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Editorial Your Rights Online

The Crime of Sharing 328

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 @07:05AM (#3006035)
    we have had AG, napster, morpheus etc... and all have failed in more ways than one.

    is there ever going to be another to rise to the status of napster again?

  • 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 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:29AM (#3006099)

    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 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 [] (sorry, link to German site), which is different from copying something.

  • by Shiny Metal S. ( 544229 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @07:59AM (#3006169) Homepage
    It seems to be a religious debate at this point. Either you support the idea that people should be able to share books, musics and other entertainment or you don't.
    Read The Right to Read []. It was first published in February 1997 and was perceived as an exaggeration, but now after five years it starts to sound more like a prophecy.
  • Re:Appearance Fees? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:21AM (#3006230)
    >>>But with the ways things are going, it might >>>come to the point that the only way that >>>artists/record companies can make money is >>>through appearance fees.

    Like it was a hundred years ago. Imagine that: Madonna gettting a day's pay for a day's work.

    Nothing lasts forever: absurdly inflated recompense for minimal labour might just have to go the way of nutmeg importing or tulip speculation.
  • Re:maybe... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Little Dave ( 196090 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:05AM (#3006364) Homepage
    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:1, Interesting)

    by jurros ( 110198 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:32AM (#3006475)
    Bravo pubjames. Thank you for a brilliant and well thought-out argument. However, I believe there is a flaw in your argument.

    The problem is there is not as big a difference in sharing physical and non-physical things a most of us slashdotters would like to believe. For example, your quote from Mr. Shaw points out that if two people share ideas, then both of their knowledge is increased. However, think about the following. Two people agree to exchange ideas. The first person relates his/her idea. The second person, after hearing the first person's idea, decides not to share his. Now one person has two ideas and the second person only has his origional. While the second person hasn't "lost" anything in the sense of "taking someone's TV" (as is often the argument on slashdot), he/she is still lacking.

    This second person is the artist in our debate today. There is a basic (if unsaid) understanding that an artist enters into with the public when that artist releases his material for sale. The artist is willing to exchange his/her "ideas" (music, preforming arts, etc) for some effort from you (money). By not providing your money to the artist, the artist is lacking on his side. If you wouldn't have bought it anyway, then why can't you live without it?

    A much closer comparason of "file" sharing (I hate that phrase) than anything I've heard on slashdot is sneaking into a NOT FULL theater or concert. Would that be stealing? Before you answer, however, what if everyone snuck in? Eventually you start cutting into the money the theater needs to survive.

    Too many people see the "evil corporate empire" instead of the people behind it. However, I would agree that the system is flawed and needs changing. I would agree that the debates should be "What would be the best for mankind?". However, I think the artists need to be having the debate, not the public. How can we inspire artists to have that debate? Instead of further spreading the popular music, support local artists and preformers. Spend your time finding bands that don't sign with the "evil" mpaa corporations and show the ones who do that it isn't in thier best interest to distribute their music with that method!

    Anyway, just my $0.02.
  • 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?

  • by datatrash ( 522537 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:39AM (#3006923)
    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.

  • by InShadows ( 103008 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:41AM (#3006943)
    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 icey5000 ( 461582 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:55AM (#3007692) Homepage
    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).
  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @02:27PM (#3008737)

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2002 @02:52PM (#3008885)
    It seems to me that the point of intellectual property is that people think that if you "steal" an artist's work, then they won't get paid. However, let us consider:

    Let's say that the average person buys 10 CDs a year and has a computer. Pretty reasonable, right?

    10 CDs X $15 per CD = $150 (of which maybe $15 goes to the artist)

    OK, now let's consider what goes into File sharing:

    $800 basic computer and monitor
    $200 CD-burner
    $200 Lots of Storage Space (Hard Drives)
    $50 Lots of CDs to burn songs, make mixes, etc.
    $480 $40/month * 12 months = $480

    OK, that suggests to me that there is MUCH more profit to be made in selling people computers and internet access, and then letting them "take" as much music, movies, etc. that they want. The $40/month bandwidth more than covers the amount of money the consumer would normally spend on CDs and movies, and can then be tied into other events or merchandising.

    The basic idea here being that by allowing the natural flow of information, companies can still get all of the money they need from consumers. instead of extracting it through CD sales and Movie tickets, though, it will come by other means.

    AOL has it right, in that they are a content company that also sells bandwidth. yes, they are foolishly protecting their "IP" because they CAN, but even if IP law were to vaish today, their business model woudl still thrive.

    Capitalism and Freedom of information can coexist here. It is only the futile clinging to an old concept of property that keeps people from seeing that this can actually be achieved.

    Oh yeah, and I'm sure that companies do make MORE money with this whole IP thing, but what I am saying is that it is very possible to make a lot of money without it.
  • by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @06:04PM (#3010292) Homepage
    Start talking about filesharing technology and the folks obsessed with yesterdays news start ripping into each other over whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.

    Fact is, folks, this argument is already over with, and file sharing won. It won a long time ago. You can whine all you like, throw a tantrum, scream "illegal!" or "theft!" and it doesn't make a goddamn bit of difference. Your opinion on a done deal is completely and utterly irrelevant.

    Dying media giants will continue to pass, and succeed at passing, laws trying to bolster their 20th century monopoly, but it's rather clear that these laws don't mean jack to most of the folks inclined to copy. And nobody - nobody - can convince me that the 45 million or so people in the U.S. *alone* who occasionally copy music are all evil, morally-bereft pirates. If you honestly think that's the case you need to get off your moral high ground and have your head examined. Only a loon could make a claim like that and actually believe it.

    Copying is here to stay. That's just the way it is, laws or no laws, slashdot whiners or no slashdot whiners. So rather than trying to roll things back to the 20th century - an effort utterly doomed to failure - perhaps you might think of ways that the artists could still be compensated while copying continues.

    The old system is creaking along on failing legs, and anyone with half a brain can see that it's about to collapse; no amount of handwringing, no stack of useless laws, is going to change this fact. So, if those of you who worry about the 'poor artist' are serious about your concerns, rather than just mouthing meaningless platitudes to support your inane position, perhaps you could come up with an alternative system for artist compensation that might survive the early years of the 21st century. That is, do something constructive for once.

    Oh, and I did say 'artist compensation', not 'RIAA compensation'. The RIAA are part of the dinosaur and fated to die, thank the gods. Supporters of the RIAA would be worthy only of pity, if they weren't so deserving of contempt.

  • by 1gor ( 314505 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:16PM (#3011141)
    When you buy a CD today you are actually paying for services provided to you by the music industry:

    a) value created by composer/performer (add here orchestra/sound engineeris etc.).
    b) value created by maker of the medium (actual cost of CD plastic, manufacturing process and CD technology licensing fees).
    c) value created by distributor, including wholesaler and the actual record shop where you bought the CD. (transport, inventory costs and shop electricity bills).
    d) value create by a marketer (the guys who pay for MTV clips, promo tours, posters, A&D of new bands etc. etc.). If not for marketer you wouldn't know that piece of nice music even existed.

    Now, it is clear due to technological change, price of "b" and "c" is falling like a rock. Nobody questions value of misic itself, and nobody should question value that marketers ("d") provide for us, because without them we would have no MTV etc.

    My point is that industry wants to make its problem our problem.

    As a consumer all I care is to hear the music I like. I don't need *a CD* of Frank Zappa. I would like to invite him over, get a beer and listen him play his guitar. Unfortunately, the guy doesn't want to play for me (because he is dead), so I am prepared to seek a substitute for live music. This is gonna be some digital medium like CD, MP3 etc.

    The sad fact is that CDs from the record shop are becoming inferior medium. They are inferior because cheaper alternatives exist - MP3s, digital copying etc. Another sad fact is that marketers and authors from the music industry (who provide valuable service) can get paid only by controlling distribution channel of CDs.

    But it is not my problem as a consumer. I am seeking a medium through wich get access to a music, and if technology offers me cheaper alternatives to CDs in a shop - I am taking it. Let music industry devise a way to charge me today. It was easy with CDs - you won't get is unless you pay in the shop. Let them invent how to stop me copying CDs on my 100GB hard disk... And my girlfriend's hard disk... And my friends' disk at Morpheus... what was that guy's name...

    You get the point? I am not afraid to be caught, it's just one side of a business transaction with the music industry: "Hey, Mr Sony! I just got delivery of your song through MP3 file. Wanna send me a bill? Don't know how to do it? You don't even hear me? Sorry. You may take your song back any time if you want!".

    Just stop that moral agonizing and calling it "stealing"! An average consumer is still prepared to pay for the music, but much less than industry used to. And now he wants to pay to other people (like paying directly to authors, or to some alternative musical cirtic who runs a website). If the industry has not come up with the solution how to collect the payments (and to downsize itself) - why some people are making it *our* problem and pushing us towards inferior technology and inferiority complex?

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham