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July 3, 2008 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Google has been ordered to turn over all of its electronic records of the videos watched by users on YouTube to Viacom. The 12 terabytes of data include records of every video watched by every user, including the user's login name (if any) and IP address. Google had complained that the disclosure would invade user's privacy, but this argument was blunted somewhat by Google's earlier statement that IP Addresses are not, in and of themselves, personally identifying information. Google was also ordered to turn over certain other information, including its video classification database schema, but was not ordered to turn over information regarding videos marked as private, its source code, or its advertising database schema.
posted by The Bellman (267 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Even if you don't have a YouTube account, I assume your IP could still be matched to your Google account if you have one. Nice.
posted by davem at 7:05 AM on July 3, 2008


I don't get the legal reason Viacom can ask for viewing data. If someone posts copyrighted material, they may have broken the law. But is there a law against viewing copyrighted material that someone else posted?
posted by DU at 7:07 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


It strikes me that this whole morass involving the internet, copyright and privacy law is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:08 AM on July 3, 2008


Ditto DU. If somebody uploads an episode of "MTV's Crapathon" to YouTube, they've infringed the copyright. If I then watch that episode, I've broken no law. Of course, Viacom would love to change that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:09 AM on July 3, 2008


DU, I assumed they want that data in order to sue for damages (This copyrighted material was viewed X times, so at X dollars per violation YouTube owes us X million), but I could be wrong.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:09 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


DU -- In order to view copyrighted material on a computer, you must request a copy of the material from the server, to transmitted and stored on your computer. That's just the nature of computers.
posted by Maastrictian at 7:09 AM on July 3, 2008


Don't most consumer broadband connections lease new IP addresses every few months? The majority of that data has to be utterly useless.

DU: I was wondering the same thing... I know distribution is illegal; how the fuck am I supposed to know something is copyrighted until I see what it is? I doubt they know how long the video was watched.

We should Rick Roll their execs and then have them all charged with infringement.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is what happens when you try to have it both ways. We all know the IP address is identifying information, at the very least of the network connection used to access the internet, which in most cases is a home or work internet account. Google knows this too, that's why they keep the data. It's useful to them to build a profile and usage history that can then be paired with other things (like the blogs running google analytics or adsense that you visit) to get a fairly complete picture of your internet use.

Google just didn't want to share this with anyone. Now they have to.

The lamentable fact about all this is that there is absolutely no hope of ever convincing large commercial sites from not storing usage data or IP address history. There is no privacy or anonymity on the internet.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


IP addresses are not personal indentifying information, because if some rotten government tried to nab you for speaking out, they would need to arrest and torture your whole family first.
posted by Brian B. at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2008


Google should deliver the data on floppies.
posted by emelenjr at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2008 [74 favorites]


DU: A coworker said that the logins and IPs might not be what Viacom is really after. His opinion being able to prove that a significant portion of the viewing done by users is of copyrighted material gives them litigation material.
posted by bastionofsanity at 7:11 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Google should deliver the data on floppies.

Better yet, Google should copyright all their logfiles.
posted by DU at 7:12 AM on July 3, 2008 [10 favorites]


This was on Slashdot this morning and somewhere in that thread was the phone number to the chambers of Judge Stanton (presiding). Do as I did and call to leave a message for the judge.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:13 AM on July 3, 2008


When Viacom came for the dramatic chipmunk,
I remained silent;
I was not a chipmunk.

When they locked up the Soulja Boy dancers,
I remained silent;
I was not an Soulja Boy dancer.

When they came for the bedroom acoustic guitarists,
I did not speak out;
I was not an acoustic guitarist.

When they came for the cat videos,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a cat.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
posted by bicyclefish at 7:14 AM on July 3, 2008 [16 favorites]


Link to article good article on the subject instead of PDF that I'm not going to read, please?
posted by Afroblanco at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2008


Wow, they're also being compelled to provide "copies of all videos that were once available for public viewing on YouTube.com but later removed for any reason, or such subsets as plaintiffs designate." (pp. 9-11). That could include some interesting material.
posted by Partial Law at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2008


When Viacom comes after me, I am prepared.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:18 AM on July 3, 2008 [6 favorites]


This was on Slashdot this morning and somewhere in that thread was the phone number to the chambers of Judge Stanton (presiding). Do as I did and call to leave a message for the judge.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 10:13 AM on July 3


Please do not do this. Harassing a federal judge can land you in prison.

And in any case the judge ruled correctly. It's an invasion of privacy for the copyright owner to know the identity of users who accessed their material, but it's not an invasion of privacy for google to store that information and use it for unknown and undisclosed purposes?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:18 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also the order tells why they want the data. Bastionofinsanity's coworker is correct. See page 12 of the pdf, where it says that they "need the data to compare the attractiveness of allegedly infringing videos with that of non-infringing videos. A markedly higher proportion of infringing-video watching may bear on plaintiffs' vicarious liability claim, and defendants' substantial non-infringing use defense."
posted by Partial Law at 7:20 AM on July 3, 2008


Seems to me that Viacom wants to be able to say: "parts of our programs and content were viewed on youtube X number of times, and we never got paid for any of these viewings." (X no doubt being a large number). They want to be able to break down that X number and see what was viewed the most, etc. Furthermore, they want to be able to see what programs and content by their competitors were viewed the most. In other words, they want to be able to have accurate research information about how YT is being used. Having that information will enable them to: a) sue google for copyright infringement and demand compensation for these viewings, b) negotiate with google for a new business solution to the YT phenomena, c) make up their own business model, d) use this info to come up with a % scheme for their content providers (i.e. actors, writers, etc), e) shut down YT entirely by legal means, f) some variation thereof.
posted by ornate insect at 7:21 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


From page 13: "While the Logging database is large, all of its contents can be copied onto a few 'over-the-shelf' four-terabyte hard drives."

Truly we live in the future.
posted by Partial Law at 7:23 AM on July 3, 2008


For those wondering, in the opinion Viacom claimed to
need the data to compare the attractiveness of allegedly infringing videos with that of non-infringing videos. A markedly higher proportion of infringing-video watching may bear on plaintiffs’ vicarious liability claim, and defendants’ substantial non-infringing use defense.
Oops - on preview, already noted. And please, please don't call the judge's chambers. That does no one any good.
posted by chinston at 7:23 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's only harassment if you are, you know, harassing him. Simply voicing an opinion one time is not harassment by any means. If you think leaving a civilized message is harassment then why do we have office assistants?
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:25 AM on July 3, 2008


DU -- In order to view copyrighted material on a computer, you must request a copy of the material from the server, to transmitted and stored on your computer. That's just the nature of computers.

In order to view copyrighted material using your eyes, you must request a copy of the material from the physical world, to be received by your eyes and stored in your brain. That's just the nature of brains.

EVERY TIME YOU THINK, YOU ARE COMMITTING COMMUNISM
posted by regicide is good for you at 7:25 AM on July 3, 2008 [27 favorites]


Oh great, now next year we'll hear about MeFi being compelled to provide usernames and IPs of all commentors in this thread, thanks to JakeEXTREME.
posted by DU at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2008


"When a user uploads a video, YouTube copies the
video in its own software format, adds it to its
own servers, and makes it available for viewing
on its own website. A user who wants to view a
video goes to the YouTube site .........
YouTube then publicly performs the chosen video
by sending streaming video content from YouTube’s
servers to the user’s computer, where it can be
viewed by the user. Simultaneously, a copy of
the chosen video is downloaded from the YouTube
website to the user’s computer. . . . Thus, the
YouTube conduct that forms the basis of this
Complaint is not simply providing storage space,
conduits, or other facilities to users who create
their own websites with infringing materials. To
the contrary, YouTube itself commits the
infringing duplication, distribution, public
performance, and public display of Plaintiffs’
copyrighted works, and that infringement occurs
on YouTube’s own website, which is operated and
controlled by Defendants (Youtube), not users."
Bigger fish to fry? Maybe, but they still have all that user data to save for when their lawyers get itchy trigger fingers...
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2008


I wonder if we can get the EFF to file an injunction barring Viacom from using this information for any other purposes other than this case. That would help with the potential issues of them having it in the first place.
posted by mephron at 7:31 AM on July 3, 2008


Simply voicing an opinion one time is not harassment by any means.

But it's completely inappropriate. Judges make rulings on law, not on public opinion.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:36 AM on July 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


need the data to compare the attractiveness of allegedly infringing videos with that of non-infringing videos. A markedly higher proportion of infringing-video watching may bear on plaintiffs' vicarious liability claim, and defendants' substantial non-infringing use defense.
I just don't see why they need usernames and IP addresses if that is the case. It doesn't seem relevant.
posted by umrain at 7:38 AM on July 3, 2008


I hope it's e) shut down YT entirely by legal means, ornate insect, because that would really help eliminate all of those SLYT front page posts. And that's something I can get on board with. You go Viacom.
posted by trueluk at 7:38 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you think leaving a civilized message is harassment then why do we have office assistants?
posted by JakeEXTREME at 10:25 AM on July 3


'We' aren't federal judges who have special laws that specifically prohibit harassment of them. You want to voice your opinion, write a thoughtful letter, or wait for an appeal and file a brief. Any shithead can make a phone call, and if you give out the number, any shithead will. That won't help.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:38 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


So now Viacom's lawyers will know about my mini obsession with that girl who can do that thing with her tongue? As a Canadian I silently shake my fists at all those who support NAFTA once again.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:40 AM on July 3, 2008


The one thing that Orwell got wrong was that the Ministry of Truth would turn out to be privatized. Wouldn't want to waste tax dollars, after all.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:41 AM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm really excited to read BoingBoing's coverage of this.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:42 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


It seems quite reasonable that there should be a campaign to encourage anyone who has ever watched copyrighted material on youtube to mail Viacom's executive and legal staff a small cup of excreta.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:42 AM on July 3, 2008


Not that I feel any sympathy for Viacom, but it seems like they're going after the elephant in the Web 2.0 room here; The relative audience size for user generated content versus copyrighted material is a really interesting number.
posted by ghost of a past number at 7:47 AM on July 3, 2008


emelenjr writes "Google should deliver the data on floppies."

I was thinking paper.
posted by Mitheral at 7:49 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wonder if there's some way Google could eliminate the features that provide all the logging data. It seems like they're just providing their adversaries with the rope that they'll eventually be hanged with; there's no technical reason that would seem to overpower the huge liability that keeping all those logs around represent. It's like a litigation goldmine.

I think in the future, system designers and programmers will need to keep in mind the potential legal and business fallout of technical decisions, to a far greater extent than most seem to today. If there's not an absolute and pressing reason to log something, it shouldn't be logged. If it can be made technically infeasible or impossible to log something, all the better. And if something does need to be logged, doing the logging in a form (what information is retained, what format is it stored in, where is it stored, etc.) that discourages its use for anything but the intended business function is a must.

In the same way that most businesses obsess over email-expiry solutions to eliminate their risk exposure, web-based businesses should think very hard about how to minimize the log files that they keep. Obsessively logging everything, just on the off chance that it might be useful later (as it seems like Google may be doing), seems dangerous in an extremely competitive, litigious environment.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:49 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


IP addresses are not personal indentifying information, because if some rotten government tried to nab you for speaking out, they would need to arrest and torture your whole family first.
posted by Brian B. at 10:10 AM on July 3 [+] [!]


Fortunately we USians do not have to be concerned about that.
posted by notreally at 7:55 AM on July 3, 2008


Google should deliver the data on floppies.

I was thinking paper.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (finally, as of 2006) prohibit that little ploy. Somewhat humorously, the rule in question is Rule 34. Rule 34(b)(2)(E)(i) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is not as much fun as Rule 34 of the Internet, but it is applicable here.
posted by The Bellman at 7:56 AM on July 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


> Don't most consumer broadband connections lease new IP addresses every few months?

The leased IP will be from a restricted block of addresses. If your ISP assigns xxx.yyy.???.??? to its service block in zip code 12347, Wherever, NY, your household's IP address might be xxx.yyy.123.245 on Tuesday, and xxx.yyy.124.64 on Thursday. Viacom could hypothetically pattern-match the viewing habits of xxx.yyy.123.15-31 to see who keeps downloading bikini babe videos, and request the logs of your ISP to see which account held xxx.yyy.123.27 on the night of Wednesday, April 23.

But that's not on Viacom's agenda. By suing a bunch of users, they have to work hard for a slow trickle of cash. By winning a suit against Google, they score a lot of money with little effort and change the terms by which media can be shared online -- terms set by the major media corporations, regardless of what's actually online. If Google loses, Viacom now has a few billion dollars in its war chest and owners of small companies like Vimeo had best fold up or be crushed.

For a long time, I've believed that Google bought YouTube not because it had potential as a profit center but because specifically because YouTube was being barraged by intellectual property lawsuits. YouTube was badly cash-strapped at the time, and if they lacked the funding to stand up to Viacom and the like, Google's own video sharing service would have been the next target, and Google would have had a much harder time with a precedent against it. Google's deep pockets has ensured that YouTube's initial court battles are still being fought.
posted by ardgedee at 7:57 AM on July 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


"copies of all videos that were once available for public viewing on YouTube.com but later removed for any reason, or such subsets as plaintiffs designate."

I think I would like access to these files as well.

So, how much trouble would Viacom get into if these 12 terabytes got loose into the wilds of the web?
posted by quin at 8:05 AM on July 3, 2008


this whole morass involving the internet, copyright and privacy law is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

What makes you think it's going to get better. These fancy new computers are great for tracking people. Government ain't giving that up without a fight and people have no reason to fight as long as they have semi decent life.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:16 AM on July 3, 2008


Google should deliver the data on floppies.

I was thinking paper.


Punchcards!

I was actually discussing this with my Dad a while back (he worked for IBM back in the day.) We were trying to figure out how many punchcards it would take to convey a terabyte of data.

According to his calculations: 1TByte = 8Tbits
1 punch card =960 possible holes(bits), 12 rows X 80 columns.
8Tbits / 960 = 8,333,333,333 punch cards

A punch card is 7.375" X 3.25" X .007" = 0.1677812 cubic in
1 cubic ft = 1728 cubic in = 10,299 cards
8,333,333,333 cards / 10,299 cards = 809,140 cubic ft

and so 809,140 cubic ft x 12 = 9,709,680 cubic ft
(1 cubic mile = 147.2 billion cu ft.)

Glad to be of help.
posted by fungible at 8:21 AM on July 3, 2008 [6 favorites]


My mad love for this video is about to be revealed to the masses. I am not ashamed.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:21 AM on July 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


The order also requires Google to turn over copies of all videos that it has taken down for any reason.

So, if google has taken down a video from some non-viacom entity, for any reason, viacom gets a copy, in violation of the original owners’ copyrights?
posted by DreamerFi at 8:23 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Looks like those Google boys is gonna have their smart asses handed to them.

The stuff will stay, but YouTube and Google are going pay.
posted by three blind mice at 8:27 AM on July 3, 2008


DirtyNumbAngelBoy: "But it's completely inappropriate. Judges make rulings on law how much money is slipped to them under the table, not on public opinion phone calls with no large envelopes stuffed with cash associated with them."

Fixed that for you.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:28 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should send them a big dump of all the comments as well so whichever poor fucker has to grep through all that data can say "Uhh, boss the login DaReAlSlimSHadee435 at IP 192.168.1.2.8 called someone a uh 'fagot' thirty six times on 6/17/08 and then watched the same Paul Wall Video nine times and then noted in the comments section of a video of several teenagers drinking gallons of milk until they vomited that they all 'looked like jewz'."
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:38 AM on July 3, 2008 [12 favorites]


this whole morass involving the internet, copyright and privacy law is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

What makes you think it's going to get better. These fancy new computers are great for tracking people. Government ain't giving that up without a fight and people have no reason to fight as long as they have semi decent life.


Well. Let's just say I hope it gets better. Occasionally in the course of human events, saner heads prevail.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:51 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Zachsmind: no to the FTFY, and no to the sentiment.
posted by garlic at 8:56 AM on July 3, 2008


Judges make rulings on law, not on public opinion

To believe this is to never have met a judge.
posted by Doug at 8:56 AM on July 3, 2008


Holy fuck, why does google even log this stuff? I can see a few days logs for diagnostics but keeping logs on this level is a failure on google's part. Oh well, I better go delete my never-expiring tracking cookie while I'm at it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:00 AM on July 3, 2008


I should have known better than to stay logged in to youtube when watching videos, but it's a catch 22, since the more "mature" videos require you to confirm your age by logging in. And to think I have a sock puppet on Metafilter but not on Youtube of all places! Lesson learned!
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 9:04 AM on July 3, 2008


The thing that keeps hurting my brain in this is that everyone keep drawing a distinction between copyrighted material and user-generated content. But what about all the videos that are both? How many YT vids contain some copyrighted material that has been reworked, remixed, juxtaposed, mashed up or in other ways changed? Does this fall under fair use? And if it is fair use or transformative use, as I personally believe, is Viacom going to be counting all of these as in the copyrighted column?
posted by threeturtles at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm beginning to wonder if the Internet needs to elect it's own internet government to deal with these things.

Or, Google could just stop offering their awesome services in countries where they are harassed by legislative sock puppets of other industries.
posted by smackwich at 9:14 AM on July 3, 2008


Judges make rulings on law, not on public opinion.

And the law isn't open to interpretation. If it were, we'd need, like, some sort of special caste of magistrates, charged with the task of interpreting it, and that'd be nutty.

The law is a collection of opinions, interpreted by people with opinions, and enforced by people with opinions and guns.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:19 AM on July 3, 2008 [9 favorites]


With all of the hand-wringing about how awful this ruling is, and why Viacom is evil for threatening Google (and the 99% of Internet users who have watched something copyrighted), why the fuck is everyone giving Google a free pass?

I mean, sure, they tried to fight it, once a lawsuit was filed, but that's not the point.

Why did they have that data? Why didn't they blind it? Why did they believe it was a competitive advantage to keep it, with all personally identifying data attached? Is it hubris, incompetence, laziness, or evil?

At least the technical nincompoops over at AOL try to blind their search data, so when they accidentally release it, it at least requires some research (and the contents of the search) to try to line up identifiable users with their data.

AOL does this better than Google?

Google's data retention policies are every bit as evil as Viacom's legal department -- and it's appalling to watch their true colors fly, while having people talk about harassing the judge. It is that data retention that makes this lawsuit possible inevitable. The judge is bound by the law. Viacom's lawyers are bound to give their clients the best representation under the law. Viacom wants to use legal means, to get access to data that Google has. Google has this data because... because... because it's chosen to keep it.

And Google continues to choose to keep it.

So, if you want to contact someone and voice an opinion, in the hopes of preventing this in the future, talk to Google... oh wait -- they've made it clear that they don't even want to hear from paying customers.
posted by toxic at 9:31 AM on July 3, 2008 [20 favorites]


Couldn't they one-way encrypt (md5) the usernames and IPs? That would still allow the trend analysis without compromising privacy quite so egregiously.
posted by idb at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


The law is a collection of opinions, interpreted by people with opinions, and enforced by people with opinions and guns.
posted by regicide is good for you at 12:19 PM on July 3 [+] [!]

Eponyserious.
posted by The Bellman at 9:41 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


i can't wait until some clever rebel within viacom gets his hands on this material and publishes a list of all viacom executives, employees and artists who use youtube and the videos they watched.
posted by klanawa at 9:42 AM on July 3, 2008 [6 favorites]


idb: yes, exactly. But they prefer not to.
posted by toxic at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2008


There's no sense in arguing that Google shouldn't be logging user data. From their standpoint, the user data is the most valuable thing about YouTube.
posted by naju at 9:45 AM on July 3, 2008


(Also, consider willful blindness problems)
posted by naju at 9:56 AM on July 3, 2008


There's no sense in arguing that Google shouldn't be logging user data. From their standpoint, the user data is the most valuable thing about YouTube.

There's at least SOME sense in arguing that they shouldn't be holding records of removed content. Basically, this means that Google keeps everything, indefinitely. Which means it's not removed, rather it is just hidden. These aren't financial records; if nothing else, it would be nice to know why this data is of value to Google.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:05 AM on July 3, 2008


By that logic, the CDC should be tracking epidemics by social security number, and not by pseudonymous patient ID.

Look, I'm not saying that personally identifiable data isn't more valuable than the same data indexed only by a random user ID. Clearly, it is (though how much is arguable). But, I'm saying that Google could make the choice to give up whatever that value is (as at least one other player in the search business has), and eliminate one of the major privacy concerns surrounding these lawsuits.

So... part of the blame for this whole thing lies squarely on Google, because they chose to keep the data, with all identifying information attached. And yet, it seems as if everyone (even the EFF) is willfully ignoring that.
posted by toxic at 10:09 AM on July 3, 2008


This is being appealed, surely?
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on July 3, 2008


I would think a better path to take would be appealing to John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Trey Parker and Matt Stone. This seems to have been done on their behalf.
posted by empath at 10:28 AM on July 3, 2008


If a private company like Viacom is going to get it, I wonder what the chances are the the government already has it. Oh geez; how many people are watching me watch all those kitten and puppy videos? And the pandas? Oh the shame ... it burns.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:31 AM on July 3, 2008


This was truly inevitable. If your business model is "we help people steal stuff," what exactly do you expect will happen?
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:34 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Profit!
posted by box at 10:49 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Judges make rulings on law, not on public opinion

To believe this is to never have met a judge.


I've met several, actually. But then, they were Canadian judges, which meant that they were required to actually know the law before sitting on the bench.

Moreover, if judges made rulings on public opinion, you would never see a single ruling that went against public opinion. Seeing as they do, every day, your comment is rather... empty.


And the law isn't open to interpretation

WTF? I never said otherwise. What I said was that judges make their rulings based on law. Read that as 'interpretation of law' if you like; it was pretty damn obvious that it was implied. Whats I said, further, is that judges don't make their rulings based on opinion polls. For fuck's sake, it's almost like people around here positively take delight in deliberately misconstruing what I say.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:52 AM on July 3, 2008


If your business model is "we help people steal stuff," what exactly do you expect will happen?

Ssssh. We're not allowed to call it stealing around here. Whiny crybabies whose arguments boil down to "but waaaaah I wannit FREEEEEEEE" will get all up in your shit.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:53 AM on July 3, 2008


There's no sense in arguing that Google shouldn't be logging user data. From their standpoint, the user data is the most valuable thing about YouTube.

More valuable then the pageviews? That seems kind of hard to believe. Google could obviously be using metrics like favoriting, rating, etc to use for ad targeting, rather then logging every video viewed.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 AM on July 3, 2008


In as much as I dislike the whole bit where someone who wants to be cool goes *yoink, copies copyrighted material, "remixes" it, and boots it to some kind of Internet distribution channel, I do not like the Viacom data grab. I do not like the Google all-your-data-are-belong-to-us bit, either.

No, I am not a feeb who thinks that copyright infringement is theft.

The guys who say "But we're doing the artists a favor!" are pretty much like the guys who grab your yard gnome and send it off on a trip around the world, so the yard gnome can gain some valuable life experience: I'm dubious about the true motivation of the claim, the suggested outcome of the experiment, and the legality.

With all of that aside, I haven't the faintest idea of how Google/YouTube could possibly stop people from uploading copyrighted material. There's no copyright detector out there, no watermark that will survive the compression. It looks like we'll be stuck with upload-share-notice-DMCAtakedown, and repeat ... for the near-term.
posted by adipocere at 11:12 AM on July 3, 2008


I was wondering what Google would do to stop people uploading Seth McFarlane's new show on Youtube instead of watching them on Adsense, but I guess they'll simply shut down the tube!
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2008


fungible has unleashed my inner geek
given 800 lbs/avg pine tree
and a density of 38 lbs/cu ft southern pine
that's 21.05 cu ft/tree
now given a need for 9,709,680 cu ft wood (per fungible)
that's would be 184483.92 tons wood
(e.g. 2 mostly-loaded spruce gooses)
that would require 461,209 trees
at a conservative 500 trees per acre
that would be 922.4 acres of forest need to grow the trees needed for the punch cards.
Easier for us 'murkinz to comprehend, thats the size of Woodfield Mall, Westfield Garden State Mall, Tysons Corner Center, The Galleria, South Coast Plaza, Sawgrass Mills, Roosevelt Field Mall, Plaza Las Americas, Oakbrook Shopping Center, Millcreek Mall, Mall of America, Lark Ridge Mall, Lakewood Center, King of Prussia Mall, Grand Canyon Parkway, Del Amo Fashion Center, Central Park Mall, and Aventura Mall combined.

Troubled by that amount of retail space in jeopardy? Well here's the Green™ solution: paper punch tape!
Let's calculate the usage reduction:
At 400 bytes per meter
12 TB needs 30,000,000,000 meters of paper punch tape
i.e. 1,181,102,361,000 inches
assuming 1 inch width and 0.004 thickness,
that's 4,724,409,444 cu in wood
weighing a mere 51,947 tons
requiring only 129,867 trees
grown on 259.73 acres of forest for the trees to make the paper tape.
That's 72% less trees!!! Why wouldn't we use paper tape?? C'mon people - if we use punch cards, the greenhouse gasses win!

Plus there's another benefit:
as stated above 12 TB needs 30,000,000 kms
which is 18,641,135.76mi
now given
avg earth-moon distance = 238,857 mi
and 1/2 cirumferences of
earth (3392 mi)
moon (12438 mi),
that much paper tape would wrap from earth around the moon and back around the earth again 37.8 times! Now who's gonna tell me that we couldn't use that belt to our mechanical advantage, harnessing the moon's energy to power guilt-free Green™-er modern life in the new millennium?


On preview: Oh yeah - Viacom bad, privacy good. Booooooo Viacom. Yay, privacy!
posted by buzzv at 11:44 AM on July 3, 2008 [12 favorites]


No, I am not a feeb who thinks that copyright infringement is theft.

Neither am I. It is a reasonable and well thought out position that copyright infringement is theft. That you don't agree with it puts you pretty squarely in the camp of "oh hey, too bad, I don't care what you think, I don't think it's my God-given right to get shit for free" from my perspective.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:45 AM on July 3, 2008


On preview:

Oh yeah - Viacom bad, privacy good. Booooooo Viacom. Yay, privacy!

I'm fairly certain that you don't have much expectation of privacy when committing an illegal act, subject to normal rules about search and seizure, of course.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:47 AM on July 3, 2008


I wonder if there's some way Google could eliminate the features that provide all the logging data. It seems like they're just providing their adversaries with the rope that they'll eventually be hanged with; there's no technical reason that would seem to overpower the huge liability that keeping all those logs around represent. It's like a litigation goldmine.

IT's the monkey's trap.
posted by bonaldi at 11:53 AM on July 3, 2008


I'm fairly certain that you don't have much expectation of privacy when committing an illegal act, subject to normal rules about search and seizure, of course.
I'm relatively pro-copyright, but even I'm against watching YouTube being illegal. No more than listening to a bootleg CD should be.
posted by bonaldi at 11:55 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


delmoi: More valuable then the pageviews? That seems kind of hard to believe. Google could obviously be using metrics like favoriting, rating, etc to use for ad targeting, rather then logging every video viewed.

They could, but my feeling is they're hoarding all the data and refusing to take even one step back Because They Can. This business is essentially moving in uncharted waters, and a dataset like this both unique and of core significance to their ability to make money. The idea that Google employs all the smart cookies and is two steps ahead of everybody else may be a myth, but I bet they really believe there is some future scenario where this kind of data comes in handy. Unless someone comes along with a very big stick and forces them to anonymize it, or stop collecting it, I don't think they're going to do anything like that.
posted by ghost of a past number at 11:59 AM on July 3, 2008


Upon peer review, my scientific colleagues have pointed out serious errors in my data. Upon review, I submit the following errata:
"12TB" should be "8Tb"
only requiring 20,000,000km of paper tape
which weighs 34,631 tons
grown on 173.2 acres
This is even better news - over 81% fewer trees! But the paper punch tape will only wrap around the earth & moon 25.2 times. That's still gotta be good for something.


On preview: Booooooo illegal acts! Yay, 4th, 5th, and 9th Amendments!
posted by buzzv at 12:13 PM on July 3, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy, you continue to completely misunderstand what people mean when they say copyright infringement is not theft. It isn't theft. It may be wrong, it may be illegal, but it's not theft, any more than assault is theft, or slander is theft. Do you understand now?

As for why google retains that much data … they do it because that's the business they're in, duh. They make their money by hoovering up poorly-structured, noisy data and data-mining it. Web search, ad targeting, analytics… that kind of thing. There isn't really a way to blind the data without making it useless: they want to be able to see that the same user watched video A and video B after searching for keyword C, and if they can do that, they have some way of connecting a new request (identified by IP address and/or login ID) to a viewing history.

Google could plausibly blind the data before giving it to Viacom, though, since Viacom doesn't have a need to correlate new views with logged ones, only to look through the old ones. From my reading of the PDF Google isn't allowed to do that, though Viacom's stated purpose for the request wouldn't be harmed if they did.
posted by hattifattener at 12:35 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


dirtynumbangelboy, you continue to completely misunderstand what people mean when they say copyright infringement is not theft.

No, I don't. I don't agree with them. How about you try to understand that?

It isn't theft.

Is.

It may be wrong, it may be illegal, but it's not theft, any more than assault is theft, or slander is theft.

Yes, yes, wrong, yes, yes.

Do you understand now?

"This thing is not that thing, because I said so. Do you understand now?"

Taking something that isn't yours? That is theft. Deal with it. Yeah, fine, that's not the highly legalistic definition. Pick up a dictionary sometime, it may help you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:43 PM on July 3, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy, you continue to completely misunderstand what people mean when they say copyright infringement is not theft.

No, I don't. I don't agree with them. How about you try to understand that?

It isn't theft.

Is.


theft
–noun
1. the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.
2. an instance of this.
3. Archaic. something stolen.

Epic Fail.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:48 PM on July 3, 2008


Copyright infringement is not theft. It isn't theft. It may be wrong, it may be illegal, but it's not theft, any more than assault is theft, or slander is theft. Do you understand now?

Can we call it "stealing?" How about "ripping off?" Would you go for "nicking"? Perhaps "pinching?"
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:52 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


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

Thank you for proving my point.

If you have not paid for something (when payment is required for that thing), you are stealing it. You are committing larceny. You are, in short, committing theft.

Cute how you 'forgot' some other definitions:

theft

noun
the act of taking something from someone unlawfully;


Is 'copyright infringement' unlawful? Yes.
Is it taking something? Yes.

Oh lookie here... that's called theft.

This may also help you:

Main Entry: theft
Function: noun
Etymology: Old English thiefth
: LARCENY; broadly : a criminal taking of the property or services of another without consent



Do you need more, or would you rather just continue sitting there and insulting me?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:54 PM on July 3, 2008


I'm unclear on a couple things.

1) If you're not logged into either Google or Youtube, what do they have on you besides your IP? Anything?

2) In order to view copyrighted material on a computer, you must request a copy of the material from the server, to transmitted and stored on your computer. I don't understand this. Watching a streaming video on Youtube ends up with it stored on my computer? How? I thought the whole point of streaming video is that is isn't stored on your computer. Or is this a cache thing?
posted by rtha at 12:55 PM on July 3, 2008


Taking something that isn't yours? That is theft. Deal with it. Yeah, fine, that's not the highly legalistic definition.

dnab: The problem is that theft is a legal concept, so to say "yeah, that's not the legal definition" sort of short-circuits your argument. Rather than just get into a Monty Python argument ("Is!" "Isn't!" "Is!") maybe I could ask you to hear me out on an additional piece of this that might help you understand why people are saying "Isn't".

Theft, or it's civil equivalent conversion, as a matter of law, requires that the physical taking of the property of another (which copyright infringement does, by analogy, include) and, very importantly, the assumption of control over that property such that the owner is deprived of its use, even if only temporarily.

Copyright infringement does not include that second element, and that second element is really important. It's not just a legal nicety, it's the basis for damages in civil cases (conversion) and the basis for at least a portion of the policy underlying the criminal sanction in theft. In fact, the reason we have copyright laws, and the reason the copyright laws create civil and criminal sanctions for copyright infringement, is precisely because copyright infringement doesn't fit comfortably into the law's definition of theft, and once you really think about it, it doesn't fit comfortably into most people's personal definition of theft either. The common law evolved to include the "deprivation of use" prong because most people think of that as a part of stealing, once you really start to drill down.

Don't get me wrong: I'm a lawyer who does a lot of IP. I make my living, in large part, working for copyright holders, including "evil" giant media companies. I believe strongly in copyright protection -- but copyright infringement shouldn't be thought of as theft. As a legal matter it's not theft and as a policy matter I believe that that meme doesn't help copyright holders.
posted by The Bellman at 1:12 PM on July 3, 2008 [29 favorites]


Do you need more, or would you rather just continue sitting there and insulting me?

Do you need me to explain what "taking" means. Copying and taking are not the same thing. Hence why the legal system has all sorts of specialized terms. Copyright infringment isn't theft. I'm not trying to do anything to you.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'll just paste what I put up there, since apparently you're not paying attention.

Main Entry: theft
Function: noun
Etymology: Old English thiefth
: LARCENY; broadly : a criminal taking of the property or services of another without consent


Theft is a legal concept. So is tortious interference, or whatever it's called. These things also have definitions in common parlance that are quite separate from the legal definitions. That is what I am discussing. That is what I have always been discussing. That is what people conveniently ignore when they attack me for DARING to have an opinion that a) is different from theirs, and (more importantly) b) doesn't let them get off the hook with their "waaaaaaaah I wannit freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" crap.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2008


While I don't claim it's legal theft either, it very clearly does deprive the copyright holder of their rights over their intellectual property, and if the infringement is large enough, can reduce their value to effectively zero. That's why people can comfortably call it stealing.
posted by bonaldi at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


(That was to Bellman)
posted by bonaldi at 1:19 PM on July 3, 2008


Okay, Dark Messiah, I'll use little words.

When you download or copy something, you are taking a copy of that thing.

Without consent.

Which is larceny.

aka, theft.

Do you get it yet, or do you need a bunny rabbit in overalls to explain it to you?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:22 PM on July 3, 2008


Jesus guys, take it somewhere else already.
posted by Pendragon at 1:30 PM on July 3, 2008


Well, we have two separate crimes listed in the law. One is theft. One is copyright infringement (note that I do not support either). Intellectual property doesn't quite work the same as physical property. The scarcity doesn't quite work the same.

When there is theft, when I take your CD, you no longer have that CD. It's gone. It's mine now, whee! You can no longer enjoy use of that CD. You cannot listen to it in the car, loan it to friends, etc.

When there is copyright infringement, that CD is still there. You still have that CD. It's there. It's yours, still, but mine, too, whee! You can still enjoy use of that CD. You can listen to it in the car, loan it to friends, etc. I can do that now, too.

You have emphasized the word "take." If I take your car for a drive, you cannot use that car while I am driving. After a copy operation, though, we both can use the item. Copying is not taking.

Theft is not merely that I now have something I didn't have before, it's the deprivation of the original owner of that thing. If I copy your woodshed, you still have that woodshed. You can still put your lawnmower in it, a bunch of old pottery, some unused fencing, and the like.

Copyright infringement is indeed a crime, but it's a bit different from theft. Given that copyright was originally granted (for a limited time, back in the olden days) such that the owner of that copyright could make money distributing it, what you've damaged, slightly, is the copyright owner's ability to make money off of it. Essentially, the copyright owner may have lost a potential sale. I emphasize the may have because it is possible that someone would have bought the CD for $5, rather than $15, so that loss is not a full 100% of original value. That may climb, though, as I redistribute this to my little buddies, each of whom might represent $5 lost, which is the reasoning behind why the penalties are higher than the cost of the item. The property has not been stolen. The service has not been stolen. The ability to make money, though, has been damaged, which is why we have a law against it.

If you have some lips, and I have some lips, and we make out, and you've got a cold sore, watch it ... your herpesvirus copies itself acrooooosss the saliva, and starts to give me a cold sore. I ... copy ... your ... herpes! *LIPSMACK* I COPY IT UP!

But ... I have not stolen that cold sore. I haven't thieved some herpes simplex I. I've got a copy now. You're still free to enjoy your cold sore. Nobody runs around saying, "He took my cold sore!" And that's the difference.
posted by adipocere at 1:31 PM on July 3, 2008 [14 favorites]


rtha: Good question, I don't think YouTube videos are saved in your cache, but it doesn't matter. The precedent, at least according to the 9th Circuit's MAI Systems ruling, is that any material stored even temporarily in a computer's RAM fits the requirements of copyright ("fixed in a tangible medium of expression", "for more than a transitory duration.") Basically anything you see, read or hear on your computer qualifies. This ruling was heavily criticized, and in my opinion kind of makes copyright a wholly inadequate system for dealing with the internet. Not sure if the Supreme Court has ruled on this point, it was a muddled issue last I checked. Maybe someone else knows?
posted by naju at 1:32 PM on July 3, 2008


It feels a bit like you're confusing what is being taken, adipocere. It's irrelevant who owns the CD that the copy is made from; it's not a deprivation of the owner's right to enjoyment of that CD, it's their right to the control of their interest in it.

If you violate the copyright holder's rights to the copyright, they can effectively no longer use them, (depending how egregious the infringement), so yes, there very much is a "take" there.
posted by bonaldi at 1:35 PM on July 3, 2008


When you download or copy something, you are taking a copy of that thing.

No. You are creating a copy of that thing. It is only "taking" in the same sense that "taking" a photo is. You are not removing an object, or removing bits, or preventing the copyright holder from use of that object or bits.

When you violate copyright, you are breaking civil law (until you get into manufacturing/distributing in very serious quantities), and are at risk of being sued for copyright infringement. When you commit larceny, you are violating the penal code and at risk of going to jail or prison.

There's a big difference.
posted by toxic at 1:35 PM on July 3, 2008


adipocere, since you clearly didn't read bonaldi's comment, I'll cnp it here for your convenience.

"While I don't claim it's legal theft either, it very clearly does deprive the copyright holder of their rights over their intellectual property, and if the infringement is large enough, can reduce their value to effectively zero. That's why people can comfortably call it stealing."

So yeah. Your analogy was cute, but flawed, as you are simply refusing to discuss the subject, and keep throwing in the legal definition when it has been clearly said time and time and time again by me that is not what I am saying.

So how about this. Why don't you try not ignoring what I keep saying, and I'll try to stop thinking you're a jerk for doing so?

Or..

You can still enjoy use of that CD. You can listen to it in the car, loan it to friends, etc. I can do that now, too.

Okay. So I have a CD, and I've copied that CD onto my computer per fair use laws. You take my CD. I could still listen to the songs, but are you seriously saying that no theft has taken place? You seem to argue that if you can still use the thing, therefore there is no theft.

See this? This is your petard. It is currently hoisting you.

When you violate copyright, you are breaking civil law (until you get into manufacturing/distributing in very serious quantities), and are at risk of being sued for copyright infringement. When you commit larceny, you are violating the penal code and at risk of going to jail or prison.

Well wouldja lookithat. Yet another person who is refusing to listen. Let me try one more time.

I am aware that there is a legal definition of 'theft'.

I am not using that definition.

I am using 'theft' as it is used in day-to-day parlance.

I am not in a courtroom.

I am not discussing how the law is written.

I am using the ordinary everyday meaning of the word.

People who keep bleating about "blah blah the legal definition is" are, by this point in the thread, far past 'well-meaning but misguided' into 'wilfully ignorant and/or being deliberately provocative'.

posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:45 PM on July 3, 2008


Do you get it yet, or do you need a bunny rabbit in overalls to explain it to you?

your anti-leporine rhetoric is offensive and uncalled for - knock it off, speciesist troll
posted by pyramid termite at 1:47 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Okay. So I have a CD, and I've copied that CD onto my computer per fair use laws. You take my CD. I could still listen to the songs, but are you seriously saying that no theft has taken place? You seem to argue that if you can still use the thing, therefore there is no theft.

Uh, except you can't use the CD anymore, so, yes, it's theft.
posted by crawl at 1:49 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


pot, kettle, black.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:49 PM on July 3, 2008


People who keep bleating

your ovine hatespeech is unacceptable to sheep - stop it
posted by pyramid termite at 1:49 PM on July 3, 2008


But I can still listen to the music, which is what he was getting at.

So yeah. It's still theft.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:49 PM on July 3, 2008


bonaldi: It's interesting that you raise that. Again, we have two separate conversations going on here (or anyway, some of us do), the question of what the law says and the question of what people can might colloquially say, so let me try to get at both.

Your point (and it's a good one) is that the copyright holder is being deprived of "rights". Here's the problem with that argument, first as a legal matter. What happens when I copy? Well the copyright holder can still use his content all he wants and in any way he wants, so he's not deprived of any right that exists "in nature". But he is deprived of something very valuable. He's deprived of his exclusive right to do certain things with his content. But that exclusivity doesn't just exist, it has to be created by something, and in fact it's created by law. And that law is the Copyright Law.

So now we're in sort of a strange place: what I have "stolen", what I have deprived the copyright holder of, is something he would not have had other than for the copyright law. As a matter of law, it isn't "theft" to deprive someone of a statutory right.

Very importantly, the "exclusive rights" granted by the copyright law are enumerated and they have certain limitations. So not every deprivation of those rights is infringement, which makes it a bad fit for "theft". Fair use is the most obvious example, which is why people complain so vehemently about this characterization: if every deprivation of a copyright holder's exclusive rights is "theft" then there cannot logically be an exception for certain kinds of theft. Theft is an easy concept when applied to someone's car, but much harder when it's applied to a complex bundle of rights defined by a long and ill-understood statute. So that's why most lawyers will avoind the infringement=theft language.

But you also make the good point that people can comfortably call it stealing. I think you're right that a lot of people have bought into an unfortunate idea promulgated (wrongly, I think) by proponents of strong copyright protection. But I think if you actually ask people about their thoughts on stealing you'll find they end up admitting it's not a good fit. You correctly point out that infringement can reduce the value of a piece of IP to zero; but what has been taken? Has the IP itself been taken? The answer to that is no, not in any conventional way, since the owner still has the ability to use it in any way he likes. What has been taken is the ability to profit from the IP -- that is, the value has been taken. That doesn't fit into traditional notions of stealing; reduction of value fits more comfortably into traditional notions of tort.

Having said all of that you are absolutely right that most people don't think this far along the chain, and so most people are perfectly happy to call infringement "stealing". As I said, I think that's bad for copyright holders. The legal regime of infringement is far better for content owners than the legal regime of theft and conversion, and what is more, in the vast majority of cases (such as music sharing and video piracy) the "theft" idea falls apart even for the average person once they realize that it's very hard to show that the copyright owner has been deprived of any concrete value at all -- or at least it's very hard to show what that value is.

Much, much better to make people understand that infringement is not theft, but that it is its own, very serious offense, arguably worse than theft because makes the entire world poorer (not just one person) by its pernicious effect on the sphere of artistic and creative expression.
posted by The Bellman at 1:50 PM on July 3, 2008 [13 favorites]


But I can still listen to the music, which is what he was getting at.

So yeah. It's still theft.


i just stole your whole comment - lock me up
posted by pyramid termite at 1:55 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Damaging someone's business model and their ability to make money is not something I'd equate with stealing. The invention of the automobile, otherwise, stole from the makers of horsedrawn carriages. That car takes away the ability of carriagemakers to make a living See, I made a "take" there, too. I guess we can make laws stifling innovation now - we wouldn't want to steal already existing business models. Workable lithium-ion batteries for cars? That takes away from the sale of gasoline. Stealing the interests of the oil industry!

Theft is a two party event. I steal your CD, you can no longer use it. It's 100% guaranteed that your use of it is gone. Copyright infringement is a three party event. I copy your CD, you can still use it. Maybe a third party, the copyright holder, has lost some money on it.

Evidently the legal distinction is obvious enough that they went and made some laws about it. Of course, they made some really crappy laws, but that's beside the point. I guess the entire justice system is confused about theft, too. The focus on theft seems to mostly be about someone getting something for free - apparently the human mind, which evolved to deal with concrete objects like shiny rocks and bananas, can't quite grasp the copy operation, which seemingly makes something from nothing. If someone has something they didn't before, they must have stolen it, they gotta pay!

Herpes: the theft that keeps thieving.
posted by adipocere at 1:57 PM on July 3, 2008


If someone has something they didn't before, they must have stolen it, they gotta pay!

Well, yeah. If I decide that I want recompense for my hard work, you don't get to decide "but waaaahhhh I wannit free too bad for you."

Thus? Theft.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:01 PM on July 3, 2008


Beautifully put, The Bellman. Adipocere: it's a good point, but it's also a category mistake, and while carriage-making is pretty good for carriage makers, it's neither a universal human right nor a social good that it be preserved by limited monopoly.
posted by bonaldi at 2:09 PM on July 3, 2008


If you must make an analogy for copyright infringement, dnab (and I really don't understand why you do, it's a perfectly cromulent concept in and of itself) trespass is more apt than theft - control over access is compromised, but nothing is stolen.
posted by goo at 2:14 PM on July 3, 2008


For those who are arguing that copyright violation is morally theft, it would clarify matters if you were to specify which moral systems you're using to reach this conclusion. Otherwise this discussion will just be stuck in the same old "is theft / isn't theft" shouting match it always degenerates into.

For my own part, I don't see copyright as a moral issue directly, but rather as an economic one. Namely: what measures will best promote the creation and dissemination of ideas? Limited time (and I do mean limited, as in the case of patents) copyright is certainly a reasonable way of accomplishing this, however I am far from convinced that it is the optimal system.
posted by Pyry at 2:15 PM on July 3, 2008


The Bellman: it is its own, very serious offense, arguably worse than theft because makes the entire world poorer (not just one person) by its pernicious effect on the sphere of artistic and creative expression.

I wonder, Bellman, if this has ever been put through a legal accounting? One could easily argue the world would be richer with a free exchange of ideas. For instance, had DARPA or CERN asked for royalties, would the internet now exist?
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:21 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


you could argue that, but would quickly founder on the conception of a world with no incetintive for creatives.

likewise pyry, nobody has come up with anything better (and plenty are *desperately* trying right now), so it might be like Churchill's democracy
posted by bonaldi at 2:34 PM on July 3, 2008


OK, I understand the argument bonaldi, but clearly the conception of "a world with no incentive for creatives" has been smashed by the ascent of the internet, open source software, flikr, youtube, myspace etc.

Sans copyright, I'd wager the world would keep turning out good art, and people would pay for it too, just more of us would have a chance to see / use it.
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:38 PM on July 3, 2008


The thing that gets me though is that even though there is copyrighted stuff on YouTube, it just isn't a particularly pleasant experience for watching anything for any length of time. The quality isn't wonderful, and unless you have a blazing network, there will be lags and interruptions.

I know someone *ahem* who has occasionally watched a snippet of an episode of an early 1980's cartoon that was posted on YT as a bit of a nostalgia jag. Yes, the episode is copyrighted, so technically viewing it is illegal. Yes, the episode is available in a DVD box-set for £40 or more, so it could be purchased legally. Watching the episode in dodgy colour, with laggy interruptions, bad pixellation, occasionally unsynchronised sound did do enough to satisfy the nostalgia, but was nowhere near enough to justify going out and buying a DVD boxset. Maybe if Ithey had religiously watched every episode then perhaps a purchase would be warranted.

I have similar issues with DRM music - it's the same principle, really - why not have DRM'd files available as a free download try-before-you-buy, perhaps with a lower bitrate, restricted copying (you can download again for free amyway), and a month before auto-expiry kicks in. You listen, you like - you buy the un-DRM'd download (or physical CD, or whatever). You don't like, you haven't lost anything. I download music based on Amazon recommendations, listen to them, rate them, and then based on the overall rating decide which albums to buy. This works, and I buy more CDs (that I know I enjoy) than I would have done so previously before being able to try-before-I-buy.

The whole industry - music, video, everything - needs to be shaken hard and woken up. I daresay that Viacom are only smarting because they feel that they're being done out of something - but how many people who watch a YT clip would actually have bought the "real" thing at retail price?
Perhaps the best solution for the industries would be to use the server login tracking to provide something akin to a shareware model:
  • log in to YouTube
  • watch video clip
  • the server logs that you've watched it, provides a link to an affiliate where the full things can be bought
  • if you watch a number of related/linked clips (e.g. different episodes of the same program, or something) then you get more nags, and perhaps automatic redirections.
    Basically, use things like YouTube as a controlled try-before-you-buy distribution channel, without having to invest in the infrastructure yourself, without having to build up a user-base of your own, and without having similar models operated by each competing entity. Wins all around, pretty much.

    Anyway, rant over. I'm bored now - I'm off to set up a YouTube dummy account via an anonymous IP addressread a book.

  • posted by Chunder at 2:40 PM on July 3, 2008


    threeturtles: The thing that keeps hurting my brain in this is that everyone keep drawing a distinction between copyrighted material and user-generated content. But what about all the videos that are both? How many YT vids contain some copyrighted material that has been reworked, remixed, juxtaposed, mashed up or in other ways changed? Does this fall under fair use? And if it is fair use or transformative use, as I personally believe, is Viacom going to be counting all of these as in the copyrighted column?

    As near as I can tell, mash-ups are still illegal and sampling over a certain length is still illegal. So, the short answer to your question is that if you make a slide show of your vacation photos and place Weezer's "Island in the Sun" over it and post it to YouTube, you owe Weezer royalties. In fact, Weezer or their record company has the right to sue you for lost income/royalties.

    So, if you want to post your videos online with music and don't want to compose that music yourself, you'd do well to make sure that music was in the public domain. The good news here is that some of the great recording artists from the 1900's and 1910's could get some serious play out of this.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 2:55 PM on July 3, 2008


    Sans copyright, I'd wager the world would keep turning out good art, and people would pay for it too, just more of us would have a chance to see / use it.

    I'd also like to point out that the world survived for thousands of years without copyright laws. In fact, you could probably list more great writers, composers and artists who did their work pre-copyright laws than post-.

    The world is changing and new ways of exploiting artists will be found. Have no fear! Companies will still be able to make money off of creative people and creative people will still be used and tossed aside by a fickle public after making a small amount of money, just like throughout history.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 2:58 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]



    Well, yeah. If I decide that I want recompense for my hard work, you don't get to decide "but waaaahhhh I wannit free too bad for you."


    Actually, I can decide that. It's not hard, and I don't feel the slightest bit bad about it, because i think monopolies are bad and stifling. Plus, I no longer think that the copyright bargain struck with creators is equitable. You're free to try to stop me, but if there are vastly more of me than there are of you good luck with that. Maybe you'll win in time, but I wouldn't bet my livelihood on it if I were you. You should start thinking of other ways you might get paid. Maybe I'll like one of them better.
    posted by willnot at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


    I wonder, Bellman, if this has ever been put through a legal accounting?

    That, Popular Ethics, is the 64,000 multi-billion dollar question. Do the copyright laws actually "promote the progress of science and useful arts", as they are required to do by the Constitution, or would science and the useful arts be better off without them? The answer is that experts on both sides of the issue have done a lot of research that is well beyond the scope of this comment and, not surprisingly, come up with radically different answers depending on who is paying them. There is no easy way to answer the question "what would happen if all content were free" because, well, it isn't and hasn't been for the entirety of modern industrial history. I suspect (having done a bunch of reading, but not based on any one study) that some kinds of content are much richer for the copyright protection they get, some are indifferent and would thrive (or wither) regardless, and some are actually hindered by their copyright protection, which I'm afraid is sort of a wishy-washy non-answer.

    I've linked a few times to the work of Chris Sprigman at the University of Virgina who looks at how intellectual property norms are enforced in creative endeavors that are not protected by the copyright laws (either because of practical considerations or legal ones). He's written recently on standup comedy (it's hard to sue people for joke stealing) and fashion design (U.S. copyright laws don't protect fashion design) and he has some very interesting law-and-economics ideas about how these kinds of niche content creators actually do better without formal copyright protection by socially enforcing their own norms. Again, it's beyond the scope of this thread, but if you're really curious MeMail me and I'll send you some linkage.
    posted by The Bellman at 3:21 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


    OK, I understand the argument bonaldi, but clearly the conception of "a world with no incentive for creatives" has been smashed by the ascent of the internet, open source software, flikr, youtube, myspace etc.
    There's a lot to talk about here, and it would take a while, but basically I can say that this isn't the slam dunk that some people think, in that for every YouTube video of some clown pissing about with mints and soda, there's a newspaper going under. It's really too early for any of us to be conclusive about the outcome of this.

    I'd also like to point out that the world survived for thousands of years without copyright laws. In fact, you could probably list more great writers, composers and artists who did their work pre-copyright laws than post-.
    It's not a novel piece of pointing-out, that. I'd be interested in seeing the list, however, because just as many people laud the invention of the printing press as one of the foundations of our modern societies, copyright quickly proved to be almost as essential a component of it as the platen, and the two developed in step.

    And to get rhetorical, the world also survived for thousands of years without anaesthetics, in fact, they're more modern than copyright. But I'm not going to sing the praises of their destruction, until the replacement is demonstrably better, or even equivalent.

    And this is the thing: none of the proposed replacements are any better. For instance, there's lots of hard blowing about bands making money from performing and sharing recordings freely, but they're not substitutes. If you incentivise live performances and make recording albums worthless, why would they make albums? The Rolling Stones can make £750m from a world tour, and a fraction of that from an album. Is it a coincidence that they tour all the time and haven't made a decent album in decades?

    You're free to try to stop me, but if there are vastly more of me than there are of you good luck with that. Maybe you'll win in time, but I wouldn't bet my livelihood on it if I were you. You should start thinking of other ways you might get paid. Maybe I'll like one of them better.
    Yeh, there are vastly more sheep than the shepherd, too. I'd like it better if big media's back wasn't so against the wall that they're trying to watch every browser move I make and lobbying for laws like the DMCA.

    Perhaps in time they'll lose this fight, but I doubt it's going to be anytime soon, and if they lose without somebody coming up with genuine incentives for those engaged in the intellectual property equivalent of street sweeping (hi there lots of reporting), we'll all be poorer. What a simultaneously awful and exciting time to live.
    posted by bonaldi at 3:37 PM on July 3, 2008


    sampling over a certain length is still illegal

    It is a myth that there is any length of sampling that is legal. All sampling without permission, that is not covered under fair use, is illegal.

    It's not hard, and I don't feel the slightest bit bad about it, because i think monopolies are bad and stifling that I should get whatever I want for free, and it really doesn't matter to me that people who should have gotten paid now won't.

    FTFY.

    Plus, I no longer think that the copyright bargain struck with creators is equitable.

    Then get the laws changed. Get the industry changed. Don't decide that it's your God-given right to get whatever you want free, when there are people being hurt by your actions.

    But hey, what do I know. I'm just some fucking stupid Canadian, clearly, who has some fucking stupid ideas about what is and isn't right, and definitely some pretty fucking stupid ideas about people being entitled to fair recompense for their work, and some really fucking stupid ideas about people not being entitled to steal.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:53 PM on July 3, 2008


    There's at least SOME sense in arguing that they shouldn't be holding records of removed content. Basically, this means that Google keeps everything, indefinitely. Which means it's not removed, rather it is just hidden. These aren't financial records; if nothing else, it would be nice to know why this data is of value to Google.

    For exactly this reason, lawsuits. Same reason Microsoft wasn't allowed to delete all those incriminating emails.
    posted by wildcrdj at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2008


    And BTW, not all copyrighted content on YT is illegal. Some companies agree to put it there and can even get revenue (ad) sharing. Universal Music, for example, has a TON of content on there. A large amount of the music videos are put up there by the copyright holder (of course, music videos aren't much of a revenue source, so the additional music/concert/t-shirt sales from promotion probably make this worth it, plus they still get a little ad money).
    posted by wildcrdj at 4:05 PM on July 3, 2008


    But hey, what do I know. I'm just some fucking stupid Canadian, clearly, who has some fucking stupid ideas about what is and isn't right, and definitely some pretty fucking stupid ideas about people being entitled to fair recompense for their work, and some really fucking stupid ideas about people not being entitled to steal.

    But the fact that stuff is taken down when complaints are made isn't enough? I'm not sure what Viacom thinks is appropriate, hand-reviewing every submission to the site?
    posted by wildcrdj at 4:05 PM on July 3, 2008


    Then get the laws changed.

    Given the influence of moneyed interests in politics it's way easier to just ignore the laws for now. I'm hopeful that if enough people ignore them then they will be forced to change them in time.

    In the mean time, I get free stuff and artists starve while I laugh manically at their pain, so it's really a win win.
    posted by willnot at 4:28 PM on July 3, 2008


    Bellman, I know you've mentioned Professor Sprigman's work before, but I don't know how familiar you are with Dotan Oliar, his co-author on the forthcoming comedy piece. If you haven't, I highly suggest you (and other people interested in the topic) check out his article Making Sense of the Intellectual Property Clause: Promotion of Progress as a Limitation on Congress's Intellectual Property Power, 94 Geo. L.J. 1771 (2006). It includes some fascinating research on the text of the IP clause. He's written a very interesting companion article that focuses more on the history of the clause's writing, but as far as I know it hasn't been published.
    posted by Partial Law at 4:40 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


    I am using the ordinary everyday meaning of the word.

    People who keep bleating about "blah blah the legal definition is" are, by this point in the thread, far past 'well-meaning but misguided' into 'wilfully ignorant and/or being deliberately provocative'.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:45 PM on July 3


    Well, you're using a played-out and embarrassing rhetorical tactic called equivocation to change the meaning of an act, because your argument is incorrect when you use more accurate words. So how then are you not being willfully ignorant?
    posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:58 PM on July 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


    I am using the ordinary everyday meaning of the word.

    Oh Christ, this nonsense again.

    Dude, according to MLB, when I wear a pair of white boxers with red hearts on them I am infringing on their intellectual property so, according to you, committing theft. I wish I were making this shit up, but the last time I looked at the back of a ticket they were claiming the team colors as their trademarked intellectual property.

    Could you please explain to me how my wearing white boxer shorts with red hearts on them is theft? If you can not, could you please explain to me why you're accusing me of theft? Because this seems a lot like the ordinary everyday meaning of slander.

    Just saying.
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:36 PM on July 3, 2008


    Taking something that isn't yours? That is theft.

    Nothing is being taken, ergo, it's not theft. Too hard?

    Here...

    Copying == Duplicating
    Taking != Duplicating
    ergo...
    Copying != Taking

    People who keep bleating about "blah blah the legal definition is" are, by this point in the thread, far past 'well-meaning but misguided' into 'wilfully ignorant and/or being deliberately provocative'.

    Yeah, let's hear all about that willful ignorance.
    posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:02 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


    Many people, myself included, have attempted over and over to explain to DNAB why copyright infringement is not theft (although it certainly does harm the interests of many people), and furthermore, that his desire to apply legal penalties for an act when he insists that his position is not based on the legal definition of the act, is inherently irrational. He chooses to think otherwise. He doesn't "disagree" with you, although he will say so, he just chooses to think otherwise. There is a difference between that and disagreement: insight into the validity or otherwise of one's position. Engagement. Discussion. A person who disagrees has listened, thought, discussed, and rebutted. He is just saying what he thinks and that's the end of it from his perspective. If you continue to contradict him, he becomes more and more spittle-flecked in his vehemence, starts calling himself an idiot, and eventually one of our mods will step in and delete the more egregious of his comments. Which nobody wants.

    Apparently this is DNAB's crazy-button issue; everyone has some, I know I do. He is not correct, he is not incorrect, he simply does not engage the question at a "correct vs incorrect" level, he engages it at a "love vs hate" level. He hates copyright infringement, and has firmly decided that copyright infringement is theft, and that all persons believing otherwise could only ever do so for personal gain.He's never explained why he thinks that way, either. Maybe DNAB was bitten by a copyright infringer as a kid. Maybe all the other kids in the street were allowed to infringe copyright and he wasn't, and every time he went near a photocopier or a VCR he was yelled at. He has never explained what his major problem with it is, addressed how he deals with any of the myriad ways in which he himself must personally infringe copyright all the time in his own life, explained his process of reasoning for thinking what he thinks, nor addressed any contrary argument other than to insult the asker (repetitively, with little imagination or variation in his insults) or to assert, over and over again, his position. "No, the sky is yellow with green dots, and you're an idiot."

    So if you're going to try to discuss the question with him, bear that in mind.

    I would like to discuss the matter on a rational basis with bonaldi, but I don't have time right now.
    posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:24 PM on July 3, 2008 [8 favorites]


    explained his process of reasoning for thinking what he thinks, nor addressed any contrary argument other than to insult the asker

    All that shows is that you don't pay attention. I have repeatedly shown my reasoning. You idiots just ignore it, and pretend I haven't.

    Fuck you all.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:28 PM on July 3, 2008


    The guys who say "But we're doing the artists a favor!" are pretty much like the guys who grab your yard gnome and send it off on a trip around the world, so the yard gnome can gain some valuable life experience: I'm dubious about the true motivation of the claim, the suggested outcome of the experiment, and the legality.

    I think that's the first time I've ever heard a traveling garden gnome used in a simile.

    Thing is, kidnapping a garden gnome and sending back postcards is hysterical (as long as the gnome is returned in proper working order). At least it was before it became a fad. File sharing? Not as funny.
    posted by krinklyfig at 6:31 PM on July 3, 2008


    Not to say it's right or wrong, just not as funny.
    posted by krinklyfig at 6:32 PM on July 3, 2008


    Given the influence of moneyed interests in politics it's way easier to just ignore the laws for now.

    Good, thank you for proving my point: just about anyone who blithers on about it being okay to steal--yes, motherfuckers, steal--is really just wanting what's easiest, which is not paying.

    Many people, myself included, have attempted over and over to explain to DNAB why copyright infringement is not theft

    For the last fucking time. I understand what you are saying. I DO NOT AGREE WITH IT, I NEVER WILL, THERE IS NO ARGUMENT THAT WILL CONVINCE ME THAT WHAT YOU TERM COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS NOT THEFT. TRY LOOKING AT A GODDAMN DICTIONARY.

    He's never explained why he thinks that way, either.

    I have, you dishonest little prick. You are taking something--yes! TAKING--that is not yours and you have no right to possess. That is theft.

    But whatever.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:39 PM on July 3, 2008


    i was reading this whole damn argument on usenet 10 years ago

    it sucked then, too
    posted by pyramid termite at 6:44 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


    Wasn't much of a fan of youtube and rarely viewed, now that I'm alledgely infringing on Viacom copyright material. Going to increase my viewership and see what happens. Can anybody say greed out there. God, the lawyers must love this.
    posted by brickman at 6:52 PM on July 3, 2008


    Going to increase my viewership and see what happens.

    cool! - there's lots of fpps on metafilter, aka, "this den of theives", including some posted today, that link to copyrighted you-tube posts

    obviously, an honest person who felt very strongly about copying being theft would be a complete hypocrite for hanging out on a site that allows people to link to such theivery
    posted by pyramid termite at 6:58 PM on July 3, 2008


    obviously, an honest person who felt very strongly about copying being theft would be a complete hypocrite for hanging out on a site that allows people to link to such theivery


    Have you every linked to youtube pt, for one of your post, and will you in the future? Your truly has not, just a viewer that considers himself honest and I said alleged (need a definition) infringement. After the courts decide, may alter my behavior about viewing. Until then, Viacom can go piss up a rope.
    posted by brickman at 7:17 PM on July 3, 2008


    yes, i have and i will - i'm a vile thieving bastard and i'm proud of it
    posted by pyramid termite at 7:19 PM on July 3, 2008


    yes, i have and i will - i'm a vile thieving bastard and i'm proud of it

    Please speak a little louder into the microphone, and thank you for your testimony. After this witness the court will take a short recess.
    posted by brickman at 7:32 PM on July 3, 2008


    Well, yeah. If I decide that I want recompense for my hard work, you don't get to decide "but waaaahhhh I wannit free too bad for you."

    Thus? Theft.


    How far do you want to go? My comments are saved in your browser cache, they're (c) Dark Messiah, according to the site's privacy policy... Maybe I should petition to have you purge your browser cache every time you finish viewing a thread I've posted in; you don't want to commit thievery, do you! You want hair split to the micron level, we can go there. (No, not really; I doubt the rest of MeFi cares.)

    You seem prone to flying off the handle during ANY debate; you couldn't even let a post about an MLE video game go by without launching into a tirade about 'world issues'. Some of the fault is mine; I've already determined that we agree on nothing; I should have ignored your comments. Live and learn. There's little use in debating you; you're just the sort who wants to hear an echo; you don't solicit discourse, you beckon agreement and become very upset when it is not forthcoming. If nothing else, I feel a little sorry for you; this place must tear you apart.

    However, infringement still does not satisfy the most BASIC definition of theft... Nothing was taken; a copy was made; but that's it! The original exists, as does my copy. I don't care what you think, or believe, the fact remains that the description of "theft" is inappropriate when applied to copyright infringement. I'm not going to debate this further, as I will be the first to admit that I have nothing but contempt for you and would rather not drown MeFi in noise.

    The definition of theft I use is "taking something from someone". No one here is debating infringement is illegal; other than some sick desire to be "right" in a debate, I don't see what your point is. Even if I conceded my point to you, what does that change; digital COPIES of things are still being made, and it is already illegal.

    If all we're debating is semantics, then I'm sorry. You're not someone I really want to bother debating; there's a growing history that you seem to enjoy arguing with people and don't mind stooping to hypocrisy; you complain I am insulting you and then make some reference to the fact I need bunnies to explain things. It's very hard for me to not resort to childish name-calling here, but any credence your argument may have has been drowned out by your poor presentation.

    As my final statement; if "theft" covered everything so nicely, why would all forms of media include specific statements regarding "unauthorized reproduction". Why would they not simply say theft?

    Definition of larceny:

    In the United States, larceny is a common law crime involving theft. Under the common law, larceny is the trespassory taking and carrying away (asportation) (removal) of the tangible personal property of another with the intent to deprive him or her of it permanently. In English law, the common law offense was codified into the Larceny Act 1916. In turn, the terminology and substance was converted into theft by the Theft Act 1968.

    But, hey, whatever -- we both seem to have dictionaries that support our own point of views... Apparently we commute to different realities. Enjoy your stay here; watch your blood pressure -- it's a killer.

    PS - Epic. Fail. ;)
    posted by Dark Messiah at 7:56 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


    Please speak a little louder into the microphone, and thank you for your testimony.

    can i do my elvis imitation or is that copyright infringment too? if i can, do you have a toilet i can sit on while i'm doing it?

    After this witness the court will take a short recess.

    my dad had a short recess, in fact, he was just about bald - so you don't want to take one of those, there'll be hell toupee
    posted by pyramid termite at 8:15 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


    Really.

    Okay, let's come back to reality for a moment, mmkay? I know this is difficult for you, but the trip will be worth it.

    My comments are saved in your browser cache, they're (c) Dark Messiah, according to the site's privacy policy

    You are aware of how stupid that statement is, yes? You put your words out there with the express intention of other people reading them, without charge, and the clear understanding that yes it will end up in a cache.

    you couldn't even let a post about an MLE video game go by without launching into a tirade about 'world issues'

    WTF are you talking about?

    There's little use in debating you; you're just the sort who wants to hear an echo; you don't solicit discourse, you beckon agreement and become very upset when it is not forthcoming.

    That is actually not the case. Are you familiar with the term 'projection'?

    If nothing else, I feel a little sorry for you; this place must tear you apart.

    It does, but not for the ridiculous reasons you're positing up there.


    ..and, you know what? You don't understand; you're another one of the dickheads who prefers to misconstrue and deliberately misunderstand rather than address what I actually have to say, as opposed to what you have decided I am saying.

    It really must be sad to be you. How do you manage with such a small little mind?
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2008


    Here's a great mash-up double-copyright-infringement multiple theft that was posted to MetaFilter today and has been left undisturbed on YouTube for a year and a half: Video STOLEN from "Weapon of Choice", Audio STOLEN from "Puttin' on the Ritz".

    Don't click that link, dnab, or you'll be trafficking in STOLEN goods. Wonder how much this cost the copyright holders who never combined the properties themselves in lost copyright dollars from people who otherwise would have had to legally acquire them both and sync up the two for their entertainment. How many people would have done that?

    And hey, I just 'ripped' a CD that I legally bought into mp3s on my computer to copy onto my non-ipod listening device. So I committed theft twice. Not from myself, but from the companies who package the music on CDs who give the people who actually create the music less than 20% of what I pay for it. Wait... there's one song here that was written so long ago nobody had to pay anybody to use it. A larger share for - the performer or other creative people? No, the company that packaged it and marketed it.

    But wait, there is a "copy for personal use" provision (won in the courts by Sony when they just made the devices for playing and copying intellectual property and not the intellectual property itself, which they now do) so I did NOT commit theft.

    Are there "for personal use" exceptions for other kinds of theft? If I steal your car from your garage while you're asleep, finish using it before you wake up, put gas in it to replace the gas I used and put it right back in the garage before you needed it to drive to work, is there a legal precedent to say it wasn't illegal? Uh, no. That's just one of the ways copying is not theft.

    Sometimes the rights of the creators trump all the rights of the users. Sometimes copying is specifically illegal (like what Daniel Ellsberg did with The Pentagon Papers... but geez, considering what the government does behind a cloak of secrecy, I really wish that law was broken more often - but I'm just a criminal and a terrorist).

    But using the word "theft" to describe "copying" is to make it something it is not.

    I am also a small-time freelance writer. And almost all the creative work I have gotten paid for is "work for hire". I get paid a set price and give up all future rights to it. There are bits and pieces of "The People's Almanac" series of books I wrote way back in the 80s. Some pieces I didn't even get a credit for. Some "PA" books sold a lot more than others. But I got paid once and that's it. Not a fair deal, but perfectly legal. In the 90s, I wrote radio comedy bits that other people did voices on that were distributed by CBS to stations across the country. There were no WGA or AFTRA representing us, so if my brilliant comedy helped sell the material to twice as many stations, only CBS or the Producer who hired me got more. Everything on MSNBC.com with a Wendell Wittler by-line is the property of Microsoft and GE, not me. So, I'd rather be blogging where AdSense revenue (another Evil Google enterprise) is shared with the creator - but still Google gets more money than I do for my creativity and work (they do some work and have their own expenses, just like the corporations that package and sell music on CDs). Yet my share is more than most talented musicians get from the record company.

    Does this system really promote creativity and compensate its creatives for their true worth? Rush Limbaugh just signed a $400 million dollar contract for nine years with Clear Channel Broadcasting who are taking the chance that they'll be able to sell X-times as much dollars in advertising. It seems to work for him. He does get to keep some rights to his radio show, but those other outlets are very small potatoes. When you're bigtime enough, you don't want a percentage anymore, you want (and get) the money up front. How much does it hurt Rush when somebody records his show and gives it to all his friends?

    And am I stealing from meatbomb when I use the link to his YouTube Generic Apology and say "this is my apology for the awful thing I did in the BoingBoing thread yesterday - just change the name to Wendell"? M-m-maybe.

    But all of this is just my longwinded way of saying dnab is so full of shit, you can smell it halfway up the front page.
    posted by wendell at 8:54 PM on July 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


    THERE IS NO ARGUMENT THAT WILL CONVINCE ME THAT WHAT YOU TERM COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS NOT THEFT.

    I did. It said my white boxers with hearts were tasteless but not larcenous. I think you owe me an apology. (MLB owes common sense and apology too.)
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:59 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


    .
    posted by ericb at 9:08 PM on July 3, 2008


    dirtynumbangelboy: I can understand your frustration. I was going to post part of this in your MeTa thread to hopefully explain where others are coming from in hopes of easing your frustration, but I wasn't quick enough and Jessamyn closed it, so I'll see if I can do it here to explain why some may be confused by your arguments.

    You make strong policy arguments, so don't be offended that some are responding with legal arguments that turn on very precise interpretations of language and legal terms of art. For example, you refer to "reasonable expectation of privacy." The precise legal meaning of that in 4A jurisprudence is a subjective manifestation of privacy by an individual that is objectively reasonable. I can't tell from your comment if you're using the term to refer to the precise legal definition or if you're referring to a general moral concept that most individuals have that some personal stuff they give to people (like personal account information) should be kept private and not shared with others. This is relevant because, as you may or may not know, there is no REP in bank account numbers; this is what got Eliot Spitzer indicted. I assumed from the way you referred to REP that you were using that precise legal definition, but you also throw down the term "theft" so that was confusing because I don't know if I should interpret your arguments as arguments of law or policy. It's important to know which is which, so one understands how you're inviting them to respond to your arguments. You sounded at first like a lawyer or someone with legal training, so I assumed maybe you wanted legal arguments; while I personally would take that as a complement, I can see why someone would take offense to being confused for a lawyer ;)

    When discussing actions like copyright infringement and larceny that have a precise, legal meanings, with specific individual elements that have to be proven (e.g. larceny = (1) taking and carrying away of (2) personal property of (3) another (4) with the intent to permanently deprive), it's hard to then respond to the word "theft" which is a moral concept rather than a a cause of action. It's a bit like going to a restaurant and asking a waiter to bring you "meat" or "beef" for dinner rather than a T-Bone or a KC strip or a hamburger. Call it semantics, if you will, but don't take it personally. I'm sorry that you are feeling frustrated because I found your contributions to the thread interesting.
    posted by Dr. Zira at 9:15 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


    the ones from the first link have all been "unpublished" - so i guess that would just make him an inept accomplice
    posted by pyramid termite at 9:28 PM on July 3, 2008


    Fill the velocipede with petroleum distillate, and re-vulcanize the tires; post-haste! Mystery is afoot.
    posted by Dark Messiah at 10:35 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


    Here we have a perfectly fine legal system with precise definitions of things, all indexed and cross-referenced and backed by years of history. And it's all rendered moot, because DNAB says so.

    What a waste of effort that whole English Common Law turned out to be.
    posted by five fresh fish at 11:39 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


    Man I gotta do a lot of DOWNLOADING fast
    posted by celerystick at 11:53 PM on July 3, 2008


    That was actually kind of a lame flameout. I always get a queasy feeling reading those.

    "Copyright infringement=theft". Yeah, and it fucking matters? Of all the things that we could argue about, we pick that. That's not something I'm going to lose sleep over. It's illegal and that's pretty plainly established. Now, poaching in the king's forest, even if you were starving, was illegal too. And the punishment in some jurisdictions back in the day was hanging.

    I'd be more concerned about the fact that Viacom has the data and they're coming to get you with it. Whether you've stolen or infringed ain't nobody gonna parse for ya 'till you get up in that witness chair and get your shit cross-examined by some lawyerin' folk.

    AND, they're trying to kill youtube. I mean, dude, youtube's pretty cool. Infringing or stealing or whatever, I'm a lot more frightened of the enforcers at this point than I am for the creators. I'd assume that's where the debate should be.

    Discuss.
    posted by saysthis at 12:29 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    The real question is if Google is breaking Canadian law by giving this data to Viacom in violation of PIPEDA.

    Perhaps I'll lodge a complaint.
    posted by mock at 12:44 AM on July 4, 2008


    dnab is certainly dramatic, you have to give him that at least. I'm trying to remember the last time I cared that much about an opinion.

    dnab, as you get older these things will seem less and less important. Breathe. Unclench.
    posted by Meatbomb at 12:50 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    Can I also just point out that copyright infringement isn't theft?
    *ducks*

    Really though, equating copyright infringement with theft betrays a lack of understanding of the purpose of copyrights, and how they've been perverted in the last century. It's a breathtaking oversimplification, and by the same argument one can reasonably claim that extended-to-infinity copyright terms are an even bigger theft from the public knowledge base.
    posted by mullingitover at 1:48 AM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


    toxic writes:
    Why did they have that data? Why didn't they blind it? Why did they believe it was a competitive advantage to keep it, with all personally identifying data attached? Is it hubris, incompetence, laziness, or evil?
    Google started anonymizing its server logs last year. They retain data only for 18 months. No idea whether this policy is applicable here; quite possible that the court order might require them to "un-anonymize" data, if necessary.
    posted by the cydonian at 1:49 AM on July 4, 2008


    The difference between theft and copyright infringement,

    Here in Washington, getting caught stealing a DVD would be a gross misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not more than $5000 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days or both.

    Getting caught downloading a DVD iso via bittorrent would be a felony subject to a fine of not more than $250,000 or imprisonment for not more than 5 years or both.
    posted by Tenuki at 3:02 AM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


    But using the word "theft" to describe "copying" is to make it something it is not.
    Except when it is.

    To be fair, I'm somewhat conflicted about this, because when ISPs start sending out letters real friendly like saying that downloading illicit MP3s is shoplifting and movies are prefaced by trailers saying that watching a bootleg DVD would be like robbing a granny, I get on a slightly-less-high horse than you guys and come over all "it's not theft, it's infringement!" myself.

    But on the other hand, they are intellectual property rights. We treat these intangibles as if they had some of the qualities of a regular physical property, and talk about them in the same way -- you can buy, sell, loan, lose and acquire copyright, for instance. So when trying to describe what happens to a copyright holder when their copyright is infringed upon, it makes a lot of (common, not legal) sense to talk about it being stolen -- after all, they don't have something (the exclusive control) that they once had any longer, and the infringer has obtained something of value for free, which is what thieves do.

    The Bellman's right that it's not a comfortable fit, and that tort is a better one. But most folk on the street have a very hazy idea of tort, and an idea going all the way back to Kindergarten about stealing and Why It Is Bad. So you can see why people are picking up the "stealing" line and running with it.

    Either way, though, these arguments, and the aptness of the analogy, have fuck-all to do with how much it costs to make a copy, and whether or not you deprive someone else of their CD, because that's not where the infringement lies. Copying != Theft. Infringement = Theft (sometimes, kinda, if you squint).

    And when somebody asks me where I got $rare music X and I say "I stole it from the internet", everybody will know what I mean. Yay language.
    posted by bonaldi at 5:02 AM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


    I simply don't understand the vitriol copyright holders have over all forms of perceived infringement. While the bulk of my income is not based on creative works, I am in a creative field and produce non-tangible things of value. But if someone uses a character or design I made and makes a t-shirt of it, or prints a poster, or uses it for other purposes, I don't care so long as a) they don't take credit for it and b) they don't attempt to profit from it.

    What music and film companies fail to recognize is that their distribution model is simply outdated. I will pay ten dollars to see a film on the big screen. I would happily pay another five or ten to download a DRM-free DVD image direct from the parent company. But they seem to only want to sell me physical media in a plastic case which I will immediately throw in the trash. Why spend the money on packaging and printing and shipping when I only want the data? There's a huge market for this. I have this money I want to trade you for your content! Please take it! Radiohead did, and I wound up paying for that download. Same with the recently linked Girl Talk album. And the day that I can download the complete Criterion Collection, DRM-free, for the cost of the bandwidth and a huge profit margin for the copyright holders, I will. Why don't you want my money?
    posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:35 AM on July 4, 2008


    I DO NOT AGREE WITH IT, I NEVER WILL, THERE IS NO ARGUMENT THAT WILL CONVINCE ME
    That's my point exactly. If that is your attitude about copyright infringement, you do not belong in a MetaFilter discussion about copyright infringement. This is the place for people to come to talk about things like intelligent adult human beings. To share opinions (not polemic) that they have honestly thought about, to others whom they consider rational beings, and if presented with a convincing argument, are willing to change.

    If you want to voluntarily class yourself in with He Who Shall Never Be Named Again, in that unpleasant group of people who do not--cannot--engage in rational debate, just yap-yap-yap-yap what they think and to hell with anyone else, one-way opinion tracks, all output no input; well, that's your loss, not ours. I honestly do think better of you.

    The irony of it that it doesn't even matter whether we call it "theft", "infringement", "champerty" or "noogie-infliction"! Why you do care whether it's "theft" specifically? I do understand that you think it's wrong. Yes, I get that. I'm perfectly willing to respect that opinion, and I (and people generally) would be happy to debate you on that question, ie whether copyright is a good or bad thing, morally, economically, socially, whatever, if you can just get past the "theft" issue. And then we could, much more interestingly, discuss what should and shouldn't be done about it, whether term limits are worthwhile at all, if so how long they should be ... and so on and so forth. There are days' worth of interesting arguments in the question of the rights and wrongs of copyright, copyright infringement, fair use, public domain, derivative works, mashups, etc etc. Whether or not "copyright infringement is theft", is not one of them. Why you must harp on about that specific assertion and derail the topic every single time it comes up into a semantic argument, which you always lose, and no, I am not "just saying that because it's my side of the argument"; you lose firstly because your argument is a fallacious equivocation, and secondly because you simply do not mount any rational defense for your position or acknowledge any nuances or bring up any examples or whatever; you just devolve into screaming at about comment #3. Even other people who believe that copyright infringement is wrong, get annoyed by you, because you harp on about a semantic point that's a side issue at best as if it constituted the axioms and conclusion of the entire argument.

    What if an outbreak of fever overcame us all and we were prepared to agree that "copyright infringement is theft"? What then? Borrowing my room-mate's car keys without permission to take someone to hospital, or pick up my room-mate's mother, or go down the shops, or because I want to hear what a 1987 Toyota Corolla sounds like when it hits a pole, are all technically actions constituting theft, but there are vast distinctions of nuance between them. Even if a copyright infringment were, somehow, a theft, that wouldn't end the matter. From whom does one steal? What if the "legitimate owner" no longer exists in any meaningful way? Under what circumstances is the stealing justifiable? Is it wrong to steal where a theft unquestionably benefits the person stolen from? None of this rich field of argument seems to hold the slightest bit of interest for you, DNAB; you never bring it up, except to simply assert the most thoughtless possible, zero-tolerance, extreme pro-copyright-holder position, a position the RIAA themselves hesitates to hold up, the idea that the copyright holder gets absolute freedom to set the price of copies and the public, be they potential purchasers of a right--and what kind of a right? does "first sale" put any bearing on the matter for you?--or potential infringers have, in your completely un-nuanced opinion, absolutely no recourse. That's ludicrous! What about second-hand CDs? What about lending libraries? Your "opinion" (I hesitate to use that word for an assertion with the depth of a sidewalk rainpuddle) would allow a copyright holder to circumvent the very existence of these concepts merely by attaching clauses (remember, you argued complete freedom to set the price) that forbid the buyer (leaser?) from participating in them!

    Or maybe I'm mis-stating your position on what parameters you'd let copyright holders set the price in. Hell, I don't know. Why don't I know? Take a guess!
    posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:54 AM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


    If that is your attitude about copyright infringement, you do not belong in a MetaFilter discussion about copyright infringement.

    You really just don't pay attention, do you?

    Copyright infringement is a legal term.

    Theft is both a legal term and a dictionary term. I am using the latter sense, as I have made it clear,

    Copyright infringement:theft :: murder 1:killing

    Got it yet?

    To share opinions (not polemic) that they have honestly thought about, to others whom they consider rational beings, and if presented with a convincing argument, are willing to change.

    Your implication that I have not honestly thought about my opinion is 1) insulting, and 2) even more insulting given that I have informed you multiple times that--SHOCKINGLY--I have thought carefully about my opinion. The fact that it doesn't agree with yours is what has your panties in a twist.

    I find it entertaining that bonaldi says exactly the same thing about theft but does anyone--ANYONE--say anything to him? No. Hmm.. I wonder why that could be, I really do. Could it be that there are huge segments of this site that like nothing better than deliberately pissing me off, and refusing to actually pay attention to what I have to say? Naaaaah. Couldn't be.

    [snip]...are all technically actions constituting theft, but there are vast distinctions of nuance between them.

    And I said otherwise when, exactly? Yet again.. people putting words in my mouth and deciding that I have said things that I didn't actually say.

    From whom does one steal?

    The copyright owner, obviously. Or was that question a joke?

    in your completely un-nuanced opinion,

    If anyone would bother actually discussing with me, they'd see that it's nuanced. If anyone would actually bother reading what I write, they'd see it's nuanced. But that would require you people to actually, y'know, read instead of project.

    What about second-hand CDs?

    A troublesome concept. I'm still figuring out how I feel about that. Secondhand bookstores, likewise.

    What about lending libraries?

    I'm going to assume that question is a joke.

    Your "opinion" (I hesitate to use that word for an assertion with the depth of a sidewalk rainpuddle)

    Aw, isn't that cute. You're projecting again.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:09 AM on July 4, 2008


    Theft is both a legal term and a dictionary term. I am using the latter sense, as I have made it clear,
    Why would you specifically use a non-legal definition when the whole issue is one of legality? Really, why?

    Hmm.. I wonder why that could be, I really do.
    Compare bonaldi's commentary to your own. Compare distracting vehemence, compare depth of thought shown in outgoing commentary, compare depth of thought shown towards incoming commentary.

    Could it be that there are huge segments of this site that like nothing better than deliberately pissing me off, and refusing to actually pay attention to what I have to say?
    You just put up a callout thread on this exact issue, and not for the first time, and I think it's fair to say that the answer to that is "no, at this time, but if you keep up the martyr complex and paranoia, people will start doing that". I won't say that nobody likes pissing you off, but I for one don't. I don't like "pissing people off", I don't want a rise out of you, I am repeatedly trying to challenge you to actually step up to defend your stated position. That it's failing to work, at all, that you keep giving us (I am not the only one reading this discussion) nothing but facile evasions, is kind of pissing me off.

    But that would require you people to actually, y'know, read instead of project.
    Read what? Where? Point to a recent nuanced comment of yours on this issue.

    A troublesome concept. I'm still figuring out how I feel about that. Secondhand bookstores, likewise.
    WOOHOO!!!!!! :D Now you're here with us, in "I don't know" land, and all you need to do is take one more little step into "but I'm willing to discuss it". Expand, explain, share. Participate. Should CD publishers be allowed to put "This CD may not be resold or given away by the original purchaser" on a CD? How would this differ from an MP3? What if the "original purchaser" of the downloaded MP3 deleted the "original" one? When you back up your HDD, do you copy all of your (legally purchased, I'm sure) MP3s too? How is this distinct from copying a CD, putting the original away, and playing the copy in your car? If a burglar stole your CD collection from your house, are you now obliged to snap the CDs in your car?

    I'm going to assume that question is a joke.
    The existence and operation of lending libraries is a central, vital question to the issue of copyright. If every unauthorized copy is a lost sale, then so is every loan. Commercial publishers have been increasingly squeezing libraries harder and harder for the last two decades. If you're going to argue pro-copyright, what's your position on libraries? What's your position on publishers unilaterally denying library lending rights?
    posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2008


    Tenuki: Getting caught downloading a DVD iso via bittorrent would be a felony

    Cite please?

    To run afoul of the criminal, not civil, side of U.S. copyright law requires some very specific mitigating circumstances (production for profit, retail price over $1000, a DVD that is not yet released, etc, etc.).

    Otherwise it's a simple (if contentious) civil matter.
    posted by toxic at 9:37 AM on July 4, 2008


    Why would you specifically use a non-legal definition when the whole issue is one of legality? Really, why?

    Because the legal term obfuscates the issue. We're laymen, we discuss things in lay terms.

    Compare bonaldi's commentary to your own.

    Compare my commentary before and after people start flinging shit at me. And see below.

    Now you're here with us, in "I don't know" land, and all you need to do is take one more little step into "but I'm willing to discuss it".

    Stop being condescending. You say my vehemence is a bad thing.. the sickening condescension showed by you and others around here, well... do you think it might be remotely possible that my vehemence is in direct response to the condescension and derision shown by you--yes, you, Mr "I don't want to piss you off"--and others? Naaaaaaaah. Couldn't be.

    Read what? Where? Point to a recent nuanced comment of yours on this issue.

    I can't be bothered. Here's what happens: I'm willing to have a nice civil discussion. Assholes like you start in with the condescension and the derision, and I no longer feel any need to be civil--you guys won't, why should I? I have made several comments recently including things like "except for fair use" and "some copyright laws are insane", but as usual, anything I say that goes against the preconceived notions that you people have, the decision that you have made about what you think I'm saying versus what I am actually saying, gets ignored. Frankly, it's tiresome. It's happening in this debate, it happened in that brouhaha over that killer a few months ago--despite saying, calmly, MANY TIMES that I was being misinterpreted, people continued to do so, on purpose. As has been happening here. So, perhaps you can explain to me why, when people are deliberately and offensively misconstruing and misquoting what I have to say--after repeated attempts to tell them that they are doing so and are incorrect in doing so--I should bother showing any respect to people who show me none?

    Should CD publishers be allowed to put "This CD may not be resold or given away by the original purchaser" on a CD? How would this differ from an MP3?

    Yes, and it wouldn't.

    What if the "original purchaser" of the downloaded MP3 deleted the "original" one? When you back up your HDD, do you copy all of your (legally purchased, I'm sure) MP3s too?

    A backup is clearly fair use. Obviously it is reasonable to buy an MP3 from iTunes or wherever, and copy it to your iPod, your other computer, whatever; you have paid for that song and then may use it.

    How is this distinct from copying a CD, putting the original away, and playing the copy in your car?

    As is that. You have paid for possession of the song(s). You may then use them as you like, which does not include giving them away to other people. Except, obviously, as a gift. In which case, yes, you should snap/delete/eat your copies.

    If every unauthorized copy is a lost sale, then so is every loan

    'Unauthorized' is the key word in that sentence. I think that every publisher should be required by law to provide a copy of every work it publishes to the central library of the country--Congress in your case, a few institutions in the UK, and I'm not sure what the arrangement is here in Canada--but yes, they should be allowed to prevent their books from being in libraries as a matter of principle. Is this a good thing in terms of data sharing? Probably not. Is this a good thing in terms of preserving the rights of the copyright holder to distribute their work as they see fit? Yes, and I think that generally speaking that should take precedence, with the exception of maintaining national archives.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:41 AM on July 4, 2008


    [Publishers] should be allowed to prevent their books from being in libraries as a matter of principle.

    The plot thickens.

    Nobody, and I mean nobody, should have the authority to tell a Library what they can and can not have on their shelves. That is fundamental to the freedom of knowledge that is a cornerstone of modern society, and it (rightfully) overrides any commercial interest.

    DNAB... I was with you. We have a difference of opinion about linguistics, and I'm not going to change your opinion on that (or mine). But really, the rights of publishers are more important than the rights/freedoms inherent in a public library?
    posted by toxic at 9:50 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    Yes, I think so. Just as a musician has the right to determine whether and how they will be paid (CC licencing vs traditional copyright, for example), a writer has the right to decide the same thing.

    'Course, you ignored the part about national libraries. Shocking.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2008


    That surprised me too, dnab. Copyright monopolies are granted only because they're a public good, and so are libraries. I'd be interested in the argument that the rights of the author should trump the rights of society.
    posted by bonaldi at 9:57 AM on July 4, 2008


    That didn't quite come out how I intended it. But still, I think National Libraries are one thing, but pretty much all state-run libraries (the majority in the UK) can be considered national, in a sense.
    posted by bonaldi at 10:00 AM on July 4, 2008


    Allow me to restate: is this a bad thing for data sharing? Yes. Yes it is. But the creators of works have the right to decide how those works will be used, subject to reasonable limits for the public good. So.. school libraries & national libraries, should get books whether or not they are licenced for free distribution--an exception in the law would do nicely. Beyond that, probably not; authors/publishers should be allowed to decide whether or not their works will be distributed free. Hell.. on this site alone I have seen people boast that they never purchase books, they just go to the library. So hey, good for you for reading and all, but..
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:15 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    I can see why people might consider copyright infringement as theft, even under the two-part legalish definition given above. Anyone interested in my rationale please send me $1,000,000,000 and I will send them a copy.
    posted by wobh at 10:18 AM on July 4, 2008


    So - and I am asking this in all seriousness - what do you make of the fact that this week I donated about three hundred books to my local city library? I bought the books. I read them. But I didn't need them anymore and I wanted other people to be able to read them. In your calculus, would it have been better to just throw them in the trash? This is a serious question.
    posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:18 AM on July 4, 2008


    I suppose that depends. Did the book say that it couldn't be donated away? If so, then you should have trashed, yes.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:25 AM on July 4, 2008


    Most books don't come with EULAs. None of mine did. I'm not asking whether or not what I did was illegal - we both know it's not - I'm asking whether you think it should be illegal. Should we only be allowed to donate to national libraries like the LoC and then only for archival purposes? What good is having archives if no one is allowed to access them? What should we do with the millions and millions of books at secondhand bookstores and lending libraries? Turn them into pulp? Your position brings with it serious consequences to the education of the public, and I think it deserves serious consideration.

    Those suffering through grim poverty have a chance to better their station through self-education; I know of at least one poor kid who grew up to be a success because he could read books at the library - books that his parents never could have afforded. Now he's working for human rights abroad. Should he have stayed in rural Arizona and gotten a job at the gas station, squandering a brilliant mind? What good does that do anyone?
    posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:34 AM on July 4, 2008


    First of all, edge cases make poor policy.

    Second.. I'm not sure, honestly. One could argue that since I can buy a book and give it away as a gift that a library donation is no different. The flipside of that is if I give it away as a gift, in very real terms the giftee could be said to have bought the book (inasmuch as one person purchased it, one person got it). It's a tough call because I believe that the principle of people being able to control their works should be more or less sacrosanct.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:41 AM on July 4, 2008


    Because the legal term obfuscates the issue. We're laymen, we discuss things in lay terms.
    Sure. What's the lay term, or the equivalent to a lay term in context, for "prosecution"? (Or do you actually not want more, or more stringent, prosecution of copyright violators? Do you want less prosecution that currently occurs?)

    Stop being condescending. You say my vehemence is a bad thing.. the sickening condescension showed by you and others around here
    Vicious circle. I realize the way I write sometimes comes off as condescending. I'm, on the whole, OK with that. I often try to amuse others at my opponent's expense. In some ways it's just how I am; it's also a way of conducting a duel with one person in a public forum, while minimizing the boredom to others from doing that kind of thing. I try to keep it relevant, I try to be open to actual discussion, and address actual points, but I am capable of error. I am, at least here, an angry writer. Anger tends to inspire me; I write more, and it flows better, when I am angry. Anger would appear to have the opposite effect on you; which is no flaw in you, or virtue to me, it's just the way we are. So the more I disagree with the person, and the more egregious and baseless I see their views as (and I admit the bias there), the meaner I'll be about it, just as you yourself are, only you manifest it as aggression and use of rude words rather than as condescension, sarcasm, and rude text. (Reading comments written with some ire is always much more fun when one is not the target, too.)

    Also, when people go to the trouble of answering my questions, I ask them a lot less sarcastically. When they ask me questions in return, indicating engagement, I'm occasionally capable of moving all the way up to respectful. I'm probably not alone in that. Condescending as that is. Shouting into the wind is very annoying, as you acknowledge.

    So, perhaps you can explain to me why, when people are deliberately and offensively misconstruing and misquoting what I have to say--after repeated attempts to tell them that they are doing so and are incorrect in doing so--I should bother showing any respect to people who show me none?
    You seem to want all the respect all the time, and overestimate the degree of disrespect people are actually giving you. We interact in written text, the nature of the medium dials up directed emotive content. As others said in your MetaTalk thread, apparently with little effect: you do, quite often, make comments that are interesting and thoughtful. (Which makes it a little more frustrating when you don't.)

    I'll give you some respect sometimes. I don't often, or much, carry grudges past a discussion's end, either. I'm perfectly willing to call you all kinds of a damnfool about this, but I'll back you up and favorite you about other things when I agree with you and like what you have to say. Maybe you don't do that so much. Maybe you're taking this argument, other arguments, and your "internet self" here--the projection of personal identity that you put into the tiny part of you that posts on MetaFilter--more seriously than is perhaps desirable.

    People just tend to get more and more sarcastic, vehement, condescending, whatever, as a discussion continues to go on and on without any resolution of the disagreement. It doesn't mean we hate you. We'd do the same to anyone. That it's happened to you several times in a row doesn't necessarily mean much in the greater scheme of things. There is no anti-DNAB conspiracy, at least, not that I am part of.

    Maybe I crossed a line or two with you, who as a particular individual, find my writing style and tone particularly annoying. So noted. I'll try to be less so. Take that as respect or condescension as you please.

    I also don't recall having any debates with you, on either side, about killers; I largely agree with this. Perhaps you are conflating some of your opponents on various issues.

    Is this a good thing in terms of data sharing? Probably not. Is this a good thing in terms of preserving the rights of the copyright holder to distribute their work as they see fit? Yes, and I think that generally speaking that should take precedence,
    This is what I was getting at earlier with "infringement vs theft" being a distraction from the real issue; this here, is the real issue, as I see it. The value to one short-term, individual author, vs the value to the long-term future of humanity.

    You've mentioned content creator and/or copyright owner rights. What rights would you extend to users? You've said you are in favor of fair use (which is a legal term, I'm not sure it has a meaningful layman's definition as such), but what do you mean by saying so? Fair use seems somewhat inadequate already--the problems documentary film-makers have with making educational documentaries about films is an example--and the pro-copyright lobby as a whole is seeking to limit fair use ever further.

    with the exception of maintaining national archives.
    If any accessible shared archive of digital material exists, wouldn't it constitute an alternative source for the material that would largely void the whole argument? If it's inaccessible, what would be its purpose? And aren't the "P2P pirates" effectively creating this already, at least for relatively popular media?
    posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:10 AM on July 4, 2008


    So.. hold on. You should get a free pass on your condescension because it's "just the way [you] are", but I should be castigated?

    You seem to want all the respect all the time,

    Yes, I do. I want people to respect me by actually reading what I write. I want people to respect me by not putting words in my mouth. I want people to respect me by assuming, just for a moment, that--as I have stated repeatedly--my opinions are actually carefully thought-out. I want people to respect me by not being condescending and responding with derision to whatever I say. I want people to respect me by not simply showing up in threads to troll me, as several have done here and elsewhere.

    That is, of course, too much to ask for around here.

    and overestimate the degree of disrespect people are actually giving you.

    HA. Really? One person wrote to me this morning to tell me to calm down, and then called me a pussy. Others haven't even bothered with the first part, and have simply gone out of their way to MeMail me to bitch at me and belittle me. You yourself have insulted me and condescended to me in this thread, along with many others--some of whom have had their comments deleted, which is pretty astonishing, since usually they're left up. It has been made clear to me that people can mock and belittle me all they want, and I'm not allowed to respond.

    But I'm overestimating. Sure.

    The only other thing you said that's even worth responding to is:

    And aren't the "P2P pirates" effectively creating this already, at least for relatively popular media?

    By stealing, yes. Which goes back all the way to your key word 'unauthorized'.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:37 AM on July 4, 2008


    posted by dirtynumbangelboy It is a reasonable and well thought out position that copyright infringement is theft. That you don't agree with it puts you pretty squarely in the camp of "oh hey, too bad, I don't care what you think, I don't think it's my God-given right to get shit for free" from my perspective.

    You post this, and then you accuse us of putting words in your mouth, and misconstruing what you say, and not reading what you write. Good grief.

    Several people have already explained to you where and why you're wrong but you're clearly not interested in changing your mind despite the fact that you're mistaken on several points. I suggest you speak with a lawyer who can explain to you what copyright infrigment actually is.
    posted by optovox at 11:54 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    optovox, I suggest you re-read my statements. I am not talking about the legal definition, so speaking to a lawyer isn't relevant. I would also suggest that you read bonaldi's points as well.

    Or, keep trolling. Your choice.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:57 AM on July 4, 2008


    If you're not using the legal definition, could you link to the definition you're using? Perhaps that will help determine the source of your confusion.
    posted by optovox at 12:16 PM on July 4, 2008


    optovox, I see absolutely no point in re-hashing the entire discussion that has already happened. Based on your deleted comment, you are clearly only here to troll, and I will have no part of it.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:24 PM on July 4, 2008


    No, I'm asking you a serious question. I'm not asking you to rehash the entire discussion; I'm asking you to provide a link to your definition of "copyright infringement" that you're using here, since you aren't using the legal definition.
    posted by optovox at 12:28 PM on July 4, 2008


    I don't know if you were aware of this dnab, but metafilter doesn't have a whole lot of respect for dogmatic assertions. It's abundantly clear at this point that you see things the way that you see them, you won't be convinced by anything that anyone here says, you've made up your mind. Many people here see things differently and think you've gone a little crazy, and so they're calling it. If you're surprised by this then I'm not sure what to tell you. If disagreement is something you take personally and can't get past, perhaps this internet discussion forum is not for you.

    Proclaiming copying information to be theft, and working earnestly to convince people on metafilter of the correctness of this, is like trying to stop the tide but more banal. You'll get more converts trying to convince us that Parisparamus was a misunderstood genius.
    posted by mullingitover at 12:30 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    btw I'm not suggesting you go elsewhere, I hope you'll get a sense of humor and stick around.
    posted by mullingitover at 12:33 PM on July 4, 2008


    I'm not asking you to rehash the entire discussion; I'm asking you to provide a link to your definition of "copyright infringement" that you're using here, since you aren't using the legal definition.

    I'm not using any definition of 'copyright infringement' here; I am using the definition of 'theft'. Again, please re-read my comments above, as I have very thoroughly shown the definition I am using and why I feel it fits. So has bonaldi. If you had read, you would know this. You're still trolling. Stop it.

    It's abundantly clear at this point that you see things the way that you see them, you won't be convinced by anything that anyone here says, you've made up your mind.

    Yes, yes I have. After a lot of thought, I have made up my mind. It really is funny how that works, isn't it? And yet, of course, there is not one single person who is questioning bonaldi for using exactly the same word. Hmmmmmm. Funny, that. It's almost like people don't actually care what I have to say, they just want to get me riled up.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:34 PM on July 4, 2008


    So.. hold on. You should get a free pass on your condescension
    Occasionally people call me a "fucking asshole" and suchlike.

    my opinions are actually carefully thought-out
    We have little or no evidence to support that contention, and plenty against it, viz: you don't share much of these "careful thoughts", you mostly just yell at people. Although I thought we were getting somewhere, a moment ago, and now you're back to the whole "ignore any questions asked of you, and instead whine a whole lot" routine. Oh well, your move.

    That is, of course, too much to ask for around here.
    Well, if you like. Strikes me as a self-defeating attitude: either accept that you don't get respect and stop your bloody whinging about it; or else, try asking in different ways.

    The only other thing you said that's even worth responding to is:
    See, there's no way for us to distinguish between "DNAB thinks this is worth responding to" and "DNAB can't come up with a proper argument". No way whatsoever. And no, we will not take your word that you could bring arguments to the forum, that you choose not to bring to the forum. In my imagination, I'm a superhero too!

    Also, boring as it may be, sometimes one has to repeat arguments, especially if those arguments are being made to different people. We're not actually just one comment-bot that speaks in different voices.
    posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2008


    you don't share much of these "careful thoughts", you mostly just yell at people

    Actually, no. This is what I mean about people not actually reading. I was perfectly calm until other people started being assholes.

    Well, if you like. Strikes me as a self-defeating attitude: either accept that you don't get respect and stop your bloody whinging about it; or else, try asking in different ways.

    I refuse to accept that. I will not let idiots drag me down to their level and beat me with experience.

    See, there's no way for us to distinguish between "DNAB thinks this is worth responding to" and "DNAB can't come up with a proper argument". No way whatsoever.

    It's funny how no matter what the situation, a vast, vast number of people on this site start reading anything I write with the following presuppositions: 1) he's an idiot, 2) it doesn't matter what he says because he's still wrong, 3) how can I piss him off more?

    In my imagination, I'm a superhero too!

    I was going to respond to the questions you raised above. Then you pulled this. Kind of put the lie to what you said above, didn't it? To wit: Maybe I crossed a line or two with you, who as a particular individual, find my writing style and tone particularly annoying. So noted. I'll try to be less so.

    I mean really. You bitch at me for being aggressive, you want me to engage more. I do. I decide that I'm done--so you start belittling me again. What is wrong with you?

    Also, boring as it may be, sometimes one has to repeat arguments, especially if those arguments are being made to different people.

    Given that because of people's utter refusal to actually read what I write, I have had to write the same thing about a hundred thousand times. I'm not doing it again. If optovox is actually engaging in conversation, s/he can go ahead and read it. Since it's clear that s/he isn't and is trolling instead, I think we all know that s/he won't.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2008


    'Course, you ignored the part about national libraries. Shocking.

    No. I didn't. When you say "National Archive", you're not talking about my local, city/state run library (or the state university library down the street), all of which are publicly run and funded. You're talking about the archives of the Library of Congress, where mere citizens do not have borrowing privileges. (Or, at least I thought you were, until I saw on preview that you clarified)

    When I say "Public Library", I am talking about my local branch... and everyone else's. These local libraries serve the public good. Copyright and intellectual property ownership also serve the public good, in as much as they allow people in creative fields to make a living. When they're at odds, the one that serves the greater good should (and thankfully, currently does) prevail.

    You state that a publisher's ownership rights should outweigh the rights granted to libraries (more specifically for the users of those libraries). I disagree... because I think that libraries serve the public good much more than publishers do, and I believe that the occasional missed sale is more than offset by the overall gains provided by availability of books and other cultural material to people who wouldn't or couldn't buy them.

    And yes, you should continue to be able to donate your books, just as you can donate your used car, clothes, or old golf clubs. And if I loan you my car with my iPod in the glove box, and a set of golf clubs in the trunk, you should be allowed to drive it to the driving range, use my clubs, enjoy the pornography that my nephew's friend left in the back seat, and listen to my iPod full of legally purchased tracks.

    Except that one of those actions is actionable, because you didn't license the music, I did... and I have no right to transfer that license to you.

    This is a case where the Intellectual Property == Property analogy breaks down. I can loan you property. I can generally resell property that I'm no longer using. I can share property with other people (my neighbors share a BBQ in their shared back yard). Heck... I can buy property, where IP is generally only licensed to me.

    A lot of reasonable people think that's not right. Because under a typical understanding of property rights, I can loan you my golf clubs (or my nephew's porn), and for the period of time that you possess them (and the right to use them), I don't have use of them. Very few people would suggest that should be illegal or actionable. But this thing known as Intellectual Property doesn't work that way -- a purchase of an ephemeral license has far more restrictions than the purchase of a similarly-priced tangible item. And until just a few years ago, it was impossible to buy IP without it being delivered as part of a tangible item -- and we're all pretty comfortable with what we are and aren't allowed to do with a physical CD, including keeping backup copies and format-shifting, and yes, selling it to the used CD store (and destroying your copies in all formats) when you decide you don't want it anymore.

    Some people think that tighter restrictions on use constitutes natural progress, and a step in the right direction WRT performers' rights, and they think that tangible property rights should start to become more restrictive, to catch up with IP rights, when that tangible item also includes IP ("Don't sell that LP record, you don't have the right to relicense the waveforms contained therein." "This book must be read by the original purchaser and then destroyed." This seems unreasonable to most people. Yet, "It is a crime to format-shift this DRMed music. Do not put this on your $20 Chinese MP3 player, it is only licensed for playback on a limited number of much more expensive players." seems just fine, and, we'll, it's the law.)

    I don't think that sort of progress is healthy. You are free to feel differently.
    posted by toxic at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


    posted by dirtynumbangelboy I'm not using any definition of 'copyright infringement' here; I am using the definition of 'theft'.

    Yes, we've noticed. That's the problem--you don't know what copyright infringement actually is, but you continue to say its definition is the same as theft. And that is where you make your bloomer.

    posted by dirtynumbangelboy Again, please re-read my comments above, as I have very thoroughly shown the definition I am using and why I feel it fits.

    You defined the word "theft." But I asked you for a link to your definition of "copyright infringement". Please provide that, if you can.
    posted by optovox at 12:47 PM on July 4, 2008


    you don't know what copyright infringement actually is,

    Yes, I do. Stop trolling.

    But I asked you for a link to your definition of "copyright infringement".

    I'm not using the term. The definition isn't relevant to what I am discussing. I am discussing why what you call 'copyright infringement' (the legal term) is 'theft' (the day-to-day definition).

    Stop trolling.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2008


    Edge cases make poor policy

    Edge cases reveal the flaws of poor policy.
    posted by toxic at 12:56 PM on July 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


    And if I loan you my car with my iPod in the glove box

    I don't really see why that should be actionable. You're not copying it so both of us can listen to it, you're lending it to me.

    "It is a crime to format-shift this DRMed music. Do not put this on your $20 Chinese MP3 player, it is only licensed for playback on a limited number of much more expensive players."

    I think that is unreasonable. 'Course, the reason that DRM exists is because of how many people feel that they have a right to get someone else's hard work for free.

    You state that a publisher's ownership rights should outweigh the rights granted to libraries (more specifically for the users of those libraries). I disagree... because I think that libraries serve the public good much more than publishers do, and I believe that the occasional missed sale is more than offset by the overall gains provided by availability of books and other cultural material to people who wouldn't or couldn't buy them.

    My concern is the precedent. There's already enough "but waaahh gimme freeeee" crybabies around; giving them more ammunition--"But libraries give it away free"--is a really, really bad idea.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:58 PM on July 4, 2008


    Gah. I worded that very poorly.

    What I mean is this: the gimmefree people are already seizing on every half-assed justification they can find to serve their "but I want it, so therefore I should have it, and I don't want to pay for it, so therefore I shouldn't have to" views. On that basis alone, everyone should have the right to control the content they create. Want to give it away for free? Nobody's stopping you. Want to be able to decide? That's the whole point.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:02 PM on July 4, 2008


    dnab, you're taking a stand against public libraries while at the same time you're accusing others of trolling. Think about that.
    posted by mullingitover at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2008


    mullingitover, I'm not taking a stand against public libraries; I am taking a stand for creative control. Think about that.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:06 PM on July 4, 2008


    posted by dirtynumbangelboy I'm not using the term[copyright infringement]. The definition isn't relevant to what I am discussing.

    Yes, it is, because upthread you said "It is a reasonable and well thought out position that copyright infringement is theft." If that's your position, you need to define what copyright infringement is so you can point out how and why they are identical. You've done a good job explaining what theft is and why you think it's the same thing as copyright infringement, but you haven't provided your definition of copyright infringement to show why it's the same thing as theft. Based on what we've read from you, I don't think you understand exactly what it is. But that could change--it's up to you.

    posted by dirtynumbangelboy I am discussing why what you call 'copyright infringement' (the legal term) is 'theft' (the day-to-day definition).

    Wait, you said I'm not using any definition of 'copyright infringement' here; I am using the definition of 'theft'. Are you using the legal definition, your own definition, or no definition at all? Which is it?
    posted by optovox at 1:21 PM on July 4, 2008


    optovox. the answers to all of your questions are already here. what purpose are you serving by trolling, except to try and piss me off?
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:23 PM on July 4, 2008


    dirtynumbangelboy writes "mullingitover, I'm not taking a stand against public libraries; I am taking a stand for creative control. Think about that."

    You already acknowledge upthread that things are inequitable and people should 'get the laws changed.' This is another welfare benefit for media cartels. It would gut libraries.

    Also, as someone else mentions, copyright infringement penalties are already vastly greater than the penalties for theft. So what you're actually arguing for is reduced penalties for copyright infringement? Or should there be a penalty of $250,000 possible for stealing a candy bar?
    posted by mullingitover at 1:25 PM on July 4, 2008


    but you haven't provided your definition of copyright infringement to show why it's the same thing as theft. Based on what we've read from you, I don't think you understand exactly what it is. But that could change--it's up to you.

    For god's sake. I do know what copyright infringement is. I have made this perfectly clear. We all know what copyright infringement is. I happen to believe that the LEGAL TERM copyright infringement is essentially the same as THE EVERY DAY WORD theft.

    Now. I am begging you. Stop. Trolling.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:25 PM on July 4, 2008


    Also, as someone else mentions, copyright infringement penalties are already vastly greater than the penalties for theft.

    And your point is?

    So what you're actually arguing for is reduced penalties for copyright infringement?

    Oh, your point is putting more words in my mouth, got it.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:26 PM on July 4, 2008


    posted by dirtynumbangelboy For god's sake. I do know what copyright infringement is. I have made this perfectly clear.

    No, you don't. What is clear is that you don't know what CI is.

    posted by dirtynumbangelboy We all know what copyright infringement is.

    Some of us do. You do not.

    posted by dirtynumbangelboy I happen to believe that the LEGAL TERM copyright infringement is essentially the same as THE EVERY DAY WORD theft.

    Okay, fine. Then tell us what you think copyright infringement is without saying, "It's the same thing as theft."
    posted by optovox at 1:34 PM on July 4, 2008


    In a nutshell, dnab, many of us your position is dubious at best. Heck, don't take my word for it, Google it. Your best bet here is to agree to disagree, crack a joke, and go outside and play in the sun. Throwing around 'omg you troll' isn't helping. You're going to have more luck convincing mefi that Barack Obama is really, omgiswear, a muslim.
    posted by mullingitover at 1:37 PM on July 4, 2008


    And if I loan you my car with my iPod in the glove box

    I don't really see why that should be actionable. You're not copying it so both of us can listen to it, you're lending it to me.


    Exactly. The IP law in this case, should work the same way it does if the item were tangible (and, because in this case, the IP is contained on an iPod, which is tangible, it makes it a bit more difficult to see why this would be actionable). If I buy something, but am not currently using it, I should be free to let someone else use it in my place, right? That's part of what I get when I buy tangible property -- the right to determine how that property is used. So, if IP is Property, this should work the same way.

    But... according to the terms that a downloaded track was licensed to me, I can't loan it to you. I definitely can't (legally) give you my copy, and then get my copy back from you in a week. When I'm not using my license, I do not have the option to let someone else use it in my place, the way that I do with real property.

    That's what I'm doing if I loan you my iPod. I'm illegally letting you use something that was only licensed to me. I'm loaning you a book when the publisher specifically told me not to (in the licensing agreement). The fact that I'm not copying it is immaterial, because IP rights are ephemeral and the nontransferable license was granted to me. I don't own the sequence of bits on my iPod, only a license to use them to listen to the content that they represent, so I can't legally offer those bits for you to use without the owner's permission.

    This is a distinction that clearly separates IP from tangible property, and perhaps suggests that some of the things that are obvious about real property don't quite apply so exactly to Intellectual Property. It is one of many, and it hardly seems like an edge case.

    It is unfortunate that a lot of the anti-copyright anti-DRM people feel that way because they want to get everything for free. It's similarly unfortunate that the record industry took so long to embrace digital distribution, then begrudgingly accepted it, provided there were very substantial use restrictions, policed by both technology and the law.

    Can't we all just get along?
    posted by toxic at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    No, you don't. What is clear is that you don't know what CI is.

    Okay, troll. Feed on this: Copyright infringement is what happens when you--get this, it's really tricky--infringe on the copyright that someone holds on a particular work. This can include copying it illegally, using it without attribution, sampling in a musical or video work, copying and using for your own monetary gain, and so on, depending on local laws. Sometimes a concept called 'fair use' comes into play, such as the right to make personal-use copies of movies and/or music.

    Doing most of these things gives you something that you did not have before, without the consent of the rights owner. This is why I believe that it is fundamentally the same as theft, in the day-to-day definition.

    Are you done now? I really hope you are.

    And again, I find it very telling that despite saying the same thing, not one of you people has questioned bonaldi. Not one. Me, you'll attack, you'll hound, you'll troll. Bonaldi, who says exactly the same fucking thing? Nope.

    But, of course, I'm just imagining things. Really, I must be. Because obviously you guys are hounding bonaldi, too. Right? Yeah? Oh, what's that? You're not?

    It really isn't about what I'm saying. It's about the fact that I'm the one saying it. It's pretty sad that you are all pretending otherwise.

    In a nutshell, dnab, many of us your position is dubious at best.

    You don't say.

    Throwing around 'omg you troll' isn't helping.

    The sky is blue. Water is wet. optavox is trolling.

    Your best bet here is to agree to disagree

    And yet again the onus is on me to do this. Of course. I'm the bad guy, I have to give up, I have to sit here and take abuse, but god bloody forbid I stand up for myself.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:50 PM on July 4, 2008


    oh, and optavox, one more thing. I already posted this, but since you're apparently incapable of scrolling upwards, I'll do it again:

    "Theft is both a legal term and a dictionary term. I am using the latter sense, as I have made it clear,

    Copyright infringement:theft :: murder 1:killing"
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:54 PM on July 4, 2008


    dirtynumbangelboy writes "optavox is trolling."

    If we took a "Who's the troll?" poll for this thread I'm pretty sure optavox would not be the winnah.
    posted by mullingitover at 2:08 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    bonaldi: That surprised me too, dnab. Copyright monopolies are granted only because they're a public good, and so are libraries.

    dnab: Allow me to restate: is this a bad thing for data sharing? Yes. Yes it is. But the creators of works have the right to decide how those works will be used, subject to reasonable limits for the public good.

    I think you've got the moral underpinnings of copyright backwards dirtynumbangelboy. Society grants exclusivity rights to creators, subject to time limits and fair use (fair dealing) exceptions. One of those exceptions specifically covers library rights!

    As Bonaldi succinctly put it the end goal is society's enrichment, NOT preserving the income potential of artists. When the policy was framed, it was thought that these two aims were symbiotic. These days, many reasonable people, including artists, professors, and copyright lawyers[pdf] are reconsidering that premise.
    posted by Popular Ethics at 2:10 PM on July 4, 2008


    posted by dirtynumbangelboy Copyright infringement is what happens when you--get this, it's really tricky--infringe on the copyright that someone holds on a particular work. This can include copying it illegally, using it without attribution, sampling in a musical or video work, copying and using for your own monetary gain, and so on, depending on local laws. Sometimes a concept called 'fair use' comes into play, such as the right to make personal-use copies of movies and/or music.

    Okay, now we're making some progress. Where did you get this definition? (I've asked you several times for a link to wherever it is you're getting your information).

    posted by dirtynumbangelboy Doing most of these things gives you something that you did not have before, without the consent of the rights owner. This is why I believe that it is fundamentally the same as theft, in the day-to-day definition.

    And that is where you make your bloomer. We know you believe it's the same thing as theft, but you're mstaken, because it isn't that cut-and-dried. See also: Dowling v. United States of America.

    posted by dirtynumbangelboy Copyright infringement:theft :: murder 1:killing"

    Yes, we're all aware of your repeated attempts to prove that your definition of theft means you have also defined copyright infringement. Unfortunately, my friend, you haven't.
    posted by optovox at 2:22 PM on July 4, 2008


    Toxic: "It is a crime to format-shift this DRMed music. Do not put this on your $20 Chinese MP3 player, it is only licensed for playback on a limited number of much more expensive players."

    Dnab: "I think that is unreasonable."

    I do too. But the thing is, it's the law. I'm not allowed to use the track in a method inconsistent with its licensing (and the track is licensed somewhat differently when I purchase it on CD as opposed to via iTunes). If I do break the DRM and put the track on my cheap-o MP3 player, I would be committing an act of copyright infringement (I'm also probably breaking DRM circumvention laws too, but lets stay focused).

    Or lets say in a moment of weakness, I bought a Zune, which is incompatible with my library of iTunes tracks. So, I want to sell my iPod with its music library included, since those tracks will no longer be useful to me. If I did so, I would be committing an act of copyright infringement. I can sell you the player, but if you want the tracks, you'll have to buy your own licenses to them, from the one company that's allowed to sell you these licenses.

    I don't think either of these cases is remotely analogous to theft. I don't think you do either. I also don't think they're edge cases... just very real examples of copyright infringement involving ephemeral copies of something that probably wouldn't be infringing if there was a physical item involved.

    I really don't relish the idea of this sort of enforcement being extended to cover more tangible items that happen to include IP. The used record store (or used sheet music store) has a long history, and the idea that copyright law is effectively eliminating a secondary market for digital downloads (a "used" MP3 store, if you will) strikes me a fundamentally wrong.

    The idea of extending this such that there's no secondary market for books, or that a library's "licensed for borrowing" copy might somehow be different than a "single read only" drug store paperback just seems so exceptionally broken to me....

    ...that I feel like I should continue posting in a thread about Google and Viacom that has long since outlasted its usefulness.
    posted by toxic at 3:35 PM on July 4, 2008


    As an aside, the situation in Canada at this time is that one is legally permitted to copy any music recording.

    In Canada it is not theft to borrow a friend's CD and rip a bit-perfect copy of it to CD-R. It is not even copyright infringement.
    posted by five fresh fish at 4:57 PM on July 4, 2008


    [few comments removed - metatalk or email are your options.]
    posted by jessamyn at 5:58 PM on July 4, 2008


    posted by dirtynumbangelboy As it's not copyright infringement up here, it is therefore not theft, and also not what we were talking about.

    But throughout this thread you've said copyright infringement is theft. Now you're saying it isn't theft.

    posted by dirtynumbangelboy You ever going to bother responding to "If you have a problem with the definition I gave, then say so." by the way?

    I did. I said that the problem is that you've made up your own definition for a legal term which is much more complex and nuanced than you appear to understand.
    posted by optovox at 6:00 PM on July 4, 2008


    I think you just made the thread endlessly more confusing, jessamyn. Optovox's responses make no sense now: you appear to have nuked some of dnab's posts, and there's not enough context to be able to know if optovox is correctly understanding what dnab has written.

    In particular, it appears dnab completely waffled, but now we can't know for sure.
    posted by five fresh fish at 6:15 PM on July 4, 2008


    My post was composed in preview before I saw Jessamyn's edit.

    five fresh fish said, "In Canada it is not theft to borrow a friend's CD and rip a bit-perfect copy of it to CD-R. It is not even copyright infringement." I responded with a needlessly-snarky, "Not according to dirtynumbangelboy!"

    dirtynumbangelboy then responded with the quotes in my 6:00pm post. I didn't quote his post in its entirety, but his quotes in my post are unedited.
    posted by optovox at 6:25 PM on July 4, 2008


    [few comments removed - metatalk or email are your options]
    Could the MeTa thread be reopened then? This thread has derailed to exactly the same place.
    posted by bonaldi at 6:54 PM on July 4, 2008


    optovox, it's not that difficult.

    In Canada, doing what fff said is not copyright infringement. Therefore it cannot be theft.

    In the USA, doing so is copyright infringement, and therefore theft.

    I really can't believe it was that unclear. Oh.. wait.. it wasn't!
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:54 PM on July 4, 2008


    This thread has derailed to exactly the same place.

    Yes, yes it has. Hardly surprising.. let's see, people misquoting me? Check. People refusing to actually read what I write? Check. People trolling just to get a rise out of me? Check.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:11 PM on July 4, 2008


    The problem, dnab, is that you are using your very own personal language to talk about things that the rest of us are addressing using very standard, commonly-agreed-upon language. You are playing the role of Humpty Dumpty.

    And as you should realize by now, that just ain't gonna fly on MetaFilter.

    It should be dead obvious to you by this point that no one is going to agree to use your ridiculous definition of theft. The courts don't use it, educated people don't use it, bloody well no one but RIAA uses it.

    You have a choice to make: you can continue tilting at windmills, or you can suck it up like a man and admit that your precious snowflake of a definition is not useful.
    posted by five fresh fish at 7:33 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


    In Canada, doing what fff said is not copyright infringement. Therefore it cannot be theft.

    in germany, gassing jews was not illegal, therefore it could not be murder

    someone please invoke godwin now
    posted by pyramid termite at 8:37 PM on July 4, 2008


    I'll do what I like, thank you very much.

    And what I like includes not being insulted by someone I used to respect.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:47 PM on July 4, 2008


    I'll do what I like, thank you very much.

    and what you like to do seems to be spamming this webboard with your feelings of drama and persecution because people disagree with you - it's ridiculous, it's inappropriate and if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

    stay ontopic or stay out
    posted by pyramid termite at 8:58 PM on July 4, 2008


    My irony meter just pegged. I guess it's different if you don't stay on topic?

    And seriously.. I can handle strong debate. It's the fucking condescension and outright contempt that I have issues with. You'll notice that I was perfectly calm until people started flinging shit.

    Whatever.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:01 PM on July 4, 2008


    And seriously, is nobody going to address the fact that bonaldi said exactly the same thing?

    No one?

    Not a peep?

    Not a whisper?

    Nothing?

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I wonder why that could be. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:07 PM on July 4, 2008


    meta
    posted by pyramid termite at 9:08 PM on July 4, 2008


    dnab; I have never spoken with you before. I have read the entirety of your comments. You're being completely ridiculous at this point - the level to which you believe yourself to be the center of all this is astounding. It's not about you. It's about having a functional discussion. Part of that is agreeing on a common vocabulary and sticking to it. In a lot of discussions we don't have the benefit of a common vocabulary, but luckily in this one we do have such a thing, and it's called U.S. Code Title 17. Take a few minutes to browse it, at least, because at this point we are beyond a laymans' discussion of copyright and its implications. We have reached a point in the discussion where you must be knowledgeable about the real definition.

    The definitions of theft are actually more varied, but nonetheless defined.

    You see, rather than each of us coming up with our own definitions for things, based on our feelings and what we like or don't like, we have the benefit of referencing pre-defined terms and then using these terms in our discussions.

    If you refuse to do this, then you will need to do one of the following:
    1. Stop using the terms copyright infringement and theft
    2. Make up new phrases to describe your personal ideas.

    Without those important steps, we cannot continue to have a functional discussion.
    posted by odinsdream at 9:32 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


    Given that I have repeatedly explained precisely why I think theft as it is used every day by normal people is a perfectly acceptable way to describe what is legally known as copyright infringement, your point is moot.

    'Course, everyone's still ignoring the fact that other people have said the same thing. Hmm.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:33 PM on July 4, 2008


    And seriously, is nobody going to address the fact that bonaldi said exactly the same thing?

    I'll give it a shot dnab, if you'll indulge me for a bit. I think bonaldi has actually an interesting argument for copyright infringement being considered an offense against property:

    "If you violate the copyright holder's rights to the copyright, they can effectively no longer use them, (depending how egregious the infringement), so yes, there very much is a "take" there."

    He further went on to communicate that he understands the differences between the abstract non-legal concept of theft (there is no such crime in the common law as "theft." Larceny, robbery, false pretenses, embezzlement, etc. but there's not one that's called "theft") which further established his point of view as one that draws distinctions between the common law definitions of property offenses (often referred to in the generic as theft offenses) and the broader non-legal classification of "theft"

    In contrast, when you make the same argument, I'm unclear as to what you actually think is being stolen/taken from the copyright holder because I don't see where you've articulated the specific property right of which a copyright holder would be deprived. I suspect that's why optovox was pressing you to define copyright infringement - so that he could understand what the property right is that you believe to be taken/stolen from the holder. I can't speak for everyone else, that's just my view, but I'm laying that out there in case it helps clarify at lease my own opposing position for you. Hopefully you won't find that condescending - I truly don't mean it as such.
    posted by Dr. Zira at 9:59 PM on July 4, 2008


    Riiight. Because me repeatedly showing that I understand the difference between the legal and non-legal terms means.. nothing.

    Okay. Right. Sure.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:02 PM on July 4, 2008


    dnab, I expect this message will end up being deleted by the admins, but it has to be said: You are a fucking retard. You have flatly contradicted yourself by conflating legal concepts (namely, the distinction between copyright infringement in Canada and the USA) with non-legal causal language (your casual use of the word "theft"). You simply can not have it both ways: you can not reasonably expect to use both legalistic and casual language in the same bloody thread, let alone the same message.

    I strongly suggest you take some personal time off to pull yourself together. I can not fathom why you have gone off the deep end on this issue, but there is clearly something terribly wrong in your life right now and you are taking it out on us.

    Please, for the love of yourself, quit digging this hole.
    posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


    I can not fathom why you have gone off the deep end on this issue, but there is clearly something terribly wrong in your life right now and you are taking it out on us.

    There isn't, and I'm not. What part of 'sick of being treated like shit here' is not clear to you?

    But hey. What do I know. I'm a fucking retard.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:22 PM on July 4, 2008


    oh, and if your opinion mattered to me, I would. Yours doesn't. Used to. Then you started insulting me.
    posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:22 PM on July 4, 2008


    No skin off my ass, dnab. Have a very nice life.
    posted by five fresh fish at 10:40 PM on July 4, 2008


    Because me repeatedly showing that I understand the difference between the legal and non-legal terms means.. nothing.

    I disagree with you here. There is often a difference between law and morality. When you say you want to use the non-legal term "theft" does that mean you consider CI to be a moral wrong, rather than something that can be prosecuted as a theft offense in US common law (e.g. larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses, etc - or maybe even a civil tort offense such as trespass to chattels or conversion) or do you think CI can and should be prosecuted as as a common law theft offense? That's why I think the choice of language - between legal and non-legal terms is crucial - I cannot understand what you're trying to communicate otherwise.

    FWIW, I understand bonaldi to mean the latter.
    posted by Dr. Zira at 11:02 PM on July 4, 2008


    Well now, "theft of services" has a similar feel, in that you're taking something that is ordinarily charged (say, cable tv) and getting it for nothing. It's arguable whether or not you would have paid (and thus they lost money) or not, and whether or not that is the point. You are not depriving the cable company of cable, in the way that I deprive you of something if I pick your pocket, nor are you depriving anyone else of something, except (possibly) profits.

    Use of "theft" in that way is not novel, though it is also not C.I.. The reason C.I. gets called "theft" is simply because the RIAA wants to attach a label that has moral resonance. But arguments about "not depriving" anyone fail to distinguish the situation from scenarios like theft of services, which AFAIK, no one had much of a problem with having a law about.

    But I suppose this thread is long since dead. Oh well.
    posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:37 AM on July 5, 2008


    That is just to say: I think there can be non-CI-zealots arguing for the "theft" terminology.

    But aeschenkarnos explained exactly why this is a non-issue.
    posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:44 AM on July 5, 2008


    I admittedly am not to familiar with the issues at hand. However, it seems like uploading copyrighted content is against youtube's tos. YouTube also has a mechanism by which people can report copyrighted content, and one where copyright owners can have the content pulled. Is it YouTube's fault for allowing the initial upload (not screening each and every video uploaded), or viacom's (or other content owners') for not employing screeners to comb YouTube and the like for copyrighted material? I believe it should be the latter, which would make all of these data demands almost irrelevant.
    posted by necessitas at 12:15 PM on July 5, 2008


    can not =/ cannot
    posted by bardic at 4:03 PM on July 5, 2008


    dirtynumbangelboy, you keep saying Copyright infringement:theft :: murder 1:killing by way of defining "theft". That that analogy defines theft as something that would in many cases be justifiable, as compared to CI which would be a specific type of theft that was criminal. Killing a person in warfare or self-defense, killing an animal for food or sport, all allowable. Are you saying that in your definition file sharing is "theft" that is not necessarily bad or criminal, as "copyright infringement" is?
    posted by nicwolff at 4:20 PM on July 5, 2008


    I'm late to the party, but what the heck.

    toxic: I'm not allowed to use the track in a method inconsistent with its licensing (and the track is licensed somewhat differently when I purchase it on CD as opposed to via iTunes). If I do break the DRM and put the track on my cheap-o MP3 player, I would be committing an act of copyright infringement (I'm also probably breaking DRM circumvention laws too, but lets stay focused).

    Inaccurate. I discussed this on a previous thread. Violating the DMCA: probably; violating the license (a contract-law issue): probably; violating copyright: questionable. A U.S. District Court recently ruled against this notion.

    As to the main event: DNAB, it seems to me that what you're missing here is that "copyright infringement" is a very specific legal term of art. It's not a concept that's defined by public opinion. I'm not trying to shoot you down or antagonize you; with all due respect, and speaking as someone who does have a fair amount of specific knowledge about the topic, you are a bit wide of the mark. No need to belabor that point.

    So what you're talking about is really just what you perceive to be unfair uses of a particular sort of intellectual property; whether or not any of the things you're talking about actually constitute copyright infringement is a judicial question. Many of your hypotheticals discuss matters that are manifestly not infringement: for example, second-hand sales of books are exempt under the first sale doctrine. The theoretical reasons for that are rock-solid, and saying "well, I'm not sure about that" is really akin to saying that you're not at all concerned with the reality of what copyright law is.

    Again, your opinion on intellectual property issues is entirely yours, and that's fine, but what you're talking about is a distinct body of law, and you simply can't pronounce that it "is" something that it's not; if you do that, you're taking a personal position, it's subject to criticism, and you should cop to that rather than making a definitional argument, because there's no definition backing you up if you're not talking about the law and what it actually says.
    posted by spiderwire at 9:31 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


    Oh, I didn't see the parallel discussion.

    DISREGARD EVERYTHING I SAID. Also liek BoingBoing WTF amirite? lol bai
    posted by spiderwire at 10:35 PM on July 5, 2008


    CI differs fundamentally from theft. If you steal a substantive thing from me, the injury to me is not that you have it, it's that I don't have it; you have taken it from me and deprived me of it.

    By contrast, if you infringe my copyright to the extent of making a copy of something for yourself, then so far I have actually lost nothing. It's only when we bring secondary economic activity into it after the fact that any potential loss on my part comes into play. You might otherwise have bought it. If that can be shown to be true, then I'm theoretically out whatever I might have realized on whatever you would have been obliged to pay to get it. This definition, from the git-go, veers very far away from any reasonable definition of theft, given that it brings into it both speculation and a scheme of valuation which is not remotely as intrinsically obvious as the market value of a substantial object of worth.

    Is it an economic crime? Yes, mostly because of a legalistic definition which our society has largely agreed upon; not as any sort of natural consequence of the act. Is it theft? It bears so little resemblance to it that if you define it as theft, there is almost nothing you couldn't, with a similar amount of contortionism, also define as theft.
    posted by George_Spiggott at 12:18 AM on July 6, 2008


    By contrast, if you infringe my copyright to the extent of making a copy of something for yourself, then so far I have actually lost nothing.
    Have you read this thread? There's a number of ways in which the theft thing holds, albeit loosely, but certainly not so loosely or contortedly that anything could count as theft.

    In your example, what you've lost is the control over the use and exploitation of your creation, which is a fundamental right. Additionally, as has also been pointed out, there are related concepts like theft of services which equally include the victim "losing nothing".
    posted by bonaldi at 7:45 AM on July 6, 2008


    I wonder why so many of us are resistant to the theft analogy, actually, even as a way of speaking. I understand that it's inaccurate, especially when you're literally talking about legal offences, but so are a whole number of our ways of speaking.

    I wonder if it's more to do with people not liking thinking of themselves as thieves, because stealing-is-bad has been drummed into most of us since we were small, whereas academic concepts like tort and contract law allow us to get our paws on valuable stuff for free with a clear conscience (hey, we're sticking to the media man as well, bonus).
    posted by bonaldi at 7:53 AM on July 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


    In your example, what you've lost is the control over the use and exploitation of your creation, which is a fundamental right.

    Is it really? Even in these post-Mouse days, there is an expiry date. Can a "fundamental right" have an expiry date?

    The real theft, come to think of it, lies at the feet of Disney. Not only have they used their corporate powers to purchase the copyright laws they want, they have stolen our cultural heritage by appropriating age-old fairy tales. Copyright was about ensuring our common cultural history could be shared; it has become a tool for private industry.
    posted by five fresh fish at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2008


    ...which is a fundamental right.

    No it's a legalism invented to promote a social good.

    I wonder why so many of us are resistant to the theft analogy

    There you are. Analogy is a reasonable word. That wasn't so hard.

    I wonder if it's more to do with people not liking thinking of themselves as thieves

    Ad hominem. There are reasons for arguing against the distortion of a legal term other than being an infringer oneself. I am not in favor of infringement of reasonable copyright laws. I get really pissed off when I see copyrighted material distributed without permission on the web; I've even posted to Metatalk asking for links to such things to be removed. What I oppose is the propagandistic expansion of the invented concept of intellectual property in order to classify it as something it is not, as part of a campaign to distort the intent of the law, which was to ultimately increase the amount of created works available to society, not to create a new class of property in perpetuity.
    posted by George_Spiggott at 8:45 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


    Is it really? Even in these post-Mouse days, there is an expiry date. Can a "fundamental right" have an expiry date?
    Well, it's in the UN declaration of human rights, so it's fairly fundamental, aye. The implementation of it can differ though -- many rights are limited for the good of society.

    I agree about the venality of Disney, though, although I'm not convinced copyright was ever about sharing our common history, more about incentivising creativity and protecting author's rights. Now the incentive is to sit on your archives and stop others creating, it seems.
    posted by bonaldi at 8:47 AM on July 6, 2008


    No it's a legalism invented to promote a social good.
    See above.

    There you are. Analogy is a reasonable word. That wasn't so hard.
    Seriously, are you reading this thread? It's not so hard to do. I'm not in the copy=theft camp, all I've ever said is that it's a reasonable non-legal use of the term, because it's an analogy that fits quite well (though there are better).

    Ad hominem. There are reasons for arguing against the distortion of a legal term other than being an infringer oneself.
    Can one ad hominem oneself? I've already admitted above that I also get riled at attempts to sell all infringement as theft, now I'm wondering exactly why. But seriously, reading the fucking thread, will you?
    posted by bonaldi at 8:52 AM on July 6, 2008


    Can one ad hominem oneself?

    I don't see why not. Just because you're willing to impute something about yourself doesn't make it accurate to sweep others up in the generalization.

    But seriously, reading the fucking thread, will you?[sic]

    I've been following it all along, apart from skipping over certain rants that seemed superficially to be people repeating themselves with additional doses of rancor. But I'm reminded of something the supreme court cited in a recent ruling, from The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll; "what I tell you three times is true." (I just love that they did that, by the way.) It doesn't matter how many times something's been said above if it's still flawed.
    posted by George_Spiggott at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2008


    Just because you're willing to impute something about yourself doesn't make it accurate to sweep others up in the generalization.
    Yes but a generalisation isn't necessarily false merely because it generalises over a set. And it's not the actual reason people resist the use of the term that I find curious, it's the vehemence, which is so strong that it makes me think there's an emotional component.

    It doesn't matter how many times something's been said above if it's still flawed.
    No, of course not. But it'd be nice if you attempt to respond to the arguments made against the original points (as, eg The Bellman and adipocere have done so well) rather than, ironically, just restating the original points as if they're novel contributions. We done the "but I don't take anything from you" about three times upthread already.
    posted by bonaldi at 9:08 AM on July 6, 2008


    Yes but a generalisation isn't necessarily false merely because it generalises over a set.

    *cough* You have got to be kidding with that one. But I suspect you're not. Ta ta.
    posted by George_Spiggott at 9:30 AM on July 6, 2008


    Ooh, great, another pointless semantic argument we could have. We might even get that to MeTa as well. But actually, this topic's more interesting, and the thread's better without you, so ta ta it is.
    posted by bonaldi at 10:04 AM on July 6, 2008


    I had no idea copyright was in the UN declaration of human rights. Wow.
    posted by Popular Ethics at 10:41 AM on July 6, 2008


    I want to touch on the entire "content creators should decide if their works can be loaned at a library".

    DNAB said :
    "But the creators of works have the right to decide how those works will be used, subject to reasonable limits for the public good. So.. school libraries & national libraries, should get books whether or not they are licenced for free distribution--an exception in the law would do nicely. Beyond that, probably not; authors/publishers should be allowed to decide whether or not their works will be distributed free."

    OK, so. First Sale Doctrine.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine

    Basically, goods (explicitly: books) did in fact have EULAs. From the original 1908 case:

    "In that case, the publisher, Bobbs-Merrill, had inserted a notice in its books that any retail sale at a price under $1.00 would constitute an infringement of its copyright. The defendants, who owned Macy’s department store, disregarded the notice and sold the books at a lower price without Bobbs-Merrill’s consent. We held that the exclusive statutory right to "vend" applied only to the first sale of the copyrighted work."

    In other words, once the original seller (Bobbs-Merrill) was done with their initial sale of the good, it was no longer their good to do anything with and they couldn't compel anybody to do anything in particular with it. They lost control of it. This has since been expanded upon as you can read in the wiki link.

    It's even been rolled back some, as manufacturers are now allowed to force merchants not to sell below a certain price for the initial sale. I'm not 100% sure why this is, actually -- maybe because the "first sale" hasn't been made yet or something.

    Bringing this to the digital age means that as long as you no longer possess a given digital work in any format, you are free to sell the digital work. Unfortunately, licensing is now so draconian that that "right" has been taken away -- you're licensing a digital work for a particular MP3 player, for instance, and that's it. If you sell the MP3 player, which you have a right to do as it is a material good that you are transferring, you have to wipe it clean of any music you had on it.

    Originally, all works were public goods. Some bard did a song, and if you could remember it and carry a tune, you could go to the next village over and perform the same work. Content rights have been evolving ever since the printing press and the ability to record sheet music because mainstream. But even then, those rights were curtailed. A content creator was allowed to make money off of his work FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY, and then anybody could make money off of that work.

    It's why we can do Dickens movies, and why Walt Disney can do Snow White and Pinnochio, and why Shakespeare hasn't gone out of style. They're all "public domain". But the laws started changing. A huge law was put in place in 1977 pushing back the release of works into the public domain for 20 years. It was renewed for another 20 years in 1997. Nobody has really shown a good reason for this except that the rights holding companies have gotten better at monetizing these goods (and have gotten into paid lobbying). I personally think these laws are the reasons that we have so few modern classics -- nobody is disseminating important works in a rapid fashion and schools have a harder time teaching artistic literature. Just a theory.

    So it's not that there are an increasing number of "I WANT EVERYTHING FOR FREE" types of people (though there ARE an increasing number of people who are used to getting everything for free via copyright infringement) -- it's that there has been a ridiculous increase in the rights of content creators (of which I am one) to make money off of their works at the expense of the content consumers.

    tl;dr: it's scary that there are people who think content creators should be the bastion of what is appropriate commercial policy. it's important that there be a viable exchange of ideas and thought and historically that's the policy that was created. it's only since the advent of the recording industry that things have gone haywire, and i wish more people understood that.
    posted by taumeson at 10:52 AM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


    Our lawyer friend up above mentioned how copyright infringement is not larceny -- it's a devaluation of a person's legislated (read: not fundamental) right. There must of necessity be a different method of handling this.

    "Theft of Services" is a decent enough semantic way of defining these devaluations of rights, in my opinion. I think I'm with Bonaldi, there, while thinking that DNAB was totally off his rocker with his CI:Theft::Murder:Killing argument.
    posted by taumeson at 10:55 AM on July 6, 2008


    Spiderwire: Inaccurate. I discussed this on a previous thread. Violating the DMCA: probably; violating the license (a contract-law issue): probably; violating copyright: questionable. A U.S. District Court recently ruled against this notion.

    I'm pretty sure it'd be 'Violating title I of the DMCA, definitely. Violating the license, definitely.' (though the practical enforcement of both of those is still unclear). 'Violating copyright: questionable, but very likely'. There is no settled case law either way.

    Paramount v. Load 'n Go video would be an especially relevant one to watch, but LnG went out of business more or less immediately after the suit was filed, and people aren't exactly lining up to get sued by the movie studios. The case that you linked to is also proceeding (so it's not settled case law either), Vernor has not won his lawsuit... the court didn't grant Autodesk the summary judgment that they asked for, but that doesn't mean that Autodesk has been found to be in the wrong, yet.

    Regardless, my reason for laying out that scenario was to show an example of something that is (or very likely is) an act of copyright infringement, that does not really feel like theft. The two that I gave: selling a no longer used iPod full of tracks, and cracking DRM to put purchased tracks onto an unsupported player, are quite definitely things that are actionable -- because of the protections given to the copyright holders of the content involved.

    dnab was trying to support his belief that a publisher should be able to produce a book with specific use restrictions ("do not donate this to a library. Do not lend it to a friend."), because a book borrowed against publisher's wishes == lost sale == theft. While (to me, anyway) that sort of thing seems absurd on its face when applied to a book or even a CD, it is typical of ephemeral copies of (legal) downloaded digital content (like say, an audiobook, or an iTunes track).

    So, I was pointing out the real-world problems with that model, using a mixed tangible/ephemeral example that people are familiar with: an iPod full of licensed songs, which can not be legally resold (apple employs people to find these on eBay and eBay will take them down immediately)... and a track that can be played legally on an iPod, but to create a copy in a format that can be played on a no-name player would definitely run afoul of the DMCA (which, of course, is part of US copyright law). The DRM-free copy that gets made, is probably itself a violation, because it's an unauthorized copy (and it's hard to argue fair use when you have to break the anti-DRM-circumvention law to create the copy).

    Regardless, though... my point was that this behavior definitely goes against the publisher's stated wishes (since we can assume that the licensing agreement is a pretty good declaration of these wishes). So in dnab's utopia, where all forms of transferring content in a method inconsistent with the publisher's desires is theft, this would be theft, too.

    Sure doesn't feel like theft to me, either.

    copyright violation::theft as wearing fur::murder. Just because there are some parallels, and it's a nice repeatable soundbite that some people scream louder and louder (and others fundamentally believe it down to their moral core), doesn't mean that it's true, or that it should be true.
    posted by toxic at 11:08 AM on July 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


    I'm pretty sure it'd be 'Violating title I of the DMCA, definitely. Violating the license, definitely.' (though the practical enforcement of both of those is still unclear). 'Violating copyright: questionable, but very likely'. There is no settled case law either way.

    As a stylistic preference, I tend to say "probably," "probably not," or "toss-up" when discussing ongoing cases, so interpret that as you will. The live questions generally include (1) whether private licenses can bootstrap in public IP protections; (2) how selectively they can do so (e.g., can first-sale or fair-use rights be waived while author protections are retained); (3) how to resolve potential contradictions between federal and state law; (4) who can be bound by licenses and how (what constitutes acceptance; is there privity; etc.); (5) are there certain instances where combinations of IP protections and market practice create an unacceptable chilling effect? (e.g., in the recently-decided Quanta v. LG [pdf] -- this theory actually seems to be gaining a lot of traction).

    (Bill Patry, Google's Senior Copyright Counsel, has some interesting discussions of some of these issues here (Quanta) and here (Vernor).)

    The case that you linked to is also proceeding (so it's not settled case law either), Vernor has not won his lawsuit... the court didn't grant Autodesk the summary judgment that they asked for, but that doesn't mean that Autodesk has been found to be in the wrong, yet.

    Right, the Court still has to resolve some substantive issues -- i.e., mostly questions of fact, rather than questions of law. But the important thing for the purposes of this discussion is that Judge Jones resoundingly struck down the line of authority favoring the notion that licensors could selectively bootstrap public-law IP protections into their private licenses. He did a deft job of weaving together MAI, the Adobe cases, and many others, and that part of the decision probably isn't going anywhere soon. It's a pretty big deal.

    Regardless, my reason for laying out that scenario was to show an example of something that is (or very likely is) an act of copyright infringement, that does not really feel like theft. The two that I gave: selling a no longer used iPod full of tracks, and cracking DRM to put purchased tracks onto an unsupported player, are quite definitely things that are actionable -- because of the protections given to the copyright holders of the content involved.

    That's about 75% correct. The main quibble I have with this statement is that DMCA violations are not copyright infringement -- by the terms of the statute itself -- and that's important in no small part because the statute was written that way to free it from the normal limitations on copyright laws. Most anything is "actionable," (particularly in this area) but I think it's highly questionable that either of those two examples would constitute infringement. Statutory violation, perhaps, but that's different and it's an important distinction.

    Selling the iPod turns on essentially the same issue as Vernor, and it could go both ways -- the question being whether the license which you purportedly assented to when purchasing songs (I'm assuming there are purchased songs on the iPod, because otherwise there's no case) can trump your first-sale rights under §109 of the Copyright Act while still incorporating all the Act's other protections guarding the copyright owners' rights in the songs.

    As to the second example, there's an open question there as well. As a preliminary matter, that's almost certainly not copyright infringement if you're putting the "cracked" tracks on your own, privately-used music player. You're allowed to make backup copies. (The clearest exception is in §1008, allowing consumers to make copies of sound recordings for noncommercial use. §117 is also a potential out, among others.)

    Now, copyright infringement aside, there could be a DMCA issue (and the fact that the latter can exist without the former is a good way of demonstrating that they're quite distinct actions) insofar as you may have violated anticircumvention statutes and incurred penalties based on those. Here Quanta v. LG does enter the picture, as some courts have held that using DRM/DMCA as a stick to enforce a copyright monopoly constitutes copyright misuse (although it's usually described in antitrust terms), and this theory appears to be gaining steam.

    On-face, there's an argument for violation of 1201(a)(1) (though not (b) in your example), though I'm fairly certain that the noncommercial/archival use is exempted under the administrative rules under subsections (a)(1)(B) and (C). I don't recall which one off the top of my head, though.


    dnab was trying to support his belief that a publisher should be able to produce a book with specific use restrictions ("do not donate this to a library. Do not lend it to a friend."), because a book borrowed against publisher's wishes == lost sale == theft. While (to me, anyway) that sort of thing seems absurd on its face when applied to a book or even a CD, it is typical of ephemeral copies of (legal) downloaded digital content (like say, an audiobook, or an iTunes track).


    As I mentioned in the previously-linked comment, what you call "absurd" is actually happening right now, simply because there is no reasonable dividing line between licensing digital and physical content: the Maryland Bar Association shrinkwraps its directories with a use license; Monsanto distributes seeds with a use license; etc. Even to the extent that some of that nonsense gets struck down, the chilling effects are real -- you posit the example of eBay taking down iPod actions, which they're actually not necessarily legally required to do. They do that because they'd rather shut down some auctions than piss off Apple.

    (Incidentally, the hypothetical "DRM-free copy" is not a violation because it's an "unauthorized copy" -- for infringement-analysis purposes, there's a threshold question of how the copy gets used. The only potential on-face violation in your example is of the DMCA, for circumvention of the protection measure.)

    Regardless, though... my point was that this behavior definitely goes against the publisher's stated wishes (since we can assume that the licensing agreement is a pretty good declaration of these wishes). So in dnab's utopia, where all forms of transferring content in a method inconsistent with the publisher's desires is theft, this would be theft, too.

    True, but publishers have been saying that since the Statute of Anne -- and before. And it's no more true now than it was then.

    The analogy is still nonsense, too. Law is defined by social and ethical principles; with the exception of citizenship, moral values are not generally defined by the laws intended to uphold them. 'Theft' as a legal artifact -- independent the fundamental ethics of stealing -- is a rule that attempts to reflect, as accurately and as fairly as possible, collective principles of ownership and fairness.

    That same calculus regarding real or personal property does not and should be imported wholesale into doctrines of intellectual property simply because the names sound similar. There is an ancient and venerable body of law in this country that holds unequivocally that intellectual property laws are Constitutionally required to balance the rights of authors and the public, and that in the end authors are indebted to the public at large. That is not as strongly the case in other countries, but it is not particularly disputable in the United States.

    This is an oft-overused quote, but it bears repeating since it comes from the guy who wrote the relevant laws in the first place, and it makes the point well:
    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
    —Thomas Jefferson
    posted by spiderwire at 1:24 PM on July 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


    So is this theft?
    posted by mullingitover at 3:02 PM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


    Better yes, is this theft?
    posted by five fresh fish at 3:40 PM on July 6, 2008


    c/yes/yet/
    posted by five fresh fish at 3:41 PM on July 6, 2008


    > It's even been rolled back some, as manufacturers are now allowed to force merchants not to sell below a certain price for the initial sale. I'm not 100% sure why this is, actually -- maybe because the "first sale" hasn't been made yet or something.

    At least in the U.S., I believe the way they do this is via contractual agreements with their "Value Added" resellers (VARs). The VARs agree, in order to become VARs, that they won't sell below MSRP.

    Once the VAR sells to the customer, the customer can then sell the item at whatever price they wish. But since the manufacturer controls the price of the first sale, it's generally not practical for anyone to sell below that price (they'd be selling at a loss, obviously).

    The contractual agreements between manufacturers, distributors, and VARs are subject to regulations against price-fixing, but (AFAICT) the courts have seen fit to let them set the price of many goods as long as they don't control an entire market. Rolex, for instance, can mandate the minimum price for Rolexes, as long as it doesn't collude with other watch manufacturers to fix the price for the entire timepiece market. (This is a simplification, there are other concerns.)

    In other countries, manufacturers have been allowed even greater latitude, to control not only that first sale, but also subsequent sales as well. In particular, while in the U.S. it's legal to re-import items that were produced for export (and sold for less than the MSRP in the United States) and sell them here at less than domestic MSRP, without the manufacturer having much say in it besides punishing the foreign VAR, this is not the case in some other countries, at least by my understanding. There was some dustup in Great Britain just recently (within the past 5 years) about it.
    posted by Kadin2048 at 2:29 PM on July 7, 2008


    Holy Crap. That was hard to read. DNAB seems to think he's the sole bearer of all absolute truth and it's his duty to inform us. Christ. You'd think he would have disagreed with somebody before, and learned to do it a little less mouth-frothingly.
    posted by tehloki at 10:03 AM on July 8, 2008


    There isn't really a way to blind the data without making it useless: they want to be able to see that the same user watched video A and video B after searching for keyword C, and if they can do that, they have some way of connecting a new request (identified by IP address and/or login ID) to a viewing history.

    That's much like saying Viacom can't do this or that without the data being unblinded. Just because Google can retain such data doesn't mean they "should" or moreover that people should be comfortable with it. Their motive there is simply to make money, as is Viacom's with this lawsuit and the broad request they've made. There is no consideration for good policy, privacy, or the state of world hunger on either side. Google seems to get treated with kid gloves by most because, well, they've done a lot of neat and great things. This is true but Viacom also gave us the Upright Citizens Brigade TV show. And then they cancelled it. And then waited years to put out the DVD. And season 3 still isn't on DVD. Twats.
    posted by rob paxon at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2008


    And watching a video on Youtube is no different, technically or sensibly, from downloading a file on Napster or Bittorrent or what have you. So yes, how can it not be illegal? There is no way Viacom is going to go after people for watching videos on Youtube though... Youtube is far more pervasive than any filesharing service. I'd say everyone who has ever seen a computer has watched something that is copyrighted on Youtube. Now, they certainly could make threats or take action against chronic content uploaders, if they exist in such size, and if no injunction or other limitation is put on the scope of this data's use. But I wouldn't count on it.

    That's not the real concern here, imo. It's that Viacom's fairly, in the context of our law and the suit, reasonable motion was passed in such a broad manner. There's just no reason for them to need or have the associating IP addresses and it in no way applies to their stated use. Though it'd still be wrong, imo, at the very least the IP addresses should have been replaced with ID numbers so that if they wanted to make a criminal case they'd need to get a warrant for the associating IP, and then a warrant for the IP information from the ISP. That's why we have search warrants. We aren't supposed to permit fishing expeditions. The judge made a bad decision. Had the data been pure statistics on plays then frankly he'd have made the right decision in the context of our copyright and other laws.
    posted by rob paxon at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2008


    Viacom, Google agree to mask 12TB of YouTube user data

    According to our Google/Viacom scoreboard, the Big G beat the Big V 3-2 in court earlier this month, but that still meant Google had to turn over a 12TB database of every YouTube video ever watched—complete with user IDs and IP addresses. The decision immediately raised privacy concerns, but Google and Viacom have now signed an agreement to anonymize the logging database before the handover.
    posted by Rhaomi at 10:46 AM on July 15, 2008


    I feel like Viacom just needs to cheer up.

    lastpost
    posted by britain at 2:43 PM on July 30, 2008


    ruinpost
    posted by tehloki at 1:46 AM on August 2, 2008


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