"I poisoned P2P networks for the RIAA"
January 17, 2003 8:40 AM   Subscribe

"I poisoned P2P networks for the RIAA", a whistleblower from the IFPI (the global version of the RIAA) has said. Someone else actually claimed this a few days ago but it was admitted to be a hoax. Now, a fellow by the name of Matt Warne comes forward with a new claim.

While I'm sure many MeFi'ers disagree about the ethics of music piracy (which it is, whether or not you think it should be okay) - I think we can all agree that two wrongs don't make a right, can we not? Can the RIAA be sued for this, or will it be an invincible body, impervious to injury just like a certain other huge body that has problems getting hacked all the time, and simply has to repeatedly settle in court rather than admitting true wrongdoing?
posted by twiggy (57 comments total)

 
"I suggested that they should put out files with legitimate titles - and put inside them silence or random noise - and saturate the file sharing networks with those files. That did start the poisoning."

As evil as I think the RIAA is, I have to give them credit for thinking of this. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I see no reason to sue them, any more than I could sue a 16 year old for claiming that Gin and Juice cover was done by Phish.

People use P2P networks because they work. If the RIAA can make them less useful, less people will use them.

If the RIAA would just get on the ball and create a useful network that would let me get any song, any time, I'd be happy to throw them a few bucks.
posted by bondcliff at 8:45 AM on January 17, 2003


Arrrrr.
posted by ODiV at 8:47 AM on January 17, 2003


I should have been clearer in my FPP about why someone could sue...

It causes even worse misappropriation of various ISPs' bandwidth.. because users, whether or not they're doing something illegal, will start downloading all of these songs twice, thrice, four times, etc so they can get the legitimate copy... Basically they're participating in screwing up the internet even more than it already is with all the bandwidth being wasted...

They're also participants on a network that they're trying to sue. Whether or not they're downloading songs, they're making themselves a part of that network and it can't be proven that they AREN'T downloading songs. While our courts are supposed to go by proof of guilt rather than proof of innocence, it seems that wasn't the case with Napster, and probably won't be with Kazaa either.
posted by twiggy at 8:56 AM on January 17, 2003


I used to work for an ISP, and I'm certain that the RIAA is not wronging ISP's (in this case, at least). The damage to my ISP would have been non-existant, we would have budgeted for that bandwidth anyway. It's up to the users to do whatever they want with their time on the net.

If there was a software piracy newsgroup, and somebody was spamming the newsgroup in a similar fashion, would that be wrong? I think not - if you're operating on the outskirts of the law, you can't exactly demand quality.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:24 AM on January 17, 2003


users, whether or not they're doing something illegal, will start downloading all of these songs twice, thrice, four times, etc so they can get the legitimate copy

Bingo. Won't make them go away, just more determined to get what they're after. The how-dare-you-deny-me-my-free-stuff mentality.

And, of course, stick it to the RIAA. It's going to be fun watching those musical buggy-whip makers shrivel up and blow away, legislating all the way.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:25 AM on January 17, 2003


p2p services don't require a guarantee of correctness from users do they (who would the agreement be with? - the same person that would be sued for copyright abuse, presumably)? so no contract is being broken.

and the idea that anyone who cares about freedom of expression and information would seriously suggest that there should be rules controlling what information people provide seems, well, a little odd. more than anything else, isn't it plain bad style to throw the rules away and then run to teacher for protection? v. not cool imho.

curiously, just read the first chapter of "riding the rap" again last night.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:34 AM on January 17, 2003


The point they seem to have missed is that people play the first ten seconds of an mp3 they're downloading, so you never get more than a (relatively) few kbs of wasted download.

On a side note, I was going to ask why we've never heard of www.ifpi.org and give a list of defacements of ifpi vs riaa, but alldas.org seems to have vanished... what did that happen?
posted by twine42 at 9:36 AM on January 17, 2003


If they flood the p2p networks with crap, that's fine, it doesn't directly affect me. If they get what they've asked for in the past, which is the legal right to hack into people's systems to do damage (or in there mind enforce copyright law) then I do have a problem.

Their efforts are doomed anyway in my opinion, there are technical means which could snip out RIAA poisoned networks.
posted by substrate at 9:44 AM on January 17, 2003


I think we can all agree that two wrongs don't make a right, can we not?

No. Entrapment is ethically wrong. Snooping on peoples' personal business is wrong. But the FBI do it all the time when investigating gangs like the Mafia.

I think that most people would agree that having the FBI snoop on criminals isn't a bad thing, even though it's two wrongs making a right.
posted by wackybrit at 9:47 AM on January 17, 2003


You may not have heard of the IFPI, but their name is on probably every single music CD you own. Look on the both the plastic in the hub and the lettering on the reflective surface on the inside. You'll see IFPI and a 4-letter number, which identifes where it was mastered and where it was made.
posted by zsazsa at 9:47 AM on January 17, 2003


when. not what. godamn stupid fingers, ignoring what my brain tells them to do.

[no we don't. you're just stupid.]
[shut-up you pillock...]
[eh? why? ... oh...]
[hmmm]
posted by twine42 at 9:48 AM on January 17, 2003


If they flood the p2p networks with crap, that's fine, it doesn't directly affect me.

Actually, the RIAA don't need to do anything. Kazaa seems to be filled with crappy 'recorded from the radio/TV' files already. It's a very rare occasion I download a high quality/well encoded MP3 nowadays.
posted by wackybrit at 9:50 AM on January 17, 2003


It's seems to me it's just fighting fire with fire.

I need to remember this is MeFi and not Slashdot. In some circles the appreciation of a good hack doesn't depend on what side it's on. You may recall the DirecTV security staff hack on the hackers. Many MeFi-ites don't take the same point of view.

On one note, the role of 'cuckoo eggs' is a long term win for the file sharers. To combat this, the darknet will adapt and evolve to the direction of trust networks and content validation, making it even simpler to share valid files.
posted by Argyle at 9:56 AM on January 17, 2003


It's a very rare occasion I download a high quality/well encoded MP3 nowadays.

Wow i don't seem to experience that at all. Maybe you should rip some of your own music and add to the maelstrom.



OT: props to twine
posted by Big_B at 9:57 AM on January 17, 2003


I see no reason to sue them, any more than I could sue a 16 year old for claiming that Gin and Juice cover was done by Phish.

I've yet to fix the ID3 tag on that Willy Porter cover I got off Napster years ago. Sorry. I'm now 27 though. And it still cracks me up everytime I see it on my Muse listings. Not half as funny as the "Tainted Lover" 'cover' by The Clash I downloaded once in sheer amazement.
posted by yerfatma at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2003


music piracy (which it is, whether or not you think it should be okay)

No, actually, it's not. Piracy involves trespassing on and/or theft of property. If you don't believe someone can own an idea, then it is not piracy.

This was one of the greatest marketing coups of all time; successfully taking a legal term for unauthorized boarding or appropriation of vessels in international waters (which, legally, is grounds for homicide in self defense on the part of the crew, and which is still a major danger throughout many parts of the world resulting in numerous fatalities annually) and getting people to apply it to copying music.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:12 AM on January 17, 2003


Ishmael, would you mind posting your credit card numbers? How about your unfinished manuscript for the great American novel? After all, they are just information, so I should be able to appropriate and use them with impunity.

Or is it only OK to steal someone else's ideas/information?
posted by ednopantz at 10:36 AM on January 17, 2003


If the RIAA would just get on the ball and create a useful network that would let me get any song, any time, I'd be happy to throw them a few bucks.

The problem is, and always was, that the "Industry" is used to grabbing more than just a few of your bucks and wants to keep it that way.
posted by BentPenguin at 10:43 AM on January 17, 2003


The way I see it, the RIAA's price fixing efforts have f*cked me out of untold thousands of dollars in my life. They owe me, and I'm taking it out in Mp3s.
posted by Pinwheel at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2003


>music piracy (which it is, whether or not you think it should be okay)

I didn't see this so much as a point to be argued over as a statement of the arrogance of the person writing it.

"Oh, by the way, if you have any other opinion than mine, you are wrong whether you realize it or not)."
posted by johnmunsch at 11:08 AM on January 17, 2003


I think that most people would agree that having the FBI snoop on criminals isn't a bad thing, even though it's two wrongs making a right.

Define "criminals," please.
posted by rushmc at 11:17 AM on January 17, 2003


"music piracy (which it is, whether or not you think it should be okay)" made me laugh out loud and post the "Arrrr" comment above.

It doesn't really matter if Ishmael believes someone can own an idea or not. Piracy is an unrelated crime and the name has been stupidly appropriated to copyright infringement. What does it say about the popular opinion of a crime if an unrelated word has to be used in order for the masses to care (and I don't think even that's worked).

hm... It just occurred to me that this might actually be in the legal definition in the states. I hadn't considered this before. Anyone know if it's legally called piracy in the US or if it's just pure marketing BS.
posted by ODiV at 11:18 AM on January 17, 2003


What about this: If I own a CD of say "Carrot-Top sings Metallica", and instead of making my own mp3, I just download it to save time. I'm legal entitled to posses the mp3, but if the RIAA put up an mp3 of pure static and named it "Carrot-Top - Enter Sandman" and I download it, haven't I just broken the law, because I'm not entitled to posses this "other" recording (of static) that I never paid for?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:31 AM on January 17, 2003


How about "theft"? Does that work?
(and don't give me any B.S. about your "legitimate" use of P2P networks... you and the rest of that 1% should pipe down and just acknowledge that almost everyone uses them to steal stuff)

There's nothing wrong with calling it what it is, johnmunsuch. Your motivations may have the higher ground, but it's still theft, and that's the point I think he was getting across.
posted by mkultra at 11:34 AM on January 17, 2003


if the RIAA put up an mp3 of pure static and named it "Carrot-Top - Enter Sandman" and I download it, haven't I just broken the law, because I'm not entitled to posses this "other" recording (of static) that I never paid for?

I don't think so, because it's not otherwise for sale.
posted by mkultra at 11:34 AM on January 17, 2003


Ishmael, would you mind posting your credit card numbers? How about your unfinished manuscript for the great American novel? After all, they are just information, so I should be able to appropriate and use them with impunity.

I don't have a credit card. However, your argument is flawed; you are confusing plagiarism (fraud) and unauthorized reproduction, which are two different things.

And if I had an unfinished novel, I'd be thrilled to post it.

And what ODiV said.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:36 AM on January 17, 2003


Credit Card numbers serve as a direct proxy to limited physical resources, so that isn't a very good parallel. But yeah, you can have all of my finished and unfinished writing -- at least the stuff that's digitized.

A lot of the early stuff was done in Claris Works, and I'm not even sure I could open it any more. Do you want that? A few things were done in FinalDraft, and I'm sure that I can't open that any more. I lost the stupid keys that tie opening the program to a specific hard drive about 3 computers ago (lesson learned, I will never buy things anti-consumer Disabling and Restricting Mechanisms again). Do you want that? I assume you can read Word documents. I don't imagine MeFi is a proper venue for posting all of that. Do you have an e-mail address I should send it all to or...?

Of course there's a lot of stuff on my web site as well. I did a lot of writing as work for hire. I don't really have the right to grant you that since it isn't mine.
posted by willnot at 11:40 AM on January 17, 2003


How about "theft"? Does that work?

No, that doesn't work either. Copyright infringement might be correct, although the whole commercial versus non-commerical does come into play there, so I'm not even 100% sure that is correct. Still, if you must call it something that's probably the closest to being correct.
posted by willnot at 11:56 AM on January 17, 2003


Hurm, I had always assumed that the major hollywood film companies had been putting their own noise out there under the recent blockbuster names. Disney is pretty efficient at getting everyone on kazaa downloading the same copy of poo. Though I rarely come across pure noise in the place of a movie, usually it's a older movie that no one wants to see. I can't comprehend why the average consumer would put things up for sharing that are mis-named on purpose, so I always assumed it was some small branch of the movie itself tricking us silly stealers. When it first started happening to me, I cheered for being duped. I was pilfering that cake, and big bad company beat me to it. Now I just lament that I haven't opted for the bigger hard drive and I must remove this excrement fastly.
As for music, with cable access speeds everywhere, downloaded music became "too easy" and no one cared if they had to download three copies of anything they want just to get one good copy. That Phish, "gin and juice" heh.
posted by kid_twist at 12:08 PM on January 17, 2003


No, actually, it's not. Piracy involves trespassing on and/or theft of property.

I was told to never try to argue using a dictionary, but...

pi·ra·cy - n. pl. pi·ra·cies

1a: Robbery committed at sea.
1b: A similar act of robbery, as the hijacking of an airplane.
2: The unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted or patented material: software piracy.
3: The operation of an unlicensed, illegal radio or television station.


and:

Piracy - pi·ra·cy
1 : an act of robbery on the high seas; also : an act resembling such robbery
2 : robbery on the high seas
3 : the unauthorized use of another's production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright


Lastly, from a 1913 dictionary definition:

Sometimes used, in a quasi-figurative sense, of violation of copyright

IMHO, the term most often applied incorrectly in this case is 'theft', which involves depriving someone of actual (as compared to potential) property. All those 'free satellite TV is theft' ads really get to me...
posted by Jairus at 12:09 PM on January 17, 2003


"There's nothing wrong with calling it what it is"

copyright infringement, copyright infringement, copyright infringement.

Is that so hard?

Also, I use p2p networks in a manner that's illegal. Possibly immoral too. Why? Personally I think it's a combination of me being a greedy bastard and at the same time being far removed from the effects (if any).
posted by ODiV at 12:12 PM on January 17, 2003


Two wrongs don't make a right.... in other news, God supports the war on Iraq.
posted by banished at 12:14 PM on January 17, 2003


I download music primarily because I have no desire for my money to be used to fund another RIAA-backed DMCA lawsuit. I download CDs/LPs from indie labels as well, but if they're any good, I almost always buy them.
posted by Jairus at 12:17 PM on January 17, 2003


Fuck the RIAA. Fuck the MPAA. I've worked in Hollywood and the amount of self-raping going on there is truly staggering ... and both organizations know it's going on and both organizations look the other way.

Fuck them. Fuck them in their little asses. Fools. Hypocrites. Go ahead. Kill P2P. I'll be teaching your execs how to get what they want from Usenet. And IRC.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:35 PM on January 17, 2003


Can I get a hallelujah?
posted by gottabefunky at 12:41 PM on January 17, 2003


hllljh!
posted by ODiV at 1:02 PM on January 17, 2003


Wow i don't seem to experience that at all. Maybe you should rip some of your own music and add to the maelstrom.

I do. I have a lot of rare stuff on Kazaa. But since I'm on 56k, little/none of it gets out. People seem to have lost patience with getting files at 2K/sec on their fancy DSLs :-)
posted by wackybrit at 1:14 PM on January 17, 2003


****Queues up for chance to bash RIAA and Microsoft, all in the same thread****

BASTARDS!

****Continues surfing, oddly dissatisfied****


posted by Fezboy! at 1:17 PM on January 17, 2003


tension rising...

must... go home...

and...

download something...



AAAAAAAAAGHH - must work several more hours
posted by Big_B at 1:39 PM on January 17, 2003


OK, the cc argument is no good, and if you want to give away your intellectual production, that is your business, and you might feel differently if you made your living by selling or renting out your ideas.

However, by stealing mp3s from file sharing utilities you are making that decision for the artists, talent scouts, promoters, janitors, etc. who all work for the record companies. They didn't consent to you stealing their work.

Incidentally, piracy was first used to describe the theft of intellectual property in 1771. That is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a resource that is supported by people paying for it or paying for the use of it.
posted by ednopantz at 1:53 PM on January 17, 2003


ednopantz - I do make my living by selling my ideas.

Also, nobody is stealing anybody's work. The social contract works like this - we give you (the artists, talent scouts, promoters, janitors, etc.) a limited monopoly over distribution of your work. In return you give us (the public domain) your creative output.

