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Piracy The Almighty Buck The Courts Your Rights Online

Considering a Fair Penalty For Illegal File-sharing 728

Posted by timothy
from the if-there-is-such-a-thing dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt, following up on yesterday's announcement of the 1.5 million dollar verdict against Jammie Thomas: "This week a federal jury handed down the verdict in the third file-sharing trial against a Minnesota mother of four who has been fighting against the charges brought by the RIAA since 2005. Understandably, a lot of people are outraged by this verdict and while reading through comments about the fine on some online forums, I saw some interesting opinions on how these fines should be assessed. The point that $62,500 per song is excessively high seems to be something that everyone can agree on, but what actually is fair seems to be a big point of contention."
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Considering a Fair Penalty For Illegal File-sharing

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  • Ill gotten gains (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:41PM (#34143214)

    Let the convicted turn over the proceeds from their crime to the victim. Problem solved.

  • None. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao.hotmail@com> on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:52PM (#34143292) Homepage

    Abolish copyright. Problem solved.

  • 1000 dollars (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:53PM (#34143306) Homepage Journal

    flat fine for non profit use sharing. Its enough to make people think twice and not destroy their lives.

    Now, if you are selling advertising, or songs making a profit in any way, it should be based on the specific event. Fox using a song in a movie should be fined more then a person who sold a song for a dollar.

    Only for distribution, downloading can not be make illegal. You can not expect consumers to be responsible for the crimes of the merchant.

  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:54PM (#34143312)
    This is the fairest method I can think of:

    1. Find out how many people obtained the song from that source
    2. Find out that given a set of X people, what percentage would have purchased the song - this is the difficult part, but I'm sure you could aggregate data from online purchasing sites or something. Or even better - grab a bunch of people from the street - give them a pre-decided price, ask them whether the song is worth X dollars.
    3. This person pays for the copies of the people would have purchased it otherwise. If its one of those 99 cent songs on itunes, then he probably won't be paying much.
  • Re:Hang on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenneth Stephen (1950) on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:55PM (#34143324) Journal

    Thats not the way the justice system is supposed to work: the punishment must fit the crime. For example, one could mandate the death penalty for something like littering in order to deter even the rich from littering. This would certainly meeting the criteria of being equally unfair to everyone, but it isn't justice. Justice is about being fair to everyone - not the opposite.

  • Re:None. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:57PM (#34143342) Homepage
    You are aware that this destroys the value of human labor on a massive scale, right?
  • Re:Hang on... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:00PM (#34143392) Homepage
    Choosing any amount will allow those rich enough to simply ignore the law.

    You have inadvertently re-invented the US judicial system. Bad AC, bad!
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:06PM (#34143454)

    not based on a per-song basis. charge what the songs cost on a retail (or equiv) basis. there shold NOT BE A MULTIPLIER EFFECT going on.

    that's the problem people keep missing.

    remove this multiplier crap. that does not work and there is no 'pay a higher pentalty' for having an album's worth of songs vs just 1.

    if the act is wrong, punish the act.

    they don't lock you up for shoplifting based on how many POUNDS of material you stole. or what its square yardage is. why are people so willing to accept the per-song penalty multiplier?

    songs cost what they cost (lets save that for another debate). if I 'stole' 10 songs and they go for a dollar each, that's $100. and yes, for a regular person, that's a lot of money and will make them think twice about doing this again (or rather, getting caught). but it will NOT ruin them for life with lawyer bills and riaa bills.

    no multiplier for songs. get that solved right off.

    the actual penalty is a fixed amount. I don't care what that is, but at least its the same amount and one that can at least be rationally discussed.

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:06PM (#34143460) Homepage
    What is a download? Is a $0.99 song a download that would be OK to "pirate?" What about a video game that cost a company $50 million to create? If it was legal, why would anyone buy it instead of "pirating" it? Who would pay for its production? What incentive would there be to create any but the most trivial digital content?

    Has it occurred to you that you are proposing the destruction of the value of human labor on a massive scale?
  • Pretty simple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@@@gmail...com> on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:08PM (#34143480) Homepage

    No possibility to sue, put a small levy on blank media. Problem solved, works good pretty much everywhere in the world it's done.

  • Re:None. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:08PM (#34143484) Homepage
    That was a troll? You have got to be kidding! You realize that destroying copyright destroys the value of copyright-protected commercial products and the monetary incentive to create them, don't you?
  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:08PM (#34143488)
    Maximum of $50/song with a maximum total cap of $50,000.

    What if I make $100 per song selling your songs, and you lose $500 in sales because I undersold you? Still $50/song then?

    So someone who accidentally shares their music library for a couple days...

    Should not be in court at all, since there is no intent to commit a crime or violate copyright.

    ... someone who seeds torrents on their company's 100mbit tube for a year.

    Is showing an explicit intent to both violate copyright by copying AND distributing, and since it is torrent, is probably profiting in some other way (getting files in exchange that he would otherwise have to pay for).

  • Re:Pretty simple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:13PM (#34143546)

    Except that doesn't stop anything (See: Canada)

  • by Kethinov (636034) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:13PM (#34143554) Homepage Journal

    Setting aside the fact that a $50 million dollar budget to create a video game might imply inefficiencies in the production costs, there are plenty of alternative models at the disposal of the developers.

    They could serve the download for the game for free, but require the downloader to watch a few video ads. Such an ad setup would fetch a lot more of a pretty penny than some stupid adsense site (which they could deploy as well) and you can be sure they'd be bringing in more volume in new customers that they surely currently lose charging absurd prices such as $50+ a pop for a new game (depending on publisher).

    They could also offer, in addition to that, a subscription service that allows ad-free downloading and discounted game-related merchandise. Maybe being a subscriber entitles the subscriber to other benefits, such as a physical media rental, or a special privileges on the official game server. Think software a service.

    And that's just what I can come up with in five minutes. Who knows how many other models there are that are competitive with piracy? The point is there are lots of options. To say that legalizing noncommercial copyright infringement would destroy the value of human labor is fallaciously sensationalist.

  • Re:Depends... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel&hotmail,com> on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:15PM (#34143564) Homepage Journal

    What, pray tell, is an "illegal download"?

    Since everything is copyrighted (with the exception of public domain material) -- everything you download is copyrighted. The Web does not carry "copyright" information (except for some DRM material).

    Some jurisdictions do have the concept (or can have) of an "illegal download". Here, child porn would fall into that class (as an example). So would some hate literature. Now, I don't really know what to do if I accidentally downloaded material like that. Erase it? Signs it had been erased would make me guilty... I imagine I would erase and overwrite it. Possibly, turn it in to local law-enforcement (depends on my relationship with law-enforcement at the time, I suppose).

    Still, images, text, audio and video are all copyrighted on creation. Pray tell how you can distinguish a music track that may be downloaded (due to viral advertising) and one that may not?

    Because of this, the onus must be on the party doing the copying (or distributing).

    PLEASE, PLEASE get rid of the "illegal download" meme!

  • Re:Hang on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:16PM (#34143578)

    Because taking 10% from me is nothing like taking 10% from a minimum wage earner. I would put less in savings or go out less, he might not be able to eat.

    Community service is far more fair.

  • by dtml-try MyNick (453562) <litheran@PASCALgmail.com minus language> on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:20PM (#34143626)

    Since there is no accurate way (not even remotely) to determine how many lost sales there were from sharing a song I'd say it's utter nonsense to base a fine on that.

    A fixed fine per song seems the most fair to me. Considering I can purchase songs online for a dollar or less I'd say the fine per song should be somewhere in the lines of 2 to 5 dollar tops.

    Both the industry as the legal institutions have to get out of their caves. The world has changed, movies, albums, songs don't have the status anymore they had 20 years ago.

    Even the most casual music listener has thousands upon thousands of songs in their libraries. A mp3 hardly has any value at all anymore.

    It sucks for the big boys in the industry, multi billion dollar profits down the drain for two reasons.
    1. Technology ripped their monopoly to pieces, the multi billion profit days are over, forever. Suck it...
    2. They missed the boat when they had the chance. They should have looked at Napster as a new market, not the root of all evil.

    They laughed at Steve Jobs when he was trying to get iTunes store from the ground. Look who's laughing now. He has the music industry by it's balls. They could have done that themselves but didn't.

    It's their own fucking mistake, common citizens shouldn't have to bleed for that.

  • by Jmanamj (1077749) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:25PM (#34143692)
    You are the fool that allows an idiotic fine like this to happen. Pirating music is not like stealing cars. I'll repeat: pirating music is not like stealing cars. When I download a torrent, NO ONE LOSES ANYTHING. The publishing company doesnt end up with one less copy of the album on their hard drives, the artist doesnt lose the ability to play the song. I would never have paid for that album, and no one who downloads through me would pay for it either. No one loses anything.
  • by hedwards (940851) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:26PM (#34143696)
    Not quite, there is an increase in penalty when it becomes grand theft. But in general it's based upon the value of the goods, and generally speaking they aren't letting the person who was robbed determine the value. It's typically a standard appraisal if a known value isn't already possessed.
  • by tofubeer (1746800) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:34PM (#34143818)

    If you would never have paid for it why are you downloading it?

  • Re:None. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:37PM (#34143866) Journal

    I also don't think it's that contentious to claim that parts of our economy are dependent on copyright law.

    Yes, parts of our economy are based on valueless commodities. To claim that that's a good thing, should continue, and should be propped up by the government damn well ought to be contentious.

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:46PM (#34143968)
    Perhaps because he does not view the product/service as being worth the price it is being offered at. Perhaps in his opinion it should have been less. Perhaps he does not think that 'rich-music-company' deserves his money. Perhaps if there was no internet, he would have gone without.

    There's a degree of 'fuzziness' in this , its not all black and white.
  • Re:Hang on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by biryokumaru (822262) <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:56PM (#34144064)

    Um, no, rich people are rich because their parents are rich, and their friends are rich, and they get lucky. Poor people are typically poor because they don't know any rich people they can get rich off of.

    Like, say you live in a shanty town in Kenya. How are you supposed to get rich by "valuing your time" more than everyone else?

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:57PM (#34144068)

    "If you would never have paid for it why are you downloading it?"

    Just because they downloaded does not mean that the product is worth paying for. Besides, this is completely irrelevant. Logically, pirates take nothing from anyone. The only argument that I've ever seen (and it's a terrible one) is the "potential profit" argument. But, really, it's impossible to steal money that only exists in the future of an alternate dimension where the artist/business made more money. Also, everyone in existence is 'guilty' of 'stealing' profit that others could, potentially, have had (you 'deprive' someone of potential profit merely by choosing not to buy a product). Our illogical capitalistic society is what needs fixing.

  • by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:57PM (#34144078)

    don't be stupid. someone is out a car. do not use theft examples in regard to copyright, they don't work.

    More to the point: When you have a car, you stop buying cars immediately and it lasts for many, many years afterwards. Unless you're rich enough (or have special circumstances like family, pets, work, etc) to want 2, or heaven forbid 3-4 cars; but even then, point is, there is a saturation point that is hit, very very fast.

    However, when taking in things like food, music, art, and movies, you tend to require a selection, and you want that selection to change at intervals, because it's entertainment and things stop being entertaining when they get repetitive. And when you want a new selection, you can easily decide to dip back into a well you trust, such as one you've already heard. And maybe you'll buy it this time, if the prices are reasonable and not artificially propping up asshole middlemen.

    In short: 5 minutes of audio is not the same thing as 4000 lbs of steel. If the GP wanted to make a point, it's better to comparing it to stealing books, magazines, or newspapers, which still isn't quite right, but at least it's vaguely in the ballpark of the economics involved. If you went 5-10 years between music purchases, it might be an argument. But it's not.

  • by houghi (78078) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:57PM (#34144080)

    So, if I steal [...]

    If you steal something, yes. If you COPY something, then no.
    http://www.knowaguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Piracy-vs-Theft.jpg [knowaguy.com]

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:58PM (#34144094)

    how is 'song count' going to make you sorrier when you did NOT click the 'do not share' button next to each song?

    is this really a linear function? is the person supposed to stay in jail longer for having more songs in his up/download share folder?

    what if some songs are out of print? you can't buy them.

    what about side-effect sales; someone uploads a song and this causes others to become fans of the band and buy tickets and tee shirts next time they are at a concert.

    this is just too complex to be any kind of reasonable calculation.

    this is why I said 'take the song-count out of this!'. it simply lines pockets with false fines and distracts from the real issue here.

    if I have 1 song in a folder or 5000, it does not hurt anyone in any material way at all. if I had used stronger and stronger force in robbing a clerk, say, that's where proportionality makes sense. but NOT in 'item count' !

    item count as a multiplier is an assumed conclusion on the riaa banditos but we should not give our minds away to their reasoning on even this step. challenge the concept of song count multipliers. this is not any kind of justice.

    remember, these are MINOR crimes. like speeding (or even less). no one should EVER be financially ruined. and multipliers are ruiners. they are too easy to get out of hand.

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:02PM (#34144124)
    That assumes that:

    1. Every person who downloaded it was going to purchase it for the price at that period of time.
    2. If she was unable to spread the file, every person who downloaded it would have purchased it.
    3. That by spreading the file, no extra profit was generated due to popularity increase or whatever

    That's the biggest problem. The 14 year old kid who uses his parents' internet connection to download gigabits of mp3s, would probably not have purchased any of them.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:04PM (#34144154) Journal

    Why would anybody go through the trouble and expense to create quality movies, tv, music, books, software etc if it's legal to just take the end product without paying? Sure, some people will pay out of principle, but if it's perfectly legal most people will just take it. Without funding, I'm sure there will still be hobby projects, but nothing on the scale we currently enjoy.

    People who desire such works will continue to pay for them. If there aren't enough people willing to pay, some things won't get created. And that's OK. If people aren't willing to pay for it, then they don't value it highly, so it's no loss if it's not created.

    To effectively prevent piracy the penalty has to be such that PenaltyAmount * ProbabilityOfGettingCaught > SavingsByPirating. Right now the chance of getting caught is quite low, so the fine has to be quite high.

    See, this is the problem. Any sane system of justice has the concept of proportionality. i.e. the punishment must fit the crime. In the Judeo-Christian ethic, it's expressed as "an eye for an eye". If you start taking a head for an eye, you degrade respect for the entire system of justice. That hurts everyone.

    Perhaps the problem is actually that the *IAA isn't suing enough people. If ProbabilityOfGettingCaught was close to 1, the PenaltyAmount could be quite close to the actual value of the item pirated

    The only way to approach a 1:1 chance of getting caught is to track every single bit of data that goes over the network. This would be worse from a civil rights perspective (4th amendment) that we'd be better off just banning computers entirely. Either way, without computers, or burdened with an incredibly costly surveillance infrastructure we'd be at a significant economic disadvantage.

  • Re:Hang on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flyneye (84093) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:10PM (#34144204) Homepage

    No monetary figure will be fair because it is sound. Sound is naturally free. The music industry has finally hit the wall of nature. Good!
    Song is the reward you get for writing music.(Also natural) Performing music is work and should be rewarded fairly. This assures worthy musicians a chance to make a living.
    No industry is required for this scenario. A parasite clinging to musicians and sucking the life and music out of them while holding the world hostage to the artificial taste of music derived by its ability to be sold by the current marketing dweebs is not natural.
    Nature is killing the music industry. The only humane thing to do is to euthanize it by cutting off its flow of income. Carry on , as you were.
    In any revolution, there are casualties. Perhaps organizing a little off the books fund to help this family get new identities and escape an undeserved fate by legalese.
    Meanwhile others will suffer while we allow this monster to live.
    Quit paying for music. Period.

  • by Radtoo (1646729) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:13PM (#34144238)
    About all games on Windows already could be pirated, practically speaking - but fans WANT to fund their favourite artists, plain and simple.

    And this is not mainly because of the laws, its just human nature. See, Switzerland for instance already allows anyone to record or otherwise obtain and possess and enjoy any music for free, as long as it is for private use (yourself, family, close friends).
    Okay, it's not entirely free since there's also some legal arrangement with fixed fees that apply to empty media that partly reimburses artists. But that's besides the actual point I want to make: The important but is that people still actively buy music in Switzerland. They also pay street artists despite not being forced to.
  • Re:None. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:15PM (#34144254)
    Who said that anyone has a right to a middle class livelihood? Do copyright holders, by some divine principle, deserve to be in the middle class?
  • $1 per song (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:33PM (#34144386) Homepage

    That is the revenue they missed out on, that is what they should get. I understand this isn't a deterrent, but even $5-20 per song is a 500%-2000% penalty. Quite enough in my book.

  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:33PM (#34144392) Homepage

    I would tweak this slightly, and say that we should legalize (or at least make non-actionable) otherwise infringing behavior when it is non-commercial and engaged in by natural persons, but aside from that, I agree with you.

    And let's all remember that there is solid proof that this is viable: Until 1710, and then only in England, copyright didn't exist, people could copy works freely (assuming that the state didn't engage in censorship of those works, a separate issue), yet plenty of creative works were created. All the works of classical Greece and Rome, all the works of the Renaissance, all the plays of Shakespeare (which were themselves almost all unauthorized adaptations of earlier works, and subject to piracy), were created without the benefit of copyright.

    Copyright might be useful, but it is not necessary. And if it ceases to be useful -- that is, if it ceases to provide a greater benefit to the public than the harm it causes -- it should be fixed, or failing that, abandoned.

  • by wrook (134116) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:39PM (#34144420) Homepage

    This is the main point. Copyright infringement is not a crime. Repeat after me: "Copyright infringement is not a crime". It is a civil matter.

    There should be no automatic court imposed penalty because it is not a crime. It is a civil matter. If the complainant wishes to sue for punitive damages then they can. Otherwise, the court should award based on damages. How those damages are calculated is dependent upon the suit.

    The problem here is that the RIAA's team of lawyers successfully argued that their damages were in the $1.5 million range. I don't agree with them. Many people don't agree with them. But the court decided otherwise. It's too bad.

    Should we have a cap on damages? Hell no! Why would we? If you burn down my house, but you are an otherwise nice person I should still be able to sue you to replace my house. Even if you did it by accident. Burning down my house by accident is not a crime. I'm not punishing you. I'm trying to replace my house.

    Copyright infringement that is done by accident can also create damages. You *should* be able to sue for those damages. If I am an author and send a book to a publisher then I can reasonably expect to be paid. If in some incredible fluke of the universe the publisher distributed my book by accident but didn't receive any money for it, I *should* be able to sue them -- even though it was an accident. There shouldn't be one law for businesses and another for ordinary people; even if those ordinary people are very nice people.

    It is reasonable to assume that someone seeding a file for a few hours does less damage than someone seeding at high speed for a year. IIRC though, the RIAA has argued that the distribution of one file is equivalent to the distribution of multiple copies -- because then others can further distribute the files. This is a ridiculous argument -- I can be held responsible for my own actions, but not for the actions of others. I think this is the basis for the huge award and it is just as wrong as having a cap on the award.

    Arguing for a cap on penalties runs right into the arms of the RIAA. They *want* to make copyright infringement a crime so that they don't have to pursue damages themselves. They can sick the police on people instead. Creating a fine based system enables their logic.

  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:40PM (#34144428) Homepage

    Has it occurred to you that you are proposing the destruction of the value of human labor on a massive scale?

    Nonsense.

    As an attorney, if I give a client legal advice (e.g. don't murder people), I only get paid for my labor in researching the issue and rendering the advice, and perhaps my costs, such as copies of a written memo given to the client. But if the client then goes on to re-use that advice, by not murdering each person he meets, and goes on to share that advice with other people, I don't keep getting paid.

    That's what a labor market is like; you get paid for your actual labor, not the fruits thereof, or all the value that the fruits might yield.

    If authors cannot sell many copies of their book (the fruit of labor) because people just copy the few that were sold, and then copy the copies, and so on, they'll just change models or get a better job. Perhaps an author will demand payment up front -- $10 per hour of writing, or something -- and find that it works better, since no one yet knows how to copy him.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:44PM (#34144464)

    hitting a road worker in a work zone is a MAX fine of like $10,000 so how can file sharing HAVE A FINE THIS HIGH?

    Ah, see, here's your problem: that road worker forgot to donate millions of dollars to legislators. A common mistake. Better luck next time.

  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:48PM (#34144496) Homepage

    Why would anybody go through the trouble and expense to create quality movies, tv, music, books, software etc if it's legal to just take the end product without paying? Sure, some people will pay out of principle, but if it's perfectly legal most people will just take it. Without funding, I'm sure there will still be hobby projects, but nothing on the scale we currently enjoy.

    Okay.

    A work doesn't have to be expensive to make, or have high production values, in order to be good. Shakespeare had fewer actors than he had parts for them to play, a stage, no good artificial lighting, decent costumes, no scenery, and few props. And he had no copyright. George Lucas OTOH, spent $115 million on The Phantom Menace, and it was crap.

    I am willing to take the chance; I think that good works will shine through no matter what. They may be different than we're used to, they may require us to use our imaginations more, but I think it will work out okay. Plus there are ways of organizing funding for works other than copyright, so larger budget works wouldn't entirely vanish anyway.

  • by Yaa 101 (664725) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:54PM (#34144536) Journal

    No, if you copy my car and give it away, there is a distinction between the 2.

  • Re:Hang on... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveGod (703167) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:58PM (#34144554)

    You're suggesting rich people should be penalised [sic] more on the abstract basis that they happen to be more wealthy?

    Isn't there already a precedent in the United States Tax Code for this?

    On first look, progressive and even flat-rate taxes can appear to punish the wealthy and award the poor.

    However, wealth is generated from society. Those with the most wealth have not only benefited the most but consumed the most. If you own your business, you benefit from a good local state-ran school because your employees, customers and suppliers send their children there. If there were no state-ran schools your employees would demand greater remuneration, your suppliers greater profits and your customers would buy less because they would have the additional expense of schooling. The quality of the school in the past has also affected the quality of your workforce and the incomes of your customers.

  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:58PM (#34144558) Homepage

    To do what you are saying, to eliminate the market for my work through government fiat, is to commit a crime against me.

    No. The market for a work is governed by how well received the work is, basically. An unpopular work has no market, regardless of copyright. A popular work has a big market, regardless of copyright. All copyright does is act as a funnel, diverting most of whatever money there is to be had to the copyright holder. The actual amount of money that can be funneled depends on the work's reception, though.

    Anyway, the only reason you have a copyright to begin with is by government fiat. Copyrights don't exist naturally. Authors are not naturally entitled to prohibit third parties from making copies (an exercise of their freedom of speech). Copyright is entirely artificial, and exists for utilitarian purposes. If the people, in a legitimate democratic society, want to abolish copyright, that is their right, for they are the same people who created it to begin with.

    I'm sure I speak for literally everyone in the world other than you, when I say that we'd all be happy to voluntarily, temporarily, give up part of our natural right of free speech as applied to your work, so that you can charge monopoly prices to in order to try to support yourself. But we're only going to do it if the loss we suffer by doing so (i.e. not being free to do as we like with it, having to pay monopoly prices) is outweighed by the benefit we receive by doing so.

    Feel free to offer a convincing reason why it is in the public benefit for us to deign to have the governments which our consent empowers give you a copyright. I think there are good reasons, and I support the overall idea of copyright, but I'd like to hear you make your case.

  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:07PM (#34144608) Homepage

    You know, if that was true, then the original framers of the US Constitution were morons. They should have known that copying something from someone caused no harm to anyone and didn't justify the explicit creation of copyright.

    That wasn't the justification for copyright. The justification is that copyright benefits society. It coincidentally happens to benefit (some) authors, but that's not the goal of copyright.

    Imagine that you hail a taxi and are driven to work in exchange for money. Your goal is not to pay the taxi driver; in fact, you'd appreciate a free ride. Your goal is to get to work. Having to pay for the cab is just a necessary evil involved in accomplishing your actual goal. And if the benefit to you of getting to work is less than the cost of the cab ride, you are literally better off quitting that job and not losing money on your commute. Copyright works much the same way: the goal is to get more creative works created, published, and in the public domain than we would otherwise. If we could do this without having to bother with authors, that would be ideal. Being stuck needing authors, we pay them (by giving them a copyright) in exchange for something we consider more valuable: works that are created and published that otherwise wouldn't be, and which ultimately enter the public domain. If we gained less from this than we paid, of course we'd need to either fix the system or abolish it entirely.

  • Re:Hang on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:12PM (#34144638)

    If you own your business, you benefit from a good local state-ran school because your employees, customers and suppliers send their children there.
     
    What country (planet?) do you live in that has good state-ran schools? As for the state of public schools in the USA, please watch Waiting For Superman, it should be playing at your local theater.
     
      If there were no state-ran schools your employees would demand greater remuneration, your suppliers greater profits and your customers would buy less because they would have the additional expense of schooling.
     
    They pay for schooling one way or another. Who do you think pays for public schools?

  • Re:Hang on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by misexistentialist (1537887) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:14PM (#34144652)
    You did well by middle-class standards, but are not rich, and never will be. Seriously, you bring up a car as proof of wealth? A rich person might not even remember how many cars and houses they own; and that kind of wealth cannot be earned by working retail on the weekends.
  • by Legion303 (97901) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:36PM (#34144752) Homepage

    Yes, welcome to the joke.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:50PM (#34144838)

    "The simple, moral, decision is to not use the item then."

    It doesn't harm them to use the product anyway since you're not depriving anyone of anything by copying data. I think it is generous to award someone with money for a product that they made, but in the case of digital media, using the product without paying really does no harm.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:07PM (#34144918)

    It IS however a problem that they don't know shit about crime and/or law.

    Having also served on juries in the United States before, I feel compelled to point out that the three primary benefits to jury trials. First, you are judged by a jury of your peers and not simply by members of the professional legal class who may or may not fully appreciate the circumstances of each individual's life situation. Second, by creating a pool drawn from the public by random lot and serving only for a brief period of time (1 case every 5-10 years or so on average) the potential for bribery and corruption of decisions in the legal system is substantially reduced over what it might otherwise be if we had professional elected juries in the same way that we have elected politicians or even judges. Finally, the jury box is the last chance for citizens who disagree with a law or its application to nullify that law, by their power to decide the case, and check the otherwise insurmountable power of the state over the individual.

  • by RIAAShill (1599481) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:36PM (#34145036)

    If you steal something, yes. If you COPY something, then no. http://www.knowaguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Piracy-vs-Theft.jpg [knowaguy.com]

    Very insightful graphic. Of course, when someone borrows your car keys, you would be rather upset if your keys were "pirated" (i.e., copied without your consent). Sure, you still have your keys when the originals are returned to you. But, you've lost your lawful ability to control access to your vehicle.

    Copyright infringement through file sharing isn't like having your car "copied." It's more like having your car keys copied. In the case of file sharing copyright infringement, the copyright owner loses lawful exclusive rights, such as the distribution of the work.

  • by tofubeer (1746800) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @12:03AM (#34145150)

    Having a share on a computer is not distribution. Providing CDs to people would be distribution. Downloading songs from a share would be distribution - of the person doing the downloading not the person doing the sharing. Sharing files is passive. Copying files is active. Distribution is an activity, you cannot passively distribute something. At least that is how I see it (regardless of whatever laws actually say).

  • by SteveFoerster (136027) <{steve} {at} {hiresteve.com}> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @12:31AM (#34145278) Homepage

    "Steal: To take (the property of another) without right or permission." It doesn't have to be physical property. One can steal ideas, research and designs.

    No, you can't, because copyright isn't property. It's a state-granted theoretically-temporary entitlement of monopoly to a particular set of words, sounds, or images. You're not stealing the property, you're violating the monopoly. That's not the same thing.

    In fact designs are a very good example. If China steals the designs for a fighter jet from the US, the US still has the designs; they haven't lost anything. But it's still called stealing.

    No, it's called espionage. If they actually hijack a copy of the plane, that's stealing.

  • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @12:41AM (#34145320)

    I downloaded Autocad when I needed it, but I never would have bought it. I would need to rob a bank i I wanted to buy it.

    I also listen to the radio and sometimes tape some songs off it. Does it mean that I would pay a monthly fee to hear that radio station or that I am listening to it because it's free after I bought the tuner? I sometimes record TV shows from TV. Does it mean that I would pay for pre-recorded tapes of the same TV shows? Yes, if they were the same price as the blank tapes I'm using, otherwise, I can record them.

    Same thing for MP3 files - I download them because it is easier than waiting for that particular song to be played on the radio or finding someone that has a copy of the song and copying it. I can copy records, tapes and CDs just as well when I find someone willing to lend them to me.

  • Pricing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:26AM (#34146560) Homepage Journal

    ...pricing the product fairly.

    I like that idea, but allow me to play Devil's Advocate.

    What does "fairly" mean, and who determines translation of that term into actual prices? Price it too high, and the government (or whatever body decides what is fair) is helping Big Media extort consumers. Price it too low, and the government is dragging down profits, thereby dragging down stock prices, thereby adversely affecting all of those organizations and individuals who invested in the various Big Media companies.

  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Smallpond (221300) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @09:08AM (#34146680) Homepage Journal

    To test your theory I have just stopped listening to Rihanna. hmmm - I detect no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever.

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