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Suspension de l’abonnement internet
June 24, 2008 12:55 AM   Subscribe

"There is no reason that the Internet should be lawless," President Nicolas Sarkozy told his cabinet, as Culture Minister Christine Albanel presented a new bill designed to encourage responsible use of the Internet. The legislation would set up a new administrative body that would receive complaints from the music and film industry and track down offenders through Internet service providers. An e-mail warning would be sent to suspected downloaders followed by a registered letter. After two strikes, offenders would risk losing their Internet subscription for up to a year. "We know that we are not going to eradicate piracy 100 percent, but we think that we can reduce it significantly," Albanel told a news conference.

Minister of Culture and Communication, Christine Albanel, has made the French spirit of responsibility a cornerstone of her portfolio. The new bill follows agreements signed on the 23 November 2007 at the Elysée Palace, in the presence of the President of the Republic, by 47 businesses and organisations representing cinema, music and television, and also by all the Internet service providers, who the Minister has compelled to fulfil the agreement.

Firstly, the Minister revealed that 74% of French people are in favour of the mechanism of the bill, which would, in the first instance, consist of sending numerous educational advertisement messages to Internet users who use their Internet connection to pirate works. Then, in the case of this behaviour being repeated, the temporary suspension of Internet access.

The Minister also revealed that the projected mechanism will be useful from the preventative phase, since 90% of French people would stop downloading after two advertisements. This study also shows the adherence of the majority of French people to the defence of the right of the author, without which ‘creation’ would have its existence threatened, against those who support openly the law of the jungle and permissiveness on the Internet.
posted by three blind mice (143 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry, last two links go the the same (wrong) page.

The list of signatories is found on this page under the link:

> Signataires de l'accord (pdf)

The report itself is revealed under the link:

> Le rapport (pdf)

Both are (obviously) in French.

posted by three blind mice at 1:00 AM on June 24, 2008


"...against those who support openly the law of the jungle and permissiveness", lol.

I guess I'm one of "those" people? Good thing I don't live in France.
posted by Spacelegoman at 1:23 AM on June 24, 2008


posted by three blind mice the mechanism of the bill, which would . . . consist of sending numerous educational advertisement messages to Internet users

First it was yellowcake uranium, now it's spam. Once again the Nigerians and the French are collaborating to destroy the world.
posted by optovox at 1:31 AM on June 24, 2008


It is a very French-political-class solution, but they are a democratically elected government: I have far less of a problem with this than with, say, the Great Firewall of China.

It also proves that all that excitement about the Internet being a new oasis of LIBERTEH beyond the reach of national governments was total guff.
posted by athenian at 1:43 AM on June 24, 2008


It also proves that all that excitement about the Internet being a new oasis of LIBERTEH beyond the reach of national governments was total guff.

I think it still holds true, but we are too lazy. Convenience far outweighs liberty and freedom both on and offline
posted by twistedonion at 2:01 AM on June 24, 2008


It also proves that all that excitement about the Internet being a new oasis of LIBERTEH beyond the reach of national governments was total guff.

That's a bit unfair. I know someone who VPNs to Sweden to avoid local filtering. Censorship, damage, etc. Of course, 99.5% of people don't care about being beyond the reach of national governments, but I'm still hopeful that IPv6, if it ever comes, will make vast chunks of the internet go dark to anything beyond traffic analysis, despite their apathy.
posted by Leon at 2:08 AM on June 24, 2008


It also proves that all that excitement about the Internet being a new oasis of LIBERTEH beyond the reach of national governments was total guff.

I think it's just that people give up battling for FREEDOMTH against TYRANNY a lot sooner when they know what they're fighting for is a free movie or two, instead of actual freedom from opression.
posted by bonaldi at 2:27 AM on June 24, 2008


I also VPN via sweden, not because my ISP filters (I picked one of the few that doesn't in the UK), but because I object to my government giving the power to listen in on my email and web browsing to beaurocrats in local councils instead of at the order of a judge via a warrant. Now that sweden have just passed a law meaning all traffic passing through the country will be recorded and handed to pretty much anybody that asks, I'm looking for a new vpn provider - torrentfreedom is looking good, even though I don't actually use torrents for anything bar legal content (they don't put ubuntu on usenet!)
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:50 AM on June 24, 2008


what they're fighting for is a free movie or two

Bit more than a free movie or two imo. I should be able to download whatever I want without Government approval.
posted by twistedonion at 2:50 AM on June 24, 2008


Actually this will be an interesting lesson for the government. There is no way they can win the technical battle. Even if Dieu itself were to point out who downloads what they shouldn't, it is trivial to jam the system in false positives. And all they need to do is piss someone off that can program.

False positives and enforcement will be funny to see from outside.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:55 AM on June 24, 2008


Bit more than a free movie or two imo. I should be able to download whatever I want without Government approval.
Of course. But if the flipside of that is "I should be able to infringe legislation whenever I want without Government disapproval" the two are going to butt heads at some point.
posted by bonaldi at 2:59 AM on June 24, 2008


Well i, for one, believe everyone should be able to infringe corporation-bought legislation.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:02 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Guys, not to interfere with my own thread, but you DO know that the Riksdag here in Sweden (100m from where I type these words) passed the FRA law last week. The law, taking effect in 2009, gives the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA, Swedish Försvarets radioanstalt) the right to use SIGINT on all internet exchange points that exchange traffic that crosses Swedish borders. Of course, even "domestic" traffic is subject to the law because "domestic" IP packets do not necessarily remain within the country's borders. It's a free wiretap pass.

If freedom from government snooping of your IP traffic is what you desire, Sweden is not the place to host your VPN.

posted by three blind mice at 3:04 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing is probably the only way my flat will ever be stormed by a Virgin.
posted by srboisvert at 3:06 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well i, for one, believe everyone should be able to infringe corporation-bought legislation.
Good for you. I for one can't wait to see the world all this "producers of expensive stuff can only expect minimal returns" thinking produces; at this rate it's only going to take 10 or 20 years.

(Full disclosure: I've been a torrent hound at times myself)
posted by bonaldi at 3:13 AM on June 24, 2008


Good for you. I for one can't wait to see the world all this "producers of expensive stuff can only expect minimal returns" thinking produces; at this rate it's only going to take 10 or 20 years.

just like home taping killed the music industry right?
posted by twistedonion at 3:16 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Firstly, the Minister revealed that 74% of French people are in favour of the mechanism of the bil

Suuuuure they are.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:19 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


just like home taping killed the music industry right?
Yeh, you know what? Crying wolf once doesn't mean there's never going to be a wolf. Record and book shops were first up -- I was amazed how quickly they shut down, I thought it would take a lot longer. Newspapers are next -- within 5 to 10 years you're going to see a lot of them go belly up. Films will be last to go, I think, but if they are reduced solely to cinema ticket income, they'll dwindle too.

It's now basically ridiculous to say that the old models won't die. It's just that many have been assuming that new models will take their places, despite there really being no compelling evidence of anybody having a clue how it could work or be made pay, almost 15 years since we started on this jape.
posted by bonaldi at 3:32 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe if they watched YouPorn they would lighten up.
posted by dasheekeejones at 3:56 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well i, for one, believe everyone should be able to infringe corporation-bought legislation.

Cool, does it say in each act which bits were bought by whom? I wouldn't want to infringe any NGO sponsored clauses.
posted by patricio at 4:06 AM on June 24, 2008


three blind mice beat me to it alerting you "VPNs to Sweden" peeps about the FRA law. Not the neutral internet place it once was.
posted by dabitch at 4:11 AM on June 24, 2008


Record and book shops were first up -- I was amazed how quickly they shut down, I thought it would take a lot longer.

I can only speak for having worked in a record store in the UK for 10 years but it wasn't the internet that killed the record stores and book shops, it was Tesco.

People will, on the whole, pay for something they place value in. The business models will do just fine, if they listen to the needs of their consumers, rather than rely on Governments to ram through laws giving us consumers no clout.
posted by twistedonion at 4:24 AM on June 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Actually ArkhanJG had us both beat, dabitch. I missed it on preview.
posted by three blind mice at 4:26 AM on June 24, 2008


twistedonion: no rational market participant will pay for something when a free alternative is available. If you want to charge for something, you've got to try and make it hard for people to get the same thing for free, no? (and this ignores all the models supported by advertising, like newspapers, which will go even when a market remains for them)
posted by bonaldi at 4:46 AM on June 24, 2008


bonaldi: luckily, there are very few rational market participants around. Otherwise, there wouldn't be crashes, ponzi schemes, and Celine Dion would have sold all of two copies of her records.
posted by vivelame at 4:58 AM on June 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


no rational market participant will pay for something when a free alternative is available.

True. I'm not saying all digital content should be free at all, but all this blaming kids who download is BS of the highest degree. The internet is not responsible for the death of record shops or book stores any more than it is resonsible for the death of the small independant retailer. Yet the record industry has tried to pin whatever blame it can on consumers instead of itself. then it lobbies, successfully, for more power to control it's market. It's all bollocks.

The whole reason for the decline in CD sales in the late 90's was that people had already replaced their old vinyl collections so a whole back catalogue was running out of buyers. This had a huge impact but the blame was on the downloader (just like blaming the home taper).


If you want to charge for something, you've got to try and make it hard for people to get the same thing for free, no?

Or make it easier to buy with fewer restrictions. I don't buy music to make the record Industry more money, I buy it because I support the artist.

Same with software, if I percieve value I'll buy it (even though with half an hours work I could find a download and crack).
posted by twistedonion at 5:06 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cool, does it say in each act which bits were bought by whom? I wouldn't want to infringe any NGO sponsored clauses.

Cui bono, my lawyer friend, cui bono.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 5:20 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


$50 to the first person who can DoS the entire French political establishment by spoofing packets & getting their access revoked.
posted by aramaic at 5:33 AM on June 24, 2008


That's very true Bonaldi, but I don't think you have anything like cause and effect there. Speaking for my area, all the small chain bookstores got folded up and put back in the box when Borders and Barnes & Noble were the new hotness. Independents ability to compete against those two has been Wal Mart vs. Main Street USA from day one, but there are still some good independent bookstores out there.

Of the used book stores, even before the net that was a business model with a lot of weak starters and a few serious contenders. I know a couple serious contenders who have gone under, but they were both bough out by Amazon.com or some Amazon like operation.

Similarly, the availability of music in stores with less than a zillion square feet of floor space has gone down, but turn over any wet rock and you'll likely find a Best Buy with a significant percentage of its sales floor devoted to CD's. And, I still have two awesome independent music stores within a few miles of me.

New models have been so slow to take over because those who have been doing well under the old model have really gone out of their way to kick them over. Still, I can get on Amazon and pull down a DRM free (read playable on everything I own with minimum hassle) MP3 with no glitches in the encoding, correct tag information, and a huge bit rate in under a minute. This is why the RIAA is in hand waving freakoutery mode and Amazon.com has their own space program.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:46 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


First it was yellowcake uranium, now it's spam. Once again the Nigerians and the French are collaborating to destroy the world.

Niger and Nigeria are two separate countries. Scam email stereotypically comes from one, yellowcake the other.
posted by delmoi at 5:50 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


no rational market participant will pay for something when a free alternative is available.

So, according to your economic model, everyone who owns a car, has taken a bus, train or taxi, or even rides a bike instead of walking is insane.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:53 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Good for you. I for one can't wait to see the world all this "producers of expensive stuff can only expect minimal returns" thinking produces; at this rate it's only going to take 10 or 20 years.

I can't either. I think I can live without expensive I.P, if it means I can own a PC without a special chip installed to give control to the music industry, or use the internet without having my traffic monitored, etc. Frankly, it would be a small price to pay. Of course, everything that's currently advertisement supported would be fine.

If freedom from government snooping of your IP traffic is what you desire, Sweden is not the place to host your VPN.

If only there was a way to encrypt VPN traffic!
posted by delmoi at 5:56 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


the right to use SIGINT on all internet exchange points that exchange traffic that crosses Swedish borders.

Right but let us say you rent rackspace in Sweden and your VPN is encrypted. You don't even have to use a VPN, but as long as it is encrypted who cares what they record. They just see a bunch of encrypted information between two points.

The real security is the fact that bringing an international lawsuit on someone who is downloading music is very, very low. It is still incredibly expensive to do such things, much more so than just sending a lawsuit in the US itself.

I think it would still be possible to do something like Sweden -> South Africa -> America. You'd have to be really vigilant to track down a copyright offender who uses three countries to download Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation.
posted by geoff. at 5:56 AM on June 24, 2008


Traditional media corporations are the Ancien Regime of modern Capitalism -- trying vainly to keep their head above water in the midst of their own Enlightenment.
posted by Avenger at 6:12 AM on June 24, 2008


no rational market participant will pay for something when a free alternative is available.

So, according to your economic model, everyone who owns a car, has taken a bus, train or taxi, or even rides a bike instead of walking is insane.


You prove the point -- those things aren't exact substitutes. This is perceived as a problem because digital copies are exactly the same in a way that a home tape or a dodgy copy of a film taped in a cinema aren't.
posted by patricio at 6:18 AM on June 24, 2008


delmoi: everything that's ad supported is in big, big trouble.

