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The Semantics of File Sharing 506

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-say-tomato-i-say-cease-and-desist dept.
ethericalzen writes "The LA Times has published an opinion article about the legal semantics and analogies of file sharing. The article includes arguments from those who believe file sharing is theft and those who strongly disagree. As it points out, the common analogies to theft are often incomplete or inaccurate. The author states, "balancing the interests of content creators against the public's ... is a much more complicated task than erecting a legal barrier to five-fingered discounts." He recognizes that it is not a trivial concept, and that the clamoring from both camps about definitions and moral boundaries will dictate how businesses and users function in the future."
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The Semantics of File Sharing

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  • No better then /. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:21PM (#22509794)

    The article includes arguments from those who believe file sharing is theft and those who strongly disagree. As it points out, the common analogies to theft are often incomplete or inaccurate


    So in other words its just an article that is what Slashdot is like every time an *AA story gets posted? Some calling it theft and others saying its not?
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:29PM (#22509884)
      Actually it's very similar. He points out the arguments on both ends and comes to a middle ground by concluding that it's like stealing cable, which is much closer to the same thing. And as we all, they both happen a lot and only cost the companies in lost revenue that they may or may not have lost otherwise.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Romancer (19668)
        A: It's theft. The theif gets something they want and they value it, yet do not pay.
        B: There are widely known methods to aquire the exact same or better object. (ripping to lossless from CD for example) But there is both the cost to leagally aquire the original and the time converting it to consider.
        C: The major excuse "there isn't a legal alternative" is lost by point B. since ripping for ones own personal use has not been solidly confirmed as illegal. Yet filesharing or "Making available" is much more obv
        • Very simple to me. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by TheLink (130905) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:56PM (#22511002) Journal
          Simple: if it was theft they wouldn't need copyright law or DMCA to prosecute file sharing etc, they _could_ choose to use the various laws covering theft for that. Not saying they would but they could.

          Of course, if they convince enough people and the courts that it's theft, then legally speaking it'll be theft, BUT that hasn't happened yet, so meanwhile, the rest of us are going to keep saying its not theft :).

          What's closer to theft is the Corporations convincing the government(s) to _retroactively_ take stuff out of the public domain and make it theirs.

          When that was done we lost a lot of access/use of those stuff, stuff that we used to have the right to use freely.

          What filesharing does is it makes the Corporations lose a lot of access to our money. But the last I checked, they didn't have an automatic right to our money.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Fëanáro (130986)

          A: It's theft. The theif gets something they want and they value it, yet do not pay.


          That is not the definition of theft. Not even close.

          If I go to a flower field and take a deep breath, I get something I want and value, yet do not pay.
    • by tristian_was_here (865394) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:36PM (#22509962)

      So in other words its just an article that is what Slashdot is like every time an *AA story gets posted? Some calling it theft and others saying its not?
      Well it does not matter because we all know file sharers are gang lords, drug dealers, terrorists and any other type of hardcore criminal. How do I know this? RIAA says so!
    • Re:No better then /. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gideon Fubar (833343) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:36PM (#22509968) Journal
      The difference is, of course, that everyone already knows about it on slashdot, and has a dedicated opinion. This is the LA times, a somewhat more mainstream publication, ne?
  • Ahhh, Semantics... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wandering Wombat (531833) <mightyjalapeno.gmail@com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:23PM (#22509814) Homepage Journal
    The last resort of the desperate Internet argument.

    Still, this will either a) finally put down on paper that file sharing is not theft, or b) put down on paper that the exchange of copyrighted information is, in fact, theft, and then everyone is in a world of poop. My old VHS recordings of Red Dwarf and The Muppets will suddenly become a complicated legal quagmire.

    Now, quagmire is semantically defined as...
    • by Protonk (599901) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:26PM (#22509840) Homepage
      Semantics does not always have to be used in the perjorative sense. Here we are literally parsing the terms to determine what might be good or bad for society. Semantics is legally important because most legal arguments are made by analogy (fundamentally, that is what a reference to a prior case is).
    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:31PM (#22509908) Homepage

      Now, quagmire is semantically defined as...

      Giggety [wikipedia.org]!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Your red dwarf and muppets tapes are protected under the time shifting ruling many years ago, that established that taping shows off of broadcast tv is not infringement. I also personally believe that the only people engaging in semantics are those who say that downloading music/movies isn't theft. Yes, to the letter it may no be, but you're enjoying a commodity without paying for it (and it otherwise isn't free), which is in spirit theft.
      • by CSMatt (1175471) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:01PM (#22510156)
        You can legitimately argue that something like unauthorized file sharing is like theft, but not that it is theft.
        • by erikharrison (633719) on Friday February 22, 2008 @02:47AM (#22512166)
          I realize you're making the reasonable, moderate claim that here. I've done the same in the past. But this shit can no longer stand. I'm just gonna come out and say it - you cannot legitimately argue that piracy is theft. You just can't. I've heard all the damn arguments, and not one of them make sense to an unbiased, educated party. It's like arguing that the world is flat. It just isn't fucking flat, I don't care what it looks like in the desert.

          Piracy is like sneaking into a movie theatre. Bam. I've done it. I've created a reasonble fucking analogy that I think holds up to moderate levels of scrutiny. Yet no one ever claimed that sneaking into a movie theatre is stealing. What is it you're stealing? You're getting something for free, but that's not stealing.
    • Its not semantics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:36PM (#22509970) Homepage Journal
      Copyright violation is not theft. Period, and end of story. There is no semantical issue here, its simply not true.

      Now, that said it may ( or may not ) be a civil offense, and even may become a criminal offense if the IP industry gets it way, but its not by definition theft nor will it ever be.
    • by Petrushka (815171) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:36PM (#22510434)

      Still, this will either a) finally put down on paper that file sharing is not theft, or b) put down on paper that the exchange of copyrighted information is, in fact, theft,

      The truth, as always, is more nuanced than attempts to simplify it to nothingness can ever be. If you were actually to read the article, you'll see that it puts forward a very good case for refusing to label file copying either as "stealing" -- because it manifestly isn't -- or as "sharing" -- because that is equally loaded.

      "Stealing" and "sharing" are both weasel words. The article does go into more depth about how the term "stealing" could be rationalised, without giving the "sharing" side equal treatment, so it's a little bit inequitable. But I am persuaded by its core argument: if you want to think of file copying as "sharing", go ahead, feel free. But if you do, your using loaded language is going to legitimise the **AA using loaded language. Of course the **AAs and their equivalents in every other country are complete bastards, but that's not the point. If you want fairness, it has to start somewhere. It sure ain't going to start with the **AA, so ....

  • Read the FA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Protonk (599901) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:24PM (#22509828) Homepage
    This is very much worth the read. It is surprisingly erudite for a newspaper and it is also pretty nuanced. The critical points are illuminated (theft as deprivation of a good or theft as an unjust enrichment), the debate is balanced and excellent sources are used. Well worth the click away from /..
    • by Wandering Wombat (531833) <mightyjalapeno.gmail@com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:26PM (#22509846) Homepage Journal
      Use of those words must be granted expressly by the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. Please cease and desist all use of "hard words" until our lawyers can be in contact with you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jd (1658)
        We regret to inform you that "hard" has been trademarked by the Viagra Spammers Association. Please cease, desist and buy products from dubious dealers until our lawyers contact you about a transfer opportunity from Nigeria.
    • by CSMatt (1175471)
      But, But...

      This is the Los Angeles Times!

      Have you forgotten where the movie studios are located?
      • by Protonk (599901)
        :)

        Totally slipped my mind. Doesn't change the fact that the paper:

        A: Talks about editorials that they didn't publish.

        B: Mentions with clarity the primary sources and arguments for feeling that copying as theft is wrong.

        C: Explains some good reasons why copying may be construed as theft, sometimes.

        And concludes that the answer isn't strictly to be found by parsing literature for a good analogy.
        • by CSMatt (1175471)
          Well I call bullshit on their "theft of service" argument, because it has the same flawed reasoning that file sharing=theft has and should be called "infringement of service." Likewise so-called "identity theft" is really identity fraud. Case in point: If someone found out a way to use your identity in such a way that you no longer have it, then there is no one to dump the fraudulent charges on except the fraudster himself/herself, making the crime moot.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Content creators are not (usually) idiots. I guarantee you that some smart movie studio executives are sitting in a room somewhere on a regular basis watching what has happened to the recording industry. They've noticed that by significantly reducing piracy, music sales also plummeted. They recognize that a lot of piracy causes people to be exposed to movies, TV shows, actors, actresses, directors, etc. that they might otherwise not have bothered to rent or watch in a theater, and that a not insignifican

    • theft as deprivation of a good or theft as an unjust enrichment

      I think he misses a little, with that "acquire value without paying" (unjust enrichment) expression. Worrying about other people getting ahead isn't really a good way to look at it. (Air has value and is free. Same for Linux.) A better way to express that view might be "denial of market." If you freely acquire a good that I have a government-given monopoly for, then I don't get to sell it to you. It devalues the monopoly.

  • by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:25PM (#22509832) Homepage
    Some things really just need to be explained in terms of themselves. Computer networks are not highway systems. They're not houses. They're not cars, or floor waxes, or dishwashing detergents. They do a totally unique thing, using technologies and paradigms that didn't even exist before computers were invented to make use of them.

    OF COURSE analogies don't work.
    • by Protonk (599901) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:31PM (#22509910) Homepage
      where does this literal thinking come from? Legally we need analogies because past cases dictate future decisions and past cases can't possibly be written with the future in mind. This does not mean that analogies are by themselves valid, we are not excused from thought and judgement. What it does mean is that we make connections between the past and the present and we reason based on those connections. Both the reasoning and the connection should be scrutinized.

      Take, for example, the current case law surrounding IR surveillance by cops. The case was basically decided by treating heat radiated from a home as "waste" so the person involved forfeited their right to privacy to that waste heat. This may seem like a bad decision, but realize that it was made in a time when IR sensors couldn't 'see' through walls effectively enough to make out features, body parts, etc (they still really can't). Once that happens, the case will come up again and the reasoning will probably be revised.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by susano_otter (123650)

        Legally we need analogies because past cases dictate future decisions and past cases can't possibly be written with the future in mind.

        There's a first time for everything. Why can't novel situations produce a novel body of laws based on consideration of the actual harm actually caused by those novel situations per se, rather than a derivative body of laws based on some poorly-conceived and thoroughly inaccurate analogy?

        A man's life is not analagous to his property. We don't use property law to try homicide

        • When I "steal" you bandwith, what is literally happening is that my device is making a request to your device. Your device, configured by you, activated by you, either approves or denies my request. If it approves my request, there is literally no theft--I have your written permission, recorded in the configuration of your device, to use your bandwidth.

          This makes the rather large assumption that I am able to configure my device with that level of detail. But it may not support such configuration, or I might not be knowledgeable enough to configure it that fully. And you certainly do not have "written permission". What is written is instructions to the device. If I get fired but the company forgets to deactivate my entry card, does that mean that I still have "written permission" to go back to the employee-only parts of their building whenever I want?

          And if it denies my request, there is literally no theft, because I cannot use your bandwidth.

          Exc

        • by Protonk (599901)

          Legally we need analogies because past cases dictate future decisions and past cases can't possibly be written with the future in mind.

          There's a first time for everything. Why can't novel situations produce a novel body of laws based on consideration of the actual harm actually caused by those novel situations per se, rather than a derivative body of laws based on some poorly-conceived and thoroughly inaccurate analogy?

          A man's life is not analagous to his property. We don't use property law to try homicide cases.

          And why not be literal? Are the basics of computer networking too difficult for judges and lawyers to understand on their own terms? Let's take a literal look at bandwidth "stealing" for example:

          When I "steal" you bandwith, what is literally happening is that my device is making a request to your device. Your device, configured by you, activated by you, either approves or denies my request. If it approves my request, there is literally no theft--I have your written permission, recorded in the configuration of your device, to use your bandwidth. And if it denies my request, there is literally no theft, because I cannot use your bandwidth. That's the way the protocol is written, that's the way the protocol is enforced. It's literally that simple and straightforward. No need for analogies. The thing is completely understandable in terms of itself.

          OK. Let's be clear. Some principles of the law (namely stare decicis) dictate that we can't and shouldn't just generate bodies of novel law. The law is meant to apply some strong continuity--this is why it is not uncommon to see decision today that cite english common law from hundreds of years ago. It is only with great reluctance that new law is generated or decisions made without resting largely on the past.

          Homicde cases don't deal with human life as "property" because some standing law exists tha

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      We use analogies to explain something people don't understand by using something they are familiar with. If you hate arguments by analogy, you simply hate people who don't have the same knowledge set as you.

      Now, arguments by analogy can and are often abused, and analogies are easy to overextend, but basic logic and common sense are tools in preventing these problems. Maybe you hate logic and common sense, too. I don't know. Understanding your position is like ...
      • Explanations by analogy are one thing. Arguments by analogy are something else entirely.

        Explanations try to give someone a better understanding of something. And even then analogies can only go so far. They break down at some point, and if the wrong analogy is chosen, or if the audience requires a deeper understanding than an analogy can provide, it can do more harm than good. Ultimately, a good understanding of a thing can only be accomplished by studying the thing itself in terms of itself.

        Arguments by an
    • Analogies are like cars. They help you get there.
  • by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:28PM (#22509862) Journal
    It always amused me how the popular analogy from the other camp was "Oh, so if you want a car, it's okay to steal it is it?" So they can get all high and moral. But when you break it down and say "Okay, I'm going to make an exact duplicate of your car, never once depriving you of the usage of it. It will not inconvenience you in any way." The argument rather falls flat on it's face.

    The whole "filesharing = theft" equation is almost entirely down to MPAA, RIAA and other organizations brainwashing people. Saying something a 1000 times doesn't make it true. If it did, downloading WOULD be theft by this point. But it's still copyright violation, which is why these groups, with their large political donations, have made copyright violation are far FAR harsher crime than theft ever was.

    I break into your house and nick your Transformers DVD, at worst I'd probably go down for 30 days, unless I'm haibitual. Small fine probably. The charge will be breaking and entering, theft etc... I download Transformers from you instead, we BOTH face tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and many years in jail.

    You're better off, from a jailtime perspective, heading into your local WalMart, nicking a few DVD's, then rape the cashier on the way out. You'll serve less time than if you get caught downloading the movie.

    The semantic aren't really the issue here, as the powers that be want to have their cake AND eat it too. They want the association in the public eye to be IT'S THEFT! IT'S NO DIFFERENT THAN STEALING A CAR! But in the back rooms they know this is bullshit, and continue to push on with copyright violation punishments being exponentially increased.

    What you or I call it is irrelevant.
    • by CSMatt (1175471)
      Whatever they're doing, it's slowly but surely working. There are actually some students at my college who think that downloading is in fact stealing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Damon Tog (245418) *

      Let's consider your analogy of cloning a car:

      It doesn't deprive the original owner of anything, but modern cars do require a considerable amount of investment to design and test. By cloning a car, you are taking advantage of the work and investments of the company that builds them, while choosing not compensate them for it.

      The logical conclusion of your analogy is not that it is OK to clone cars, but that the clones themselves would have to be sold in a manner that reflects the fact that copies are unlimite
    • by gardyloo (512791)

      Saying something a 1000 times doesn't make it true.
      Yeah, but for those rare times when it DOES make it true...

              "Natalie .... hot grits... . Natalie .... hot grits... . Natalie .... hot grits... . "
    • by RedWizzard (192002) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:03PM (#22510176)

      It always amused me how the popular analogy from the other camp was "Oh, so if you want a car, it's okay to steal it is it?" So they can get all high and moral. But when you break it down and say "Okay, I'm going to make an exact duplicate of your car, never once depriving you of the usage of it. It will not inconvenience you in any way." The argument rather falls flat on it's face.
      One of the very goods point TFA makes is that this argument from the industry associations is not helping them because it's so clearly false. It really is a sophism, and by persisting with it they are effectively saying that either they think we are idiots or they are idiots. Either way the argument ultimately hurts their position.
    • by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:27PM (#22510364) Homepage Journal
      The thing is, IP theft really does deprive owners of that IP of money. Ask Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens, all of whom had to go to court to prevent IP pirates from profiting from their works...and depriving them of those same profits. IP law got careful coverage in the US Constitution for a good reason; the Framers were well aware of its benefits.

      I'd readily agree that current US law has gone much too far in reducing the scope of fair use and overestimating the monetary value of piracy in civil and criminal cases. But it's not fundamentally wrong, it just needs tuning.
      • by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:46PM (#22510500)
        Funny you should use Ben Franklin as an example. Those evil pirates profiting from his freely offerd work.

        From Wikipedia:

        Franklin was a prodigious inventor. Among his many creations were the lightning rod, the glass harmonica, the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, and the flexible urinary catheter. Franklin never patented his inventions; in his autobiography he wrote, "... as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."[8] His inventions also included social innovations, such as paying forward.

      • Then perhaps you'd like to purchase the rights for public demonstrations of the "happy birthday" song [wikipedia.org] that you will inevitability sing when something increments their age count.

        Yes the "Happy Birthday" song is copyrighted and still collecting fees to this day from radio stations, etc. It's set to expire in 2030 apparently (i'm sure copyright extensions will prevent that).

        The real question that should be asked is, at what point does a piece of music become part of the public domain culture? What's next? A pa
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wilko11 (452421)

      It always amused me how the popular analogy from the other camp was "Oh, so if you want a car, it's okay to steal it is it?" So they can get all high and moral. But when you break it down and say "Okay, I'm going to make an exact duplicate of your car, never once depriving you of the usage of it. It will not inconvenience you in any way." The argument rather falls flat on it's face.

      Let's assume that you have the magic Star Trek matter replicator and can make a copy of the car, although it is true that you

  • by Pearson (953531) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:28PM (#22509864)
    "Downloading a movie off of the Internet is the same as taking a DVD off a store shelf without paying for it," adds the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

    If this were true, the punishment would be the same.
  • Greed on all sides (Score:5, Insightful)

    by syousef (465911) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:29PM (#22509886) Journal
    Any time you find weasel words and bad analogies going unchecked, follow the money trail. This isn't about artist's rights. If anyone gave a crap about that there'd be an uproar about unfair record contracts and middle men getting all the money. Basically in this case you have:
    1) Artists who hope to get rich by gaming the system (as a few artists certainly have).
    2) Middle men going to extreme measures (like bankrupting or jailing people, draconian drm) to protect their "right" to collect most of the money.
    3) Lots of people who are happy to take content without compensating anyone for it.

    There are exceptions but the status quo is pretty bad. Still, the human race has bigger problems. Pollution. Overpopulation. War. Disease. Compared to that this is all petty bullshit and a waste of words. All these people just need to stop grubbing for every last dollar and accept that sometimes life isn't going to hand them what they're due, what they're worth, or what they've earnt. Other people will take you for all that you're worth if they can - it doesn't give you the right to adopt the same attitude.

    In other words: Life ain't fair. Get over it. There are many more important things than the latest film or pop song. Stop penalizing everyone you can to protect your own money grubbing arse.
  • This article brings out the common observation that copies of files are, in theory, unlimited. If this is true, it means that the way music (and movies, and books, etcs.) are sold must change.

    BUT this does not mean that music should be free--it means that today's "a la carte" method of selling music is obsolete.

    A rough comparision would be to the cable industry. When you subscribe to cable, you are not forced to pay for each television show that you watch (think iTunes), you simply pay a flat rate and watch
    • They're already doing this with multiple services. Between those services and iTunes, iTunes is clearly winning. Some people like a la carte, some like flat rate (compare renting one movie at a time and having a club where you can rent as much as you want).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ACMENEWSLLC (940904)
      The arguments I here on /. really makes me think I am surrounded by pirates here.

      Downloading a music file in itself isn't pirating. I have hundreds of MP3's on one my websites that you can download. We own the copyright to the MP3's. You and I are doing file sharing. I let you freely copy the files, without payment, and I retain the IP rights.

      It's not the file sharing that is the illegal aspect (at least not by US law, ymmv) it is the IP infringement violation that is illegal. You are stealing incomi
  • by Hoplite3 (671379) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:33PM (#22509930)
    I think what's really positive here (besides the very good article) is that these ideas have finally hit mainstream. There's at least acknowledgement of a debate, and I think that will really help to move things forward. About the only point that's missing is that the temporary (I use the term loosely) monopoly provided to creative works should be set so as to balance the production of work with the public interest. We've seen several lengthenings of copyright, but there was no discussion of whether or not these were a good deal for the public at large. Greg London's Bounty Hunters (http://www.greglondon.com/bountyhunters) gives a good picture of this side of the issue.
  • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:34PM (#22509940) Homepage Journal
    Seriously. The copies have value (otherwise, why would you spend the time to get them?). When you download something, the result is that more people have these valuble copies. For some kinds of things, this may even increase the value of copies that other people already have (anything that has network effects). So by downloading a copy of something, you create value. The only catch is, the copyright holder isn't able to take out their cut.
  • by schwaang (667808) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:48PM (#22510062)
    Yes, there are some who will make various intellectual arguments for why it should always be legal to rip the latest Disney movie for free. In the end, it's for the common good that we have created an artifical set of rules that allow creators to be compensated for their otherwise easily copied works. The guy on the street overwhelmingly agrees with this, just as he also agrees on an artificial speed limit for his car.

    But there is room for serious dispute over where that artificial line is drawn, and how the rules get enforced. The problem isn't that copyright makes piracy (aka "sharing") illegal. It's that technological enforcement of copyright via "digital rights management" (DRM) just goes too far in restricting human nature. And such attempts to force universities or ISPs to police their students from committing piracy is draconian (plus so lame).

    The hard problem isn't to decide whether or not to have copyright law. It's how do we let Disney be paid for every copy of a movie, while still allowing the common man to make a backup copy of his DVD library, or lend a movie to a friend, or use a clip in a remix?
  • by mapkinase (958129) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:52PM (#22510108) Homepage Journal
    Why do we need analogies? Why do we need to find similarities? It is a simple case of two parties, one of which is accusing the other as the source of their financial losses. It does not matter what do you call it. If one side can prove that their losses were because of the actions of another, that's it. Copyright violation is already a crime. If I make a VHS tape of the Seinfeld episode, they will have hard time proving that I incurred significant losses on NBC. If I made a torrent out of it and put it on the seeder it's another issue.

    See? No need for bad or any analogies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aeschenkarnos (517917)
      But you do not have an right to not incur losses. Every time I buy a Subway sub, McDonalds and KFC incur a loss, because I did not buy my takeaway meal from them. What if I made a sandwich myself? What if I picked an apple off a tree? Would you argue that the fast-food companies have a right to be compensated?
  • As it points out, the common analogies to theft are often incomplete or inaccurate.

    Analogies are always incomplete and inaccurate (the former necessarily implies the latter, anyhow); if they were complete and accurate, they would be equivalencies, not analogies.

    What is important is whether the similarities in the things which are held up as analogous support the conclusion drawn from the analogy; IOW, whether and to what degree the similarities (or, conversely, the inaccuracy and incompleteness of the analo

  • I Call It "Speech" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LuYu (519260) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:02PM (#22510172) Homepage Journal

    I have a word for "file sharing": I call it "speech". I have the Right (as in God-given, inalienable, fundamental, and/or natural -- take your pick) to repeat any speech that enters my realm of experience from any source.

    • If a picture is worth a thousand words, I have the Right to repeat those thousand words.
    • If I hear a tune, I have the Right to sing it.
    • If I read a book, I have a Right to repeat any or all of the information in that book.

    Before the internet became popular, copyright did not very significantly encroach upon the territory of Free Speech. Now, no one can reasonably claim that copyright does not restrict Free Speech and education. Obviously, Free Speech is more important than copyright, just as Democracy is more important than monopoly privileges.

    File sharing is Free Speech.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by invader_vim (1243902)

      • If a picture is worth a thousand words, I have the Right to repeat those thousand words.

      Provided those words are your own and do not infringe on any copyrighted material. Also, you do not have the right to reproduce the original picture without the authorisation of the copyright holder.

      • If I hear a tune, I have the Right to sing it.

      But not to release it publicly without compensation to the creator(s).

      • If I read a book, I have a Right to repeat any or all of the information in that book.

      But not to repeat the information without acknowledgment of the source, or to pass it off as your own work.

      The distinction here is that you are entitled to use the work (or the information provided therein), but are not entitled to th

  • Sharing files without permission is.

    "File sharing" is just a technology that lets people share files.

    When it is used to share files without authorization legal issues come up, with copyright violation being the top one.

    But, if I share a Ubuntu ISO over a file sharing program, no laws anywhere are being broken.

    Can we please be more specific? With specificity, it is hard to have an argument.
    (The article is correct, the /. summary isn't. Big surprise there...)
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:18PM (#22510288)
    The biggest lie out there is that file sharing equates to lost sales on a 1:1 basis. In fact, the record industry is hard pressed to make the case that file sharing results in ANY lost sales. They don't have some line of reformed file sharers testifying that, "I didn't buy that single/record/cd because I downloaded it on KaZaA instead." But with NO EVIDENCE to back them up, they continue to insist that:

    Every illegal download is a lost sale.

    Their entitled to THOUSANDS OF TIMES THEIR ACTUAL LOSSES from every infringer they haul into court.

    You can absolutely identify the infringing user and computer from nothing more than an IP address and a timestamp.

    There is no other explanation for the overall decline in CD sales.

    We're only doing this for the artists.

  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:51PM (#22510530)
    This article gives a surprisingly nuanced and fair overview of the issues at hand. We've been over these things a million times on Slashdot, of course. Still, it's encouraging to see the greater public getting their heads around what really is a complex issue.

    The one point I don't think gets mentioned nearly enough is the potential value of free copying to society. We hear plenty about the supposed cost. But in a world with liberal sharing of creative works, those works will get into the hands of many more people, including people of limited means. People will be exposed to amazing works they might have otherwise missed. Works will have to compete for attention based more purely on their content, rather than on the marketing muscle behind them. New works will be created that are inspired by, and in some cases built from, the numerous creative sources made available through sharing.

    Best of all, free copying creates a worldwide decentralized backup system for these works. Many works will be saved which might have been otherwise lost because they were copyrighted for far longer than they were profitable.

    We are witnessing the beginning of a new era, where creativity spews forth from all corners and mixes in many unexpected ways. Much of it will be crap, but some of it will be mind-blowingly fantastic. An environment of sharing with few restrictions will make this possible, and it will preserve the best of what is produced for generations to come.
  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:01PM (#22510598)
    Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear,.. ah crap.. [wikipedia.org]
  • the internet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 (807168) * on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:07PM (#22510658) Homepage
    The internet IS a peer to peer file sharing tool.
  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:17PM (#22510716) Homepage Journal
    have been giving away free content since inception. this is of course supported by advertising. the business model works just fine

    business based on the distribution of books, dvds, cds, etc., meanwhile is based on the control of tangible media you need to manufacture, put on a truck, and ship to a store

    what the internet did was force the radio/ tv economic model on the book/ dvd/ cd distributors

    it's disruptive technology defined. and, unfortunately for entrenched business interests based on distribution of tangible media, completely irreversible and completely unstoppable

    meanwhile, all of the moral arguments are complete bullshit. it's just a business earthquake, plain and simple. pointing to morality is merely crocodile tears on the part of some very powerful, but dying businesses
  • by Heir Of The Mess (939658) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:31PM (#22510834) Homepage

    Here's an analogy for you:

    Supposing the leader of country, lets call him Hitler, made it such that all the german cultural productions couldn't be sold or broadcast unless they went through an organization of his. This organization diddled the originators out of what money they thought they were going to get. Furthermore the artists basically wanted to have their works heard by all the people, but the government decided when and what people could listen too, except for the wealthy who could pay to have their own copies of the large bodies of work.

    The money raised by this organization was used to persecute a minority based on their choice of a religion that was a foundation of Christianity which is the dominant religion.

    So if a person copied a piece of their culture so that they could listen to it when they wanted to should they be bankrupted for the rest of their lives?

    Answer: Of course! They are a pirate, and that's how the law says we treat pirates. You want to obey the law right?

    You might argue about how it depends on the use of the money. Well ok, I guess the people working for the RIAA need to open up their uses of the money so that we can judge if revenue from our culture is being spent appropriately or not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Alsee (515537)
      Here's an analogy for you:

      Supposing the leader of country, lets call him...


      Bush!
      Lets call him Bush!
      Can we call him Bush?

      ...Hitler

      Oh. Ok.

      -

  • by silas_moeckel (234313) <silas AT dsminc-corp DOT com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:00PM (#22511020) Homepage
    OK you have two types of things property, it just is at the founding of the US that potentially included other people but it was something had. The right to own property and keep is is a basic fundamental right, it can be taken away via the courts or via eminent domain but otherwise it's yours to do what you please with.

    Copyright created IP and is supposed to last for a limited time only to foster the creation of more creative works. We started going down the slippery slope when it got extended further and further. As people had control over things via copyright for longer and longer it looks more and more like property.

    There needs to be a balance between the two competing forces some copyright holders have lots of money and have been buying congress critters for years (Disney and others) to keep expanding the scope of copyright. The people who have a lot of money as a whole but little on the average have a desire to be able to use things freely after copyright has expired. It would appear that the people in general ignore copyright it does little for them in there view. Striking a balance does not seem to hard music more than a few years old is past it's peak same for movies. Software is a bit of a special class as it's iterative so lets put that as maybe a few years without updates. To some extent go back to requiring registration of copyright but add a copy be sent to archive at the library of congress in it's most complete form (copy's of the original film or studio master as released, binary and source for software). Mix in the freedom to format shift copyright material. Allow the import of materials legally acquired in the source country. Ban any technical/contractual means restricting the application of users rights. After thats done you could look at making personal copyright infringement a minor criminal infraction like j walking or speeding nothing to go to court for and leave egregious forms like mass duplication of fake DVD's where they are. You might end up with a working system at this rate IP is the prohibition of our age it looked good on paper but not in application.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:01PM (#22511034) Homepage Journal

    goes the familiar RIAA/MPAA-endorsed jingle...

    And you know what? They're right. But neither would I attempt to steal the artist's living through creative accounting. I think the point they're trying to make is that they're far bigger jerks than you could ever hope to be, so don't mess with them.

    Next time someone talks about filesharing as if it's stealing, remind them that you lose money on every download. You have to pay for the bandwidth, the equipment, and - by golly! - that all gets very expensive. By the time you're done, you just don't have anything left to pay the record companies... sorry!

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