tend to think the burden would be on anyone claiming that entertainment wasn't a public good, given that pretty much every first-world nation funds "entertainment" in some way already. And one good reason to subsidize people's media consumption is so that they consume more of it, and thus encourage more of it to be made. If the argument is that infringement harms content producers, and there exists no viable way to control or prevent rampant downloading, it makes more sense to recognize that as a society, we have a collective action problem and thereby the solution should be collective.

"Neither am I. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you weren't trying to paint me as someone who doesn't know what socialism is or who sympathizes with, say, the Tea Party."

No, I just don't really think it's actual socialism per se, but was putting my bias out there.

"The Canadian tax is extremely problematic. Getting the money to non-label artists, small-time artists, underground artists, etc would be very difficult. As I said, the government would have to monitor everyone's media consumption in order to ensure the money was distributed in proportion to usage."

Well, and there's never going to be perfect proportion of distribution to usage. Just like there are people who exploit the welfare system. And there doesn't have to be a single system, but a lot of voluntary reporting would help. If Pirate Bay wasn't explicitly extralegal, there's no reason why they couldn't turn over numbers of downloads based on a user-per-country basis.

"The problem with giving any content creator grants is that it opens the door to everyone saying "I'm a content creator, please give me money."

Yes, and? Wouldn't it be trivial to have some combination of self-reporting and verification to determine if they really were creating content as a major part of their income?

"Or, if the government picks and chooses, then you have the government effectively controlling what art does and doesn't get made. Or if it's a lottery system then it leaves a lot of people out arbitrarily."

Well, no, not really. The government doesn't really control what art gets made now, not in any meaningful sense. And even in countries like Denmark and Sweden, where state support for the arts is much more robust, it's hard to argue that there's a significant part of the population being left out in the cold due to unfair or statist interests.

"And the ultimate problem with any such system is still that, okay, you establish some download:dollars ratio and artists get paid per download while it's free at the point of download. The problem is that either the tax is also proportional, in which case why not just pay for it outright or the tax isn't proportional, in which case it's unfair. "

Well, again, no. You can set up the tax to be fair on any number of levels, and the idea that a flat tax is unfair can be offset pretty well by tax credits.

Frankly, though, the system we have as it stands is not sustainable. There's not going to be an end to illegal downloading. That's pretty much a given. And content producers are already not being paid for their work. So, when it seems to me that the only response is "Hey kids, stop all the downloading," it sounds like more failed "solutions" based on empty rhetorical stances, and most of your objections seemed like you were more looking to dismiss the idea than to think about it, or to offer any of your own.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2010


Canadian governmental institutions also have a program whereby artists can apply for grants toward a total annual contribution that makes a living wage from a combination of local, municipal, regional, province-level and federal grants. If we were Canadians, odds are good that my partner could apply for and be awarded grants (for her work as a Cultural Worker) to provide her a living wage (probably better than what she makes now) which would free her up to create free works of art for public consumption and enrichment of Canada's total art, knowledge and culture.

Just sayin'.
posted by kalessin at 12:16 PM on October 28, 2010


Klang has it perfectly: a national grant system to publicly fund music, fiction, nonfiction, visual arts, theater and newspapers is the clear solution to the whole mess. Let people consume it however they chose, and let people who create things worthy of consumption be compensated. Win-win.

Except that with the s-word, it won't happen any time soon, and so those who create content feel forced to try to meddle with how their goods are consumed, or they feel pushed into begging for compensation, or they just act sanctimonious about the whole thing and pretend that there is still time before things change.

Content creators who don't want to get non-creative jobs: you should either be lobbying the Fed for massive increases in Arts funding, or lobbying the companies who are profiting off of your work to come up with a non-intrusive way to keep your work relevant. Because, honestly, if every single person who needs to work to eat takes their ball and goes home, there will still be more movies, music and writings out there than any one person can consume in a lifetime. And the people who can eat *and* not work much will make new stuff.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2010


I've been guilty of posting links in the comments to torrent files for things that aren't normally available to all people reading a post. I did it just the other week when someone posted a BBC program that people not in the UK can watch online. I thought I was doing people a favor, but I'll avoid doing that in the future.
posted by crunchland at 12:28 PM on October 28, 2010



>The publishing system we have know works for a certain type of content creator. The kind you'll get if you change the rules is different.

I agree with this. This doesn't bother me, though. I like change.


That's a very large gamble to be taking. The current system, to some extent at least, ensure some relationship between what is produced and what people want to consume (the basic function of the market place). If we remove direct compensation for writers what will we be left with? In the absence of any alternative being put in place it seems to me that this would be self-publishing, vanity presses and patronage.

While I'm in favor of, and practice the first, it's not something that lends itself to book length works very easily and it misses the value that the editorial process can add (though vanity presses seem to thrive fine on this). It's the latter that worries me the most. In essence all three options amount to the same thing --- publishing by those that can afford to pay for it --- and a world where book, or book like production is controlled by those that can, and want to pay for it, by definition, almost those that have a vested interest, a viewpoint to push or just the rich and powerful is not one I look forward to living in.

it may well be that technological change forces a corresponding change in publishing, but just because something is convenient doesn't make it right. The rise of democracy and publishing in its modern form have gone together in lockstep, as have the whole swirl of ideas that gave rise to science and hence the technology that enables this change. It is an unfortunate fact that the pace of change in the Internet era has, too often, led to a crude and arrogant conception of technology as the sole driver of what amounts to a social change. This is a mistaken idea, one that gave birth to the horrors of the soviet system, among other things, and if we believe in the value of ideas, and the way their free exchange played midwife to democracy, I think we have a duty, as society, to consider the impact of any coming changes. its is not a process, that I, for one, wish to leave to chance.
posted by tallus at 12:36 PM on October 28, 2010


I tend to think the burden would be on anyone claiming that entertainment wasn't a public good, given that pretty much every first-world nation funds "entertainment" in some way already.

Public good has a particular meaning in economics. I'm referring here specifically to the kind that benefits everyone there more of it there is. Health care is like this. Even if I don't benefit directly from another person's health care, I benefit indirectly because they are less likely to infect me and they are more productive in the economy. I'm not sure if the same "more is better for everyone" analysis holds with entertainment. It seems very much like a luxury that should be paid for individually.

Wouldn't it be trivial to have some combination of self-reporting and verification to determine if they really were creating content as a major part of their income?

No, it wouldn't be, unless you want the government to define what "content" is. If I spend all year pondering the universe and on December 31st scratch a few marks on a piece of paper, am I an artistic genius or a lazy fraud? Is it for the government to decide?

And you can't use income as a measure, since the whole idea is to provide income for the artists. It's a chicken and the egg problem when phrased that way.

And even in countries like Denmark and Sweden, where state support for the arts is much more robust, it's hard to argue that there's a significant part of the population being left out in the cold due to unfair or statist interests.

I don't know much about government support for the arts in Denmark or Sweden, but we're talking about the US, where the NEA gets blasted on a regular basis for funding controversial art. If you want to expand government support of the arts more broadly, you can bet a lot of people won't be happy about being taxed to pay for death metal, gangster rap, or religious music of all stripes.

You can set up the tax to be fair on any number of levels, and the idea that a flat tax is unfair can be offset pretty well by tax credits.

When I speak of fairness I'm not talking about with respect to income levels, but rather with respect to consumption. If you tax people proportionally to their music consumption and then distribute the money in proportion to downloads, why not just ask them to pay for the downloads. Whether you're using state power to extract the tax or to punish infringement doesn't seem to matter.

And if you tax people without regard to consumption, then you're asking non-consumers and low-consumers to subsidize the consumption of others. Since it's questionable whether entertainment is something that should be so thoroughly subsidized, I think that's problematic politically, especially in the US.

most of your objections seemed like you were more looking to dismiss the idea than to think about it, or to offer any of your own.

I think about this kind of thing professionally, actually. If an idea is impractical, politically infeasible, and economically questionable, I think it needs to be dismissed so we can move on to better ones.

My idea is pretty simple, though I make no particular claim that it is the best one. Reform the copyright laws so that things like statutory damages and criminal liability stop being used as bludgeons, and then let the market sort it out. My guess is the price of media will fall somewhat, but that probably reflects its true value unsupported by monopoly rents and centralized cartel organizations.
posted by jedicus at 12:37 PM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


golly, its trap the mods week.
joejoejoe
im a computer dunce and had a similar conern in the matter of copyright concerning user profile pictures
i laid out my concern to cortex, genuine, since im a COMPUTER DUNCE. i recieved my answer and thanked him. IMO this is enough and quite refreshing.

or
i went down the dry slide.
posted by clavdivs at 12:40 PM on October 28, 2010


Klang has it perfectly: a national grant system to publicly fund music, fiction, nonfiction, visual arts, theater and newspapers is the clear solution to the whole mess. Let people consume it however they chose, and let people who create things worthy of consumption be compensated. Win-win.

That's not only politically infeasible (as you note), but as I've been discussing, it's also economically questionable, open to all kinds of abuses on both the supply and demand sides, and likely to be inefficient. To the extent it isn't inefficient (i.e. that payments to artists and taxation match consumption), then it's the same as just paying for it in the first place.

Another potential abuse not discussed above: faking consumption numbers to get more money.
posted by jedicus at 12:42 PM on October 28, 2010


That's a very large gamble to be taking.

Not really. I'm willing to trade some (even a significant) amount of future content creation for free access to everything which already exists.
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on October 28, 2010


Content creators who don't want to get non-creative jobs: you should either be lobbying the Fed for massive increases in Arts funding, or lobbying the companies who are profiting off of your work to come up with a non-intrusive way to keep your work relevant.

What? I thought I was supposed to sell t-shirts.
posted by malocchio at 12:53 PM on October 28, 2010


My idea is pretty simple, though I make no particular claim that it is the best one. Reform the copyright laws so that things like statutory damages and criminal liability stop being used as bludgeons, and then let the market sort it out. My guess is the price of media will fall somewhat, but that probably reflects its true value unsupported by monopoly rents and centralized cartel organizations.

That value is probably close to nothing.
posted by empath at 12:56 PM on October 28, 2010


jedicus: Public good has a particular meaning in economics. I'm referring here specifically to the kind that benefits everyone there more of it there is. Health care is like this. Even if I don't benefit directly from another person's health care, I benefit indirectly because they are less likely to infect me and they are more productive in the economy. I'm not sure if the same "more is better for everyone" analysis holds with entertainment. It seems very much like a luxury that should be paid for individually.

To continue this comparison: socialize health care seeks to charge the well to pay for the sick, charging everyone according to what they can afford regardless of how much product the consume:

jedicus: And if you tax people without regard to consumption, then you're asking non-consumers and low-consumers to subsidize the consumption of others.

That's exactly the point.

I do agree with you that it isn't likely to become a political reality, but I do think it would be ideal. I would also be happy with the other solution you suggested, though getting Disney to put the mouse in the public domain is just as unlikely as getting certain types to fund art they don't like.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:58 PM on October 28, 2010


television didn't kill radio, the internet hasn't killed television...

I'm not entirely sure why people insist on such an absolute system, just because someone once made a nifty buggy whip analogy doesn't mean it translates to all areas of technology.
posted by edgeways at 12:59 PM on October 28, 2010


malocchio: What? I thought I was supposed to sell t-shirts.

Selling tshirts isn't capitalizing on the music itself, it is capitalizing on the interest in the music, and is about as close as you can come to the former without a system like I described.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:59 PM on October 28, 2010


We don't need books about the Seige of Stalingrad now we have a wikipedia page about it, so you might as well take them without paying.
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


To continue this comparison: socialize health care seeks to charge the well to pay for the sick, charging everyone according to what they can afford regardless of how much product the consume:

Two distinctions there. First, as I said, everyone benefits from a healthy population, at least indirectly. Second, there are inherent limits on how much health care a person can consume. Nobody goes around breaking their own limbs in order to enjoy some sweet, sweet socialized medicine. Whereas a lot of people would happily gorge themselves on free-to-them socialized entertainment.

I would also be happy with the other solution you suggested, though getting Disney to put the mouse in the public domain is just as unlikely as getting certain types to fund art they don't like.

I apologize if I was not clear. I don't think it's practical or even a good idea to force actively commercialized works into the public domain.

I think it would probably be 'good enough' if there were an efficient procedure for putting orphan works in the public domain. Basically a straightforward action to clear title for a work with no apparent owner, or at least no owner that was doing anything with the property. Beyond that it should suffice to stop any future expansions of the copyright term or possibly shorten it for new works. If the government shortened the term on existing works and forced stuff into the public domain, there'd be a takings claim and we'd all end up paying for the loss in corporate revenue in the form of taxes.
posted by jedicus at 1:10 PM on October 28, 2010


I'm willing to trade some (even a significant) amount of future content creation for free access to everything which already exists.

How nice of you to offer to trade away the efforts of other people.

man, and I swore I wasn't going to jump into this mess. this conversation always gives me a headache.
posted by jbickers at 1:12 PM on October 28, 2010


Health care is like this. Even if I don't benefit directly from another person's health care, I benefit indirectly because they are less likely to infect me and they are more productive in the economy. I'm not sure if the same "more is better for everyone" analysis holds with entertainment. It seems very much like a luxury that should be paid for individually.

The difference between health care and entertainment (but let's broaden it and include things like textbooks and other useful information) is that it costs almost nothing to distribute information to anyone, once it's created once.
posted by empath at 1:24 PM on October 28, 2010


Selling tshirts isn't capitalizing on the music itself, it is capitalizing on the interest in the music, and is about as close as you can come to the former without a system like I described.

Yeah, I was just being glib. I sell mugs and totes, too!
posted by malocchio at 1:25 PM on October 28, 2010


How nice of you to offer to trade away the efforts of other people.

That's kind of a non-sequitur. If you don't want to participate in this theoretical future where anyone can get any information (music/movies/books) they want for free, then don't participate in it. Don't create content. I'm not taking anything from you. And I won't miss you. That's what I'm willing to trade away in return for that change in system.
posted by empath at 1:28 PM on October 28, 2010


Not going to jump into the larger debate for a bunch of reasons....

But I will add that, as a few people hinted at, just because something is on YouTube and not uploaded by the copyright holder, doesn't mean it's been uploaded illegally. Copyright holders are encouraged to either leave it up and track or leave it up and monetize, and quite a few do. This is why you often see ads next to copyrighted content (like music videos) that are clearly not uploaded by the copyright holder. Really, from your end it's impossible to tell whats going on (I have secret powers) and it's not our user's job to police copyright anyway (unless you yourself are a video/audio copyright holder and then we have a whole program for you).

[this is not an official policy statement but is 99% pulled from what we publish on our website, blah blah blah]
posted by wildcrdj at 1:31 PM on October 28, 2010


How nice of you to offer to trade away the efforts of other people.

That's kind of a non-sequitur. If you don't want to participate in this theoretical future where anyone can get any information (music/movies/books) they want for free, then don't participate in it. Don't create content. I'm not taking anything from you. And I won't miss you. That's what I'm willing to trade away in return for that change in system.


Of course you are taking something away from me ("me" in the rhetorical sense, that is). You're taking away the possibility of creating content and getting compensated for it, which is very important to a staggeringly large number of people.
posted by jbickers at 1:33 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not taking anything from you

Sure you are. You're taking away a potential revenue stream and content that (by the terms of your own hypothetical) would have been created but for this new system: "I'm willing to trade some (even a significant) amount of future content creation [for which the creators would have been paid]."

So you're taking away revenue from content creators and some (even a significant amount) of content away from those who would be willing to pay for it.

Those may be an acceptable trade off to society, but it is still a trade off that has to be weighed.
posted by jedicus at 1:34 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't create content. I'm not taking anything from you. And I won't miss you. That's what I'm willing to trade away in return for that change in system.

Man, there's gonna be a whole lot of Pepsi Blue in your new system's "content." Have fun.
posted by yarly at 1:47 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm always amazed at the hatred for artists that shine through a lot of these arguments. For me, the copyright question is complicated, and I have my own moral calculus like klang above. (For instance, at this point in my life I do not buy used books if the book is still in print and the author is still alive. When I was poorer than I am now, I did not follow that rule). I don't expect anyone else to follow my exact rules; I'm biased for a lot of reasons. But some of these people, sheesh, you'd think successful artists came into their bedrooms at night and flashed their bankrolls mockingly. (You'd also think that every author is Stephen King and every metal band is Metallica).
posted by Bookhouse at 1:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


And anyway, a truly fair version would just amount to paying for what you download, so why not do that in the first place?

One of the great unanswered questions of our time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Information, by definition, is relatively novel; it informs and thereby alters a system.

It's relative value lies in its scarcity.

To reduce an information source's scarcity by freely distributing it, or by accepting a freely (and involuntarily) distributed copy, is to reduce its value as a commodity.

If a content producer sells 5 units per day of his information product for $1 each on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but on Thursday, you take that product and decide to make it freely available, with the result that on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he sells 1 unit, it's not as though your actions have had no effect-- on the contrary, you have, in the course of four days, deprived him of 16 sales.

Again, information is scarcity, and scarcity is value.

To make things a bit more personally relevant, for those who don't have a stake in the process of creating and selling widgets or data:

You have a Social Security Number, a date of birth, bank account numbers, and pin numbers.

They are data.

Just data.

Numbers and text strings.

Since I don't cost you anything by copying down these little bits of information (which is always and ever meant to be free!), mind if I just distribute them to a few hundred thousand people?

Look, they might open bank accounts or establish credit cards using your name and creditworthiness, and they might even get arrested and identify themselves as you...

but, heck, none of this directly costs you a dime... so what's the problem?
posted by darth_tedious at 2:04 PM on October 28, 2010


It's

Its

grr.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:05 PM on October 28, 2010


Not really. I'm willing to trade some (even a significant) amount of future content creation for free access to everything which already exists.

---

I think it's more like, we think it will get created regardless, because 'creating content' is what people do. They can't help it. People who have something to say, will say it.


---

If you don't want to participate in this theoretical future where anyone can get any information (music/movies/books) they want for free, then don't participate in it. Don't create content.

You're not making a lick of sense.

Also, that theoretical future is not very theoretical and not at all future; it is here and now. And the people who create content - that is, who write books, make and record music and films, and the like - are not being given the option to opt out the content they have already created. I guess, then, if Terry Pratchett (for instance), doesn't want to participate in this non-theoretical non-future, he should just stop writing books.
posted by rtha at 2:07 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you don't want to participate in this theoretical future where anyone can get any information (music/movies/books) they want for free, then don't participate in it. Don't create content.

Our world would be a darker and less interesting place without creative people like, say, Ursula K. Le Guin making new things, because their rights don't get acknowledged by petty copy-thieves. I don't want to participate in this utopia.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:21 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're not making a lick of sense.

Sure I am.

Some people will not create content if people can get whatever they want for free. I'm sure that there will be a few artists that I care about who can't continue to make work. That will be disappointing, but not the end of the world.

Many, many other people will continue to create content, even when they have no guarantee of ever being compensated for it, just as they do today.
posted by empath at 2:25 PM on October 28, 2010


Oh, for fuck's sake. When I buy a book, a dollar or two from my pocket does not go directly into some author's babies' hedge fund.

The vast majority of authors are treated like shit by publishers, and the vast majority of profit is eaten by the middlemen. Remember that when you make these arguments about "theft" taking food from the authors' mouths. That's not how it works, in Hollywood, in publishing, or in Music.

Back to the original post, I don't think linking to the Pirate Bay or Rapidshare is a good idea. And I _really_ don't think coming back with some zinger sentence from a years-old email is a cool way to act. WTF.
posted by fake at 2:26 PM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


I do not know a single successful artist who does not spend equal amounts of time hustling and creating. It's a part of the job.

College professors spend equal amounts of time writing and researching and teaching. They do not have time for "hustling" the same way Jonathan Coulton or whoever does.

Also, when someone goes to the library and takes my book out, that encourages the library to buy a copy of my book and my future books. When someone goes to the Internet and downloads a stolen copy of my book, that brings me nothing. It's not even like downloading music, where it might drive people to come to my show at the bar; I've got nothing but my book, no show at the bar, no t-shirts, no special boxed set with outtakes.

I don't go into a hair salon and ask for a haircut, then refuse to pay because the hair salon was there anyway and it cost them nothing but the stylist's time to give me a haircut.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:26 PM on October 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


I mean, fine, I see that it's more important to some of you to get shit for free than to give a rat's ass about professionals getting paid for their work. Fantastic. Want to see what that great gettin' up morning is going to be like? Go to Barnes and Noble and read the stuff people are already giving away for free on Smashwords. Some of it's great; most of it's not ready for prime time.

Making people volunteer their work against their will is a pretty shitty Brand New Day in my book. It frankly sounds a lot like the Crappy Old Day, but whatever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:28 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


On the original topic: seems unnecessary to link to a grey-area version of a work that we're discussing. I'm sure we're all smart enough that any of us can find these things, if we want to.

That's kind of a non-sequitur. If you don't want to participate in this theoretical future where anyone can get any information (music/movies/books) they want for free, then don't participate in it. Don't create content. I'm not taking anything from you. And I won't miss you. That's what I'm willing to trade away in return for that change in system.

There's another way you could frame this: if someone doesn't want their work copied/downloaded: don't copy it. You say you won't miss them if they don't create content at all. So logically you won't miss the content if they create it, but you just don't consume it. OTOH, if a creator embraces copying (and plenty do already) - copy their work, and then reward them in some other way, if you want.

And so everybody wins. You still consume as much content for free as you would if the anti-copying creators didn't participate. You get to consume content from those creators who have the same vision that you do.

Meanwhile, those who don't want to be copied can still produce art. And maybe they get successful. Maybe they don't. Maybe in 20 years we find out for certain that artists who welcome copying are actually far more successful than those who don't. But we can find this out while still respecting the artists' wishes. Which seems win-win all round, to me.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


How, exactly, is the net effect for the author any different if I go and borrow the book from the library and read it for free or if I download an ebook and read it for free?

Either way I have already paid whatever pittance the library cost divided by the number of tax payers is, and neither way does he get a single cent more.


So, by that rationale, what's stopping you from shoplifting the book off the store shelves? I mean, as others have said, at least the author still gets paid by that method (of course, the book store, which is probably already going bankrupt, will continue to lose money and go out of business--but hey, who cares, right?).

I love all the rationalizing going on in this thread. If you want to argue technical legalities, or justify pirating whatever, but at least you have to acknowledge that it's not ethical. I bet the people who are pro-pirating in this thread wouldn't be so happy if someone stole their intellectual property. Hell, I bet most of these people would be pissed if a coworker stole their idea for something. I know people who get pissed off when other people copy their haircuts or clothing styles because it makes them less "special". Anyways, if you're going to pirate shit off the internet, at least acknowledge that what you're doing isn't ethical--don't try to make some stupid argument to justify it because thing "should be open source" or big bad corporations are controlling the "light of knowledge" or some other similar bullshit. No, you wanted the book/album/whatever and you're too cheap/broke/lazy/unethical to pay for it.

I would love to see if those who are pro-pirating would change their idea of whether it's okay or not depending on the perceived wealth or "fame" of the content creator. I bet people justify it as "oh, well, J K Rowling/Stephen King/whoever make millions of dollars, they won't miss the revenue off of one book", but if it was their friend/cousin/partner/neighbour who makes a pittance publishing their beloved content, I wonder if they would have the same cavalier attitude about it?
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:38 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm glad that posted this, Joe Beese. I asked you about this sort of thing once in an older thread (last month? two months ago?), and then pretty much let it lie. I considered a MeTa thread at that point, but decided that I wasn't enough of a copyfighter to see it through...
-----
That said, I'm one of the folks who tends to flag the rapidshare links when I see them. Setting aside moral and legal reasoning, I flag them for three reasons:

1) People who do have ethical or legal concerns don't like these links
2) People who use these sites don't want additional attention called to them
3) Copyright usually isn't a discussion that MeFi does well.

So, irrespective of right or wrong, it's something that I'd prefer not to see here. That's not calling for a ban, of course, but just expressing my desire that people would refrain from these sorts of links. What I'd like to see coming out of this discussion is not a hard & fast policy, but instead 1) recognition that the mods are thinking about this (check), 2) people reconsidering whether their post needs such links: If the post is still strong without the rapidshare link (like Joe Beese's Battle of Stalingrad post) then, maybe consider that it might not be necessary; if the post doesn't seem to be solid enough to stand without the rapidshare link (like the occasional music post) then maybe it's worth rethinking whether it should be a post at all.

For what it's worth I think Joe Beese framed this discussion well, and I think jessamyn's response upthread is really a reasonable one.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


And anyway, a truly fair version would just amount to paying for what you download, so why not do that in the first place?

If this were actually realistically possible it would be awesome, yeah. I've been reading the works of jscalzi and cstross lately and would have loved to get all ebook versions, but sales in ebook formats are a joke. The ebook versions are almost always unavailable, DRM laden or unreasonably expensive. I ended up buying a mixture of ebook, used paperback, new paperback and clearance hardcover. I'll probably end up re-purchasing them on ebook later on while trying to declutter, unfortunately.

When we're obviously getting screwed on purpose ("We've cut out physical fabrication and physical distribution, but we'll charge you more."), I have little sympathy for the publishers. I like supporting the authors though so I went with the real thing (and the used copies were unavailable anywhere else).