Kid charlemane: no, they're really good points and I don't disagree. It's simplistic to say the net caused it all. But it has been contributory and a catalyst, I think. New models have been slow to take over because there's resistance, yes, and some of it is reactionary crap ... But a lot of it is because the new model makes a lot less money. So, yes, boo hoo for the big guys making a million or two less, but the real problem is with the small guys who were just getting by under the old model. Now they're in real trouble.
posted by bonaldi at 6:32 AM on June 24, 2008


I'm a bit skeptical about those approval ratings. As we all know, 90% of statistics are made-up.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:33 AM on June 24, 2008


I find it amusing when people go on like there was no art before capitalism and when capitalism becomes largely irrelevant to sundry art forms they will go away.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:44 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can't really shed any tears for anyone who's underwater now or about to be soon. The demand for entertainment and information is clearly still around, and it's not going anywhere.

If the Internet allows that demand to be sated by a relatively fewer number of producers, that's a good thing in the long run, as it's more efficient. Saying that we should prop up old models because they employ more artists is just Luddism. The market will cause to be produced the amount of new, novel material that people actually want, and it will do that even with rampant piracy. (Since piracy doesn't really create anything new, it doesn't really affect the demand for new material -- just copies.)

Really, though, I don't think that's the way it's going to pan out: the Internet is probably going to eliminate the profit opportunities for a lot of middlemen, but open up avenues for a lot of smaller artists to reach their audiences directly.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:48 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh god please help the artists win this battle against the rich nerds. amen
posted by dydecker at 6:59 AM on June 24, 2008


The market will cause to be produced the amount of new, novel material that people actually want, and it will do that even with rampant piracy. (Since piracy doesn't really create anything new, it doesn't really affect the demand for new material -- just copies.)

I don't think that follows because "people wanting" is not the same as "people paying for". The market will only cause to be produced material that will produce a profit (or at least not cause losses forever). If you can't make money/a living because piracy is so rampant then you won't produce the new material.
posted by patricio at 7:04 AM on June 24, 2008


...but the real problem is with the small guys who were just getting by under the old model.

If by 'small guys' you mean musicians, authors, and artists, they have regained opportunity to control their own work and even to make some money from it--privileges that were reserved for a tiny minority under the old model.
posted by troybob at 7:09 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


But a lot of it is because the new model makes a lot less money...but the real problem is with the small guys who were just getting by under the old model. Now they're in real trouble.

I'm not sure I believe in these little guys you describe.

Prior to the super low overhead days of the web finding independent music was not an easy thing. Now I can order ten CDs from music companies you have never heard of or from bands who are producing themselves in as many minutes. All of the expensive portions of music sales and production are gone, and with them a lot of jobs for middlemen. Buggy wheel makers are also having trouble finding work.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:17 AM on June 24, 2008


If you can't make money/a living because piracy is so rampant then you won't produce the new material.

There are plenty of things that piracy can't copy -- personal support, fancy packaging, and gimmicks (the album comes with a free poster and/or patch!), are all ways to add value to your product without spending a fortune. Or, just lower the price! If you cut out the middleman and are aggressive about trading and wholesaling your stuff, you can still turn a profit if you sell your CDs at $8 or maybe even $5. Besides, the die-hards will always buy, and there's nothing like the free publicity of mp3 to help the die-hards find you.

I sell CDs online for an underground metal label, and let me tell you, the shitty dollar has cost me more in less than a year than mp3 piracy will cost in a lifetime. Too bad I can't have the French government arrest Alan Greenspan!
posted by vorfeed at 7:45 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


twistedonion: The whole reason for the decline in CD sales in the late 90's was that people had already replaced their old vinyl collections so a whole back catalogue was running out of buyers. This had a huge impact but the blame was on the downloader (just like blaming the home taper).

Cite, please?
posted by vernondalhart at 7:53 AM on June 24, 2008


I'm sorry, I don't remember voting for an internet government.

Keep your goddamn institutions out of my network!
posted by smackwich at 8:04 AM on June 24, 2008


Bit more than a free movie or two imo. I should be able to download whatever I want without Government approval.


Why is that? Do you also agree that you should be able to take whatever you want from a store without paying for it?

Yes, many industry models -- music in particular -- are broken. But if I make something, whether that is a movie or a pillow or a plate of beans, I have the right to be paid for it if I choose to be. Downloading is theft, and you do not have the right to steal.

Note that I do make the distinction between downloading and fair use.. already own the movie, but want a copy for your laptop? I think that's reaonable. Downloading whatever you want? No.

Bottom line is that without people buying, most movies and music and books would never ever be created.

I always find it funny around here when people go nuts about OMGZ BAD GOVERNMENT NO LET ME DOWNLOAD.. but how few will download illegal ebooks.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:04 AM on June 24, 2008


I find it amusing when people go on like there was no art before capitalism and when capitalism becomes largely irrelevant to sundry art forms they will go away.

Sure, there was art before capitalism, but how much of it was available to the masses? Mozart performed for the Austrian aristocracy, since they could pay his bills. Anyone outside that elite group was out of luck. Would that sort of sponsorship be better than paying $10 for a CD? Artists need to eat, possibly want to raise a family, maybe buy a house or something. Someone's going to pay that bill, and if it's the super rich, what incentive do they have to share their pet artists with the masses?
posted by dellsolace at 8:11 AM on June 24, 2008


what dirtynumbetc said.

It's so dispiriting listening to Internet people who earn six figures a year justify copyright infringement. I am of the opinion that Google/YouTube hould be sued for every penny they own by copyright holders, as a lesson to the rest of the Internet.
posted by dydecker at 8:15 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fine, I'll go past just capitalism. There was art before there was MONEY and there'll be art after money.

Bottom line is that without people buying, most movies and music and books would never ever be created.


By and large, a lot of crap would never ever be created. The profit motive doesn't tend to lead to good art, as far as I can tell.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:38 AM on June 24, 2008


Cite, please?

Well it's been over 10 years so I don't have any of the trade papers handy... try searching google. First page of Google results got me these, if it's any use to you.

On a positive note, sales of first release titles (as indicated by ARIAnet Top 100 Album sales) were up 14% in the first half. The decline in the overall audio album market can be attributed therefore to a slower moving back catalogue

A decline in CD sales is an indication of saturation in a market where innovation is lacking.


I didn't make that staement flippantly, at the time it was obvious (most people were still on 56k modems when the whole Napster furore began yet it was obvious the record industry was suffering big losses. They blamed file sharing instead of fewer back catalogue sales and new competing formats (dvd). those were the problems we in the service industry saw. So we started getting rid of our back catalogue and replaced it with DVDs and playstation games. Result was that we were now competing directly with the Supermarket. We now lacked the choice. Didn't take long before we were out of business.)
posted by twistedonion at 8:48 AM on June 24, 2008


Why is that? Do you also agree that you should be able to take whatever you want from a store without paying for it?

No, I don't actually download anything illegally these days, all legit, but I should still be able to download whatever I want without Government approval or snooping.

Catch me selling your work for a profit then go right ahead. Otherwise get your nose out of my private goings on.
posted by twistedonion at 9:06 AM on June 24, 2008


"First they came for the French, and I did not speak out, because I was not French..."
posted by limeonaire at 9:16 AM on June 24, 2008


Fine, I'll go past just capitalism. There was art before there was MONEY and there'll be art after money.
Yet while there is money, artists will need it to pay for what goes into their art, and what goes into their bellies. So while chortling at us saps who are ignorant of patronage, do please save a few chuckles to consider how they're going to survive in the transition period, while the thing they do gets harder to make money from, but everyone else still wants money from them.

I'm not sure I believe in these little guys you describe.
Little is relative. I'm not sure that this transition is going to kill Time Warner, but it's putting the hurt on the small-to-medium sized media groups (the ones that measure profits in the low millions). And ...

Really, though, I don't think that's the way it's going to pan out: the Internet is probably going to eliminate the profit opportunities for a lot of middlemen, but open up avenues for a lot of smaller artists to reach their audiences directly.
I think this is something of a consensus opinion among the optimists. It's a nice picture of the artist in their garret, creating the stuff on their low-cost computers and whamming it straight to the fans, with no needless middle-man intercession. But, really, I'm not sure how much of a shit I give about the smaller artists and their noble productions.

A lot of the things I like cost serious amounts of money to produce -- films, certain albums (if the smaller artist wants that polish of perfection that comes from collaboration with one of the world-class producers they're going to have to pay, aren't they?), reportage, photojournalism -- and involve the investors taking risks on duds. To be worth their while, the hits have to compensate for the misses. This utopian little-guy-with-his-website isn't going to do that.

Sure, it's probable, possibly likely, that we'll come up with something soon, although a lot of people with a lot at stake haven't been able to come up with anything yet. But there is going to be a transition period, and it could last for years, decades. In that period, the money's going to dry up for the big-budget stuff (it already is), and the new thing hasn't come along yet.

Talk about the death of horse and carts all you like, but sometimes the new thing isn't a car; sometimes the hand-crafted furniture is replaced with throwaway Ikea MDF. The market doesn't optimise for quality.
posted by bonaldi at 9:23 AM on June 24, 2008


do please save a few chuckles to consider how they're going to survive in the transition period

They could get a day job, or sling weed like the guy from The Flaming Lips.

The market doesn't optimise for quality.

Yet many artists don't give a shit about the market.

There will be changes. Big-budget Hollywood may go away, which will be a mixed blessing and curse. Probably fewer millionaire rockstars. Photography is being affected. Somehow, though, I really don't think there's going to be some sort of music shortage. There are also unequivocal benefits to the digital revolution: you can record your album in a cabin in Wisconsin and overhype that. Anyone in the world can freely access just about anything ever recorded.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:32 AM on June 24, 2008


They could get a day job, or sling weed like the guy from The Flaming Lips.
Why shouldn't creation be a day job? Good reporting is a day job. Should people try and cover city council meetings in their spare time from McDonald's? Struggling artists have to be struggling for something, and that's usually not continual struggle.

Even in the noblest case, they're struggling to get enough cash that they can forget about money and focus on what they do best.

Yet many artists don't give a shit about the market.
Where do they buy their dinner?

Anyone in the world can freely access just about anything ever recorded.
And this is an unequivocal benefit? Seems like a mixed blessing to me. Since I want more things to be recorded, and not just lo-fi first albums.
posted by bonaldi at 9:39 AM on June 24, 2008


In the week ending with June 15th, nine hundred thousand people bought the DVD of Jumper.

Fucking Jumper.

I don't know about music, but I pretty much just negated your arguments about film.

Yes, yes, I'm being somewhat flippant, but I really think you're being overwrought about all this.
posted by Caduceus at 10:01 AM on June 24, 2008


Why is that? Do you also agree that you should be able to take whatever you want from a store without paying for it?

No, I don't actually download anything illegally these days, all legit, but I should still be able to download whatever I want without Government approval or snooping.


So.. you're saying you have the right to steal, presuming that 'whatever I want' means 'whether it's legal or not'?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:02 AM on June 24, 2008


Mozart performed for the Austrian aristocracy, since they could pay his bills. Anyone outside that elite group was out of luck.

I think it would be a better world if Bill Gates or Warren Buffet were the only people who could afford to listen to New Kids On The Block.
posted by ryoshu at 10:02 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


A) Many forms of art do not require large investments of capital in order to create. The creation of art is not terribly coupled to the business of art in these cases. Bands release music , people create webcomics, and a handful make money. This is similar to the old ways, except I think the greater amount of money allowed for a slightly larger handful to make mediocre amounts of money, and the smallest percentage to make millions. I think the millions are off the table now.

Most of the art created as labors of love is crap, as is most art. Blathering on about the latest pitchfork discovery or webcomic you found is the easiest way to be scorned, even here.

B)There also exists art that requires outlays of capital. Video games, movies, animation, symphonies, anything that requires more people to create than those who have the artistic vision. While technology reduces the cost of many of the parts of production, these labor intensive industries still suffer under Baumol's cost disease.

I haven't seen many models for creating new content that scale well with increasing development costs.

C)Content producers will create things that can't be stolen, or produce for populations that will not steal. Small independent bands will find it harder to sell albums, but Hannah Montana album sales, and t shirt sales, and movie sales, and candy sales will probably still be on top. You can't sell the music, you have to sell the story, like the previous Justin Vernon link. Everyone will have a life story of suffering and redemption, because they will be selling that, with the music as just a signifier.

In terms of video games, people will stop making first person shooters, because their target market just won't buy them. Instead, we will have more and more multiplayer games, like World of Warcraft. Look to China to see the future.

D) This topic always brings out the libertarians, who claim that the holy market will make everything come out right in the end. While this may be true, it will probably do this by totally destroying market niches along the way. While free trade probably led to an increased GDP for the US, it was at the expense of places like Detroit and other Rust Belt cities.
posted by zabuni at 10:10 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know, Charles Dickens used to be angry that rogue printing presses in the United States pirating all his stuff.

Of course, in retrospect we know is rage was correct, since clearly the market for books expired in the 19th century.
posted by absalom at 10:14 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why shouldn't creation be a day job?

Why should it? Tons of worthwhile pursuits used to be day jobs and now aren't and vice versa.

And this is an unequivocal benefit?


We're arguing about the side effects of free access, but in and of itself I see free access as a benefit. That is, 15 years ago if I wanted some music I had to go to a store, pay a lot of money, and put up with a limited selection. Today if I want some music I can have any release I've ever cared to search for (the one exception: All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling) for free and usually in about two minutes. (My experience is a little better than most people's, for now, since I'm lucky enough to be on a private site, so someone without that might have to look a little harder and maybe wait a whole 30 minutes.) That's why copyright is going away; more and more the creators themselves are also beneficiaries of this incredible amount of access.

I also think digital distribution will tend to increase the diversity of music via the standard "internet connects niche interests" argument applied to furries and so on.

C)Content producers will create things that can't be stolen,

Corrolary: Vinyl will outlive the CD, the DVD, and whichever of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray won.

I think video games will do just fine. Commercially there's definitely a move towards selling games as services rather than as bits, though this isn't entirely new. Over a decade ago you didn't buy Starcraft for the game CD, you bought it for the CD-Key that let you use the official matchmaking servers. So yeah, a relative paucity of generic FPSes and more generic MMORPGS. Non-commercially and artistically a big budget can provide polish and assets but really doesn't make for a good or bad game.

Symphonies? Isn't recorded classical music already not that much of a commercial operation anymore. They'll still get paid to put on concerts.

Movies I think will take the biggest hit, but it's not like they're going to go away either, and technology definitely does help.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:26 AM on June 24, 2008


Why should everyone submit to total digital surveillance under the banner that, somewhere, a copyright is possibly being violated?
posted by aramaic at 10:37 AM on June 24, 2008


So.. you're saying you have the right to steal, presuming that 'whatever I want' means 'whether it's legal or not'?

Copyright infringement is copyright infringement, not "stealing". If we're going to argue over this, let's at least use honest terms.

Corrolary: Vinyl will outlive the CD, the DVD, and whichever of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray won.

Vinyl is only slightly harder to rip than CDs are -- you just need to play it once into the computer and then spend two minutes breaking it up into tracks in Audacity or the like. I've already seen plenty of vinyl-only stuff on bittorrent/rapidshare messageboards.
posted by vorfeed at 10:39 AM on June 24, 2008


Of course, in retrospect we know is rage was correct, since clearly the market for books expired in the 19th century.
Are you making the point you think you're making? When the US agreed to honour international copyright (ie the thing Dickens was pleading for) its book trade flourished as never before.

Yes, yes, I'm being somewhat flippant, but I really think you're being overwrought about all this.
Yes, I'm being a bit overheated, I should be more nuanced. It's difficult to be that, though while talking to It's All Great types. And I did say that movies would be the last to feel the pain.

I once believed that that news would be fine, even better online, but I was badly wrong there. The newspaper industry is dying far, far faster than anyone believed -- and faster I think than people outside the industry are even aware. The BBC had a show last month which reckoned that there would no longer be a Scottish press in 5-10 years. I agree with that. The other creative industries are more or less on a similar path.

Why should it? Tons of worthwhile pursuits used to be day jobs and now aren't and vice versa.
Oh really? Like what? As for why it should be a job: To take journalism, it should be because that produces better journalism. I'm pretty sure it's true for any sort of creative medium: if people are free to focus on it and not on revenue generation, they make better things.
posted by bonaldi at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Copyright infringement is copyright infringement, not "stealing". If we're going to argue over this, let's at least use honest terms.


Theft is by far the more honest term; you are taking something that is not yours.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2008


Vinyl is only slightly harder to rip than CDs are

Vinyl will last not because it is hard to digitize, but because it offers something non-digital. Better or worse, people will argue, but it definitely offers something different than what can be sent over the internet.

Theft is by far the more honest term; you are taking something that is not yours.

If I take something from you you don't have it anymore.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:59 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Theft is by far the more honest term; you are taking something that is not yours.

I just took your words and appropriated them for my own use. Am I now a thief?
posted by ryoshu at 11:05 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Theft is by far the more honest term; you are taking something that is not yours.

By that definition, every time anyone posts a sentence from or a link to an Associated Press article on MeFi, he or she is engaging in theft.
posted by blucevalo at 11:06 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Copyright infringement is copyright infringement, not "stealing". If we're going to argue over this, let's at least use honest terms.


Theft is by far the more honest term; you are taking something that is not yours.


Both of which are stupid word games designed to paint one side or the other as evil. See also: pro-choice/pro-life, the denigration of the word liberal and communist, the complete destruction of meaning for the term fascist, and many many others.

Copyrights original intent was to provide incentive for the creation of new works, by the government sponsorship of a limited monopoly. I would have more faith in the destruction of copyright if it's proponents acknowledged the possible destruction of content creation industries with the reasoning of "they sucked anyway". One, I don't like putting value judgments in this argument and two, people aren't suddenly grabbing and supporting individual small label artists. The most downloaded band right now is Coldplay.
posted by zabuni at 11:07 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I take something from you you don't have it anymore.

A movie, a piece of music, a _______ is not yours until you have provided the owner with whatever they require in return. Sometimes that's nothing, sometimes that's dollars. Taking something that is not yours is theft.

By that definition, every time anyone posts a sentence from or a link to an Associated Press article on MeFi, he or she is engaging in theft.

See "fair use". Nice try, though.

I just took your words and appropriated them for my own use. Am I now a thief?

See above.

Both of which are stupid word games designed to paint one side or the other as evil.

No, it's not. The word game is 'copyright infringement'.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:20 AM on June 24, 2008


let's spend $$ on catching the downloaders rather than develop actionable policy for id_theft?

i agree the web shouldn't be lawless, but let's talk about harms and not virtual ones.
posted by quanta and qualia at 11:23 AM on June 24, 2008


I find it odd that people think good musicians will work for free, or for very little with no prospect of more at the end of it (and the new model whereby they make lots of money without copyright isn't here yet). Admittedly some good writers write on the Internet for free, but they're by far in the minority, and writing doesn't require the capital outlay of music (instruments, studio hire, etc.).

The labourer is worthy of his hire - which I think is a fairly socialist principle - and as I don't expect the nurses in my local hospital to work for the love of healthcare, I don't expect artists to work for art's sake.
posted by athenian at 11:24 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the key problem here is that many artists have gotten into thinking that they're in a sort of manufacturing industry, where they design a product (the music) have it manufactured (at a replicator) and then sell the copies.

This model isn't looking sustainable anymore. Music, and information generally, doesn't follow well the "widget model" where you can resell the same thing over and over and over. It's not a rival good.

Where art and in particular music will always survive is as a service industry. You can't pirate a service. There are many forms that service might take, though. Direct patronage is only one of them. Concerts are another (and probably the dominant one for most musicians). I've always thought that fan-supported music probably has more opportunity than a lot of people give it credit for: I suspect a lot of people are willing to pay a little bit each in order to encourage the production of a new album/song/etc. by an artist they're fond of. (I'm thinking something that's more structured than just use-for-whatever-you-want donations; i.e. if the album doesn't come out, the contributors get their money back.)

In any case, the key difference is that as an artist, you need to find a way of selling your time and your skills, rather than manufacturing a good that's then replicated and sold. That latter path is wholly dependent on being the only one who can replicate the good, and that's just not a safe bet.

> I don't think that follows because "people wanting" is not the same as "people paying for".

I disagree. If people want it, they'll pay for it. If they won't pay for it, they don't want it that badly. QED.

Even if piracy was rampant and unconstrained, there would still be a demand for new music; that's just how people are. They want new works that are more relevant to them than older ones. The market will go to those who can figure out how to tap into that latent demand using a services model rather than a manufacturing one.

It may be that the demand (as measured in people who are willing to shell out actual money), for new music is quite small once people have access to the entire back-catalog of recorded music history for negligible cost. This is a distinct possibility. If so, that's the way it ought to be; it doesn't make any sense to create a whole copyright regime to essentially keep artists around if there's no market for them (which is what it means if the market has to be created for them artificially, by eliminating the competition of the back-catalog). That's just breaking a window to keep the glassmaker in business.

If people are happy listening to pre-recorded music, to the point where they're not willing to pay for new music to be created, then no new music will be created. That's a perfectly acceptable outcome, because it means nobody wants new music badly enough to actually pay for it. That's a well-functioning market. If everybody's happy listening to The Beatles and Pink Floyd, then The Beatles and Pink Floyd it'll be from now until the end of time. I think that's a very unlikely outcome, but it beats screwing around with the market in order to produce something that nobody will pay for voluntarily.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:24 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've become a lot less mellow about the whole "information is meant to be free" thing, since I discovered that not only is all my work being downloaded and traded zillions of times by people from whom I'll never see a dime, but that there's a guy in Eastern Europe who actually translated one of my books, translated some of my sales copy, duplicated one of my websites, and has been ringing up bucks for years by selling my stuff under his name.

It's a shame that folks, for the moment, have given up on micropayment.

The prevailing large-lump-payment-for-info model is pretty screwed, given absolute fidelity and exponentially expanding distribution.

Still, top-down governmental controls, rather than security enhancements to file formats, seem like the worst way to go about fixing issues like piracy.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:37 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Where art and in particular music will always survive is as a service industry. You can't pirate a service. There are many forms that service might take, though. Direct patronage is only one of them.
What sort of service are writers and film-makers going to perform? Copyright was created because it was a social good: we got a return in reward for granting this short-term monopoly, and the reward was more and better creative works. Sure it's gone to the point of insanity now, but the principle was sound.

I disagree. If people want it, they'll pay for it. If they won't pay for it, they don't want it that badly. QED.
That's a badly simplified model of what goes on. For instance, the cost of creating a newspaper is paid for by classified advertising, not by readers. It's entirely possible that there will still be a market demand for newspapers, but it'll be uneconomical to produce them. Similarly for films, where the market that pays to see them in theatres is only a small part of the total income required to produce them. People can want things very badly and the market still be unable to provide them.
posted by bonaldi at 11:39 AM on June 24, 2008


A movie, a piece of music, a _______ is not yours until you have provided the owner with whatever they require in return. Sometimes that's nothing, sometimes that's dollars. Taking something that is not yours is theft.

Very "intellectual property" based. Is it possible to own information? Please provide a rigorous argument where one person willingly communicating to me how bits are arranged on their hard drive so that I may arrange bits on my own hard drive in an identical fashion deprives you of your property and infringes upon your human rights, and how this consideration trumps various fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and my freedom to arrange the bits on my hard drive in any way I please.

The usual definition of "theft" involves depriving someone of something. If I steal your chair it is a theft. If I see your chair and build one like it is not a theft. Here's a relevant definition of "theft:" the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. Copyright infringement deprives no one of anything except a profit model which requires artificial propping up through legislation.

For example, in the US Constitution copyright/IP is mentioned as something the government has the power to enact laws for if they feel it would help (and of course they've gone overboard), but not as any sort of fundamental right.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:09 PM on June 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Please provide a rigorous argument where one person willingly communicating to me how bits are arranged on their hard drive so that I may arrange bits on my own hard drive in an identical fashion deprives you of your property and infringes upon your human rights, and how this consideration trumps various fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and my freedom to arrange the bits on my hard drive in any way I please.

'Willingly' is the key word there. (Most) movie companies, musicians, etc are not willingly providing you with their work for free. It may not deprive them of real property, but it does deprive them of their right to choose whether or not they wish to be paid for their work. Seeing as the vast majority do choose to be paid, you are stealing from them. Fancy semantic games won't get you around this basic fact.

And yes, obviously, this doesn't apply under things like CC licences, free distribution, etc.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2008


(Most) movie companies, musicians, etc are not willingly providing you with their work for free.

The dude who has a copy of whatever is willingly sending me those bits, is what I meant.

but it does deprive them of their right to choose whether or not they wish to be paid for their work.


Where does the right to be paid for arbitrary actions come from? I'm going to go ride my bike around for a while now, and besides being out of this discussion for a bit, I wonder who is depriving me of my right to choose whether or not I wish to be paid for my hard pedaling effort? What makes "recording a song" worthy of payment while "riding a bike" isn't? It's true that no one else is likely to derive any benefit from my bike ride, but let's say hypothetically I also decided to clean up a mess on the bike path or something like that. Could I demand a toll from anyone passing who benefited from my work?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:25 PM on June 24, 2008


The dude who has a copy of whatever is willingly sending me those bits, is what I meant.

You mean the (chain of) dude(s) who also had no right to steal it?

It's true that no one else is likely to derive any benefit from my bike ride, but let's say hypothetically I also decided to clean up a mess on the bike path or something like that. Could I demand a toll from anyone passing who benefited from my work?

That's asinine.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:34 PM on June 24, 2008


'Willingly' is the key word there. (Most) movie companies, musicians, etc are not willingly providing you with their work for free. It may not deprive them of real property, but it does deprive them of their right to choose whether or not they wish to be paid for their work. Seeing as the vast majority do choose to be paid, you are stealing from them. Fancy semantic games won't get you around this basic fact.

I'm not sure if you are trolling or being willfully ignorant.

As far as a person or corporation's "right to choose whether or not they wish to be paid for their work," that "right" extends from a government granted monopoly. The government decides if and for how long you get to enjoy your "right." If the government were to eliminate copyright tomorrow, would someone be stealing if they downloaded a song?

And calling copyright infringement theft is not correct morally nor legally. Go ahead. Look it up. There are levels of copyright infringement: civil and criminal. Neither one is called theft. If you get busted for downloading songs, you don't get charged with theft. If you get busted selling DVD rips, you don't get charged with theft.

Yeesh.
posted by ryoshu at 1:04 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sure, there was art before capitalism, but how much of it was available to the masses?

a lot more than you're aware of - mozart's employers may have been aristocrats, but much of his audience was quite a bit lower than that - the audiences in opera houses, theaters and churches were NOT all-aristocrat

this is a myth that is really not well supported by the facts

Someone's going to pay that bill, and if it's the super rich, what incentive do they have to share their pet artists with the masses?

reputation, bragging rights, prestige, vicarious accomplishment in the arts that one doesn't have the talent to achieve oneself - and maybe they just like to share great art

look at how many of our great paintings have been bought by very rich people - only to have them end up in museums for everyone to see
posted by pyramid termite at 1:22 PM on June 24, 2008


Theft is by far the more honest term; you are taking something that is not yours.

As TheOnlyCoolTim and ryoshu point out, there is a legal distinction between theft and copyright infringement. Nothing in the Copyright Section of the US Code mentions theft.

"Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 122 or of the author as provided in section 106A (a), or who imports copies or phonorecords into the United States in violation of section 602, is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may be." [...] "The legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright is entitled, subject to the requirements of section 411, to institute an action for any infringement of that particular right committed while he or she is the owner of it." [emphasis mine]

Compare the terminology used here, here, and here -- note how the Code includes the words "stolen" and "property" in the first two cases, and not in the third? This is because copyright is not property, and copyright infringement is not theft.

There's no question that copyright infringement is illegal, but I think the attempt to conflate it with "theft" is rather specious. Most people make a distinction between these acts, as does the law. Asserting otherwise doesn't change this, no matter how loudly and repeatedly it is done.

on preview: and no matter how many times you say "fuck" while you're doing it!
posted by vorfeed at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


But hey, it has been beaten into me time and fucking time again around here that I'm not fucking allowed to have fucking opinions, you fucking douchebag, so I guess this is just yet another one of those fucking times.

You can have all the opinions you want, but repeatedly stating something does not make that something a fact. If you want copyright infringement to be regarded as theft, you can lobby the legislature to change the statutes. I'm sure the RIAA and MPAA would help you.

I'm still not sure how you would get around the entire scarcity issue, though.
posted by ryoshu at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2008


Okay, doucheface, I'll use small words so that you understand.

'theft' has a legal definition.

'theft' also has a definition in every day speech.

It should be tolerably obvious to anyone whose IQ is higher than their shoe size that is what I was talking about.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:03 PM on June 24, 2008


did you know that massingill douche spray is good for skunk smell?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:14 PM on June 24, 2008


To back up bonaldi and dirtynumbangelboy, here's an interesting description of what happened to the Hong Kong movie industry when VCD-based piracy hit. New York Times, August 1998:
The filmmakers left in Hong Kong are no less pessimistic. Sitting in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in the Wanchai neighborhood, Gordon Chan, a top Hong Kong director who has made movies with Jet Li (''Fist of Legend'') and Jackie Chan (''Thunderbolt''), has all the time in the world, a fact that's very depressing to a director who once cranked out three films a year.

Gordon Chan's most recent movie, the police action drama ''Beast Cops,'' is generally acknowledged as one of the best Hong Kong films of 1998. But that apparently isn't going to do him any good. ''I just talked to the company that released it, and they said they lost money on it,'' says Mr. Chan, a skinny man with a thin black goatee. ''They told me it wasn't my fault, I did a good film. But still it lost money. So what's happening? It's really alarming.''

''We're already cutting staff salary at a very quick rate,'' he continues. ''I cut almost 75 percent of my salary. Remember the scene with the car chase between the Hummer and the bus? We're so poor that we borrowed the Hummer and we borrowed the bus, and there was no budget for any car chase and especially no budget for any car crash. So we had to use special effects to do the scene.

''We finished a film at a little more than 10 million Hong Kong dollars'' -- $1.3 million in American dollars -- ''and still it lost. It's very disappointing, especially when everybody came to me and said, 'Wow, that was great, I saw it on pirate VCD.' That really hurts.''

In 1992, Hong Kong movies took in about $153 million in American dollars at the box office. Though ticket prices have practically doubled here since, annual income has dropped by more than half, to just under $72 million in 1997. As a result, average film budgets have shrunk from several million American dollars to as little as $200,000 or $300,000.
posted by russilwvong at 2:15 PM on June 24, 2008


'theft' also has a definition in every day speech.

1. the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.

Nope, still don't get it. Depriving someone of profits for their work hinges on the infringer's intent. Anecdote time:

Years ago I knew a guy that loved to collect pirated software. He had a bookcase full of burned CDs filled with just about every application you could think of. He never sold any of them, but he was a massive copyright infringer. The funny thing was, he never used any of the apps. To him it was a hobby, and also something he could brag about (he was a weird guy).

Now, given that this guy "stole" all of this software, what exactly did he take from these companies? He never would have purchased any of these applications. He had no use for them. He wasn't selling them to anyone. What actual losses did the copyright owners suffer from his "theft?"
posted by ryoshu at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2008


It's ironic to watch people cling so desperately to the ability to take for free that which they turn around and proclaim "valueless."

If I see a penny lying in the street, I won't waste the effort to pick it up. And I won't bother defending my so-called "right" to do so when someone asks me to just leave it there.

If something has value, isn't it's worth paying for?
posted by malocchio at 2:37 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


John Robbins on why he won't be writing a book on native C++ debugging:
There are a few reasons: first, book sales are declining, and second, because of piracy. ...

There are many reasons that book sales are declining. In his blog entry, Jeff Atwood says that technology-specific books are dead because everything's online. The plethora of information available online definitely has made it easier to quickly find an example of how to fill out a DataView. For quick and simple things, no book can compete with the immediacy of Google. ...

What I think Jeff has glossed over in his blog entry is that superficial usage certainly does not equal understanding. I have always tried to write my books and columns with a focus on showing the technology, but also discussing all the trials and tribulations as to why I chose the implementation I did when using the technology. A good technical book will give the reader the tools to make informed decisions about the technology after they put the book down and head into implementation. ...

At this point, I have to make a confession. As a company who debugs other people's toughest problems, we don't mind that developers are not buying books and slapping any random code they find on the web in their application. It just means lots more opportunity for Wintellect to grow. However, as a member of the development community and a computer user it worries me. I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon, but I have the distinct feeling that fewer developers have a solid understanding of the technologies they are using than in the past.

The final issue is the one that bothers me the most, piracy. Writing deeply technical books is hugely time consuming and I know that it's crazy talk, but content producers deserve to be compensated for their time if they so choose. For some reason, the bank that holds the loan to my house doesn't accept the argument that since I'm not being paid for some of my work because of piracy, they should let me slide on some of my payments. ...

The piracy of my books is quite stunning. I haven't released an electronic version of the last two books because of it. Frustratingly, that hasn't stopped the pirates. Someone took my second book, scanned in all 850 pages and went to all the trouble of recreating all the screen shots in color! I guess someone's time is free. Mine is not.

Because of fewer developers buying deep technical books, and many people feeling that pirating my books is perfectly legitimate, I've come to the conclusion that writing a native C++ debugging book, or any other book, really isn't in my best interest.
Charles Petzold, who's been writing programming books since the 1980s:
For a $50 book, the royalty might be $2.50 to $3.75 a copy. ...

A programming book might require 6 months to a year of full-time work. (That's my experience, anyway). These days, sales of 10,000 copies over the first year is considered cause for rejoicing. A few years from now, the rejoicing benchmark might be much less. You can do the math yourself. It's pretty bleak.

Those of us still writing programming books often feel increasingly foolish for doing so. The money has dropped so low that the act has become financially irresponsible. Most programming books these days are written by people who have real jobs, either working for someone else or owning their own consulting firm.

I was one of the few exceptions to this rule. Since the summer of 1985, I was able to call myself a "full-time freelance writer." But that's no longer the case. For the first time in 22 years I've been doing some consulting to supplement my ever-dwindling royalty income.
Petzold on eliminating the middleman.
posted by russilwvong at 2:38 PM on June 24, 2008


'theft' has a legal definition.

'theft' also has a definition in every day speech.

It should be tolerably obvious to anyone whose IQ is higher than their shoe size that is what I was talking about.


It should also be tolerably obvious that there is significant disagreement as to whether or not the every-day-speech definition of "theft" actually applies to copyright infringement. As I said above, "most people make a distinction between these acts". That is to say, most people see at least some difference between stealing a physical DVD from a store and downloading the same movie, taping it, playing it in public for a fee, or otherwise infringing upon its copyright. You are acting as if your use of the word "theft" in this case should be obvious to any uninvolved observer; sorry, but it's not. If I went up to you and said, "man, my brother got caught stealing a CD!" would you really jump to the conclusion that he'd downloaded the music from the CD without authorization?

There's a reason why we have words like "piracy" and "copyright infringement" to describe these acts!

My main problem with the use of words like "theft" to describe copyright infringement is that it muddies the issue -- here we are arguing over terminology and/or the separate issue of theft, instead of over how we can further the arts in the digital age, without stifling the free flow of information which gives digital communication its great potential. IMHO, this is not a coincidence: the RIAA, MPAA, and other large media interests have pushed the "theft" analogy precisely because they have a powerful stake in not having an honest discussion about the nature of intellectual property and the future of copyright.
posted by vorfeed at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2008


The problem is, even if the pro-copying-is-theft side is right...you've already lost. There is just no way, short of pulling the internet's plug, of keeping those bits from being copied once they're created. There aren't enough jails for all the copyright violators these stupid laws create. Bitterly screaming "it's THEFT!" over and over helps nothing. You're just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

So...what do we do now? It's true that artists and industries are suffering, though some are finding other revenue streams. That's all we know, right now. For the near future, many artists are largely screwed if they want to make a living via their art. (But is it more than used to be screwed? Hard to tell. It has never been easy to make a living as an artist. How many have ever made a good living at it?)

Will entire music/film/publishing industries die out leaving nothing but individual producers who may or may not be any good? Maybe. Will governments care enough to subsidize art production that has almost no profit potential? Will ad support make up the slack?

The thing is, though--artists create because they need to. I know, I live with one. He's never made a profit at it. But he can't stop if he wants to stay sane. People like him will keep going, working day jobs and scrounging up whatever they can to produce.

The ones who will have it hardest are not the artists so much as the craftspeople; editors, designers, producers---without profitable art, there's no market for their skills. They'll be stuck in advertising or corporate "communications" or education, or find something else to do.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Though ticket prices have practically doubled here since, annual income has dropped by more than half, to just under $72 million in 1997.

And here is the next problem. Instead of looking at what the consumers want, the movie studios doubled down and doubled their prices. The bootleggers in my neck of the woods charge $5 for crappy 0day cams with gopher heads popping up. Apparently there is a market for really bad copies of movies. I wonder if there would be a market for releasing VHS quality movies (or hell, go balls out and make them DVD quality) the day the movie is released and sell those for $7? Given the size of my DVD collection, I'd certainly pick some up, even copies of movies that I would normally wait for to hit cable.

But you see, I'm just some crazy "doucheface" that thinks content distributors should try to work with the market rather than legislate their failing business models.

The same goes for the programming books example. O'Reilly's Safari service is a step in the right direction, but at $23 dollars a month for 10 books, I can't justify the expense. Let me have 4 books a month for $10 and I'd pay for it.
posted by ryoshu at 3:04 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


You mean the (chain of) dude(s) who also had no right to steal it?

Often rips are done from legally purchased materials. Artist willingly sells a copy of the work to Bob, Bob willingly sends a copy to Charlie, etc. etc. Now legally there is copyright but what's the qualitative moral difference that would prohibit me sharing an album with my BitTorrent friends but allow me to share an album with my real life friends by having them over to listen to it? In both cases the artist is deprived of his supposed right to receive recompense for others' enjoyment of the work.

It's true that no one else is likely to derive any benefit from my bike ride, but let's say hypothetically I also decided to clean up a mess on the bike path or something like that. Could I demand a toll from anyone passing who benefited from my work?

That's asinine.


Hypothetically the government could decide that to encourage debris-free bike paths it would grant a monopoly on toll collection to whoever cleans the path, just as the original intent of copyright was to encourage creative work by granting a monopoly. Neither are fundamental rights and both are, in fact, problematic because they limit freedom. Every law limits freedom, but this indicates we should be hesitant to legistlate, and intellectual property has rather wide-ranging and troublesome implications.


Charles Petzold, who's been writing programming books since the 1980s:


He complains naught about piracy, only about the shit deal the book retailers and publishers give him but how he's unwilling to do without them. You might attribute the decline in sales to piracy; he doesn't mention it.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I suspect that they can't afford for it to be cheaper, either, ryoshu. If a newspaper charged what it'd have to to survive without its dying model, a daily issue would be at least $8. That's the problem with the new models: they just don't make enough cash.

It's not all about massive profits and 40% returns; there's genuinely a lot of people that can't make enough of a return to make internet content worthwhile: it's dramatically lowered the price consumers are prepared to pay, but it hasn't affected the cost of creating the content all that much. That's why the whole trope of "man, I'd buy movies if they were only $3.50" is spurious nonsense. I'd buy a Porsche if it was £5000, but that doesn't help Porsche one bit.
posted by bonaldi at 3:23 PM on June 24, 2008


there could be another problem that no one talks about - maybe the markets are just saturated - unless a person is after the newest entertainment and information there is already so much out there

how many programming books about old languages does the market really need?

how much entertainment do people really need when they have a tv in the center of their living room that entertains them for pennies an hour?

we're already offered more stuff than we could ever consume in a hundred lifetimes, and yet people say it's piracy that's devaluing movies and music and books - doesn't supply and demand have something to do with it? - why wouldn't our having an incredible glut of you name it have something to do with how things are valued?

more and more, i don't ask myself how much it costs - i ask myself how much time i have to deal with it

the real problem artists have isn't just getting paid - it's convincing anyone why they should even pay attention when there are hundreds of thousands of things that are just as valuable and interesting to pay attention to

artists aren't asking for other people's money - they're asking for other people's time and that's a commodity that no one's making more of - and more products are completing for - and judging from what i'm hearing on the radio and seeing on the net - a lot of us prefer the tried and true to the fresh and new
posted by pyramid termite at 3:39 PM on June 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


That's the problem with the new models: they just don't make enough cash.

Then the businesses need to adapt or die. Legislation to protect their old way of doing business is not the proper answer.

It's not all about massive profits and 40% returns; there's genuinely a lot of people that can't make enough of a return to make internet content worthwhile: it's dramatically lowered the price consumers are prepared to pay, but it hasn't affected the cost of creating the content all that much.

Then the easiest answer is to not make the content! Someone will figure out a way to fill in the gap. For years the content distributors lined their pockets while screwing the actual creative people and the consumers. While the costs of producing CDs and DVDs dropped dramatically, the content distributors kept charging the same price and kept the royalty rates absurdly low.

Now that the distribution game is more...democratic, the content distributors are finding out that the old way of doing business is not going to work anymore. Well, fuck them.

If that means we don't get to see "The Love Guru" or "10,000 BC" on the big screen, so be it. Maybe the people working in the industry will have to try harder to not produce absolute crap.
posted by ryoshu at 3:42 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


TheOnlyCoolTim: Now legally there is copyright but what's the qualitative moral difference that would prohibit me sharing an album with my BitTorrent friends but allow me to share an album with my real life friends by having them over to listen to it?

From the content producer's point of view, it's a difference of scale. Sharing in real life is limited by how many people can fit into your place. It's not going to have much of an impact. Sharing over the Internet is practically unlimited.

[Petzold] complains naught about piracy--

Oops, you're right. See here and here.

emjaybee: The problem is, even if the pro-copying-is-theft side is right...you've already lost. There is just no way, short of pulling the internet's plug, of keeping those bits from being copied once they're created. There aren't enough jails for all the copyright violators these stupid laws create. Bitterly screaming "it's THEFT!" over and over helps nothing.

True enough. What you want to do is provide a legal, cheap, and convenient way for people to download content, like iTunes. When you can download a song that you want for 99 cents from iTunes, why bother installing BitTorrent and hunting around for it? Apple already sells more music than physical retailers (something like $800 million in the last fiscal quarter). I tried out their movie-rental service the other day--they just launched it in Canada and the UK--and was pretty impressed.

If you can get the majority of people to shift towards legal downloads, the existence of a hard core of illegal downloaders won't matter that much.
posted by russilwvong at 3:47 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


there could be another problem that no one talks about - maybe the markets are just saturated - unless a person is after the newest entertainment and information there is already so much out there
Yes, this is an astonishingly good point.

Then the businesses need to adapt or die. Legislation to protect their old way of doing business is not the proper answer.
Ye-es ... and I think the point that many people are trying to make is that they're going to die. And in a lot of cases, we're going to be worse off because of it. Trying to legislate to protect the copyright foundation isn't trying to protect an "old way", it's trying to protect the only way yet found of doing business with intellectual creations.

The only way found in more than 300 years, by the way. Easy, perfect copies aren't anything new. If you've got a big beasty press, you can run off a duplicate book quicker than I can email it.

Then the easiest answer is to not make the content! Someone will figure out a way to fill in the gap.
Yes to the first, no to the second. Nobody's figured it out. Copyright is, fundamentally, about creating a notional property out of created intangible works. A property that can be sold and licensed. It's what gives content creators the very ability to put a price on their work. Without that ability or something very similar, it's wishful head-in-the-sand thinking that something else might just mebbe come along and hopefully maybe pick up the slack, sort-of perhaps.

If you can get the majority of people to shift towards legal downloads, the existence of a hard core of illegal downloaders won't matter that much.
This is true in certain cases, but the prices of films on iTunes is based on the producers making X from cinemas and Y from DVDs. If the iTunes price had to carry a majority of the load for making the film ... it'd be laughably expensive.
posted by bonaldi at 4:02 PM on June 24, 2008


When you can download a song that you want for 99 cents from iTunes, why bother installing BitTorrent and hunting around for it?

Because if $13.99 is too much to pay for a ten-track CD, then $9.99 is probably way too much to pay not to have the same CD.
posted by vorfeed at 4:03 PM on June 24, 2008


I wonder if anyone's thought of an ad-supported torrent engine where a back-catalog of a company's music could be put up for free and then licensed out to anyone who wants to use it.

Or a subscription model of same.

Right now I'm involved in a project to get Chinese indie movies up on the net and streaming for a subscription fee. And we are getting submissions like you would not fucking believe. With the rampant piracy here, most small-time distributors are eschewing DVD sales altogether and starting to build alternative distribution. Musicians play tons of live shows, like you wouldn't believe. New venues in Beijing pop up every week. And they're starting to do contract gigs with moviemakers, radio shows, other providers of content that need a customized music component.

How, again, is it impossible to make money off of new distribution models? Can somebody please tell the RIAA already so we don't have to put up with this shit anymore?
posted by saysthis at 4:13 PM on June 24, 2008


Because, again, the problem is not that it's impossible to make money, is that it doesn't make enough money. How much could you charge for the ads on this tracker? Since it's filled with that great demographic "people looking for stuff for free", the answer is "not very much".

(Oh, and see those "contract gigs" they're doing? They're all with people who make the money they're paid with from copyright. And "licensing"? Copyright again.)
posted by bonaldi at 4:20 PM on June 24, 2008


ryoshu: If that means we don't get to see "The Love Guru" or "10,000 BC" on the big screen, so be it. Maybe the people working in the industry will have to try harder to not produce absolute crap.

I'm not sure I understand your argument. In the Brave New World of "democratic" content distribution, why should they? If they produce a high-quality product, but people aren't willing to pay for it, where's the incentive? If they make a really great movie and that translates into twice as many illegal downloads instead of twice as many sales, what's the point?

I also think you're overestimating the technical problem of cracking down on illegal downloads. There's nothing inherent in Internet technology which prevents government agencies from deploying all sorts of high-powered monitoring tools. A packet travelling on the Internet is no more private than a postcard.

Working out what limitations there should be--is the Internet a public place, in which you have limited privacy rights? or something else?--is a political question, which means going through the messy, time-consuming legislative process.

vorfeed: ... if $13.99 is too much to pay for a ten-track CD, then $9.99 is probably way too much to pay not to have the same CD.

Why buy all the songs on the CD? Usually there's a couple hit songs and the rest is filler, right?

bonaldi: ... the prices of films on iTunes is based on the producers making X from cinemas and Y from DVDs. If the iTunes price had to carry a majority of the load for making the film ... it'd be laughably expensive.

Right. Or we'll see a shift away from big-budget films, towards low-budget films.

I think it'll take some time before we see how well iTunes works for movie rentals. $5 for a new release seems low enough to compete with physical movie rental stores--you get better selection and the convenience of not having to leave the house, vs. the inconvenience of having to deal with the download time and any technical issues. I'd expect both the download time and the technical issues to improve as time goes on.
posted by russilwvong at 4:23 PM on June 24, 2008


bonaldi: For instance, the cost of creating a newspaper is paid for by classified advertising, not by readers. It's entirely possible that there will still be a market demand for newspapers, but it'll be uneconomical to produce them. Similarly for films, where the market that pays to see them in theatres is only a small part of the total income required to produce them. People can want things very badly and the market still be unable to provide them.

I understand the point you're making, but I'm still not sure I agree. It's a question of how you define "very badly," I guess.

I think you're correct that, if the advertising and classified-based business model falls, newspapers as we think of them today probably will, too. People are willing to pay a dollar or so for one, but they're not willing to pay what it actually costs to produce. All agreed.

To me that doesn't demonstrate that "[p]eople can want things very badly and the market still [is] unable to provide them," it demonstrates that people don't want newspapers that badly. If they wanted newspapers that badly, they'd pay the $6/day (or whatever) that they actually cost to produce, absent ad revenue. That people won't do that is an indication that they don't care that much about having a newspaper. They'd see that price, think about what else they could do with the money, and decide on something else. That's a fair and valid decision, it's one individuals ought to be able to make, and it's one the market will respond to by ceasing to produce newspapers and instead producing things that people actually want (by which I mean, are willing to pay to have produced).

The demand for portable, low-cost entertainment and information (what a newspaper provides to the consumer) won't go away, but it will wait for someone to fill it at a price that people are willing to pay, using a business model that's sustainable under prevailing economic conditions. And when they do that, they'll make a lot of money. I don't know exactly how they'll do it -- if I did, I'd be out doing it and preparing to rake in the dough -- but if there's a way to do it and make a buck, somebody (actually, many somebodys) will. And if it's not possible, it's probably a good sign that it shouldn't be done at all.

Given that, historically anyway, the market seems to do a much better (or at least more efficient) job setting prices and allocating productive resources than any top-down method, this looks like the way things ought to work. The closer we can make the cost of goods equate to their actual cost of production, the better and more well-informed decisions consumers can make.

A caveat: there's an obvious exception in the case of so-called public goods, which as a society we want to have available but nobody is willing to pay for individually; in that case I'm not against subsidization, as long as it's done in the most direct way possible, so it's subject to the most public scrutiny and review. E.g., if we really want to keep news organizations around even though they're not profitable, rather than propping up their shoddy business model by suppressing competition (the frequent solution), let's just fund them directly from taxes, a la the BBC or VoA, and quit deceiving ourselves. At least that would force a discussion of how much we're really interested in paying for the service. I think a similar argument would apply to the fate of "musicians" as a class if recording industry were to fail completely. I'd rather see subsidies go through the front door of direct payments rather than the back door of protective legislation.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:42 PM on June 24, 2008


I'm not sure I understand your argument. In the Brave New World of "democratic" content distribution, why should they? If they produce a high-quality product, but people aren't willing to pay for it, where's the incentive? If they make a really great movie and that translates into twice as many illegal downloads instead of twice as many sales, what's the point?

But people are willing to pay. Going back to the VCD issue in Hong Kong, people were willing to pay for crappy bootlegs on VCD. People in NYC are willing to pay for crappy cam bootlegs in the subway. So people are willing to pay, but not enough are willing to pay $15 for a theater ticket, and shell out another $10 for snacks so you can sit in a crowded, noisy theater. So the movie companies can either find out a way to get the content to the people who are buying the pirated copies and take their money, or you can try to legislate the crap out of things and let the pirates keep making money.

As far as downloads go, most of the theater releases are dodgy until the DVD is released. But people are okay with dodgy quality because it is free. Would people be okay with VHS quality for $5? What if the system was ad supported? What if there was a recommendation system that suggested older titles you might enjoy for a discounted price?

I don't work in the movie industry, so I haven't run the numbers and have no idea if a pay-per-download system would make up the difference. The success of iTunes with music shows that people will pay if they think they are getting something of value.

I also think you're overestimating the technical problem of cracking down on illegal downloads. There's nothing inherent in Internet technology which prevents government agencies from deploying all sorts of high-powered monitoring tools. A packet travelling on the Internet is no more private than a postcard.

I think you are overestimating the competence of government and DRM pushers. The Pirate Bay is already in the process of implementing SSL because of Sweden's recent decision to monitor the net. Or, set up a darknet. Pirates will always be around and no amount of legislation will stop them.

Right. Or we'll see a shift away from big-budget films, towards low-budget films.

I'll take "El Mariachi" over "Waterworld" any day.
posted by ryoshu at 4:44 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we're in agreement on a lot, Kadin2048. It's just very difficult to work out a direct market for what newspapers do. You talk about low-cost portable entertainment, and how substitutes will fill that, and of course there will be some of them. But newspapers do more. How much are people willing to pay for a free press? What substitutes are there for that?

Subsidisation is one thing, and I'm incredibly glad I have the BBC. But state-sponsored media is a tricky thing, especially when one of the core jobs they have to do is scrutinise that state!

For all its detractors, copyright actually gives us a lot of goods. In the case of newspapers, we get something very expensive for very cheap, and that's under threat from the changes brought by the internet.

As I said upthread, the market is great at efficiency and at setting prices, but quality rarely factors into it. There is, for example, a demand for furniture. Time was, producing furniture was very expensive, and the results were very high quality. Then along came new technology in the form of MDF and flat-pack, and, in perfect market accordance, the price of furniture plummeted. But so did the quality.

The same thing is in danger of happening with content. We'll get cheaper things, when we want them. But they might not be better. So I'm not sure why we should embrace it, and scorn attempts to try and support the models that provide the high quality goods.
posted by bonaldi at 5:01 PM on June 24, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy I'm not fucking allowed to have fucking opinions
You can have opinions. Just not fucking stupid opinions.

By all means assert that copyright infringement is a property crime of a sort. That's obviously the case in a lot of jurisdictions. By all means argue that copyright infringement is a bad thing to do; as bad as, say, stealing. There is a legitimate argument there; it's about balancing competing interests, like most property-related legal disputes, and one of those interests happens to be those who have, and there's always a lot of mileage in arguments that support the rights of haves against the rights of those who have not. By all means argue that people who do it ought to be effectively forbidden from ever participating in the economy in any meaningful way ever again, or even skinned alive and rolled in salt, if that's what floats your little blue boat. That would be ludicrously excessive, but it's an argument that can, and is, by rational (if not honest or decent) folk, be made. If it's your own personal bugbear for some reason, well, you're a hypocrite, but you're allowed to have bugbears and hypocrisies, so long as you're prepared to identify them as such.

But copyright infringement is not theft, it is not jaywalking, it is not failure as a fiduciary to declare a personal interest, it is not overtaking on a double yellow line, it is not drinking alcohol on your front lawn, or any other crime or civil infraction except exactly one: copyright infringement. Now kindly put down the whip, step away from the atomized remains of the horse, and leave it alone.

Sheesh.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:04 PM on June 24, 2008


Now, as to actual arguments. Personally, I think the very concept of copyright is holding back our development, because it is allowing a short-term and selfish commercial interest to restrain a technological development of far greater import: near-instant duplication of any information whatsoever, with total accuracy and at minimal cost. In theory, what we know, we could all know. Sadly, a bunch of selfish jerks are holding it back to defend their entrenched business practices.

Some considerable time ago a man by the name of Gutenberg invented a remarkable thing, a device that would allow anyone to rapidly reproduce and disseminate a document without the slightest regard to that document's theological soundness or otherwise. Fortunately once the process was demonstrated it became blatantly obvious how it was done, and anyone with a reasonable amount of technical know-how and access to malleable metal could construct a printing press and fonts of metal type with which to print. Even more fortunately, the Church at the time took up the technology with enthusiasm, and restrained itself to persecuting the writers and publishers of heretical literature, rather than blaming the underlying technology, or (much) blaming the readers.

Fast forward six hundred and fifty years or so: now, rather than the medieval church, we have the entrenched entertainment industries. Rather than the auto-da-fe of the Inquisition we have a civil penalties regime enforced by the courts. Now, as then, the secular authorities back the restrainers. Their capacity to make money, and give money to lawmakers, gives the entertaintment industries significant political weight.

Six hundred years later, I think we're all better off for the invention of the printing press. Since 1800 or so, it has been relatively easy for anyone who had anything to say, to get it printed. No real regard to the theological soundness or otherwise of documents has been paid since about then; books were published under regimes that didn't practice censorship, and found their way into regimes that did.

Now, we're going through the same thing with copyright. I would venture to say that the outcome will be the same, only quicker, as everything is quicker. In fifty years, the idea of not copying information because of a copyright will seem as ludicrous as, now, the idea of not publishing a book because it contains heretical ideas.

Of course, that doesn't help those screaming in the auto-da-fes so much.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:23 PM on June 24, 2008


Now, we're going through the same thing with copyright.

What's going to be interesting is to what extent we go through the same thing again depending on how this turns out and how far "replicator" technology gets, but we all might be dead by then. (RepRap just did their first partial self-replication.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:30 PM on June 24, 2008


Good for you. I for one can't wait to see the world all this "producers of expensive stuff can only expect minimal returns" thinking produces; at this rate it's only going to take 10 or 20 years.

I can't either.


Amen. Fucking bring it on. I don't see any reason why our government needs to encourage artistic innovation via IP law. Can someone explain the public benefit rationale behind copyright law. I can understand encouraging technical innovation (to a point, i.e. within the creator's lifetime), but art ... I don't get it. Art is a gift. I say that as a professional writer and former wanna-be musician. After ad-supported content folds (i.e. writing), I'll be out of a job. You know what? That's not such a bad thing.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:42 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, I'm all for copyright. Licensing and temporary monopolies are a good thing.

The bad thing, and the lesson that I'm learning from working in China, is that in the US the system we've set up is just way, way too bloated. Every day I work with these people who put out amazing work. Some of them are still in film school and live in a dorm. You ask them what they want financially and the answer is: a house, a spouse, and to sock enough away to take care of family and have a vacation once in awhile. And you cannot tell me that the market won't support that.

I recently translated a movie for a fairly famous Chinese poet who's gone into moviemaking - she owns a nice-ish car, a 2-bedroom apartment in a trendy part of town, and that's it. She's not phenomenally rich. After 10 years of work, she's carved out a niche for herself and makes enough money to afford a solid upper-middle class lifestyle. Another guy I work with has written hit TV shows for more than 10 years. He owns a spacious apartment, 2002 Jeep Cherokee, and spends the remainder of his income on his new baby and a compulsive reading habit. Isn't that enough?

The market won't support a Hollywood lifestyle, no. But it supports normal creatives in the same way it supports most of us in the middle class just fine. You struggle in your 20's, get your experience, save up enough assets to provide comfortably for yourself and your family, and that's that. These two examples have work that you can search for and download NOW if you were so inclined. They're happy, they have a life, and they continue to fund their creations.

If your work is successful enough to make you filthy rich, great. But in the future there just won't be a system in place to make anyone filthy rich - it'll just have to be another job, and the movie and record company execs who piggyback on the system are just going to have to get used to it.

Nor are there only two kinds of customers, those who are looking for "free stuff" and those who aren't. People very willingly pay pirates, as was pointed out upthread. People are willing to pay for what they can afford, not more. I'm not going to pay ANYONE $15 for a CD unless I really, really like it. But $5? Sure. I get about the same lifetime of use out of a record or a movie as I do a packet of cigarettes, a useful analogy, I think, because of diminishing returns. Can you imagine watching the same movie 20 times? At most I'll spend a day of my lifetime enjoying any particular creative work. And it's nice to have a durable copy not because I will necessarily listen to it over and over again, but because I can share it, keep track of it, and I'm assured of not having to put up with headaches like looking for codecs and such. Any dumbass can use it. I want to pay for that usability, but I'll only pay so much. Books...well, different time scales and such, but the same issues are involved.

I really hate to sound like I'm begrudging the artists their due - I'm not. I only wish I had the creative talent to do what they do myself. I do, very much, though, begrudge the system we've created in the United States that makes the facilitators of creatives think they're entitled to be filthy stinking rich. No one, anywhere, is entitled to be a millionaire unless that worth is borne out first by the market. That is the cancer in our system and it needs to be sliced out. In China, thank god, I get to work with something approximating a fresh start. Many moviemakers here can sell their works for net profits of $300,000. Assuming a year's production time, that's hardly a bad yearly income and they deserve it. Musicians and authors, when properly supported, can make the same. Technical expertise may have to move to a blog/consultancy model, and I think that if your aspirations are modest most anybody who puts in the effort can make that work. Jack Valente does not deserve the gross millions he makes. I'm sorry but he does not. But until governments around the world stop listening to his type and start listening to the people who actually make him rich, we're all going to be subject to their histrionics. I, for one, am sick of it, and will content myself with providing continuing new value for artists who continue to produce who need things translated. My work is time-sensitive and copyright doesn't help a squick for what I do. But it helps them and I appreciate that it does. I only wish there were more options for them.

Now, if you want to talk about preserving our cultural heritage, you all know what treasure troves most major distribution houses are sitting on. Most of it will never see the light of day again. This, people, is a public good if there ever was one, and it's the job of government to step in and solve this market failure. We need the Library of Congress writ large, with distribution models better than an archive building in Washington. I don't know how it would look (not my field of expertise), but I'm more than happy to devote my time to getting something up and running if given the mandate to. I think a lot of other people would as well. Imagine - on-demand cable releases of every publicly owned piece of music and video. I would pay those taxes, yo.

That's where I hope to see the future of copyright go. But I'll be damned if it's going to happen while we live in a copyright police state dominated by a kleptocratic distribution model. Let's fix that before we argue over whether "copyright" is valuable.
posted by saysthis at 7:01 PM on June 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


saysthis: I do, very much, though, begrudge the system we've created in the United States that makes the facilitators of creatives think they're entitled to be filthy stinking rich. No one, anywhere, is entitled to be a millionaire unless that worth is borne out first by the market.

(shrug) What Hollywood does really well is make big, expensive, high-production-value movies; e.g. Lord of the Rings cost $430 million to make. The capital for making these movies has to be invested up front. Naturally, the people putting up the money wouldn't do it unless they thought they could make big profits.

To me, this is the big justification for copyright, at least for some number of years: it supports the development of intellectual property which requires a large up-front investment. Obviously this is most critical for movies, which have such large costs, but it's a consideration even for people who write books--if you have to sacrifice a year of income to write a book, you need to make sure that you can sell it afterward.
posted by russilwvong at 9:23 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am one of those people, I have them.
I've seen you express carefully examined and well-thought-out opinions from time to time, but this is not one of them. I shall try again. Let's leave aside the matter of the US Supreme Court specifically making a declaration to the effect that copyright infringement is not theft, at least in American law (but what would the USSC know about American law?), and rely instead on elementary school logic.

- If A=B, then B=A. Equality is symmetric. Got that? With me so far?
- Therefore, if copyright infringement is theft, then theft is copyright infringement.
- Therefore, if I reach into your bag and take your lunch and run away, I have infringed the copyright you hold in your lunch.
- Silly, isn't it?

I'll grant you this, if you care to resile from your extremist position down into common sense: copyright infringement is somewhat like theft, in a contrived and legalistic sense, in that it causes a person A to be, by the actions of person B, deprived of something that person A potentially ought (as granted by a bought-and-paid-for statute) to have. But it is not the same thing. Snatching your lunch is something even a monkey or a dog understands is wrong. It's a direct violation of the instinct of territory. You lose 1 lunch; I gain 1 lunch. On the other hand, you lending me your iPod, me copying the songs out of it, and then giving it back to you such that you and I both now have all of the songs, that is something that people instinctively a consider good, and right, and proper thing to do. It is sharing. You neither lose nor gain songs; I gain songs. The RIAA's clients receive no money, but no money is taken from them either.

Being against sharing is not a battle you are ever going to win. Trying to falsely equate this with violations of territoriality will not help you, because anyone over the age of six will see through the lie like window glass. "[No] one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives [it] without lessening [me], as he who lights his [candle] at mine receives light without darkening me." -- Thomas Jefferson.

Also, trying to claim a legal definition of theft is "not ordinary usage", when you're advocating prosecuting people who breach that "ordinary usage" - that would be disingenuous.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:25 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Harvard Business School researchers on iTunes vs. peer-to-peer.
posted by russilwvong at 9:28 PM on June 24, 2008


- If A=B, then B=A. Equality is symmetric. Got that? With me so far?
- Therefore, if copyright infringement is theft, then theft is copyright infringement.
- Therefore, if I reach into your bag and take your lunch and run away, I have infringed the copyright you hold in your lunch.


Just in the interest of logical consistency I have to point out this is a flawed argument. Copyright infringement could be a subset of theft; I don't believe so myself but it's a possibility in the logic. As a proof by absurdity, if Murder=Crime then Crime=Murder and therefore if I have jaywalked I am a murderer.

Set theory is very important.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:30 PM on June 24, 2008


I don't believe theft can have copyright violation as a subset either. Theft, either under the law or as DNAB's claiming is common usage, doesn't really have any subsets that meaningfully include a crime where no deprivation occurs; that'd be, I guess, trespassing or something. He keeps saying it is theft, as if there were no meaningful distinction. If he wants to define some larger set of property crime that includes copyright infringement, and also theft, and say "copyright violation is a property crime" that's fine, but it's not theft.

If he wants to yell "copyright violation is trespassing" I still object, it's still wrong (no physical presences in physical locations), but at least it would be less absurdly wrong.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:44 PM on June 24, 2008


[a few comments removed - if you can't make your arguments without continually calling people fucking assholes, you should probably take a walk or go to metatalk or an ice cream parlor. ]
posted by jessamyn at 9:47 PM on June 24, 2008


aeschenkarnos: [Sharing] is something that people instinctively a consider good, and right, and proper thing to do.

Whose property is it? If it's my property--my lunch, for example--then yes, it's good and right for me to share it. If it's someone else's property, then it's wrong for me to share it.

If someone writes a book or makes a movie and then sells you a copy, they're not giving up their claim to ownership, and in particular they're not saying that you can make as many copies as you want and give them away for free! I can do this with my own intellectual property--photos that I've taken, for example--but not someone else's. I regard it as wrong to download a copy of a book or a movie that someone else has uploaded, because it wasn't theirs to share.
posted by russilwvong at 9:52 PM on June 24, 2008


Again you completely fail to address any actual points. I will admit to being interested to see how far you'll keep this up before you start presenting only "nyah, nyah" and "your momma sucks" as arguments.

stealing work from someone else--deriving a benefit from someone else's work when they have not been compensated in the way that they choose and are legally entitled--is also wrong
Ugh. Your paragraph is full of fail.

1. You cannot steal work. If I contract with you to build a fence around your house using bricks you supply, and you choose not to pay me, you have not stolen my work, you have breached a contract between us. You said you would pay. You didn't.

Several things distinguish this from violating a copyright I might hold in fence-building. Firstly, the work building the fence, is not replicable. If I want to put a fence around Bill's house I now have to go and do it again. I can't just copy your fence to Bill, and if I took your fence away to put it around Bill's house I, once again, deprive you of your fence. If I could just instantly copy your fence to Bill's house, having built it once, then believe me, the building industry would take that right up.

Secondly, there's the matter of the contract. You asked me to build the fence. I did. Now if I just go to Bill's house and build a fence for my own reasons, I can't charge him. If I copy your fence to Bill's house, I can't charge him. If Bill sees your fence, and thinks what a great idea, this is such a brilliant solution to his dog roaming the neighborhood! and builds a fence of his own, I can't charge him. (Caveat: some of the worst pro-copyrightists would want the law to let me charge him.) And if you tire of your fence and give it to Bill, I can't charge you or Bill for the fence again.

2. All, and I mean all, of the law constraining physical property is based on the assumption that it is non-replicable. Pro-copyrightists are currently trying very hard to force replicable property to follow the same rules as non-replicable property. This is an utter waste of time and effort.

3. Copyright enforces monopoly. Letting you arbitrarily set prices however you want is one of the assumptions of a free market, but monopolies specifically break the free part. No alternative suppliers can supply the same thing.

