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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.
    • by BlueWonder (130989) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:42AM (#3006124)

      You talk about "stealing" and "theft", when in fact you seem to mean copyright infringement. Please don't confuse these, they're totally unrelated. (I'm not saying that copyright infringement is okay, but it's not theft!)

      Serious question though: How is "theft" defined in U.S. law? Im my country, it only applies if you take something away [uni-mannheim.de] (sorry, link to German site), which is different from copying something.

      • Serious question though: How is "theft" defined in U.S. law? Im my country, it only applies if you take something away [uni-mannheim.de] (sorry, link to German site), which is different from copying something.

        IANAL (or an American) so can't answer that specifically. However, I do remember hearing that historically Anglo-Saxon law classifies theft (or stealing) as permanently denying the owner of a physical item.

        This is why, in the UK, if you are arrested for joy-riding you are charged with "Taking and Driving Away" rather than simply Car Theft, because a possible defence exists that you were intending to return the car. A "temporary" theft is not realy theft (in these terms). Hence the need for a new law to be made (TADA)

        It seems to me that under the same criteria copyright infringement cannot be classified theft. You might argue that it's depriving the artist (or studio, or shop) of revenue, but certainly not the physical item (the CD) Whether it is right or not is another matter.

      • According to the 1997 Indiana Criminal Code (that's the only copy I have handy and I doubt theft's definition has changed that much in 5 years), theft is defined as:
        A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person,
        with intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use, commits theft, a class D felony.

        IANAL, but the intent part is very crucial here. When most people download a song or movie, their intent is probably not to screw the copyright owner but to get the media for the least possible price (though I'm sure some do it just to screw the RIAA/MPAA).

        Of course, this isn't that useful since copyright infringement is also a crime, and would probably be the charge and not some form of theft.
    • 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 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.

        • 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.

          Firstly let me point out that I did not take any moral high ground that copying is ok. The jist of my argument is that copying digital works is a much lesser immoral act than stealing physical goods.

          Let's pretend for a moment that there is a quantitative scale for immoral acts. Let's say murder scores 100. Acts of violence might score 50. Stealing someones TV on this scale might score, say 15. Personally I think that copying Madonna's greatest hits off the Internet would score about 0.01, if that.

          We all have our own moral systems. All of us do things that would score tiny scores on our own personal immorality scales, every day. What annoys me is when I hear people talk about things like music copying as if it were a terrible immoral act. It is a immoral act, but it is a tiny little one. You are a thief on the same scale as a married man who admires another woman is an adulturer, or as someone who smokes in a public space is a murderer.

        • The same arguments get rehashed here over and over. I don't believe anything you said in the beginning and am not smart enough to argue the later part, and i am fairly certain you won't change your mind with anything i said, but still

          "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."

          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.

          "in fact, you're contributing to the devaluation of the artists' career by refusing to pay for the music at all."

          No. 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.

          Other points, duly taken.

          • 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.

        • 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.


          Yes, but in the absence of buying cds I am able to save more money and then spend it on live concerts and conert t-shirts where I know the artist will receive a bigger margin from than if I bought the cd and then wasn't able to attend the concert. And depending on the artist I will fork over more money to get better and better seats.

          I am not spending money on a record company so they can compensate for their loses. I am spending money on the band which I feel has earned my money.

          At a restaurant you tip the waiter/waitress according to the service you received. I have received no service from the record company and the goods that I have bought from the record company are tainted and are useless to me. Whereas the concert provides an outlet of emotion and energy for usually 3 hours including the intro band. This I will pay money for. I know what I am paying for when I go to a concert - I might not get to hear my favorite songs, but I went into it knowing full well I might not. With buying a cd I do not know if I'm going to be able to play it now.

          I do not own a standard cd player. So the cd is useless to me and I paid $18 for the useless product, which in itself is a ripoff since it costs them $1 to make the cd.

          So am I contributing to the devaluation of the band by not buying the cds but instead going to the concerts? I don't think so.
        • 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!!!!

        • by Anonymous Coward
          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!
        • In a balanced economic environment the producer DOES NOT and CANNOT determine price by fiat if they have any expectation of selling their product. Price is set by negotiation with the purchaser (more or less). The current music system is run by a monopolistic group of companies that are actively seeking to choke supply to extort money out of customers. The counterpoint that we can choose to not buy their music is empty because we cannot participate in modern society without buying from monopolists (MS, Time-Warner, etc).

          Quite frankly, I don't being extorted. I feel badly that some artists will lose money on their music*, but I do have issues with paying ridiculous sums of money for a product that has a negligible production cost.

          * I do feel bad that artists don't get paid for their music, but I also have no problem paying for a live performance either. And, perhaps we shouldn't be looking for revenue from broadcasting/distribution per se where its unreasonable to collect fees (think about the use of unenforceable laws in general).
        • 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?

        • Blockquoth the poster:

          It is the right of the producer, not the consumer, to set price.

          Umm, no. The price of something is set by the interplay of what the producer wants for it and what the consumer is will to pay for it. The producer can set his/her "asking price", but all they are doing is that, asking. The consumer sets his/her buying price. Until these agree, the sale does not occur and the thing in question is essentially without value.


          We act as if only one side or the other is important here. Although I see slashdotters go whole hog for their way, the trend started on the other side: The Content Cartel wants you to believe that there is no copyright bargain; that copyright means only the rights and powers held by the producer and that the recipient is a powerless and valueless pawn, good only to consume. It ain't so.


          There is a dialog between the two. Right now it's mostly drowned out by cries of havoc and disaster, but behind the scenes, the two sides will reach some accommodation through the dead hand of Adam Smith, should we fail to excercise our intellects.

        • by argoff (142580)

          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.

          WRONG! Market share isn't a moral right. Maybe Ford has no incentive to make cars unless they can lock out the Japs. Maybe letting in the Japs deprives Ford of sales. Welcome to the real world

          ... 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

          WRONG again. Mozart was paid for that too, but somehow that didn't mean a eternal monopoly on downstream copying. This is not about compensation for what anyone did, but a percieved right to controll peoples copying behavior after the cat's already out of the bag. Sorry, but you don't have that right even if you think you do.

          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.

          DEAD WRONG. I enjoyed looking at those two gilrs in scant cloths on the beach the other day. Sorry, I did not force them to reveal themselves, they chose to do so by their own free will. I owe them nothing. Maybe someone told them they were entitled to compensation for my pleasure. Sorry they're not. Maybe someone told them it was their right, sorry it is not. Dam, maybe I would even like to, but it is not a right. It just goes to show how such derivations of just value are delusional if not socially psychotic.

      • Cool, so if you go on a 3 week vacation, I can use your house for my own puposes, as long as I move out before you get back? You didn't lose anything (you were gone), but I gained something, because I was homeless, in need of a place to party, or whatever. No need for to ask permission, right?
        • Cool, so if you go on a 3 week vacation, I can use your house for my own puposes, as long as I move out before you get back? You didn't lose anything (you were gone), but I gained something, because I was homeless, in need of a place to party, or whatever. No need for to ask permission, right?

          That's a crap comparison.

          If I could duplicate my house at zero cost, then I would be happy for you to live in one of the copies. In fact, I would house the homeless of the world.
    • by nanojath (265940)
      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.

  • 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.
    • 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.
      • If I wasn't going to buy the music anyway, then no one loses anything by me having a copy.

        You're right of course, but the service or software that enables you to do it this way enables also millions of others who download _instead_ of buying. And there is _no_ possibility to distinguish. Either you ban both groups or allow both groups.

        Of course, the logical solution is to lower CD prices to the point when better sound quality plus additional benefits (lyrics, nice cover, "good" feeling of supporting artists and not recording companies) will persuade enough people to go and buy the CD. I have no problem paying 10$ for a good CD, it is 15£ like in the UK that makes me start AudioGalaxy.

        But if companies want to keep their revenue same obscenely high - they have no other way than to make the whole thing illegal.

        Raf
      • 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:2, Insightful)

          by Pentagram (40862)
          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.
          • Re:maybe... (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Little Dave (196090)
            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.)

            They can charge what the hell they like. Regardless of what a lot of the automatons around here think, business is not duty bound to provide you with what you want at the price you want it.

            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

            So you steal to punish the wrong-doers of the world. How very noble of you.

        • Re:maybe... (Score:2, Insightful)

          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?

        • Maybe I don't value the one song I like on NewBigBand's Album at $20. After all, the $20 would make me a lot happier by going to the movies with my S.O. So, I go to the movies instead of buying the new Album.

          OTOH, if I could get the one song for say, $2 bucks (the cost of my time to download it on a slow 56k connection), then, yes, I'll download it, because I want a copy.

          I just don't want the copy when it costs $20. I do want a copy when it costs close to $0.

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

          Are you planning on buying a first class ultra deluxe vacation package to Aruba for yourself and all your friends this year?

          No?

          Oh, then I guess you wouldn't want this free one then, oh well, I guess I'll just throw it out...
        • Re:maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745)
          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.
    • 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 TheFrood (163934)
        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

      • 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.


        Clearly he wasn't married or had kids. "How many times have I told you..." or "Can you please..." Right in one ear, out the other. :)
    • Re:maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.

      • Let's correct this:

        When someone steals a car, the dealer loses one car.

        When a book is copied and distributed through file sharing networks, the publisher loses numerous "potential" payments.

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

        The auto dealer's loss would be covered by insurance and it's not like it's easy for everyone to just walk in and steal cars as they please. It is easy for people to "steal" copies of books.

        • Re:maybe... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by John Allsup (987)

          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.
      • This is a true story, which I was reminded of by the post pointing out the difference between *real profits* and *potential profits*:

        There was once a hard-goods store that I bought lots of stuff at. The store was sold, and the new owner raised all the prices, then walked around admiring "how much money I'm making".

        Naturally sales plummetted due to the newly-increased prices. The store shortly went out of business -- apparently I wasn't the only one who quit shopping there.

        I've been told that the new owner blamed his "lost profits" on light-fingered employees.

    • "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."

      Odds on that once people are used to the idea of an E-book not being sharable publishers will attempt to "harmonise" the law so that paper books are also unsharable.
    • The division between lending and copying is pretty clear. If I lend something, then I don't have it any more.

      But - when you lend a book, are you just lending a physical object or are you allowing a friend to copy the information it has with his brain? If it's a Stephen King book doesn't he experience the same experience of a story as you? If it's a book that explains how to fix a sink, does he automatically lose that knowledge when he returns the book to you? Is it stealing if he continues to fix sinks without the book?

      I'm clear that when I copy music, I am doing something that is both legally and _morally_ wrong.

      I have the ability to reproduce music in my mind's ear perfectly if I concentrate enough. Is that stealing? If I play my guitar along with the CD, is that stealing? Or if I turn the CD off and continue to play and sing the song myself, am I a thief?

      Brains copy. They do not make perfect copies, but neither do radios or MP3 rippers. If fact, any perception a brain has of any object or sound is only an approximation, dependent on attention paid and ability to percieve. In short, copying is unavoidable, and no copy made of something can be percieved as a perfect copy by any human.

      So - which copies are permissable and which are thieving and how do you possibly tell the difference? It's legal for me to record a song off the radio and turn it into an MP3 - but it's illegal for me to download the same song from the net. Never mind that you won't be able to tell one from the other.

      So - I have an MP3 of "Already Gone" by the Eagles on my hard drive. Is it legal? Is it moral? Why that depends on if I recorded it off my tape, off the radio, or copied it off the net - but how will anyone tell? And if no one can tell the difference, why does it make a difference? The anti-copying philosophy will eventually result in a situation where people cannot prove if what they have is legal or not, unless they save the reciepts - and even that's in question if you have a good enough printer.

      The end result of all this will be a absurd state where just about anyone can be "guilty" of copyright violation.
  • 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)

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

        by sql*kitten (1359)
        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.
        • > the second traveller would have otherwise bought a ticket.

          you dont travel much by train I see...

          //rdj
    • 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?

      Yes, because you are preventing the London Underground from selling a ticket.

      A ride on the underground cannot be copied without loss, and so two people sharing the same ticket is "stealing". This is true if the ticked is unexpired or not. A ticket that is sold to you is for you alone; one ass on one seat.

      Tickets for journeys and services are the same as physical objects like CDs. Taking one or the other from someone who has them for sale in a shop or terminal is stealing.

      Digital copying is something completely different.

      Copying bits without charging for them removes nothing from anyone and so is not stealing, just as reading from a book to someone is not stealing, or playing a song on your guitar on the sidewalk in St. Marks Square, Venice is not stealing from the composer of that music.

      This is deeply objectionable to people who sell software as a business, but it is true.

      If you enter it into a turnstile and you and a friend squeeze through?
      Stealing obviously.
      • Making a copy of a program or CD without charging for them should not be compared to the lending of book, it should be compared to the copying of all pages of that book. This is something which usually is prohibited, copyright and such, so why should the digital equivalent be any different?
      • Tickets for journeys and services are the same as physical objects like CDs. Taking one or the other from someone who has them for sale in a shop or terminal is stealing.

        Digital copying is something completely different.


        Ah, but that's the crux of the matter. When you buy a ticket, you aren't buying a piece of printed cardboard, or even the data contained in the magstripe on the back. You're entering into a simple contract, you give them money and they take you places. The only verification is that you are the bearer of the ticket - in this way, it acts like a currency token. But it was sold to you, and even tho' the system in its present state is incapable of verifying that the person who bought the ticket is the one who is uses it, that doesn't change the terms and conditions.

        Copying bits without charging for them removes nothing from anyone and so is not stealing,

        Well, I saw a posting here yesterday (I can't be bothered to link to it) about someone who says as soon as he buys a CD, he rips it to MP3 for playing in his car. That's fair use. But if he were to give it to someone who hadn't already bought the CD then he has cost the publisher a sale. By your definition, that is theft.
        • someone who says as soon as he buys a CD, he rips it to MP3 for playing in his car. That's fair use. But if he were to give it to someone who hadn't already bought the CD then he has cost the publisher a sale. By your definition, that is theft.

          No, that is not theft.

          It would become theft if he made those rips and then sold them to another person. If no money changes hands, then it is not theft, it is sharing.

          There is a subtle differnce between intangible property and tangible property, hence the confusion of many people when they are confronted with this subject.

          Stealing a physical CD from a shop is different to copying the contents of that cd and sharing them with a friend.
          • No, that is not theft.

            It would become theft if he made those rips and then sold them to another person. If no money changes hands, then it is not theft, it is sharing.


            Just like Robin Hood, steal from the rich and give to the poor?

            What if I buy CD A, and you buy CD B, and we each MP3 our CDs, and exchange the files. That's a trade, no money has changed hands between us, but the end result is that the supplier has sold half of what it would have otherwise done, and you and I have both profited at their expense.
      • 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?
        Yes, because you are preventing the London Underground from selling a ticket.
        When I say to a friend that there's nothing interesting in todays newspaper, or when I tell him all of the most interesting stories, I also prevent the publisher from selling the newspaper to my friend. You have to realize, that it doesn't automatically mean that what I do is morally wrong. You seem to not understand that, judging from your answer and, which is even more important here, your motivation of that aswer, i.e. "because you are preventing the London Underground from selling a ticket." What if the person you gave your ticket to, doesn't have any money in the first place? I've seen many of such situations. Where are the "lost" or "stolen" money then? Such thinking is a result of long "intellectual property" propaganda, we have to understand that, which also assumes that people have infinite amount of money.
        • What if the person you gave your ticket to, doesn't have any money in the first place? I've seen many of such situations. Where are the "lost" or "stolen" money then? Such thinking is a result of long "intellectual property" propaganda, we have to understand that, which also assumes that people have infinite amount of money.

          This is totally correct; if you can be sure that the person you are giving your unfinished ticket to would not be able to buy a ticket, then giving it to her is not wrong. This is clear. What is probably wrong is deliberately diverting money from London Underground by sharing or re-selling a ticket that you bought, knowing that the person that you are giving the ticket to could buy one. I said "probably" just in case I am regurgitating IP Propaganda®.

          In any case, a ticket is not intellectual property, it is real property, just as a seat on a train journey is real property.

          Telling your friend about the stories in the newspaper is not the same as copying the paper and then selling those copies on a street corner. Selling copies of something that you didnt write / create, that someone else is trying to sell, is very probably wrong, since you are taking / diverting / stealing money from that person, and putting proceeds that belong to her in your pocket.

          Once again, I am talking about copying and selling real property and not just reciting something in the street, wich takes nothing away from the person who is selling physical newspapers.
        • This is interisting. I've seen news papers talk up their redership this way in order to boost their advertising revinue.

          They do market research that, the results clame, says x people read every news paper the sell. This then allows them to increse the cost they charge for the adverts.
    • While this is closer than the "steal a car" analogy, it's still not the same. The LU costs money to continue to operate. Being able to copy a file from my friend costs the original artist/media company nothing, while being able to ride a train does. This would be more like if I made a fake ticket to their concert, which isn't what we are talking about.
  • 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.

  • Two overlapping graphs in the New York Times last April 1 (in an article called "Paperback Music") made the point vividly.

    Unfortunately, April 1st is not the best date to be citing newspaper articles from.

    TheFrood
  • 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.

    • by dachshund (300733)
      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.

  • The problem is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AdeBaumann (126557) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:25AM (#3006091) Homepage
    ... that, in my opinion, loads of people who downloaded Morpheus or Kazaa don't do it to be able to share music, but just to get stuff without paying for it. When they see their favourite freeloading tool under attack, they're screaming blue murder.

    Don't get me wrong, I'd hate to see p2p go, and I'm ready to do something for it (EFF, here I come...). I just don't expect millions of other users to do so. Sad, innit?
  • Greed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by codeButcher (223668)

    Yeah, the whole sharing-ideal is great. But if the rightful owner doesn't want to share it, that's it. The choice of sharing or not should still be his, not so?

    I suppose it is ALSO greedy to want to have something without having to pay for it. Or force someone to share without him having a choice.

    • by Arker (91948)

      But if the rightful owner doesn't want to share it, that's it. The choice of sharing or not should still be his, not so?

      You assume that patterns can be owned. A rather dubious assumption.

    • rightful owner? That is the crux of the matter, but you are using it as a foregone conclusion.

      Copyright and parent laws were created to balance the rights of individuals and the rights of society. An individual who stands to gain nothing from creating is unlikely, or less likely, to create. So too an individual who creates by still stands to gain nothing has no incentive to reveal that creation, or its details. On the other hand society stands to benefit from most creations, and to benefit even more when the details are available.

      So laws were created to protect the individual's creations while ensuring the society could benefits from them immediately and in the future. It used to be an unchallanged assumption that freedom of knowledge was the road to humanity's future.

      The issue we currently face is: where should the line be drawn on the rights of copyright holders? This is not an easy balance to find. On the one hand you have industry, whose game settings are "Allow economic victory". On the other side are some individuals. Politicans and capatalists are somewhere in the middle.

    • [The courts] also ruled that it was legally appropriate to prevent a scientist from presenting a paper that explores the inner workings of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) music encryption system

    Oh, way to spread the FUD. Judge Garrett Brown dismissed [slashdot.org] the Felten case because there was no longer any case to answer. As he pointed out, he was obliged to restrict himself to the immediate and ongoing threat of prior restraint to Felten, and to consider larger and theoretical consitutional issues.

    Don't get me wrong. Judge Brown appeared to be incapable of understanding the issue, and would possibly have ruled incorrecly if there was still a case to answer. But there wasn't, so the EFF's assertion that the Felten dismissal was a ruling against First Amendement is a bare faced lie. Their FUD disappointed me at the time, but the fact that they keep harping on and on about it is really starting to piss me off. The EFF are trying to paint what was actually a small victory as a crushing defeat to whip up sympathy and anger. That's the kind of crap I'd expect from the MPAA/RIAA, not from the white hats.

  • by kaden (535652) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:33AM (#3006258)
    Napster existed for a long time with illegal sharring effectively stopped. Hey, isn't this what the whole Slashdot crowd claimed to want? It's a fileshare and there's no illegal swapping, so shouldn't you guys have loved it? Nope, you all moved on to Kazaa and Bearshare. I've yet to see anyone provide an actual reason for filesharing other than to pirate copyrighted material. Everything legitimate is already available on the web and ftp. It makes no sense to get all mad at the RCAA simply for trying to protect it's profits. If someone was cutting out 33% of your salary (if you have a salary, hah) would you be like "Well I can't infringe on his rights..." or would you do something about it? The record industry isn't trying to stop you from trading Linux binaries or whatever you claim to be using File Sharing for. They're just guys trying to watch their backs. Yes, I agree that most of them are overpaid whores, but that really doesn't matter. Ok label this as a troll. It's a different viewpoint! Ahh!!! I bet he even runs Windows!
    • well.. if i like a CD, and a friend doesnt know the cd yet, I share my* music with him. if he's on the other side of the ocean, the easiest way is to send him an mp3(or ogg etc..). i can have him listen to the CD with me at home (sharing), but I can't do it over the net. perfectly legitimate, if not legal..i am also allowed by law to give him a tape of said CD. but not over the net.

      //rdj

      *music i have at home, not (c) me
  • 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.
    • I think your perspective shift got a bit skewed. Your little metal disks have value because of what they represent. movies and music have value because of what they are. If the US Government went away tomorrow, your metal disks would become worthless, but if Hollywood sank into the sea, I could still watch Wild Wild West.

  • 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?
    • That Ernest dude is dead. He won't be contributing to science and the useful arts any time soon. So why should his works still be copyrighted? In what way does the public at large benefit from a continued monopoly on the distribution of his fisherman story?
    • by jurros (110198)
      Actually, that's an easy question (at least in the spirit of the law). :)

      'Copyright infringing' starts with the line:
      "Actually I have it here on my compuyter, I could ..."

      The reason here is up to that point, the first person is willing to relate the story in his/her own words (more or less). Once you start distributing exact copies of the origional is where you get into trouble.

      Not that any of it makes the law right. But since you asked...
  • 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.
    • giving the consumer less than 1 second of information for $20 thats not what the $20 is for. included in that price, ignoring profits, are:
      • a long-lived media (cost about $1)
      • cross-artist "success" insurance gamble (value uncertain, but possibly high)
      • marketing costs (cost about $2 for newish or niche artists)
      • artist representation costs
      • royalty collection and distribution costs
      Sure, the download of a CD's worth of data (and BTW, where do you live that you have access to GB/sec communications?) is not worth very much viewed a pure information, but the CD itself implicitly represents much more than that.
  • Mute argument (Score:2, Informative)

    by JohnBE (411964)
    This whole thing is a mute argument, the cat is out of the bag. Not least because of Freenet. There is nothing aside from severely restricting usage at ISP's to stop this.

    Freenet [freenetproject.org] is a distributed network with anonymity built in. In a nutshell here are the features:

    It can't be monitored effectively

    It can carry any kind of media

    It is anonymous [freenetproject.org]

    It is written in Java

    Napster style [sourceforge.net] clients exist (also written in Java)

    All OSS

    It is crawling with all kinds of undesirables because of the above.

    If the users of existing filesharing networks were to move to something like this the record industry would be screwed.

    • As a negative:

      It uses encryption, if the use of encryption is made illegal, just because, running a freenet node may be illegal.

      Specailly if you know that (YOUR) freenet node can contain stuff that is VERY illegal and unacceptable.

      That was the point of the article if you ask me.
  • Public fuss (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greg W. (15623) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:53AM (#3006563) Homepage

    Why isn't the public making a fuss? Why, at a time when the most basic principal of society-the right to know-is being turned into a criminal act, isn't there an army of outrage fighting to protect the free flow of human creativity?

    A public outcry is useless if there is no one to hear it.

    It has been demonstrated over and over again, especially in the last 5 years, that Congress and the courts hold the "rights" of corporations to continue doing business in higher regard than the Rights of the people. They do not care about us; and in fact, if we attempt to exercise our Rights in any visible way, we are arrested. Ask Jon Johansen. Ask Dmitry Sklyarov.

    The battleground has changed. We can no longer fight our battles in the open, using the due process of Law, because the Law has been corrupted by money. So we fight in the darkness. Our file transfers are private and secret, just like their back-room deals, their bribes (they call it "lobbying"), and their good-ol'-boy networking.

    Morpheus is one of the most popular downloads in the history of cyberspace. Users have retrieved more than 40 million copies since July.

    If that isn't "the public making a fuss", then what is it?

    • 1) Write your Senator or Congressperson, they need your vote more than they need the lobbying dollars. No votes, no access to the cash. Simple. Remind them they work for you, not the megaliths of content control.
      They love e-mail these days.
  • The buck stops with the artists.

    An artist has the choice to sell out or be free.

    Selling out means imposing a copyright on their work and then transferring the copyright to a large, monolithic, investment-driven organization that will surprise nobody in its mercilless drive to squeeze a buck out of the work.

    Being free means playing music, writing prose, etc., without attaching any strings. Period.

    If you're the Backstreet Boys, you sell out, because it'll take a huge branding campaign and monopolistic distribution to saturate tween minds to the point of addiction before anyone would listen to, much less pay for your music.

    If you're actually a true force of creativity, you stay free, as selling out would hurt the health of your work. This used to (rightly) be called "Alternative" or "Underground". You give your work to the public domain and don't charge, except maybe for shows and equipment, and then only to cover costs and go out for a movie.

    Us users, on the other end, should reward the artists and ignore the rest.

    Vote with your Voice. Vote with your Feet. And Vote with your Wallet.
  • 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
    • > The problem here is that the established media companies provide 1-3, and get paid at #4!

      There's a strong case that they often skip #2.

      Virg

      P.S. about your .sig: obviously that'd be the "Blue Skin of Death".
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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