We can't steal it because it's already ours. You could make the argument that the monopoly we granted has now been further limited in unanticipated and undesirable ways, and then you'd need to show why that is a bad thing. But theft it isn't and never can be.

Unlike others, I do like the term piracy though. I'm hoping to one day get my own parrot you scurvy dog. Arghh!
posted by willnot at 2:16 PM on January 17, 2003


ednopantz: I've made money from essays. The company that paid me for them put them online for anyone to download for free.

The OED notwithstanding, calling copyright infringement piracy in anything but a loosely metaphorical sense is just messy semantics. The fact that it's been going on for a while doesn't make it correct.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 2:30 PM on January 17, 2003


For all this alleged "flooding", has anyone ever gotten a particularly garbled file here? I seem to have more problems with CDDB mis-labeling things from the initial burn than anything...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:11 PM on January 17, 2003


I would opine that I make money off my ideas everyday. I know things that others don't. How I apply those things is effective and sometimes original, especially if you consider that I solve problems for a rather unique market. But I share my abilities everyday with any who find them useful (as do all of you here {the sharing, not the finding-useful}). Look, no charge.

If I choose to legally protect my original ideas, then those who can benifit from those ideas is greatly limited. If someone milks my ideas, I can withhold from them, and that person finds them elsewhere (if they can). I could easily protect my ideas, in which case I soon lose a market, paying or otherwise. The demand is there, but the fear of pirates and leaches has restricted the supply ... for everyone.

Yet here am I, sharing my ideas everyday for free and not suffering. I've shared my ideas so well that there are those willing to pay me, even sometimes when the ideas aren't there. See where I'm going with this?

Putting out crap product/ideas doesn't solve your little problem of "getting paid". Putting out good things to the most people insures a healthy demand AND adaquate supply. Claiming someone is a thief because they want your product (and are willing to get it by the most economical means) is self-defeating. And arrogant.

To the RIAA: go right ahead and poison your product. You are gratuitous and unnecesary. We as consumers will find you're product. And if you refuse to sell it, we will find a way not to pay you for ideas that may not be that good. If its good, the pay for your artist's ideas will find you. Furthermore, if you call us thieves for not buying the crap YOU want to sell, you allienate the very market that wanted your goods in the first place. You are a boil, an irritating swelling between the ideas and the people who want them. Let the ideas sell fairly and openly. You'll see how much we want them. And if that cuts you middlemen/leaches out of the loop, then I ask, "what the hell good were you doing, anyway".
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:18 PM on January 17, 2003


ednopantz, your argument only works if you assume those people involved in the production of those works have a right to profit from them.

As they don't, there can be no stealing, since without profit, the value of music is legally zero.

HTH!
posted by shepd at 3:41 PM on January 17, 2003


ednopantz, your argument only works if you assume those people involved in the production of those works have a right to profit from them.

As they don't,


boy, can't argue with that kind of logic!

personally, i'm amazed by the semantic bullshit in this thread. making music is work. people deserve to be paid for their work. if at the end of your work week (regardless of what you do) your boss said "you know, i don't feel like paying you this week." you wouldn't be too happy. (nor would your landlord, your grocer, etc.)

but you, who get paid for your work, have the nerve to say that you have the right to steal another person's time/effort/WORK because their work also happens to be entertainment. not to mention stored digitally.

sorry shepd, but what a bunch of bullocks.

i'm no fan of the riaa but i have 60 gigs of music on my hard drive and about 1000 cds in my living room (not to mention lots of books and movies). i happily paid for every damn one of them.

if you're going to benefit from the fruits of someone's labour be considerate enough to reward them for doing it, or, the same as you, they're gonna stop showing up for work and all you'll have to listen to is your own mindless crap about how it was really all yours in the first place.
posted by dobbs at 6:16 PM on January 17, 2003


dobbs: Chances are we're not really rewarding the person whose work we're enjoying, though. As an example a lot of the products we buy as westerners probably come from less than ethical production means.

The music industry isn't that bad obviously, but when you consider what the artist gets out of the theoretical CD purchase and the fact that it takes very little effort to copy it, it's almost a no brainer.
posted by ODiV at 6:25 PM on January 17, 2003


>personally, i'm amazed by the semantic bullshit in this thread. making music is work. people deserve to be paid for their work.

People are deserving of a lot of things, but they don't always get it, now, do they?

For example, I have a computer I built that I'd like to sell privately. I've shown it to people, and no one has bought it yet, unfortunately.

If someone were to build an identical system themselves after looking at mine, should I be compensated for my hard working in designing a quality system?

No. Just because I think I deserve to be paid for something doesn't mean I have a right to it, and thank God that's the way it is, or we'd have drug dealers bitching and moaning that the police never paid them for the blow they pitched.

> but you, who get paid for your work, have the nerve to say that you have the right to steal another person's time/effort/WORK because their work also happens to be entertainment. not to mention stored digitally.

I'm sorry that the fact I'm just a lowly computer technician and therefore not good enough for your pity is a problem. This really reeks of some kind of screwed up reverse-elitism. Do you always consider the working class some sort of group that doesn't deserve to be paid, yet those who create less tangible works automatically deserving of recompense, or does it only come up when trying to convince Webster that he has no clue how to write a dictionary?

>I'm no fan of the riaa but i have 60 gigs of music on my hard drive and about 1000 cds in my living room (not to mention lots of books and movies).

Neither am I, and I have about the same amount of music as you, but no where near that many CDs (I am the proud owner of perhaps 100 discs). However, I paid for it through emusic.com, because I honestly believe that's a much more reasonable distribution service.

I'm cheap, but when someone offers me a better way to get music, I jump all over it. I really don't have the time to go shopping for CDs anymore.

>if you're going to benefit from the fruits of someone's labour be considerate enough to reward them for doing it

Being considerate isn't mandated by law where I live. I know some countries sitll enforce old chivalry laws, but honestly, isn't it time to abolish these old ways?

>or, the same as you, they're gonna stop showing up for work and all you'll have to listen to is your own mindless crap about how it was really all yours in the first place.

Suits me. They don't need their computer repaired either, I assume. Why don't we all go back to the dark ages where nobody helped anybody and we all just beat each other with sticks trying get ahold of each other's swag?

If it were stealing, I'd have my name on everything pirated, rather than the authors. Or, better yet, I'd have all the glass master discs. However, since I don't steal, I don't try to discredit the author.

Sheesh, whatever happened to "imitation is the greatest form of flattery"?

Anyways, I'll present the same paradox I always present to those who consider piracy stealing. Up to now I've actually never had a rebuttal! Try to be different!

Let's look at the situation of satellite piracy in Canada as of 1 year ago (laws have changed since then, unfortuantely). At that time satellite piracy of foreign signals was legal, yet payment for these signals was outlawed. Judges were forced to dismiss any charges of satellite piracy the RCMP tried damned hard to make stick, because, when the evidence was presented, the value of the signal was $0.

Knowing this, why did the RCMP not choose to prosecute these satellite pirates by appealing to the court that the signal was stolen goods? I mean, they had no specific right to watch said signals and they were unpaid for. The only reason they weren't in jail was because Canada, at that time, didn't consider piracy of foreign signals a crime.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to show how much of the stolen goods were lost, and show how the stolen goods can be returned to the rightful owner.

I look forward to an engaging response.
posted by shepd at 8:05 PM on January 17, 2003


Hmm. I like the way that works.

Being polite to people who get in my way on the road or in society is hard work, but certainly the people who benefit from my polite demeanor appreciate it and find it valuable. I deserve to be paid for that. Who do I see about that?

Taking a shower and brushing my teeth every day is hard work. But, certainly the people who don't have to small a some really stinky guy standing next to them appreciate it and find it valuable. I deserve to be paid for that. Who do I see about that?

Giving birth is really, really really hard work. But, if they didn't, then we wouldn't have anybody to create music or write books or fix computers. Mothers deserve to be paid for that. Who should they see about that?

We do a lot of things in society that are hard work. We have the right to try to get paid for it, and most artists, if they have any talent will probably be able to figure out how to get paid for their work.

Do they have a right to take advantage of an artificial monopoly on distribution to try to create an enhanced market for their work? Currently they do. I think the pendulum has swung way, way too far though, so I'll fight for zero control because they're obviously fighting for infinite control.

If you write a book, and I read it and I enjoy it, what do you lose? Nothing. You still have your book. You're still free to sell your book to whoever will buy it. Is it harder to sell it to me if I've already read it? Maybe. Maybe it's easier. Either way, that's not a cost to you. You haven't lost anything. I haven't taken anything from you. You still have exactly what you had before I read your book.

That's why it's different. It isn't a semantic difference. It has nothing to do with being digital or being entertainment. It's because it isn't subject to the same laws of scarcity that physical items are subject to.
posted by willnot at 8:38 PM on January 17, 2003


A question for the pro-copyright types out there, who complain about loss of value to artists due to rampant copying; let's say you have invested your entire savings in gold. And let's say I come up with a cheap process to turn lead into gold that you can do in your kitchen sink. This gold is indistinguishable from natural gold. The world gold supply multiplies one-hundred-fold overnight. Your entire savings is now enough to buy a candy bar, maybe. You've lost the kind of value that gives the RIAA's lawyers wet dreams. Does that give you the right to prosecute me?

If you steal my TV, I'm not mad because you have a new TV, I'm mad because I no longer have my TV. If I steal a song, as willnot said, you still have the song.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:17 PM on January 17, 2003


People are deserving of a lot of things, but they don't always get it, now, do they?

not when people lacking morals abound, no.

For example, I have a computer I built that I'd like to sell privately. I've shown it to people, and no one has bought it yet, unfortunately.

you fail to see the difference in that no one WANTS what you've created yet someone does want the music they're stealing.

no one deserves to get paid for work they chose to do that no one wants. they do deserve to be compensated for their time if people want to enjoy the products of that time, however. hence, my analogy between a musician creating for a living and anyone else doing whatever the fuck they do for a living. it's an exchange of their time for money. it's really not that complicated an analogy which is why i can't understand how both you and willnot couldn't understand it.

perhaps the above makes it a little more clear.

It isn't a semantic difference. It has nothing to do with being digital or being entertainment. It's because it isn't subject to the same laws of scarcity that physical items are subject to.

you do realize that the last sentence in that paragraph disproves the first two, right? the reason they're not scarce is because they're digital. theft of music wasn't nearly as rampant or popular pre-digital now, was it?

Either way, that's not a cost to you. You haven't lost anything.

what about the time it took me to write the book? did that not cost me?

I haven't taken anything from you. You still have exactly what you had before I read your book.

i'm not the only one in the equation though, am i? you're different after appreciating my art. however, you're unwilling to meet me halfway and compensate me for my hard work. you're only willing to think of yourself.

Do they have a right to take advantage of an artificial monopoly on distribution to try to create an enhanced market for their work?

i was talking about downloading music without paying for it. period. can't say i fully understand what you mean by "artificial monopoly"--whether you're referring to the majors and the riaa or... something else? if the former than are you saying it's okay to steal mp3s on majors but not minors?

Being considerate isn't mandated by law where I live. I know some countries sitll enforce old chivalry laws, but honestly, isn't it time to abolish these old ways?

i could give a rat's ass about the law. my point is that if i appreciate someone's music, i compensate them for it so that they can provide me with more of it. this is the same way things are in my own life. i work and i get paid for it and therefore provide more work. if the people who are bettered (financially, personally, professionally) by my work refuse to pay me, i have no choice but to stop working for them.

my life is richer thanks to the people i pay for their hard work (musicians, authors, non-artists). why should i not want to reward them so they can provide me with more of the same? and, if i try to imagine my daily life and the person i would have become without the input of these people, it's terribly depressing. would you want to live that life? if not, why are you helping us get there faster?
posted by dobbs at 9:41 PM on January 17, 2003


>you fail to see the difference in that no one WANTS what you've created yet someone does want the music they're stealing.

You fail to realize that if I had that computer overpriced, someone was simply doing to me exactly what a pirate does with overpriced music.

Just because it's a computer design doesn't mean it has any less value than Will Shatner's "The Transformed Man" (well... there are those that would argue my computer design has more value than that, but that's another debate altogether).

>it's an exchange of their time for money. it's really not that complicated an analogy which is why i can't understand how both you and willnot couldn't understand it.

No, you are refusing to see that a choice of someone to copy my computer design rather than purchase my computer (which, of course, costs more than building it oneself, since it includes my cost for "thinking" effort as well as labour) is no different than a musician charging for their wares and having them copied instead.

>what about the time it took me to write the book? did that not cost me?

So, wait a minute, when they pirate this book, it has to be written again? Does that mean that if they make three copies of this pirated book and hand them back to you that you actually end up younger?

Now there's a fountain of youth I want to try!

>my point is that if i appreciate someone's music, i compensate them for it so that they can provide me with more of it.

If I appreciate someones art, but can't compensate them because they price themselves out of my market, I do the next best thing and provide some free advertising to them. Hopefully at some point in the chain someone will buy it (at the wrong price) thereby helping out, yet unfortunately leaving the economy on music as screwed up as it ever was.

>can't say i fully understand what you mean by "artificial monopoly"

Simple -- all works created by anyone that are offered in any way to anyone else are instantly public property, only they are protected from piracy for a short while by an artificial monopoly enacted by the government: copyright. The artificial monopoly is the fact that only one person or group of persons are in control of distributing said work despite the fact that there are zero technical reasons why this should be so.

Anyways, since I burn all my music to CDRs, it's actually impossible for me to pirate music (perhaps not in a legal manner, but in a "moral" manner). And since that levy is set to increase shortly, I feel more and more comfortable copying music from the 'net knowing that the artist will be compensated.

Which brings me to another copyright infringement is stealing conundrum, and a second one, in fact.

If purchasing that media pays the artists (if one can't trust one's own government elect, who can one trust?), is it stealing for me to download copyrighted music from KaZaa, assuming it gets burned to CDR?

And, number two, are the artists not stealing from me when I download already paid-for music from emusic.com and burn it to CDR?

Oh, hey, I have another one...

When one plays a radio station publically (such as in a mall), the law requires one to pay a royalty to SOCAN (well, that's in my country). Individuals, however, don't have to pay for this. Is this not equivalent to a racket? In my opinion, it certainly is. Since extortion is stealing, why should my heart hang low for any artist involved in this?

Basically, if you want to call piracy stealing, then it isn't going to be difficult for me to point out a way in which I'm being stolen from as a consumer -- the only difference is that they bought (NO sp) the law onto their side. And when there's no justice, then the individual has no choice but to resort to civil disobedience to make their point. And we all know that when that happens, society as a whole pays the price.

It's time to abolish all copyright laws and rebuild a system similar to what the founding forefathers of America (chosen because I like their original interpretation of copyright) eivisioned, and not the rotting hippo carcass that is today's copyright laws.

That anyone would hide behind copyright laws invented for Mickey Mouse is not laudable, it's laughable.
posted by shepd at 10:56 PM on January 17, 2003


what about the time it took me to write the book? did that not cost me?

That's a cost of creation. Not a cost of my distribution. You incurred that before I ever heard of the book. You did it because you had a book you had to get out or you had a book you were hoping you could sell. You did it on spec.

It would be like the bum who cleans my windshield and then asks me for a quarter. He did the work. Maybe he even did the best job ever. Maybe my window has never been so clean. Maybe his spit and urine stained rag has magical properties, and now my window will never get dirty. Do I owe him anything? No. He did it on spec. He may be hoping to get paid. He may even get paid. He has no right to expect to be paid.

And in the case of copying songs or books that's not even what we're talking about here. Assume for a minute that nobody had ever cleaned a window before. It hadn't occurred to anybody. So along comes this bum who realizes if you get a rag damp and rub it on a window it makes it easier to see through the window. Holy crap - it's a miracle. Now, I see him doing this, and then I go home and I clean my own windows. Do I owe the bum a quarter for that? Do I owe the bum a quarter every time I clean a window? Or, every time I show my friends how to clean the window?

I would also take issue with your assertion that copyright infringement wasn't an issue before digital. Printing press, libraries, phonograph, tape, radio, TV, VCR, etc., etc., etc. They were all seen as the scourge of entertainment sure to bring the world crashing down around us. Now in retrospect, we know their concerns were silly, but it ain't about being digital. It's not even close to being about that.

If you don't know what an artificial monopoly on distribution is then we can't really have a very good discussion about copyright because that's what it's all about. You might want to read more closely some of the other comments in this thread or a half dozen other threads on the issue of copyright, or Justice Bryer's dissenting (PDF) opinion in the recent copyright extension case. I'll quote a bit of the relevant part for you (which thankfully I can still do - who know for how long)
The “monopoly privileges” that the Copyright Clause
confers “are neither unlimited nor primarily designed to
provide a special private benefit.” Sony Corp. of America
v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U. S. 417, 429 (1984);
cf. Graham v. John Deere Co. of Kansas City, 383 U. S. 1, 5
(1966).
So you see, copyright is a monopoly grant. It is not granted as a benefit for the creator. It's granted for the benefit of the public. That creators benefit and get compensated for their work is secondary at best.
posted by willnot at 12:21 AM on January 18, 2003


neither of you seem to have addressed my main point: you expect (i presume; you haven't stated otherwise) that you do something for a living. presumably you pay your bills. how? how long would you keep doing it if you were no longer being compensated?

here's an example: i'm a big fan of philip k. dick. the man had a few ex wives and a number of children to support. as a result, he wrote like a madman, churning out multiple books in one year. were he not compensated for these works, he could not support himself and his family and would have had to do something else instead.

would the world be worse off without his books? in my opinion, yes. but with your model of compensation, we'd be without them.

No, you are refusing to see that a choice of someone to copy my computer design rather than purchase my computer (which, of course, costs more than building it oneself, since it includes my cost for "thinking" effort as well as labour) is no different than a musician charging for their wares and having them copied instead.

this magical copy of your computer that you refer to is not the same as a copy of a song, though, is it. they're very different "copies".

So, wait a minute, when they pirate this book, it has to be written again?

again, you're arguing semantic nonsense. you know that's not what i meant.

That's a cost of creation. Not a cost of my distribution. You incurred that before I ever heard of the book. You did it because you had a book you had to get out or you had a book you were hoping you could sell.

who cares what it's a "cost of." it's a year (or whatever) of my life! it's time that i spent producing something for which, if you wish to benefit from it, you should compensate me. if you don't wish to benefit from it, fine. but you're not happy with that. you want something for nothing and unfortunately, that's not fair.

You did it on spec.

yeah, i did it on spec. i SPECULATED that i would be paid for it if someone else benefited from its existence. i did not speculate that others would be so selfish as to think only of themselves.

so, let me get this straight. you don't think anyone should be paid for their past efforts ("they created it on spec"). when, then, should they be compensated? are you saying that no one should be able to make a living off of art?

let's cut to the chase, shall we. that's my question to willnot and and shepd: should an author or musician or anyone that creates something that you deem copyable be able to make a living off of their art?

If I appreciate someones art, but can't compensate them because they price themselves out of my market, I do the next best thing and provide some free advertising to them.

well that's not a very sound argument now, is it... because the only way to price one's art within everyone's budget is to give everything away free in which case you're back to the place where no one can afford to make art because they have to generate income in other ways.

When one plays a radio station publically (such as in a mall), the law requires one to pay a royalty to SOCAN (well, that's in my country).

yes, because they are reaping the benefits from someone else's labour. the artists they're paying are helping to create an environment that is conducive to shopping. that's why the mall mgt. is playing the music! do you think they'd bother playing it for any other reason? they're not doing it for their good health!

i used to run an alternative video store in which we always had music playing. there was this guy who would come in and browse for hours and never rent anything. so i asked him what was up (i found it hard to believe we had no movies he wanted). he said "i don't have a vcr. i come here for the music." i then started to ask people what they thought of the music and the majority of the paying customers said they liked it and that it was "another" reason they shopped at our store instead of the blockbuster which plays ads on the tv. the music we chose to play was helping us get customers, which increased our revenue. in my opinion, the artists should be compensated. this is exactly what SOCAN is doing.

here's another example. friends of mine have been in a band for 8 years. the band was sorta popular but never did they make money off of it so they had to work regular jobs like everyone else. however, in their non-working-for- the-man-time they worked for themselves, creating music, on spec, with the hopes it would pay off in the future and they could stop working in cafes and do what they really wanted to do. last year, someone at the nhl decided one of their songs should be played when a goal is scored for team X (i don't watch hockey so the details are sketchy). my friends get compensation each time it's played. this (in addition to other things) make it possible for them to quit their "regular" jobs and work full time on their music (touring, writing, recording, whatever). by your argument, this is a bad thing.

i don't know how many musicians you know (maybe you yourself are one). but the ones i know and the people i know who work at/own record labels work their asses off--they work considerably harder (more hours, more effort) than anyone i know who has a "Regular" job. your holier than though nonsense that they don't deserve to make a living because you like to steal is absurd and insulting.

again, you never answered the question: how would you feel if your boss told you that you were not going to be compensated for the hours you put in last week. essentially, this is exactly what you're telling musicians when you chose to own their music without paying for it.

It would be like the bum who cleans my windshield and then asks me for a quarter.

this analogy doesn't hold water. in your example, YOU are the one cleaning the window. you are the one exerting the physical labour. not the bum. yes, he "invented" it. but the only thing analagous to that is "do you think the first person who "invented" music should be compensated by every other musician?" NO. of course not.

this is the reason people cannot copyright ideas. this is the reason we can have X number of movies about people falling in love or robbing banks, or what have you. however, there is a big difference between "stealing" someone's idea (rock music) and stealing someone's music ("brown sugar"), their labour.

I would also take issue with your assertion that copyright infringement wasn't an issue before digital.

i'd take issue with it too, if that's what i said. but i didn't. what i said was that it wasn't rampant.

the reason? because making a copy of my friends LP onto tape resulted in an inferior copy that took too long to create and was stored on an inferior (delicate) medium. what, do you think people in the 60s and 70s didn't want "free" music? do you think, what, that your generation is just much smarter at seeing thru the fog of corporate copyright law? you're deluding yourself. digital is what made it possible for you to be a thief. digital is the difference that allows people to rationalize theft as sharing.
posted by dobbs at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2003


dobbs - I did answer your question(s). Read my comments again.
posted by willnot at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2003


And, while my analogies are in fact completely sound, and I think you should review them, for some reason you don't equate the time the bum spent thinking about how to clean a window to the time the musician spent thinking about what word rhymes with orange, so I'll give you another analogy.

I'm walking down the street, and I come upon a musician playing on a street corner. I stop for a minute and I enjoy the song. Then I move on. Obviously, my life is enriched in some way (which seems like an important distinction for you for some reason). At least through an affirmative action of stopping for a moment, I demonstrated that I was giving the performance some attention. But, I don't leave the guy a tip.

He chases my down the street shouting "Stop! Thief!" A police officer detains me and asks the musician what the problem is. The musician says "This man listened to my song. A song I spent an entire year crafting. A song I personally performed for him. He owes me a dollar. He stole my song. He's nothing but a dirty thief."

I say, "I was walking along, I saw the guy playing. I paused for a minute. I moved on."

So, put yourself in the position of the cop. You going to take me to jail? Am I a thief? Maybe you think I'm inconsiderate. Maybe I am. I mean doesn't the musician deserve to be compensated for all of that time? Doesn't he deserve to make a living? But, am I a thief? Did I steal something? Did the bum musician have any reason to expect that he would be compensated by me? Did he have a right to actually demand compensation?
posted by willnot at 10:54 AM on January 18, 2003


>this is exactly what SOCAN is doing.

No, SOCAN is saying that there's a difference between your customers bringing in their own portable radios and listening to the station and you playing it on speakers for them to listen to.

I see no difference there. It is nothing but legalized extortion, and it's about time the government shut down these mobsters working to destroy the music industry in Canada.

>how would you feel if your boss told you that you were not going to be compensated for the hours you put in last week. essentially, this is exactly what you're telling musicians when you chose to own their music without paying for it.

Again, you are not distinguishing between a signed contract and a right to be paid without a contract.

If I sign a contract with an artist saying they will create said music for said money, they have a right to my money. Since I've never done this with an artist, there's no right to my money.

This is no different than a consultant entering a business, and telling the business owners he has a revolutionary idea that will improve the business. He asks $10 million for his idea, and the business says no, since they're just a mini-mart and don't have that sort of money. Instead, the owners of the mini-mart walk to Ford next door and ask them what the revolutionary idea was. They tell him, and he implements it.

Was that stealing? I mean, the artist didn't get compensated, did he? He had a right to be paid for that idea, no?

Well, if you ask me, no.

>again, you're arguing semantic nonsense. you know that's not what i meant.

No, not really. What did you mean? You create product X. There's interest in product X, but at a lower price (in the case of piracy, at the cost of the media). So, somehow, your time invested "goes bad"? Eh? Sorry, it makes as much sense as me complaining about not being paid for the computer copy. I mean, I invested time in that too.

>you want something for nothing and unfortunately, that's not fair.

Not fair? What world are you living on? It's always been fair to have something for nothing if nobody loses out. Are you saying that people who got crown land in Canada stole it because they got something for nothing? What about when I pick a Trillium from a national park outside Ontario? What about when I breate air? Drink water from a water fountain?

Your argument makes no sense until you add a component of someone losing for your something for nothing, at which point, it really isn't for nothing at all, is it?

Here's another conundrum that probably won't be solved:

If we take it for granted that the re-distribution of copyrighted material without the author's permission is stealing, why is it that I may set up a local cable company and rebroadcast any station I can receive OTA without being required to repay the author (including NFL games with the anti-redistribution clause)? Surely the courts would have charged me with grand larceny? Why don't they? By your definition it is clear I have stolen these goods.

I've got another one where the artists are stealing from me, again:

In Canada, we have government mandated TV stations, namely, the CBC and TVOntario. These TV stations receive tax money (MY money) to play whatever they like. Since they both suck ass, why are they being compensated for something that I don't want? Something I will never use? Something that, if people were deprived of it, they would likely end up leading a more healthy life? Stop stealing my money! I want a refund from these communist artists, who steal my money but provide me with nothing of value. It's like making a street in Harlem, but paying for it with _my_ money!

There are so many reasons why stealing and copyright infringement don't go hand in hand I could come up with these unsolveable problems and impossible artists "stealing" from me situations all day! [ Damn, I love Canada for our attitudes on copyright sometimes! ]
posted by shepd at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2003


« Older I should have expected a country that largely dism...  |  bogeyman?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments