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The Courts Your Rights Online

Spanish Judges Liken File Sharing To Lending Books 352

Dan Fuhry writes "A three-judge panel in the Provincial Court of Madrid has closed a case that has been running since 2005, ruling that the accused are not guilty of any copyright infringement on the grounds that their BitTorrent tracker did not distribute any copyrighted material, and they did not generate any profit from their site: '[t]he judges noted that all this takes places between many users all at once without any of them receiving any financial reward.' This implies that the judges are sympathetic to file sharers. The ruling essentially says that file sharing is the digital equivalent of lending or sharing books or other media. Maybe it's time for all them rowdy pirates to move to Spain."
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Spanish Judges Liken File Sharing To Lending Books

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  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:19AM (#32506860) Journal
    Is why many publishers would be happy to close all libraries if it were politically viable.
  • Re:But, but, but,,, (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:44AM (#32506984)

    The disgusting thing is, Spanish copywrite law doesn't noticably differ on any major/key points. The Spanish judges just aren't taking a protectionist stance towards industry groups - they're following the law in a reasonable and fair way.

  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:55AM (#32507022) Homepage

    ...that we, as consumers, want to consumer media with reasonable terms.

    There will always be a certain number of people who want things for free. But I suspect most of us are happy to pay a reasonable amount of money for most content.

    I, for example, like certain anime TV series which I can't get through any legal channel locally. So I just torrent the fansubs. I'd love to pay 0.5-1 EUR per episode to get a DRM-free download to keep. But I can't.

    Since Spotify came along I've been happily subscribing for 10 EUR a month to get an unlimited amount of music. I don't get to keep it, but it's kind of like having I radio station where I am the DJ, without the annoying ads. The price is right, thus I pay.

    I'm still waiting for a reasonably priced edition of ST TNG... The price of the DVD:s is ridiculous for a series that started twenty years ago.

    Piracy will likely never go away, but if the media companies actually tried to serve customers instead of maximizing profits they might actually end up with something which is viable in the long run.

  • Re:But, but, but,,, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ztransform ( 929641 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:06AM (#32507066)

    It's no worse an analogy than calling copying 'theft.'

    When in truth the music industry is more akin to drug pushers... practically forcing you to experience their music for free until you like it and want it, then charge you extortionate amounts when you want it...

  • Re:Space analogy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @04:31AM (#32507486) Homepage

    Hell, capitalism isn't even prepared to deal with something like this. Asking a market analyst what happens when the cost of production reaches zero and is available everywhere is like asking a physicist what happens inside a black hole - neither one has the foggiest fucking idea

    That's not really correct. The cost of copying ideas has always been pretty much zero, so the situation you describe is not something new that arose with the internet. It arose the first time someone put a lot of effort to invent something, and someone else copied the inventor's idea. All that's new now is that this ease of copying is becoming more widespread, spreading beyond just ideas to realizations of ideas (e.g., to performances of music).

    Furthermore, it's long been known what attributes are necessary for a free market to work, in the sense of producing optimal allocation of goods and resources (optimal in the sense economists mean when they say something is optimal). Economists know exactly what happens to a free market when the cost of production approaches or reaches zero. You no longer get optimal resource allocation.

    And it has long been known how you can fix that. There are two general ways. The first is to take the market out of the picture. Some entity, most likely the government, would fund the production of new works, and anyone would be free to copy them. The advantage of this is that consumers get the goods for their marginal cost (zero or near zero). The disadvantage is that the government decides what works get produced.

    The second way is to artificially give things like music and movies the attributes necessary to make them work like more tangible goods in the free market. Essentially you make intellectual works act like property as far as the law is concerned (hence the name "intellectual property"). The disadvantage of this approach is that consumers pay more than the marginal cost of production for the works. The advantage is that the free market determines what works get produced.

    What the internet does is makes it easy for a large number of people to cheat. The intellectual property approach is based on the idea that we would rather have the free market deal with deciding what gets products than have some government Department of Music deciding what artists get funding, and so we've agreed that we are going to pretend that songs are like loaves of bread. Sure, there were always some people who would cheat, but they were isolated and small scale. If you cheated on a large scale, you got caught and sued.

    With the internet, the cheating can happen on a massive scale, with most people having a negligible chance of getting caught. Most people are fundamentally not honest--that's why it makes the news if someone loses a large amount of cash and the finder returns it, for instance. If most people were honest, the news would be when a lost item is not returned intact, rather than the other way around. The internet is like a giant always available lost wallet.

  • Re:Space analogy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by testadicazzo ( 567430 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @05:43AM (#32507876) Homepage
    I disagree that the parent is stuck in old ways of thinking.

    The fundamental idea of allowing a restriction to copy rights (restricting free speech) in order to provide a financial incentive for creative works is not all bad. However, as the costs of production and reproduction decrease, the length of copyright should shorten. Unfortunately, thanks to corporate hijacking of the legislative system, copyright laws have essentially gone to infinity, robbing from the public domain.

    A 2, or even ten year copyright would make quite a bit of sense. Artists could still exert some creative and financial control over their works, particularly for commercial exploitation. A copyright law that allowed goods to enter into the public domain within a persons lifetime would give people more of a sense of the real purpose of copyright law making it more inherently just. People tend to disobey laws they find unjust more than they do laws they agree with, even if they aren't capable of articulating it.

    Unfortunately the oligarchists are working the other strategy: trying to warp our culture and indoctrinate our kids into the idea that information is property, and thereby create the illusion that copying is theft. Since these people have a lot of control over our primary means of communication (movies, tv, music) they are being remarkably successful. When was the last time you saw a positive or intelligent portrayal of music sharing on a TV program or movie for example?

  • Re:But, but, but,,, (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @06:06AM (#32508000)

    Bullshit, this is a pretty normal ruling in the EU, not some sudden change of jurisdiction (if you have read interviews with lawyers and read the EU law on IT business [don't know the english title]).

    There is something called 'Fair use', it includes lending copies to neighbors, family, friends. Uploading is still illegal, but if you don't make profit from it ... even if you do and have 1000 burnt CDs at home, you won't end up in jail.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @06:12AM (#32508018)

    Czech Republic uses that system as well. Storage media and printers are burdened with that tax and the funds are channeled to intermediary. The thing is, the intermediary is privately owned and there is no governmental oversight whether the allocation of funds to the artists is effective.
    Downloading copyrighted works for personal usage permitted here as well, but circumventing DRM is not, regardless whether you are the owner or not.

    Do any other countries besides Spain and Czech Republic implement such system?

  • by Ginger Unicorn ( 952287 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @06:54AM (#32508218)
    This thinking is too binary - it's a matter of degree. If you have a cheap convenient distribution method that converts 90% of pirates to your method, the fact that the other 10% still exists is unimportant. The trick is to come up with a method that hits the sweet spot in the scale to maximise profitability. If you have a relatively scale-agnostic distribution method like bit-torrent and you can get 2 million people to give you a dollar, you make more money than getting 100,000 people to give you 10 dollars.
  • by johanw ( 1001493 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @07:30AM (#32508422)
    Yes, The Netherlands. Down,loading books, music and movies is legal (technically, copying for your own personal use is legal, wether you own a legal copy or not) and you pay when buying CD's and DVD's (which are therefore mass-ordered in Germany (www.opus.nl) to avoid the tax or bought from vendors who ignore it). We don't pay extra for memory cards, USB sticks or harddrives although the lobbyists are trying. And we have the same problem: the collecting organisation resides in luxury offices and claims they have lost too much gambling on the stock market to pay the artists.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @07:38AM (#32508484)

    How much are you paying for FOSS? I bought Mandriva. I bought a GIMP book. Because I had the money and wanted to. If I didn't have the money, I wouldn't but I could still get it because it was free. However, in that case, if piracy had been an option, it would not have resulted in a lost sale.

    So "what about OSS" is pointless: what about it? It already is a service where you pay nothing and yet it exists right now. So what if other non-OSS software has to rely on service and updates for revenue? OSS doesn't have a problem.

  • Re:Space analogy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @07:44AM (#32508526)

    Back in the Stone Age, it appears that agriculture spread by copying, rather more than by the agriculturalists taking over the lands of the hunter gatherers.

    The population of Europe today is about 85% descended from the original hunter gatherers, and only about 15% from the agriculturalists migrating in with their new technology from the Middle East.

    So one of the most fundamental technological revolutions seems to have taken place largely by copying (without the restrictions imposed by patents and copyright).

    That is how the human race progressed.

  • Re:Space analogy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @09:46AM (#32509610) Homepage Journal

    No, it's not. It's taking the current system of "you have an unending copyright and all downloading is illegal" and changing it to "companies get a reasonable amount of time to make a profit and after that short period, people can download it all they want".

    No, you're both talking about a practical response to the problem of a fundamental change in the way some artistic forms can be distributed. The difference is that you're assuming that the problem is fixable by tweaking the current system, and Opportunist is assiming that the old model is now broken beyond repair.

    You can make a good case for both sides, but I think Opportunist has the deeper insight. People are not going to stop behaving this way. We need to find social structures that can work in a world where you can no longer compensate creators by placing a surcharge on distribution.

    Your view seems to be (since you bitched about "the old way of thinking") that companies shouldn't be able to make any profit

    No, I think he's saying that the current business model isn't going to remain a viable means of generating revenue for very much longer, regardless of what we do. By all means let's have companies make profits. All I ask is that they do it for doing something useful, as opposed to something that was useful 20 years ago but that is now on the verge of becoming a historical curiosity.

    Sure, some people will do it for free, but most of them will stop because they'll have to find another way to pay the bills. You have to allow them to make a reasonable profit if you want any real discussion to occur.

    And what if that "reasonable profit" isn't in anyone's gift? This is like a wooly mammoth trying to negotiate that if he agrees to get a regular haircut, the would the ice age please not recede any more? The world is changing, and we're all going to have to deal with that.

  • Re:But, but, but,,, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @10:36AM (#32510182)

    No. Ripping off the entertainment you want so you can have it with "no money involved" is still a business thing. An artist or a business creates something and offers it for sale. You might want it, but you can choose to do business with them, or go without the thing they've made. Deciding to rip it off, instead, so that you can avoid paying for it, is not a "private" issue, because one half of the equation involves the person who created it and offered it up for sale.

    Your argument applies equally to those who would borrow books (or CDs) from others rather than buy them themselves. Do you think people shouldn't be able to lend each other books ?

  • Re:But, but, but,,, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @11:49AM (#32511330)

    Really? You are unable to grasp the difference between me handing you a book I purchased, and me reproducing and distributing a million copies of a ripped off movie to a million anonymous "friends" of mine? Of course you know the difference, and you're just hoping nobody will call you on it.

    I don't have any problem discerning the semantic difference at all. I'm just pointing out that *your argument* made no distinction because it spoke only of "ripping off the entertainment you want so you can have it with no money involved". None of that reasoning about an individual getting stuff for free has even the slightest relevance to "reproducing and distributing a million copies". You were railing against people getting stuff for free, not people handing it out.

  • Re:But, but, but,,, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @06:47PM (#32517432)

    Played as background music in every shop on the high street. Played on every radio station- even the ones that aren't full music stations. Played over TV adverts. Played in lifts. Played as freaking "on-hold" telephone music. Played as every ringtone of every teenager (and too many adults) for every text and phone call received on mobile phones.

    I'm exposed to chart music every day in a hundred ways, and yet I never listen to the chart shows.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.