4. Being legally entitled is just begging the question. We're discussing what the law ought to be, not what it is: if copyright law disappeared in a puff of smoke right now, you would no longer be "legally entitled" to anything whatsoever.

5. "Also wrong" is begging the question, again. You're trying to equate a breach of a statute constructed and enforced for commercial reasons, with an instinctual wrong. Not the same thing.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:02 PM on June 24, 2008


[a few comments removed - if you can't make your arguments without continually calling people fucking assholes, you should probably take a walk or go to metatalk or an ice cream parlor. ]

Where it's me he was calling that, I object much more to his argument being removed, than to whatever he wants to call me. I would argue that your censorship regimen as presented protects no sensitive souls, and discriminates unfairly against the vehement and wrathful as opposed to the sarcastic and wrathful. He's vehement because he cares about what he's saying and thinks I'm absolutely deluded. I'm sarcastic because I care about what I'm saying and think he's absolutely deluded.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:08 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


russilwvong I regard it as wrong to download a copy of a book or a movie that someone else has uploaded, because it wasn't theirs to share.
This is the case under the present copyright regime, but it is not natural law.

Consider the alternative view: everything and anything you give to a person, becomes theirs to disseminate if they see fit. An economy without scarcity. I need not bother going to any great lengths to disseminate my work, because others will do that for me. If I don't want something disseminated, I should firstly say so, and secondly, I should rely upon social custom, not legal contract, to restrain my correspondent from forwarding (for example) personal nude photos. (Which current copyright law doesn't even come close to properly protecting; there's no commercial interest, and the photographer, rather than the subject, has all of the copyright.)

There are many, many business models that can operate in an economy of scarcity. Novelty and quality are the primary distinguishing characteristics for goods, where quantity is irrelevant. Reputation as producer. Early-adopter advantage. Sales of experience and access (WoW subscriptions, concert tickets) rather than items. And so on.

Also, businesses involving physical goods and services are as scarcity-reliant as ever. If the concept of laying internet cable to houses was uncopyrightable, and it might be, that hardly threatens a business that provides the service.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:17 PM on June 24, 2008


Whose property is it? If it's my property--my lunch, for example--then yes, it's good and right for me to share it. If it's someone else's property, then it's wrong for me to share it.

All well and good if there is an issue of scarcity. If someone shares your lunch without permission, they are denying you of that portion of your lunch. If someone gives another person a copy of a song you wrote, you have not been denied any portion of your song.

There are two issues here, the legal aspects of copyright infringement and the moral aspects. The legal aspects are well understood: copyright infringement is not theft.

The moral aspects are more interesting. I'm curious as to your opinion on the morality of copying something? Say, Pride and Prejudice. Am I committing an immoral act if I print up 100 copies of Pride and Prejudice and hand them out to my friends?

How can copying a work be an immoral act one day and a moral one the next? If I were to steal your lunch, it remains an immoral act regardless of when I steal it.

If the argument hinges on the copyright holder's right to control how a work is used, what about singing a song? Is it immoral for someone to sing Happy Birthday to a child? It's an infringing act because the copyright owner did not give that person permission to perform the song. If I'm understanding you correctly, the act of singing Happy Birthday is an immoral act (and illegal) because the copyright holder has been denied their right to determine how their work is performed.
posted by ryoshu at 10:20 PM on June 24, 2008


Harvard Business School researchers on iTunes vs. peer-to-peer.

Man, it's like smart people bullshitting about something they know nothing about. (Metafilter: ibid.)

Users of p2p networks choose whether to share (offer content that other peers can download) or to freeride (download from others and not offer content for others to download). Sharing content is costlier than freeriding as it entails committing computing resources such as storage space and upload bandwidth to the network.


I want to smack them and tell them that since time immemorial "freeriding" has been called "leeching" and nowadays "sharing" is called "seeding." In addition, the "costlier" proclamation is meaningless. Of course someone will have storage space for something they download, as this is necessary for them to use it themselves as well as for them to share it. Upload bandwidth is not a real cost either; one has it as part of their broadband subscription and only limits the amount used for sharing only so that it does not saturate their upload bandwidth and degrade their web-browsing and TF2-playing.

we find it hard to justify that peers will develop altruistic emotions in a setting with anonymous transactions.


You can tell they're in Business School and don't think anyone else has any morals either. It is widely considered appropriate that one should generally allow themselves to upload as much as or more than they have downloaded. This is considered as a general rule, not a strict one; if it inconveniences you to stay online sharing something by all means quit, but when your computer is going to be running anyway, share. This seems to work out.

Incentive schemes that reward users as a function of their contributions help improve sharing, but they introduce other distortions, and the legal risks of sharing limit their efficacy. The underlying problem remains: Only when upload bandwidth becomes unlimited and legal risks disappear will congestion fade away.

The presence of iTunes provides an alternative to users suffering most from congestion in p2p networks. Some users are better off purchasing from iTunes and enjoying fast downloads.


No one gives two shits about the legal risks. Might as well worry about being struck by lightning or terrorism. More importantly, BitTorrent, the prevalent modern protocol, by and large improves as more people attempt to acquire something. The protocol allows for rewarding users who contribute while the sharing is congested, which results in me uploading whatever tiny bits of a file I have as fast as I allow as soon as I have them, but it also allows for me to download at megabyte per second speeds when I'm the only one downloading a file while fifty people share it. I'm on a clutch private site with strict rules, and even there they only feel it necessary to strictly require that one uploads about half as much as they download.

When I'm downloading at megabytes per second, it doesn't matter if Itunes could be faster. It's not worth anything to me to have whatever album in one minute rather than have it in two minutes. Right now I only usually only get megabytes per second from a private site, but it would be foolish to assume the general speeds won't increase soon enough, and for someone who can slightly deny instant gratification it's not that much to wait thirty minutes or an hour for an album.

They really don't seem to understand that while upload bandwidth isn't unlimited, it doesn't cost me anything to contribute my limited amount.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:32 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


ryoshu: All well and good if there is an issue of scarcity.

Certainly with perfectly-replicable intellectual property, scarcity isn't the issue. To me the big issue is compensation for the work involved in creating the property. (A secondary issue is credit for one's work; see tkchrist's story about his "Gor" joke getting copied without credit.)

Am I committing an immoral act if I print up 100 copies of Pride and Prejudice and hand them out to my friends?

No. It was published nearly 200 years ago, and the author's been dead for nearly as long. Morally speaking, I think it's reasonable to have a copyright that runs for a limited length of time, after which the work becomes part of the public domain, and can be freely copied. The Berne Convention set this as the lifetime of the author, plus 50 years; 50 years seems kind of long to me, but not totally unreasonable.

How can copying a work be an immoral act one day and a moral one the next?

It has to do with the consequences of the action. Most copies of a work will be sold soon after it's first published. If the work is immediately given away for free by someone other than the creator, that will have a major impact on the creator.

Fifty years after the death of the creator, on the other hand, the work is likely to be obscure, with minimal if any sales. Giving away the work at this point is unlikely to have much effect on the creator's heirs.

If the argument hinges on the copyright holder's right to control how a work is used, what about singing a song? Is it immoral for someone to sing Happy Birthday to a child?

According to Snopes, Happy Birthday was first published in 1893. I think it's reasonable to argue that it should be public domain by now.

That said, according to Snopes, if you want to sing a song which is under copyright, you only need to get permission from the copyright holder when it's for commercial use or a public performance. You can sing whatever you want at a kid's birthday party.
posted by russilwvong at 11:01 PM on June 24, 2008


Fifty years after the death of the creator, on the other hand, the work is likely to be obscure, with minimal if any sales. Giving away the work at this point is unlikely to have much effect on the creator's heirs.

I'm a bit puzzled why this should be an issue at all. Lifetime copyright (let alone lifetime plus) goes against the purpose of copyright. Copyright was not created so a person could be the sole beneficiary of his work. It was created so a person would have incentive to create things and have some assurance that they would be able to make a profit. The earliest of such reasons for such protection is stated in the Statute of Anne. The same justification for the granting of a limited monopoly is listed in the US Constitution.

I'm not sure how extending copyright beyond the death of the copyright holder promotes the progress of science and art. In terms of IP laws, it's a surprise that anyone ever invents anything considering patents only enjoy a paltry 20 year protection.

According to Snopes, Happy Birthday was first published in 1893. I think it's reasonable to argue that it should be public domain by now.

Sadly, it's not. If you read further down in the article you'll see that Happy Birthday was copyrighted in 1935, so it still falls under copyright.

That said, according to Snopes, if you want to sing a song which is under copyright, you only need to get permission from the copyright holder when it's for commercial use or a public performance. You can sing whatever you want at a kid's birthday party.

I believe Snopes is wrong. Just because you are not using it commercially does not mean you are not infringing on the rights of the copyright holder. I doubt AOL Time Warner will come after you, but they could since they are the rights holder. And as the post from William Clayton pointed out above:
Fair use is, after all, notoriously fickle and the defense offers little ex ante refuge to users of copyrighted works.
As to public performance, what if you are having a birthday party in a park? Well, who knows if fair use still applies, but I don't think it would be immoral, regardless of the infringing involved.
posted by ryoshu at 11:37 PM on June 24, 2008


ryoshu: It was created so a person would have incentive to create things and have some assurance that they would be able to make a profit.

Right, no disagreement there. I'd be a lot happier with a shorter copyright period--it's been extended to lifetime of the author plus 95 years, which is absurd--but that's different from arguing that there should be no copyright at all, as for example aeschenkarnos is doing.

If you read further down in the article you'll see that Happy Birthday was copyrighted in 1935, so it still falls under copyright.

Sure, but I was thinking of morality, not legality.
posted by russilwvong at 11:46 PM on June 24, 2008


strange thread to argue that nobody cares about the legal risks, TheOnlyCoolTim. I think rather a lot of people care, and more will in France soon.

Also: odd that the strict rules that promote damaging filesharing of content on your private site are a good thing, while the strict rules in my country that promote content creation are a bad one. Hmm.
posted by bonaldi at 2:15 AM on June 25, 2008


Whose property is it? If it's my property--my lunch, for example--then yes, it's good and right for me to share it. If it's someone else's property, then it's wrong for me to share it.

If someone writes a book or makes a movie and then sells you a copy, they're not giving up their claim to ownership, and in particular they're not saying that you can make as many copies as you want and give them away for free! I can do this with my own intellectual property--photos that I've taken, for example--but not someone else's. I regard it as wrong to download a copy of a book or a movie that someone else has uploaded, because it wasn't theirs to share.


Bingo! You can play all the fucking stupid semantic games you want, but that's what it boils down to.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:26 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


strange thread to argue that nobody cares about the legal risks, TheOnlyCoolTim. I think rather a lot of people care, and more will in France soon.

In America, few worry that they're going to get struck by lightning with an RIAA lawsuit or that someone's going to narc their external hard drive to the police and the police would care.

Also: odd that the strict rules that promote damaging filesharing of content on your private site are a good thing, while the strict rules in my country that promote content creation are a bad one. Hmm.


I approve of some rules and laws, and disapprove of others. Is that odd, once we get past the childish authoritarian idea that morality derives from law and not hopefully vice versa? Specifically, I find that the rules on the torrent site are beneficial to that community and do no harm, while intellectual property rules are problematic and not very beneficial anymore.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:58 AM on June 25, 2008


I don't think it's odd, if we could get past the childish self-interested "but I want it freeeee", which we seem to be struggling with.

Your rules that "do no harm" are perpetuating an illegal system that is putting a number of industries in peril while benefitting only freeloaders; the intellectual property rules are causing the biggest problems to people that want content for free, and would otherwise be beneficial to those of us that benefit from the creation of content (ie, all of us)*

*Of course, am talking in general about the concept of intellectual property, not in specific 90-year DisneyRight terms
posted by bonaldi at 10:36 AM on June 25, 2008


BitTorrent isn't only used for illegal content; it's used to distribute Ubuntu, for example.

TheOnlyCoolTim: intellectual property rules are problematic and not very beneficial anymore.

Do you mean the current law, under which copyright extends to 70 years after the death of the creator? I think we're all in agreement that this is absurd, and harmful to the general good. The Mouse that Ate the Public Domain. Or do you mean intellectual property laws in general?
posted by russilwvong at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2008


I'll eat my hat and put the video on YouTube if the private file-sharing site with enforced ratios that Tim's on is for distributing open source software
posted by bonaldi at 12:07 PM on June 25, 2008


Sorry, I was confused--I thought TheOnlyCoolTim was referring to BitTorrent, not to the private file-sharing site.
posted by russilwvong at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2008


Or do you mean intellectual property laws in general?

I think the prohibition of sharing will go away; whatever baby was left in that bathwater is going to be thrown out for at least these three reasons:
  1. Sundry abuses of IP laws lead to hostility against them as these abuses are not beneficial to the common good.
  2. Children are taught to share in kindergarten.
  3. The creators of works are also consumers. Band members probably listen to a lot of music. Where did the 20 year old kids starting bands today get their music from?
I see this as probably being overall beneficial, providing nigh-universal access to much of the cultural output of humanity which will offset any harms done by potentially disincentivizing creative activities. And again, I really don't see some sort of music shortage in the future after prohibitions on sharing are gone.

I could give two shits about industries in peril. I agree with the post above making a comparison to the printing press, which sure imperiled the illuminated manuscript industry. And yes, that was a loss - those illuminated manuscripts were pretty cool. But would it be worth giving up the printing press to keep those monks employed and that art form going, especially considering how the printing press enabled other emplyoyments and art forms?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:56 PM on June 25, 2008


Wow, that's deeply self-serving. Nigh-universal access to free shit will indeed by welcomed by humanity. But to say that a horde of consumers packed to the gills with free content will somehow be better for creative activities is palpable nonsense. I'm on forums with "the 20-year-olds starting bands today" and they're generally bust when their shit gets boosted.

The comparison to the printing press is fatuous. This is not a technical change so much as it is a social one. The relevant development is not monk->press; it's unrestricted->restricted. And we already know how it turns out.

The average run of books in the days before copyright was respected was around 3000, and they cost a fortune. The few book readers loved that they could also get very cheap copies of foreign works, and wealthy patrons loved that they could get shabby works written for and about them. But, unquestionably, the general public was very much the worse off. After the introduction of the copyright act, publishers and authors could be guaranteed a return on their efforts -- they didn't have to pay for themselves in advance. Book runs soared; the number of different works produced exploded, prices plummeted.

Instead of patrons being the target market, the general public was, and this lead to huge competition for to fill the needs of an ever-increasing clientele with widely varying tastes. This is like when art was freed from the shackles of religious patronage. Everyone involved in the trade could now be sure of an income if they had a successful product, and the risk-taking leapt.

Then in 1731 the original copyright act expired, and there was a massive contraction. Books stopped getting published; serialisations jumped in number. Reprinting slumped. Until copyright was renewed, there was a significant downward shift in the market. Everybody lost out. The laws were hastily re-enacted.

We're facing the same thing today. Only now it's not just publishing, it's all the creative industries. Yes, the original laws have been perverted, but still we've benefitted from them: can you raise the $430 million required to make Lord of the Rings if you can only earn from it for 10 years? I'm not sure. If you can, well and good. One thing's clear: you can't raise it at all if you can only earn from it by a one-night theatrical release. You think bands will continue? Maybe. Authors won't. We already know this.

This isn't luddism; the technology is wholly irrelevant to this. We already had a way of perfectly duplicating content at high-speed. Gutenberg invented it. What we learned over hundreds of years was that it was better for us if we restricted just how copies could be made. Apparently it's a lesson we're going to need to learn again.
posted by bonaldi at 3:31 AM on June 26, 2008


Yes, the original laws have been perverted, but still we've benefitted from them: can you raise the $430 million required to make Lord of the Rings if you can only earn from it for 10 years?

If you can make a 1408% return, I'm pretty sure you can.

I'm not arguing to do away with copyright. I think the original terms were pretty good: 14 years with another 14 if you choose to renew. But as TheOnlyCoolTim pointed out, "Sundry abuses of IP laws lead to hostility against them as these abuses are not beneficial to the common good." So yeah, fuck the media monopolies if they can't recoup their costs after 28 years. The same goes for the individual artists. If profit is your motive and you can't make something worthwhile for three decades, maybe you're in the wrong business.
posted by ryoshu at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2008


Yes, that's definitely true of the winning films. Still, the profit you make must also allow you to invest in the films that cost millions and don't reap a 1408% return, the ones that actually lose you money.I am with you on the terms thing, though. I do think it's disgustingly weighted in the wrong direction, although to be fair a lot of that weighting has happened in recent years as a response to this new threat.

Still, I can't think of anything to justify a 90-year term; the only offshoot advantage I can see is that it does allow corps to amass so much cash that they're more able and likely to invest huge sums in new products; some unimagined sums have been invested in films in the past decade.
posted by bonaldi at 10:04 AM on June 26, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim: Very "intellectual property" based. Is it possible to own information? Please provide a rigorous argument where one person willingly communicating to me how bits are arranged on their hard drive so that I may arrange bits on my own hard drive in an identical fashion deprives you of your property and infringes upon your human rights, and how this consideration trumps various fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and my freedom to arrange the bits on my hard drive in any way I please.

I missed this earlier, but having seen it don't want to ignore it. Yes, by criminy it is possible to own information, thanks to a legal concept that gives authors rights to their creations and allows them to control them. It's just like we have laws that grant us rights to treat certain parts of the Earth as if we owned them, and operate within in a whole legal framework built upon those rights.

Your freedoms are all subject to these legal frameworks. You no more have a freedom to arrange the bits in your hard drive any way you please than you have the freedom to arrange a pile of bricks any way you please -- you can't build a house on land you don't "own", for instance. Like I've said a couple of times, there's nothing novel technologically about this. You can't arrange your bits on the platter in largely the same fashion as you can't arrange slugs of lead in a forme and print a copy of a book.

Likewise your freedom of speech is restricted in myriad ways, in certain conditions. You can't say you are a medical doctor if you aren't, you can't threaten the life of the President of the US, you can't yell fire in a theatre, you can't say "I own this land" if you don't, and what's more you can't claim freedom over somebody else's speech.

So, given that your mythical right to arrange bits as you please doesn't actually exist to be trumped, and your right to free speech doesn't apply, how does your copyright infringement "infringe upon [an author's] human rights"? By violating
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
-- UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27.2
Is how.
posted by bonaldi at 4:53 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


bonaldi: Then in 1731 the original copyright act expired, and there was a massive contraction. Books stopped getting published; serialisations jumped in number. Reprinting slumped. Until copyright was renewed, there was a significant downward shift in the market. Everybody lost out. The laws were hastily re-enacted.

Thanks for describing the history, bonaldi--very interesting. Is there a book or article you'd recommend on this subject?
posted by russilwvong at 10:27 AM on June 27, 2008


I too would like to see the story of 1731 especially as it relates to artistic output as well as the publishing industry.

This isn't luddism; the technology is wholly irrelevant to this. We already had a way of perfectly duplicating content at high-speed.

We didn't have a way of doing it for free. That's the key technological difference between the printing press and digital copying. The reproduction is free now. Marginal cost zero. Itunes is a system where people pay good money for "things" that are free to create, except for server and bandwidth costs (which P2P manages to donate.)

So, given that your mythical right to arrange bits as you please doesn't actually exist to be trumped


I believe in the presumption of liberty, including that if I have a hard drive, some bricks, or some genitals it is my right to do what I want with them that doesn't infringe on others' rights. You can argue that I infringe upon others by copying but I think it is bad to argue that I don't have the right (yes, subject to restrictions in the interest of others' rights) to do what I want with my bricks or, say, have gay sex if I want to. No one wrote that last one down, not even in the UDHR, so do you have no problem with anti-sodomy laws?

Finally, I find the UDHR to be a bit on the feel-good side rather than the fundamentals and don't like it due to a few creepy parts, but this:

moral and material interests

is again addressed by zero cost of duplication. Material interests from P2P sharing are nil, while no one's supporting printing up bootleg books and CDs for a profit. I'll gladly send the RIAA and so on a royalty check based on all the money I've made by sharing things - how's half of nothing sound? You could probably make a decent case for royalties from the ads The Pirate Bay and some other services put up to cover the cost of their servers and tracker bandwidth, but I think you'd end up rounding down to 0 cents in most cases. Moral interests are ill-defined, but I personally wouldn't extend them to the complete control of what anyone does with your work once they have it, in favor of things like "no plagiarism" and the right to be recognized as the creator.

It's a moral shift that's going on. From your side, you're calling me greedy and selfish for wanting everything for free. On the other side, people who want to prohibit sharing so everyone has to pay them are viewed a bit as greedy. I think we're going to end up with society on the latter side, and I really don't believe that the world's artists in general are going to put away their guitars, pens, and cameras because of this. This isn't a completely new thing, either - I was listening today to some old folk stuff like Guthrie, Seeger, and The Carter Family, and the amount of "IP theft" going on there is astounding yet also beneficial. Hell, The Spar Spangled Banner couldn't exist as it does if anything slightly resembling the current regime extended that far back in time.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:37 PM on June 27, 2008


1731 is pretty interesting, yes. They tried many of the same things we talk about now: serialising works, for one thing. It's really only relevant to publishing, as the art world hadn't really picked up on copyright yet -- you couldn't easily copy a painting, for instance, or record sound. Russilvwong, there are a couple of good books on it that I've read, I'll look up references tonight.

We didn't have a way of doing it for free. That's the key technological difference between the printing press and digital copying. The reproduction is free now. Marginal cost zero. Itunes is a system where people pay good money for "things" that are free to create
This is true, but it's not the issue. It doesn't matter that the duplication cost is zero, because people aren't paying the good money for "things" from iTunes, they are, in effect, paying for licences from the copyright holder. When a book is duplicated, it doesn't have any impact on the copyright issue whether it cost the infringer 0p or £20 to copy it.

(It does and should have an impact on business models, and if you're arguing that the music industry should take advantage of this and try to duplicate and monetise something like OiNK -- which by God I still miss dearly -- I agree entirely.)

You can argue that I infringe upon others by copying but I think it is bad to argue that I don't have the right (yes, subject to restrictions in the interest of others' rights) to do what I want with my bricks or, say, have gay sex if I want to.
I'm not sure what you're saying here. Yes, I agree that we should have liberal rights until the point where we infringe on others, but copyright infringment, er, infringes on rights just as housebuilding would infringe on a landowner's rights.

is again addressed by zero cost of duplication. Material interests from P2P sharing are nil
Again, this is somewhat beside the point. It's not how much the infringer makes from something that is relevant in copyright, it's how much the rights holder could have made. Photoshop sells for £700, and if you give it away to somebody who otherwise would have to pay full price for it, there is a potential damage there (of course, it's only potential, because who is to say it would have been bought at all? But if 10,000 people take copies, there's a strong likelihood that at least some of them would have bought a copy)

(This is where it comes close to feeling like theft for some, because infringement "steals" and certainly deprives the rights owner from the free and unimpaired exercise of their interest in their creation, and further deprives them of potential income.)

It's a moral shift that's going on. From your side, you're calling me greedy and selfish for wanting everything for free. On the other side, people who want to prohibit sharing so everyone has to pay them are viewed a bit as greedy.
I genuinely don't think there's a moral shift going on, though I once did. There's nothing new about people wanting things of value for free. (Where "value" can at least be taken as read in as much as the people want them). I'm pretty sure pirate presses of the 18th century could have talked about technology cutting the reproduction costs to vanishingly small numbers in comparison, and arguing that sharing was much better than respecting rights, but in practice it turned out far better when rights were respected.

Still, it's proving very difficult, because the major media orgs are being incredibly intransigent about taking advantage of the new tech, which is leading to a demand from society. It's not that I demand access to all the world's music for free, but I know it's possible, so stop pissing about and start taking my money, idiots. We know that people will pay, it's just that the sole option has been free, so it has seemed like that's what the demand is for. But to say that this means we now believe that creators of things of value shouldn't have a stake in the exploitation of them strikes me as deeply wrong.

The music industry's approach is actually deeply baffling as I think more about it. They are clearly terrified of giving Apple control, but Apple only has that control because the companies demand DRM. Imagine if, instead of killing it, they had bought OiNK. I would pay a goodish chunk of change to get access to that again, on a subscription model, say, perhaps buying ratio or similar. Why shouldn't they earn from that, and not be beholden to Apple? I suppose, ironically, negotiating rights issues would hinder it, but come on, the big five could go a long way.

Every generation thinks it's discovering everything for the first time, but just as there was sex in the 18th century, there was technology causing ructions in intellectual property. We're doing nothing new here, it's all just faster and cheaper. Same with the sex.
posted by bonaldi at 2:40 PM on June 27, 2008


They tried many of the same things we talk about now: serialising works, for one thing. It's really only relevant to publishing, as the art world hadn't really picked up on copyright yet

I meant that in terms of whether or not the publishers started publishing in serial form, publishing less, or profits went down, did the authors stop writing?

I see evidence for a moral shift in the creative commons, Radiohead's free downloads, the currently ~140 torrents uploaded by small bands/artists themselves on what.cd (no invites, everyone, sorry), and the non-profit nature of Youtube uploads. These are all things that subvert, with artists' explicit permission, rather than infringe copyright's prohibition on sharing, but I think the growing social acceptance and expectation of non-profit sharing is showing.

The discussion of value is interesting. I think there's some analogy to how I highly value air, but I don't have to pay if I breathe in what you exhaled.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2008


I meant that in terms of whether or not the publishers started publishing in serial form, publishing less, or profits went down, did the authors stop writing?
Ah, got you. Yeh, a lot of that happened: publishers started doing serialisations, and a lot of the ancestors of modern part-works and magazines were born, but long-form publication went down sharply, and firms either went bust or merged. Authors did stop writing, but they could, since for a lot for a lot of them it was either a second gig, or they had independent funding.

I see evidence for a moral shift in the creative commons, Radiohead's free downloads, the currently ~140 torrents uploaded by small bands/artists themselves on what.cd (no invites, everyone, sorry), and the non-profit nature of Youtube uploads. These are all things that subvert, with artists' explicit permission, rather than infringe copyright's prohibition on sharing, but I think the growing social acceptance and expectation of non-profit sharing is showing.

I don't think this a moral shift on the part of consumers that now think they should get things for free, though that is an expectation of web users in general, but it is one on the part of content creators, who are trying to adapt to the internet's model. It's going to flat-out kill newspapers, however, but I don't think they can see a way to escape it.

It does all boil down to the value thing, I guess. I don't know about the air analogy: if a small number of blessed people's exhalations were the only source of air, man they'd be rich! They'd live in big houses and fly about in jets and have lots of sex and snort drugs off the back of people having sex, while having sex. Even though oxygen's just a natural by-product for them, easy as breathing.
posted by bonaldi at 3:37 PM on June 27, 2008


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