The whole thing reminds me of moving from tape to CD. "CDs are only more expensive now because it's a new fabrication process. Once they're out for awhile the price will go down because they'll be dirt cheap to produce." I'd love to see some numbers on this. It could be that CDs were never cheaper to produce than tapes, but I kind of doubt it given the complexity of the latter.

Right now it seems to me that the public is largely pissed at the distributors or at the very best sees them as irrelevant and the artists are caught in the crossfire.

The Internet provides a great opportunity for artists to connect directly to their audience and I'm excited to see where that goes.
posted by ODiV at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2010


in this theoretical future where anyone can get any information (music/movies/books) they want for free

But that's simply not true. You have already said "I'm willing to trade some (even a significant) amount of future content creation for free access to everything which already exists." and it is likely to be a significant
amount if you remove the ability to be compensated for it --- writing etc is hard work, takes significant amounts of time and people need to pay bills, or else become a luxury of only those that can afford it. So people won't be able to get anything like the information (music/movies/books) they want if much of what is produced ceases to be produced in the future.

This would seem to be a terrible bargain and one premised on a very narrow view of culture. It is significant, I think, that you refer to entertainment, as if that were arts and culture's sole function. But I read not just to be entertained (and sometimes not even) but to learn something about myself and the world we live in. Art and literature (not to mention non-fiction) are some of, if not the primary means society and humanity has for reflecting on itself and thus growing. Removing compensation puts that at the mercy of those with money to afford it, and is why it is no co-incidence that democracy and paying cultural producers are linked (and rightly so since democracy needs the ability of everyone to participate if it is to function correctly -- the reason elected officials are payed. When they were not elected positions were largely in the hands of patronage and the rich, and corruption abounded) while patronage existed under the aristocratic system.A society without that means of reflection would be a degraded one,without one of the major mechanisms by which democracy has traditionally functioned and even entertainment is likely to be much degraded if it becomes predominately an extension of advertising.
posted by tallus at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


Very well put, tallus.
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:59 PM on October 28, 2010


we are in the midst of a massive devaluing of art and music and literature.
posted by edgeways at 3:23 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think artist should not get paid. I think the current system of paying artists by purchasing copies of their work is broken for a variety of reasons, and I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about ignoring it and spending my entertainment dollars the way I think supports the artists I care about best.

For example, I buy at least one new Indie game a month, because its cheap and it goes pretty much directly to the programmers and artists, but I pirated an ea game this month that's a few years old.

I download tons of music from blogs, but I pay to see bands live, and I buy stuff from iTunes constantly, just because iTunes is so much easier than digging through blogs to find a specific song I want, and when I can, I buy from beatport, which is even more expensive than iTunes and has better quality mp3s.

But there may be better ways of funding artists. Subscription services like netflix, or the minecraft model where you buy a work in progress, and you're basically paying the artist to finish it. Or advertising models.

Really the important legal (and relatively easy to enforce) thing is to stop people from intercepting money that should have gone to the artist--people selling bootlegs or plagiarism.
posted by empath at 3:39 PM on October 28, 2010


All of this is just a stupid wank and childish hand-wringing. The compact disk is dead, the digital video disk is dead and while dead trees will not stop being printed upon, the position of that type of media as the main way for people to read will be dead long before I am.

There is no way around it, there is no hope to change it.

edgeways: we are in the midst of a massive devaluing of art and music and literature.

Wall Street would call it a "correction." The artificially inflated prices sustained by the artificial scarcity of physical copies are rapidly being reveled to be no more than invisible clothes on a naked emperor and will continue to plummet.

Sorry if it hurts to hear, but complaining about the pain won't make it a lie.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:46 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I think it's more like, we think it will get created regardless, because 'creating content' is what people do. They can't help it. People who have something to say, will say it."

Bullshit.

You can very much "help" creating content when you can't pay your bills, can't afford a computer that works, can't afford to print off a draft, can't afford instruments, can't afford studio time...

Sure, one of the things I like about writing is that it's relatively cheap in terms of materials, but in terms of time...it takes a lot of time and time is expensive.

This theoretical creative person who "has something to say"--is an ideal that doesn't exist. Even in my creative writing program my profs told us all to go get jobs because you can't write when your life sucks because you have no money.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


YOU'VE WON!
posted by clavdivs at 3:54 PM on October 28, 2010


This theoretical creative person who "has something to say"--is an ideal that doesn't exist. Even in my creative writing program my profs told us all to go get jobs because you can't write when your life sucks because you have no money.

I think you just proved my point. Because no one in that class is writing because they expect a pay day in the future. They do it anyway.
posted by empath at 3:57 PM on October 28, 2010


I have little sympathy for the publishers

I don't like publishers, either, but for better or worse, ripping them off as some kind of political gesture invariably ends up ripping off creative people to an even greater extent, people who mostly and already suffer under the yoke of onerous publishing deals. As you note, there is hope in the Internet connecting creators more directly with their audience.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:11 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath, if you wrote a book or composed a song would you not expect to be compensated for it? You want to trade what you steal/borrow now against the supposition that you MAY in the future create something that somebody gives a shit about so that they can steal/borrow it from you? I am guessing that you are in the camp that says it doesn't matter to you until it personally affects you and you just don't know it yet.
*inserts supercraptastically obvious eponysterical lame joke about empath's username*
posted by futz at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Noted in passing: a judge orders the shuttering of LimeWire.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:18 PM on October 28, 2010


futz: empath, if you wrote a book or composed a song would you not expect to be compensated for it?

I'll answer for myself: the creative things I have put out into the æther I have never tried to profit from financially. My only goal, ever, was to receive credit for what I did from people who appreciated it. I deliberately eschewed ads, because I hate them, and while I did let people know how to contact me if they wanted to license something I had done for their own commercial purposes (which did happen) or to get higher-res versions of things, I didn't have a pan-handle paypal link or any kind of suggestion that I was owed any more than credit and preferably a link-back.

The reason I stopped doing it was that I lost faith in the quality of what I was putting out, and if I had magically been living off of the income from my output, my faith in the quality thereof wouldn't have been any higher, it just might have been harder to be honest about it and pull the plug.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:40 PM on October 28, 2010


Honestly, empath, if you're willing to live without content created by people who expect to get compensated for it, then go ahead and live without it NOW. If you're satisfied with the content you can legitimately get for free, then be satisfied with it. But if you're happy to take content for free that the creators would rather you pay for? Then, clearly you're NOT satisfied by free content, are you?

jeez, man, put up or shut up.
posted by KathrynT at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


Personally, I don't expect to be compensated for my creative endeavors, but yeah, I'm hoping for it and it's great when it happens. If enough people like (and support) what I do, then I'll be lucky enough to quit my day job and create a lot more of it. Until that happens, I'm limited to creating with the time and energy that I can find after working to pay my bills, which isn't very much. I think that's fair enough, but it's undermined by copyright infringement.
posted by malocchio at 4:42 PM on October 28, 2010


Sure, paisley henosis, it's easy to say "I don't care about compensation for my work" when you're not a talented artist. Nobody expect compensation for their fanfic or their livejournal entries. However, we're discussing works from talented writers, artists, researchers, etc. There is a difference. That's why the vast majority of free ebooks online are all shit--they're all poorly written by hacks sitting at home who think they're good writers, riddled with misspellings, grammatical errors, etc. etc. etc.

And even with the very talented writers, they do get value out of their writing by the hard work of copyeditors, stylistic editors, etc. That's why there is an industry around it. It's great to have this magical ideal that all writers write purely for passion and the art and don't need to eat or have roof over their heads or have copyeditors or other editors to improve their art, but that's just not reality. And those services have to be paid for somehow.

It's like your boss or your clients saying to you, "Well, you do good work but you should work simply because you enjoy it and not expect to be paid for your time or efforts." I don't get why people are unable to grasp this.
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:47 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


empath, if you wrote a book or composed a song would you not expect to be compensated for it?

That's pretty easy for me to answer, actually. I spent 9 years DJing and spent far more money on records and equipment than I ever made from gigs. I gave away lots and lots of mix cds that I slaved over, and all I ever wanted out of it was for people to send me an email telling me they liked it. I played for a sold out crowd of 3000 kids, knowing that the promoter pulled down over $100,000 at the door (because of the headliner, not me), and got paid $50 for it, and honestly, I'd have paid THEM to let me do it again. Money never once entered into the equation for me as motivation for doing it.
posted by empath at 4:48 PM on October 28, 2010


Glad to hear you're independently wealthy and don't expect to get paid for your work.

Oh, what's that? You had another job while you were DJ'ing? That wasn't your real career? So, what you're talking about is a hobby, that's great. There are talented artists, musicians, and writers who are able to make a career out of their work. Just because you couldn't make a career out if it, doesn't mean that others shouldn't.
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:50 PM on October 28, 2010


I spent 9 years DJing

Why did you stop?
posted by KathrynT at 4:51 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once posted an memail from a user. I even had the user's permission. I got the banhammer. I talked to the mod who did it. They explained their position, and said why the banhammer was necessary for this offense for the greater good of the community. I accepted my punishment.

Now someone posted a memail from her...Sorry, but that shit gets the banhammer. Not cool, OP of this thread.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:52 PM on October 28, 2010


But if you're happy to take content for free that the creators would rather you pay for?

I'm not taking it from them. They still have it.
posted by empath at 4:52 PM on October 28, 2010


Oh, Lord.
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:54 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not taking it from them. They still have it.

Read carefully. I didn't say you were taking it FROM THEM. I said you were taking it. And you are. The creator would like you to pay for it if you take it. If you're really willing to only take content supplied by authors who don't ask for a fee, then DO that.
posted by KathrynT at 4:55 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I spent 9 years DJing

Why did you stop?


Variety of reasons, mostly that I've been going to bars for going over 15 years now and I'm sick of hanging around with drunk 20 year olds and/or alcoholics my own age.
posted by empath at 4:57 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Read carefully. I didn't say you were taking it FROM THEM. I said you were taking it. And you are. The creator would like you to pay for it if you take it. If you're really willing to only take content supplied by authors who don't ask for a fee, then DO that.

Copying and taking are two different words. Taking implies that you are depriving someone of something.
posted by empath at 4:58 PM on October 28, 2010


That's a weasel argument and you know it.

Your words say you're willing to only consume content from unpaid authors. Your actions say otherwise. What's the word for that again?
posted by KathrynT at 4:59 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


1000monkeys: Sure, paisley henosis, it's easy to say "I don't care about compensation for my work" when you're not a talented artist. Nobody expect compensation for their fanfic or their livejournal entries. However, we're discussing works from talented writers, artists, researchers, etc. There is a difference. That's why the vast majority of free ebooks online are all shit--they're all poorly written by hacks sitting at home who think they're good writers, riddled with misspellings, grammatical errors, etc. etc. etc.

And even with the very talented writers, they do get value out of their writing by the hard work of copyeditors, stylistic editors, etc. That's why there is an industry around it. It's great to have this magical ideal that all writers write purely for passion and the art and don't need to eat or have roof over their heads or have copyeditors or other editors to improve their art, but that's just not reality. And those services have to be paid for somehow.

It's like your boss or your clients saying to you, "Well, you do good work but you should work simply because you enjoy it and not expect to be paid for your time or efforts." I don't get why people are unable to grasp this


It's interesting that you assume that I am not talented and that my work is not worthy, but cannot imagine that the works of others, people who profess to live off of them, might suck.

Many professional writers are not very good. Many professional musicians are not very able. Many professional artists produce crap. It is only the artificial scarcity of difficult-to-reproduce media that makes a shitty beach novel command 19$. The author's time is not represented in proportion to the price paid by the consumer, most of the time. If no one wants to pay for the crap you produce, that's all there is to it. Stop producing, or keep producing and stop expecting to get rich off of it. Your call, but make it and move along.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:59 PM on October 28, 2010


If you copy content that the creator obviously wants you to pay for (either directly or by patronizing revenue streams through which they derive income), without paying for it, I don't get how you're not depriving the creator of that revenue.
posted by kalessin at 5:03 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a weasel argument and you know it.

Your words say you're willing to only consume content from unpaid authors. Your actions say otherwise. What's the word for that again?


It's not a weasel argument. It's an important distinction. They didn't have money that I took. They were never going to get money from me. Nothing in their life has changed from me downloading it. The impact on the artist is absolutely fucking 0 dollars. There is no way in which downloading an mp3 from an artist means that the received less money for their work from me than they otherwise would have gotten from me.
posted by empath at 5:05 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


kalessin: If you copy content that the creator obviously wants you to pay for (either directly or by patronizing revenue streams through which they derive income), without paying for it, I don't get how you're not depriving the creator of that revenue

YOU HEAR THAT YOU FREELOADING FUCK-OS TAKING NOTES AT THE LIBRARY? YOU HERE THAT SHIT HEADS BUYING VIDEOS AT THE FLEA MARKET? YOU ARE FUCKING STARVING CHILDREN TO DEATH WITH YOUR GOD DAMNED THEFT YOU ROTTEN BASTARDS!!1111111
posted by paisley henosis at 5:06 PM on October 28, 2010


You're answering a different argument than the one I'm making. Whether the artist has been deprived of income is irrelevant to mine. I'm only addressing your claim that you're perfectly willing to only patronize unpaid creators. If you're so willing to, why don't you?
posted by KathrynT at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


paisley, I will remind you that I do not intend to engage with you further.
posted by kalessin at 5:08 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


YOU HEAR THAT YOU FREELOADING FUCK-OS TAKING NOTES AT THE LIBRARY?

Dial it back, please. This is not condusive to actual discussion and is giving me eye pain.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:08 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


I never said what you think I said.
posted by empath at 5:10 PM on October 28, 2010


Joe Beese: I've repeatedly linked to equally copyright infringing blog pages without problem

I don't think all "copyright infringing blog pages" are the same. Some site work with obscure genres and artists, out-of-print rarities that re-sell for way too much (many times the original sales price). Others offer a few sample tracks from an album, either rare or more common, with the idea that you'll try to track down the rest yourself. Then some blogs focus on copying fairly easy to get, if overlooked, albums.

Highlighting the crate diggers and archivists who pull out dusty tracks and bring them to the light is one thing. Linking to sites that contain albums that you could buy through Amazon or iTunes, even most used music shops, may bring more attention to the music, but there are other ways to highlight the music.

As for the example of YouTube links, I check my old posts every now and again, just to see how much link rot there is. A few series of links that relied on uploads from a single user are now gone in in one go, which should teach me to rely on one YouTube user as the source of anything (unless it's their own content).
posted by filthy light thief at 5:12 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never said what you think I said.

Oh?

If you don't want to participate in this theoretical future where anyone can get any information (music/movies/books) they want for free, then don't participate in it. Don't create content. I'm not taking anything from you. And I won't miss you. That's what I'm willing to trade away in return for that change in system.
posted by KathrynT at 5:14 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


You didn't read what I said carefully enough, I don't think. Everyone getting information for free is not the same thing as creators not being paid.
posted by empath at 5:17 PM on October 28, 2010


If the creators are getting paid or supported, many of them would be happy with that. In there here and now, though, that's not assured.
posted by kalessin at 5:18 PM on October 28, 2010


> I'm not taking it from them. They still have it.

And, again:

You are taking it.

You are reducing scarcity.

You are reducing value.

Money doesn't go into your pocket-- pleasure or knowledge or whatever you find in that art-object does that-- but by increasing the ubiquity of an otherwise relatively scarce work, you are taking money out of the pocket of that art-object's creator. The question is less what you, specifically, might have paid, than how much less the creator can now realistically demand for his work... now that it's floating around for free.

Honestly, since you're implying that information has no intrinsic worth, would you object to seeing your Social Security Number posted online?
posted by darth_tedious at 5:18 PM on October 28, 2010


darth_tedious: You are reducing scarcity.

There.

Is.

No.

Scarcity.

For.

Creative.

Anything.

And.

There.

Never.

Will.

Be.

Again.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:21 PM on October 28, 2010


kalessin: paisley, I will remind you that I do not intend to engage with you further

I'll remind you that you are not entitled to dictate my posts on metafilter any more than you are to dictate that I buy something I don't want to.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:22 PM on October 28, 2010


I'd love to know what Paisley and empath do for a living. I'd also like to know if they've ever paid for higher education.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:23 PM on October 28, 2010


For example:

These guys let anybody who wanted to download their games and pay whatever they wanted and they pulled down over a million dollars.

I'm not saying that's the answer. But there are lots of ways of making money without monetizing every single copy of a work. You can get paid by your readers in advance, you could get paid as you create, you can get paid for signatures, etc. If you make it easy to pay for your work, many people will prefer to pay for it. If people create something valuable, people will pay for it. Maybe not everybody who downloads it, but you'll get taken care of.
posted by empath at 5:24 PM on October 28, 2010


...any more than you are to dictate that I buy something I don't want to.

Who is dictating that you buy something you don't want to? People are merely saying that you should pay for something you consume, especially when that item was never offered to you for free. That's a false logic.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:24 PM on October 28, 2010


empath: I'm not taking it from them. They still have it.

But they have no money, which you would have given them (and others, for distribution, etc, etc).

I agree that taking a record from a shop is not the same as downloading those same tracks online, but in the end, no one got paid for either transaction. The analogy between stolen goods and downloaded data breaks down when looking at people who would have bought the item if the option to download was not there. When people say "sweet, I was going to pay $15 for this CD, but now I can buy $15 of something else and just download these tracks," that's a lost sale.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:25 PM on October 28, 2010



These guys let anybody who wanted to download their games and pay whatever they wanted and they pulled down over a million dollars.


That's great. But note that they consented to that. They gave you permission to pay what you wanted. I don't understand how you, supposedly an intelligent person (I would think), cannot see that.

There's a difference between saying "this is what I think should be, this is where we should be heading" and trying to convince artists to go there. That's entirely different from saying "this is the way it should be so I'm just going to rip them off".
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:27 PM on October 28, 2010


paisley henosis, last chance. Either interact with people in this thread without the "blow me" type of comments or take the night off. Your choice.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:27 PM on October 28, 2010


If people create something valuable, people will pay for it.

Unless you're EA or some other large corporation. Got it.
posted by malocchio at 5:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


But the diversification of payment options is a pretty fantastic element of the internet age. There is a constant stream of content being created and given away, some of it is great. I've bought books of webcomics I've read years ago, simply to support the artists. I've paid more for copies with signatures and personalized quotes or doodles.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:29 PM on October 28, 2010




If people create something valuable, people will pay for it.

>Unless you're EA or some other large corporation. Got it.


Exactly. If that thing that you're downloading without paying for isn't worth downloading, then why are you downloading it? That doesn't make any sense. empath and paisley seem to me to be just trying to justify their actions without using any logic, reason, or ethical/moral values. Sure, the last one is subjective, but the first two are pretty obvious.

Just admit that you're rationalizing your sketchy actions. That at least would be honest and understandable.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:32 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, since you're implying that information has no intrinsic worth, would you object to seeing your Social Security Number posted online?

Sure information has value. The whole universe is nothing but information. Money is just information. I don't think information is valueless. In fact, I think it's too valuable to limit its spread just to protect a business monopoly.

If we could make unlimited copies of BMW's out of thin air for almost nothing, would you want to pass a law preventing everyone from doing it just to protect BMW's bottom line?
posted by empath at 5:32 PM on October 28, 2010


It'll be interesting to see how copyrights evolve, with a new generation who equates digital copies with original versions. Anything made in physical form has a limit, even if it's millions of copies. If there was some organism that ate CDs and multiplied like mad, even the millions of Britney Spears CDs could become scarce. The music on them? Copied forever, even in lossless formats. Different entities, but possibly with the same end point: music. But if you're talking about CDs in amazing cases, with intricate art and detailed liner notes: sure, you could scan it at a ridiculously high resolution, but could you scratch'n'sniff the screen?

And not all creative output is the same - you said it yourself. "If no one wants to pay for the crap you produce, that's all there is to it." On the other hand, if someone is willing to pay for your crap but not different crap, you can't pawn off the sound-alike / look-alike and say "see, there's still more cheap crap available!" It's not the same.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:35 PM on October 28, 2010


empath: "If we could make unlimited copies of BMW's out of thin air for almost nothing, would you want to pass a law preventing everyone from doing it just to protect BMW's bottom line?"

Yes, otherwise there'd be no incentive for companies to create anything.
posted by gman at 5:37 PM on October 28, 2010


If we could make unlimited copies of BMW's out of thin air for almost nothing, would you want to pass a law preventing everyone from doing it just to protect BMW's bottom line?

A degree is just a piece of paper, right? I mean, all the knowledge you gain while obtaining a degree is "just information" that has no intrinsic value, right? So obviously you don't have a degree, and you think that we should just print degrees because there is nothing tangible with a degree since it's based on information and a piece of paper and has no "intrinsic value", right?
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:38 PM on October 28, 2010


>Never.

>Will.

>Be.

>Again.


Your argument seems to be "Lots of people are going to rob this liquor store anyway... so stop whining about it, and just hand me what's in the register."
posted by darth_tedious at 5:39 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unless you're EA or some other large corporation.

Sign of the times:

FarmVille Worth More Than EA
posted by Joe Beese at 5:41 PM on October 28, 2010


If we could make unlimited copies of BMW's out of thin air for almost nothing, would you want to pass a law preventing everyone from doing it just to protect BMW's bottom line?

Absolutely, because there is a lot of R&D, marketing, administrative and other costs involved. I know Wiccans that have a less magical understanding of the universe than this.
posted by malocchio at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Look, OK. I'm a classical singer -- not hypothetically, not in the past, but right here, right now. I give live performances to which people buy tickets. Let's say that someone develops a technology that allows a lossless reproduction of my performance outside the hall, such that anyone who wants to can hear it for free.

Now, if I consent to this, saying "those people who really love me will still pay the forty clams per seat that pays for everyone's salary," then that's one thing. But are you really saying it's OK for someone to break in and forcibly install this technology even if I don't want them to, just because it's no harder for me to sing for an audience of 25,000 than 2500? Just because there's a guy across the street crooning "Moon River" by the bus tunnel for tips, and all live performances are interchangeable?
posted by KathrynT at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


A dollar is just a piece of paper, too.
posted by kalessin at 5:44 PM on October 28, 2010


If people create something valuable, people will pay for it.

>Unless you're EA or some other large corporation. Got it.


Some percentage of people will pay for some percentage of downloads.

There's a limited amount of money available to buy entertainment stuff, okay? We don't live in a fantasy world where if all of this stuff wasn't available for free, everyone would buy the same amount of mp3s that they downloaded. It's a joke. It wouldn't happen.

If I couldn't download all the stuff I get for free, I'm not going to all of sudden pull money out of my ass to buy this stuff. I just don't have the money to spend. Especially when I was unemployed for a few months earlier than year.

The same goes for everyone else downloading things.

If you magically destroyed all of the bittorrents and filesharing sites tomorrow, there wouldn't be a penny more money spent on mp3s and movies then are spent today. Not one.

All you would have is a world where huge numbers of people are deprived of culture, of information, of exposure to new ideas. Where starving artists are still starving, but now they can't download new music and books and movies to inspire them. Where some college kid is not going to start a band because his friend didn't burn that copy of the new Radiohead CD for him that changed his life.

The fact that everybody in the world has access to all the information in the world for free or almost free is a goddamned miracle that we should be celebrating and encouraging. I'm sorry that it's hurt a bunch of corporations bottom lines, but I've yet to hear from any actual artists that it has.

I happily spend money to support artists when I have it. A significant portion of my income is spent on music, movies and video games. In fact, I'm going to guess I spend more money doing it than most of you on your high horses do. (statistically that's likely).
posted by empath at 5:45 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry that it's hurt a bunch of corporations bottom lines, but I've yet to hear from any actual artists that it has.

Simon Posford/Shpongle/Hallucinogen would seem to be one.
posted by asterix at 5:48 PM on October 28, 2010


If I couldn't download all the stuff I get for free, I'm not going to all of sudden pull money out of my ass to buy this stuff. I just don't have the money to spend. Especially when I was unemployed for a few months earlier than year.

There we go. So, this is just a really rambling way to say, "I can't afford to buy the shit I like so I download it for free". Why didn't you just say that initially? I still disagree with your rationalizing it, but at least you're not trying to concoct some bullshit story about the intrinsic value of art, blah blah blah. You just can't afford it, or don't want to pay for it because you'd rather pay for beer or whatever.

My counter to that would be, "if you can't afford to buy it, then don't. Don't "consume" it either." Personal responsibility vs. a sense of entitlement and all that.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:50 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


It sounds, empath, like you should be doing lobbying for federal support of cultural works through tax-supported grants and other methods.
posted by kalessin at 5:50 PM on October 28, 2010


Now, if I consent to this, saying "those people who really love me will still pay the forty clams per seat that pays for everyone's salary," then that's one thing. But are you really saying it's OK for someone to break in and forcibly install this technology even if I don't want them to, just because it's no harder for me to sing for an audience of 25,000 than 2500? Just because there's a guy across the street crooning "Moon River" by the bus tunnel for tips, and all live performances are interchangeable?

I work for NBC. I want to broadcast your performance in primetime, during sweeps. But you don't get paid.

Do you say no? Honest answer.

Someone records your performance and puts it on youtube and promotes the hell out of it on his blog. It gets 10 million views, but you don't get paid a penny. How upset are you?
posted by empath at 5:50 PM on October 28, 2010


As thomas jefferson said, "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

To me, it seems immoral to horde the light of knowledge when spreading it freely costs no one anything.


So now Thomas Jefferson thinks I should keep working in a cubicle until I'm 60 to scrape together enough money to make art? That's so awesome I don't even know where to start.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:52 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


> If you magically destroyed all of the bittorrents and filesharing sites tomorrow, there wouldn't be a penny more money spent on mp3s and movies then are spent today. Not one.

Is it possible that some hyperbole has crept in here?

I usually find that on the day after a group of pirate sites is forced to remove my products, my sales will double.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:52 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I work for NBC. I want to broadcast your performance in primetime, during sweeps. But you don't get paid.

Do you say no? Honest answer.

Someone records your performance and puts it on youtube and promotes the hell out of it on his blog. It gets 10 million views, but you don't get paid a penny. How upset are you?


Uh, you've said yourself that you are only downloading stuff that you would NEVER EVER pay for, anyways. So, applying your logic to the above hypothetical, I'd guess she'd be pretty pissed if she knew for a fact that it would never ever lead to her getting any sort of compensation for it. Apples and oranges.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:53 PM on October 28, 2010


I work for NBC. I want to broadcast your performance in primetime, during sweeps. But you don't get paid.

Do you say no? Honest answer.


Well I call your boss at NBC and say, "apparently you've hired someone who is clinically mentally ill. Can you give me the name of the person who negotiates deals for your multi-billion dollar business, so my agent or lawyer can negotiate with him?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:54 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the kicker, empath: whose choice is it? Maybe it's in my best interests to say yes, but do I have the right to say no?

As it happens, I have turned down opportunities to work for publicity alone, because I don't want to dilute the perceived value of my work and my ability to get paid for it. Fame doesn't pay for my kid's preschool.
posted by KathrynT at 5:56 PM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


That said, it's amazing how often TV people act like the fact that they are offering you 15 seconds to 1 hour on the air is something you should pay them to do for you, even if it's clearly in their best interest to fill the 15 seconds to an hour with quality broadcast.

In other words, they do act like their shit's made of gold. Not saying that drjimmy11's advice isn't spot on, they just act like it.
posted by kalessin at 5:57 PM on October 28, 2010


> So now Thomas Jefferson thinks I should keep working in a cubicle until I'm 60 to scrape together enough money to make art?

Remember, Kids: It's Not Art Unless You're Workin' for the Man!
posted by darth_tedious at 5:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


empath: If you magically destroyed all of the bittorrents and filesharing sites tomorrow, there wouldn't be a penny more money spent on mp3s and movies then are spent today. Not one.

I can only speak for myself, but in my case, that's simply untrue. I download a lot of shit. A lot of shit I can afford. Why? Because it's free and I because can. I know it's wrong, but I still do it. I am saying this as clearly as possible, if the stuff I pirate weren't available for download, I would pay for a fair amount of it.
posted by gman at 5:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think we also have to realize that the way copyright laws work, as an artist or intellectual property copyright holder, you are basically forced to defend your IP, otherwise you can lose or weaken your claim to it.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:58 PM on October 28, 2010


Simon Posford/Shpongle/Hallucinogen would seem to be one.

I'm a fan of his (I used to play his stuff when I DJed), and that sucks for him, but ultimately he's still making work, and still touring. I mean, really, psytrance is a niche market and always has been. Trance has always been a shitty market to make money in. You get some money from mix cd sales, and sales from touring as a DJ and not much else.

I have a friend who released a few tracks on a psytrance label and never made a dime from it, and it's not from piracy, its just because the label ripped him off. Most of the people making psytrance are hobbyists and amateurs and always have been. I don't really see that as a problem, though, because the scene is still producing good music.
posted by empath at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2010


well, with paisley more or less silenced (not that I'm complaining), I suspect another unrepentant so-called "thief" should throw in.

My perspective is pretty simple. People will always pay for what they can't get for free (assuming they want it that bad). Right now, right here, at this particular juncture in the space-time continuum, there's a whole bunch of stuff that people can now easily get for free that they couldn't, say twenty years ago. Blame technology, most of it damned good technology.

So for me the issue is not how do we throw wrenches into some of the coolest most liberating technology that man has ever invented so that we can keep an old economic paradigm puttering along, but rather how do we keep artists fed, clothed, housed, functioning so that they can continue to create?
posted by philip-random at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2010


If you magically destroyed all of the bittorrents and filesharing sites tomorrow, there wouldn't be a penny more money spent on mp3s and movies then are spent today. Not one.

So people only take for free the things that they would never pay for? I sincerely doubt that, particularly in such absolute terms. I think there is a whole gray area involved.

At my work, we have free soda in the fridge. I'm pretty sure that a lot of our employees would go buy their Coke at the mini-mart downstairs if the fridge was empty tomorrow. And even if the faucet still worked.
posted by malocchio at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2010



I can only speak for myself, but in my case, that's simply untrue. I download a lot of shit. A lot of shit I can afford. Why? Because it's free and I because can. I know it's wrong, but I still do it. I am saying this as clearly as possible, if the stuff I pirate weren't available for download, I would pay for a fair amount of it.


Thank you for being honest and not trying to rationalize your actions based on some bullshit pseudophilisophical nonsense.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


gman, me too, albeit in a different way. Ever since Amazon and iTunes made it easy and cheap to get digital music that I didn't already own, I barely ever fire up Limewire any more, and only if I'm looking for something that isn't available for pay.
posted by KathrynT at 6:03 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a fan of his (I used to play his stuff when I DJed), and that sucks for him, but ultimately he's still making work, and still touring. I mean, really, psytrance is a niche market and always has been. Trance has always been a shitty market to make money in. You get some money from mix cd sales, and sales from touring as a DJ and not much else.

That's great, but you originally asked if anyone knew of any actual artists whose bottom lines were damaged by filesharing. I gave you one.
posted by asterix at 6:06 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


philip-random, I have two observations:
1) The access to the content that you are saying is easily obtainable for "free" simply isn't. In order to access all of this content for free, we need to store it on a device (at least a USB key we download to from a public library). Later, in order to read or view or listen to it, we need another device. Most of us, also, do not steal content over a public internet connection, so when we steal, we might do it over a private internet connection, for which we also pay.
2) Partly because of the access issue, the thievery we are discussing is limited to folks who live in circumstances where internet access and access to devices required to view the content is close to ubiquitous.

So while I'm on board with you about how cool the Internet is, I want to remind you and empath and others who are talking about the thievery as if it were liberating and wonderful that it's only liberating a very limited portion of the world population, and that's leaving aside the work some governments are doing to limit the civil liberties and access their citizens have to this new and wonderful technology.
posted by kalessin at 6:07 PM on October 28, 2010


I download a lot of shit. A lot of shit I can afford. Why? Because it's free and I because can. I know it's wrong, but I still do it.

Personally, most of the music I buy (and I still buy a lot), I buy in vinyl form. That said, I also (sometimes) download a ton of mp3s. But these I treat more as radio. I toss the fresh stuff into my ipod, playlist it, and usually end up dumping as much as 80 percent as being just not that essential. Of the 20 percent left, I'd probably dump at least half of it if I had to pay for it (just not that good). So out of a 100 songs I "should" have paid for (to satisfy some in this thread), in the old days I would've only paid for ten of them anyway. So how much has really been lost by anybody?

As for those remaining 10 songs that I do dig and still haven't paid for, well that's where my earlier question comes in. (ie: rather than pulling Rube-Goldberg tricks to keep an old economic paradigm puttering along, why don't we put our heads together and focus on fresh ways to keep artists fed, clothed, housed, functioning so that they can continue to create?)
posted by philip-random at 6:09 PM on October 28, 2010


rather than pulling Rube-Goldberg tricks to keep an old economic paradigm puttering along, why don't we put our heads together and focus on fresh ways to keep artists fed, clothed, housed, functioning so that they can continue to create?

So do that. But in the meantime, either stop stealing other people's intellectual property without paying for it, or at the very least acknowledge that you do and that it's wrong. But don't try to justify it weakly by saying that the economic system is screwed, and art has no intrinsic value, and oh, I can't afford it anyways, because then you sound like an idiot who is trying so hard to justify their actions. [I'm obviously not referring to you here, I'm referring to empath's arguments above.]
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:20 PM on October 28, 2010


I'd appreciate it if you didn't call me an idiot.
posted by empath at 6:22 PM on October 28, 2010


gman, me too, albeit in a different way. Ever since Amazon and iTunes made it easy and cheap to get digital music that I didn't already own, I barely ever fire up Limewire any more, and only if I'm looking for something that isn't available for pay.

Limewire is being discontinued.

And I'm currently downloading (via torrent) the episode of Big Bang Theory that aired this evening as I type this. It was posted about ten minutes after it finished airing.
posted by zarq at 6:27 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd appreciate it if you didn't call me an idiot.

Where did I do that?
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:27 PM on October 28, 2010


As for those remaining 10 songs that I do dig and still haven't paid for, well that's where my earlier question comes in. (ie: rather than pulling Rube-Goldberg tricks to keep an old economic paradigm puttering along, why don't we put our heads together and focus on fresh ways to keep artists fed, clothed, housed, functioning so that they can continue to create?)

Is there any particular reason why you can't fork out the cash for those 10 songs while we try to solve that problem?

I'm not in love with traditional or contemporary methods of compensating artists, believe you me. I find it telling that, apparently, Jonathan Coulton makes more per year than Amanda Palmer (or at least more than she did when she was with her label). But I find it a bit disingenuous to say "Hey, look, since the Man is ripping artists off institutionally, I'll go ahead and do it freelance, too! Because it's cool and Jeffersonian!" No, it's not ripping food out of starving orphans' mouths to download a Lil Wayne song, but let's not pretend it's some grand blow towards artistic freedom, either.
posted by KathrynT at 6:27 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd also appreciate it if you didn't imply I'm a freeloader, since for a significant portion of the 9-10 years I was DJing, I was also booking (and paying) headliners, promoting for music events (including the #1 weekly party in the country for four or five years), and giving (literally) hundreds of local DJs their first gigs just because I loved the music, and with no money or expectation of money in return, and unless you are in the business, I daresay that I did a hell of a lot more for artists than you ever have.
posted by empath at 6:28 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]




I'd also appreciate it if you didn't imply I'm a freeloader


Assuming that this is directed at me, where did I imply that you're a freeloader?
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:29 PM on October 28, 2010


Limewire is being discontinued.

Meh. Like I said, I barely ever use it any more. In fact I think the last four times I've launched it have all been in an attempt to find the same song, from an album I bought on tape twenty years ago. Anything I want for keepsies I can find on iTunes or Amazon, and anything I just want to listen to for kicks I can find at the artist's official YouTube site.
posted by KathrynT at 6:30 PM on October 28, 2010


empath: with all due respect, you can't come here and stir the pot and then cry victim when people point out the faulty logic of your argument.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:30 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


No, I'm just taking exception to being called a rationalizing idiotic freeloader.
posted by empath at 6:31 PM on October 28, 2010


No, I'm just taking exception to being called a rationalizing idiotic freeloader.

Again, where did I do that? Cite please. And be specific.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:32 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


You've done nothing but make ad hominem arguments attacking my motivations and character since you walked into the thread. Please read what you wrote.
posted by empath at 6:33 PM on October 28, 2010


See above.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:33 PM on October 28, 2010


Nobody paid you for your work so you shouldn't have to pay anybody for theirs. Gotcha.
posted by rtha at 6:34 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Seriously, empath, if you're going to make an accusation like you just did about me attacking you and using "ad hominems" then you better be able to back it up.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:36 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess you missed the part where I did pay people, and not small amounts of money, either. In the party I actually ran, we flew guys in and paid them thousands of dollars in some cases, and in some cases took a bath doing it. And we were just thrilled that people came in and had a good time. And those kinds of parties don't just happen. They take a lot of time to put together.

I know, you guys think that spending $1 here and there is 'supporting artists' and get on your high horse about it, but wait until you have many, many hours and $10,000 that you can't afford to lose floating on a party that you don't know is going to be successful.
posted by empath at 6:39 PM on October 28, 2010


But don't try to justify it weakly by saying that the economic system is screwed, and art has no intrinsic value, and oh, I can't afford it anyways, because then you sound like an idiot who is trying so hard to justify their actions. [I'm obviously not referring to you here, I'm referring to empath's arguments above.

