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Editorial Your Rights Online

The Crime of Sharing 328

Posted by michael
from the greed-kills dept.
John Perry Barlow has an editorial piece on recent developments in law and file-sharing networks. Most slashdot readers have read this sort of thing before, but sometimes it's nice to see how different people approach the same sort of persuasive argument, to bolster your own persuasive ability.
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The Crime of Sharing

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:02AM (#3006023)
    It's quite a stretch to equate the *voluntary* dissemination of HTTP, TCP, and other widely used technologies by their creators, with the *involuntary* sharing (theft) of the property of authors and musicians.

    The sad part is that my kids are growing up in a time where the message is that it's ok to steal what you don't want to pay for, if you feel the price is too high.
  • maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tony_gardner (533494) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:04AM (#3006033) Homepage
    "That's why I'm stunned that so many kinds of sharing have suddenly, without public debate, become criminal acts. For instance, lending a book to a friend is still all right, but letting him read the same book electronically is now a theft."

    This kind of statement has always stunned me. The division between lending and copying is pretty clear. If I lend something, then I don't have it any more. The value of the object is preserved (or nearly). If I print copies of my favourite books, and give them to my friends, then I still have a copy, and the value of the object is divided by (some fraction of) the copies made. The justification of Napster is that people go out and buy more music because of it. Even assuming that's true, will it be true in 10 years? 50 years?

    If you can't afford a car, because of collusion and price fixing, is it OK to steal a car from the dealer? Not liking price fixing is obvious. Not stealing is also obvious. I'm clear that when I copy music, I am doing something that is both legally and _morally_ wrong.
  • Other sharing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sql*kitten (1359) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:06AM (#3006043)
    Well, let's say you have a train ticket, good for unlimited travel for a day on the London Underground. You finish with it, but it is still valid for several hours, is it stealing or sharing if you give it away to someone? If you sell it to someone? If you enter it into a turnstile and you and a friend squeeze through? If you buy a ticket most days, but not today, and climb over the turnstile?

    These are all things to consider, because contrary to the article, the act of "sharing" is subjective, and not inherently good.
  • Re:Other sharing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by doctor_oktagon (157579) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:13AM (#3006060)
    If you enter it into a turnstile and you and a friend squeeze through? If you buy a ticket most days, but not today, and climb over the turnstile?

    Giving your day ticket to someone else once you have finished is re-selling a service you have bought a right to, which may be prohibited, but does not lose the company any more money, as you were entitled to use it anyway.

    Jumping the barrier or squeezing two through is a theft of their service, as you have avoided paying!

    Anyway: I always give my ticket to one of the homeless, if they manage to flog it for a quid good on them!
  • by squaretorus (459130) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:17AM (#3006066) Homepage Journal
    It seems to be a religious debate at this point

    Most worthwhile debates do take on a life similar to religious debates. People have a fundamental feel for what is right and wrong - and no matter what evidence is put forward they don't, on the whole, change their minds.

    Thats why a debate is required, because if you say to most people - will we ban people squashing their dog under their car for fun on a friday night - most will say 'of course' but a few will say 'hell no! thats all I have left since you banned squirrel baiting'.

    Ask about sharing music and you get a 50:50 split of people who think its great, and people who think its a first step twards lawless anarchy!
  • by OpenSourced (323149) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:18AM (#3006072) Journal
    Why isn't the public making a fuss?


    Because nobody has ever prosecuted a private-sharer. There is no practical difficulty in sharing. Only companies that seem to profit from the sharing are harassed. That's why the public isn't making a fuss, because nobody is treading on their toes. Not too much, at least.

  • Re:Other sharing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sql*kitten (1359) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:19AM (#3006074)
    Giving your day ticket to someone else once you have finished is re-selling a service you have bought a right to, which may be prohibited, but does not lose the company any more money, as you were entitled to use it anyway.

    Well, it does mean that LU sold one ticket where they expected to sell two. It's not like using a copied piece of software, in which case many people possessing an illegal copy wouldn't have bought the original anyway - the second traveller would have otherwise bought a ticket.

    Jumping the barrier or squeezing two through is a theft of their service, as you have avoided paying!

    Indeed, this is (from the point of LU) identical to giving a ticket away.
  • Devil's Advocate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Oink.NET (551861) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:24AM (#3006086) Homepage
    The fact that the Internet makes it possible for individuals to distribute their intellectual creations directly to consumers terrifies the old industrial intermediaries. At the same time, the Internet gives intermediaries the potential to extract a fee from every single repetition of an expression.

    The opposites are true too: the Internet makes it possible for individuals to distribute other non-consenting individuals' creations directly to "consumers" (the most prevalent use of Napster). At the same time, the Internet could cause intermediaries to lose the ability to extract a fee from every single piece of content they used to sell (the death of the media giants).

    Until someone can create a system that accurately models the way "real life" ownership works, we will have these kinds of "reality disconnect" problems, where you can loan a book to a friend, as long as it's not an e-book.

    People take for granted the way physical ownership works, with all its limitations, and the unspoken rules of ownership that go along with it. When you transition to a wide-open medium like the internet that takes away the physical limitations but leaves the old rules of ownership unmodified, the old rules become insufficient. Big media is scrambling to come up with a way to re-implement the old physical limitations of ownership in this new medium, but the results are pretty weak. So in the meantime, it's legislate legislate legislate! However even that is harder to enforce in this new medium than it was in the old.

    This is a very thorny problem, and I don't think it's going away any time soon.

  • Re:maybe... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pentagram (40862) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:27AM (#3006096) Homepage
    Your logic is internally inconsistent. You start off making a good point, that of the division between copying and transferring property and then create a stupid analogy about stealing a car to illustrate why copying is wrong!

    I'm clear that when I copy music, I am doing something that is both legally and _morally_ wrong.
    It's not clear to me. If I wasn't going to buy the music anyway, then no one loses anything by me having a copy. Not getting a copy under those circumstances, i.e. no one is hurt by my actions and I (mildly) feel like listening to a song seems logically ludicrous to me.

    Regardless, it's only going to become easier for me to get copies of music anonymously and freely so I don't need to even consider your opinion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:30AM (#3006102)
    No, the sad part is your children are growing up in a time when people think that knowledge can be "owned". If pythagoras were alive today and had patented "x^2 + y^2 = z^2 where would we be? If someone wants to make money off of "intellectual works", let them become a teacher.
  • Re:maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrFredBloggs (529276) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:48AM (#3006145) Homepage
    >I'm clear that when I copy music, I am doing something that is both legally and _morally_ wrong.

    I just made a compilation cd of classical music for a friend. She wont have heard most of it before. When she gets it, she may well discover she likes some of it, and may buy some cds - Bachs `Art of Fugue` for example. I promise you there is practically no chance she`ll ever buy that until she hears my cd - why should she? Where will she here it being played? National radio?

    One new person gets to hear Bach. One new person may buy a bach cd, or 2 or 3. Remind me why that is immoral again.
  • Re:maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:49AM (#3006146)
    The division between lending and copying is pretty clear.

    With physical objects it is, yes.

    Many years before electronic computers were invented George Bernard Shaw observed :

    If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

    Thus demonstrating a basic difference between sharing physical and non-physical things. They are different. It is pointless making comparisons.

    Before recorded media was invented, if you wanted to share a song, you would sing it so that others could learn it. Similarly with stories. Then we developed ways to make these entertainments into physical objects. This cost effort/money, but allowed these entertainments to be brought and sold, and their distribution could be controlled and limited. We have now invented technology which means that they can be shared in a non-physical way again, digitally via networks, and copied at virtually zero cost.

    We have a choice now. We can deliberately create mechanism and laws to limit the copying and distribution of digital files, or we can choose not to. The debate should be "What is the most civilized thing to do? What would be best for mankind?" Unfortunately these days global lawmaking is heavily influenced by America, and America has been corrupted by corporate power arising from a basic selfishness in the modern America value system. This means that civilized debate about this very important issue is not occuring.

    It wasn't always this way. There used to be things called vision, ideals, morals, justice and great men who fought for them. America was founded by great men. Today it is run by corrupt, small-minded intellectual dwarfs.

    Time for a change.

  • Re:maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shiny Metal S. (544229) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:10AM (#3006195) Homepage
    If you can't afford a car, because of collusion and price fixing, is it OK to steal a car from the dealer? Not liking price fixing is obvious. Not stealing is also obvious. I'm clear that when I copy music, I am doing something that is both legally and _morally_ wrong.
    Remember that when you steal a car, the dealer loses one car. When you copy a book, the publisher doesn't lose a book, the effect is that he doesn't get a potential payment.

    It's a very subtle, but extremely important difference.

  • by pubjames (468013) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:14AM (#3006207)
    The sad part is that my kids are growing up in a time where the message is that it's ok to steal what you don't want to pay for, if you feel the price is too high.

    I assume that you are referring to software and music here. Why might your children think this way?

    There is a fudamental difference between stealing, say, someone's TV, and downloading music from the Internet. In the first case, the owner no longer has a TV. The original owner loses something, you gain something. In the second case, the original owner (the artist) does not lose anything, but you gain something. Let's make this clear - when you download music from the internet, the artist does not lose anything. They don't gain anything either, but absence of gain is not a loss, a basic point that often confuses people debating this issue. You have not taken anything from the artist, nor have you given them anything.

    So don't confuse your kids "stealing" music or software off the net with them shoplifting or pickpocketing. They are completely different. Your kids understand this difference, which is why they don't feel bad about doing it, and they are right to feel like that because from a moral viewpoint what they are doing is an extremely petty "sin" (for want of a better word - I'm not talking in a religious sense).

    Your kids probably have sound moral judgement. Most kids do. Don't corrupt them with your own confused ideas about right and wrong.

  • by xyronix (254256) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:16AM (#3006213)
    The funny thing about copying is you can't predict the loss in sales. Who knows if the person would have bought that item if they couldn't get it for free!
    Who wants to buy a whole album just because they like one song that's played on the radio 10 times a day. Or the Music is just not available on CD. ( I know I'm clouding the issue by making a specific example, but this is the only reason I have downloaded songs)
  • Re:maybe... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Little Dave (196090) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:27AM (#3006246) Homepage
    If I wasn't going to buy the music anyway, then no one loses anything by me having a copy.

    If you weren't going to buy a copy, why would you *want* a copy?

    Seems to me you can justify your theft by simply saying that you weren't going to buy it anyway, so its fine and noone loses out.
  • Re:maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheFrood (163934) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:33AM (#3006261) Homepage Journal
    I agree with everything you say up to this point:

    It wasn't always this way. There used to be things called vision, ideals, morals, justice and great men who fought for them. America was founded by great men. Today it is run by corrupt, small-minded intellectual dwarfs.

    Even a casual reading of U.S. History is enough to show that the United States has always been run by the folks with money and power. The railroad tycoons and oil barons of the 19th Century regularly enlisted government authority to break strikes and get good deals on land purchases. Even the Founding Fathers were mostly wealthy men, and one of their main motivations for seceding from Britain was creating a government closer to home and therefore easier to control. (At the time of the Revolutionary War, George Washington was the richest man in America.)

    I'm not bringing this up to say "Well, things have always been this way, so we shouldn't bother trying to change them." Rather, I'm trying to point out that all the good things that were accomplished in the past were accomplished in spite of the greed and corruption at those times. Corruption has been beaten before, and we can do it again.

    TheFrood

  • by Catiline (186878) <akrumbach@gmail.com> on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:41AM (#3006281) Homepage Journal
    We carry little metal disks and (mostly) green pieces of paper around. They don't have a whole lot of intrinsic value, but because they embody the concept "legal tender" we assign them a greater value depending on how they look. They are not the only way one can spend or transfer "money" as shown by EFTs and other such digital flows where nothing physical moves around, except bits in a computer get changed. These transfers are much harder for a criminal to intercept and modify than the practice of train transfer of gold or currencies was.

    Likewise, the "original" medium for movies and music (video film reels and wax records, respectively) also had a physical/intellectual link where the value was the information and not the medium. If the RIAA and MPAA choose to keep themselves chained to the thought that the product they sell is physical (a CD, cassette, VHS tape or DVD) and not the information within, they will find themselves drowned in the swelling tide of digital transfers. And no legislation or fancy technology will be able to save them-- except to embrace the new model of business.
  • by dachshund (300733) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:44AM (#3006290)
    Big media is scrambling to come up with a way to re-implement the old physical limitations of ownership in this new medium, but the results are pretty weak. So in the meantime, it's legislate legislate legislate!

    Problem is, it's no small coincidence that much of this legislation also significantly increases the media companies' potential profit. Even basic notions like the lending library go out the window under these new laws. People are either going to accept the new world order or they're going to infringe like crazy... and I'm not sure I blame them.

  • Re:maybe... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pentagram (40862) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:49AM (#3006310) Homepage
    If you weren't going to buy a copy, why would you *want* a copy?


    That's not even an argument. There are lots of things that I want but that I don't need enough to bother buying (certainly at the price they try to charge.)

    But there are other reasons why I might not be willing to pay for a copy - such as I might find the behaviour of the publisher or artist unethical, so I would not give them money whether I could have the music free or not. Or I might feel urged (I don't BTW) to keep up with popular culture which they constructed themselves with their advertising campaigns by listening to their music.

    Seems to me you can justify your theft by simply saying that you weren't going to buy it anyway, so its fine and noone loses out.

    Remove 'theft' from that statement and that seems reasonable - it's not theft simply because *you* say so. Anyway, my other point was that I don't need to justify my copying music.
  • One step at a time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonr (1130) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:56AM (#3006333) Homepage Journal
    "I read this great story about an old fisherman, written by some Ernest dude, do you want to hear it?"
    "Sure I do, but I don't have time now, could you type it up for me so I can read it later?"
    "No problem, just get me a typewriter, or I could dictate it to a tape for you"
    "That would be so cool, then I could listen to it when I go to Europe next week"
    "Actually I have it here on my computer, I could burn it to a CDROM for you"
    "Dang, my CD drive is kaput, could you give it to me later"
    "Well, I could put it on my webpage for you, then you can read it anytime"
    "Wow, that would be fantastic! Thanks, you are a real friend"
    ...
    Now, tell me where does 'fair use' end and 'copyright infringing' start?
  • by fajoli (181454) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:04AM (#3006360)
    Publishers are just another communication channel. Before the internet, the only effective way to distribute large amounts of information was to stamp it on physical media and move it to the buyer. Back in college, a classmate calculated the effective bandwidth of a semi-truck delivering a truckload of books.

    As with other communication channels, consumers pay for the information delivery service. No more, no less.

    If you believe in market economics, the widespread communications capacity glut is going to depress the prices on all communication channels. Further, this is probably only the second time in human history that this has happened. As with the first time -- the invention of the printing press, it will take some time for prices to settle to an acceptable level for the public and the companies trying to serve them.

    One might ask what am I getting at after all this babbling. Basically, as with the printing press, when enough content is created to fully utilize the communication capacity available prices should start to stabilize for all involved. A proactive measure of the publishers would be to increase the amount of content in their products to the point where the communications capacity is fully utilized.

    For example, if CD's contained not only the 10 songs of so so material, but also maybe twenty or thirty hours of recording studio material/concerts. Many fans might not want just the 10 songs. To get the full CD, many might not be willing to upgrade to T1 lines just to get it.

    Interesting artists with many interpretations of their songs might actually have a fighting chance in this scenario vs. one-hit wonders of the day. I think I would be more interested in what Sting really thinks about his songs or other approaches that he considered but couldn't get to work.

    In a world of gigabyte/sec communications, giving the consumer less than 1 second of information for $20 seems pretty paltry.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:36AM (#3006489) Homepage Journal
    However, if that person who downloads music for free would have bought the CD had it not been available for download, then yes, the artist has lost something.

    I don't like the infringement of fair use rights that the media companies are trying to force on us. However, I realize that unless people look at this as a moral issue and stop giving away someone else's work, the media corporations will do whatever it takes to prevent theft.

    Theft is not copying music that you already own. If you ripped it from a CD, chances are good that the artist was compensated. You may not like the terms that the artist gets, but then again, you're not the artist, and you didn't sign the contract. The "moral" highground of not paying for CD's because you don't like the way companies rip off artists is not moral at all; in fact, you're contributing to the devaluation of the artists' career by refusing to pay for the music at all.

    Theft is taking something that's not yours. Now the analogy about ideas does not apply here - an idea is something ethereal, spontaneous, and without significant form. Transforming that idea into music, movies, source code, or a book is work, and herein lies the crucial difference. Sure, I cannot own an idea - as soon as I divulge it to another, we both share the idea. However, you can reproduce that idea with no more effort than it takes to think. Reproducing music, or a book, is a little more difficult. I can't possibly remember all of the ideas represented in a book, so thus, I need a copy of the book as a reference when I forget. Same thing with music - I may learn a song, but I will never be able to sing as well as the original artist. This is what we pay for, folks. It is the effort that another went through to produce the music, the movie, the source code, or the book. It is not the idea .

    Granted, in electronic form, the work can be reproduced for almost zero cost. However, this fact doesn't put food on the table for the artist or author. If you believe that you should be able to enjoy someone else's work without justly compensating them for it, then you are a thief. It is the right of the producer, not the consumer, to set price. If the artist or author wants to give away his work, that's their right. It is also their right to charge for their work. As a user of the Internet, you have a responsibility not to abuse the system; treat the work of others with the same respect you would expect yourself.

  • Re:maybe... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blibbleblobble (526872) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:36AM (#3006897)
    If you're curious about a new musical style, you can download a few songs to see if you like it, and which bands are best. Then you can buy the CD to save yourself weeks of download time on a modem.

    Alternatively, you could pay £15 each for all the CDs that you *might* like, and accept the loss on the ones which are no good.

    Which would you prefer?
    Which would the CD shop prefer?

  • by Furd (178066) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:07AM (#3007273) Homepage
    Transforming that idea into music, movies, source code, or a book is work, and herein lies the crucial difference. Sure, I cannot own an idea - as soon as I divulge it to another, we both share the idea. However, you can reproduce that idea with no more effort than it takes to think. Reproducing music, or a book, is a little more difficult. I can't possibly remember all of the ideas represented in a book, so thus, I need a copy of the book as a reference when I forget. Same thing with music - I may learn a song, but I will never be able to sing as well as the original artist. This is what we pay for, folks. It is the effort that another went through to produce the music, the movie, the source code, or the book. It is not the idea

    There are a couple things here that need challenging:

    1. Copyright does NOT cover ideas; they are explicitly not protected. What is protected is expression. Legal interpretation has led to the construction that a mechanical reproduction is expression, hence phonorecordings are protected under copyright
    2. You argue that what we are paying for is the effort that it took to transform an idea into music. If so, then where is the market for this? Why aren't there different prices for garage band puke and what the Cleveland Symphony records? And, given that the bulk of the monies go to the people who produce the physical CD object (who, BTW, is NOT the artist), why should we reward them so magnificently for their ability to push a $0.50 piece of plastic for $19.95?
    3. In fact, given that the bulk of the money goes to the makers of CDs, why shouldn't I be allowed to use technologies that reduce the cost of making a CD? Doesn't the fact that the CD can be made cheaply and on demand result in a MORE EFFICIENT production system?
    4. You indicate that you need to have a copy of a book because you can't possibly remember all the ideas in the book, and then you argue that's the same as the fact that you will never perform a song in the same fashion as the artist. You are conflating ideas and expression, again. They are different

    In the end, this all comes down to the fact that we have allowed ourselves to conflate copyright with natural property rights. They are NOT the same, nor were they ever meant to be. Copyright requires an explicit tradeoff between access and ownership. Think about it: if I really want to protect my idea, I should never tell it to anyone!! If I want to protect my song, I should never perform it!! But, for certain kinds of businesses, if I want to make money on my idea, then I must reveal it, or its expression. So, a compromise has to be made: control over ideas and their expression versus the desire to make money. Governments step in and legislate a compromise. And, if they get it wrong, we ask for a new compromise.

    The technology is here - the new compromise should be made - the fact that a new technology undermines a business model based on intellectual property should NOT be sufficient to outlaw the technology - maybe it's the business model that has to change!!!!

  • Re:maybe... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by John Allsup (987) <s.chalisque@gmai ... m minus math_god> on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:10AM (#3007290) Homepage Journal

    Since the publisher isn't getting paid for any of those copies, why should they bother publishing any more?

    That's rather hollow. Without such a strong system as copyright, it would still be worth it for many companies to publish stuff. All that is required, in the copyright sense, is the ability to prevent someone besides the publisher mass-producing copies. So that for individuals to copy the stuff around takes time and effort, and may indeed exceed the value of the book. Prices would then stabilise in a different shape to what we have now. But there would still be too much money in the area for everybody to refuse to try.

    One other point. It is very hard to "steal" a copy of a book that is anywhere near as nice as the original. This is another big difference with digital media. The ability to make perfect copies. Personally, I don't think any model of commerce from the 19th century and before can handle it, and we certainly don't have things figured out yet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:25AM (#3007433)
    What *exactly* is someone else's work?

    Suppose that someone writes the single line:

    if(!somePtr=(someStruct*)malloc(sizeof(somePtr)) ) { exit (-1); }

    instead of checking for !=NULL on a different line ... if I read their code in a book at a PUBLIC LIBRARY ... and I start using their code ... did I STEAL their intellectual property?

    Now, if I see a good piece of software, and I play around with the different features that it has ... and I make a list of the features, ... and then I re-write my code so that my program acts EXACTLY like the original program, did I STEAL their intellectual property?

    Now, if I have this program that works EXACTLY like another program, and I'm distributing it to my friends, and I accidentatly sent the other copy, which for all necessary purposes, is indintinguishable from my own, am I STEALING property?

    IMHO, you got this point wrong ... in saying that you can not share, it is saying that YOU CAN NOT STORE A CERTAIN SET OF 0's and 1's ON YOUR COMPUTER ... does that not violate free speech? Do I not have the right to store whatever 0 and whatever 1 I want??
    I mean, what would life be like if you had to pay someone royalties to use certain words, to utter certain phrases .... next thing we know, people are gonna copy right words, phrases, common day expressions.

    The time is now ... and we must exercise our rights, and store whatever bit whereever we want!
  • The point... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:41AM (#3007578) Journal
    Nobody argues that the artist shouldn't get paid.

    The issue really has little to do with theft. The issue is that big media companies are no longer needed to distribute the music.

    The RIAA have been keeping our eyes and minds focused on this side issue, that of theft, and quite successfully keeping our attention off of the fact that they are simply no longer needed.

    If we really want this issue to go away we need to do the following:
    1. Come up with a way to pay for recording studio time.
    2. Come up with a way to filter out artists that suck.
    3. Come up with a way to pay the artist.
    4. Distribute the music. (either via Napster or CDs)
    The problem here is that the established media companies provide 1-3, and get paid at #4!

    -Ben
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:48AM (#3007639)
    This is most certainly not true. Many have pointed a fact out here, though i can't find any today. This is that the artist will get more funds directly from a person if that person knows their songs and from knowing their songs wants to here them performed live, goes to the show, likes the music, buys the t-shirt, gets the 7" (not of industry cock), gets on the mailing list. The artist is more likely to see this cash direct, as opposed to shelling out $22 at the HMV (that is how much a random cd i picked up out of the racks at the HMV RnR Hall of Fall cost) and the artist getting their $1-$3.

    The band, however, has the right to decide how to distribute its music, not the fan. If a band wants to let people copy and freely trade their songs, that fine. They have made a decision on how they can best market themselves and make a living. Some do that quite successfully - such as the Dead.

    If you don't like the price of CDs, don't buy them. But to say it's OK to copy music without paying for it becasue you may go to concert or buy a T-shirt, ultimately giving the band more money is just a way to try to rationalize your actions.

    Suppose I decide that the real value in music is added by the people that market and package it, and that the band is just some easily replaced random collection of musicians - is it ok for me to sneak into a concert? After all, the band plays the same wether or not 1 more person is in the room, and I might buy a CD, helping out the record company, as well as the band, who gets a cut?

    In fact I am contributing to the devaluation of the segrams, vivendi, emi, whoever the hell stranglehold on music distribution , production and selection. Music is going to be there. It is not as if once the majors topple things are going to dry up and no one will put out records and no money will be made. All it will mean is that corporate radioband will not make millions off of haircuts, cliches and marketing.


    If free distribution of music creates enough demand to support musicians, then it will happen. Stealing to strike a blow against a company you hate doesn't help the musicians on bit, it just cost them money.

  • by nanojath (265940) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @12:07PM (#3007809) Homepage Journal
    I agree with you, mostly. This article illustrates the weaknesses of extreme information freedom advocacy: the tendency to paint everything with one brush and to fall prey to hyperbole. Check this statement from the article:


    "Over the last several years, the entertainment industry has railroaded a number of laws and treaties through Washington and Geneva that are driving us rapidly toward a future in which the fruits of the mind cannot be shared."


    What burns me about this kind of "sky is falling" statement is that it is completely rooted in the same false assumption that is driving the policies of the industry: that corporations have some kind of monopoly on content, that, like the diamond cartels, they can keep the market all locked up.


    As the technologies of creating words, music, and film become more and more accessible this idea becomes more and more obsolete. As long as this argument is defined by the idea of THEIR restrictions on how we get to utilize THEIR intellectual property, we've lost the argument before we've started. Because in the end, despite being misguided and fundamentally flawed, recent legislation like the DMCA really just attempts to make the existing notion of copyright enforceable in the digital age. The basic notion of the copyright owner's rights are unchanged.


    One of the big flaws in the middle of all these arguments is the notion that there is a strong, clearly stated principle of Fair Use in copyright law. There isn't. Fair use is a concept, in its literal presentation in the law, mainly geared at institutional uses and extended to a limited range of personal applications by precedents. And while recent legislation and trends are attempting to restrict even those limited definitions, it only weakens the case of fair use to try to argue that it extends to things like the widespread distribution of someone else's intellectual property over a P2P network.


    The arguments of information freedom advocates are also not helped by outright falsehood. The article gives an unqualified interpretation of the Felten DMCA case that is simply untrue.


    Creators have the right to produce and distribute their work any way they want. What is needed far more than revisions in legislation is for enlightened consumers to seek out creators offering their work in a rational, unencombered way. As the content kings spend more and more to make their products les and less versatile in the face of increasingly versatile technologies, individual creators and collectives have the opportunity to offer a more and more valuable product at a lower and lower cost. If we focus on this opportunity, then there is a rational, constitutionally defensible wedge to drive between the need to protect creators' rights to profit by their work, and the industry trend to control and define the individuals experience of consuming the product of that work.


    As long as the focus of this dialog is the consumer's "right" to infringe copyright (which is not the same as "stealing" incidentally - that's why it has its own legal name and definition) neither the rights of creators nor of individuals will be protected Find something legal to protect and a lot more progress will be made.

  • by johnsonburke (27098) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @12:54PM (#3008107)
    Most of the "intellectual property" arguments we see sound like variations of a free rider problem, so-called because an early version of it concerned what damage might be done to a railroad system if riders could freely take unsold seats. Then why would anyone buy a ticket? Few people would, there would be little incentive to build trains, and society's need for transportation would be underserved. Someone (gov or the railroad bull)has to control the free riders.

    Now, what social needs are unmet if "too many" people don't pay for their CD/mp3/copyrighted music? Would there be less music? At what level? Would fewer musicians create, or would fewer CDs (or other royalty-producing copies in whatever medium) be cut. The threat we hear is that musicians would stop making music if they couldn't be paid (inplicitly by the corporations whose valuable servcice is the risky one of promoting and marketing them).

    And of course the threat that the distributors see is the threat to the channel. They would be happier selling 10 million COPIES of one song than a half million each of twenty (even if it takes 175 years to do so, since the "Bono Bill" gives them that opportunity). More music = more copies, not more songs. So they naturally want to lock out the free riders at the copying level.

    Ironically, one of their favorite tools is a prohibition against people distributing there OWN creations. Dmitry Sklyarov, Edward Felten, and Jon Johanson are in trouble for sharing their own creations.

    Mod this meandering, redundant.
  • by gilroy (155262) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @12:56PM (#3008124) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the poster:
    However, if that person who downloads music for free would have bought the CD had it not been available for download, then yes, the artist has lost something.


    What is this "would have"? How can we argue about realities, as if you or I could say what someone would do if the world were different.



    Under the "They would have bought the CD, so I lost money" argument, you could also sue say, Ford Motors, for laying off someone who -- if he hadn't lost his job -- "would have" bought the CD. Hey, that's a lost sale; and it's Ford's fault. So pay up!



    The argument shouldn't be framed in terms of property being "stolen", because no property is stolen, because intellectual output is not property. The debate should be framed in terms of "How can we offer sufficient incentive to an artist to continue to do art, if they cannot derive revenue from controlling the publication?"



    Article 1, Section 8 says (paraphrased) "Congress shall have power... To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries". It doesn't say Congress must. It doesn't say this is the only way to achieve that aim. For goodness sakes, six billion people on this planet, can't someone come up with a mechanism that rewards artists and breaks the stranglehood of artificial distribution monopolies?

  • hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing (254983) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @01:33PM (#3008385)
    What i don't get are the people that believe that sharing is the same as stealing. Most people's arguments against music sharing is that the artist loses some sort of compensation when a song is shared. I don't agree. That's assuming that an artist always recieves a compensation when a song is played or heard from the listener. This is of course not correct as many a songs are played on the radio.

    Taking this argument another course, maybe a sale of a cd didn't happen because someone downloaded an album off the net. The artist was robbed of his money right? I mean this argument all comes down to money. But what if the person never had an intention of buying the cd to begin with. Was there money lost? No loss means not stealing as far as i can tell.

    Here's another problem i see. Many well known artists are complaining that people share their music. But when you have contracts to allow stations to play your music people can record it off the radio and listen to it for free too, right? I mean before we had mp3s, that's what people did with cassetts. Was this a big problem then? Unknown artists should be happy to have their music distributed. It's called free advertisements. More of a fan base means more money. Metallica started this way, so i'm sure there were other bands that also got it's roots from free distribution.

    Another fact, and yes i do call it a fact, is that mostly all the artists aren't talking out against free distribution. Only a hand picked bunch of sellouts which were paid one way or another thought this was a bad idea and protested. Other sellouts joined the napster side. It comes down to some artists being money whores and others who are in it for the music and the fun. The only ones who are fighting this for their lives are the record companies. Their whole livelyhood is the raping of musicians and selling their music. Now the artist recieves compensation from distributed music because of the extra fan base or maybe a purchased cd down the line which would not of been purchased, but distributing music cuts the record company's profits. Should this industry really exist the way it does now? How many musicians do you hear on popular radio stations that don't have a record contract? Of course this all comes down to money as radio stations need advertisements to make money.

    Of course the argument that i haven't heard is how does the internet make sharing illegal? It was designed for sharing. If a friend makes a copy of a cd he has for you, gives it to you physically, how is that any different than doing it over the internet? If the copy was for personal use only, i don't see any legal ramifications from doing that. Under the home recording act of 1978 you can do this legally. Somehow the judges and lawyers think that doing so over the internet makes it different. I disagree.

    /rant

  • by argoff (142580) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @02:51PM (#3008870)

    No, the sad part is your children are growing up in a time when people think that knowledge can be "owned". If pythagoras were alive today and had patented "x^2 + y^2 = z^2 where would we be? If someone wants to make money off of "intellectual works", let them become a teacher.

    I totally agree, the fact is that copying is not coercive or fradulent. It never ceases to amaze me that someone could think they're being violated when they're not. (Sorta like the days where plantation masters thought they were being stolen from and violated by the underground railroad) It is really a sick attitude about property. The problem isn't file sharing, the problem is individuals who think that they have some type of moral right to derive value by restricting the copying practices of others. It is like a vine that has been growing more and more intrusive for 200 years, and will not relent in choking off our freedoms untill we attack it at the root. In fact, I would argue that defiance and civil disobedience are not just OK, they are a duty because this threat is so imment to the personal liberties of us and those we love.

  • by 4of12 (97621) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @05:47PM (#3010154) Homepage Journal

    One of the things that struck me the other day was how much two apparently disparate issues are going to converge shortly.

    What I'm talking about is this:

    • Issue One: Freedom to Share Digital Data (MPAA, DRM, DMCA, etc.)
    • Issue Two: Right to Individual Privacy (doubleclick, direct marketing, etc.)
    I see where those advocating strict controls on how copyrighted material is distributed over the net can share an interest with those who advocate that commercial entities not have unrestricted ability to exchange data about individuals, the kind of data that makes up profiles in the direct marketers' databases.

    In one case you might be talking about Metallica MP3's being traded by individuals and the other case you might be talking about YourBuyingProfile being traded by corporate entities. In either case, you could argue about who the data really belongs to and what fair use of that data constitutes.

    If complete digital freedom to exchange data exists, then will you ever have any hope to restrict the data that is being gathered about you every day from being exchanged? Maybe you don't need or care to restrict the data flow, but you have to admit that restricting or liberating it for one purpose makes it fair for another purpose.

  • file sharing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nabucco (24057) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:07PM (#3011657)
    It perplexes me why there is always the assumption that the files being shared are propietary. As if everything being shared over Napster, Morpheus and Gnutella is propietary, and thus p2p only exists for a black market.

    "Well, a lot of copyright violations go on". Well guess what the top 3 words on search engines like Google are - sex, mp3 and warez. Sounds like plenty of "copyright violations" are going on over the web, should the web be shut down as well? There is too much tacit acceptance that p2p is somehow criminal. The first major p2p application I can recall, the distributed.net rc5 cracker, had a flap over whether it was exporting encryption or not. It seems you can barely stand up and take a leak without some corporation or army telling you what you're doing is illegal. I've used Morpheus and Gnutella to download many speeches. I've used MojoNation to download (and publish) Gutenberg texts. Freenet (and Frost) allows web page publication and chatting over it's p2p network.

    I spend a lot of time developing p2p apps. I am not doing so so that 2 kids can trade the latest Britney Spears mp3. I see networks in two forms - authoritarian and democratic. In an authoritarian network, you pay a web hosting outfit money to host your stuff, and the more popular it is, the more you pay. If this is the situation, you have no choice but to commercialize whatever you created in order to distribute it. In a democratic network, there is no authoritarian middleman between you and others. Most of the network is authoritarian, and large, powerful corporations are trying to shut down networks where people deal with each other directly. Note - they are trying to shut down the networks, not go after people who deal with each other directly. I guess American corporations have sold this mentality to it's citizens through good PR, but now they are using their muscle to shut down P2P networks based in other countries like FastTrack. It's quite a shame, if they win it will just be back to where only those with money can publish, and any small person who wants to publish will have to go through an authority and be charged a lot of money. People who want to deal with each other directly are accused and tainted with criminality. This is an old story, far older than the rise of p2p networks.
  • Re:maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Friday February 15, 2002 @09:00PM (#3016193) Homepage Journal
    If you weren't going to buy a copy, why would you *want* a copy?
    because I wnated to see if I would like it enough to by a CD.
    If it wasn't for file sharing, I wouldn't own several cd I now own.
    and its copyright infringement not theft, there is a difference.

    What I think we are seeing is a major change in music distribution. I think its impact will be smaller distibuters, or self distibutors, of music online. More band earning oney just with venue performances. Which will mean les oney for a very few musicians, and more opportunity for consumers.

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