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June 30, 2005 2:55 PM   Subscribe

Governments seize 50 million dollars worth of pirated material on a raid against alleged "net pirates". Hundreds of computers were seized and 4 arrests were made total. The Justice Department “is striking at the top of the copyright piracy supply chain — a distribution chain that provides the vast majority of illegal digital content now available online,” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said. Anyone who knows how it really works knows that statement is far from the truth.
posted by Dean Keaton (69 comments total)

 
"Governments seize 50 million dollars worth of pirated material"

(i.e. They confiscated Timmy's hard drive.)
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:06 PM on June 30, 2005


I'd love to know how they came up with the 50 million dollar figure. Say I have a cracked copy of Photoshop that I want to make available -- what exactly is that worth? Is it worth $600 (in which case 50 million bucks would be equivalent to pretty much every piece of software and movie ever released with enough left over for a new prison or two) or is it worth some figure based on an arcane formula known only to Dept. of Justice officials anxious to placate an industry in decline?
posted by cedar at 3:13 PM on June 30, 2005


I think the number is bullshit to make news headlines more important sounding. 50 million is a totally guesstimated number. I have a 15 thousand dollars worth of pirated stuff, doesnt mean its worth that kind of money.
posted by Dean Keaton at 3:18 PM on June 30, 2005


cedar: yes, but if you've got a couple versions of photoshop sitting in a couple diffrent places on your hard drive, and so do your friends, erm, yeah You can add up numbers all day with no one to call your BS you can end up with a large number.

If we figure $1000 per copy that's just 50k Copies. with 500 computers that works out to about 100 diffrent files per computer.

but we all really know that the software was "worth" far, far less.

Why arn't these insane police pronouncements subject to the data quality act?
posted by delmoi at 3:18 PM on June 30, 2005


Anyone who knows how it really works knows that statement is far from the truth.

Anybody care to link to the Wired article that, in fact, claims that there is a chain near the top before it hits the broader distribution webs? The process of getting things out of studios and whatnot is a very narrow group before it tumbles down the pyramid at extreme speed.

Unless you have information that's more updated?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:20 PM on June 30, 2005


Perhaps they multiplied total downloads by per-ticket price for Star Wars?

Let's say an average ticket price of $8 to see a movie, that would come to 6.25 million downloads.

Still doesn't seem right.
posted by Rothko at 3:20 PM on June 30, 2005


Nice to see the FBI is looking out for those hardworking shareware authors.
posted by rolypolyman at 3:21 PM on June 30, 2005


thedevildancedlightly, first of all there may be a pyramid right now, but competition to gain notoriety and fame encourages you to try and get that file out faster, or to know the right people at the right times, etcetera so no matter how many crack downs any government makes, the demand and relative ease of distribution will fill that gap nearly instantly. From your perspective, this is like cutting a chickens head off. From my perspective, the chickens head grows back almost immediately.
posted by Dean Keaton at 3:47 PM on June 30, 2005


Its the same overestimation the DEA makes when they bust a dope grower and weigh his entire crop, stems, dirt, leaves and bugs included and then assign the highest street value possible to it to make it sound super big.
posted by fenriq at 3:52 PM on June 30, 2005


Arhhhhhhhh matey!! They did fire a volley cross our bow but mark my words your zit infested landlubbers on the posterior of humanity, we're gonna ship "War of the Whirlds, starring Tim Crooze" before ye can say shiver my shareware!
posted by Mr Bluesky at 3:52 PM on June 30, 2005


Or how about when they bust a place and say they had the had over 100 cd copiers. When in reality they had three 30 speed cd writers.
posted by Iax at 4:00 PM on June 30, 2005


Still no cure for
- Cancer
- Bin Laden and other "evil" minions
- Terrorism as a policy
- Physically violent crimes
- Physcological abuses
- Compulsive gambling
- Addictive drugs
- Real Piracy (the naval kind of)

Hey but....I feel safer already ! Now if they only chased really dangerous criminals...mmmhh...

BIN LADEN MAKES ILLEGAL P2P MP3 PORN ! Fetch him now ?
posted by elpapacito at 4:00 PM on June 30, 2005


From my perspective, the chickens head grows back almost immediately.

From my perspective, the chicken's head isn't even within striking range of Farmer BI's axe. They'll have to stretch pretty far to reach southeast Asia. At best, this is an apendectomy, not a decapitation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:08 PM on June 30, 2005


elpapacito, should we not enforce existing laws until OBL is captured? Or until we've cured cancer?
posted by herc at 4:11 PM on June 30, 2005


well, at least we haven't defeated piracy of the naval kind -- that's a good idea
posted by matteo at 4:14 PM on June 30, 2005


etcetera so no matter how many crack downs any government makes, the demand and relative ease of distribution will fill that gap nearly instantly. From your perspective, this is like cutting a chickens head off. From my perspective, the chickens head grows back almost immediately.

No doubt. But claiming that there was no head (as the FPP does) is still incorrect.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 4:29 PM on June 30, 2005


well, at least we haven't defeated piracy of the naval kind -- that's a good idea

Let's all meet 3 miles out into International Waters to discuss further.
posted by yerfatma at 4:37 PM on June 30, 2005


harr! harr!
posted by matteo at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2005


They'll have to stretch pretty far to reach southeast Asia.

Not to mention Scandinavia. Sweden is the most wired country on the planet and has a more or less no-holds-barred policy on downloading. As in, Swedish law protects virtually any download sites, namely bittorrent sites.

For some amusement, check out The Pirate Bay's legal threats section.
posted by zardoz at 4:49 PM on June 30, 2005


Criminals arrested. Worthy FPP to hopefully materialise at 11.
posted by fire&wings at 5:03 PM on June 30, 2005


I like how Pirate Bay had a "Grand Theft Pirate" logo the week that Grand Theft Auto San Andreas came out. Pirates are cool, and the FBI isn't going to change anybody's mind on that one.
posted by furtive at 5:08 PM on June 30, 2005


From the zardoz link (3rd email to Sega)..."Dear Prokaryote(s),...."

Heh.
posted by peacay at 5:16 PM on June 30, 2005


They may as well say they seized "infinity dollars worth" of material, for all the meaning their dollar figures really have. After all, an infinite number of perfect digital copies could be made. One for every person on the planet, from here until the end of time...
posted by pitchblende at 5:25 PM on June 30, 2005


pitchblende echos my thoughts as well.
if you can make unlimited copies, why stop at $50MM?
It's as if they got together and said 'choose a number, high, but not too high. Make it at least more than the cost of the entire operation, or the taxpayers will shit bricks.'

meanwhile, the IRS gets no help for prosecuting corporate tax fraud.
Good priorities.

not that I'm biased in any way or anything...
posted by Busithoth at 5:41 PM on June 30, 2005


piracy is the new drug use. back in the day, i used to toke up a quarter million bucks street value per month.
posted by quonsar at 5:49 PM on June 30, 2005


must have lost some brain cells in the process
posted by Dean Keaton at 5:54 PM on June 30, 2005


q, look at it this way. Just consider every seed you tossed out the window or onto the ground. Each of those seeds could have sprouted into fully grown plants, both sexes mingling freely in the wild and creating a new generation with hundreds of seeds, then tens of thousands and, yes, my friends... millions upon millions in a few short years (barring inclimate weather or wandering tribes of hippies).

I'm figuring the ride to the last Dead show I saw was worth at least 50 million bucks in DOJ dollars.
posted by cedar at 5:57 PM on June 30, 2005


Reflections of Shadowhawk's prosecution for the C5 AI system worth "$1 million".
posted by Mitheral at 6:06 PM on June 30, 2005


From my perspective, the chicken's head isn't even within striking range of Farmer BI's axe. They'll have to stretch pretty far to reach southeast Asia. At best, this is an apendectomy, not a decapitation.

Um, what?

The "Warez scene" isn't based in south east asia, it's just a bunch of kids and their cable modems. Know the right people, hang out in the right IRC channels, that's it. There are people who are very "in the know" and do act as the central distributers. As long as there are dumb kids there will be software pirates.
posted by delmoi at 6:06 PM on June 30, 2005


Yar. Fairly warned be we. Says I.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 6:11 PM on June 30, 2005


fenriq writes "assign the highest street value possible to it to make it sound super big."

I get a good laugh everytime the locals announce a grow-op shutdown. They make it sound so lucrative: grow a couple hundred plants, net a few hundred thousand dollars.
posted by Mitheral at 6:18 PM on June 30, 2005


delmoi

Software piracy outside the U.S. is incredibly organized. In Sao paulo there is a huge supermarket style store (owned by a chinese gangster) that is full of other people's intellectual property.

But it's to be expected since a new ps2 game costs the equivalent of $120.
posted by pg at 6:18 PM on June 30, 2005


By governmental calculations, numbers are typically inflated by any legal means necessary. In drug seizures, I believe it's that the weight or capacity of a container may be included, which can lead to unrealistic busts such as 55 gallons of LSD.

In this case, they probably assume the highest retail price for a program, and maybe tack on 10-20% for tax and other various crap. Games are low dollar warez, 1+ gig for $30-50. Stuff such as graphic design programs and CAD programs are where the big money is. Maybe 100 megs of software, in a corporate release that costs $7000. Tack on about 10 versions of that same software on a server's RAID array and two backups of each program, that's 30 programs worth $7,000 each. That's a $210,000 bust right there, even though a legitimate $7,000 purchase could have obtained the first program, and between free patches and discounted upgrades, perhaps another $7,000 cost, with archival backup being legal under most conditions. $14,000 of software into $210,000 right before your eyes, a 15-fold increase in eye-grabbing headlines.

I have no doubt that these pirates had a pretty extensive collection of illegitimate software. If the FBI could patrol the world for pirates, cutting one chicken head off would be a start. However, they can cover the US. There's still the Russian Federation, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, SE Asia, China, Taiwan, the Caribbean Islands, and more which have quite a lot of piracy. Delmoi, maybe the "scene" as you know it isn't based there, but throughout most SE Asian countries, it's estimated that 90% or more of all software there is pirated. There's places with cable modems, and there's plenty of stupid kids everywhere in the world. Toss in the difference in relative cost, with an American kid able to earn about $6 an hour part-time after school, whereas in Thailand, minimum wage is around 140-170 baht a day, roughly $4 for a day's work. I can't say it's surprising that a $50 video game or $250 operating system would be likely to be pirated there.

I can't say I agree with the pirates or the FBI in this case. The FBI has plenty of higher priorities to deal with which serve the interest of a larger swath of the population, as well as inflating numbers on software that's already inflated in price. The pirates, on the other hand, are still breaking laws and the high ones on the chain do reach far. Stopping one pirate ring may not end piracy, or even shake it up seriously, but then again.. FCKGW.
posted by Saydur at 6:19 PM on June 30, 2005


really, pitchblende, cuz i was thinking infinity times two at least.
posted by MarkO at 6:42 PM on June 30, 2005


I think you have to give the FBI agents credit. They have figured out the safest, easiest way possible to collect a paycheck.

They just sit around in front of their computers for six months surfing the Internet making their "$50 million" case.

Then they go to make the safest, easiest bust their ever going to get. What are the chances any of these four people even owned a gun?

Little or no threat of guns, violence, etc during their bust.

What does the average agent make nowadays, including benefits? Probably $100,000+ per year?

This has got to beat doing real work; dealing with child pornographers, smugglers, terrorists, etc. Hunting down and arresting real criminals has got to be hard, dangerous unpleasant work. Who wants to do that?
posted by joedharma at 6:56 PM on June 30, 2005


Anybody care to link to the Wired article that, in fact, claims that there is a chain near the top before it hits the broader distribution webs?
thedevildancedlightly, is this the article referred to?

In reality, the number of files on the Net ripped from store-bought CDs, DVDs, and videogames is statistically negligible.
People don't share what they buy; they share what is already being shared - the countless descendants of a single "Adam and Eve" file. Even this is probably stolen; pirates have infiltrated the entertainment industry and usually obtain and rip content long before the public ever has a chance to buy it.

The whole shebang - the topsites, the pyramid, and the P2P networks girding it all together - is not about trading or sharing at all. It's a broadcast system. It takes a signal, the new U2 single, say, and broadcasts it around the world. The pirate pyramid is a perfect amplifier. The signal becomes more robust at every descending level, until it gets down to the P2P networks, by which time it can be received by anyone capable of typing "U2" into a search engine.

This should be good news for law enforcement. Lop off the head (the topsites), and the body (the worldwide trade in unlicensed media) falls lifeless to the ground. Sounds easy, but what if you can't find the head? As in any criminal conspiracy, it takes years of undercover work to get inside. An interview subject warned me against even mentioning Anathema in this article: "You do not need some 350-pound hit man with a Glock at your front door."

The upper reaches of the network are a "darknet," hidden behind layers of security. The sites use a "bounce" to hide their IP address, and members can log in only from trusted IP addresses already on file. Most transmissions between sites use heavy-duty encryption. Finally, they continually change the usernames and passwords required to log in. Estimates say this media darknet distributes more than half a million movies every day. It's also, by any reading of the law, a vast criminal enterprise engaged in wholesale copyright infringement.

But the Feds are getting smarter. Last spring, the FBI and US Department of Justice launched a series of raids codenamed Fastlink. Working with cops in Sweden, the Netherlands, and eight other countries, the operation seized more than 200 computers. One confiscated server alone contained 65,000 pirated titles. Fastlink rubbed out a few topsites, but new ones filled the void. The flow of illicit games and movies slowed briefly, then resumed. In April, federal agents interrogated Frank and impounded all his computer equipment. So far, no charges have been filed. "But the Feds had no idea about Half-Life," he boasts. "I was never connected to that shit. If they found out, I'd be in jail."
posted by hal9k at 7:02 PM on June 30, 2005


I have no sympathy for software pirates. If examples can be made of them, so much the better.

Software pirates prevent market forces from affecting software prices properly. If people think software is too expensive, then they should not buy it or use it. Once the software companies can stop blaming pirates for poor sales figures, they have to lower their prices. Everyone wins.
posted by bugmuncher at 7:03 PM on June 30, 2005


Four arrests... yeah, they caught everyone all right.

/sarcasm

bugmuncher writes "Software pirates prevent market forces from affecting software prices properly."

Please expand on this, using examples.
posted by clevershark at 7:09 PM on June 30, 2005


Once the software companies can stop blaming pirates for poor sales figures, they have to lower their prices.

Bullshit. Look at the music industry for a counter example. They shit out over-priced turds and when we decide not to smile and fork over $13-$18 for them, they go crying to Congress about the gazillion jillion dollars they've lost to pirates. Why would the software industry act any different?
posted by MikeKD at 7:25 PM on June 30, 2005


An interview subject warned me against even mentioning Anathema in this article: "You do not need some 350-pound hit man with a Glock at your front door."

i've seen anathema, and he's nowhere near that fat.
posted by quonsar at 7:44 PM on June 30, 2005


Please expand on this, using examples.

It reminds me of the claim I used to hear that prices at the mall would be 20-25% lower if people didn't shoplift.
posted by MillMan at 7:48 PM on June 30, 2005


These figures require that every free copy downloaded is a lost sale. There are many pieces of software (Photoshop) that would never have been bought. The biggest losers are small time software developers. Who wants to buy a piece of $30 graphics editing shareware, when you can have the industry standard for free.
posted by TempusFugit at 8:19 PM on June 30, 2005


It reminds me of the claim I used to hear that prices at the mall would be 20-25% lower if people didn't shoplift.

And since that was an exaggeration, shoplifting was ok after all, right?

I just don't get it. How many members of MeFi make a living from intellectual property in some fashion or other? Heck, how many of us are software developers?

The drug analogy doesn't quite hold. You can buy legit software and movies legally, and there is no moralistic prohbition against them. What's more, you can legally grow your own -- make your own movies, music, and software if you don't want to pay for them.

Law enforcement is doomed on this one, but that doesn't make theft right.
posted by realcountrymusic at 8:39 PM on June 30, 2005


The "Warez scene" isn't based in south east asia, it's just a bunch of kids and their cable modems. Know the right people, hang out in the right IRC channels, that's it.

Au contraire. Most of the pirated movies that come out (at least, cams) come from SEA. Software piracy is a different beast, since it requires a fair degree of programming skills to get around various protection schemes; these folks are scattered across the globe, though I'd bet a lot of them are in Eastern Europe/Russia, and more than a few are in Korea.

The "bunch of kids with cable modems on IRC" represent the end of the food chain, not the beginning.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:41 PM on June 30, 2005


realcountrymusic writes "And since that was an exaggeration, shoplifting was ok after all, right? "

Straw man.
posted by clevershark at 8:50 PM on June 30, 2005


Straw man.

No it is not. Millman offered an analogy to the affixing of a high cost to legitimate purchasers of software/media. The analogy was the implied exaggeration of a classic argument against shoplifting (as if an argument from principle was not already sufficient). It was a perfectly reasonable inference for one (me) to make that MillMan's point is that such exaggerations of the case on the negative benefit to legitimate customers (analgous to the fed's purported argument that "ordinary citizens" somehow *pay* $50 million to compensate companies that have suffered that amount of IP loss) evacuate the case to be made on principle, that shoplifting is wrong.

Now it is possible MillMan was detaching the point from the larger context and only observing the analogy without intending it to serve the rhetorical function of "the harm isn't as bad as they claim, so it isn't harmful." But I don't think so, given the tone of the discussion here. I certainly addressed a legitimate implicaqtion of the statement, not a straw man. If, however, I have misunderstood MillMan's point, and he (?) does agree that shoplifting is wrong even if it costs other consumers nothing directly, then I stand corrected for drawing a wrong inference from an ambiguous statement, not for engaging in a rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Indeed, my case is that MillMan's analogy amounts to sleight-of-typing-hand.
/pedantic
posted by realcountrymusic at 9:31 PM on June 30, 2005


yeah you don't see alot of sugar cubes anymore

Petitioners argue that 841(b) should not require that the weight of the carrier be included when computing the appropriate sentence for LSD distribution, for the words "mixture or substance" are ambiguous, and should not be construed to reach an illogical result. Because LSD is sold by dose, rather than by weight, the weight of the LSD carrier should not be included when determining a defendant's sentence, because it is irrelevant to culpability. They argue that including the weight of the carrier leads to anomalous results, viz: a major wholesaler caught with 19,999 doses of pure LSD would not be subject to the year mandatory minimum sentence, while a minor pusher with 200 doses on blotter paper, or even one dose on a sugar cube, would be subject to the mandatory minimum sentence. 2 Thus, they contend, the weight of the carrier should be excluded, the weight of the pure LSD should be determined, and that weight should be used to set the appropriate sentence. [500 U.S. 453, 459]

We think that petitioners' reading of the statute - a reading that makes the penalty turn on the net weight of the drug, rather than the gross weight of the carrier and drug together - is not a plausible one. The statute refers to a "mixture or substance containing a detectable amount." So long as it contains a detectable amount, the entire mixture or substance is to be weighed when calculating the sentence.


so, uh, yeah. IANAL, but it seems they go on to link this interpretation to the strategy of "rationalizing" drug offenses by eliminating distinctions between different drugs and circumstances.

perhaps some among us will want to consider DRM protecting their pirated software so you don't get charged infinity times two dollars if nabbed? store it on smaller drives? don't compress into multiple .rar files (proves intent to distribute)? sounds "rational" to me.

as for me, since that debate about intellectual property on IRC i realize i, along with many others (in this thread alone), may have now and forever lost my right to make certain types of software and hardware devices.
posted by 31d1 at 9:46 PM on June 30, 2005


MillMan: It reminds me of the claim I used to hear that prices at the mall would be 20-25% lower if people didn't shoplift.

Whereas I would merely conclude that profits would be 20-25% higher.
posted by 31d1 at 9:51 PM on June 30, 2005


realcountrymusic: I just don't get it. How many members of MeFi make a living from intellectual property in some fashion or other? Heck, how many of us are software developers?

Well, the recent discussion of eminent domain shows that not even property is property. Intellectual property isn't either.

It just happens that different people have different ideas about what they are entitled to, I guess...
posted by Chuckles at 10:30 PM on June 30, 2005


I'll defend my vast mp3 collection as hard as I must. Almost every band who's album I've downloaded I've gone and seen live, which generally brings in more money for a band than an album purchase. In fact, my favorite bands are wise and give away their music for free. They know even a shitty audience recording of a show will demonstrate that they're worth the ticket price. In fact, most bands I listened to would never have made it on a national level without tape trading and/or it's new replacement.

As per software, I have a harder time defending my copy of Photoshop. I mean, the developers at Adobe just don't put on a live show like they used to and I skipped them the last couple of times they came through town.
posted by trinarian at 10:56 PM on June 30, 2005


No one has commented (at least in this thread) about the insanity of the bill Bush signed into law:

"President Bush signed a new law last month setting tough penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught distributing a movie or song prior to its commercial release."
[quoted in three of the linked articles]

Take a person's life in a car accident?
You might serve five to seven years
Impinge upon Hollywood's "right" to exploit their product in the marketplace, and you could be looking at a dime.
Strange priorities.
posted by Al_Truist at 11:41 PM on June 30, 2005


It's very easy to avoid copyright infringement Al_Truist. You shouldn't need to worry about those 10 years if you aren't breaking the related laws.

Unless you are forced to obtain illegal movies, software, and music?
posted by Hicksu at 12:19 AM on July 1, 2005


Yup Hicksu that is one way to put it intelligently, straw man argument that it is.
posted by Dean Keaton at 1:03 AM on July 1, 2005


Not one person has mentioned NEWSGROUPS; which is usually the first massive distribution, which is then picked up by ordinary peers and seeded on BT or shared on some other p2p.
posted by adzm at 3:06 AM on July 1, 2005


Software companies rely on piracy for mindshare and market ubiquity to some extent no?

rolypolyman writes "Nice to see the FBI is looking out for those hardworking shareware authors."

Yes it is, although I am sure they wouldn't have been motivated by that noble aim.

I think that these anti-piracy operations are a way of showing lobbying back-handers are a worthwhile investment for the buyers of influence.
posted by asok at 3:20 AM on July 1, 2005


Not one person has mentioned NEWSGROUPS

NICE GOING, ACE. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:52 AM on July 1, 2005


which generally brings in more money for a band than an album purchase

One concert ticket may cost more than one (legit commercial) CD, but you overgeneralize. For acts in the middle ranks of commercial success, concert tours are often run at a net loss in order to *promote* record sales. But it's a favorite rationalization -- I bought milk from that store, so I can steal a candy bar.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:06 AM on July 1, 2005


Well, the recent discussion of eminent domain shows that not even property is property. Intellectual property isn't either.

Says you.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:10 AM on July 1, 2005


elpapacito, should we not enforce existing laws until OBL is captured? Or until we've cured cancer?

Yes, that sounds reasonable. We should also try to avoid inventing new bullshit laws to extend authoritarian control and the interests of big business.

(by the way, herc, elpapacito was using this new-fangled language device called rhetoric. it's like an exclamation mark on steroids!!! check it out...it's all the rage!)
posted by RockCorpse at 6:08 AM on July 1, 2005


(that was a device called sarcasm)
posted by RockCorpse at 6:09 AM on July 1, 2005


It's very easy to avoid copyright infringement Al_Truist. You shouldn't need to worry about those 10 years if you aren't breaking the related laws.

I take it you wouldn't mind, then, if all crimes carried a sentence of ten years, right? I mean, laws are like, the most important thing ever, right? Anyone who disobeys a law is a criminal, and criminals are evildoers. Jaywalk? 10 years in prison. Hey, it's a law, and you broke it. Don't want to spend 10 years in prison? Don't jaywalk!

Whoo!
posted by odinsdream at 7:28 AM on July 1, 2005


Realcountrymusic: First off, you're wrong about tours. Nearly every band makes more on tours than they do on CD sales. The only place that changes is when you have the power to renegotiate your royalty rate. It really is U2 or Metallica that is hurt the most by pirated copies, simply because they're more likely to have a loss-leader tour. (But even that's doubtful. The bands most likely to lose money on a tour are the really small bands, who have no management or tour support, and that's usually a gas:gigs equation. But they benefit more from more people at the show than they do from selling albums).
Second off, copyright infringement isn't theft. It's trespass. Your ability to use your property is not harmed by my having a copy. Your ability to control your property and its distribution is.
Third, to Hikasu: The argument that since you can avoid breaking laws, those laws can have no relation to the harm caused is totally bullshit. That's why we have an eighth amendment, and that's why we generally try to fit the punishment proportional to the crime. Ten years for copyright infringement is clearly out of proportion to the crime. And, really, copyright infringement should be a civil matter, not a criminal one.
Fourth, I would be happy to strike a compromise: If copyrights were limited as they were at the beginning of the Republic (or even the beginning of this century), it would be a lot easier for me to support heavier penalties on IP infringement. But as the legislation has repeatedly favored the corporate over the public, I think that the resentment and the reaction of the public is understandable. This argument that because something is illegal it is de facto wrong is simplistic and naïve. Morally, the argument against an act should be based on harm, not on what the law is. (As an aside, the argument that longer IP protections are needed to ensure that people continue producing IP is ludicrous and backwards. If you can produce one work and live on it for your life, plus 75 years, what's the incentive to produce another? Copyrights should be as brief as patents, thus encouraging a continual resurgence of culture. IP laws are millstones).
posted by klangklangston at 7:38 AM on July 1, 2005


For acts in the middle ranks of commercial success, concert tours are often run at a net loss in order to *promote* record sales

seconding klangklangston, this is simply not true. unless by "middle ranks" you mean something lower than the band-in-a-van threshhold.

as for U2 or metallica having a loss leader tour, i can only cite some recent pollstar results for bono and his merry band of millionaires: on 5/14 and 5/15 of this year, U2 played the wachovia center in philly, two sellouts, a total of 39,273 tix. concert gross for those two nights? $3,767,178. it's simply impossible for them to be losing money in such a scenario.

for the most part in the concert touring business, the types of bands that sell at least 10,000 copies of any given record can make decent money touring.

the lion's share of concert receipts goes to artists. and then there's merchandise -- one recent example comes to mind, where the gross merchandise sales at two bright eyes shows in tempe, az were $70,000. granted, bright eyes is the kind of band that engenders that type of weird wardrobe fanaticism, but still... that's a lot of flippin' dough.

this trend, where artists will make little of their net income from their recorded work but remain viable because of touring, will continue. as it is, most artists, unless they're at the U2 threshhold, make comparatively little from their recorded work, in many cases less than a dollar per unit, whereas when you go to see an artist perform live, the artist is making at absolute minimum 50 cents on that dollar. this also goes for their record sales on tour -- typically, their labels will sell them a certain number of discs for touring purposes at low cost, enabling the artist to make $6-10 per unit sold while on tour, money which goes directly to them right then and there.

ultimately, by infringing on a recorded music copyright, you're hurting the conglomerates if you're in fact hurting anyone at all. i would thereby encourage people, if they're sincere about supporting the work of artists they like, to patronize their shows and purchase merchandise from them directly, and not worry so much about whether copyright infringement on recorded work is hurting the artist -- don't let them make you feel too guilty.

i say this because in a lot of cases (sleater-kinney's "the woods," for instance) the artists will make an impassioned plea to their fans to not infringe on their copyright, how it will hurt them, etc. but they're presupposing that their own popularity is not predicated, at least in part, on the access people gain to their music via downloading. in many ways, copyright infringement is the best, cheapest marketing available, especially in the absence of quality radio. how the fuck else are people supposed to hear the music that the artists and their labels would like them to buy?
posted by Hat Maui at 9:06 AM on July 1, 2005


zardoz : "Sweden is the most wired country on the planet and has a more or less no-holds-barred policy on downloading. As in, Swedish law protects virtually any download sites, namely bittorrent sites.

"For some amusement, check out The Pirate Bay's legal threats section."


The PirateBay might have to start releasing anchors, unless the "it's only trackers" defense holds up.
posted by Gyan at 9:50 AM on July 1, 2005


Hat Maui has good points, but for bands that don't play Madison Square Garden, or even Irving Plaza.. Touring is the bacon for a lot of "indie" music, but a large part of that bacon is merchandise sales. It varies by band and the market of the venue, but merchandise sales can be anywhere from 10% to 400%+ of the venue pay. So CD bootlegs affect touring revinue as well. Though that merch includes shirts, posters, etc.. so it's not that clear cut.
I don't know how these more "minor" acts figure into the industry equations, but from my perspective, they ARE the industry.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:56 PM on July 1, 2005


how many of us are software developers?

In most cases Ive known, all the 1337 dudes with the best zeraw were developers. Seriously, it's like a compulsion with some of them.
posted by meehawl at 12:56 PM on July 1, 2005


The PirateBay might have to start releasing anchors, unless the "it's only trackers" defense holds up.

The new law mentioned outlaws downloading copyrighted material, which was previously legal.
Uploading copyrighted material is, and has been for a long time, illegal even in Sweden.

Since Pirate Bay neither uploads or downloads copyrighted material (torrents are not copyrighted material according to Swedish law), they have had nothing to fear since they are not breaking any applicable laws. I can't see how this new law would alter this.
posted by spazzm at 2:34 AM on July 2, 2005


<kicks at possibly dead horse>
HICKSU: it's very easy to avoid vehicular manslaughter, too: never get behind the wheel of a car.
that's how much sense your "counter-argument" makes.

I've talked with Danko Jones (the man, and the band) and they came out in an interview, round about the time "Born a Lion" was current, and said, "Please! download my music! if you like it, come to a show -- it's the only way I make any money."
He was signed to Universal Canada at that point, and selling pretty well for a first-time major-label release with no American distribution.
Guess what, though? Did Universal keep them around to reap further profit from them? Nope. It dropped their asses.
Doesn't pay to speak the truth in the biz, i guess...
posted by Al_Truist at 3:14 PM on July 2, 2005


also: i admire what piratebay.org is doing in their legal page. whether you like it or not, they're informed about their rights, much better informed than the lawyers acting on behalf of the companies who threaten them with painful sounding prosecution unless they knuckle-under and assent to the demands of a cease-and-desist letter, which is usually enough to frighten most people, even if they don't think what they're doing is really illegal.
simply the threat of a law suit gets the complainant what they want.
now that's justice in action!
posted by Al_Truist at 3:18 PM on July 2, 2005


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