Quoted since you are too lazy to read your own comment.
posted by empath at 6:40 PM on October 28, 2010


But, empath, you chose to risk that money. You had control over that enterprise; you made those decisions fully informed. That's really different than saying "I know you only want me to download this if I give you a dollar, but imma do it anyway FOR JUSTICE!"
posted by KathrynT at 6:41 PM on October 28, 2010


empath: that's what I was hoping you were referring to. Stating that someone's faulty logic makes them "sound like an idiot" is not the same thing to calling someone an idiot. In fact, I was surprised that you were making this whole argument, given your history of making helpful, logical contributions in the past (in fact, I even pointed that out to someone in a MeMail).
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:42 PM on October 28, 2010


empath, there is at least one content creator in this thread telling you that she thinks your logic and ethics are faulty and you are being dismissive of that. It doesn't sound to me like you really are that respectful of all artists. It sounds more to me like you are respectful of the ones who agree with you or at least who don't actively disagree with you (and take your money).
posted by kalessin at 6:50 PM on October 28, 2010


"I know you only want me to download this if I give you a dollar, but imma do it anyway FOR JUSTICE!"

It's not for justice, it's just that I don't think you have any right to control the flow of information once it's out in the wild. I think people who enjoy an artist's work have an ethical (and really, logical) obligation to support that artist financially to some extent, but I don't think they're under any obligation -- ethical, moral or legal to pay for copies of that artist's work.
posted by empath at 6:52 PM on October 28, 2010


I think people who enjoy an artist's work have an ethical (and really, logical) obligation to support that artist financially to some extent, but I don't think they're under any obligation -- ethical, moral or legal to pay for copies of that artist's work.

What if the only way the artist can accept financial support is by selling their work? Not everyone wants to -- or necessarily can -- tour and play live.
posted by asterix at 6:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think people who enjoy an artist's work have an ethical (and really, logical) obligation to support that artist financially to some extent, but I don't think they're under any obligation -- ethical, moral or legal to pay for copies of that artist's work.

This doesn't make any sense, and seems like a huge contradiction. Most authors that I know of don't make money any other way than by publishing their books. How else are they supposed to make money? And stating that the system needs to change doesn't alter the fact that you are directly taking content from that artist without financially supporting them. I would assume that you wouldn't be taking their content if you didn't see any value in it.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:00 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I think that's fine, but I think if you want to be ethically in the clear about that, you should only treat artists that way if they agree with you. Otherwise it's hard to draw the line between a principled, ethical argument and "welllllllll since I wasn't gonna pay for it ANYWAY there's no harm in me getting it for free, whether the originator wants me to or not."

I make money off my creative labor. It's not free for me to produce, and if I don't want to work for free, I don't think I should have to. My husband is a technical writer; I don't see anyone suggesting that it would be OK for his employer to suggest that he should just be writing for the hell of it and not pay him his salary for work he's already done. I do donate my labor, all the time and for lots and lots of reasons, but I think the choice to donate my labor should be mine and mine alone.
posted by KathrynT at 7:01 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


For instance, my partner cannot make a living by touring and reading her books.
posted by kalessin at 7:02 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


.What if the only way the artist can accept financial support is by selling their work? Not everyone wants to -- or necessarily can -- tour and play live

Then you sell your work. I'm not saying you can't, or that you shouldn't. Every person I know who downloads free music also pays for music. Usually from the very same artists they download free stuff from. 90% of the time, if I want a specific song, I go to itunes. When I was broke, I didn't. When someone sends me an mp3, I don't go wait a second, let me download this legally before I listen to it. But if I hear a song I like, then I buy the song, because I can afford it and it's easy.

I'm saying that there should be no coercion on either side here. If you didn't make it your business to find out what people are downloading, you would never even know that people were downloading your stuff.

People who love to listen to music will pay for it. And people who love to make music will make music. And those two groups of people will find each other, even without the law involved.
posted by empath at 7:10 PM on October 28, 2010


If you didn't make it your business to find out what people are downloading, you would never even know that people were downloading your stuff.

Did you even read the Simon Posford link I posted? Someone who got a leaked copy of the album was slagging it before the finished product was even available. It's not like Posford was out there playing RIAA.
posted by asterix at 7:15 PM on October 28, 2010


I'm saying that there should be no coercion on either side here.

And I'm saying that "I'm going to copy your music without compensation whether you want me to or not, and if you don't like it, you can stop making music" feels an awful lot like coercion from the content creator side.
posted by KathrynT at 7:15 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Out in the wild"? What does that mean? Anything that has been released for sale is technically "out in the wild" and so therefore...the creator doesn't deserve money for their work. But if they never release it and no one can see it or hear it, then they should be paid for it.

I reiterate: you are not making a lick of sense.
posted by rtha at 7:17 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know what's confusing about both saying that people should be allowed to make free copies and that artists should also be able to ask for money for copies.

Pragmatically, this is the state that exists right now. The only thing I'm suggesting is that we get rid of the pretense that only one option is the moral and legal one.
posted by empath at 7:23 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Every person I know who downloads free music also pays for music.

At best, that's a red herring. It doesn't address whether or not downloading "free" music is ethical on it's own merit.

At worst, you are are conceding that it is unethical, by attempting to create some type of karmic balance sheet.
posted by malocchio at 7:23 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's confusing is why you, as the person who wants my labor for free, has more of an ethical or moral right to it than I, who is actually performing the labor.
posted by KathrynT at 7:26 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]



I'm saying that there should be no coercion on either side here.

>And I'm saying that "I'm going to copy your music without compensation whether you want me to or not, and if you don't like it, you can stop making music" feels an awful lot like coercion from the content creator side.


This is exactly what I was going to say. How can you not see that by effectively forcing people to provide content without accepting payment for it (since they don't have any agency in whether or not they get to give their work away for free), you are coercing them. In your example, you have the power to take and use their works without paying them for it, and that isn't by their consent. How is that not coercion?
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:26 PM on October 28, 2010


We're arguing in circles, really, and I'm getting bored. But I think that we need to divorce financial support of artists from sales of copies of their work. If you want to support an artist, then send them money by buying something from them. If you just want to listen to them, then don't. It's pretty simple, and moreover, it's the way people already do things. You all have downloaded mp3s without paying for them, none of you believe that downloading can ever be stopped any more than I do, the only difference is that you want people to feel guilty about it and I think they have nothing to feel guilty about.
posted by empath at 7:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


> you guys think that spending $1 here and there is 'supporting artists'... wait until you have many, many hours and $10,000 that you can't afford to lose

Again, as rtha has implied, you seem to be saying, "I lost/didn't ask for/didn't get /gave away $10,000 dollars... so that $1 you're charging? Don't charge it. Or if you do, don't expect me to pay you."
posted by darth_tedious at 7:30 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every person I know who downloads free music also pays for music. [snip]
People who love to listen to music will pay for it. And people who love to make music will make music. And those two groups of people will find each other, even without the law involved.


But you're treating the music industry, and the artists, as a whole. You're effectively saying that it all balances out because while I might steal a song from artist A, I pay for the whole album from artist B, so it all works out in the end--in fact, I end up netting them more.

That doesn't hold up when you compare artists as individuals. So artist A ends up getting screwed while artist B ends up raking in the dough. How is that fair to artist A? And how on Earth is that any more equitable than the whole free-market idea of paying for what you get?
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:30 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's confusing is why you, as the person who wants my labor for free, has more of an ethical or moral right to it than I, who is actually performing the labor.

No one is forcing you to record an album. I assume you're doing it because you know some people will support you by buying it. Whether or not some other people also listen to it and don't pay for it is pretty irrelevant to that calculation.
posted by empath at 7:35 PM on October 28, 2010


Actually, yes, I do think people should feel guilty when they copy something that cost me a lot of effort and cold hard cash to produce, without even giving me the pittance I ask for in exchange for it. If you want to give away your labor, feel free, but don't imply that I ought to be grateful when you choose to give mine away.
posted by KathrynT at 7:35 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one is forcing you to record an album.

Likewise, no one is forcing you to download it without paying.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:36 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


That doesn't hold up when you compare artists as individuals. So artist A ends up getting screwed while artist B ends up raking in the dough.

Because averaged out, assuming they're equally popular, and that most people behave similarly, they'll both get rewarded equally.
posted by empath at 7:37 PM on October 28, 2010


No one is forcing you to record an album.

Likewise, no one is forcing you to download it without paying.


Great, now that we've got that settled, time to play some minecraft.

WHICH I PAID FOR.
posted by empath at 7:38 PM on October 28, 2010


Because averaged out, assuming they're equally popular, and that most people behave similarly, they'll both get rewarded equally.

That's quite a lot of assumptions, don't you think? In fact, your model seems to be most likely to penalize the independent/emerging artists and reward the most popular ones.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:40 PM on October 28, 2010


okay, one more:

In fact, your model seems to be most likely to penalize the independent/emerging artists and reward the most popular ones.

You mean all the indie artists that are begging blogs to post their mp3s online so they can get on hypemachine? (where I get 90% of my 'illegal' mp3s?)

It's so, so rare that artists ever ask blogs to take their stuff down, and it's mostly the ones on major labels that do it.
posted by empath at 7:45 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


> It's so, so rare that artists ever ask

How frequently would artists, not on major labels, have to ask, publicly and in a way that came to your attention, for you to reconsider your stance on this?
posted by darth_tedious at 8:00 PM on October 28, 2010


Everyone who posts in this thread owes each of the mods a bottle of single malt scotch, except for Joe Beese. He's in for two.
posted by loquacious at 8:02 PM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


either stop stealing other people's intellectual property without paying for it, or at the very least acknowledge that you do and that it's wrong.

I acknowledge that I do. I don't acknowledge that it's wrong. You see, this is where things get tricky when you've paradigms shifting with about as much regularity as most punk bands replace their drummers. I would argue that you're wrong for insisting upon application of an outmoded, inefficient means of artist compensation when the energy should go into something far more relevant to what's really going on (ie: a bottom-up rethink of how the whole music-as-product business model works).

Is there any particular reason why you can't fork out the cash for those 10 songs while we try to solve that problem?

The problem is, by the time I've decided that those 10 songs are the ones that I want, I've already got them safely downloaded and added to my itunes. I guess I could go to the trouble of tracking down the artist and cutting them a check for a buck (fifty cents actually -- the other fifty would go to postage). Again, it's kind of a preposterous situation that won't be resolved by old-school methods and/or arguments.

And anyway, that 10 bucks I saved by not paying those artists -- I used it to buy a couple of used books (ie: the money went to different artists).
posted by philip-random at 8:03 PM on October 28, 2010


You mean all the indie artists that are begging blogs to post their mp3s online so they can get on hypemachine? (where I get 90% of my 'illegal' mp3s?)

Well if they artists are begging their stuff to be posted and shared, then I guess that those MP3's are illegal and the artists have consented to it (I can't believe that you still don't realize the difference, since it's been pointed out to you again and again).

Regardless, just because "some" Indie artists may benefit from that, doesn' t mean that they all do. What about the artist who has a contract through a small OR large studio who isn't that mainstream but does want/expect to be compensated for their work? What about the poor schlubs like you and I who may work for those studios and want to keep our jobs, which is increasingly difficult in the current economy? What about the people who work at the music stores and independent bookstores (or even the big-box stores) who are just trying to make a living?
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:10 PM on October 28, 2010


*if the artists are begging their stuff to be posted and shared, then I guess that those MP3's are NOT illegal
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:11 PM on October 28, 2010


I acknowledge that I do. I don't acknowledge that it's wrong. You see, this is where things get tricky when you've paradigms shifting with about as much regularity as most punk bands replace their drummers. I would argue that you're wrong for insisting upon application of an outmoded, inefficient means of artist compensation when the energy should go into something far more relevant to what's really going on (ie: a bottom-up rethink of how the whole music-as-product business model works).

As I've said above, then work towards changing that paradigm. Do something to effect a change. But like it or not, that's the current (legitimate, legal) structure for obtaining music, books, etc. But just shrugging your shoulders and saying "Meh, I don't like the way things work so I'll just download stuff for free because I'm all subversive and stuff" is pretty unethical, I don't think you can argue with that.

But at least you acknowledge that you are stealing their IP without paying for it. I'll give you credit for being honest, at least.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:15 PM on October 28, 2010


And then, on October 28, 2010, something amazing happened. A bunch of nerds got into a great big fight online about copyright, and not one single thing was accomplished.
posted by nanojath at 8:20 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


And then, on October 28, 2010, something amazing happened. A bunch of nerds got into a great big fight online about copyright, and not one single thing was accomplished.

You do realize you're free to not contribute if you don't want to add anything valuable, right? I think having a dialogue, a discussion, a debate is valuable. If not, then why bother communicating directly with people online?
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


But just shrugging your shoulders and saying "Meh, I don't like the way things work so I'll just download stuff for free because I'm all subversive and stuff" is pretty unethical, I don't think you can argue with that.

Your impression of me ("all subversive and stuff") is hardly what I'd call charitable or accurate. But fair enough, you only have a few hastily jotted phrases to go by.

As for your accusation of dubious ethics, that reflects an opinion I don't share, so yes, I could argue with it. Like empath, I've been very involved in all manner of media/music/performance/recording/promotion etc for decades now. I know exactly what I've done over the years to support a culture of free-flowing ideas, emotions, impressions, works, and honestly, don't feel I owe anybody anything in that regard (though that said, I definitely owe a few people beers).

But at least you acknowledge that you are stealing their IP without paying for it. I'll give you credit for being honest, at least.

Well, legally (ie: according to what's written down in some old, dusty books), what I'm doing isn't "correct". Of course, neither is smoking dope, jaywalking, skateboarding (in many jurisdictions) and so on. Are these things wrong, too? Legally, yes. Ethically, not so clear. Morally? That's between me and my inner directives.
posted by philip-random at 8:35 PM on October 28, 2010


We're arguing in circles, really, and I'm getting bored.

It has become a pile-on as well, which totally sucks. I do appreciate your taking the time to express your opinion.

You all have downloaded mp3s without paying for them...

Well, that is a tu quoque. And no, I really haven't, with only one exception, which was by the artist's request. (Not that I'm claiming to be morally pure, I just don't consume music like I used to.)
posted by malocchio at 8:35 PM on October 28, 2010


And anyway, that 10 bucks I saved by not paying those artists -- I used it to buy a couple of used books (ie: the money went to different artists).

It didn't, actually, unless the person who sold you the used books was an artist (one who was probably selling her books because no one was willing to pay her for her art).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:38 PM on October 28, 2010


hmmm
if i follow ...that is solid 1000monkeys... posted and shared sharing would seem to be defined as free and that word speaks for itself none the less if the shared product has a stipulation concerning transfer...again the defintion would change, share means free but you cannot share this with another...
which makes no sense
the pudding is in the word share which means free
if i follow...that is solid 1000 monkeys...
posted by clavdivs at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2010


SOLID GOLD!
posted by clavdivs at 8:44 PM on October 28, 2010


Fame doesn't pay for my kid's preschool.

Should have thought about having kids before you decided to try to be creative for a living.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:48 PM on October 28, 2010


In all seriousness, the only argument for this I can respect is "I'm too broke to pay for it." Everything else is just bullshit rationalization. If you're really, genuinely poor, I think it sucks that you should be deprived of culture...but obviously, food/shelter/clothes are top priority. So while I'm far from endorsing piracy in such a circumstance (there are libraries, y'know), I get why it might happen and I can't really condemn anyone for it. I'm not gonna champion it, but I just think the bigger issue is this is someone who really couldn't pay for this thing anyhow and so isn't taking money away from anybody and who is in dire straits otherwise so let's just give them a fucking break. If you look at a person in poverty illegally downloading a Black Eyed Peas album and your first thought is for the millionaires who aren't getting their fair share, y'know, fuck you, I guess. But if you can pay for it? Pay for it, or be a jerk. It's not that complicated.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:49 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Should have thought about having kids before you decided to try to be creative for a living.

archive that...

better then finding creative ways to make a living.
posted by clavdivs at 8:57 PM on October 28, 2010


I agree with what you're saying in general, kittens for breakfast, but I don't see anyone here saying that they would have otherwise paid for those songs/books/whatever except for the fact that they were starving or whatever. Then again, I suppose one could argue that if you can't afford it, you don't need to consume it. If you can't afford to pay for the meal, don't go to the restaurant, etc.

But yes, you're right--if someone is at least saying "I downloaded the materials because I couldn't otherwise pay for it" that is understandable, though it may be objectionable. I just don't understand concocting this a whole rationale around why it's okay to download the stuff without paying for it because the industry is messed up or the economics is messed up. However, it is a convenient way to rationalize certain actions and to try to save face when called on it.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:58 PM on October 28, 2010



hmmm
if i follow ...that is solid 1000monkeys... posted and shared sharing would seem to be defined as free and that word speaks for itself none the less if the shared product has a stipulation concerning transfer...again the defintion would change, share means free but you cannot share this with another...
which makes no sense
the pudding is in the word share which means free
if i follow...that is solid 1000 monkeys...


I don't know whether to favourite this or not :-D I need someone to build me a clavdivs translation greasemonkey script :)
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:59 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joe Beese, people have treated you with kid gloves in this thread. Quoting a private communication from jessamyn out of context was a nasty, miserable thing to do and I think a lot less of you as a result.
posted by mlis at 9:03 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]



Depending on how the compensation gets to the content producer, infringing copyright can possibly take revenue away from content producers to the extent that they give up and stop creating content.

>Is there any evidence that this has ever happened?


Do you want anecdata? I do have a friend who declined a new contract to continue a series of books because the online download figures she saw on various pirate sites outstripped the sales figures on her royalty statement. It was a dispiriting and difficult decision for her, but as she put it, she had kids to feed.

She writes across genres, and stopped writing in that one genre in particular because it seems to "enjoy" a far greater rate of piracy than the other genres she writes.
posted by artemisia at 9:06 PM on October 28, 2010


... and for what it's worth. There's a very simple solution to all of this, which involves billing service providers for all downloads that go through their service (or more likely, just make them pay a lump sum, kind of like a tax). No doubt, they'll be happy to pass it on to we, the downloaders (likely at a rate of something like half a penny per megabyte).

Meanwhile, various lawyers, managers, middlemen and gangsters will figure out a way to make damned sure their artists get their unfair share of this brand new pool of revenue, without actually giving much of the money to the artists themselves (overhead and such) ... and a few years down the line, we'll be more or less exactly where we were twenty odd years ago. Slimy bastards getting rich off flaky "signed" artists. Independents steering clear of all the bullshit, figuring out a way to survivek.

That's progress.
posted by philip-random at 9:14 PM on October 28, 2010


I too see it as unusual when copyrighted book postings get cleansed, but copyrighted video and song postings fly by pretty much unscathed. Apparently if it's on Youtube it's fair game - which seems borne out by the early Youtube emails released as part of the Viacom suit.
posted by meehawl at 9:15 PM on October 28, 2010


Hey! Nobody told me you guys were having a copyright argument and I was missing it!

Honestly so many people have hashed over so many arguments at this point that there isn't a WHOLE lot that it's worth throwing in. But I will say one thing: arguing for the end of the current publishing/pricing system is not the same thing as arguing for the end of artists being paid to make content FOREVARRRR.

I know it's been dismissed in this thread several times already, but the problem IS scarcity. It's basic supply and demand logic: Consumers will buy more of a good when it is cheap and less when it is expensive. For media, this has historically been limited by material costs. For instance, it cost a lot to record a song, it cost a lot to manufacture many copies of that recording, it cost a lot to distribute them to the point of sale, and it cost a lot to promote them. We've seen the costs of every single step in that process drop dramatically in the past 20 years. And that model has any number of middlemen, such as the distributors who take a cut, and the independent promoters that charge a fee so that they can pay Clear Channel stations to play songs on the radio. These people are now significantly less necessary. And with major labels especially, a lot of times this has stupid costs built in a million dollars to record with a big-name producer, several million dollars for a huge tour with cushy buses and ridiculously complex sets, etc.

So what part of the system do you want to preserve? Do you think we should still pay people to operate warehouses that are now empty, or independent promoters for songs that are currently trending on YouTube and getting posted on people's facebook walls? I never hear anyone argue for this. I always hear people arguing that artists should still get paid, and I agree. And what's more, you can get rid of the current system and still pay artists.

I know, the typical rejoinder is "oh, but people don't want to pay anything anymore," and that's not true. SOME people don't want to pay anything anymore, but MOST people want to pay the cost for a good that they feel it's worth. Things seemed like a much better bargain when the options were either (a) listen to shitty radio over and over and hope that the song you want to hear comes on, (b) spend $15 on a CD and get the song you want, two other songs that are good, and 8 other songs that are mediocre/bad/skits, or (c) not have the song at all. Then came good audio compression, broadband, and platforms like Napster that allowed people to get music quickly and free, and it shifted the demand curve to the left. The bargain doesn't make sense for people anymore. You guys can dismiss the end of scarcity as an excuse/rationalization, or an overused buzzphrase, or whatever, but it seriously did change everything. And we aren't going back.

So watch the major successes in recent years and see what they have in common. The shit-awful online music stores the major labels used to run, where you would pay almost the cost of a physical album for tracks you couldn't take with you and you could only listen to a handful of times before they would self-destruct? Not worth the bargain. iTunes Store, where you can pick the one song off an album you actually want and get it for 99 cents? Worth the bargain. The albums by Radiohead, NIN, countless bands on bandcamp.com, etc. that the bands offer for whatever people feel like paying for them? Worth the bargain... by definition, I guess. Netflix Instant is such a huge hit that Netflix is scaling back their physical DVD purchasing operations. I've been hearing for years about what a massive success Spotify has been over in Europe. Because if you offer people something at a price they feel is reasonable for it, they'll pay it. (This swings dramatically in the opposite direction too, which is why people spend hundreds of dollars on tickets for Lady Gaga concerts, or why I spent $55 buying a ridiculous fanboy package for one of my favorite bands' new albums on release. Hell, I didn't even like the album as much as their earlier stuff, and I still don't regret the purchase for a second. It was worth it to me.

And honestly, there are any number of ways for people to pay little to nothing and still have artists get paid. Although the European Court of Justice just smacked down levies on blank media since they affect people who aren't making unauthorized copies, the European Commission supports a different scheme in which the French government is subsidizing the cost of digital downloads. Brands like Converse and Mountain Dew are basically acting like patrons to bands getting online buzz and paying them to record tracks, then releasing them for free online. (Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound have some pretty indie-big bands already, like Freelance Whales, Chromeo and Neon Indian)

I've seen people paying for movies, albums, books, etc. that haven't even been made yet on kickstarter. Note that most of these have packages where you pay more to get not only the intangible, non-scarce work but also various scarce additional items, because people are willing to pay more for them.

So look. Artists who want to get paid and people who don't want to pay the current full price for media aren't enemies, okay? Maybe if consumers could spend more on media they find to be fairly priced and artists could explore more alternative options for getting paid for their work, we could all join teams and kick out the record execs and publishers and Michael Bay, keeping prices high and reducing sales for everybody.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 9:17 PM on October 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


Oh yeah, and re: legality,

Downloading is illegal, and that isn't just dicta. The record labels had to show that there was primary infringement (e.g. downloading) to establish that companies like Napster and Grokster engaged in secondary infringement (e.g. inducing people to download). Media companies just don't sue non-uploading downloaders anymore because of evidentiary issues - how do you prove someone downloaded something, without basically offering it to them to download in the first place?

But that being said, downloading absolutely isn't stealing or theft either:
It follows that interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The Copyright Act even employs a separate term of art to define one who misappropriates a copyright: ..."an infringer of the copyright.' [17 U. S. C.] § 501(a)." Sony Corp., supra, at 433. There is no dispute in this case that Dowling's unauthorized inclusion on his bootleg albums of performances of copyrighted compositions constituted infringement of those copyrights. It is less clear, however, that the taking that occurs when an infringer arrogates the use of another's protected work comfortably fits the terms associated with physical removal employed by § 2314. The infringer invades a statutorily defined province guaranteed to the copyright holder alone. But he does not assume physical control over the copyright; nor does he wholly deprive its owner of its use.
Dowling v. US, 473 US 207
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 9:20 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I get why it might happen
this is just rationalizing. 'might happen' puposes an alleged illegal activity

and I can't really condemn anyone for it
this is merely not reporting a crime.

being poor does not give them a disadavantage to acquiring the knowledge of the Black Eyed Peas if that knowledge is desired in other words income level does not diminish desire nor the means to surmount ascertaining it.

even if the poor could snapple all the can be aquired, it is, for the most part, currently Illegal. A penalty COULD occur... and thats the magic.

HA'arr mates'

kwb-no offense.
posted by clavdivs at 9:27 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


CaesAr was a Lawyer and a hostage.
posted by clavdivs at 9:30 PM on October 28, 2010


So, let me start off by saying that as a writer, I don't worry about piracy because I don't think there's anything to be gained in worrying about it.

That said....

I find a certain irony in the fact that this post went up at the same time as an AskMefi post asking for the names of authors who became famous posthumously.

Often underlying these debates on book piracy is the assumption that writers want or require an "audience" -- the larger the better, ostensibly. This assumption undergirds positions that lead to statements as various as:

-True writers will keep writing even if they don't get paid!
-The internet has the potential to bring writers excluded by NY publishing to a wide audience!
- The system as we know is broken, but once writers wise up and accept the change, they'll find a new way to support their craft through donations/a newfangled patron system/etc.!


And so on and so forth.

This assumption -- that writing demands or invites or longs for an audience -- is mistaken, in my view, at least for many, many fiction writers I know. Fiction writing is not, by definition, a performative art, and wanting an audience is a separate thing from wanting to be paid to write, i.e., wanting to be able to support oneself by doing what one loves. It is this latter desire that currently leads a writer of fiction to require an audience -- an audience that, some way or another, puts cash into the author's pocket in exchange for access to the fiction.

(I specify fiction here because I can think of other forms of writing -- journalism, for instance -- that do encode an expectation of an audience in the production process.)

Anyway, I'm not sure this remark sheds any light on the issue of piracy. But I wanted to throw it out there, because I think if we're going to debate the issue of piracy and the future of the publishing industry, we should be very clear on the assumptions we're making as we construct our arguments, which so often entail ideas of how writers should or will react to changing conditions. If publishing becomes entirely a self-directed endeavor operating outside the advance and royalties model, not every writer who once wanted an audience will continue to want one.

Indeed, to turn a common argument on its head: maybe you'll lose some of the most interesting writers -- the "real" ones, who write because they love writing, not because they want money...or an audience.*




* I admit, while this describes some friends, it does not describe me. I want an audience. :)
posted by artemisia at 9:34 PM on October 28, 2010


It is less clear, however, that the taking that occurs when an infringer arrogates the use of another's protected work comfortably fits the terms associated with physical removal

this is a Supremes

none the less if the shared product has a stipulation concerning transfer...again the defintion would change

this clav

same song, different tune.

SOLID baby
posted by clavdivs at 9:53 PM on October 28, 2010


wanting an audience is a separate thing from wanting to be paid to write, i.e., wanting to be able to support oneself by doing what one loves.

Are you sure that if this is your motivation, that you any longer get to wrap yourself in the cloak of "Artist," with all the connotations of nobility, and struggle, and social beneficence that comes with that term?
posted by Trochanter at 10:00 PM on October 28, 2010


Also, re: Solid Gold Dancers. Now there's a bit of social beneficence we can all get behind.

/Quagmire
posted by Trochanter at 10:02 PM on October 28, 2010


Quoting a private communication from jessamyn out of context was a nasty, miserable thing

this interests me as i adressed this same matter but in different context not long ago.
to offer personal mail even outside e-mail is surly
SURLY even with good intentions.
'i cast my stone' because i admit, i almost did this(never relied the message) though it concerned an e-mail over 5 years old, not MeFi-mail but none the less through it.
but to actually do it...thats a Piso.
posted by clavdivs at 10:14 PM on October 28, 2010


Are you sure that if this is your motivation, that you any longer get to wrap yourself in the cloak of "Artist," with all the connotations of nobility, and struggle, and social beneficence that comes with that term?

Since I don't know any professional writers who sport that cloak, I couldn't say. Maybe you should ask the non-genre writers and/or members of the MFA crowd. :)
posted by artemisia at 10:29 PM on October 28, 2010


tl;dr comments

Why metatalk this instead of mailing jessamyn directly?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:14 PM on October 28, 2010


I pirate a lot of music. Usually older music, or music that I can't quickly find on iTunes. But my idea of "older music" is like 2005 so it's not like I'm being very moral. Especially not since I'll also pirate music by musicians who've had platinum albums, gold albums, or rave reviews in Pitchfork.

But I'll buy music if I genuinely think it might help a band. When I see a musician's on Bandcamp, I'll try to pay them at least some money, partly because Bandcamp is such a wonderful distribution method that I'll gladly give some money to them after streaming entire albums a few times. Or I'll stream the album and not buy it, like Sufjan Stevens's last two.

If I'm really just blown away by somebody, I'll buy their music for somebody else. After I pirated Joanna Newsom's Ys, I fell in such love with it that I bought it for a friend. And I constantly try and recommend everybody I know music that I think they might love so much they buy it.

My friends are musicians, and I'm slowly starting to record some music myself. And we're young stupid art students, so we still think there's some way to convince people to pay you money for art rather than for cubicle squatting. I think it'll have to be a model that accepts and encourages piracy, and charges for ease of access more than anything else. I published a novel in high school and offering a PDF download led to more sales than I'd have had otherwise. Plus, 10,000 more people read my book for free, and honestly I'd rather have people read me than make money, push comes to shove, although part of why I strive to be good at what I do is that I'd much rather it be both at once.

I think this debate involves a lot of people being stubborn and misreading the others' arguments, but I'm used to that from certain people/DJs and consider it part of why I love them. But Joe Beese, you're either being really dense recently or you're deliberately trying to provoke the mods, now on two fronts at once, and considering I've been aware of you as a user since way before I became a member of this site it feels like you probably should know better. You probably don't care about this user's opinion, but I've kind of been disappointed with how belligerent you've become.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:03 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want in on this thread. [/pointless comment.Sorry.]
posted by iamkimiam at 12:05 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My views on piracy/copyright have evolved over time, and continue to do so. Currently, here's my view:

If someone makes copies of an expensive textbook and provides them at cost to students who would otherwise not have access to the book, I think that's fine, ethically, although it is certainly illegal. (And yes, when you live in Pakistan, the textbook is probably not available in a library, for reference OR lending, so I do mean "not have access" quite literally.) I call this my personal version of the "educational fair use" rule.

If someone is selling pirated books for profit, that is unquestionably unethical to my mind, and I won't participate or condone it, UNLESS the book is not available in the general market. And again, in Pakistan, being available online doesn't really count, because the vast majority of people do not have credit cards, Paypal won't open accounts for Pakistani addresses, and so online purchases are accessible to a very limited number of people.

While I am in places where there is a dearth of libraries and bookshops, I feel no guilt about downloading books to read once for entertainment (as if borrowed from a library) or for detailed study in terms of academic work. I actually maintain a list of books that I need to purchase when I am in a logistical position to do so, simply because I refer to them so frequently that there is no way I could have spent that much time with them in a library. This is my Library Rule.

For music, I download stuff, listen to it, and then mark it for whether I want to purchase it or not. I listen to a lot more stuff this way than I would have if I were purchasing first and listening later. And again, if I had unlimited internet access, and could surf radio channels at will, my view on this might be more conservative. I need to get better about following up and purchasing.

For film, I treat it like a lending library again. I will download and watch a movie once with no guilt. But if I watch it more than that, then I need to buy it.

For some reason, my brain doesn't process buying pirated books the same way as it does buying pirated music/films/software. I think this comes from growing up in a society where legitimate bookstores have always been a presence, but there weren't any shops selling genuine cassettes/CDs/videotapes/DVDs of non-locally produced works, in a pre-Internet world. So the only way you got to watch or listen to any movies or songs in English was by buying or renting pirated copies. So I guess it's kind of like books, in that genuine stuff wasn't available. But the difference is that now, even with better access to genuine stuff, my brain still doesn't disapprove of the shops that sell pirated music and/or film, in the same way as it does for books.

I do think the ease of duplication means the system will need to change it's income-generation paradigm. Until it does so, though, I do think that consuming without purchasing is ethically questionable at best, and that my library analogy is a sort of rationalization. If actual libraries were available to me, I wouldn't think it made any sense at all.
posted by bardophile at 12:33 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Linking to copyright-infringing downloads you say?
posted by ODiV at 2:08 PM on October 29, 2010


Oops, there's no download yet.
posted by ODiV at 2:12 PM on October 29, 2010


Oops, there's no download yet.

Exactly.
posted by zarq at 2:33 PM on October 29, 2010


I wonder if that would really be copyright infringing, though ODiV. That's an interesting question. On the one hand, those "works" (webpages) were released into the public by the authors without any expectation of payment. On the other hand, they had control of their "works" before--they could delete the pages at any time. But if that download file would be copyright infringement, wouldn't sites like archive.org be as well? Or is that different because archived sites could be immediately (more or less) deleted at the request of the original content owner/producer, whereas a torrent file makes it a static archive? Then again, people can easily save a copy of a webpage to their computer at any time (and is that copyright infringement?).

Any copyright/IP lawyers here? I'm really curious.
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:51 PM on October 29, 2010


Well the huge torrent mentioned isn't yet posted, but there's a whole bunch of other copyright-infringement being linked to. I guess it doesn't matter because the ex-Geocities users mostly don't have lawyers?

Not that I mind the post, but this is pretty clearly copyrighted material that is reproduced without permission that's being linked to.

1000monkeys: I'm pretty sure archive.org is technically infringing, but yeah, I'm not a lawyer either. More importantly they'll remove your stuff if you ask and not archive your site if you opt-out, so there's no need to actually take them to court or anything. They're still reproducing without permission though.

Creating a work with no expectation of payment doesn't reduce your rights in terms of copyright as far as I know. Then again, I didn't expect Google to be able to legally reproduce copyrighted books in their entirety without the authors' permission, so what do I know?
posted by ODiV at 3:02 PM on October 29, 2010


1000monkeys: I'm pretty sure archive.org is technically infringing, but yeah, I'm not a lawyer either. More importantly they'll remove your stuff if you ask and not archive your site if you opt-out, so there's no need to actually take them to court or anything. They're still reproducing without permission though.

For the record, each of the services I linked to in the post seems to handle copyright the way Flickr and YouTube do: if someone can prove copyright is being violated then the content is taken down.

The Archive.org TOS says that they provide the service for research purposes, and provides copyright holders with instructions that explain the steps they need to follow in order to request the removal of their works.

Geociti.es stated policy looks very similar.

Reocities take down policy is similar, but less formal.

Oocities take down policy is even simpler than Reocities.

If they're infringing, then technically Youtube and Flickr do too, every time a non-public domain image or video is uploaded and no one complains about 'em.
posted by zarq at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2010


Yeah, they're all technically infringing. It's impossible for them not to be, afaik. It would be a pretty boring Internet if you had to prove ownership or permission for everything though.

I wasn't intending to criticize you post, zarq. Sorry if it came off that way.
posted by ODiV at 3:38 PM on October 29, 2010


I'll pirate music & movies if I'm reasonably sure the artist or rights-holder is significantly richer than me. If not, they get my money. Almost all of my recent CD purchases are from musicians working the local club scene, usually bought at the show from the band themselves. I also make sure to give a buck or two to the buskers on the street. It's simple trickle-up economics....give to the bottom of the system and take from the top.
I don't dispute that it's both illegal and unethical...but I'm OK with it.
posted by rocket88 at 3:48 PM on October 29, 2010


I wasn't intending to criticize you post, zarq. Sorry if it came off that way.

It's fine! You didn't. Even if you had, if it's valid criticism then it's important it be mentioned. If any post I put up endangered the site in any way and/or opened up mathowie to a lawsuit, I'd be the first to say, "Take 'er down!"

I've probably made at least a couple of posts that could conceivably have been a problem. "Toro is junk food for low income earners" and "The Miserable Ones." The latter one links to an entire DVD's contents, hosted in multiple files on YouTube. (Hey, that concert's tomorrow. Whoa.) The first one links to most of a DVD, but not the whole thing. In both cases, the content is available for sale, and for free online in low quality flash videos.

Where do we draw the line? I dunno. I just found something I thought was cool and wanted to share with the group. It doesn't seem like much of a problem for the mods, so I'll keep posting when I do.
posted by zarq at 5:47 PM on October 29, 2010


Any copyright/IP lawyers here? I'm really curious.

there is, if you really want to know mef-mail me. but it seems your doing well on your own IMO
posted by clavdivs at 6:36 PM on October 29, 2010


Thanks, clavdivs :)
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:38 PM on October 29, 2010


IMO, unless the mods want to close this thread, this could/ is a very good 'meta?morp' of a- really- sour- lemon- into-lemonade. i mean not to distract. The 'there is' is not any sort of outting or anything of that nature but ya know private. RIGHT JOE.
senators, refreshments are in the Kardozo Lounge ( i CAN say that)
i love the future.
at this point even fair aimed clav fuzy-noise interferes with good discourse i have read thus far, beside I am planning my first minor archaeological project! and for you 1000M a new pic in the clav home page for week this reflects upon the emperor not you.
posted by clavdivs at 7:18 PM on October 29, 2010


empath is Mr Pink.
posted by rodgerd at 3:25 AM on October 30, 2010


jedicus wrote: "In what universe is downloading a copy not reproducing the copyrighted work? This has been upheld repeatedly by the courts."

It's rather unfortunate that the courts have decided that ephemeral copies made inherent to the operation of a computer constitute copyright infringement. That's how the goddamned video game makers ended the PC video game rental business.

I totally agree that morally, commanding someone else's computer to make a copy for you is the same as making the copy yourself, but in the real world, the person who owns the computer that makes the copy is the one who should be responsible for it. What really gets my goat is that they get to have it both ways. The person offering is making an unauthorized copy and the person requesting a copy is also making an unauthorized copy. They should get one or the other, not both.

Anyway, I think me and my Nook are going to go over to Barnes & Noble and read some books for free. It's like the library, only with better parking and more comfortable seating arrangements. I hope the authors get paid.
posted by wierdo at 12:19 PM on October 30, 2010


« Older Meetup notifications in Profile?   |   I can't read you, I've got a Banana for a phone Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments