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Music Piracy Your Rights Online

A Composer's-Eye View of the Copyright Wars 973

bonch writes "As an experiment, composer Jason Robert Brown logged onto a site illegally offering his sheet music for download and contacted hundreds of users, politely asking them to stop listing the material. Most complied, some were confused, and a few fought back. Brown chronicles a lengthy exchange he had with a teenage girl named Brenna, which provides an interesting insight into the artists' perspective of the copyright debate. He also responds to several points raised in comments to the article and says, 'I don't wish to be the enemy; I'm just a guy trying to make a living.'"
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A Composer's-Eye View of the Copyright Wars

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  • by gringer ( 252588 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:06PM (#32795436)

    I'm not convinced JRB has addressed one comment that seems to have been explained the best by Eleanor, and only lightly touched on by other comments attached to that blog post (e.g. voideka, clovis lark, george).

    Put simply, people choose the path of least resistance, which is usually the path of least cost.

    If Eleanor needed some music for an audition, any reasonable music would do. She wouldn't pay money if a popular work were available for free (but might pay a small amount of money for a popular work if it were easy to do that). If the creator of a particular work didn't choose to distribute a one-off version at no cost, Eleanor would probably search elsewhere for a gratis piece of music (possibly by a different creator). People do distribute sheet music for no cost, so this stuff will be around somewhere, even if only legal avenues are chosen.

    It reminds me of a discussion about the costs of cellphone plans that I looked at recently. Someone compared costs of different networks, assuming a person sent around 3,000 text messages per month. They ended up with some costs on the order of $300-$500 per month, because their analysis didn't include limited-time plans. The reality is that no one would choose to pay that much for text messages, it just wouldn't make sense given that cheaper plans are available (around $10-$15 per month, maybe a bit less). Often, people in my country will keep two prepay cellphones (or two sim cards), so that they can take advantage of the best offer at a particular time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:09PM (#32795464)

    What tends to get lost in this debate, is where does the money go? No one seriously disputes that the creator has a right to be compensated. In fact he/she should be be able to set his/her own level of compensation. But where does the number $3.99 come from? If Mr. Brown really is all that popular why not $39.99 or $0.99? How much of the $3.99 goes to Mr. Brown and how much to the dead tree outfits that print his stuff?

    In arguing about how to protect the $3.99 price we overlook the main issue which is not how to protect the publisher of the $3.99 sheet music, but how to protect the creator of the song.
    If there were a foolproof way (Apple iTunes like?) that Mr. Brown could publish his music in digital format and be certain of getting paid for it, we would not need to rely on publishers and libraries.
    Mr. Brown could charge whatever he wanted for his music; he could adjust the price up or down depending on demand; HE could be in control of how, when, and for how much his music sold for, and not rely on publishers.
    But the discussion never seems to get to that point. In most peoples' minds there are only two choices; obey the RIAA/MPAA lobby or steal it.
    We need something better.

  • short story: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:11PM (#32795484)

    Amazing. slashdot is of course a tough crowd for proprietary IP advocates. Here's my own story. My ten year old got a CD from a friend who is a record producer in Hollywood. He liked it and wanted to make copies to give a few friends. I advised that he ask the producer for permission to do so. The producer, bein' from Hollywood an' all, of course said no. If they wanted a copy they could go to the music store and buy one. So my son, disappointed, did not share it with his friends, stopped listening to it, and no additional copies were ever made. OR SOLD! The fallacy seemed to be the belief that the kids would rush out and buy the CD if they couldn't get it for free. Of course they didn't. They went home and played with their Wii. The album died on the junk heap of history, as most do. And without at least a half a dozen potential ardent young fans.

  • by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <etreufamla>> on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:15PM (#32795508)

    Hello there Jason.

    Let me explain a few things to you, since you seem to have wrong information regarding "copyright" and other fictitious concepts.

    Copyright isn't an inalienable right. It isn't real property. It is imaginary property. Copyright is a recent concept. As recent as the Renaissance. Before that, you could own physical property, but Ideas were free. If you created a magnanimous work of art, that work of art belonged to the human kind. Then, you could earn a living by performing live, doing work for hire, etc. During the Renaissance, the catholic church, in their unstoppable hunger for power, tried to control the output of printers. They already had a very tight control on scribes, and they wanted to extend that control over to the modern press. The motive: To ban unwanted books. In a word: Censorship. This concept of owning ideas and controlling what you did with them was nothing but lies, just like the rest of christianity.

    Later, governments jumped in on the boat, trying to control the press, for mostly the same reasons. Many, many years later, with the church mostly obsolete, and government under the control of corporations, our beloved corporate overlords wanted to hold the almighty power over free speech. So they were the ones that wrote the modern copyright laws.

    Nobody owns ideas. Nobody owns art. They belong to the human kind. Period. Any attempt to control ideas is nothing but another fascist atempt at control of this Orwellian society.

    But I do understand the POV of the creator. I do, because I am a creator too. And yes, we need to make a living just like anyone else. Now, there is a hugI de difference between the NEED to make a living, and some stupid god-given right to be given money just because we create. That won't work because a) there is no god and b) we have no such right. We decided that we wanted to create. Great. That doesn't allow us to control ideas. I do believe, like many other creators, that our creations are like our childs. You don't own your children. You have to feed them, care for them, and protect them until they are mature enough to have a life on their own. And then they are gone. They are as free as you are. Our need for food and shelter (read: money) doesn't change that basic principle.

    You CAN profit from what you do, but always remember, you DON'T own your creations.

    P.S: Regarding your screwdriver analogy, it doesn't work. It's been debunked several times before. Basically, your screwdriver is a physical object. A more valid analogy here would be if you made a house that was a replica of the house your friend was building. And it would be totally ok.


  • Self Justification (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:22PM (#32795544) Homepage

    Eleanor is justifying her own behavior, clearly. I enjoyed the "I'm not saying you're not right but you're totally wrong" line. I actually though his "photocopy my book" argument was quite compelling.

    I will say, I understand Eleanor a bit. Sheet music seems amazingly expensive to me. Why does it cost $4 to download and print sheet music?

    I can buy a large orchestration of a song, made with 100 musicians and a 50 person choir, for $1. But the sheet music, which is reduced to be played on one or two instruments, costs $4? That just seems off. The only good argument I could see would be to make up for people performing the music, but that requires a separate license payment (doesn't it?), so that can't be it. Actually, a song for Rock Band often costs ~$3. That's a full, high quality 5.1 sound, in 5 tracks, translated into 4 note custom note charts in 4 difficulty levels. That's a ton more work than went into the sheet music, but it's still 25% less money.

    Then there's the fact that the sheet music is a byproduct of the process of making music. To make the "easy piano" version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" takes extra work, but the full version of the guitar part was already written for the song. By the same token, do you think Elton John never would have produced sheet music for "Candle in the Wind" if he didn't want to sell the sheet music? He would have made it either way.

    I like tinkering around on my keyboard, and playing simple songs. But sheet music is expensive, when you can find it. Can you even find piano arrangements of video game themes/music in stores?

    He certainly deserves to be paid, I'm just not sure the price is in line with the relative value... which is why I don't buy much sheet music (and when I do, it's usually large collections).

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:23PM (#32795550) Journal
    and lots of it for share-able download. WHERE? Sheet music goes out of print faster than stamps from Fiji. What I have I hold onto like gold. Example: Diamond Dogs by David Bowie. I bought the sheet music in 1975. Still have it. Haven't seen it since. Same thing with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Dazzle Ships / Architecture and Morality. Bought the book in 1983. Haven't seen it since.

    And then there's these composers who are TOTAL PRICKS, like (cough) Philip Glass (cough) whose work is simply not for sale. You have to RENT the score to his work with the assumption of public performance, and renting a score of his is like $4000. No. shit.

    so if I want to sit down and learn that crazy keyboard part from Einstein on the Beach, I have to fork over $4k! What a bunch of bullshit.

    I would LOVE to find a sheet music sharing site. If anyone knows of some good ones, please let me know.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:29PM (#32795608)

    I make my living writing software that retails for approx $1000 per license... and done fairly well at it... recently I was directed to a hacker site that had cracked copies of my code... I lurked for a few days to get a sense of the place and give myself time to think about how to react. The site's users were in two camps... those who use the software in an educational (usually self education) and those who are using it as a tool in their professional arsenal. Once I revealed myself I found that neither group said they would be willing to pay or stop using, even when edu discounts were offered... but the students were really cool about it and asked lots of informed questions and pointed out that when they moved to professional life they would recommend the tool... the others were really abusive.

    In the end I decided to give the students my blessing as long as they didn't come seeking support... no lost sale, no money changing hands, no big deal and a potential for future sales. The love-wave that came back from those guys felt almost as good as actual sales.

    The so-called professionals were anything but, their attitude was that in business it's all fair and if using cracked software gave the a competitive edge then it was crazy to do otherwise... no love-wave.

    Yeah, anecdotal I know but this composer chappy has got the wrong end of the equation and 'elenor' is on the right track... I for one will be telling my musical friends how much of an a-hole this guy is and hopefully he will have more lost real sales.

  • Re:A Little Too Late (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drosboro ( 1046516 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:32PM (#32795624)

    So, essentially, I don't believe for a second, that he is "just a guy trying to make a living." He is manipulative; he is self-centred, and, now that is suits him, he is trying to play the role of the innocent bystander.

    Heh... I'm doing a show by JRB right now (The Last 5 Years), which is an autobiographical sketch of his failed marriage. It was, in fact, so autobiographical that his ex-wife sued over it. Interestingly, the male character in the show is completely manipulative and self-centred.

    So, at least he knows it! :)

  • by matzahboy ( 1656011 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:34PM (#32795636)

    Copyright isn't an inalienable right.

    There are very few inalienable rights. I do not see why this is relevant

    Copyright is a recent concept. As recent as the Renaissance.

    For someone trying to cite history in your argument, you sure know little about it. All of the inalienable rights as we know them today derived from the Enlightenment which was centuries after the Renaissance. The term "inalienable right" was coined in the 1600s.

    Before that, you could own physical property, but Ideas were free. If you created a magnanimous work of art, that work of art belonged to the human kind. Then, you could earn a living by performing live, doing work for hire, etc.

    Yes, and the playwrights were dirt-poor.

    The motive: To ban unwanted books. In a word: Censorship. This concept of owning ideas and controlling what you did with them was nothing but lies, just like the rest of christianity.

    Yes, the Catholic Church wanted censorship. But copyright has nothing to do with censorship. The Catholic Church was trying to stop the spread of new ideas, ideas that might threaten them. Copyright law allows the spread of new ideas, but does not allow the unauthorized replication of old ideas.

    Nobody owns ideas. Nobody owns art. They belong to the human kind. Period. Any attempt to control ideas is nothing but another fascist atempt at control of this Orwellian society.

    It is true that no one can own ideas like they can own a screwdriver. That is why copyright law was invented. The idea is to give incentive to create. If no one paid for ideas, then no one could make a living off coming up with those ideas. The only composers would be rich people who could live off of their savings. The music industry would be tiny. Etc.

    Now, there is a hugI de difference between the NEED to make a living, and some stupid god-given right to be given money just because we create.

    Wow. I don't even have a response to that. Just wow...

    I do believe, like many other creators, that our creations are like our childs. You don't own your children. You have to feed them, care for them, and protect them until they are mature enough to have a life on their own. And then they are gone. They are as free as you are.

    Yes, you are right. And that is why copyrights expire, just like children grow up.

    A more valid analogy here would be if you made a house that was a replica of the house your friend was building. And it would be totally ok.

    Your friend put so much work into making that design for the house. He spent hours and hours. Time that he could have spent building houses and making more money. Now you come along and take his design without compensation. You didn't have to spend all of those hours creating the design. It doesn't cost you a penny, but it cost him a lot (remember, time is money). Now is that fair?

  • Public Performance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adam ( 1231 ) * on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:39PM (#32795678)
    Actually, what you describe falls under the category of "public performance." To quote ASCAP (one of the two major music rights management orgs),

    "Rental or purchase of sheet music or the purchase of a record does not authorize its public performance."

    Not saying I agree with that, but there are a lot of intricacies to public performance. See also: NFL threatening suit against bars that have Superbowl[tm] parties and show the game to their clientele. They also tend to sue (or threaten to) people who use the word "Superbowl," which is why all the radio stations promote their "BIG GAME PARTY!" in January, and not any sort of party having to do with bowls that may be super. But that is trademark law and outside the scope of what we're talking about here.

    The point is whether he has the right to control what is done with his work. Whether people can make copies of it. Generally, I think the answer is yes. However, I think the real question is: do we want to live in a society where money is what motivates art? The true genius filmmakers, composers, they aren't doing it for the money, and if they are, well, I'll be disenchanted with their work when I find that out. Make art for art's sake. Artists and doctors, two professions that should be about sharing with your fellow humans, about the common good, not about profit. (*imho, of course — and my money is where my mouth is, I'm a filmmaker and people openly pirate my films. Huge pieces of them are on YouTube. I'm okay with it.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:41PM (#32795702)

    Now lets extrapolate this.. suddenly his work is copied by 80% of the population and they didn't pay him a dime.

    Now someone wants to go to a rock show, or hire someone to make a new musical score for his movie.. or perhaps he wants original music for his wedding... well guess who they hire?

    Not the guy that copied the music, but the one that created it.. THAT is how he makes money.. he has to work for a living. I know.. I know... its so unfair making people work almost 40 hours a week to survive. I don't understand why these artists can't just work once and get paid for 150 years.

    SooOooOo unfair.

  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by epp_b ( 944299 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:01AM (#32795848)
    What if you created a fire by rubbing two sticks together, after which I walk over with a third stick and dip it in the flame you created?

    Copyright is necessitated by technology. Once technology finds a way around it, historically, copyright has been changed to accommodate technology, not combat it. Otherwise, all copyright ends up being is legislated regress of technology.

    If someone doesn't see enough value in a non-tangible creation, no law is going to cause them to pay for it. Merely creating good art is not good enough any more. Technology giveth and technology taketh away: it giveth you the ability to produce more quickly and efficiently (you merely need to strike a match or flick and lighter instead of rubbing two sticks) and it taketh away your ability to control your creations exclusively.
  • by LingNoi ( 1066278 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:03AM (#32795860)

    I don't believe Eleanor is even real..

    Most of the teenagers I have met who are into theatre would do the free song before they would do the one for $3.99 unless they had a really good reason.

    No teenagers talk like that. Ever. The guy wrote it himself look at the writing style between his responses and hers, they're practically the same. He made it up.

  • Re:A Little Too Late (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:12AM (#32795944)

    Heh... I'm doing a show by JRB right now (The Last 5 Years)

    You wouldn't happen to be the pianist [], would you?

  • Creators are a part of said society.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:26AM (#32796026)

    Um if I create something that takes a bit of skill like music and its mine to sell the rights to copy etc then why is this guy being attacked because I would have done the same. If I made it and you want to buy it pay me. People would be making fair use copies of cars if the photocopiers existed.

  • by MakinBacon ( 1476701 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:26AM (#32796036)
    Imagine if you got your paycheck, only to discover that you were shortchanged by 33% because your boss thinks that the other 67% was enough to make it worth your time ("Hey, that's how much we payed you when you had just started, and it was enough back then"), and then told you that you look like "a whiny, greedy kid who needs to learn when to STFU and quit making a big deal out of nothing.".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:42AM (#32796144)

    "He's not going to argue that point either. If copyright law were reasonable copyrights would expire in a reasonable timeframe. The result would be a huge public domain where Eleanor could take her pick of free popular songs. Her instructors and mentors would point her to the rich public domain and that would not help Mr. Brown at all."

    And this is why you will NEVER see anything expire from copyright, and if anything you will see the public domain wither even further as they find excuses to backdate existing terms.

    And this is why it must be fought.

    There is no need for the "freeloaders" to compromise in this debate. They are the ones who have NOTHING. No rights period. Copyright is 100% on the other side, so if there's to be any compromise it's going to have to be the copyright holders to actually give up part of what has already been given to them via corporate lobbying.

  • by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @01:04AM (#32796258)

    If no one paid for ideas, then no one could make a living off coming up with those ideas. The only composers would be rich people who could live off of their savings.

    You just "composed" the above comment. FOR FREE. Why?

    The music industry would be tiny. Etc.

    Here's the part where you're supposed to explain why that's a bad thing.

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @01:29AM (#32796380)

    When the girl wrote that she was an aspiring actress/singer who wanted his work but could not afford it, I thought he should have sent her a copy gratis, not snarked that if she wanted to see a Broadway show it is $140 or you don't get in.

    The link in my sig goes to a book for sale on Amazon. $20. If someone emails me and says they like the book but can't afford it, I will send them a pdf, no charge.

    At least until I am as famous as this guy who I never heard of before.

  • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @01:53AM (#32796532) Homepage
    And here's the thing. If Elanor were such a hot musician, she wouldn't need the sheet music.

    I'm a hobby guitarist, and I'm not amazing by any stretch, and I hate paying for guitar tab books; it's like buying the book on how to do the Rubik's Cube.

    If I like a song, I listen to it, learn the lyrics and the music, and figure out how to play it in a way that I'll remember it.

    What she suffers from is an acute lack of creativity in problem solving. The author suggests the library as a resource; she could also get a frickin' job. Or go to the music department at her school for assistance. Or form a theater project for herself and peers and get grant funding. People eat that shite up.
  • by IICV ( 652597 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:21AM (#32796682)

    I believe you are correct, sir. Either he is filtering what she actually said through his own words, or he made her up out of whole cloth. My little sister is in the same age range, and although she tries to mimic the way I type when we e-mail or chat (you know, with real capitalization and grammar and suchlike), she always ends up making at least some mistakes.

    Throughout the whole exchange, this girl makes almost no errors - an intentional "u" instead of "you" in the first e-mail (which is quite odd when juxtaposed with the proper capitalization, but that happens in some clients), a couple of missed caps in the fourth e-mail (which is again odd when contrasted with the first e-mail; different clients, perhaps?), and that's about it.

    No homonym mixups, no further abbreviations that I can see, no Internet talk at all. Hell, her writing is even stylistically sound - no doubled punctuation (which is quite common), no overuse of ellipses (which I know I was guilty of until college, even), relatively simple and to the point, doesn't get lost in her own verbiage when trying to make a point.

    She's a far better writer than I was at that age, which is possible - however, I was pretty good at it according to all those standardized tests, and he randomly picked her out of a sample of 400 users on one sheet music trading website? That's kind of odd, but I guess a sheet music trading website would self-select for higher literacy. On the other hand, she does kiss his ass to an absolutely astonishing degree, calling him a "genius" no less than three times while heaping other praise on him. You'd think that if she was grumpy about him contacting her personally she might tone it down a little, especially if she didn't recognize his name right off (see her first e-mail).

    Further, and somewhat more damning in my mind, are the timestamps. His mail client has to be one of the retarded ones that doesn't translate sender time zones to your local time, because otherwise this Brenna not only pirates sheet music but is also capable of time-travel. This makes getting an accurate idea of how long it took them to write their various e-mails more of a pain in the butt.

    However, according to his blog, Jason would have most likely been writing from either LA or Italy; it's pretty obvious from the first exchange that he's not writing from GMT+2 to the USA, so I'm going to assume that he was writing from Pacific Standard Time. Given that, the only reasonable place for Brenna to be is Hawaii, after the aforementioned time-traveling; just look at the timestamp on her fourth e-mail compared to the one she's responding to. So we have a highly literate, sheet-music trading teenager who lives in Hawaii (of all places), with its teeny tiny population, who just happened to be part of a random sample of 400 people on a sheet music trading site. This is getting less likely by the minute, though that's not saying much from a statistical perspective.

    This brings up another problem, though: her great big "Bill" example, with perfect grammar and spelling and reasonable style, was written over the course of (at most) twelve minutes! Maybe I'm just weird, but that seems like a ridiculously short amount of time to write an example like that, especially when you're writing to someone who actually matters to you (she called him a "genius", remember?). She has to see the e-mail, compose her thoughts, write it up, maybe check it, and send the reply, all in the course of twelve minutes - and then she comes up with that cogent and well-written argument? Hmm.

    And as she mentions before, it's her iPod that puts the name "Eleanor" on her outgoing e-mails. Clearly at least some of the e-mails were written from it, as the guy refers to her as Eleanor once or twice (unless this intelligent teenager doesn't know the difference between an iPod and a mac, which would make Steve Jobs cry). However, this does mean that she's managed to type pretty quickly on that thing; if she wrote the Bill e-mail on it, she maintained at least 20 WPM

  • by S3D ( 745318 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:50AM (#32796856)
    Wolfram Research [] claimed copyright on the proof of the Turing completeness of the "Rule 110" cellular automaton []. It obtained a court order excluding author paper from the published conference proceedings.
  • by quickgold192 ( 1014925 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:19AM (#32797092)

    He may have done that if he hadn't already been in the middle of making his point. He wanted her to understand that if you can't afford something, getting it for free isn't right. So if he gave it to her for free, she would be happy and say "oh yes, I see your point! Thank you friendly man!" but really nothing would have been accomplished. If she's going to accept the implications of doing what's right for the sake of doing what's right, she has to accept those implications while feeling all the nasty consequences that come with it.

    Of course, he slowly realizes that no matter how reasonable he is with her, she's already dead-set on maintaining her point of view. So he wraps up the conversation with some nice stories to make a point to us - the bystanding readers.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @04:12AM (#32797334)

    You have created a strawman.

    No, you disagree with my point and the easiest way to destroy it is to twist my words into something logical.

    What I said is that creating something via the use of money does not give it an intrinsic value. The value is decided by the market, well it is in most markets, in the entertainment industry it's given an arbitrary value that does not reflect the real cost of production. When a market decides your product is worthless or not worth the asking price, you are not entitled to a cent, you are entitled to make something worthwhile/adjust prices or go out of business. The real straw man was created by the GP.

    he artist is entitled to be paid if those people who have a copy of their work made use of it.

    Once again you do not understand. No they are not entitled to get paid, they may get paid if the market decides it is worth their asking price.

    An enviable position to be in... the artist having no recourse whatsoever in the eventuality that greed might result in you being less than generous.

    Now this is a real straw man. You've create a fictional scenario where the artist is actually paid for CD sales. This is not true, the artist earns money by touring, now this is something that cannot be re-created thus has an intrinsic and measurable value. Have a read of this [] and try to tell me that the artist will starve, you are repeating stale and inaccurate propaganda as their true income source, the live shows and merchandise will not disappear even if copyright ceases to exist.

  • Re:short story: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @04:44AM (#32797444)
    You use Shakespeare as an example when Shakespeare is a huge example of why copyright is important.

    Shakespeare didn't produce written versions of his plays. Why not? Because there was no copyright law at the time. If he published his plays, they'd be performed across the country by other companies without giving him anything and he'd be ruined.

    As a result, an unknown portion his plays as they exist now differ from the original performances as there were no 'official' versions of his plays, so they had to be pieced together from his writings and memories of the performances.

    Had there been copyright law at the time, there could have been proper published versions and we'd have close to the original text today. Not to mention we'd have some plays and poems that have become lost to time (Cardenio being one of the most prominent examples of lost Shakespeare).
  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Monday July 05, 2010 @05:17AM (#32797578) Journal

    Lot of people overlook that copyright is only a means. If you could obtain fair compensation for your work without copyright, would you find that acceptable? Could you let copyright go, in such an environment? If not, why not?

    Perhaps you just don't believe there can be any other way to compensate producers, or that any other way could work as well as copyright? Or that anything else could be as "fair" as copyright? Or that there is no other way that isn't socialist at the least, as if that's a bad thing even if true? (Is the opposite of socialism antisocialism?) I think most people can agree that copyright does not work at all well, and has many, many problems.

    Let me suggest to you that copying is much more than "not exactly stealing". It is fundamentally different than stealing. I hope you have heard the argument that "stealing" is the wrong term because the victim didn't lose the item in question. The way music can be stolen, really stolen, is if someone claims authorship of a piece they did not write, and gets away with it. Those are the real thefts. The people "trading" a bit of sheet music online aren't claiming to be the authors when they aren't. They aren't stealing anything, they're just copying. We have a number of fairly well known terms, such as plagiarism, and we should use them properly, not call everything stealing. Call a spade a spade. Let copyright infringement be that. Calling it stealing, as the RIAA and related ilk do, is a cheap, underhanded attempt to skew the debate and manipulate people into opposing it by convincing them it really is theft, and of course most everyone hates theft.

    As for socialism, consider our highway system. Roads aren't cheap to build or maintain. How is it that we have roads going almost almost anywhere we want, without having to pay tolls? The gas tax, that's how. And mercifully so-- the overhead involved in toll collection is horrendous. But maybe we should privatize the entire highway system? Do you really want to get the government out of our lives so much that you'd be willing to switch to a private road system? But if you like the highway system the way it is now, then why can't we set up something similar for artistic works? Copyright has worse overhead than tolls. If the highway system operated like copyright, you'd have lengthy delays just waiting for explicit permission for each little piece of a particular route you wanted to take. Probably you'd be forced into all kinds of compromises, and have to go far out of your way, at additional expense and time. For an idea what a private road system was like, read up on how roads were built and operated in the US prior to 1926. Too many antisocial interests wanted roads to detour through their area so they could profit from more traffic at the expense of all the travelers who would be taking longer trips than necessary. Another example of private roads are railroads. When railroads had a monopoly on swift travel, they could, and often did charge exorbitantly.

    Sharing is not poor behavior. Or do you think public libraries are bad? Sharing is beautiful, and in the matter of immaterial things, highly, highly economical. How can you ask that people not use the Internet, not reap the massive savings to be had by doing things digitally? But that's the least of things. How quickly civilization advances depends on sharing. If we don't share, we will be much slower to find answers to our many problems. How can you ask that of everyone? If you think you're not really asking that, you're just asking to be paid for each copy, well no. You're right back to why toll collection is so awful. Having to register in some sort of micropayment system and pay for every little bit of data you download adds so much burden to sharing that it all but kills it. Imagine if every post on Slashdot had to be monitored in order to fairly compensate the authors. We'd have all sorts of schemes to manipulate the numbers. No, we need something else.

    You can't ask everyone to ignore what the Internet can do. Sharing is here to stay, and you'll have to adapt. Either copyright will have to go, or change so radically as to not really be copyright anymore.

  • by TheEyes ( 1686556 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @05:34AM (#32797652)

    I do believe, like many other creators, that our creations are like our childs. You don't own your children. You have to feed them, care for them, and protect them until they are mature enough to have a life on their own. And then they are gone. They are as free as you are.

    Yes, you are right. And that is why copyrights expire, just like children grow up.

    When? When do copyrights expire? I'm thirty years old; I've never seen a copyright expire. My father is sixty years old; he's never seen a copyright expire. My grandfather may have seen a copyright expire, but he's been dead for over a decade so I don't know.

    The GP may be wrong with his "Ideas are meant to be free!" hippie nonsense, but that doesn't make the current situation right either. The biggest problem with modern copyright law, as I see it, is that it has no notion of the fact that, after a certain amount of time, the value of the work ceases to be in the originality of the idea, but in the way the idea has entered the public consciousness. This is, I think, the original intent of works entering "public domain": the public itself is now the source of the value for the work, and should be the ones benefiting from it. At that point, the copyright institution is no longer rewarding a creator for his creativity, but merely creating a welfare state where the creator is leeching off of the public's thoughts.

    For instance, look at Catcher in the Rye. In the early 50s, when it was first published, it was innovative and new and controversial, undoubtedly a creation worthy of reward. Over the years, it has incited a large amount of controversy, frequently being banned from libraries and classrooms, given the blame for a number of murders, etc. It has entered the public consciousness; the work itself is in many cases irrelevant compared to the reactions it has caused. At this point, it is impossible to disentangle whether the real worth of the novel is in the words themselves, that the author is saying to the public, or in the words and stories that the public are telling each other related to the work. The former may deserve reward for the writer, but the later surely does not, as it essentially lets the writer leech off of the public forever.

  • by Raisey-raison ( 850922 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @07:21AM (#32798060)

    Completely wrong. The fact that copying is free does not make it okay to copy. That was his point. He was discussing HIS property that was being taken without recompense. The fact that he still has a copy is irrelevant. Getting pendantic about his examples and coming up with completely incorrect strawmen is fudging the issue.

    I love the fact that Slashdotters all say that the reason they steal stuff is because they support the artists, and want to protest the big corps. Here we have a real example of an artists struggling to make a living because his work is being stolen, and the comments attack him, revealing the truth, despite all the protestations to the contrary: the reality is hypocrisy, you use the corporations and other excuses to justify outright theft. When your excuses are stripped bare, as in this example, instead of reevaluating your position honestly, you instead attack the complainant.

    I have always despised the MPAA and RIAA, but the comments on this article have done more to convince me that they may have a point than anything else in 10 years.

    You call copying 'outright theft'. The concept of copyright is an abstraction. Its length and terms are very arbitrary and have historically varied from 7 to 100 years as have the its conditions. The basis for it is that it enables a societal good of an increase in creative works. So it's a law with a reason that does something very unusual. It takes away people's liberty much in the same way as requiring everyone's house in a neighborhood to be painted a specific color.

    In the same way as violating such a zoning law in NOT vandalism similarly violating copyright law is not theft. If the law is in place where its reason d’être does not apply it can hardly be called immoral. There have been numerous studies showing that both the length and the terms of copyright are far too onerous. 7 - 14 years justifies the original purpose of copyright. No more. And the ridiculous extremes to which copyright is extended also need to be trimmed. In fact when the justification for copyright does not apply then preventing people from copying things is utterly tyrannical and evil.

    So in fact if there is any thievery it is some person collecting fees on a work 45 years later after it was created. By forcing people to pay for something that they ought no longer to pay for (eg a Beetle's song) the artist/corporation is in fact doing the stealing. They just have legalized it by donating tones of money in campaign contributions to various politicians and have bought them off. Ooh and guess where that money came from - from regular folk being stolen from! And I hope you aren’t saying that it was theft to copy something after 50 years in 1960 when that legal. Or does the law determine theft so that if the terms of copyright get longer then what is ‘theft’ changes too? If copyright terms were lengthened to 10,000 years would copying an ancient Greek play also be theft?

    Third, the process of copyright itself is full of abuses. You don't get to negotiate what to pay with each artist to play a song on the radio. No, it's fixed by statute. Ever heard of anti trust? Has it occurred to you that these set prices are too high? Or would you say that any price no matter how high is morally justifiable? What about the fact that if you stream it on internet radio it's way more money? Now that is really theft! Why after paying copyright fees to broadcast it on the radio must a hairdresser pay again to have a radio for their customers? They are double paying. How comes the copyright owners never admit this is theft? hmmm?

    Finally by talking about how it’s so obvious that the use of copyrighted materials is theft you forget that there are other values that need also to be balanced. Just because you own a piece of land with a river running through it does not give you the right to pollute the river without limit similarly there are limits to the moral right of any intellectual property. People have a

  • Re:short story: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ltap ( 1572175 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @07:53AM (#32798204) Homepage
    I agree with this. Part of the FUD surrounding the issue is talking about the "rights of the artist", which seems designed to appeal to an American crowd. You could argue that it is a derivative of freedom of speech (freedom to choose how to distribute your works), but if the work is being shared, the message is more free than if it were kept tightly controlled. It basically boils down as "the right to make money from something you create, whether people want to pay you for it or not." I share media online, but I would not hesitate to pay someone money directly for their work - I've bought several self-published CDs from local groups, where I know the money will go directly to them, not be funneled into a record label's advertising or lawyers' fees. This is a decision I make because I know where the money will go, rather than vanishing into a void where only a fraction of the profits will go to the artists.

    The truth is that filesharing and piracy, while illegal (in most places, anyway) is the only way to ameliorate the high costs of media. I would be willing to pay for every movie I watched, book I read, etc. as long as I knew that the profits were going to the creators. When an artist has been dead for decades (say, J.R.R. Tolkien), forget it. His family had more than enough time to be supported by the licensing of his works. Once you have generations of people who are rich because of something an ancestor did that allows them to take money from people who just want to enjoy some fiction that was written decades ago ... you have problems.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday July 05, 2010 @08:11AM (#32798276) Homepage Journal

    The very idea of copyrighting of any instantiation of a particular piece of sheet music is somewhat ridiculous. The content of your music is a fact. If I work out the notes for myself and put them on a sheet I should be able to sell it. Given this, I feel it's somewhat crazy to honor copyrights on sheet music. Even with this attitude, I can see the difference between copies of a piece of music you bought at the store and distribution of sheets you wrote yourself. Unfortunately, the law can't. Since it can't, I elect to also be myopic as a form of correction.

  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by easterberry ( 1826250 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:47AM (#32799362)
    What if it took you 2 months to make that sandwich and your only source of income is selling the sandwiches you make?

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?