Skip

Piracy of Calvin and Hobbes. February 27, 2005 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Perhaps I'm not the model MeFi poster, and call me old-fashioned, but I find something really, truly shady about the abject, unapologetic theft of another's creativity being advocated on the Blue. Does piracy qualify as the best of the web?
posted by AlexReynolds to Etiquette/Policy at 11:10 AM (298 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

You're forgetting rule #1 of the interweb- when something is really good, it's perfectly alright to steal it.

Rule #2 is that as the discussion of this subject continues, the rationales fabricated to justify rule #1 approach infinity.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:19 AM on February 27, 2005


The denizens of MeFi are quite vocal advocates of piracy.
posted by mischief at 11:31 AM on February 27, 2005


I'm in full support of piracy.
posted by angry modem at 11:34 AM on February 27, 2005


All property is theft...
posted by i_cola at 11:34 AM on February 27, 2005


Not sure how you steal somebody's creativity. I'm imagining some kind of anti-muse going around bestowing writers block on unsuspecting creatives.

I've always been a fan of Calvin and Hobbes though, so my vote is for best of the web for sure. Arhhhhhhh Matey!!!
posted by willnot at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2005


Not sure how you steal somebody's creativity.

Perhaps by reprinting someone's commercial work without compensation. Just seems icky to me. And C+H, no less, with people posting instructions for grabbing everything at once for local storage. It is just a bad FPP all around, sorry.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2005


AlexReynolds: lots of things seem icky to lots of diffrent people. That dosn't mean it's bad.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on February 27, 2005


Current copyright law is theft from the public domain. I say kick it while it's down.
posted by mullingitover at 11:50 AM on February 27, 2005


Drama queen.. :-)


I kid! I kid!
posted by c13 at 11:55 AM on February 27, 2005


Alex: I've always been a huge proponent of the whole "information wants to be free" meme, but I agree with you that something about this feels icky. Maybe because Waterson so clearly and deeply loved his work, and hated the exploitation of it that followed. I think our internal rationalizations have more to do with whether we feel that an artist really put their soul into something than with a belief that the current established limits are ridiculous. Which is not to say that the latter is wrong (far from it), but just noting that there is a significant "this feels wrong" component that seems to apply to certain exceptions from the customary, rationalized infringement.
posted by Ryvar at 11:56 AM on February 27, 2005


Wouldn't we have an empty front page if we couldn't post links to other people's creativity?
posted by amberglow at 11:57 AM on February 27, 2005


Having said this, I frequently visit lib.ru, which is an online library, mainly in russian. There is no way I could've had access to so many books any other way. I know, there are libraries, but it is a lot easier to browse books online than it is to acutally look at every one in a physical library.
posted by c13 at 11:59 AM on February 27, 2005


Bill Watterson hates getting his stuff thieveried and is a very private man. I remember when this was posted almost a year ago, it was pretty much the ultimate C&H/Bill Watterson site. Had new stories and everything. Then after it was posted here it disappeared. I bet the new one gets a C&D in a bit.
posted by sciurus at 12:03 PM on February 27, 2005


I saw this site about two weeks ago, and had an FPP ready to go, but decided against it at the last minute, because even though it is cool to have C+H archived in one place, and even though you could probably read every strip for free from other sites (as noted in the thread), it is pretty clear that the site in question isn't doing it legally.

But then, I had no qualms spending a day reading the site, so it's kind of a grey area for me.

What the site has done is prompted me pre-order the collected works.
posted by Quartermass at 12:06 PM on February 27, 2005


I think our internal rationalizations have more to do with whether we feel that an artist really put their soul into something than with a belief that the current established limits are ridiculous.

I think this is really what makes me ill about this FPP. I'm often guilty of overreacting (thanks for the reminder, c13!) but this seems almost the equivalent of mugging a much-loved relative for drug money. Oh well, nevermind.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:07 PM on February 27, 2005


For what it's worth Alex I'm agreeing with you there, drug money+loved relative = icky bad feeling of guilt.
posted by dabitch at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2005


It's a tad ironic, or just sad, that this "theft of creativity" is an attack on syndicated cartoons, that bastion of creative genius.
posted by mek at 12:14 PM on February 27, 2005


Nobody's done it yet? OK:

We have comics.
posted by gleuschk at 12:24 PM on February 27, 2005


It's a tad ironic, or just sad, that this "theft of creativity" is an attack on syndicated cartoons, that bastion of creative genius.

No, it's just sad to suggest that "drawing cartoons" and "being creative" are mutually exclusive pursuits.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2005


The post bothers me too.
posted by bingo at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2005


I prefer the formulation theft is property.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:39 PM on February 27, 2005


Since this post prompted me to download bittorrent software for the first time to get that pdf file, I'd say that yes, it probably promotes piracy. I rationalized it so: I already own all the books, and all the strips are online legally at another site, so I'm just making it easier for myself to access the material in digital form. Think that'll fly when the jackboots climb my stairs? No, I didn't think so either.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:55 PM on February 27, 2005


23skidoo: Do I need to even reply that that's a straw man, or should I just roll my eyes?
posted by mek at 12:57 PM on February 27, 2005


Waterson so clearly and deeply loved his work, and hated the exploitation of it that followed.

So that would indicate he's rather against the idea of a hundred-dollar book of his works, and rather more in support of free distribution.

One exploits his work for profit, and profit mainly for the publishing companies; the other shares his work with the masses at no cost to anyone.

Next, I shall prove that God does not exist. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 1:02 PM on February 27, 2005


$95, now _that's_ stealing.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:04 PM on February 27, 2005


AR, good to see you back in meta. I'm anticipating having a lovely time in this thread.
posted by Jim Jones at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2005


What the site has done is prompted me pre-order the collected works.

Bears repeating. I'd have not even known about it without this post, now it's on my list of good gift ideas for my little cousins.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:11 PM on February 27, 2005


Awright, brilliant sophistry, fff!

Next, I shall prove that God does not exist. :-)

Go, man! Go!

On topic: does anyone know what Watterson actually thinks of this collection? Did he just do it to get C&H back out there? Would he want the strips on the internet but the syndicate is disallowing that? Does he get a bunch of the royalties?
posted by painquale at 1:14 PM on February 27, 2005


Posts like this present complex moral issues. I do not count myself among the pro-piracy crowd, but also recognize that the concept of fair use seems at risk these days under attack from rights holders. If I were Watterson I guess I would be happy that so many people still love the cartoons, but I might be a little upset that people would be downloading them rather than buying the upcoming book. I wonder, though, how in control Watterson is any longer of the IP in these comics?

If most people are downloading the cartoons who would otherwise have bought the book, then I agree that this is icky. If on the other hand people just want to enjoy the cartoons and it has no effect on book purchases then it seems like fair use to me, even if legally it might go a little beyond that due to the wholesale nature of the entire C&H oeuvre being put online. As with so many things, I think it probably falls somewhere in between these two extremes. My guess is that having sites like this one at stfunoob.com (don't you just love that name) probably do not really affect the book sales. A book is a much nicer form factor to enjoy the cartoons, but at the price probably a lot of fans won't be buying anyway, regardless of whether they could catch the cartoons online or not. The post coupled with the instructions for wholesale downloading make it seem worse to be sure. I wouldn't have made the post, and if I were Matt I would have a hard time deciding whether to keep it or not.

I am glad it was posted primarily for the cartoon that First Post put in. Powerful stuff.
posted by caddis at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2005


So that would indicate he's rather against the idea of a hundred-dollar book of his works, and rather more in support of free distribution.

Can you find a quote to back that up? Just curious.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:22 PM on February 27, 2005


I agree with the original poster. This is basically a warez site - the fact that its availability has persuaded some to buy the book is irrelevant unless you are one of the negotiating parties in this transaction (Watterston or the website operator). The author controls the rights of reproduction and distribution, and you don't get to make his rights assignments for him. The post should be deleted.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2005


AR, good to see you back in meta. I'm anticipating having a lovely time in this thread.

For once, I'm most definitely not trying to pick a fight. It just made me itchy, is all.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2005


*powders Alex*
posted by amberglow at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2005



posted by AlexReynolds at 1:38 PM on February 27, 2005


*cough*

enough powder, already!
posted by jonmc at 2:01 PM on February 27, 2005


I was just wondering if the MetaFilter code is free. Anyone know?
posted by pracowity at 2:23 PM on February 27, 2005


Copright infringement is not theft. These are different things.
posted by odinsdream at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2005


mek: Ummmm, feel free to roll your eyes if you want, but there's no strawman. You seemed to think it either ironic or sad that someone was complaining about the "theft of creativity" as it applied to comic strips in general, when really they were complaining about the "theft of creativity" of one particular thing which was both a comic strip and creative.

There is nothing ironic or sad about saying that Watterson's work is creative.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:35 PM on February 27, 2005


Copright infringement is not theft. These are different things.

IANAL, but this seems to say that copyright is property and that infringement violates the rights of the owner of said work. You might not agree with the law, but that disagreement is the difference, not the theft itself.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:39 PM on February 27, 2005


But there is something odd about saying that "creativity" can be stolen. Reasons why that doesn't fit this situation:

* The comic strips are creative, they are not Creativity Itself. Watterson is still creative, no matter what the behaviour on the internet with regard to images of his work.
* Theft is not the same as copying. Even if the comic strips were Creativity Itself, Watterson would still have his creativity. Other people would have compressed copies of his creativity stored on magnetic media.

AlexReynolds, why do you think we have the term "copyright infringement" ?
posted by odinsdream at 2:42 PM on February 27, 2005


Can you find a quote to back that up? Just curious.

You're silly.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:50 PM on February 27, 2005


AlexReynolds, why do you think we have the term "copyright infringement"?

Probably by way of the same technicality that now allows invasive searches of homes with IR and other non-visible spectrum devices. It still is theft, even if by a more sanitary term.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:50 PM on February 27, 2005


You're silly.

Indeed. Any luck with that quote?
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:51 PM on February 27, 2005


amazing. first, quonsar comments on my post (and only my fourth fpp to boot), then i make AlexReynolds "itchy," and the coup de gras, i get called out in MeTa. if matt deletes the post, i think my mefi experience will be complete. i'll have nothing left to do but keep reading. i kid, i kid.

seriously, though, i did toss this one back and forth a few times. i rationalized it like this: ucomics has every calvin and hobbes available, albeit in a very cumbersome format. the stfunoob site put them all in one place. neither site charges to view them, but the ucomics site does make ad revenue and passes some of that along to the owner of the comics, be it watterson or the universal press syndicate or whoever owns the rights, based solely on the number of subscribers to a particular comic. i'm not a subscriber, but i can still view those comics all i want (and i get the rss feed daily). they're not making any money off me viewing the comic, but they're not losing any money either. i don't think i'm an atypical example either. i didn't feel comfortable posting just the controversial link, though, so i pointed to the ucomics site as well, where the same content is available for the same price, free. you could just as easily go into a library and get back issues of a newspaper that ran calvin hobbes between 1985 and 1995 and photocopy them. and there are other ways to get around actually buying the books.

and for those saying $95 is steep for the complete collection, over the years i've spent over $200 buying all the individual books, even the collections (the indispensable, the essential, and the authoritative c&h, and the lazy sunday book, all of which are just the smaller books paired up in "collections." yes, i'm a completist.). also, the release date is coinciding with the 20h anniversary, so i'm thinking there may be some special stuff involved. either way, it'll be sitting on my shelf in six or seven months.

was there this much uproar after the postings of the grey album, the jay-zeezer album, london booted, or a night at the hip-hopera?
posted by Igor XA at 2:56 PM on February 27, 2005


Alright AlexReynolds, let's call it theft then. Theft of a special kind of "property" that can be in an infinite number of places at the same time. A special kind of "property" that exists only because a law says it does. A special kind of "property" that actually expires (if legislators stop extending the limit), forcing the "owner" to give it up forever, to everyone, for any reason.
posted by odinsdream at 3:00 PM on February 27, 2005


was there this much uproar after the postings of the grey album, the jay-zeezer album, london booted, or a night at the hip-hopera?

I am not sure I follow your reasoning. Are you saying that posting a thread that includes detailed instructions on maing a free copy of the complete works of a creative artist is okay, because no one said anything back then, about works which have little or no relation to those in your post?
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:03 PM on February 27, 2005


Alright AlexReynolds, let's call it theft then.

Is Mr. Watterson creating new works?
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:05 PM on February 27, 2005


you're calling out my post for advocating piracy and copyright infringement, which, clearly, music made from samples of other music without the artist's consent is guilty of. am i wrong here? or are you drawing a line between a copy and a sample?
posted by Igor XA at 3:06 PM on February 27, 2005


I was just wondering if the MetaFilter code is free.

charging for that would  be theft.
posted by quonsar at 3:06 PM on February 27, 2005


I am asking you about what I believe is specious reasoning used to rationalize the addition of a link in your post.

You did not answer this question, so I'll ask it again: are you saying it is okay for you to decide for Mr. Watterson what his ownership of his work is, based on the presumption that no one said anything about some audio mash-ups awhile back?
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:11 PM on February 27, 2005


My views on piracy are not as clear cut as some of yours; but since I don't really agree with anyone so far I'll throw my two cents in. I am uncomfortable with piracy that prevents someone that has worked hard making a living, be they artist, programmer, freelance journalist or horse whisperer. I might be comfortable downloading an album by a struggling artist, but I won't feel comfortable keeping it. If I like it, I'll buy it. If we're talking a band of international millionaires, I might have less off a problem filling some holes in my back catalogue through piracy.

If someone has made a living doing what they love doing, I think that's great. $90+ for the complete Calvin and Hobbes sounds like a bit of a scam to me. I'm all for artists getting what they deserve, but Watterson made a decision to discontinue Calvin and Hobbes; and by the sounds of him sitting and back and getting rich from royalties wasn't what he had in mind. Ultimately, information gets out. It is much better if too much slips through the net and a few people struggle for their art than to have the other extreme where everything has a dollar sign.

I like Calvin & Hobbes. Some of my friends are bigger fans. I enjoyed reading some of these cartoons today. I hope the site sticks around so that I can read more when the inclination takes me. I experienced no urge to download the whole lot, but then I'm not much of a hoarder. I was never once to take my computer to the bathroom with me, and so I feel sure I'll purchase some Calvin & Hobbes in the future. I won't have too much trouble sleeping tonight having reminded myself how charming the strip is earlier today. Comic strips are inherently ephemeral, too, don't forget. If the man's really struggling to make ends meet, he could always resurrect it.
posted by nthdegx at 3:21 PM on February 27, 2005


Is it okay for the government to force Watterson's works into the public domain after a time limit? Why? What do you think an effective time limit should be? Should it ever be extended? Under what circumstances, and for what reason? Would you feel better if this post were time-delayed to coincide with Calvin & Hobbes entering the public domain? If so, why? Did it cease to be Watterson's creative work at that time? Wouldn't we be "hurting" Watterson?

Would you feel differently if this were a "comic mash-up" of Watterson's work? If so, why? How much of Watterson's original work would you feel is okay to use in such a mash-up?
posted by odinsdream at 3:26 PM on February 27, 2005


no, i'm just wondering if/why some things pass your litmus test while others don't. should i dig around for other possibly infringement-advocating posts and see if you cared then? i wouldn't want to accuse anyone of hypocrisy erroneously.

specious, perhaps, but it was still my choice to post, your choice to read and/or view any of the comic strips, and matt's decision whether or not to delete it (and i suppose jessamyn's too). i'm sorry you're all riled up over this.

didn't i also advocate buying the complete collection? and what about the ucomics site? i can get the same product there for free with no compensation on my part to the owners. and i also own the entire collection, so for me, i'm not stealing anything. shouldn't the choice really lie with the user? if you felt uncomfortable about it, then don't go to the site. if matt is uncomfortable with it, he'll delete it.
posted by Igor XA at 3:33 PM on February 27, 2005


Odinsdream, your questions are interesting, but irrelevant, as I'm not saying anything for or against copyright expiration, public domain, or fair use, etc. These are all interesting topics but have nothing to do with the FPP — or my call out, for that matter.

Fact is, that these works do not belong to us at this point in time, right now. It is not for us to decide Watterson's ownership of his work, or what his agreement is with his syndicator, depending on the conveniences that the FPP provides to access his entire body of work.

Slice and dice your rationalizations however you like, but it is theft, or infringement, or whatever you want to call it. That we're ripping off someone of genuine creativity makes it that much more disappointing. As I said above, it feels something like ripping off granny for dope money.
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:43 PM on February 27, 2005


Do people ever get tired of having this debate?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:45 PM on February 27, 2005


no, i'm just wondering if/why some things pass your litmus test while others don't. should i dig around for other possibly infringement-advocating posts and see if you cared then? i wouldn't want to accuse anyone of hypocrisy erroneously.

I have to call out every petty theft to be able to call out a single one? You can't answer a simple yes/no question you were asked, and now you're throwing veiled insults in my direction because you can't answer that simple question. That's unfortunate. Good luck.
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:48 PM on February 27, 2005


I was never once to take my computer to the bathroom with me

People take their computers to the bathroom with them?
posted by caddis at 3:48 PM on February 27, 2005


23skidoo, you mistunderstand; the irony lies in unjustly decrying a MetaFilter post for thieving the creativity of a cartoonist, when the medium itself is actually guilty of that sin. I can count the number of creative syndicated comic strips on one hand. And the post was worded as a generalization, anyhew. And I agree with the above posters that the phrase itself is less than clear.

On the subject of Watterson himself, he is notoriously miserly when it comes to his intellectual property. I believe he is a hypocrite on this issue. On the one hand, he apparently treasures his work as art - I certainly regard it as such - but also wants it to be treated as a commercial enterprise, and is extremely disdainful of any unauthorized use.


Analogy: Shakespeare lives, and gets really pissed off when people quote lines from his plays out of context. And sues.
posted by mek at 4:01 PM on February 27, 2005


I think this is a perfectly reasonable callout. But in this instance, I think the online download site is going to generate more sales of the book(s), not less. I have every confidence that a marketing person somewhere has made the calculation and come to the same conclusion. Otherwise it would be cease & desisted out of existence.
posted by scarabic at 4:02 PM on February 27, 2005


Perhaps you do not have the right to decide for everyone else the distinction between copyright infringement and theft. I reiterate, if you don't like the post, don't read it. What is so hard about that concept?

If someone doesn't link a post, why is it that nobody else must have access to that post?
It's not like it's about how to dump a body, or something.


Disclaimer: I do not adovate illegal activity of any kind.
posted by Jim Jones at 4:08 PM on February 27, 2005


AlexReynolds, your opinion is justified, but your argument does not establish a logical preference between linking or not linking to the page in question. If it is not for us to judge if infringement is OK, it's also not for us to judge if it's not OK. And if we are to leave it up to the law, well, it's perfectly legal for us to put the link up, and up to the individual to click through and read the comics. And even reading them is legal, unless the USA is even more draconian than I remember. If we take law as our moral yardstick, the only villian here is the site itself. Your "stand aside" philosophy means this FPP passes. If metafilter was actually hosting the site, then this'd be a whole different debate. But it's just a link, and we link to all sorts of things of dubious legality.
posted by mek at 4:10 PM on February 27, 2005


People take their computers to the bathroom with them?

This is the entire POINT of WiFi.
posted by Ryvar at 4:10 PM on February 27, 2005


*locks bathroom door*
posted by quonsar at 4:20 PM on February 27, 2005


Igor XA, don't worry too much about Alex Reynolds, he was the catalyst of the Greatest Deleted MeTa Thread Ever. Sorry, Alex, it still kills me.

I steal, er, get my comics over at Comics!
posted by geekyguy at 4:23 PM on February 27, 2005


If it is not for us to judge if infringement is OK, it's also not for us to judge if it's not OK. And if we are to leave it up to the law, well, it's perfectly legal for us to put the link up, and up to the individual to click through and read the comics. And even reading them is legal, unless the USA is even more draconian than I remember. If we take law as our moral yardstick, the only villian here is the site itself. Your "stand aside" philosophy means this FPP passes. If metafilter was actually hosting the site, then this'd be a whole different debate. But it's just a link, and we link to all sorts of things of dubious legality.

Exactly--altho i do think a case can be made that this guy has already profited repeatedly from his original daily creations--newspaper syndication, collections, reprints, licensing, etc. You're certainly allowed to milk something dry, but don't expect many people to shed tears over an unauthorized site.
posted by amberglow at 4:26 PM on February 27, 2005


What's the problem here? It's a sunday night, all the other sites are boring ... hello! this one is full of C+H comics. It sure as fuck seems like the best of the web to me.

As for the moral implications, AlexReynolds, don't you think they're up to the reader to decide? I have friends who refuse to infringe copyright, so they won't be clicking that link. I have no such qualms, and I will be. Why are you deciding our morals for us?
posted by bonaldi at 4:41 PM on February 27, 2005


Indeed. Any luck with that quote?

And now instead of silly, you're being just plain stupid.

I suppose I shall have to spell it out in very short words for you:

I. Was. Joking.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:11 PM on February 27, 2005


Greatest Deleted MeTa Thread Ever

Ahh.. memories..
posted by c13 at 5:21 PM on February 27, 2005


If someone doesn't link a post, why is it that nobody else must have access to that post?

You're missing the point, Mr. Jones, quite frankly from being new around here. Posts to obviously copyright-infringing material have been yanked repeatedly because they expose the site and Matt to legal risks. AlexReynolds is well within bounds to post the thing here and ask the question. Don't get all uppity about him ramming his opinion down your throat. This is what MeTa is for. If you don't like the fact that other people have opinions, then you have come to just about the worst place in the Universe to enjoy your Sunday. Why is it that if you don't agree with someone, then nobody should have access to what they think?
posted by scarabic at 5:22 PM on February 27, 2005


Don't get all uppity about him ramming his opinion down your throat. This is what MeTa is for.

Heh. That reads a little funny. Please invert the order of these sentences.
posted by scarabic at 5:26 PM on February 27, 2005


Your presence is now mandatory in all future MetaTalk threads, Mr. Jones!
posted by nthdegx at 5:45 PM on February 27, 2005


No, but it would be nice to have a basic grip on an issue that's come up repeatedly before getting all snippy with someone for posting a more or less reasonable alert to MetaTalk.
posted by scarabic at 5:48 PM on February 27, 2005


Talk about getting snippy.
posted by smackfu at 6:16 PM on February 27, 2005


I liked it better the first way scarabic.
posted by caddis at 6:26 PM on February 27, 2005


That is what MeTa is for about.
posted by caddis at 6:27 PM on February 27, 2005


There is nothing hypocrytical about wanting to make money from your art.
posted by bingo at 6:36 PM on February 27, 2005


I'm with scarabic. I mean, I agree with him. I hope I'm not being uppity.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:14 PM on February 27, 2005


*snip*
posted by quonsar at 7:26 PM on February 27, 2005


Alex Reynolds - you really need to learn about why copyright infringement and theft are different things.

Mugging a well-loved relative for drug money? Dear god, how bent out of shape do you get when someone does something really bad?
posted by bshort at 7:39 PM on February 27, 2005


you really need to learn about why copyright infringement and theft are different things.

Well butter my nuts - I thought you were gonna explain it!
posted by scarabic at 7:56 PM on February 27, 2005


I also agree with scarabic. While I may not necessarily think that the C&H FPP is a bad thing, and I definitely don't think theft and copyright infringement are the same thing, I do think that "AlexReynolds is well within bounds to post the thing here and ask the question", and that this kind of discussion is what MeTa is for.
posted by Bugbread at 7:56 PM on February 27, 2005


"Alex Reynolds - you really need to learn about why copyright infringement and theft are different things."

Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhhhh! I am so fucking sick of that statement, in that tone. At the very least, be clear about what the context is in which you're making that claim: Legal? Common English Usage? Philosophical? Historical?

And after you've done that, then unless the assertion is incontrovertible (and in none of these realms would the assertion be incontrovertible), you might provide a persuasive argument why what you claim is true...instead of being pathetically fucking lazy and making smug pronouncements as if you were some esteemed oracular Voice of God, which you certainly are not.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:27 PM on February 27, 2005


EB - You're as big a drama queen as AR is.

Context? Pick whatever context you want. Copyright infringement isn't theft, it's copyright infringement. I'm not saying that it's not illegal, but it is different, and claiming that copying a work of art is the same thing as stealing that work of art is funamentally misunderstanding what creative work is, and why it's valuable.

And after you've done that, then unless the assertion is incontrovertible....

Why should I be the one to educate you on matters of law? You're the lazy one, here.
posted by bshort at 8:34 PM on February 27, 2005


Copyright infringement is completely different from material theft in the legal sense, the vernacular sense, the philosophical sense, and the historical sense. Pick a context, any context - they are all compatible with that basic premise for completely different reasons.
posted by Ryvar at 8:56 PM on February 27, 2005


Alex Reynolds - you really need to learn about why copyright infringement and theft are different things.

Bshort, this is not the first time that technicality has been used to rationalize theft, and you've amply demonstrated it won't be the last.

And I've read from Walter Benjamin up to the SCOTUS rulings, and know perfectly well most of the arguments used to justify illegal reproductions, so don't jump in and kid yourself by thinking you're "educating" the rest of us.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:58 PM on February 27, 2005


EB,

I'm sick of the statement, in that tone, as well, but that doesn't make it less true. It's like someone insulting Michael Bolton's music: it's played out, hackneyed, and annoying, but that doesn't make it less true.

Fact of the matter is that, from a legal, philosophical, and historical perspective, they're different, and "theft" carries a heavier impact, so people are trying to use the word that carries the most drama. If anyone needs to provide a persuasive argument that something is true, it's the person making the contention (that A and B are the same). If I say Tony Blair is the same person as George Bush, it's not my oppositions' responsibility to argue that he isn't, it's my responsibility to argue that he is.
posted by Bugbread at 9:01 PM on February 27, 2005


Perhaps you do not have the right to decide for everyone else the distinction between copyright infringement and theft. I reiterate, if you don't like the post, don't read it. What is so hard about that concept?

Perhaps you're unfamiliar with the nature and purpose of MeTa. Unfortunately for you, I am only too well familiar with this part of the site. ;) I'm not "deciding" anything, but merely calling out what I believe is questionable.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:03 PM on February 27, 2005


Bshort, this is not the first time that technicality has been used to rationalize theft, and you've amply demonstrated it won't be the last.

And this is not the first time that an important difference has been trivialized as a technicality to overstate the emotional impact of a crime, and you've amply demonstrated it won't be the last.
posted by Bugbread at 9:04 PM on February 27, 2005


I. Was. Joking.

Now you're joking.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:05 PM on February 27, 2005


And this is not the first time that an important difference has been trivialized as a technicality to overstate the emotional impact of a crime, and you've amply demonstrated it won't be the last.

Well at least we can agree that it's a crime.
posted by subgenius at 9:06 PM on February 27, 2005


And this is not the first time that an important difference has been trivialized as a technicality to overstate the emotional impact of a crime, and you've amply demonstrated it won't be the last.

Except that some others agree with me. So this is not simply a case of me being your "drama queen", dear, and nor am I "overstating emotional impact", but simply stating my position. Apparently you are unable to distinguish the two conditions.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:08 PM on February 27, 2005


I've twice composed messages in favor of why this is a good thread and twice I've deleted them because I didn't believe what I wrote. I commented in the Calvin thread and can't defend why it is worthwhile.

The thread isn't theft. And not many on here are going to download 10 years worth of Calvin and Hobbes comics and put them in a book, while more will now be aware of the $95 book on sale in August. That said, there is merely a fine line between linking to an entire collection of comics and linking to an entire collection of Martin Scorcese movies. Both are to get media without paying for it in a readily available manner. Metafilter should be better than this.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:15 PM on February 27, 2005


Both are to get media without paying for it in a readily available manner. Metafilter should be better than this.

Thank you.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:17 PM on February 27, 2005


Bshort, this is not the first time that technicality has been used to rationalize theft, and you've amply demonstrated it won't be the last.

Well, once again, it's not theft. And who's trivializing it?

And I've read from Walter Benjamin up to the SCOTUS rulings, and know perfectly well most of the arguments used to justify illegal reproductions, so don't jump in and kid yourself by thinking you're "educating" the rest of us.

But apparently you do need educating, since you refuse to see the distinction between copyright infringement and theft. Maybe you need to work on your reading comprehension since you neither understand the legal opinions you've claimed to have read nor the patient explanations by other people on the site.
posted by bshort at 9:19 PM on February 27, 2005


But apparently you do need educating, since you refuse to see the distinction between copyright infringement and theft. Maybe you need to work on your reading comprehension since you neither understand the legal opinions you've claimed to have read nor the patient explanations by other people on the site.

I've been countered thus far with either weak rhetorical technicality, which I've pointed out a few times, or been thrown a number of irrelevant points and questions. There's been no willingness to explain how the issue here is any different. You've neither defended your claim, nor bothered to read my argument, apparently, and you're obviously not going to bother now. Good luck.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:29 PM on February 27, 2005


Well at least we can agree that it's a crime.

Nobody has even hinted otherwise. It's absurd to imply otherwise. The distinction between one type of illegal behaviour and another is important to make. Jaywalking is illegal, so is driving over a pedestrian. One is not the other, but both are still crimes (or misdemeanors, it's a horrible metaphor anyway).

So, back to the point. The piece of law that AlexReynolds linked to above should explain this just fine. It does not classify copyright infringement as theft. It is a violation of someone's rights, just like hitting them in the face or taping their phone conversations are violations of their rights. Theft is also a violation of rights, but that doesn't make copyright infringement equal to theft.

AlexReynolds, nobody is interested in what you think, and nobody is interested in what I think. We're all interested in what the law says. As far as I can tell, the law defines copyright infringement clearly, and it does not mention theft at all. If you can back up your assertions with actual laws, I'd appreciate it. Mine are backed up by your link.
posted by odinsdream at 9:37 PM on February 27, 2005


Alex - weak rhetorical technicality? You should probably tell the Congress that, since they have a different body of law for copyright infringement.

Also, here's something I found here:
Q: What’s the difference between theft and infringement?

A: If a person steals a painting from an art gallery, it is theft. If a person illegally copies an image (downloaded from the Web, or reproduced by mechanical or other means), it is infringement.

Theft is violation of criminal law. The punishment is incarceration (a prison sentence), fines, or both.

Infringement is a violation of civil law. The punishment is a law suit and/or an injunction. An injunction is a judicial process restraining a person from a wrongful act (such as exhibiting or selling an infringed work of art), or compelling restitution to an injured party (such as a public statement of apology, payment of damages, etc.) Note that statutory damages for copyright infringement can be anywhere from $200-$100,000, depending on whether the infringer is deemed innocent or willful.
posted by bshort at 9:41 PM on February 27, 2005


By and large, I consider piracy to be one of the best things about the web. Judging from the behavior of millions of casual opportunists such as myself, a great many other people agree. Like the ubiquitous porn, it's distasteful to a certain class of moralist, but nevertheless I consider it good.

An homage and preservation effort of much-loved cartoons only weakly qualifies as piracy in the first place. In any case, I refuse to allow moral absolutists and upstanding law and order types to dictate what is, is not, or should not be, good. Those who cannot perceive shades of grey are not sufficiently realist to make pronouncements about goodness.
posted by majick at 9:49 PM on February 27, 2005


Mine are backed up by your link.

As are mine. I hate to drag this out, as dry as it is:

• Copyright Ownership and Transfer.

Even considering initial ownership alone, intellectual property is property, which is something owned by someone. I have no evidence that Watterson transferred his ownership of reproduction rights to the owner of the stfunoob.com domain, therefore I suspect it is reasonable to think Watterson's property was stolen. Stealing something is an act of theft.

Honestly, I'm not going to lose a lot of sleep over it, but it's theft, no matter how you slice it, which is what I'm pointing out.

Keep in mind that I agree with the sentiment or direction of many of your irrelevant questions. But I do think people should be allowed to own their creative works for a reasonable time period.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:51 PM on February 27, 2005


i had no idea i would stir up such a hornet's nest.

let me preface the next paragraph by saying for simplicity's sake i'm using the word theft in place of copyright infringement. no, they're not the same thing, but people keep equating them in this thread and one of those two is much easier to type over and over.

yes, it's probably illegal. i don't think anyone's saying it isn't. i feel pretty dirty about someone creating a torrent of it all, which is now making me feel dirty about the original link. but here's where i get a little confused. i posted not one, but two links where the entire run of c&h could be found in a digital format. if i wanted to, i could take the time to go through and look at every strip in chronological order on ucomics.com, and i could even save copies of the strips onto my hard drive. would that be theft? the content is there for public viewing free of charge. so does that make me a thief? it doesn't make me personally a thief, as i have already paid for every strip ever published in book form. but for those that don't own the books, is it theft? no one is making a profit from having these comic strips posted online in the questionable link. i would go so far as to say no one is losing any money from it either. according to ucomics.com's site info, content owners only get paid when someone subscribes to their content. and even if they're ad supported, when i view the rss feed all i see is the comic. there isn't an ad anywhere to be seen.

i suppose someone could print all these out and bind them and sell them. that seems rather ridiculous to me. the cost of paper, ink, and binding would seem prohibitive as the end product would really only have appeal to c&h fans, and i'd be willing to wager most of them own the books anyways. this is, of course, conjecture, but it does seem rather silly, doesn't it?

but is my post actually advocating the infringement of bill watterson's labor of love? i posted a link to the complete collection due out in the fall. isn't that more of a sales pitch? and i also provided a non-infringing collection to boot. sorry i ruffled your feathers. so far the post hasn't been deleted and matt hasn't said anything. apparently he's ok with it. ::shrug::

and i don't why you're wishing me luck, AlexReynolds, but good luck to you, too.
posted by Igor XA at 9:56 PM on February 27, 2005


Infringement is a violation of civil law

Explain that rhetoric to folks who've been charged with criminal violations of the DMCA.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:57 PM on February 27, 2005


I think the universe is ruled by fuzzy blue bunnies. No matter how you slice it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on February 27, 2005


Honestly, I'm not going to lose a lot of sleep over it, but it's theft, no matter how you slice it, which is what I'm pointing out.

It's still not theft. Words mean things. You should learn how to use them.

Explain that rhetoric to folks who've been charged with criminal violations of the DMCA.

So where in the DMCA does it talk about throwing out the existing body of copyright law?
posted by bshort at 10:06 PM on February 27, 2005


So where in the DMCA does it talk about throwing out the existing body of copyright law?

Oh, that's the tip of the iceberg:

FEDERAL PROSECUTION OF VIOLATIONS OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

"Section 2319(b) of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

"(b) Any person who commits an offense under subsection (a) of this section-
"(1) shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense consists of the reproduction or distribution, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies or phonorecords, of 1 or more copyrighted works, with a retail value of more than $2,500;
  
"(2) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense is a second or subsequent offense under paragraph (1); and

"(3) shall be imprisoned not more than 1 year, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, in any other case."


Keep reading, bshort, there's some interesting history in the footnotes.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:11 PM on February 27, 2005


Words mean things. You should learn how to use them.

Indeed, bshort, words do mean things. Research means something as well. You should check out what the word research means.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:13 PM on February 27, 2005


And I'm sure that it mentions theft somewhere in that section, right?
posted by bshort at 10:15 PM on February 27, 2005


And I'm sure that it mentions theft somewhere in that section, right?

No, I explained that up here:

Even considering initial ownership alone, intellectual property is property, which is something owned by someone. I have no evidence that Watterson transferred his ownership of reproduction rights to the owner of the stfunoob.com domain, therefore I suspect it is reasonable to think Watterson's property was stolen. Stealing something is an act of theft.

Now can I get some sleep, or do I need to look up the word "research" for you?
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:20 PM on February 27, 2005


You should probably look up "copyright infringement" while you're at it.

By the way, your problem is here "therefore I suspect it is reasonable to think Watterson's property was stolen".

Watterson's property wasn't "stolen." Some of his copyrights were infringed upon. Do you really not see the difference?
posted by bshort at 10:26 PM on February 27, 2005


subgenius: Well at least we can agree that it's a crime.

Yes, we can, and do.

It's something I've always found strange in these copyright infringement discussions. The discussion always seems to go like this:

10 A: "This is theft, and therefore bad."
20 B: "It isn't theft."
30 A: "Yes it is."
40 GOTO 20

Instead of starting with "This is copyright infringement, and therefore bad."

Bugbread: And this is not the first time that an important difference has been trivialized as a technicality to overstate the emotional impact of a crime, and you've amply demonstrated it won't be the last.

AlexReynolds: Except that some others agree with me. So this is not simply a case of me being your "drama queen", dear, and nor am I "overstating emotional impact", but simply stating my position. Apparently you are unable to distinguish the two conditions.


Except? Reread what I wrote: "This is not the first time". Yes. People agree with you. That's one of the things I'm pointing out.

As far as trivializing the difference: I understand it is your position. Your position is wrong. I'm sorry about that, but it's true. A dog is not a cat. It may be your position that a dog is a cat because they're both domesticated house pets. But that position is wrong.

Saying I am "unable" to distinguish between the two conditions makes little sense. If you say a dog is a cat, there are not "two conditions", one being "you are wrong" and the other being "I am stating my position". There is one condition, that of you stating your incorrect position. Sure, there may be two aspects. In that case, you are wrong in believing that I cannot tell the difference between them. I am aware that you think copyright violation is the same as theft. I am also aware that you are incorrect. And I am aware that I am aware of both aspects of your statement.

I'm not arguing that copyright infringement is good, or bad, or a bucket of monkeys. I am arguing that theft is theft, and copyright infringement is copyright infringement. If you think copyright infringement is bad, then by all means say so, but don't obfuscate your terminology to do so. Either you're doing it out of ignorance (which, apparently, is not the case), or you're doing it out of a willful desire to equate two unequal things: theft and copyright infringement. If you're not doing it for the added emotional cachet, then why are you doing it?

And I never mentioned dr*ma qu**nery. Where the hell did that come from?

I've been countered thus far with either weak rhetorical technicality

Your arguments are based on weak rhetorical equation. Other people have countered your weak arguments. Since when does that make their arguments "weak"?

You seem to be greatly misinterpreting my position. I'm not providing a "defence" for the FPP, because I'm not defending the FPP. I'm just saying that you should talk about the issue at hand, without drawing weak rhetorical links to bugaboos. If you think copyright violation is bad, say THAT, don't keep tossing out the word "theft" and weakening your own position.

Personally, I'm on the fence as far as the issue goes. I think theft is bad 99% of the time, copyright violation 90% of the time (or so). In this case, while illegal, I don't think it is bad, because of the individual considerations (the comics are available for free online from authorized sources. Those sources are authorized (unlike this one) because of ad revenue. I use AdBlock, so if I view at the authorized source, they still get no ad revenue. As such, this is a concatenation of images that I could have gotten, entirely legally, on my own. The post has, essentially, just made it easier to do what I could do legally anyway, and with no effect on revenue to the author. If, on the other hand, these images were not available legally, freely, online, I would think that this FPP is a bad thing, but I would likely have downloaded it anyway, because in that case the value of personal benefit to me outweighs my moral considerations. You may hate to hear that, but that's because people seldom tell the truth, even though most people are thinking and behaving the same way. I'd rather not be a hypocrite, so I admit the truth behind my actions.)

Even considering initial ownership alone, intellectual property is property, which is something owned by someone. I have no evidence that Watterson transferred his ownership of reproduction rights to the owner of the stfunoob.com domain, therefore I suspect it is reasonable to think Watterson's property was stolen. Stealing something is an act of theft.

And I fail to see how you arrive at that conclusion. I also have no evidence that Watterson transferred his ownership of reproduction rights to the owner of stfunoob.com domain, therefore I suspect it is reasonable to think Watterson's rights of ownership of reproduction rights were violated. Where does the word "stolen" come from?

it's theft, no matter how you slice it, which is what I'm pointing out.

And "It's not theft, no matter how you slice it" is what other people are pointing out.

And on the DMCA thing: You're entirely right. I'm always surprised at the folks who say that copyright violation results only in fines, not in prison time. They need to keep up with the news a bit more.

On preview:

I explained that up here:

Even considering initial ownership alone, intellectual property is property, which is something owned by someone. I have no evidence that Watterson transferred his ownership of reproduction rights to the owner of the stfunoob.com domain, therefore I suspect it is reasonable to think Watterson's property was stolen. Stealing something is an act of theft.

Now can I get some sleep, or do I need to look up the word "research" for you?


No, but if your argument hinges on finding it reasonable to think Watterson's property was stolen, you might want to look up the word "stolen" for us. I don't think we'll be too surprised by the definition, but you might.
posted by Bugbread at 10:28 PM on February 27, 2005


Stop debating legality, you guys. Sure, it gives you a context in which you can impress one another with links and blockquotes, but it isn't the point. Yes, there is a legal difference between physically pilfering an original work and appropriating the content of a work without license. bshort is emphasizing this technicality to the exclusion of the point that both are wrong and illegal and, more importantly, not appropriate for MeFi.

so far the post hasn't been deleted and matt hasn't said anything. apparently he's ok with it. ::shrug::


Perhaps, but don't jump to this conclusion automatically. It is Sunday, and the poor guy has a life. Unlike some of us.
posted by scarabic at 10:29 PM on February 27, 2005


Bshort, if you bother to read your legal citations instead of quoting from a FAQ, you'd notice that infringment for financial gain or involving copyrighted works worth more than $1,000 is a criminal offense.

You guys are begging the question:

"If anyone needs to provide a persuasive argument that something is true, it's the person making the contention (that A and B are the same). If I say Tony Blair is the same person as George Bush, it's not my oppositions' responsibility to argue that he isn't, it's my responsibility to argue that he is."

If I say that I am the same person as myself, is the onus on me to argue that? Since you're assuming that your conclusion is true, then you naturally think it's someone else's responsibility to prove you wrong. Well, no. Bugbread, you keep saying, "no, they're not the same thing even if you say they are." That's not an argument any more than asserting that they're the same is an argument.

In the legal realm, even though bshort's assertions have already been proven unreliable, a strong argument can be made that copyright infringement is not "theft". So make that distinction and support that assertion. But whatever Bugbread or Ryvar claims, it is not incontrovertible that copyright infringement is not theft philosophically, in common language, or historically. Just asserting that something is true is not an argument.

I really don't care whether or not "copyright infringement" is "theft" or not. I don't have a horse in this race, I have no emotional or intellectual investment in it one way or another. But obviously most of you folks do. You people sound like religious zealots. And you're as unreasonably sure of yourselves like religious zealots. You don't need to make an argument because you're so obviously right. Uh-huh.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:35 PM on February 27, 2005


I'm not arguing that copyright infringement isn't bad, I'm arguing that it's not the same as theft, because it isn't.

How is that unreliable? Where did I ever say it wasn't illegal?
posted by bshort at 10:39 PM on February 27, 2005


And "It's not theft, no matter how you slice it" is what other people are pointing out.

I'm tired of giving people links to definitions of words and legal text that get ignored, so thieve away, folks: apparently it's all good, and you won't do any jail time. G'nite.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:41 PM on February 27, 2005


Straightforward question: Are you stating that a violation of rights logically entails stealing those rights, and that as such, is theft?

If so, does that apply to rights such as:

Freedom of speech
Freedom of religion
Impartial juries
Voting

?

On preview:

Scarabic: Stop debating legality, you guys. Sure, it gives you a context in which you can impress one another with links and blockquotes, but it isn't the point. Yes, there is a legal difference between physically pilfering an original work and appropriating the content of a work without license. bshort is emphasizing this technicality to the exclusion of the point that both are wrong and illegal and, more importantly, not appropriate for MeFi.

Absofuckingsmurfly. Alex, just admit that copyright infringement and theft are different, and that copyright infringement is bad. I mean, we state that murder is bad all the time, without trying to justify it by saying it's "theft of one's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property".

EB: If I say that I am the same person as myself, is the onus on me to argue that?

First, you're right, my argument was massively tilted towards the assumption that the person making the argument is wrong. However, your example is a bit over the top in the other direction. Perhaps a (much) better example is if you were to say "I am Keith M Ellis". In that case, you'd be right (I hope and assume), but the onus would still be on you to provide proof for the equivalency you would be putting forth.

I don't have a horse in this race, I have no emotional or intellectual investment in it one way or another. But obviously most of you folks do. You people sound like religious zealots. And you're as unreasonably sure of yourselves like religious zealots. You don't need to make an argument because you're so obviously right. Uh-huh.

Ironically (I hope I'm using the term correctly, because people on the internet have been getting snipy lately about using the word "ironically" incorrectly), you probably have me lumped in with "you people", whereas I am actually in (mostly) agreement with you.

Y'all sound like religious zealots to me too, on both sides. People are arguing "copyright violation isn't theft" with this heavy side of implied "and is therefore not immoral", and the counterargument is entirely based on "copyright violation IS theft, and THEREFORE immoral".

Stop all the railing about whether or whether not it's theft, and try discussing whether copyright violation itself is immoral. I mean, most people have managed to determine that murder, deceit, and rape are immoral without relying on the word "theft"; I have hopes that a similar discussion about copyright violation could happen. And while I personally suspect that a conclusion won't be reached, at least folks will be talking about the issue at hand, instead of purely how similar the issue at hand may or may not be to some other issue.
posted by Bugbread at 10:49 PM on February 27, 2005


I'm not arguing that copyright infringement isn't bad, I'm arguing that it's not the same as theft, because it isn't.

As the dorks on slashdot will be quick to argue, copyright infringement often brings harsher penalties than theft. No one is going to try to shut MeFi down or subpoena server records if Matt shoplifts a copy of Calvin & Hobbes' Greatest Hits, but the blue can become a Big White 404 if people get too frisky with the idea that Cartoon Characters Want To Be Free.

Copyright infringement may not, technically, equal theft -- but that isn't necessarily a good thing under the law as it's currently developing.
posted by subgenius at 10:50 PM on February 27, 2005


Your presence is now mandatory in all future MetaTalk threads, Mr. Jones!
posted by nthdegx at 5:45 PM PST on February 27


Thank you. I'm all warm and fuzzy inside.


If you don't like the fact that other people have opinions, then you have come to just about the worst place in the Universe to enjoy your Sunday. Why is it that if you don't agree with someone, then nobody should have access to what they think?
posted by scarabic at 5:22 PM PST on February 27 [!]


Didn't say that. I'm all for anybody saying they dislike the FPP. I just don't agree with demanding its removal because of that dislike. But I do acknowledge that mathowie could get in trouble (for illegal activity) and, of course, that wouldn't be good. (And I admit to overlooking that part of the argument).

the content is there for public viewing free of charge. so does that make me a thief? it doesn't make me personally a thief, as i have already paid for every strip ever published in book form.
posted by Igor XA at 9:56 PM PST on February 27 [!]


I don't think there's a distinction made in the law between downloading something you own in another format and downloading some random file.
posted by Jim Jones at 10:54 PM on February 27, 2005


This thread needs more meta.
posted by boaz at 10:59 PM on February 27, 2005


"Perhaps, but don't jump to this conclusion automatically. It is Sunday, and the poor guy has a life. Unlike some of us."

that's what the shrug was for.

"so thieve away, folks: apparently it's all good, and you won't do any jail time."

well, i've already paid for it all. i'm not stealing anything.

and i ask again, why all the fuss over c&h and none over previous copyright infringing posts? did someone have a bad childhood or something? yeesh.
posted by Igor XA at 11:38 PM on February 27, 2005


And "It's not theft, no matter how you slice it" is what other people are pointing out.

I'm tired of giving people links to definitions of words and legal text that get ignored, so thieve away, folks: apparently it's all good, and you won't do any jail time. G'nite.


Ok, fuck it, it's got to be said. You are a drama king. I'm sure you're tired of giving links to definitions of words that don't apply. If I spent hours providing links to definitions of words like "murder", "penguin", and "hyperbole" I'd get tired too. But dancing around the central contention and then saying you're tired from all your hard effort is like the guy at work who complains about how tiring it is to always look busy instead of doing his job.

You say that "apparently" it's all good, and folks won't be doing any jail time. Your powers of perception appear pretty weak. Regarding it being "all good", totals break down like this (from what I can gather above):

All Good:

Angry modem
willnot
mullingitover
Space Coyote
Bonaldi
Majick

Partially Good to Completely Bad:

XQUZYPHYR
Ryvar
Quartermass
Dabitch
bingo
Saucy Intruder
Scarabic
Arch Stanton
Igor XA (kind of)
Bugbread

And as far as "you won't do any jail time"...well, first, if you think anyone here actually WILL do jail time because of this post, I think you're crazy, but if you mean "no copyright infringement results in jail time":

Can't result in jail time:

Bshort

Can result in jail time:

Alexreynolds
Bugbread
Etherial Bligh

Note that bshort is missing from the top list, about whether copyright infringement is "all good"? That's because I CAN'T TELL, because YOU GUYS HAVEN'T EVEN BROACHED THE ISSUE. All you've been talking about is whether copyright infringement equals theft. For all I know, bshort may find copyright infringement to be WORSE THAN MURDER (Ok, obviously, I severely doubt it, but it is possible), but I can't tell, because you seem both seem to REFUSE to discuss whether copyright violation is good, bad, indifferent, case by case, or miscellaneous.

For all I know, you BOTH hate copyright infringement. And for all I know, you both LOVE pistachio ice cream. But I'll probably never know, because you (Alex) have decided to use contentious and inaccurate terminology and hinge your entire argument on it, and you (bshort) have either intentionally or unintentionally managed to go through the whole discussion without (as far as I have noticed) actually saying anything about whether this example of copyright violation is good or bad.

Which is kinda impressive, come to think of it. I mean, you figure it would have slipped out at some point.
posted by Bugbread at 11:51 PM on February 27, 2005


"so thieve away, folks: apparently it's all good, and you won't do any jail time."

well, i've already paid for it all. i'm not stealing anything.


Unfortunately, those four statements are pretty much independant (ok, the "it's all good" may link up, so let's just look at the following three)

You have already paid for it. You're not stealing anything. And (and I may very well be wrong on this; if so, my apologies) even if you torrent more than 10 copies, the copyrighted material in question is less than $2,500, so, no, you won't go to jail. But don't fool yourself into believing that you won't go to jail because you've already bought the material. That part is irrelevant.
posted by Bugbread at 11:57 PM on February 27, 2005


Bugbread, I have made it clear where I stand on this act of theft. I have been clear and concise about what theft means in the context of this discussion. You can decide my terminology is unclear or contentious or whatever (for yourself), but that doesn't make it so for everyone. All that's been demonstrated beyond any doubt is that I hope like hell I never need bshort for his smooth-talking lawyer'in. I might end up going to the electric chair on a manslaughter charge. Holy fuck.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:05 AM on February 28, 2005


What am I, bugbread, chopped liver?
posted by Jim Jones at 12:10 AM on February 28, 2005


i didn't grab the torrent either. in fact, i only looked a couple of the strips. i just went to my books after that.

and why shouldn't it fall under fair use?
posted by Igor XA at 12:10 AM on February 28, 2005


But dancing around the central contention and then saying you're tired from all your hard effort is like the guy at work who complains about how tiring it is to always look busy instead of doing his job.

Wow, that's a time-honored logical tactic, bugbread: Just assert that you're correct, and don't bother explaining why. Out of respect for my own sanity, since you've done this a few times already, I'll leave you be. Thanks.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:13 AM on February 28, 2005


and why shouldn't it fall under fair use?

OMG, this comedy never stops. I'd love to see some of you get nailed, just to see the surprised look on your face when you're in court and you try to pull that one on a judge.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:15 AM on February 28, 2005


Ok, fuck it, it's got to be said. You are a drama king

No, I'm not really sure that needed to be said. For a bunch of people each so convinced you've proven your point, there sure is a bunch of gratuitous chest-thumping going on here.

bugbread - I hate it when people make little "tallies" of who is on which side of what issue, as if numbers substituted for being correct. In any case, please don't ever mark my name in column A, B, or C again, especially when I have not weighed in with a personal opinion on the subject.
posted by scarabic at 12:15 AM on February 28, 2005


I thought you went to bed, Alex?

hint hint
posted by scarabic at 12:16 AM on February 28, 2005


I never did see why anyone liked C&H. Especially with the hints that the boy and tiger were lovers.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 12:17 AM on February 28, 2005


i should have finished my sentence.

and why shouldn't it fall under fair use if i already own copies of the works that i paid for? why can't i then scan them and have digital copies for myself (not for distribution like the link in question)? and what if i did grab the torrent? the only difference then would be that i let someone else do the scanning. they would still be in the wrong, but would i? i'm posing these as questions because i'd like to hear someone's answers to them, not some belly-aching about how i'm missing the point. i thought copyright infringement was the topic of this "discussion." i think my questions are relevant.

"I'd love to see some of you get nailed, just to see the surprised look on your face when you're in court and you try to pull that one on a judge."

is that a threat? are you going to report me now? blah.
posted by Igor XA at 12:28 AM on February 28, 2005


Apparently, it does make it contentious for a huge chunk of the people here. Obviously, not for the people who agree with you, but that's the nature of contentiousness, innit?

All I'm saying is that your problem is with the front page post, which violates copyright law, and instead of addressing that issue (much), you're going into long side-discussions about terminology.

But, yes, your position is clear on copyright violation. If only you would express it as such. It's like reading someone saying "Pistachio ice cream, made from ground virgins, tastes good." Forgive me for not being surprised that the discussion centers on the "ground virgin" bit, and not the "tastes good" bit. And don't get the mistaken impression that everyone who argues that pistachio ice cream is not actually made from ground virgins is also thereby disagreeing that it tastes good.

There are a few things that have been demonstrated beyond any doubt: bshort's knowledge of copyright law has some holes, some of which are big. You are more concerned with drawing a certain parallel to support your position than actually supporting your position. My posts are too damn long, and in my effort to choose clear examples, I often choose excessively drastic examples. More people are agreeing with your core idea than you are giving credit. And, judging this thread in light of a certain other thread: no matter how many people disagree with your interpretation of a term, you will never cede that it might be wrong. (I will take special care to point out that, in the other thread, while I disagree with your conclusions, both of us had little foundation for our arguments, as there is no canonical reference source to which to appeal. However, here, there are, and you have successfully provided several links that show that the term "Theft" is not used for copyright infringement)

On preview:

"But dancing around the central contention and then saying you're tired from all your hard effort is like the guy at work who complains about how tiring it is to always look busy instead of doing his job."

Wow, that's a time-honored logical tactic, bugbread: Just assert that you're correct, and don't bother explaining why. Out of respect for my own sanity, since you've done this a few times already, I'll leave you be. Thanks.


"I learned it from watching you, dad!" You've stated multiple times that copyright infringement is theft. You've provided links to prove it that do not equate copyright infringement and theft. And then you stated you're tired of providing proof. Is that a sufficient explanation?

Perhaps an example would be easier? "Pistachio ice cream is made from ground virgins (link to pistachio ice cream site, nothing about virgins)" "Look, here's more proof (link to pistachio ice cream ingredient list, no virgins" "I'm tired of providing proof noone will read".

Would you like more explanation?

Scarabic: Accept my apologies (and explanation) for the tally list thing. I should clarify: my purpose was in no way to use tallies as a "score". In fact, if it got taken that way by anyone else: THAT'S NOT WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO. Sorry.

I was just using it to point out that, while AlexReynolds was taking a tack of "you all think it's all good", that there were more people agreeing with him in some aspects than he thought. Not that they were right, or that they were wrong.

And regarding this bit: "especially when I have not weighed in with a personal opinion on the subject", from what I can tell, you have, which is why you're on the list anywhere (note that not everyone in the thread is somewhere on the list; only the people who have weighed in with a personal opinion on the subject). I interpreted the following statement to indicate that you were not 100% fully and unconditionally supporting this copyright infringement. Maybe 99%, maybe 50%, maybe 1%, maybe 0%, but not 100%:
"Posts to obviously copyright-infringing material have been yanked repeatedly because they expose the site and Matt to legal risks. AlexReynolds is well within bounds to post the thing here and ask the question."
Did I misinterpret that?
posted by Bugbread at 12:32 AM on February 28, 2005


is that a threat? are you going to report me now? blah.

Don't be daft, everyone here at MeFi loves piracy and doesn't believe in stealing.

So you're in good company: If it feels good, do it.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:33 AM on February 28, 2005


"I learned it from watching you, dad!" You've stated multiple times that copyright infringement is theft. You've provided links to prove it that do not equate copyright infringement and theft. And then you stated you're tired of providing proof. Is that a sufficient explanation?

One more time, erm, "son".
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:37 AM on February 28, 2005


why shouldn't it fall under fair use if i already own copies of the works that i paid for?

Request for clarification on the word "should": Are you saying that it does, and asking for opposing parties to provide evidence that it doesn't? Or are you saying that it does, and asking for opposing parties to provide moral reasons why it shouldn't? Or are you saying that, while it doesn't, it should, and what are the moral counterarguments?

AlexReynolds: Don't be daft, everyone here at MeFi loves piracy and doesn't believe in stealing.

See, scarabic, this is what that list was about. Not a score to determine a winner, but evidence that Alex is mischaracterizing people.

At the risk of being excessive: Alex, everyone here does not love piracy. Read the thread again. It is not you against the world. There are people agreeing with you. There are other people who disagree that the FPP should stand. There are people who have said it feels wrong or icky. Not everyone in Mefi supports piracy. Read the thread. Read it. Don't just read the parts you disagree with. Read all of it. It's not just you against the world. There are people agreeing with you, and they are people at MeFi, ipso facto not everyone at MeFi loves piracy.

I hope that got it across.
posted by Bugbread at 12:39 AM on February 28, 2005


You've stated multiple times that copyright infringement is theft. You've provided links to prove it that do not equate copyright infringement and theft. And then you stated you're tired of providing proof. Is that a sufficient explanation?

One more time, erm, "son".


Okay. Just read both pages again. The Copyright Ownership and Transfer page does not even have the words "theft", "steal", "stolen", or even "deprive" on it, ever. It didn't before, and it still didn't. Do a word search, they aren't there. Hell, in fact, the only appearance of the word "take" or "taken" on the page is in the context of "taken in good faith". The definitions page, which obviously uses the word "theft" quite a bit, does not address copyright. The only appearance of the word "copyright" is below each entry. The most in-depth definition of theft, in fact, defines part of theft as the "intent to deprive", which is not evident in copyright.

Why don't you quote the relevant bits and point out how they specifically relate to eachother? What you're doing now is the equivalent of linking a page on pistachio ice cream and a page on virgins, and saying, "Look, there's the proof, right there, again."
posted by Bugbread at 12:49 AM on February 28, 2005


"It didn't before, and it still didn't." -> "It didn't before, and it still doesn't."
posted by Bugbread at 12:51 AM on February 28, 2005


If you wear this shirt piracy is OK.
posted by rudyfink at 12:52 AM on February 28, 2005


Sure, no worries. The opinion that the callout is worth talking about is definitely mine. As for the rest, I've been steering clear - as EB says: I have no pony in this race.
posted by scarabic at 12:54 AM on February 28, 2005


wow, AlexReynolds, you missed the sarcasm and called me a thief. people used to duel for far less in these parts.

also, thanks for putting words in my mouth. i never said i felt good about it. in fact, somewhere up there i said i felt a little dirty about it. i still don't think i'm stealing anything, and until someone bothers to try and show me that i am, i'm not going to believe otherwise. i haven't saved any of the strips in question, and i haven't tried to sell any of those strips. i've viewed a very few of them, but i've already shown that i can view them for free at ucomics as well, not to mention they're in my own library. but how does posting a link make me guilty of anything? i didn't post the content, only the link. IANAL, but as far as i know that's not a crime.

and why did you dodge my question about other infringed material? why did you only call out my post? do you have it out for me or something? did i cross you in a past life?

and bugbread i'm asking if it should or shouldn't fall under fair use for me to have digital copies of works i've already paid for printed copies of. i know you're poking fun, but what is the legal stance on this sort of thing?

and i'm still waiting for an answer from someone as to why other copyright-infringing threads are not falling under the same criticism. is there a vendetta against printed matter, or comics, or bill watterson that there isn't against mash-ups? for the love of god, someone explain this to me.
posted by Igor XA at 12:54 AM on February 28, 2005


Wow.
I don't equate copyright infringement to theft. I might blurt that out sometimes, but I know that the term is incorrect. It's just so easy to say.
I don't believe that scanning every comic into a nice bittorrent collection is fair use at all, but copyright infringement.
Fair use would be an article talking about the cartoons and using a few as examples, criticizing or reviewing the way he draws/sets up the punchline, how his stykle developed over the years, that sort of thing. Illustrating an article about cartoons in general with one of the C&H toons would not be fair use. Go ahead and correct me if I'm wrong.
But like Igor points out, is showing people that there is a link out there illegal? Really? Iffy, that one. ANy lawyers in the house?
posted by dabitch at 1:01 AM on February 28, 2005


and why did you dodge my question about other infringed material? why did you only call out my post?

I didn't ignore your question: click on this link (right here) for your answer. You might not have liked the answer or you didn't bother to read it, but you got one.

I will point out, that I asked you a simple yes-or-no question and you chose to ignore it.

Will you extend me the same courtesy and answer my question yes or no?
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:01 AM on February 28, 2005


Even considering initial ownership alone, intellectual property is property, which is something owned by someone.

The statement intellectual property is property is fallacious, and appears to be at or near the source of your confusion. As bugbread noted, the laws surrounding copyright that you linked to do not include the word theft, because theft and trespass are governed by a different set of laws, because intellectual property and property are different. A specific example of this difference in law can be seen in the fact that (willfully) possessing stolen goods is a criminal offense, whereas willfully possessing materials which infringe on copyright is not. Richard Stallman has written an informative rant that explains why the "property" in the term "intellectual property" is poor terminology.

For the record, I agree that downloading the C&H archive seems somehow immoral. Bill Watterson would most likely not have produced those works if he were not guaranteed exclusive rights to profit from them by the government. However, I do own all the C&H available to me, and as such find it odd that it would be legal for me to scan them and view them on my computer, but it could put me at legal risk to obtain exactly* the same files by downloading them. It's certainly an area in which conventional ethical values often diverge from the law.

*I am aware that the files would most likely not actually be identical, but they certainly would be for all practical purposes.
posted by j.edwards at 1:02 AM on February 28, 2005


A specific example of this difference in law can be seen in the fact that (willfully) possessing stolen goods is a criminal offense, whereas willfully possessing materials which infringe on copyright is not.

Read further up. Some copyright infringement is indeed considered a criminal offense, even if the word "is" needs to be redefined.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:05 AM on February 28, 2005


I read the thread, Alex, and moreover I am aware of (and agree with) large-scale copyright infringement being criminal. However, the fact of both actions being crimes does not equate them. They are not the same crime because they are governed by different bodies of law, with different origins and backgrounds, and incur different penalties.
posted by j.edwards at 1:10 AM on February 28, 2005


Particularly wrt DMCA, DeCSS, and Skylarov, some copyright infringements are indeed considered criminal offenses in the real world — even owning a device (software) to violate copyright, let alone using it, has been sufficient to bring charges. Just to be clear.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:12 AM on February 28, 2005


but how does posting a link make me guilty of anything? i didn't post the content, only the link. IANAL, but as far as i know that's not a crime.

This may have been overturned, but I remember that, back in 2001, in the 2600.com DeCSS case, it was ruled that linking can be a crime. The case was regarding software, not media, but I wouldn't be surprised if the precedent holds. Kaplan found the following 3 conditions to be necessary to determine that linking was criminal:

* Knows the link would take readers to a site providing illegal software.
* Knows the software is illegal.
* Creates or maintains the link with the purpose of disseminating the illegal technology.

If this were to apply to copyrighted materials, it looks like there would be sufficient evidence for the linking to be ruled illegal.

i'm asking if it should or shouldn't fall under fair use for me to have digital copies of works i've already paid for printed copies of.

Actually, I wasn't poking fun, but, as far as I know, it is legal to have digital copies of works, provided you make them yourself (once again, limiting this to US law). It's why ripping mp3s is legal but mp3 distribution sites are not. So if you ripped all the C&H yourself and then kept it locally on your computer, it'd be fair use. If you put them on a web server, it wouldn't, and if you downloaded them from someone, it wouldn't. That's why I was splitting the hair: because I do think it should be legal if you own the originals, but I also do think that it is not legal. I didn't know which you were asking, so I didn't know how to answer.
posted by Bugbread at 1:14 AM on February 28, 2005


j.edwards:

Request for clarification: "(willfully) possessing stolen goods is a criminal offense, whereas willfully possessing materials which infringe on copyright is not."

Does that mean that all possesion of stolen goods is a criminal offense? Is there a "lower boundary" (owning a piece of gum your friend stole from the store) at which point it becomes a civil offense?
posted by Bugbread at 1:17 AM on February 28, 2005


The point being that criminal vs civil litigation does nothing to imply that intellectual property does not equal property, as is shown above. Indeed, while the laws that describe them may be different, the guiding principles are, at their heart, the same: people own ideas as the equivalent of material objects, which can be considered stolen in a literal sense as described above. It is unclear what is so unclear about my explanation in this concise and direct context provided further above. I get the feeling like a few are being contrary for the sake of being contrary, frankly.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:18 AM on February 28, 2005


Apologies, big misread of my sources. Kaplan wasn't the judge, he just reported on the case. Replace "Kaplan" with "The judge".
posted by Bugbread at 1:19 AM on February 28, 2005


Igor, will you extend me the same courtesy and answer my question yes or no?
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:19 AM on February 28, 2005


the guiding principles are, at their heart, the same: people own ideas as the equivalent of material objects, which can be considered stolen in a literal sense as described above.

And I don't see this as true: If people "owned" ideas as the equivalent of material objects, copyright would not be limited. And they cannot be considered "stolen" in a literal sense, as they cannot be taken from someone, only copied without permission. I cannot "take" anyones ideas short of listening to their plans and then killing them. As long as they are alive and mentally sound, their ideas continue to remain in their possession, and a copy of their ideas in mine.

That's the big difference between theft and copyright violation.
posted by Bugbread at 1:22 AM on February 28, 2005


And they cannot be considered "stolen" in a literal sense, as they cannot be taken from someone, only copied without permission.

You can use someone else's ideas to take away his or her livelihood. Surely this is theft on some level.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:24 AM on February 28, 2005


patience is a virtue, AlexReynolds.

and wow, you answered a question with a question, despite criticising others for doing the same. an explanation would have been nice. you're so adamant about this topic that it really strikes me as odd that i'm the only one that's brought up other examples of infringement. but now i understand why. the four examples i gave predated your membership. maybe you were just waiting for the next one and my post happened to be it. still, it would have been nice if you had backed up your claim of piracy advocation with more than a single short-lived post. the posts i gave had stood up to deletion and passed. they would have been better examples upon which to ground your assertions.

and fine, i'll try to answer your question more to your satisfaction, but i'll refer to your original question. no, that's not what i'm saying (and to pick nits, since that seems to be the trend here, there were no "detailed instructions on ma[k]ing a free copy of the complete works of a creative artist...." it was a link to an archive, and that was it. and it was next to a link to another archive, the only difference being that one was sanctioned and the other was not.). what i was saying is that, wait, i just said it in the preceding paragraph:

it would have been nice if you had backed up your claim of piracy advocation with more than a single short-lived post. the posts i gave had stood up to deletion and passed. they would have been better examples upon which to ground your assertions.

and yes, those older posts are related, and not thinly, to the entire point of your call out, that there is copyright infringement going on on the front page and something must be done about it. don't assume i meant, "no one's said anything before so don't say anything now." don't assume anything.

However, I do own all the C&H available to me, and as such find it odd that it would be legal for me to scan them and view them on my computer, but it could put me at legal risk to obtain exactly* the same files by downloading them. It's certainly an area in which conventional ethical values often diverge from the law.

"even owning a device (software) to violate copyright, let alone using it, has been sufficient to bring charges. Just to be clear."

in that case, we're all in trouble.

*I am aware that the files would most likely not actually be identical, but they certainly would be for all practical purposes.
posted by j.edwards at 1:02 AM PST on February 28

thanks. you said that a lot better than i could.

and thanks, bugbread, that clears things up quite a bit for me.
posted by Igor XA at 1:24 AM on February 28, 2005


crap, i bungled some cut and paste there.
posted by Igor XA at 1:28 AM on February 28, 2005


I can use a person's disadvantages to take away his or her livelihood, too. I can use a person's reputation to take away his or her livelihood too. I can use a person's knowledge to take away his or her livelihood too. I can use a person's background to take away his or her livelihood too. Are all those theft?

And, might I ask, (and I say this with a now-cooled head), why are you so focussed on showing that these two things are equivalent?

in that case, we're all in trouble.

Hello, Igor XA, my name's Bugbread, and we're all in trouble. We have been for a few years, actually, but most people don't know.

Alex is right: possessing certain software and tools is indeed illegal, much in the way that owning lockpicks is illegal for non-certified folks.
posted by Bugbread at 1:30 AM on February 28, 2005


Why the continuing need to make this issue much more simple than it is? Theft is simpler than copyright infringement. Yes/no answers are simpler than a considered paragraph. Passion is simpler than cold consideration.

I'd love to see some of you get nailed, just to see the surprised look on your face when you're in court and you try to pull that one on a judge.

Jesus.
posted by nthdegx at 1:30 AM on February 28, 2005


and yes, those older posts are related, and not thinly, to the entire point of your call out, that there is copyright infringement going on on the front page and something must be done about it. don't assume i meant, "no one's said anything before so don't say anything now." don't assume anything.

What if I wasn't reading MeFi the day that a mash-up gets a FPP?

Does that mean I can't call you out for a post that contains instructions on downloading an artist's complete body of work — right now, here, today?

You seem to suggest that I, personally, need to monitor this site 24/7 and call out every single post that goes out of its way to break the law, for my point for starting this thread to be valid?

Is that what you are suggesting? That's the only conclusion I can make from what you're saying. Please clarify.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:32 AM on February 28, 2005


Metafilter: We're all in trouble.
posted by Igor XA at 1:32 AM on February 28, 2005


I can use a person's disadvantages to take away his or her livelihood, too. I can use a person's reputation to take away his or her livelihood too. I can use a person's knowledge to take away his or her livelihood too. I can use a person's background to take away his or her livelihood too. Are all those theft?

The law defines intellectual property in the links I provided above. Innate disparities in abilities among human beings are probably not listed as intellectual property in the books. Except for knowledge, which in some cases is protected, are these unrelated concerns germane to this discussion about intellectual property and theft?
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:34 AM on February 28, 2005


why are you so focussed on showing that these two things are equivalent?

Because the unspoken implication is (well, "was", about 100 posts ago) that, because the two are not equal (which I do not agree with) that somehow it is okay to steal.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:37 AM on February 28, 2005


I am not the only one to have pointed that out, by the way.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:38 AM on February 28, 2005


I'd love to see some of you get nailed...

Jesus.


Well, yes, that's one possibility.

And, Igor, while I'm not really calling you out, and I'm not Alex, if presented the same C&H vs. Mashup choice, I would counter that a mashup uses copyrighted materials in a new and novel way ("novel" not meaning "mashups are so novel!", but "mashups take the same materials to make something that didn't exist before"), while C&H is copyright violation as-is, and therefore less defensible.

Sure, from a legalistic standpoint, they might be the same, and they might not. But to expect anyone here to argue from a purely legalistic standpoint is kinda silly: we're here for fun, not because it's our job. So obviously emotional factors will play in, and some things might get called out faster than others. That doesn't make someone a hypocrite for not calling something out, any more than making a donation to charity makes you a hypocrite for not always giving money to charity.

Except for knowledge, which in some cases is protected, are these unrelated concerns germane to this discussion about intellectual property and theft?

Good point. My examples were bad. Perhaps a better example would be: If I took a logger's chainsaw to cut off his legs, would it be theft? It would be using his property without his permission, resulting in a loss of potential income. Personally, I don't think it would be theft (unless, of course, you kept the saw (or his legs)).

Because the unspoken implication is (well, "was", about 100 posts ago) that, because the two are not equal (which I do not agree with) that somehow it is okay to steal.

See, that's where my frustration comes from. If you're annoyed at the unspoken implication that, because they aren't equal, it's somehow OK, then I wish you had argued that, whether or not they're equal, it's not OK. I personally think that would have been more productive.
posted by Bugbread at 1:45 AM on February 28, 2005


I am not the only one to have pointed that out, by the way.

Request for clarification: Pointed what out?
posted by Bugbread at 1:46 AM on February 28, 2005


On review: "But to expect anyone here to argue from a purely legalistic standpoint is kinda silly" should probably be "But to expect anyone here to select all posts they see legal problems with for individual callouts is kinda silly"
posted by Bugbread at 1:48 AM on February 28, 2005


i never said you couldn't call me out. you did. that's why we're here. what i am saying as that one post, one short-lived post that matt may or may not have even seen yet gets used as the SOLE example of "the abject, unapologetic theft of another's creativity being advocated on the Blue." single examples tend to make for bad fpp's AND MeTa posts. back your points up with more substance, man. when you make a call out like this it makes you look rash and hotheaded, even if you have a valid point. calm down and present a more encompassing argument. you've obviously got some sort of head on your shoulders. why not make the most of the post? you only get one a week. i gave you four more examples. I DID THE WORK FOR YOU. why didn't you run with it? i'm not suggesting you eat, sleep and breathe mefi, i'm just asking you to give a little more perspective on what you deem to be a serious problem in the blue. what's wrong with that?

also, regardless of the end product, the mashups in question still used copyrighted material without consent, in the same way the calvin peeing stickers do. best to cover all your bases, isn't it?
posted by Igor XA at 1:55 AM on February 28, 2005


p.s. i'm going to bed. i'll resume this some time tomorrow, maybe.
posted by Igor XA at 1:59 AM on February 28, 2005


Alex, thanks much, yet another reason it's a good idea to check MeTa. You enabler, you!
posted by telstar at 2:07 AM on February 28, 2005


single examples tend to make for bad fpp's AND MeTa posts.

Not necessarily true. Pointing out patterns of abuse, as you suggest, make for good MeTa. But so do single instances of abuse. (I'm not saying your post is "abuse", just pointing out that MeTaing a single post does not necessarily make for a bad MeTa, and pointing out a pattern of abuse often, but not necessarily, makes for a good MeTa).

Your followup (providing additional examples) comes off in a good light the way you've presented it in the last post: If this is bad, here's some more ammunition. However, you have to admit, that's not how it came off when you first posted them ("If this is bad, then how come these other ones didn't get called out?")

And regarding the mashups: Note, I am not saying that if it were me, I would defend the mashups. I'm just saying that the mashups may not have been enough to tip my outrage scale. Think of it like this: Would you join a demonstration in front of your state government offices if it turned out the police stole someone's car, trailerhome, and all other worldly possessions? What about just their stereo? What about a CD they had on their front porch? What about a stick of gum? What about a thumbtack? They're all breaking the law, but it stands to reason that certain infractions would tick you off, and others weren't. Admittedly, in this example, it's a matter of "value". But that's just the example that comes to mind. It could be stealing sweets from a baby, versus sweets from a diabetic. Same monetary value, different issue. Regardless, that doesn't imply that you would defend the cop who stole a stick of gum. On the other hand, it doesn't imply that you have to protest every time a thumbtack or a paperclip is stolen by a cop.

In the same vein, something about this post stuck out to Alex. That doesn't mean that he has to "cover his bases" by calling out every single possible violation of IP. And it doesn't imply that because he hasn't called out other IP related posts, he can't call out this. It just implies that there's something about this post, whether it's because he likes and respects Watterson, or he works in the newspaper industry, or he was having a good day and had the energy to do a callout, or he was having a bad day and had the outrage to do a callout, or any other number of things.
posted by Bugbread at 2:15 AM on February 28, 2005


Ahhh AlexReynolds, arguing against the obvious truth and then finally pulling out the DMCA to claim that at least in one borderline-cuckoo region of the world, the assertion "copyright infringement = theft" can have at least some truth to it. But only very recently.

Thanks for wasting my bandwidth with those comments.
posted by mek at 2:18 AM on February 28, 2005


Yeah, but you're Canadian. You guys have all the cool IP laws. Here in Japan, there's not even a doctrine of "fair use", so the US looks like a miniparadise by comparison.

On the other hand, we have CD rental shops.

On the other other hand (hand #3?) video game rental is illegal here.
posted by Bugbread at 2:29 AM on February 28, 2005


Ooh, there's a fun thought - what constitutes copyright infringement in other parts of the world? Is the collection of all Wattersons toons collected without permission from the author infringement in say, Korea? Australia? France?
I've been under the impression that most IP/Copyright laws were very similar all across the planet (and that most lands have "fair use" concepts that allow people to quote from works in order to review them) but with bugbreads Japanese examples I'm not so sure any more. Any lawyers in the house?
Back on topis, so is this an OK FPP or not? I'm confused now.
posted by dabitch at 3:01 AM on February 28, 2005


Because the unspoken implication is (well, "was", about 100 posts ago) that, because the two are not equal (which I do not agree with) that somehow it is okay to steal.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:37 AM PST on February 28 [!]


The actual implication is that if this is a case of theft, then anyone who partakes in the stolen goods is a criminal. If it is a case of copyright infringement, then only the person who created the infringing work is. And in most cases, is still not technicailly a criminal, just civilly liable. Given the latter, which is obviously the case here, the denizens of MetaFilter are not going to be going to jail for this.
posted by mek at 3:07 AM on February 28, 2005


Dabitch: I should probably clarify: there are some exceptions for use in Japan, but they are not called "fair use", and are not based on the belief that there is a "fair" and "unfair" way to use copyrighted materials.

I didn't feel like wading through the original Japanese copyright law again (legal Japanese is dense), so I'm relying on Wikipedia, but here are the "exceptions" to copyright law in Japan:

* Artistic works. Artistic works located in public places can be reproduced freely by photograph, film, etc. However, the author's permission must be obtained before publicly exhibiting their work, and commercial reproductions of artistic works are not permitted without the author's permission.
* Educational use. Teachers at non-profit educational institutions are permitted to reproduce copyrighted works for the purpose of teaching, as long as such reproduction does not infringe on the interests of the author. For example, a teacher may duplicate a television program or audio recording, but may not distribute copies of educational software without express permission. Works can also be reproduced in examinations at educational institutions, but the author must be renumerated if the exam is performed for-profit.
* News. Unless a newspaper or wire service article specifically states that it cannot be reproduced, free reproduction is permitted. Normally copyrighted materials can also be reproduced to the extent necessary for reporting of current events (this extends to printed matter, film, and photographs).
* Non-profit performance. Works can be performed or exhibited freely if the performer is not renumerated and the audience is not charged an admission fee.
* Political speeches. Political speeches and government proceedings can be freely reproduced except when the intent of the reproduction is to create an anthology of the author's works.
* Publication for the blind. Braille and audio versions of printed materials may be reproduced freely for the purpose of lending, but not for commercial use.
* Quotation. Works may be quoted freely, as long as the quotation does not exceed what is justified for its purpose.
* Software. Software can be reproduced for personal use.

So, since Watterson's works are not on public display (I'm 95% sure a court of law would determine that comics.com is not a "public display". They're talking about architecture, outdoor sculpture, etc. Plus, I'm talking about what is permissible if you own the books themselves), I'm not a teacher at an educational institution, Watterson's stuff isn't news (and it's listed as "all rights reserved" anyway), I'm not performing the strips, they aren't political speeches, I'm not quoting them, and they aren't software, I can't even scan them into my own computer to look at on the computer screen, no sharing with others or profit involved.

As far as I'm aware, ripping mp3s from CDs you own is also illegal in Japan. Of course (and this just kills me, in a good way), CD rental shops rent out CDs that have, on the front, labels saying how long the first half of the CD is, how long the second half is, and what the optimal tape length is (For example: 20:13 Side 1, 22:42 Side 2, 46 Minute Tape), and then have stacks of tapes in front of the shop. That turned into stacks of MDs, and now its stacks of CD-Rs. So, while illegal, a huge blind eye is turned to much of it (consider also dojinshi, which are not protected as parody but are simply ignored).
posted by Bugbread at 3:27 AM on February 28, 2005


Ergh, small addition:
In 1992, the Compensation System for Digital Private Recording was introduced. According to this system, those who make digital sound or visual recordings for personal use should pay compensation to the copyright owners. This compensation is in advance added to the prices of specified digital recording equipment (DAT, DCC, MD, CD-R, CD-RW) and specified recording media (DVCR, D-VHS, MVDISC, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM) (Japan Copyright Office 2001, 17; ibid. 24).
Which, apparently (IANAL) makes it legal to copy mp3s onto CD-Rs, MDs, and the like, but not onto hard disk drives or media bought from outside of Japan, nor using recording equipment (CD burners, computers) purchased outside Japan (as compensation has not been paid on said media or equipment)
posted by Bugbread at 3:33 AM on February 28, 2005


The law is an ass.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:13 AM on February 28, 2005


Welcome to the AlexReynolds-bugbread-Igor XA Show!

This should have gone to email fifty posts ago.
posted by geekyguy at 5:15 AM on February 28, 2005


Is so!
Is not!
Is so!
Is not!
Is so!
Is not!
.
.
.
.
posted by caddis at 5:23 AM on February 28, 2005


I must have been reading some other thread.
posted by dabitch at 5:43 AM on February 28, 2005


You know what - it just occured to me. In this thread we are acting out First Post's strip.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:50 AM on February 28, 2005


Oh no, if we had taken the pills we would be too busy doing productive work to bother with this.
posted by caddis at 5:53 AM on February 28, 2005


This should have gone to email fifty posts ago.

Amen.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 6:44 AM on February 28, 2005


" people own ideas as the equivalent of material objects, which can be considered stolen in a literal sense as described above"

That's not correct. I can't steal an idea from you in the same way that I can steal a car from you. Ideas aren't objects.

Like many others have pointed out, if you'd just reformulate your original to talk about copyright infringement instead of stealing and theft, most of us would actually agree with you. As it is, you're incorrect with your original assumption, which is what we're pointing out. Most of us aren't even taking a stand on whether the post is good or bad or whether it's moral to infringe on someone else's work, because that's not what we're arguing.
posted by bshort at 7:00 AM on February 28, 2005


reformulate your original assertion
posted by bshort at 7:01 AM on February 28, 2005


Good Lord, it has started again. . .

It's theft!
No it's not!
It's theft!
No it's not!
It's theft!
No it's not!
It's theft!
No it's not!
It's theft!
No it's not!
.
.
.
.
posted by caddis at 7:16 AM on February 28, 2005


if you'd just reformulate your original to talk about copyright infringement instead of stealing and theft, most of us would actually agree with you.

that's funny, because others of us have the impression that by quibbling on a small semantic distinction you're avoiding the larger charge that you're doing something wrong.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2005


I can't steal an idea from you in the same way that I can steal a car from you. Ideas aren't objects.

But ideas can be considered "intellectual property" which can indeed be stolen (if not in the same way as a car can be).
posted by mlis at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2005


And what andrew cooke said.
posted by mlis at 7:29 AM on February 28, 2005


I'd say that by dragging the original MeTa poster into quibbling on a small semantic distinction, you've artfully pointed out that this callout sucks.
posted by mek at 7:30 AM on February 28, 2005


I think it's theft when someone quotes my post in italics to respond to me. Or is it copyright infringement? Discuss.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:29 AM on February 28, 2005


Copyright infringement is still not theft.
posted by NortonDC at 8:30 AM on February 28, 2005


no one's done it yet?

Metafilter: YAAAR MAITY!
posted by delmoi at 8:38 AM on February 28, 2005


It is well worth noting that there is a substatial difference between illegal and immoral.

Copyright infringement is not legally equivalent to theft. Read all the links Alex provides and you'll see that this is true. Media piracy is not called "theft" by the law.

Copyright infringement may be morally equivalent to theft. The most egregious example would be copyright infringement that wholly devastates the artist's ability to earn income from his work, perhaps by freely distributing to such an extent that exceptionally few people would subsequently bother to purchase the original work(s).

Like most moral issues, there's a whole lot of grey. If you run a personal website, it may be illegal to pirate Adobe Photoshop for your one-shot photo editing needs... but is it immoral, given that there's no way on earth you were ever going to drop $1K on purchasing the package for such a piddling one-time use? It's quite debatable; Adobe did not lose any income, but you did gain (piddling) benefits without recompense to the copyright owner. If there were a way to send Adobe five bucks for the use of their program, it'd be a whole lot easier to make an argument for the correct moral behaviour.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:54 AM on February 28, 2005


Oh, and to weigh in my opinion of the Torrent link:

The scan quality is piss-poor. Anyone who grabs the PDF is quite likely to fall into one of two categories: (a) they'd never drop a hundred bucks on a comic collection, and so the publisher/Watterson has not been deprived of a penny's profit from the piracy; (b) will be so dissatisfied by the quality of the PDF that they will subsequently go purchase the collection, and so the publisher/Watterson has not been deprived of a penny's profit from the piracy.

IOW, Watterson & the publisher are probably not harmed by the torrent at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 AM on February 28, 2005


Alright everyone, like I said above, if you can "steal" ideas*, then keep in mind these important characteristics of this "property" you're able to steal:
  • This "property" can be in an infinite number of places at the same time.
  • This "property" exists only because a comparatively new law says it does.
  • This "property" actually expires, forcing the "owner" to give it up forever, to everyone, for any reason.
Physical property does not have these weird nuances, which is why I personally can't stand to hear people compare it as if it were equal. There are important, non-trivial differences between physical property and ownership thereof, and ideas, and the creation or invention thereof.

It is not my position, though, that just because these are different things that one is free and clear to infringe on another's copyright.

Having said that, just so nobody thinks I'm "avoiding the issue," I do not think the calvin & hobbes site is morally objectionable. That is my opinion, not a fact. It is my opinion that copyright law is sometimes messy, and therefore I deal with things on a case-by-case basis. As others have said, these comics are already available from "legal" sources, and many of us already have them in dead-tree format. I second bugbread in that the convenience of having these available digitally outweighs the moral qualms I have about downloading them, rather than pulling out all my books and scanning each page, even though I could.

*which you can't, no matter how much AlexReynolds points out that the DMCA exists (irrelevant), or that he's read copyright laws (oddly supportive of everyone elses' positions, not his), or that people have been criminally charged for copyright-infringement (not theft), or that ideas are intellectual property, and since real property can be stolen, so too must intellectual property, despite the fact that there's that word, "intellectual" right before the word "property", thusly redefining it as is necessary since we have two sets of laws, one for REAL property and one for INTELLECTUAL property which are DIFFERENT concepts for the exact reason that the two SEPARATE laws wouldn't make any sense if they didn't have two DIFFERENT kinds of property to control.
posted by odinsdream at 8:57 AM on February 28, 2005


Comparatively new law? Copyright precedes the formation of the United States. Interesting definition of new.
posted by caddis at 9:04 AM on February 28, 2005


In America, treating copyright issues as matters of criminal law is very new, less than a decade old, in fact.
posted by NortonDC at 9:32 AM on February 28, 2005


In fact, odinsdream's statement doesn't change validity by removing the word "new", but it's interesting that somone goes to the effort of laying out exactly why they believe what they believe, and the best someone else can come up with is to quibble over one single word (and, in doing so, not answer any of it)...
posted by benzo8 at 9:32 AM on February 28, 2005


which you can't, no matter how much AlexReynolds points out that the DMCA exists (irrelevant), or that he's read copyright laws (oddly supportive of everyone elses' positions, not his)

Your position is now that copyrights are not property, apparently, maybe. Your ideas are unclear. Anyway, I provided links to copyright right law and a logical chain of thought which support my argument, which is that they are property, even if of a certain kind. If property can't be stolen, it would not affect livelihood, it would not be theft, and these laws would not need to exist. That an entire body of law exists around this issue is enough for my point to be made.

More importantly, and why I called this out, simply saying it isn't property, quibbling over a rhetorical device without explanation still does nothing to justify stealing. Steal if you want, but don't rationalize it away in the minutiae of defining what "is" is.

You're right about one thing: the DMCA stuff has nothing to do with property law. It was a response to bshort's ill-tempered and incorrect assertion that you can't do jail time for stealing other's work.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:41 AM on February 28, 2005


This "property" can be in an infinite number of places at the same time.

This is not relevant in any way to anything. The copies all belong to the author. Taking something that doesn't belong to you is the very definition of theft.

This "property" exists only because a comparatively new law says it does.

The property arises from its creation. Any creator owns what he creates; how can it be otherwise? What the law says about the matter is contrary to reason, but that is true about a lot of laws and should not be a shock to anyone. So we go through a legal charade in which intellectual property is not really property. That doesn't make a tail a leg.

This "property" actually expires, forcing the "owner" to give it up forever, to everyone, for any reason.

This, too, is an artifact of the law, not of intellectual property. Again, it's not the property itself that is somehow different, but the law's treatment of it. There is no moral reason why a creator's right to what he creates should ever expire as long as he lives. A case can be made that it should not exist past his death, or at least be subject to the same taxes as other properties, assuming we decide that it is moral to tax or even outright appropriate a person's property after he dies.

Intellectual property laws are basically antitrust laws of the same sort that we have for large businesses. The difference is that IP laws assume that the creator's rights will eventually harm society, and thus put a time limit on these rights rather than waiting for him to abuse his monopoly power. From this standpoint, the "regular" antitrust laws are actually quite lenient -- a corporation can hold a monopoly for hundreds, even thousands of years, and can keep it as long as it doesn't "abuse" it.

It might be interesting to contemplate a system in which one doesn't lose his copyrights unless he abuses them. "Abuse" might be defined as unreasonably restricting the use of one's work by others. Some might prefer to see courts deciding by precedent what constitutes "unreasonable" rather than having it codified in law. This would alleviate, I think, many of the current difficulties we are having with copyright. Surely it would be "reasonable" to download electronic copies of a work long out of print, or of a work one already has in some other form. And surely a PDF that cannot be printed, or a television program that cannot be recorded, would be "unreasonable."
posted by kindall at 9:43 AM on February 28, 2005


Comparatively new law? Copyright precedes the formation of the United States. Interesting definition of new.

Yeah, but for most of our history, copyright law had an extremely short expiration date. Furthermore, in contrast with Europe, American copyright law has always specifically and deliberately eschewed any sort of "moral" view of copyright. Copyright holders, in the classic American conception, get their rights because giving them those rights are in the best interest of the public domain.

What is new, then, is that since the invention of Mickey Mouse, Disney has bought itself a copyright term extension law each time Mickey was about to expire. Copyright is now effectively limitless, and nothing invented after the Mouse will ever expire (if things continue as one assumes they will). Further, copyright holders have launched a crusade to convince the American public that copyright holders have a moral right to their intellectual property, just as I have a moral right to my physical property, and that intellectual property is theft. For the vast majority of American history, this interpretation would have been laughable. Indeed, America got its start by flagrantly and deliberately defying the British copyright laws, and stealing their ideas.

So while the word "copyright" has been around for a long while, the legal content of that word has changed so drastically that we effectively have a brand new, very recent, very controversial copyright law, bought and paid for by Big Media. There's a reason why Senator Fritz Hollings is known as "the senator from Disney".
posted by gd779 at 9:43 AM on February 28, 2005


So this entire conversation has turned into a semantic debate. Which is entirely besides the real point.

Legally (in the US at least)
- copyright infringement is separate from theft.
- both are forbidden and punishable by several means up to and including imprisonment (depending on the circumstances)

Morally, there are three camps
1) people who see both as equivalently bad and wrong.
2) people who make a distinction and think that one is more wrong than the other, or that one is not bad at all.
3) people who disagree with the laws completely and think that the idea of 'ownership' is absurd or inherently wrong.

Personally, I'm not sure where I sit on the scale of the moral options. So I'm interested in the moral debate, and I'd love to see this conversation get back on that track (which I know is probably wishful thinking, but a girl can dream can't she?).

[on preview] fff put it well. "There is a substantial difference between illegal and immoral"

I believe Alex's point is that copyright infingement is both illegal and immoral. Most everyone here will agree that it is illegal, but there is disagreement over whether it is immoral. It is possible to disagree with Alex's claim that copyright infringement and theft are actually the same thing without disagreeing with his basic premise that both are wrong. Just because two things are morally equivalent (which is always debateable) does not mean they are the same.
posted by raedyn at 9:49 AM on February 28, 2005


Like most moral issues, there's a whole lot of grey. If you run a personal website, it may be illegal to pirate Adobe Photoshop for your one-shot photo editing needs... but is it immoral, given that there's no way on earth you were ever going to drop $1K on purchasing the package for such a piddling one-time use? It's quite debatable; Adobe did not lose any income, but you did gain (piddling) benefits without recompense to the copyright owner. If there were a way to send Adobe five bucks for the use of their program, it'd be a whole lot easier to make an argument for the correct moral behaviour.

Except that no one is twisting your arm to use Photoshop over, say, GIMP. Adobe isn't the only software vendor out there. Adobe did lose income; you did gain benefits, however "piddling".

Whether it is C+H scans, or software licenses, or music they like, this is a good and unsurprising display of what lengths some people will go to in justifying their behavior.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:50 AM on February 28, 2005


Adobe did lose income

How is that, exactly? If you wouldn't have bought the software anyway, and you didn't buy the software, how did Adobe lose income?
posted by gd779 at 9:52 AM on February 28, 2005


Oh good, another pissing match. Yay.
posted by dejah420 at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2005


How is that, exactly? If you wouldn't have bought the software anyway, and you didn't buy the software, how did Adobe lose income?

If you had added "If you hadn't used the software" to your equation you'd be okay. But since the software was used, it follows that Adobe did lose income.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:55 AM on February 28, 2005


since the software was used, it follows that Adobe did lose income.

Huh? After I use their software, Adobe has precisely the same amount of money they had before I used their software, and they also have precisely the same amount of money they would have had if I had chosen not to use their software. Where is the lost income? Where is the harm to Adobe?

I'm not trying to be contentious, I really don't see it. Help me out here.
posted by gd779 at 10:01 AM on February 28, 2005


After I use their software, Adobe has precisely the same amount of money they had before I used their software, and they also have precisely the same amount of money they would have had if I had chosen not to use their software. Where is the lost income? Where is the harm to Adobe?

Adobe doesn't make money selling round plastic discs with Photoshop installers on them. Anyone can do that (some Chinese do, for example).

Adobe makes money by selling user agreements — contracts — that say that software contained in the installer can be used on a certain number of machines (one, in the case of a single-user license).

By using the software without paying for it, you are "violating" the terms of this agreement with Adobe. (You had to agree with these terms when you ran their commercial software for the first time. Click-run license agreements are binding in court.)

That the installer is on a disc or grabbed over the network from Adobe or a pirater doesn't matter. The user contract is with Adobe, not with anyone else.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:10 AM on February 28, 2005


Copyright infringement is still not theft.
posted by NortonDC at 8:30 AM PST on February 28 [!]


how about now?
.
.
.
.
.
now?
posted by nequalsone at 10:13 AM on February 28, 2005


gd779 -
You're using something that they believe to be (and the law says is) theirs without their consent. I believe that is the heart of the pro-intellectual property arguement.

What if I come use your car without asking you then return it to your parking spot when I was done? I could argue that you didn't lose anything because you weren't using it then, so what harm does it do to you? Yet, I suspect your answer will be that the car is YOURS, not mine, and it's wrong for me to use it withour your permission. See the similarity?
posted by raedyn at 10:14 AM on February 28, 2005


What if I come use your car without asking you then return it to your parking spot when I was done?

In fact, the proper metaphor would be, "What if I come make a molecularly-identical copy of your car without asking you, use it to go buy stamps, then destroy my copy of it when I'm done?"

AlexReynolds, I'd really be interested in your answers to my irrelevant questions. I think they're important in a discussion on the morality of copyright in general, which is what this started out as, and would really be a much more interesting discussion than one on semantics. For instance, with the current path of legislation, we're looking at indefinite copyright terms. Is this moral? How?
posted by odinsdream at 10:20 AM on February 28, 2005


On preview: raedyn makes it clear. I wasn't understanding Alex's argument until she rephrased it.

The difference, it seems to me, is that our intuition that the car is "mine", and that you can't use it without my permission, is a result of two factors: one, if you use my physical property, I am deprived of the use of it during the time you're using it. (We can't both drive my car at the same time). Two, if you use my car, you might run it into a tree, so there is a real (if small) risk of harm. That's why we've got these ideas about what rights accrue to physical property.

If the world were perfect, and if you could borrow my car with absolutely no loss or risk of loss to me, then why would I ever deny you the right to use my car? In such a world, we probably wouldn't have property rights at all.

It's like contract law. Breaking a contract is "illegal", but the courts often don't really see it as a bad thing, because economic efficiency requires that we sometimes break contracts. Which is why, as a general rule, the person who breaks a contract does not have to pay for the benefit he or she received by breaking the contract. He or she simply has to pay for the harm caused to the other party. If the other party wasn't harmed, then you can break most contracts with perfect legal impunity. Why should software licenses be any different?
posted by gd779 at 10:25 AM on February 28, 2005


In fact, the proper metaphor would be, "What if I come make a molecularly-identical copy of your car without asking you, use it to go buy stamps, then destroy my copy of it when I'm done?"

Are you implying that the people who are copying C+H scans, Photoshop, MP3s and such are destroying the files after use?

AlexReynolds, I'd really be interested in your answers to my irrelevant questions. I think they're important in a discussion on the morality of copyright in general, which is what this started out as, and would really be a much more interesting discussion than one on semantics. For instance, with the current path of legislation, we're looking at indefinite copyright terms. Is this moral? How?

I think a rational balance of ownership and public domain concern along the lines of kindall's comment makes for a more productive discussion. I believe people should be allowed to own rights to how their creative works are disseminated and used. I also believe that creative works should go back into the public domain for use by all. I do not believe these two concerns are mutually exclusive. For what it is worth, I do not believe the actions of Disney et al. to extend copyrights indefinitely is healthy for copyright law or for society as a whole.

I'll do you one better and make your question relevant.

Since Watterson is still alive, and its only been a few years since C+H ceased publication, does he still have the right of ownership over his creative works? How many years is reasonable to you? Should we have all been given the right to decide how his work is used as soon as he stopped writing new strips?
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2005


If the other party wasn't harmed, then you can break most contracts with perfect legal impunity. Why should software licenses be any different?

Are you saying Adobe is not harmed when it does not sell the very licenses which make its livelihood (and that of its developers, staff, shareholders, etc.)?
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:40 AM on February 28, 2005


MetaTalk: This entire conversation has turned into a semantic debate.
posted by mischief at 10:42 AM on February 28, 2005


MetaTalk: It's only grey if you don't want to pay.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:44 AM on February 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


In case you missed it many, many times above, everyone agrees with you, Alex, that Watterson still owns Calvin and Hobbes. Nobody disputed his ownership of the comic strip.

As for deciding how his work is used, of course I can't decide how he uses his work, but let's say that if he decided to put his work online for anyone to see without being charged.

Oh, he already does that? Odd, that. What's your complaint, exactly? If I gave you a wget script that visited ucomics (or wherever it is that legally shows all his comics) once a minute, grabbed the comic, and saved it to your computer (which your browser already does with cache), would you complain about that?

If so, why? If not, why not?
posted by odinsdream at 10:45 AM on February 28, 2005


Adobe did lose income

There's a nice knock-down argument for you!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:46 AM on February 28, 2005


*let's say that if he decided
posted by odinsdream at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2005


Are you saying Adobe is not harmed when it does not sell the very licenses which make its livelihood (and that of its developers, staff, shareholders, etc.)?

But, again, it would not have sold those licenses to me in any event. I would have used GIMP instead. Therefore, with respect to me, Adobe has not lost sales, and it has not lost money or physical property that it would have to pay to replace. (It has also, by the way, gained a small amount of free advertising, which is why Adobe has tacitly encouraged piracy for most of its history). In those circumstances, Adobe has not been harmed in any tangible sense.
posted by gd779 at 10:49 AM on February 28, 2005


As for deciding how his work is used, of course I can't decide how he uses his work, but let's say that if he decided to put his work online for anyone to see without being charged.

Oh, he already does that? Odd, that.


Come on now, that's more than just a little different from someone bundling up the man's entire work on another site without permission, posting a link to said site to get around buying a book, and then someone else posting instructions on how to grab the entire site with one command-line entry. The differences are pretty obvious.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:57 AM on February 28, 2005


And by the way, business people are not exactly known for their philosophical speculation. If I can use their products without hurting their business, and while arguably helping it, the vast majority of business owners want me to use their products. Why do you think they give away free stuff at conventions? It's advertising.

But the world is imperfect, and if they admitted that, then the real pirates (the professionals who would have paid for a copy if they'd had to, because they use it all the time, but pirated the software instead) would have a legal argument that Adobe had abandoned its IP rights. So nobody can flat out admit that they don't care about casual piracy from people who wouldn't have been customers anyway.
posted by gd779 at 10:58 AM on February 28, 2005


Come on now, that's more than just a little different from someone bundling up the man's entire work on another site without permission, posting a link to said site to get around buying a book, and then someone else posting instructions on how to grab the entire site with one command-line entry. The differences are pretty obvious.

But ucomics already binds up the man's entire work on their site.

Are you now claiming that wget is illegal?
posted by bshort at 10:59 AM on February 28, 2005


In case you missed it many, many times above, everyone agrees with you, Alex, that Watterson still owns Calvin and Hobbes. Nobody disputed his ownership of the comic strip.

I don't agree that he still owns Calvin and Hobbes. I think that as soon as he published Calvin and Hobbes or even shared it with a single person, he ceased to own Calvin and Hobbes. What he does own or have (assuming he hasn't sold it) is a limited grant from the government that gives him some (but not total) ability to control the reproduction of Calvin and Hobbes.

In this way, somebody who reproduces the strip contrary to his wishes and the exclusive control granted to him by the government is violating his rights and is probably breaking the law. It's a violation more closely analogous to trespass though in my mind.

I don't think twice about cutting across somebody's yard even though what I'm doing is technically illegal and may even damage the person's grass in some marginal way. If the person comes out and yells at me for it, I'll think that person is a jerk (which is reciprocated I'm sure and probably neither of us cares much what the other thinks), and I may childishly go out of my way to cut across the yard just a little more than I otherwise would have. If somebody asks me nicely, I may be more disposed to listen to them. If somebody calls the cops to force me off their yard, then I guess they're in their rights, but relative to the harm they're being exceedingly silly and would be marginalized by a certain segment of the population as a result of their actions.
posted by willnot at 11:00 AM on February 28, 2005


The copies all belong to the author.

No they don't.

You buy a book, you own a book. The 'author' retains the rights to make more books with the same content. If you make more yourself, you infringe his copyright. But you can give the book to your friend without "stealing from the author"
posted by bonaldi at 11:00 AM on February 28, 2005


But, again, it would not have sold those licenses to me in any event. I would have used GIMP instead...

But to be clear, you did not choose to use GIMP, you chose to use Photoshop in violation of the contract with Adobe that you agreed upon, and Adobe did lose money: it lost the license sale as specified in the contract you agreed to. (The rest of your post is just ends-justify-the-means stuff. You may choose to ignore the contract, but that does not mean that harm was not done.)

If I can use their products without hurting their business, and while arguably helping it, the vast majority of business owners want me to use their products. Why do you think they give away free stuff at conventions? It's advertising.

Again, this rationalization has nothing to do with your original question.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:02 AM on February 28, 2005


But ucomics already binds up the man's entire work on their site.

With Watterson's tacit agreement (or likely he'd sue). As soon as we repackage his work without his agreement, we're violating his ownership rights. stfunoobs.com isn't ucomics.com.

Are you now claiming that wget is illegal?

Are you really thick as jam or do you still beat your wife?
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2005


If I buy a Calvin & Hobbes book, the book itself becomes mine. I can do whatever I want with the physical book - read it, loan it to people, use it as a coaster, test my paper shredder with it, blow my nose in it, etc. But there are limits on what I'm allowed to do with the contents of that book. If someone steals my C & H, it's a crime against me because I'm deprived of my (legal!) copy of Watterson's work, but it's kind of doing Watterson a favour, because now I'll buy a replacement copy of his work.

(On preview, bonaldi brought this up already. Great minds think alike.)
posted by raedyn at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2005


I enjoyed reading this thread, and all the interesting arguments, even though obviously some people are having a hard time believing people disagree with them.

There's a technique in philosophy that you all might find helpful, they're called Necessary and sufficient conditions. These sets of conditions allow us to define things with much greater accuracy.

A necessary condition is a condition that must be met for something to be in the class under discussion. For example, having wheels is a necessary condition for having for something to be a car. A sufficient condition means that if the condition is met, it’s sufficient to show that the item is in the class. For example, if I can prove that I’m talking about a Honda Accord, that’s sufficient to show that the item is a car. Showing a sufficient condition means that all the necessary conditions are met.

So, in order to prove something is in a class, we must show (S1 OR S2 ... OR Sn) AND (N1 AND N2 ... AND Nn).

Now, AlexReynolds, what do consider the necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be considered theft?

I believe that for a necessary condition of something being theft that the owner needs to be deprived of the thing you take. So if I take you’re car, I have it and you don’t. But if I take your content, you still have it. So that’s why I don’t believe that copyright infringement is actually theft.

The law backs me up, while the DMCA does allow for prison time, I believe that you can only go to jail for doing things like circumventing a copyright control, (like making a program like DeCSS) it does not criminalize copyright infringement specifically. And it certainly does not define copyright infringement as “theft”.
posted by delmoi at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2005


But ucomics already binds up the man's entire work on their site.



With Watterson's tacit agreement (or likely he'd sue). As soon as we repackage his work without his agreement, we're violating his ownership rights. stfunoobs.com isn't ucomics.com.


Watterson does not own the copyright to his strips, his syndicates do.
posted by delmoi at 11:09 AM on February 28, 2005


willnot, you've just admitted to having no ethics. You agree that what you're doing is "probably wrong" and yet callously do so for selfish gains. What, exactly, was the point of your story again?
posted by BlueTrain at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2005


Watterson does not own the copyright to his strips, his syndicates do.

Does he? I wonder what the agreement is, exactly, to be honest. I know that syndicators often have distribution rights but that's not the same as owning the strips outright.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:12 AM on February 28, 2005


I don't agree that he still owns Calvin and Hobbes.

Fair point, thank you for making the distinctions you did, they are important, and I shouldn't have ignored them. He owns certain rights to the work for a (theoretically) limited period of time, which, on preview, he may have sold to syndicates. My apologies, consider my post corrected per yours.

... posting a link to said site to get around buying a book ...

Now that's just entirely unsubstantiated and insulting.

The differences are pretty obvious.

I'm not going to go to the trouble to actually write the wget script, but I'd guess it would be only slightly longer than the previous one. Let's say I posted them both in this comment box.

Discounting the advertising revenue aspect, what is the difference between these two events? Both net you a full copy of the work, yet you see one as not only illegal (which I'd agree with, not personally, but by interpreting our laws), but immoral (which I would not agree with). Why? *note: it will always be illegal to distribute the set without permission. We're discussing downloading the set, not distributing it.*

Are you really thick as jam or do you still beat your wife?

Also entirely unsubstantiated and insulting.
posted by odinsdream at 11:14 AM on February 28, 2005


Are you really thick as jam or do you still beat your wife?

Ok, then how is using wget different from using a browser to access the files? Other than being quicker, that is.
posted by bshort at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2005


I didn't say it was "probably wrong" I said it was "probably illegal". My ethics tend towards the categorical imperative, and I ask myself if the world would be a better place if we were all free to cut across each others lawns, and I arrive at the conclusion that I believe that would be a better world. I ask myself if the world would be a better place where creative expression could be easily distributed and not subject to artificial scarcity and I arrive at the conclusion that I think that the world would be a better place.

So, while I may have admitted that my ethics don't match yours, I do have ethics, and I believe they are internally consistent.
posted by willnot at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2005


I believe that for a necessary condition of something being theft that the owner needs to be deprived of the thing you take. So if I take you’re car, I have it and you don’t. But if I take your content, you still have it. So that’s why I don’t believe that copyright infringement is actually theft.

Livelihood \Live"li*hood\, n. [OE. livelode, liflode, prop., course of life, life's support, maintenance, fr. AS. l[=i]f life + l[=a]d road, way, maintenance. Confused with livelihood liveliness. See Life, and Lode.] Subsistence or living, as dependent on some means of support; support of life; maintenance.

From a legal stance, I believe that taking away someone's rights to control how his or her creativity is used affects — at the very least — their livelihood, which is theft; you're taking away the ability of the artist to support him or herself.

Now, in the case of Watterson that's probably a non-issue, but from an overall moral stance, I still think it is shady and bad karma to fuck over creative people. It has also been argued by a few others that these types of links could put the admin of this site in a tight legal spot.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2005


which is theft

It's still not theft. It's copyright infringement.
posted by bshort at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2005


Ok, then how is using wget different from using a browser to access the files? Other than being quicker, that is.

Wget automates the process. In itself it is just a tool (and one, like curl, that I use for lots of purposes in the course of my work). I don't object to wget itself. I object to its use to automate stealing an entire lifetime of creative work.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2005


I'm not suggesting that I'm highly ethical by any means, but that your method of reasoning ignores societal laws in favor of individual needs, and while I believe that sometimes society is wrong, correcting the system within the system is usually my weapon of choice. Rationalizing selfish behavior with personal philosophy (consistent as it may be) is inherently detrimental to society (again, unless there was more to your beliefs than simply having them).
posted by BlueTrain at 11:23 AM on February 28, 2005


It's still not theft. It's copyright infringement.

I am so not going back to that discussion. Stealing is stealing.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2005


I continue to be impressed by the amount of blathering AlexReynolds can provoke with the simple rhetorical device of 'not knowing what words mean'.
posted by boaz at 11:25 AM on February 28, 2005


Stealing is stealing.

Well, yes, but in this case it's copyright infringement. So you should say "copyright infringement is copyright infringement."
posted by bshort at 11:25 AM on February 28, 2005


Wget automates the process. In itself it is just a tool (and one, like curl, that I use for lots of purposes in the course of my work). I don't object to wget itself. I object to its use to automate stealing an entire lifetime of creative work.

But in my example I'm just using it to browse ucomics's archive of Calvin and Hobbes quicker. I'm not infringing on anyone's copyrights any more than if I click through to each strip individually.
posted by bshort at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2005


I think the cease and desist letter must have gotten through. The site has gone 404.
posted by caddis at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2005


I continue to be impressed by the amount of blathering AlexReynolds can provoke with the simple rhetorical device of 'not knowing what words mean'.

Please enlighten us further, oh wise one.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2005


I object to its use to automate stealing an entire lifetime of creative work.

You forgot to address the point. Is it okay to target ucomics with wget in order to retrieve an entire lifetime of creative work?
posted by odinsdream at 11:28 AM on February 28, 2005


This is an aside BlueTrain, but in a thread this long it hardly matters. So, if the law of the land is in support of slavery, and somebody violates that law but helping a slave escape to the North, you believe they are immoral because they are thwarting society's laws for purposes of selfish gain?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that freeing a slave is equivalent to freeing creative expression. I'm just curious about following your arguments to their logical conclusions.
posted by willnot at 11:30 AM on February 28, 2005


Jesus people, you're still at it!
posted by c13 at 11:32 AM on February 28, 2005


I am enjoying the discussion, and have an interesting related situation I think you might enjoy chewing over. I believe in pretty strong IP protection, and do not file share/violate copyright etc.

However, I have a large vinyl collection that I have been slow to digitize for personal use. I also have access to a very private Filepile-esque webpage where I do not feel bad about archiving an MP3 for a song or two that I already own on vinyl. Things I do not own, I do not download, but I will listen to one or two times.

My real question has to do with transmutation of the media. I have the Gondry DVD of music videos and other works. This DVD has White Stripes songs on it, but I do not own any White Stripes music. I do not feel that I have a license to acquire WS tracks when I come across them, even tho I have purchased those songs in another format. I have friends who disagree. Some of those friends, playing devil's advocate, say that I am bending my own rules grabbing tracks made from CDs, and that my only fair use is to rip my own audio off the vinyl.

Is getting DVDs a broader license value than plain audio? I would not figure it in reverse.
posted by thirteen at 11:32 AM on February 28, 2005


Is it okay to target ucomics with wget in order to retrieve an entire lifetime of creative work?

Does ucomics generate ad revenue from the site from individual visitors? Does using wget to deliberately circumvent ads — now and in the future — therefore steal royalities from Watterson? If so, I would say it is pretty shady to use wget to get files from ucomics.com.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:33 AM on February 28, 2005


Does ucomics generate ad revenue from the site from individual visitors? Does using wget to deliberately circumvent ads — now and in the future — therefore steal royalities from Watterson? If so, I would say it is pretty shady to use wget to get files from ucomics.com.

But that's neither here nor there. We're talking about copyright infringement, not revenue sources. How is this any different than using a pop-up blocker or an ad blocker in your browser?

Afraid to answer the question?
posted by bshort at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2005


it lost the license sale as specified in the contract you agreed to.

If there's no potential sale available (noone will pay $1000 to use the software once) there is no loss. It's entirely like borrowing; ultimately, my friend has a tool that I need to use once. Allowing sharing of this tool means that the producer could claim that they're losing a sale when in fact I would just do without the tool if I had to buy it. There's no potential for sale here and no physical product loss.

You can't lose what you don't offer. If Adobe actually provided a license for this type of user, your argument is valid. It doesn't and because of this, Adobe will never, ever sell to this customer.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 11:40 AM on February 28, 2005


AlexReynolds, is it okay to go to the commandline, and type:

wget -r -k -w 1 ucomics_image_filename_list.txt

(syntax gods hope me)

Is it okay to visit each page manually with a piece of cardboard taped to your screen where the ads are?

What about dumping your browser's cache of image files after you've visited the pages, then putting the comics in a folder and looking at them later? Where's the line, and why?
posted by odinsdream at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2005


So, in order to prove something is in a class, we must show (S1 OR S2 ... OR Sn) AND (N1 AND N2 ... AND Nn) [where Si are sufficient and Nj necessary conditions]

No. If any of the Si hold for X, then X is in the class. If X is in the class, then all of the Nj hold. This is all you can say.
posted by gleuschk at 11:43 AM on February 28, 2005


Sort of apples and oranges. Using software without the proper license, or cutting through someone's yard, does no one any good but you. It's an inherently selfish act. If you disagreed with the law, I could understand disobeying. I could empathize. But if only you are gaining by your act, I find it to be unethical. Saving a slave benefits the slave and does little to help you personally, aside from making you feel all warm inside. Now, if you were saving the slave knowing full well that you'd be elected mayor as a result, I see an ethical dilemma.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:43 AM on February 28, 2005


But that's neither here nor there. We're talking about copyright infringement, not revenue sources. How is this any different than using a pop-up blocker or an ad blocker in your browser?

1. Watterson owns the rights to his work
2. He makes an arrangement with ucomics.com to redistribute his work on-line in exchange for per-visitor royalties
3. You grab the entire site with wget
4. You browse through his work without visiting ucomics.com
5. You are not generating ad revenues by browsing his work

Steps 4 and 5 are what are key. By browsing his work off-line, you are redefining the contract between Watterson and ucomics.com as outlined in steps 1 and 2. He doesn't get paid because you don't go to the original site. That sucks, dude.

You think you're clever, but pop-up blockers have nothing to do with this, since contractually, advertisers know that pop-ups will likely get blocked, and there is that expectation up front, which is why they cost virtually nothing. That's why you have a lot of inline advertising: it is easier for the advertiser and advertisee to get coverage and know that eyes are looking at it, even though it costs more.

Afraid to answer the question?

Nope, but I'd sure as shit fear for my life if you were my lawyer. I can imagine your competent legal skills sending me to a federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison on a traffic violation or something.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:46 AM on February 28, 2005


Steps 4 and 5 are what are key. By browsing his work off-line, you are redefining the contract between Watterson and ucomics.com as outlined in steps 1 and 2. He doesn't get paid because you don't go to the original site. That sucks, dude.

That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

How am I possibly redefining their contract? I can't redefine it, since I'm not a party to the contract and I'm not changing their agreement.

How about if I use a browser that redefines their style sheet to remove everything but the comic image itself? Is that illegal?

Oh, wait, I think I spoke too soon.

You think you're clever, but pop-up blockers have nothing to do with this, since contractually, advertisers know that pop-ups will likely get blocked, and there is that expectation up front, which is why they cost virtually nothing. That's why you have a lot of inline advertising: it is easier for the advertiser and advertisee to get coverage and know that eyes are looking at it, even though it costs more.

They "contractually know" that?

Huh?
posted by bshort at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2005


There's no potential for sale here and no physical product loss.

Adobe is not selling a physical product, they are selling intellectual product. That's why you can buy products online (download) or get a disc. It doesn't matter how you get the installer, as far as the contract is concerned. Adobe would probably use pigeons if they could. The borrowing stuff is just irrelevant to the contract you agreed to when you clicked that OK button the first time you run Photoshop. Don't take my word for it: Just read the EULA next time you "borrow" your friend's copy.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2005


They "contractually know" that?

It is expected, and reflected in the contract, that pop-ups get very, very low visibility. Don't be thick as jam.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:53 AM on February 28, 2005


So then you're arguing that copyright is redefined by agreements between authors and distributors?
posted by bshort at 11:59 AM on February 28, 2005


Is it okay to visit each page manually with a piece of cardboard taped to your screen where the ads are?

No one does this, but there are plenty of circumvention technologies for getting around ads, which have nothing to do with me. What is your point, exactly?
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:00 PM on February 28, 2005


AlexReynolds, do you know how HTTP works? Is HTTP somehow bound by contracts between groups to behave a certain way? When wget asks for a file, the webserver serves it. That's it. The webserver could deny the request, but it doesn't. Who's violating the contract now? By your technical interpretation, ucomics is in violation, since it didn't ensure that the vitally-important royalty-revenue-generating ads were actually seen by a human.

That, or we could expand on your "It is expected, and reflected in the contract, that pop-ups get very, very low visibility" theory and posit that mass-downloading is an acceptable risk to posting something online, and that they've already taken it into consideration when negotiating their ad-revenue fee schedule. Thanks ucomics! Hey, assuming stuff is fun!
posted by odinsdream at 12:02 PM on February 28, 2005


It's worth noting that parts of the world and the EU recognize an artist's moral right to the work. It's not transferable, IIRC. In this particular sense, EU copyright law is more broad than US. Of course, the fact that this is so, and that the US resists "moral rights", demonstrate that US copyright law is entrenched to further the profits of license holders, not artists.

Alex, I think a case can be made that copyright infringement is qualitatively the same as "theft", but you'd need to look deep into the concept of "theft" in order to argue this. The notion of "property" is more ambiguous than many claim. Simply affirming it's the case that copyright infringement is theft is no more persuasive than simply affirming that it's not. There's really no point in engaging in this particular argument unless all parties involved agree to set aside their assumptions and examine their definitions. If people aren't willing to do this, then Bugbread's point becomes dominant: one should just argue the ethics of infringement independent of arguing its explicit equivalance to theft.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:03 PM on February 28, 2005


Is it okay to target ucomics with wget...?

You won't find an answer to this question in the copyright laws. Instead, the question is more properly: Does ucomics prohibit the automated retrieval of content in its terms of service? If the terms of service are binding and prohibit such activity, then use of wget is a breach of the contract between ucomics and its viewers. If, on the other hand, either the terms of service are not binding and/or automtic retrieval is not prohibited by those terms, then there is no breach.

Copyright law enters the equation only when the ucomics viewer decides to do something with the local copy obtained from ucomics. If the viewer republishes the content, it would likely be both a violation of the limited license agreement between ucomics and its viewers, as well as the copyright law. The revenue arrangement doesn't have anything to do with what a viewer can and cannot do with the content unless those provisions are incorporated in some way into binding terms of service.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:03 PM on February 28, 2005


So then you're arguing that copyright is redefined by agreements between authors and distributors?

Parties own copyrights. Parties often sell or lease ("license") copyright ownership. Nothing is being "redefined."
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:03 PM on February 28, 2005


AlexReynolds, do you know how HTTP works? Is HTTP somehow bound by contracts between groups to behave a certain way? When wget asks for a file, the webserver serves it. That's it. The webserver could deny the request, but it doesn't. Who's violating the contract now? By your technical interpretation, ucomics is in violation, since it didn't ensure that the vitally-important royalty-revenue-generating ads were actually seen by a human.

Which is what logging is for, dear. Ad revenue is determined by log audits. ;) Wget is just another client, as far as ucomics' web server is concerned.

What you do with that download after you've used wget is another matter altogether, since the purpose of using wget (in this discussion) is not to browse ucomics' site as would be done with most web clients, but to store an image of the site off-line, and explicitly use the contents downloaded off-line.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2005


Nothing is being "redefined."

You're the one that brought up the whole redefinition thing.

By browsing his work off-line, you are redefining the contract between Watterson and ucomics.com as outlined in steps 1 and 2.
posted by bshort at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2005


What you do with that download after you've used wget is another matter altogether, since the purpose of using wget (in this discussion) is not to browse ucomics' site as would be done with most web clients, but to store an image of the site off-line, and explicitly use the contents downloaded off-line.

By this point I'm guessing that you just enjoy being wrong, or playing the devil's advocate, or something.

I use wget to browse a site offline, when I don't have a network connection. How is that any different from visiting the site with a live connection?
posted by bshort at 12:13 PM on February 28, 2005


Alex, your view seems to be that once I've agreed to the terms of a license, then by gum I should stick to it. It doesn't matter whether the license owner really minds what I'm doing, and it doesn't matter whether or on there's tangible harm to anybody, the point is that I have a moral obligation to stick to the terms of the agreement. Am I understanding you right?
posted by gd779 at 12:15 PM on February 28, 2005


it doesn't matter whether or on there's tangible harm to anybody

that should be "whether or not", naturally.
posted by gd779 at 12:15 PM on February 28, 2005


AlexReynolds: Maybe you should take a philosophy class or two. Your arguments all pretty much boil down to "I'm right!" and a bunch of scurrilous 'evidence' that doesn’t back you up.

You obviously have strong feelings about intellectual property, but that’s all you have, strong feelings. What you do not have is any kind of logical backing for those feelings. If you want to rant and rave, more power too you, but you’re not convincing anyone... What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
posted by delmoi at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2005


Which is what logging is for, dear. Ad revenue is determined by log audits.

This is not relevant. Stay focused.
posted by odinsdream at 12:18 PM on February 28, 2005


Don't take my word for it: Just read the EULA next time you "borrow" your friend's copy.

If we're to stick with the rigidity of the EULA single-user agreement, if I inadvertantly launch Photoshop on my mother's computer when trying to click on another icon, I've broken the agreement. I'm not an authorized, licensed user. Have I stolen?

The borrowing stuff is just irrelevant to the contract you agreed to when you clicked that OK button the first time you run Photoshop.

It's not irrelevant because you're arguing that there is some loss of revenue involved and in both cases, the same argument can be made. Instead of purchasing the item, you found another means to get it.

Stealing involves an item being taken from the producer and therefore the product can no longer generate revenue for the producer. Copyright infringment does not involve a product being unable to be sold. That's the difference.

The ethical dilemna involved in stealing is not the gain of the theif but the loss of the victim.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 12:18 PM on February 28, 2005


By the way, there's a new FPP with possibly-copyright-infringing material available at the links. Will someone please think of the shareholders?!
posted by odinsdream at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2005


Alex, your view seems to be that once I've agreed to the terms of a license, then by gum I should stick to it. It doesn't matter whether the license owner really minds what I'm doing, and it doesn't matter whether or on there's tangible harm to anybody, the point is that I have a moral obligation to stick to the terms of the agreement. Am I understanding you right?

When you clicked OK the first time you ran Photoshop on your machine, you agreed to pay Adobe for the right to run that software on your machine. It is as simple as that. You'd need to sort out the morality of it on your own.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:21 PM on February 28, 2005


I use wget to browse a site offline, when I don't have a network connection. How is that any different from visiting the site with a live connection?

Irrelevant. Stay on topic. Nobody's attacking wget.(!)
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:24 PM on February 28, 2005


When you clicked OK the first time you ran Photoshop on your machine, you agreed to pay Adobe for the right to run that software on your machine. It is as simple as that. You'd need to sort out the morality of it on your own.

I'm glad I'm starting to understand you! But your last sentence confused me. As far as I can see, there are only two types of obligations: legal and moral. Based on your last sentence, you don't seem to be making a purely moral claim. That just leaves legal arguments.

If your argument is simply that if I break a lincense agreement I might get hit with a fine, that's pretty obvious. So it seems that you're saying more than that. Maybe your fundamental point is that we have a moral obligation to obey the law just because it is the law? And since the license agreement is a part of the law, we have an obligation to adhere to it, regardless of policy or private moral considerations. Is that what you're really trying to say here?
posted by gd779 at 12:29 PM on February 28, 2005


Irrelevant. Stay on topic. Nobody's attacking wget.(!)

You were.
posted by bshort at 12:29 PM on February 28, 2005


*steals Alex's keyboard*

Is Calvin & Hobbes really worth fighting over? Right now, millions of people are stealing/making copies/whatever of all sorts of media, thru a variety of means. I can save this very MeTa page to my desktop and i've violated all of our copyrights, by not asking permission first.
posted by amberglow at 12:32 PM on February 28, 2005


You obviously have strong feelings about intellectual property, but that’s all you have, strong feelings. What you do not have is any kind of logical backing for those feelings. If you want to rant and rave, more power too you, but you’re not convincing anyone...

Disagreement with me doesn't make you correct, and since I'm the only one of us both, delmoi, that's been adding links and discussion, you're in a poor position to say what's logical or otherwise. If you really just wanted to throw insults at me, go ahead, but don't pretend you're adding to the thread.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:32 PM on February 28, 2005


Nobody's attacking wget.(!) You were.

Here's what I said in the second link you provided, bshort:

"Wget automates the process. In itself it is just a tool (and one, like curl, that I use for lots of purposes in the course of my work). I don't object to wget itself. I object to its use to automate stealing an entire lifetime of creative work."

Thanks for wasting my time with distractions. Have fun. Watch out for those nasty civil suits.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:38 PM on February 28, 2005


Alex, you have perfectly cromulent arguments.

Now if only you knew what the fuck you were talking about. Jesus, you're thick as jam.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:38 PM on February 28, 2005


Is Calvin & Hobbes really worth fighting over?

People will keep on stealing, but I just thought being brazen about it was a little slimy.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:42 PM on February 28, 2005


Jesus, you're thick as jam.

My lawyer and your lawyer will be chatting soon. ;)
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:43 PM on February 28, 2005


Alex,
Speaking as a moderate here (I kind of agree with you, I kind of don't - I can see both sides etc) you have made your point.

66 times (almost 25% of the thread).

We get it. Enough! Stop!

on preview: 67 times. By the time i hit post, most likely 68, and by the time you respond to this, 72. Step away man. You're only hurting yourself.
posted by Quartermass at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2005


People will keep on stealing, but I just thought being brazen about it was a little slimy.

It's still not "stealing." It's copyright infringement.
posted by bshort at 12:45 PM on February 28, 2005


Wow, this might be a first. AR has commented so many times in one thread that he's shown up a bug in the user comment history feature. (If you can't spot the bug, write me and I'll explain it. I can't be arsed at the moment.) Alex, might one suggest that if you can't communicate your beliefs in sixty or seventy comments you might want to, like, give up?

Personally I think copyright infringement for redistribution is immoral, most of the time. Copyright infringement for personal use is immoral some of the time. Details of when and why for each to anyone who cares. As to what's illegal or not -- does it matter? The law is whatever the content corporations and their paid flacks in supposedly public office decide it is. Obedience to the law is a matter of moral preference and self preservation. Respect for the law qua law isn't intrinsically a virtue if the law is for sale, which it most certainly is.

So what was the question again?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:46 PM on February 28, 2005


It's still not "stealing." It's copyright infringement.

Aren't you the same dope who said you can't go to prison for stealing people's intellectual property?
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:48 PM on February 28, 2005


I recently started playing poker again and a term that I haven't used in a long time comes to mind regarding AlexReynolds' behavior:

pot committed

He's sunk so much energy, so much effort, so much time into this thread (and the flame-out one as well) that he feels like he needs to fight til the end.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:51 PM on February 28, 2005


I said nothing of the sort. I posted a link to this and quoted part of that page.

Are you even able to have a discussion without calling people names?
posted by bshort at 12:51 PM on February 28, 2005


Alex, might one suggest that if you can't communicate your beliefs in sixty or seventy comments you might want to, like, give up?

See, the problem is that you get people writing that you're not "answering the question" either way, if you're responding to everyone, or you only respond to a few people. Taking the time to respond to people is a lose-lose situation either way.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:51 PM on February 28, 2005


Taking the time to respond to people is a lose-lose situation either way.

And in this case you are coming out the clear loser. You can't win every battle.
posted by Quartermass at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2005


I suggest Matt implement a script that automatically closes Metatalk threads whenever AlexReynolds posts 50 times in one.

Actually, it's more like begging and crying, plus entertaining a variety of hostage-taking scenarios.
posted by furiousthought at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2005


You can't win every battle.

Okay, fine. /shrugs
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:56 PM on February 28, 2005


I suggest Matt implement a script that automatically closes Metatalk threads whenever AlexReynolds posts 50 times in one.

Bah. That's just unfairly singling out one user. Plenty of times various users have felt the need to go on about something they feel passionately about.
posted by raedyn at 1:18 PM on February 28, 2005


Yes, but can you recall an instance where a user who is so clearly wrong by the terms defined in the very links he uses to "support" his argument has go on and on like this?

Copyright infringement is in no legal sense of the word "theft". This is clear to anyone who reads the actual legal definitions.

Copyright infringement may in moral terms be considered "theft". But do note that these definition has no legal backing.

Theft is theft. Copyright infringement is copyright infringement. The morality of either is debatable; the legal definitions are not.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:27 PM on February 28, 2005


>>It's still not "stealing." It's copyright infringement.
>
>Aren't you the same dope who said you can't go to prison
>for stealing people's intellectual property?

If so, then he was right, because you can't steal intellectual property, only infringe on the right.

Like you've already been told and shown, theft is theft, copyright infringement is copyright infringement, and copyright infringment is not theft.

Still.
posted by NortonDC at 1:38 PM on February 28, 2005


Theft is theft. Copyright infringement is copyright infringement. The morality of either is debatable; the legal definitions are not.
I completely agree with you here, fff. That's the point I was trying to make in my first post to this thread.

However, I still don't think it's fair to say that anytime user X posts a certain number of times the thread should be closed! Alex is certainly not the first to strenuously argue a point, nor will he be the last. In your 3+ years as an active member, you certainly have witnessed many instances of members sticking to their convictions to the point of absolute absurdity. It seems to me that this is a defining feature of nearly all of MeFi's prominent personalities. I have an issue with the proposal to single out any particular user for this behaviour.
posted by raedyn at 1:49 PM on February 28, 2005


I have to admit I'm vaguely disappointed; I really thought Alex was going to stick around for the whole thousand comment, deleted, never-to-be-spoken-of-again blowout .... again.
posted by boaz at 1:55 PM on February 28, 2005


I believe Alex's point is that copyright infingement is both illegal and immoral. Most everyone here will agree that it is illegal, but there is disagreement over whether it is immoral.

I totally agree with this summary. I think that the real bitchfest here has been sustained by those struggling to imply that it's less immoral because it's not quite as illegal.
posted by scarabic at 1:57 PM on February 28, 2005


« Older Pre-emptive congratulations- o...  |  The [more inside] tag doesn't ... Newer »

This thread is closed to new comments.

Post