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Sueing 14,000+ P2P users to SAVE CINEMA
June 3, 2010 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Ars Technica reports on the US Copyright Group (website: SAVECINEMA.ORG), an entity that has sent out over 14,000 subpoenas in the past 5 months to P2P users who have downloaded smaller independent movies such as Uwe Boll's Far Cry and best picture Oscar winner The Hurt Locker. To put that in perspective, the RIAA sued 18,000 P2P users during their multi-year anti-file sharing campaign. The law firm takes the moviemakers cases on for free, splitting with them the money the defendants pay to settle the case ($1,500 to $2,500 per subpoena) on a site that will conveniently take your credit card. The law firm and the filmmakers could end up splitting $19.7 million, and it's likely that this kind of approach will be tried with more movies. As you might expect, some targeted individuals have been wrongly accused.
posted by The Devil Tesla (166 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
...an entity that has sent out over 14,000 subpoenas in the past 5 months to P2P users who have downloaded smaller independent movies such as Uwe Boll's Far Cry...

Frankly the punishment for downloading an Uwe Boll film should be death.
posted by atrazine at 6:37 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't downloading the Uwe Boll film punishment enough, if you really want to be cruel you could force them to watch it too.
posted by Elmore at 6:39 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


If enough people believe, and I mean fundamentally believe and start acting on those beliefs, that the law is not about society's measured application of justice but the protection of profit, then that's it. That's the end of everything. We're no longer a moral society seeking to improve the common good. That was all a sham, this is all just a big protection racket and every man for himself. The guys who stockpile ammunition and live in compounds in the desert weren't wrong, they were just ahead of the curve.

I'm pretty sure that lawsuit carpet-bombing is not symptomatic of a just society.

At some point this is going to stop being about whether or not artist's rights as creators should be protected, and start being about whether corporations should be allowed to fundamentally undermine the rule of law and society as a whole. I just hope it's not too late to walk slowly back towards our ideals by then.
posted by mhoye at 6:48 AM on June 3, 2010 [35 favorites]


> Frankly the punishment for downloading an Uwe Boll film should be death.

Surely you meant "uploading"?
posted by ardgedee at 6:49 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sounds like a real money maker. This is that US innovative spirit I have heard so much about, right?
posted by Meatbomb at 6:53 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ugh. If I had to pay that much for a Uwe Boll movie, I'd fucking kill myself.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:01 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Coming soon: brain probing to identify individuals who have mused on one or more of their rights-holders' ideas without proper compensation.
posted by killdevil at 7:04 AM on June 3, 2010


Wait, are they targeting downloaders or people who seed torrents? How do they identify the "John Doe" downloaders in the first place? Are they running honeypot sites that log IPs? I thought that the legal action in this area was directed against people who provide content, not individual downloaders?
posted by werkzeuger at 7:06 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


($1,500 to $2,500 per subpoena)

If the studios are smart, they'll pressure movie theaters to be (even more) hostile to human beings to actively encourage more downloading, which they can then sue over and collect a fee that's already almost beginning to rival theater ticket prices.
posted by DU at 7:06 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm law-ignorant, and so asking:

If every one of those 144,000 people decided to challenge this -- even if they represented themselves in court, and lost -- wouldn't the law firm lose far more in billable hours trying to handle 144,000 cases than it would gain if it won every single case and had to split costs?

What happens if you challenge the subpoena and then just don't show up for the court date? Are you liable for more than the settlement amount?

It seems that if all 144,000 people challenge the suit, the lawyers stand to lose more than they could gain. Half of $2000 gets eaten up fast when you're talking Big Law.
posted by Shepherd at 7:07 AM on June 3, 2010


Oh -- never mind; I hadn't read the last link yet.
posted by Shepherd at 7:09 AM on June 3, 2010


If I was caught downloading a Uwe Boll movie, I'd deny it as well and claim I'd never heard of it. Who wouldn't? So it's hard to know if the woman in the last link is telling the truth. This was always the problem with the Joel Fights Back campaign (well, that and the completely inept and negligent lawyering). Once you saw the list of songs he'd downloaded, there's really no way to feel sympathy for him..
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:11 AM on June 3, 2010


It doesn't matter that they downloaded a shitty movie! This is basically extortion.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:20 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the studios are smart, they'll pressure movie theaters to be (even more) hostile to human beings to actively encourage more downloading, which they can then sue over and collect a fee that's already almost beginning to rival theater ticket prices.

In some of these cases, # of subpoenas * settlement cost per subpoena > the movie's gross receipts. They've issued 4500 subpoenas for illegally downloading Far Cry; if those 4500 people all elect to pay up rather than fight, that's $4.5 million for both the studio and the law firm. Ain't no way a flop like Far Cry made $9 million in domestic receipts. Hell, a sufficiently-sociopathic indie film maker could make the movie, build some buzz on the 'net, leak the trailer, never have the film hit a screen, and make more money off of lawsuits than he would have made from making the indie circuit.

Hmm. Anyone want to join me on an intriguing business venture?
posted by Mayor West at 7:21 AM on June 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


Wow, I had no idea Boll had made a Far Cry movie. The extremely masochistic side of me is almost tempted to watch it. Til Schweiger's pretty cool.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:21 AM on June 3, 2010


I suppose this is the thread that'll get the most eyeballs, so I'm gonna ask. For people who want to download via P2P, what is the best way to shield themselves from this kind of litigation? How would one encode their IP address, for instance? Or what other options are available with popular Bittorrent software like Miro or UTorrrent?
posted by dobbs at 7:21 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seems like an opportunity for an entrepreneurial law firm to offer a $500.00 flat rate defense package.

This sort of shotgun litigation is unlikely to be 100% accurate in targeting copyright offenders. So there are bound to be some cases of innocent people being falsely accused. So a flat rate defense firm would stand a good chance of getting some nice juicy countersuits going.

Oh wait. That would involve defending society against predatory barratry. I think there's a law against that...
posted by warbaby at 7:26 AM on June 3, 2010


This is basically extortion

Yes, but it's being done with lawyers, and that makes it OK! Yay lawyers!
posted by aramaic at 7:31 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the defendants should negotiate as a group. Assuming they could try one case a week 14,000 cases would take 268 years 5 months.

OP what warbaby said kinda.
posted by vapidave at 7:35 AM on June 3, 2010


these people seem like potential clients for flat rate defense.
posted by warbaby at 7:35 AM on June 3, 2010


Wait, are they targeting downloaders or people who seed torrents?

With Bittorrent, there is no distinction. To download, you must offer uploads to anyone who connects and asks.

How do they identify the "John Doe" downloaders in the first place? Are they running honeypot sites that log IPs?

When you connect to a torrent, what you are really doing is connecting to several other users directly, with the Bittorrent clients (I use μTorrent myself) coordinating everything using the .torrent file to figure out what files there are. Just about every client has a function (it's the "Peers" tab in μTorrent) that will show you who you are connected to by IP address. All they have to do is download a torrent and open it in their torrent software, and boom- IP addresses of people who are by definition uploading, since they're on Bittorrent.

I thought that the legal action in this area was directed against people who provide content, not individual downloaders?

Back in the old days of peer to peer filesharing, with systems like Napster, Limewire, and Morpheus, you could protect yourself by simply not sharing any files, because uploading (i.e. owning the IP address that the P2P client directly connected to to download the file) is what gets you in trouble. With Bittorrent, however, to be a downloader is to be an uploader, and as such everyone is potentially liable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:37 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


How is it extortion if they illegally downloaded the movies?
posted by yarly at 7:39 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, are they targeting downloaders or people who seed torrents?

BitTorrent is a true peer-to-peer filesharing system. Unless they use special tricks that are generally discouraged in the BT world, each downloader shares back each of the individual chunks that they have downloaded back to the rest of the swarm. The trackers mostly only provide the .torrent files that describe what chunks are included and help connect peers to each other, and don't actually host any of the content themselves, which is why many trackers have (unsuccessfully) argued in court that they aren't actually participating in the infringement.

How do they identify the "John Doe" downloaders in the first place? Are they running honeypot sites that log IPs?

Any time a user connects to the tracker to start downloading, they get a big list of all of the peers that have chunks of files available, so that they can start downloading from them. The way peers are identified is by their IP addresses, since that's the only way to make a peer-to-peer connection. So it's relatively easy for a company to connect to public trackers, grab a bunch of IP addresses, and start sending out notices. It would be much more difficult to actually prove that any of those peers had actually uploaded valid data (rather than, say, using one of the ratio cheating tools that report fake upload stats) but as the articles say, the vast majority of these cases do not go to trial, and technical details would probably go over a jury's head in court anyway.

Private trackers would be more difficult to collect IPs from, since a tracker won't allow a peer to connect unless it has a valid account. The word on the street is that most major private trackers have been "compromised" by anti-piracy groups of some kind, but anecdotal evidence seems to point to most of these notices being sent to public tracker users.

For people who want to download via P2P, what is the best way to shield themselves from this kind of litigation? How would one encode their IP address, for instance? Or what other options are available with popular Bittorrent software like Miro or UTorrrent?

The BitTorrent world has been moving toward using private trackers, and a lot of individual users seem to be paying for seedboxes and VPNs. With both seedboxes and VPNs, the actual BT traffic is routed through countries that are lax about piracy (mostly Eastern Europe), so that any notices end up getting sent to ISPs who aren't afraid of legal prosecution and don't reveal info about their customers. I think most of the millions of users are just confident that they won't be one of the few thousand who get hit in these lawsuit schemes.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:46 AM on June 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


We're no longer a moral society seeking to improve the common good. That was all a sham, this is all just a big protection racket and every man for himself.

Um. The last 20 years of deregulating finance, crippling the EPA & FDA, rulings that news need not actually present factual information, a war pushed entirely by a profit driven military-industrial complex, and health insurance that doesn't actually insure...

Legal extortion over P2P pirating is pretty late and low on the list of "last straws" in fully embracing plutocracy.
posted by yeloson at 7:47 AM on June 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


How is it extortion if they illegally downloaded the movies?

Because, no matter whether they downloaded or not, they have to pay up or pay even more defending themselves.
posted by DU at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


If you want to tack a point or two onto your irony meter, follow this up by listening about how the movie industry incorporates every movie and the odd accounting they do on each one. Taking lessons in morality about paying the folks who deserve it from these people is downright funny.
posted by phearlez at 7:51 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


How is it extortion if they illegally downloaded the movies?

There is something questionable and interesting to be said about the fact that the price goes up with a short amount of time. The goal is to get someone to pay quickly, before they can get legal advice or research.

Assuming someone stops their P2P activities, you have to wonder under what reasoning the assumed "damages" increase in the matter of weeks.

Settling out of the court is supposed to be something that makes it easier for both parties involved, this is instead being used as a threat. Even if not "legally" defined as extortion, most people can see the parallel or would identify it as identical.
posted by yeloson at 7:52 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


mhoye: "I'm pretty sure that lawsuit carpet-bombing is not symptomatic of a just society."

Is rampant piracy symptomatic of a just society? The Hurt Locker was the lowest grossing film ever to win Best Picture, yet it was pirated thousand and thousand of times on the internet. At what point do we say that's not just? The guy who wrote Hurt Locker embedded as a journalist in Iraq to make the story more accurate. He risked his life to make something and people expect to be able to pirate it with no consequences?

Metafilter confuses me. If a t-shirt artist has their design pirated, the Metafilter cavalry comes galloping to their defense. But if thousands of people pirate a movie and a movie company seeks justice, we're "no longer a moral society seeking to improve the common good"?

I'm sick of the double standard, but I'm even more sick of the theatrics. I'm sorry, but they're not fighting a noble cause on the frontline of personal liberty, they're just d-bags who can doubleclick a .torrent file.
posted by sharkfu at 7:53 AM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


To be honest, I'm kind of sick of the outrage at copyright owners trying to protect their intellectual property. Whether or not you agree with the methods, If you don't want to pay for it, don't fucking download it. It's not your right to see some movie just because it looks cool and you can get it for free.

There's always going to be inefficiencies in the system. Should we stop prosecuting suspected shoplifters just because somebody people are falsely accused and have to pay a lawyer be exonerated?
posted by gagglezoomer at 7:58 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


If a t-shirt artist has their design pirated, the Metafilter cavalry comes galloping to their defense. But if thousands of people pirate a movie and a movie company seeks justice, we're "no longer a moral society seeking to improve the common good"?

Point of order:

In the movie case, Person A makes the movie and Person B makes a copy of it without paying Person A.

In the tshirt case, Person A designs a shirt and Person B not only claims they made that design but also makes money on that claim.

These two cases are not the same thing.
posted by DU at 7:59 AM on June 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


They don't have to actually download their own movie to get a list of people sharing it. All they have to do is ask the tracker for a list of IP addresses of people who are part of the swarm, and the tracker hands it over. (Which is the entire purpose of the tracker anyway: Your own BT client does the same thing when you fire up a torrent.)
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 8:00 AM on June 3, 2010


Pope Guilty: "All they have to do is download a torrent and open it in their torrent software, and boom- IP addresses of people who are by definition uploading, since they're on Bittorrent."

Some trackers throw in random IP addresses to thward carpet-bombing lawsuits exactly like this one. It'll be interesting to see how many people getting these threats had absolutely nothing to do with downloading this movie.

It'll be funny if this turns out to be one big guerrilla marketing campaign for usenet.
posted by mullingitover at 8:00 AM on June 3, 2010


Definitions question:

If your seed is less than 100% of the file size, can you be said to have actually "uploaded" something?

An incomplete torrent is not a usable data file; it's unintelligible gibberish. If, for instance, I participated in a torrent of a Harry Potter novel but only uploaded 8.7% of the file, would I have shared the book? Have I actually "shared" the novel, or have I only contributed "Eee ee eeee e eee ee eeeee"?
posted by Shepherd at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's also the fact that people who make art that gets put on t-shirts, particularly when they're webcomic artists or small t-shirt sellers on the web, are on an entirely different economic scale from the movie industry.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:02 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


It'll be funny if this turns out to be one big guerrilla marketing campaign for usenet.

Nerds love to get nostalgic about usenet, and I think you have to have been around when it was relevant to understand why. It's a wasteland now and there's no reason to think it ever won't be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:03 AM on June 3, 2010


I don't think it would take too much work to alter the bt protocol into what I'd call peer-to-cloud sharing where 1) file data is decoupled from its description into anonymized, encrypted packets, 2) clients trade anonymized packets around the cloud without ever knowing what they are. This turns bt into a cloud key/value pair access suite, which means that you ask the cloud for the fifty packets that compose the data you are after, and you get them from fifty different machines that have no idea what the data is. Client software runs in the background with xGB of space reserved for cloud data and xkbps reserved for carriage, and it ships packets around, levelling accessibility.

Pretty sure common carriage rules would apply to this scenario. You have to prove someone knowingly hosted whatever turd Uwe Boll shat out in order to prove infringement, and if they have no clue what data they're hosting that's pretty hard to do.

If the whole world is using the same cloud, you're just not going to be able to legally shut it down because the legitimate uses will override.

The only failure point I can see is the injection of bogus packets that don't contain what their identifiers claim to contain (which would merely corrupt the final file), but if the key list (e.g. file manifest) also contains a couple of message digest checksums for each packet, it will be pretty hard to engineer bogus data that hits all the checksums, and the cloud can simply turf bad packets.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:09 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


If this upsets and outrages you (as it probably should), please do something constructive and stop patronizing the film industry.
posted by wrok at 8:11 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


you ask the cloud for the fifty packets that compose the data you are after, and you get them from fifty different machines that have no idea what the data is.

Congratulations on your invention of Freenet.
posted by DU at 8:15 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


wrok: "If this upsets and outrages you (as it probably should), please do something constructive and stop patronizing the film industry."

Never!

Film industry, you're doing such a great job. We're really proud of you.
posted by mullingitover at 8:15 AM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm sick of the double standard, but I'm even more sick of the theatrics. I'm sorry, but they're not fighting a noble cause on the frontline of personal liberty, they're just d-bags who can doubleclick a .torrent file.

sharkfu,
It's not metafilter that confuses me (as you wrote about yourself earlier in your comment), it's life as a parent.

I am sick of the sound of my own voice telling my almost grown sons at home to quit downloading movies.
I am sick of them cheerfully telling me that all their friends do it - and no one "really" gets fined.
I am sick of understanding their POV entirely (I was the same - albeit about different matters - when I was the same age) but feeling - honestly - that yup, it's stealing.
I am extremely sick of getting warning letters - furiously showing them to my carelessly reprobate & otherwise entirely wonderful sons - and being assured that now they have figured out "safe" torrents.
(I feel really, really sick at the thought of paying a fine I secretly think will be deserved because somehow we haven't got across to our boys WHY illegal downloading is stealing. Our sons are total angels in all other respects, she insisted!)

I am sick of hearing my sons claiming they are "freedom fighters etc etc" - yup, they know ALL the peer arguments.

And I'm slightly sick at typing this confession.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:16 AM on June 3, 2010 [17 favorites]


I'm sick of the double standard

One needn't have a double standard to be against what these lawyers and studios are doing.

Someone makes a movie and says, "I'll let you watch if for $10." I steal a copy and watch it for free. That's wrong.

What the lawyers are doing is also wrong. (Thought I'm not saying it's illegal.) They have identified a way in which many, many people break the law. They have figured out a way to catch a large number of these people. They have figured out a way to turn this process into a cash cow.

Why punish wrongdoers?

1. For justice.

I can't swallow that justice is served by fining someone $1500 for stealing a $10 movie. Littering is WAY more damaging to society than stealing a movie. Yet I can throw garbage on the sidewalk and just have to pay a $50 fine.

2. As a deterrent.

This won't work as a deterrent and the lawyers know it won't work.
posted by grumblebee at 8:16 AM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


sharkfu: "The guy who wrote Hurt Locker embedded as a journalist in Iraq to make the story more accurate. "

Yeah, I've heard this too, and I've heard him praised for it. But, I've also heard from soldiers and people 'in the know' that the movie was inaccurate as FUCK. That is not how a bomb disposal unit would approach a bomb, how they would handle potential hostiles, etc etc.
posted by graventy at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2010


I can't swallow that justice is served by fining someone $1500 for stealing a $10 movie. Littering is WAY more damaging to society than stealing a movie. Yet I can throw garbage on the sidewalk and just have to pay a $50 fine.

Stealing is not harmful to society? So if someone broke into your locker at work/school and stole a DVD from it they should have to just pay a small fine?

2. As a deterrent.

This won't work as a deterrent and the lawyers know it won't work.


How many movies would you be inclined to steal after paying a $1500 fine?
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:23 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The guy who wrote Hurt Locker embedded as a journalist in Iraq to make the story more accurate."

And then stole the story. I kinda wonder if they're pulling this stunt to distract from their own shenanigans? What's worse, depriving someone of a couple dollars or reaping millions by imitating their persona without paying them a dime?
posted by mullingitover at 8:23 AM on June 3, 2010


DU: "Point of order:

In the movie case, Person A makes the movie and Person B makes a copy of it without paying Person A.

In the tshirt case, Person A designs a shirt and Person B not only claims they made that design but also makes money on that claim.

These two cases are not the same thing.
"

Except in the movie case, there's usually a Person C making money off the advertising on the bittorrent tracker / search engine. Supposedly, The Pirate Bay was making $4 million per year in advertising at its peak.

Yeah, I agree, it would make more sense to go after the ones making money, not the end user, but the fact remains both scenarios include people making money off the work of others.
posted by sharkfu at 8:26 AM on June 3, 2010


Jody T -- when our daughter's BF was living in and doing the same thing, we asked him to stop it, once. When he did it again, we banned his laptop's MAC address from the router. If you're serious about having your boys not pirate stuff, you need to make the penalty for doing so actually mean something. Right now it looks like they think a stern talking to from you is a small price to pay for lots of free movies/music/whatever over a net connection you're legally responsible for.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:26 AM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


How many movies would you be inclined to steal after paying a $1500 fine?

Literally all of them.
posted by wrok at 8:27 AM on June 3, 2010 [24 favorites]


If they wanted to be REALLY smart, they'd offer to settle for $30-40.

It would be more expensive than buying the DVD, but on the other hand, most folks would be more willing to pay that price than deal legally.

Sure, a chunk would be eaten up by lawyers and processing, but given that, you're not paying costs for materials, printing DVDs, shipping, or having retail take their discount. Send out thousands, have it go to the same few courts- the judges will likely start just stamping the cases through when they do come up.

And you don't look like a giant punitive dick, just another bit of fees and hassles- a small racket like places that do sketchy parking tickets- something people complain about, but mostly pay anyway.
posted by yeloson at 8:29 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


But, I've also heard from soldiers and people 'in the know' that the movie was inaccurate as FUCK. That is not how a bomb disposal unit would approach a bomb, how they would handle potential hostiles, etc etc.

Duh, of course not. The director purposefully obfuscated and changed key bomb disposal procedures (in full agreement with the military specialists who assisted on the film) so as not to give away any tricks to those who might watch the movie to get ideas on how to blow up more US soldiers, and has said as much on multiple occasions.
posted by Aquaman at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2010


Couldn't someone create a P2P "insurance" company? You pay a monthly fee to guarantee that if in the unlikely event you get sued, P2P insurance will pay out the damages.

These rare yet catastrophic events seem to be exactly the thing insurance was made for.
posted by anomie at 8:34 AM on June 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


please do something constructive and stop patronizing the film industry.

Done that for just about the past decade or so. Things don't appear to be improving much.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:35 AM on June 3, 2010


Just checking, is the overall impression that it's OK for you guys to steal the films I make? Trying to figure out just how outraged I should be by most of the comments on this thread.

One of my films (The Wackness) is literally the example used by a studio for how much a film can be hurt by rampant online piracy. It's an independent film, like The Hurt Lucker, which saw far lower financial success due in part to the high levels of online piracy.

That said, I would never participate in a lawsuit like this. But I get the temptation. In the same way that I get the temptation of someone wanting to watch a movie for free by torrenting it. It's an easy way to get something you want at someone else's cost.

I want people to stop pirating my films, but I'm not going to randomly sue pirates to get there. But in all honesty, if the culture of casual piracy doesn't change it's going to become very hard to make independent films that appeal to my generation because those are the films studios think (rightfully, in my opinion) the target audience will just pirate instead of paying to watch.
posted by kcalder at 8:40 AM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


this isn't about the economics of stealing digital media, this is about the economics of buying your way out of a legal situation. And the lopsidedness of a handful of plaintiffs taking on a huge passel of small defendants.

I'm surprised Saul Goodman (theirs not ours) isn't offering this on his website.

Note that a flat rate $500 that bargains the settlement down to $500 is a $500 win for the client facing $1500 at the get go. It's just business, people...
posted by warbaby at 8:40 AM on June 3, 2010


This won't work as a deterrent and the lawyers know it won't work.

How many movies would you be inclined to steal after paying a $1500 fine?

Piracy is like drugs. You can't stop it via penalties. The War on Drugs is a failure and the War on Piracy will be too (except, of course, it isn't really a War on Piracy. These lawyers want piracy to exist. It would suck for them if it didn't.)

People have always pirated; people always will pirate. Maybe some of the people who get fined will stop. Meanwhile, a million others will start or continue. They will just be smarter about it. Which means that the pirate hunters will have to get smarter, too. Which means we'll be locked in an endless, expensive (and to some, lucrative) arms race.

The problem with antibiotics is that it breeds smarter bacteria.

I remember when you used to be able to walk to Union Square (in NYC) and buy just about any software you wanted for $10. You could get Photoshop, MS Office, whatever. Some guy had a table set up and was selling illegal copies in broad daylight. Eventually, he was shut down by the cops. But then you just had to check the classifieds and you could arrange to meet someone like him in a coffee shop or whatever. Then there was eMule and the like. Then bitTorrent. Etc. Etc. Etc.

In the 19th Century, people would pirate Gilbert and Sullivan operas by sitting in the audience and transcribing the music. (And then selling knock-off sheet music -- sheet music being the major way music was sold back then.) This begat cassette tapes which begat mp3s. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Then there's teenage sex. Just fine kids and they'll stop. Right?
posted by grumblebee at 8:45 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you're serious about having your boys not pirate stuff, you need to make the penalty for doing so actually mean something. Right now it looks like they think a stern talking to from you is a small price to pay for lots of free movies/music/whatever over a net connection you're legally responsible for.

I totally agree, seanmpuckett.
I think my husband and I have both been inconsistent & enabling idiots over this whole mess.
(And thanks for being courteous as well as practical. I'm also copying this thread to both our sons - not least of all because some of the arguments here in favor of guilt-free pirating are - almost word-for-word - what we've been hearing from the defensive duo at home.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2010


Couldn't someone create a P2P "insurance" company? You pay a monthly fee to guarantee that if in the unlikely event you get sued, P2P insurance will pay out the damages.

Pure brilliance.
posted by grumblebee at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2010


Aquaman: "Duh, of course not. The director purposefully obfuscated and changed key bomb disposal procedures (in full agreement with the military specialists who assisted on the film) so as not to give away any tricks to those who might watch the movie to get ideas on how to blow up more US soldiers, and has said as much on multiple occasions."

Huh, I was unaware of that. Interesting. So why was the movie so consistently praised for it's accuracy?
posted by graventy at 8:49 AM on June 3, 2010


The most amusing and sad thing in the casual piracy culture is that people feel comfortable coming up to me in person or emailing me to tell me they downloaded one of my films and really liked it. Out of curiosity I try to find out if they used iTunes or Netflix or Amazon, and the answer every single time has been BitTorrent.

I can get the reasoning behind piracy. I don't agree, but I get it.

But what is the reasoning behind telling a content creator that you stole their content, and then assuming that they'll be happy because you liked it?
posted by kcalder at 8:52 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Huh, I was unaware of that. Interesting. So why was the movie so consistently praised for it's accuracy?"

Depends on your definition of 'consistent.'

Among the multitude of criticisms:
"Troy Steward, another combat veteran, wrote on the blog Bouhammer that while the film accurately depicted the scale of bomb violence and the relations between Iraqis and troops, "just about everything else wasn’t realistic". Steward went on to say: "I was amazed that a movie so bad could get any kind of accolades from anyone."
posted by mullingitover at 8:53 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


DU -- thanks for the pointer to Freenet. I downloaded the client and installed it and am running now. Technically it looks sound and well developed and reasonably secure, but as far as UI goes it is a rice sack full of rat shit. The essential quality that makes BT not suck is a UI that is almost dead simple. Fortunately, all it takes is one or two bright souls to take one of the open source BT clients and jack their back ends into Freenet's KV store.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:56 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


But what is the reasoning behind telling a content creator that you stole their content, and then assuming that they'll be happy because you liked it?

Yeah, it's kind of like your roommate telling you how great those last three IPA's you had in the fridge were, isn't it?
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:58 AM on June 3, 2010


Couple of posters are already equating copyright infringement with theft. Can we not do this yet again? Stealing a DVD from someone's locker is a terrible analogy. It would be more like taking the DVD someone left in the middle of a park, copying it, and putting it back where you found it.

KCalder, you made the claim that your movie had, "far lower financial success due in part to the high levels of online piracy." Do you have a citation for that? I haven't seen any believable studies that show that one (or a thousand) downloads = one lost sale. By all accounts the movie industry is pulling in more profits than ever before.

I saw the Wackness on Netflix Watch it Instantly. I would not have paid to see it in the theater, rented it, or even put it on my Netflix mailing queue. Do you count the fact that I streamed it as a lost DVD sale?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:59 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


It would be more like taking the DVD someone left in the middle of a park, copying it, and putting it back where you found it.

I think it's more like going to Best Buy, secreting a few DVD's away in your coat pocket, copying them, and then returning them without ever visiting the cash register.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:03 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


But what is the reasoning behind telling a content creator that you stole their content, and then assuming that they'll be happy because you liked it?

It's for the same reason that many people openly talk about smoking pot or stealing a couple of grapes from the produce section. There's actually been a lot of science about this. See books like "Predictably Irrational". Whether it makes rational sense or not, to most people there's WRONG and there's "everybody does it." So I doubt they're trying to send you a message. They're just not thinking about what they say.

One of the huge confusions in these discussions is, when we're talking about the law, whether we're talking about ethics or practicality. The two can (and hopefully are) connected, but they aren't always perfectly aligned.

Some people think we SHOULD fine these people $1500, "Because what they did is wrong and they KNEW it was wrong when they did it."

I don't care about that. I mean, I do care about right and wrong. And it should be the job of parents and teachers to teach this stuff to kids.

I only care about laws that have practical, positive effects on society. If the supposedly positive effect of a law is "it sends a message," that's too vague. I want laws that are likely to change people's behaviors for the better.

Laws that lead to arms races are wastes of time and energy. And they lead to all sorts of hypocrisy. Which we're already seeing. Arms races are ultimately only good for war profiteers.
posted by grumblebee at 9:04 AM on June 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


If they wanted to be REALLY smart, they'd offer to settle for $30-40.

Here's the thing you're not understanding, and it's the same thing that people who complain about large payouts in tort cases don't understand: it's not about the actual losses. The MAFIAA is not trying to recoup the cost of a couple of lost DVD sales from the people they sue. They are trying to inflict a wound upon the filesharer which is sufficiently painful that they will be deterred from further filesharing, as will anybody who hears about it.

But anybody with any knowledge of criminology, particularly premodern criminology can tell you that deterrence doesn't fucking work. 17th century London is infamous for using hanging and deporting for nearly everything, up to and including hanging pickpockets and children, and their crime rates were unabated. Premodern executions were public spectacles, where people were killed brutally while large mobs watched, and crime continued on unabated. Perhaps it is related to one of the central human fallacies, which is "It can't happen to me", but for whatever reason, hitting people really hard doesn't keep them from reoffending. At best, it just makes them angry.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


One of my films (The Wackness) is literally the example used by a studio for how much a film can be hurt by rampant online piracy. It's an independent film, like The Hurt Lucker, which saw far lower financial success due in part to the high levels of online piracy.

One of the questions for me is, how to quantify how much a film really loses from piracy? From the LA Times, "Many theaters refuse to book "Hurt Locker" despite Oscar win":
"The Hurt Locker" has performed well in the home entertainment market. Through Saturday, Summit sold 780,000 DVDs and electronic downloads. In addition, the movie has been rented 5.4 million times by consumers. That's a relatively high number for a movie that has grossed less than $15 million.
From that article, it seems to me that the Hurt Locker didn't earn money because the film distributor didn't screen the movie in enough theatres. I would expect piracy to disproportionately affect DVD sales and downloads, not theatre revenue.
posted by aiglet at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's kind of like your roommate telling you how great those last three IPA's you had in the fridge were, isn't it?

Your metaphor would work if somehow those IPAs magically reappeared in the fridge. But I see what you're getting at.
posted by JohnFredra at 9:13 AM on June 3, 2010


I know we've heard all this stuff before, but, just to inject it into this thread, I'll say this:

I know a lot of people who hate going to the theatre. It ruins the experience for them. They want to watch movies at home, and they don't mind paying a reasonable price for them. And bitTorrent kind of sucks. You have to search for stuff on a bunch of different sites; the download process is slow; and what you get is often sub-par, cam-in-the-theatre stuff or corrupted files.

I have Netflix on Demand and Blockbuster on Demand. I am also able to download movies from iTunes and Amazon.com.

I'm NOT going to go see the movie in the theatre. I MIGHT buy the DVD; I might not. But, if I'm bored, I WILL rent it from iTunes or whatever. If it's available. So if you want to make some money from me, forget the theatre. You can gamble that I'll buy a DVD, which I'll only do if I can't borrow your movie from a friend. Or you can take a much smaller gamble that I'll pay to watch if from a legal download site.

So, when I want to see a movie, I check Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and Blockbuster. And, of course, if the movie isn't on any of those sites, I just throw up my hands and say, "Oh well."

But my evil twin -- the one that lives in that universe where Mr. Spock has a beard -- tries all those legal alternatives and then, when they all fail, resorts to torrents.

Yes, it's wrong to steal just because you can't get something legally. But what we have are a HUGE number of people who would happily play the content holders if the content holders would just fucking sell their products in an easy-to-buy way at a reasonable price. But instead of doing this -- instead of just being good capitalists -- they sue thousands of generally honest people (honest people who have their faults, as most of us do). Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Or smart. If your goal is to make money via legalized extortion.
posted by grumblebee at 9:19 AM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


mhoye: "If enough people believe, and I mean fundamentally believe and start acting on those beliefs, that the law is not about society's measured application of justice but the protection of profit, then that's it."

There is a lovely quote that I like to drag out on occasions like this:

"I will only say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one-tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot. On which side indeed should the public sympathy be when the question is whether some book as popular as Robinson Crusoe, or the Pilgrim's Progress, shall be in every cottage, or whether it shall be confined to the libraries of the rich for the advantage of the great-grandson of a bookseller who, a hundred years before, drove a hard bargain for the copyright with the author when in great distress? Remember too that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create. And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living."

-- Thomas Macaulay, House of Commons 1841, debating whether copyright should be extended to 60 years after an author's death.
(Emphasis mine)

Also: copyright, as it currently stands, is broken. The original deal was that, sure, artists need to live, too, so they'll be granted a temporary monopoly on what they produce. After a certain time period it will then fall into the public domain and so serve to enrich the general populace and not only those select few who paid for the privilege previously.
This is just not happening right now, and as a member of the general population I really don't feel any moral obligation to keep up my end of this bargain.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 9:21 AM on June 3, 2010 [30 favorites]


One of my films (The Wackness) is literally the example used by a studio for how much a film can be hurt by rampant online piracy. It's an independent film, like The Hurt Lucker, which saw far lower financial success due in part to the high levels of online piracy.

Dude, I fucking LOVE The Wackness. Great movie.

the target audience will just pirate instead of paying to watch.

Yeah, that's one way pirating could work. Here's another:

I work in a music/movie shop. I have lots of rabid customers who love both mediums. One day, a customer comes in and tells me he downloaded a movie called The Wackness and that it is fantastic. He offers to burn me a copy. I watch it--it is fantastic.

It comes out on DVD and I bring copies into the store (something I wouldn't have done if this guy hadn't gave me the burn because I'd never heard of it and it's hard to push movies I haven't seen). I tell the rest of the staff to check it out and they do and all agree it's a good'n. Literally everyone on staff loves the movie and we all push it on customers who all remark, "Really? I've never heard of it." Customers report back that they also love it. We probably sold more copies of that movie than any other indie shop in Toronto.

See, that's another way bittorrent can work.

Note that this is a true story.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:29 AM on June 3, 2010 [18 favorites]


Huh, I was unaware of that. Interesting. So why was the movie so consistently praised for it's accuracy?

I have no idea why this movie was praised for anything.  I thought it was jingoistic tripe, and had no business in the Oscar category whatsoever.
posted by Aquaman at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aquaman: "I thought it was jingoistic tripe, and had no business in the Oscar category whatsoever."

Sure it had business in the Oscar category. That business was to embarass James Cameron.
posted by mullingitover at 9:34 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


But what is the reasoning behind telling a content creator that you stole their content, and then assuming that they'll be happy because you liked it?

If someone watches a DVD that they borrowed from a library, should they still not tell you that they liked it? Some people only borrow media from the library and never buy it, some people don't use libraries at all, and some people do a combination of both. If libraries didn't exist, it might mean that some people who would have otherwise read or watched something for free would instead go out and pay for it. But libraries also give all kinds of people access to books, DVDs, and music that they would otherwise not have access to.

From the perspective of the average consumer they pay for various media (DVDs, video games, CDs, digital downloads, books, movie tickets, etc.) and get to view various media for free (borrowing from libraries, borrowing from friends, listening to the radio or watching over-the-air TV, watching on YouTube, downloading from torrent sites). They are not complete freeloaders even though they could get by with never spending money on entertainment if they wanted to. The status quo up to this point has mostly formed around what is technically possible and enforceable (for example, it wasn't possible to charge individual listeners of radio stations, so the ad-supported model had to be created).

The reality is that, legal or not, the Internet is functionally one big library where everyone can get everything for free if they feel like it. Can the people who actually make a living off of creating content survive in such an environment? I think so, but the business models will probably have to change (such as monetizing the free content that is already out there, like some copyright holders are doing with YouTube). But regardless, randomly suing a few thousand people is at best ineffectual and at worst counterproductive.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:36 AM on June 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


But what is the reasoning behind telling a content creator that you stole their content, and then assuming that they'll be happy because you liked it?

Depends. Did they then buy it?

I can't remember the last time I bought some music without hearing most of the tracks for free first - either from Youtube, from MP3s in my days as a student, from friends, or from dancing to it.

Would I shell out £5 for a film I've never heard of by a director I've never heard of? No. Might I after watching the film? Yes. In those cases, how is the piracy hurting your business? (It might not be helping either.) Therefore claiming that it's the piracy that cost you income is probably self-delusion.

Disclaimer: I don't fileshare or illegaly download. (And therefore have very little chance of ever seeing your film). And my DVD collection is growing fairly fast.
posted by Francis at 9:37 AM on June 3, 2010


I will consider stopping pirating movies when you allow me (And all other people outside the USA) to get them on iTunes and Netflix instead.
posted by ymgve at 9:37 AM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Here's the thing you're not understanding

Actually PopeGuilty, that's my point- vengeful deterrence doesn't work, so they might as well lower the price to a point where some people WILL pay.

They keep trying to stop piracy, which the last two decades have shown is impossible - so they might as well take a smart route to monetizing it (since, that's really the only goal they have here anyway).
posted by yeloson at 9:44 AM on June 3, 2010


One of my films (The Wackness) is literally the example used by a studio for how much a film can be hurt by rampant online piracy.

I would love to see how the studio presents this and the math and facts behind it.

Comics are widely and wildly torrented; I've written one series, Dead Eyes Open, a zombie book that didn't do well at all and was torrented heavily. But I'd never say that the comic didn't do well because it was torrented; I think the comic didn't do well because, for whatever reason, it didn't convince people to pay money for it. It was well-reviewed, it was well-distributed, and it tanked. C'est la vie.

Other comics in similar sub-genres, from other indie publishers, did far better than mine financially (and were also torrented). There are lots of reasons for this, but at the end of the day, my book didn't quite capture people in that part-with-their-money way that competing books did.

But I can't in honesty say that my comic didn't do well because it was torrented. It didn't do well and it was torrented, sure, but I can't legitimately say I know how many of those torrents were people that would have otherwise bought the book, and how many were people that were downloading out of idle curiosity.

So how do the studios convert torrents to lost revenue? Is there serious science here, or is it just hand-waviness?
posted by Shepherd at 9:47 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Couple of posters are already equating copyright infringement with theft. Can we not do this yet again? Stealing a DVD from someone's locker is a terrible analogy. It would be more like taking the DVD someone left in the middle of a park, copying it, and putting it back where you found it.

The fact that you posted this under the name 'Thoughtcrime' just tickles me. No one seems to have bit, so I'll give it a whirl:

The answer is "NO", can *you* please stop trying to rationalize that viewing a creator's work without compensating that creator when they have put it out in the commercial domain to be compensated is "not theft" because "you didn't take the item physically"? You did, in fact, steal money from the creator that they would have otherwise seen for your enjoyment of their work. There is no grey area here -- attempting to isolate the criminal complaint as invalid because there were no tangible goods removed is the ultimate piracy morality dodge -- "It's still there, so I didn't take it!" is ignoring the actual consumption of the media.

I saw the Wackness on Netflix Watch it Instantly. I would not have paid to see it in the theater, rented it, or even put it on my Netflix mailing queue. Do you count the fact that I streamed it as a lost DVD sale?

He shouldn't -- you pay Netflix, they pay the distribution houses, who should in an ideal world be paying it back to him.
posted by cavalier at 9:47 AM on June 3, 2010


dobbs, if you want to get movies without getting caught, other than paying, you're either going through Usenet, sneakernet (you and your buddies trading files whenever you show up with a USB drive and some beer), or a service like IPREDator, from the Pirate Bay. Like everything else the Pirate Bay does, even the name is designed to taunt, mocking the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive.

IPredator provides a VPN, that is, another IP address, so when folks go sniffin' to see who it is ganking a copy of The Hurt Locker, they end up at the Pirate Bay, which doesn't keep logs, for about five euros per month. Then the Pirate Bay sends them some mocking letter and that's the end of it, in theory.

That being said, I am not a fan of torrenting. I've torrented some materials legally (MST3K) and some unavailable materials (back when I could not find The Devils on DVD), but I have spared the illegal stuff for the movie I knew would punish me for downloading it, all by itself: Bloodrayne. I have served my time, sir. Ninety-five minutes could be a lifetime. I broke the DVD in half when I was done. Ugh.

If material is out of print, I don't feel bad about downloading it, at all. I believe copyright ought to be contingent on material being in print, at reasonable market rates. I'm not paying two hundred bucks to torture myself with Salome's Last Dance. If the copyright holder does not make the material available, then they're breaking that part of the reason copyright was made — a temporary (hah) license to push the content out for profit before that content hit the public domain (oh sorry public domain >> heat death of universe) for the benefit of the culture.
posted by adipocere at 9:51 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nerds love to get nostalgic about usenet, and I think you have to have been around when it was relevant to understand why. It's a wasteland now and there's no reason to think it ever won't be.

Yeah, usenet sucks, man. Totally useless for getting stuff.
posted by zsazsa at 9:55 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


The answer is "NO", can *you* please stop trying to rationalize that viewing a creator's work without compensating that creator when they have put it out in the commercial domain to be compensated is "not theft" because "you didn't take the item physically"?

If it were theft, one could presumable be charged with theft in a criminal court. Since one cannot, calling it theft is, to put it mildly, disingenuous.

You did, in fact, steal money from the creator that they would have otherwise seen for your enjoyment of their work.

So even if one would never pay for the movie and only saw it because it was free (via torrenting, borrowing from a friend, checking out of the library, etc.), somehow they're taking money from the creator of the film? Could you explain how this makes any logical sense?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:02 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Here's the thing you're not understanding, and it's the same thing that people who complain about large payouts in tort cases don't understand: it's not about the actual losses. The MAFIAA is not trying to recoup the cost of a couple of lost DVD sales from the people they sue. They are trying to inflict a wound upon the filesharer which is sufficiently painful that they will be deterred from further filesharing, as will anybody who hears about it."

This is something I've been thinking about the last couple days. The top fines on copyright infringement have been set with a deterrent in mind. IE: we only catch 1 in a 1000 infringers so we have to make the fines large enough that the risk/reward ratio isn't high enough to encourage infringement. With groups like the featured lawyers being able to "catch" every infringer (leaving aside the inevitable technical whack-a-moleness of their venture) why should fines be so high? Really they shouldn't be worse than some small multiplier on the cost of procuring the material legally. A 10,000X multiplier is completely whack in this situation.
posted by Mitheral at 10:03 AM on June 3, 2010


Seconding the illegal copying /= theft point. It equals sneaking into the showing of a movie you didn't pay for, which (you can argue) reduces revenue but does not damage or remove property.

However, one of the arguments many people use for why they illegally download/watch/listen to media is "I would never have paid for it if that were the only way to hear/see it--therefore, there was no hypothetical revenue at risk." Which is why I think so many shrug about it.

As a kid, I copied music off the radio with my ancient tape recorder. I was never going to buy those songs because I had no money and my dad had a ban on buying non-Christian music; also, I tended to listen to weird/old stuff that I probably wouldn't be able to buy at any local music seller.

But what happened as a result of my illegal copying is that I became a fan of some of those artists, and talked them up and even bought some of their music as an adult, thereby increasing, in a tiny way, their sales down the line.

I don't expect corporations or lawyers to understand this sort of thing, so their actions don't surprise me. And I understand why artists struggling to get paid look on illegal copying with hostility. But I think if at least some of the illegal downloaders are people who, if walled out, would never see or hear your creation, but through illegal downloading become your fans, then it is not all loss. And might even be gain, over time.
posted by emjaybee at 10:09 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Stop whining, people, it is what it is. The Internet is an excellent thing, and I am happy to be alive in this age.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:22 AM on June 3, 2010


I'm old enough to point out here that home taping did the EXACT OPPOSITE of killing the music industry. So forgive me for not swallowing any of the EXACT SAME arguments the RIAA etc is wharrgarrbling right now.
posted by Aquaman at 10:23 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


If it were theft, one could presumable be charged with theft in a criminal court. Since one cannot, calling it theft is, to put it mildly, disingenuous.

Whee!

Hrm. Right, we fall back to the definition of the word "theft" and not its results. So we agree that the current legal definition of theft, since most current legal code does not attempt to quantify digital property and perfect duplication apart from the deprivation of property, can't apply to piracy because no property is being disturbed. But that is not an absolution of the thievery, merely a dodge on semantics from a legal system that has not yet evolved to explicitly to catch the concept of digital larceny. It has been a slow adaptation, but eventually we have to codify that misappropriation or inappropriate acquisition of a material carries as much legal consequence as the current legal code. Whether we call it stealing or digital larceny or some fancy new cyberific term; there is still a loss incurred by the creator for works that are obtained digitally from outside the commercial landscape. This is a loss created by the person who would misappropriate a piece of work digitally; so while the physical item does not move; the damage is still done just as well as if the physical item had been moved Crying "It's not stealing!" because the physical property does not move ignores the loss created by the action, which is why I would argue that work has been stolen.

So even if one would never pay for the movie and only saw it because it was free (via torrenting, borrowing from a friend, checking out of the library, etc.), somehow they're taking money from the creator of the film? Could you explain how this makes any logical sense?

Easily:

Borrowing from a friend -- assuming the friend had acquired the film appropriately, they have the capacity to provide private viewings of the piece. The producer has been compensated. If the friend goes on to do this for 200 of his friends, it is no longer a private screening, and he is in violation of the law.

Checking out of the library -- the library has paid the producer (through its distribution channel) for the right to hold and lend the film. In some cases the costs for a library are rather significant, but usually they are watered down over a bulk set of films.

Via torrenting -- you have stolen from the income of the creator of the film. The producer has seen no reparation for your consumption of the media if it had been intended for the commercial market. I clarify this since, certainly, someone could release a film to the public domain for all to share and you could torrent that all the live long day if the producer so desired it.
posted by cavalier at 10:38 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the 19th Century, people would pirate Gilbert and Sullivan operas

DID SOMEBODY SAY GILBERT AND SULLIVAN?!?!?!?!

A rollicking band of pirates we
Who tired of paying for movies
Are trying their hand at some P2P
To steal an Oscar winner!

Hush hush!
I hear them on the tubes a thieving
We'll sue hacker asses in
To believing!

We are not coming for Uwe Boll
Or stolen stories some asshole told
We seek to watch a movie or two
For less than the price of dinner

They see to watch a

Movie or two! We seek to watch a

Movie or two.

We seek to watch a movie or two
For less than the price of dinner.

They come in force, those roguish bards
We'll charge them on their credit cards!

(Tarantara, tarantara!
Tarantara, tarantara!)
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:40 AM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


I am not a copyright expert, but I think copying a digital file is different than raping someone's pet.
posted by everichon at 10:46 AM on June 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


Creators: Let's set aside for the moment the morality and the legality of whether piracy is right or wrong. Assume that you cannot change others; you can only change yourself.

It's fundamentally irrational to sue your fans. If they download your work for free, they will feel obligated to repay you in some way. That's just human nature, basic psychology. If you help them by entertaining them, they will feel obligated to help you in return. You have created goodwill.

Since they haven't paid you, they will fulfill their obligations in other ways, typically by recommending your work to their friends. Some of these friends will purchase your work; others may get it for free--but then they will feel that obligation too, and spread it around their network of friends.

But if you sue your fans, you squander that goodwill. Your fans will regard you as an enemy; instead of obligation, they will feel a little sense of triumph. "Aha! I have taken something from this person who wants to hurt me." If they spread your work to their friends at all, they will encourage them to get it illegally as well.

Tight draconian control over content may have made sense eighty years ago, when there were few options for entertainment. But now, there is more entertainment out there than anyone could consume in their entire lifetimes. The recommendations of friends are worth more now, because they determine what we watch and listen to and play--and what we pay for.

Your fans--even the ones who haven't paid you yet--are your friends. Over the long term, that friendship will result in more sales for you than feeding your sense of justice, I promise.
posted by JDHarper at 10:51 AM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


Checking out of the library -- the library has paid the producer (through its distribution channel) for the right to hold and lend the film. In some cases the costs for a library are rather significant, but usually they are watered down over a bulk set of films.

Right, and collectively the community that gets to use the public library pays for the content. Perhaps this could be scaled up to the national level, where a public BitTorrent tracker is created and everyone pays taxes to reimburse the copyright holders. But of course that would never happen because it would be EVIL SOCIALISM. So instead the illegal BitTorrent trackers exist and copyright holders don't get paid for those downloads at all.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:12 AM on June 3, 2010


Right, and collectively the community that gets to use the public library pays for the content. Perhaps this could be scaled up to the national level, where a public BitTorrent tracker is created and everyone pays taxes to reimburse the copyright holders.

Judging from my library’s waiting list for downloadable audiobooks-this might not work as well as you suppose.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:15 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if they've sent supoenas to any printers in this case? UW found some hilarious/scary results that poke big holes in the idea that an IP address = a person.
posted by mullingitover at 11:26 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The comparisons to a library are confusing to me. Libraries have built in limitations on the number of free copies they have available at a single time, and they usually have geographical limitations. On top of that, copyright holders are compensated for material that is available in libraries. If that were the case with BitTorrent, I'm sure all the copyright holders would have much less of an issue.
posted by kcalder at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2010


What's interesting is that these people are actually doing this to make money, not trying to deter people.
Are they running honeypot sites that log IPs?
Yes.
Metafilter confuses me. If a t-shirt artist has their design pirated, the Metafilter cavalry comes galloping to their defense. But if thousands of people pirate a movie and a movie company seeks justice, we're "no longer a moral society seeking to improve the common good"? --sharkfu
People have different views on commercial vs. non commercial appropriation. People would probably get upset about some company actually selling pirated copies.
Some trackers throw in random IP addresses to thward carpet-bombing lawsuits exactly like this one.
Interesting. But wouldn't the studio actually have to download from you in order to sue? Listing a random, fake IP wouldn't actually prevent much.
Just checking, is the overall impression that it's OK for you guys to steal the films I make? -- kcalder
Yes, but by using the word "steal" to describe copyright infringement, you are stealing meaning from the English language, so I don't have too much sympathy :P. If it was up to me, I would have cinema and other artwork currently funded by copyright funded instead by government grants based on popularity (which would be paid for by taxation). I would even set it up to have automated popularity measures, rather then having people picking and choosing. But it's not up to me.
But anybody with any knowledge of criminology, particularly premodern criminology can tell you that deterrence doesn't fucking work. -- Pope guilty
I think you're thinking about this incorrectly 90% of the population doesn't steal things from stores. If 90% of the population is afraid of infringing copyright on the internet, that's a huge market, and the movie studios will have won. A 10% infringement rate isn't nearly as problematic as a 10% pickpocket rate. Even a 20% or 30% piracy rates aren't impossible to deal with. (of course any piracy rate can be dealt with as long as someone pays for stuff. But the more pirates, the less money you have to fund movies)
Hrm. Right, we fall back to the definition of the word "theft" and not its results. So we agree that the current legal definition of theft, since most current legal code does not attempt to quantify digital property and perfect duplication apart from the deprivation of property, can't apply to piracy because no property is being disturbed. But that is not an absolution of the thievery, merely a dodge on semantics from a legal system that has not yet evolved to explicitly to catch the concept of digital larceny. -- cavalier
Yes, we would rather use the actual words and their actual "definitions". What's wrong with that? Just because you feel some other term is metaphorically similar doesn't mean everyone else should use it. The fact that you personally feel it's licentious is really irrelevant.

Secondly the idea that the law doesn't "attempt to quantify" intellectual property is absurd. There is a ton of law that codifies everything about 'intellectual property'. Except, it's not called intellectual property, it's called copyright (or trademarks, or patents). In comparison laws about actual theft are pretty simple, just a couple different tiers of penalties depending on the dollar value of the theft. That's it. The idea that the law is somehow deficient or hasn't caught up to reality is absurd. The law says what it says, and it's actually weighed very heavily towards copyright holders.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The files provided on Bit Torrent networks are a better product. There are no warning screens, no trailers, no commercials, no extra's, no physical disc, no having to go to the store, no needing a bluray/dvd/laser disc player, no bluray internet connectivity required, no restrictions on what or where or when the media can be played all in the quality and format of your choice.

Pro tip: Setup a distribution service that lets users get their content online (ALL of it!) with really fast download speeds. Charge me money to use this service. Give money to the content creators. Profit.

You simply cannot provide an inferior product/service, charge more money, and expect people to continue to use it.
posted by axismundi at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Also: copyright, as it currently stands, is broken. The original deal was that, sure, artists need to live, too, so they'll be granted a temporary monopoly on what they produce. After a certain time period it will then fall into the public domain and so serve to enrich the general populace and not only those select few who paid for the privilege previously. This is just not happening right now, and as a member of the general population I really don't feel any moral obligation to keep up my end of this bargain."

The justification for piracy based on unfairness of length of copyright law is strange to me. If you believe that copyright law shouldn't be so long, and should be only 20 years in length, does that mean you only pirate movies that were made at least 20 years ago.

I don't see how it's a justification for ignoring your entire moral obligation with regards to copyright. Shouldn't your moral obligation still extend to the length of temporary monopoly that you believe appropriate? If your answer is that you don't believe there should be *any* temporary monopoly protection, then just say that instead. Thinking Mickey Mouse should be public domain because it's such an old creation isn't a justification for pirating The Hurt Locker the year it comes out.
posted by kcalder at 11:38 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cavalier, using a welter of synonyms for theft in your argument doesn't make it any less incorrect.  The premise that a "loss" has been sustained by a content creator upon download, or that a "theft" has occurred has been rebutted over and over and over.

I don't suppose that will prevent you from asserting it again, though. *sigh*
posted by Aquaman at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I read through this whole thread and I'd like to point out a small, but seemingly obvious point. The cheaper something is, the more people will buy it. If x people will buy a product for $10, y people will buy it for $0.50, and y is much greater than x. It's not just money - the price is also going out to the theatre, spending time learning to torrent, or the risk of getting cut off by your ISP.

Every illegal download does not translate into a lost sale - it's someone who wouldn't have seen your movie otherwise. I'm sure there is some kind of function that maps illegal downloads to lost sales - I suspect the number of lost sales from illegal downloads is miniscule, or even less than the number of sales gained by potential free word of mouth advertising. It would be really interesting to read some well done research on the subject, but obviously there is a huge financial incentive to overstate how much revenue illegal downloading costs.
posted by heathkit at 11:45 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Couple of posters are already equating copyright infringement with theft. Can we not do this yet again? Stealing a DVD from someone's locker is a terrible analogy. It would be more like taking the DVD someone left in the middle of a park, copying it, and putting it back where you found it."

Except I didn't leave thousands of DVDs in the middle of a park. And the big cost of that DVD is not the physical manufacturing of the DVD, it's the cost of making and marketing the movie. Whether a physical copy is being destroyed in the process of piracy is not that relevant.

"KCalder, you made the claim that your movie had, "far lower financial success due in part to the high levels of online piracy." Do you have a citation for that? I haven't seen any believable studies that show that one (or a thousand) downloads = one lost sale. By all accounts the movie industry is pulling in more profits than ever before."

I really only have circumstantial evidence. The most compelling being that the month before our DVD was released we were one of the top 10 most pirated films online, and then when our DVD came out the sales were significantly lower than those for similar scope films with similar theatrical performance.

I've gone back and forth with arguments on this, and I honestly believe that the negatives far outweigh the positives in terms of "lost sales" and the hidden promotional benefits of piracy. It's hard for me to quantify in the majority of cases, but I think with this specific film it's a lot easier to make the case that piracy had a big impact on revenue. I can't justify the ridiculous claims made by the studios, but I'm not talking about billions of dollars. I think the impact in our case probably works out to a couple hundred thousand dollars (again, I can't really support this with firm math), but in the case of an independent film that's a huge difference.

"I saw the Wackness on Netflix Watch it Instantly. I would not have paid to see it in the theater, rented it, or even put it on my Netflix mailing queue. Do you count the fact that I streamed it as a lost DVD sale?"

No. I count that as a legitimate and wonderful way for a consumer to watch one of my films for "free". Netflix has licensed the right to distribute these films via their Instant service, and they compensate the rights holders for that. I wish more people would watch movies on Netflix Instantly rather than pirating them.
posted by kcalder at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2010


Yes, we would rather use the actual words and their actual "definitions". What's wrong with that? Just because you feel some other term is metaphorically similar doesn't mean everyone else should use it. The fact that you personally feel it's licentious is really irrelevant.

Licentious? Really? :) That's what you got from what I wrote? You're also extrapoloating in kind an odd direction in responding to the rest of it -- where am I promoting its use in lieu of its definition by "everyone else"? I am countering the dodge that since this word does not encapsulate "digital" theft, that it is not theft.

Secondly the idea that the law doesn't "attempt to quantify" intellectual property is absurd.

Again, you cherry pick a sentence without reading the rest of it? Read it again: "since most current legal code does not attempt to quantify digital property and perfect duplication apart from the deprivation of property". That's the key -- there needs to be more than copyright law when we are talking about a criminal act.

The idea that the law is somehow deficient or hasn't caught up to reality is absurd

Is it really? If thievery is limited to the misuse or misappropriation of an item due to its physical removal, isn't it ill suited to face an environment where an item can be misappropriated without physical removal?
posted by cavalier at 11:50 AM on June 3, 2010


The comparisons to a library are confusing to me. Libraries have built in limitations on the number of free copies they have available at a single time, and they usually have geographical limitations. On top of that, copyright holders are compensated for material that is available in libraries. If that were the case with BitTorrent, I'm sure all the copyright holders would have much less of an issue.
They don't get compensated any more then they do for copies sold to individuals. And if a library buys the book used, the copyright owner isn't compensated again.

Speaking of which, we currently have the "right of first sale", we can re-sell books or DVDs after reading them if we want. But you can't re sell digital DRM locked content. Isn't taking away our ability to resell content just as much "theft" as piracy?

As an example, let's say someone wants to read a book. They could buy a cheap used copy on amazon. For example Snowcrash can be bought for $2.40 (+$4 shipping) on amazon used. But the Kindle version is $9. There are no used kindle editions.

Now, lets say someone wants to read a book. They don't care about owning it, they just want to read it. They go on amazon and buy it used for a few bucks. The creator gets nothing. Or they check it out from a library. Again, creator gets nothing.

Now lets say that the 'book' was only published in a digital format. The reader has to buy it new. And someone who's done read it can't sell it. So it seems to me that the creator gets something (and extra sale) for nothing, and the original buyer loses something (the ability to resell their purchase)

So doesn't that fall under this broad definition of "theft"? This doesn't bother me personally that much, but I'm honestly curious here. There are a lot of things that corporations do that cause them to make money unfairly from consumers, often by lobbying to change laws in their favor instead breaking them (but sometimes by breaking them!) And I'm actually curious what people who call copyright infringement theft have to say about them.
posted by delmoi at 11:52 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "Interesting. But wouldn't the studio actually have to download from you in order to sue? Listing a random, fake IP wouldn't actually prevent much. "

I'm not clear on this but I highly doubt that everyone being served with a subpoena provided a full download (and providing less than that is not really 'making available', legal scholars feel free to chime in). I'd be shocked if a majority of those being served even shared a 1:1 ratio.
posted by mullingitover at 11:55 AM on June 3, 2010


Cavalier, using a welter of synonyms for theft in your argument doesn't make it any less incorrect. The premise that a "loss" has been sustained by a content creator upon download, or that a "theft" has occurred has been rebutted over and over and over.

Aquaman, I'd love to discuss this with you, but your rebuttal is three opinion pieces, one of which titled "NYTimes Ethicist: Not Unethical To Download Unauthorized Copy Of Physical Book You Own" which seems to mildly counter your contention as its body is that since the rights to the work were paid for, the electronic copy could be seen as gratis, which is a more complicated discussion since we are talking about acquiring material with no rights, the next one brings up the Jefferson debate, a favorite of mine but one that does not unequivocably say one way or another which idea is right, then goes on to talk about his software distribution model, and the last one is a piece from the Register in 2003 which made the argument that "Copying" was not "Thievery" because the physical original was not altered. Now that is what I call a run on! Anyhoo, I'm guessing the sigh is your exasperation with trying to discuss this with me, as surely I can grow tired when confronted with an opinion or viewpoint I disagree with. Having said that, I'm not sure you're adding anything more for us to discuss?

How do you feel that I am incorrect that a content creator suffers a financial loss when their work is consumed without them being compensated?
posted by cavalier at 12:01 PM on June 3, 2010


"Every illegal download does not translate into a lost sale - it's someone who wouldn't have seen your movie otherwise. I'm sure there is some kind of function that maps illegal downloads to lost sales - I suspect the number of lost sales from illegal downloads is miniscule, or even less than the number of sales gained by potential free word of mouth advertising. It would be really interesting to read some well done research on the subject, but obviously there is a huge financial incentive to overstate how much revenue illegal downloading costs."

It's very hard to figure out the financial impact, but I can give an interesting anecdote with regards to the independent film business. Part of the revenue stream for most independent films is the ability to sell the foreign distribution rights to your films. This can range from a couple hundred bucks up to millions of dollars depending on the film and the territory.

Spain has huge piracy issues. So huge that the foreign value for the territory of Spain has dropped more than half across the board for independent films. I assume this has an equal impact on the studio side of things. So how does this translate to an individual film? I'd say that maybe 2-5% of your budget that you previously would have been able to recoup as part of a sale in Spain is now down to 1-2.5% of your budget. It might not seem like a lot, but that could be the difference between making money on a film or losing money on a film. And that's just one territory, the same could be said for other international territories with very high piracy.

The scarier thing is that the trend is not for piracy to be decreasing, but for other territories to start seeing the same levels of elevated piracy that you see in countries like Spain.

So in terms of actually mapping piracy to lost sales, it's impossible for me to say. But I can point out the impact on revenue streams for independent filmmakers.
posted by kcalder at 12:01 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


kcalder: "The scarier thing is that the trend is not for piracy to be decreasing, but for other territories to start seeing the same levels of elevated piracy that you see in countries like Spain."

So do you feel that maybe the point that PontifexPrimus makes is accurate?
posted by mullingitover at 12:06 PM on June 3, 2010


Is it really? If thievery is limited to the misuse or misappropriation of an item due to its physical removal, isn't it ill suited to face an environment where an item can be misappropriated without physical removal?
What? I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. We have one law that deals with theft, we have another law that deals with copyright infringement. They are different laws because they are different things.

Maybe I should clarify, when I say "the law" I'm talking about the law in general, including copyright laws. Not the specific laws about theft. There are tons of laws about copyright infringement, with all kinds of legal consequences and loopholes. For example, there's a specific law that says you can play whatever songs you want on the radio without asking permission. You just have to pay a flat rate to Sound exchange. Extending the copyright infringement = theft metaphor, that would be like a law that said certain people could walk into certain stores and take whatever they wanted, just paying a set flat rate for the items. It wouldn't make any sense, but that's because copyright infringement isn't theft.
Spain has huge piracy issues. So huge that the foreign value for the territory of Spain has dropped more than half across the board for independent films.
What incentive does Spain have to subsidize art in other countries? It's pretty common for countries that don't produce a lot of IP to have weaker copyright laws then countries that produce a lot. If you want to see a lot of piracy look at the third world and developing economies.

Nigeria has developed a bustling film industry recently. Their copyright warnings feature an a dramatized armed raid on a pirate retailer. Pretty entertaining.
posted by delmoi at 12:09 PM on June 3, 2010


The producer has seen no reparation for your consumption of the media if it had been intended for the commercial market.

As I understand it, the "right to get paid something if anyone experiences my creation" is not really a right though. Nor is, "someone received a copy of my work, and even though they're not making copies to distribute or sell, they still owe me." Copyright gives you exclusive right to try to do what distribution or monetization you wish, but the laws and business realities of those methods still apply and do not, top-to-bottom, bow down to some ridiculously powerful legal right to be compensated just because someone experiences your product.

I think it's okay to lobby for laws to eke out space for your business model, but at some point you are pushing against the cold facts of market reality, and what you've greased some legislators to let you call your 'rights' are just fantasies of business entitlement.
posted by fleacircus at 12:09 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


First, what does sueing mean? Is it sautéing Sue? Seriously though - why is so little progress being made in these discussions? Perhaps there should be a list of "The Usual Arguments" with "The Usual Rebuttals" and unless you come up with something that's not covered by either, why re-hash it?

Meanwhile, reality marches on, unconcerned with the arguments. The infringers will win this war, as always, and stay one (or more) step ahead of the enforcers. I think copyright holders should spend their time and energy figuring out how to function in an environment where the laws of nature prevail, rather than fantasizing about a world that does not and cannot exist.
posted by VikingSword at 12:10 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


They don't get compensated any more then they do for copies sold to individuals

delmoi, I admit to not currently being involved in media sales to library and other institutions, but twelve years ago this wasn't the case: Media, depending on the production company, was priced at differing rates depending on the library, the size of the membership, and the number of media being purchased. While this could be less than say your average price at Best Buy, this can also be much more.

So doesn't that fall under this broad definition of "theft"? This doesn't bother me personally that much, but I'm honestly curious here.

You have left the realm we were orbiting -- talking about the misapprporiation of work without compensation -- and have now entered the "Used Media" realm. I think that could use another thread, but in a nutshell: My concern is the initial procurement of the work being properly compensated for. The "used tape/DVD" market is outside my area of knowledge.
posted by cavalier at 12:11 PM on June 3, 2010


Cavalier, using a welter of synonyms for theft in your argument doesn't make it any less incorrect. The premise that a "loss" has been sustained by a content creator upon download, or that a "theft" has occurred has been rebutted over and over and over.

Maybe those rebuttals just aren't all that convincing. The Reg link says "copying isn't always infringing." Sure. Taking isn't always stealing, either, so why bring it up?

You are creating a copy of something that you don't have, right? And at the same time, you're arguably diluting the value of something that someone else does have, right? I don't see why those things have to be the same physical item for the concept of "theft" to map pretty well to what's going on. Value - wealth - is moving from someone else to you.

Now, we can argue about whether you're actually diluting the value of that something, or how much you're diluting it. But you're playing a silly semantic game - and the outcome of that game either way isn't a justification for what you're doing. Call it theft, call it whatever you want, there are clearly moral and legal questions involved in downloading files without having a fair-use right involved.

And, you know, that's really OK with me. I download all sorts of TV shows and books. But I don't think I can justify it as right action simply because it doesn't correspond directly with some conception of theft as applied to physical items.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:15 PM on June 3, 2010


"They don't get compensated any more then they do for copies sold to individuals. And if a library buys the book used, the copyright owner isn't compensated again."

In a lot of cases the price that a library pays per unit is higher than the cost to an individual consumer. You are right in terms of the copyright not being compensated for used book purchases, but this is fundamentally self-limiting because every copy of a used book at least maps directly to a real sale at some point and all future lending of the book is tied to a single user per book at a single point in time and with the geographical limitation of the library.

If libraries provided unlimited access to everyone in the world to any copyrighted material they have at the same time for free, then I could see them being used as a fair comparison to BitTorrent. But it's just not the case. I know you didn't make this original point, delmoi, but I just want to clarify that there are huge differences between a public library and the current implementation of p2p sharing of copyrighted material.

"Speaking of which, we currently have the "right of first sale", we can re-sell books or DVDs after reading them if we want. But you can't re sell digital DRM locked content. Isn't taking away our ability to resell content just as much "theft" as piracy?"

I'm really not an expert when it comes to the details of copyright law, but I'm pretty sure that the case made with DRM material is that it is licensed content and not a sale. It is licensed for specific usage. This is the same thing I go through if I license a song to use it in one of my films. I pay to license the song, but that doesn't mean that I bought the song. It doesn't mean that I get to use it in any of my other films, or even use it within the same film in a different context than that in which the original license was defined.

Personally, I'm not comfortable with the current limitations on DRM material. I think it should be possible to sell or give away your digital original file. I think in practice the DRM exists because it's incredibly complicate to implement protections that allow for an exception for destructive copying (which is essentially what we're talking about with the first-sale doctrine, you are copying the source file to someone else's media and deleting it from your media). I have personal issues with DRM in general. I think that it doesn't do a good job of limiting piracy, and just creates hassles for legitimate users/viewers/customers.

That said, I don't think my objection to DRM is such that it justifies my ability to ignore it. There are plenty of things in the world that I disagree with, but that doesn't mean I violate agreements or laws because of that ethical/moral position. It sounds like your opposition is more extreme to mine, so I can see you thinking that it does give you ethical and moral grounds to ignore all copyright at DRM. Personally, that saddens me because I like being able to make movies without having to check in with the government for funding.

Out of curiosity, can you explain your concept of government funded arts in more detail? It seems pretty untenable and unlikable on the surface, but maybe I'm missing something.
posted by kcalder at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2010


What? I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. We have one law that deals with theft, we have another law that deals with copyright infringement. They are different laws because they are different things.

Maybe I should clarify, when I say "the law" I'm talking about the law in general, including copyright laws.


Ah, this could be our disconnect. I am talking of the enhancement and evolution of criminal code regarding thievery/larceny. I acknowledge you've been talking about copyright law but I feel that, as it is currently codified (at least in the US), it does not apply to this problem. Remaking "Aladdin" with the same characters and the same song routines and calling it "Bobby" marketed by "Duckney", that's a copyright issue. Stealing intellectual property -- ideas, stories, etc -- copyright law, while it needs to be reformed ,is where that stuff can be tracked. My axe in this thread was/is solely to counter the ongoing denial that "hey nobody's missing a dvd so everything's cool! no thieving here man!" In this we're talking about a product, which now lacking physicality, needs the criminal code to adapt to deal with electrons vs. pallets.

[...] just have to pay a flat rate to Sound exchange. Extending the copyright infringement = theft metaphor, that would be like a law that said certain people could walk into certain stores and take whatever they wanted, just paying a set flat rate for the items. It wouldn't make any sense, but that's because copyright infringement isn't theft.

Ennhhn, I can't speak with any experience to music recording contracts and their relationship to Sound Exchange, but it sounds like a licensing arrangement where a station pays X amount to Sound Exchange for the performance of songs owned by SE's rights holders, and then in theory SE should reparate the rights holder based on the amount their songs were played. It seems reasonable enough in theory though I'm sure there are weasels all over the place. I'm not sure how you are applying this back to the copyright infringement = theft piece -- Netflix et all provide all the movies you can stream for a flat rate that is then paid in part back to the content providers. This is perfectly fine -- as long as the creators are being compensated.

I'm going to lose some net time for awhile so apologies for not keeping up. You certainly have a stamina for these sorts of threads. :)
posted by cavalier at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2010


The idea that the law is somehow deficient or hasn't caught up to reality is absurd

Setting aside the current discussion, I think that may well the dumbest thing I've ever seen on MeFi. The law is deficient in uncountable ways, in any area of law. It certainly hasn't caught up to reality in many areas of law, and never will. Just like generals always plan to fight the last battle, legislators always plan to fight the past.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:20 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. I count that as a legitimate and wonderful way for a consumer to watch one of my films for "free". Netflix has licensed the right to distribute these films via their Instant service, and they compensate the rights holders for that. I wish more people would watch movies on Netflix Instantly rather than pirating them.

Somewhat off topic, but why has The Wackness disappeared from Netflix Instant Watch? I added it to my instant queue a few weeks ago, then tried to watch it last night--but it was no longer streaming, now available only in disc format. Netflix's streaming service is awesome, but the disappearing titles make me uneasy... becoming somewhat emblematic of the "legal" means of digital distribution. There doesn't seem to be a lot of love for me as a consumer of digital content; instead, I'm expected to bend my consumption habits to specific windows of time and specific/fragmented/competing devices.

I didn't steal The Wackness when it had disappeared from Instant Queue (I streamed another movie instead), but I didn't add it to my DVD queue either.
posted by rockstar at 12:24 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What incentive does Spain have to subsidize art in other countries? It's pretty common for countries that don't produce a lot of IP to have weaker copyright laws then countries that produce a lot. If you want to see a lot of piracy look at the third world and developing economies.

Nigeria has developed a bustling film industry recently. Their copyright warnings feature an a dramatized armed raid on a pirate retailer. Pretty entertaining."

delmoi, Spain isn't subsidizing art in other countries. Their local distribution companies are licensing art from other countries to distribute in Spain. The impact to non-Spanish independent films is minimal, as described in my original post. The impact to Spanish films? HUGE. The Spanish territorial sale is a much bigger deal for a Spanish film than it is for an English, German, or US film. The prices are dropping there too. Piracy in Spain is having a bigger impact on the local industry than on the international industry.

I have seen a lot of Nigerian films. I think their industry is fascinating, and I know that they deal with huge huge piracy issues. That's also why the average film budget in Nigeria is $20,000. Even with the increased production value attainable within Nigeria at that budget, it's not even close to the production value that the rest of the world expects from a film.

Separate from an argument of the "rightnes" or "wrongness" of piracy, I think that if the piracy rates of a country like Nigeria do extend to the rest of the world then there will definitely have to be huge drops in budgets of films across the board. Personally, it doesn't bother me if Disney have to find a way to make a movie for $20m instead of $200m, but it does bother me if independent film producers have to try to make a film for $20k instead of $200k.
posted by kcalder at 12:27 PM on June 3, 2010


I won't go on about copyright infringement vs theft terminology, as other, better posters than I are bearing that flag. But I will reiterate that in this nuanced and important discussion about emerging copyright issues, the heavy-handed application of 19th-century property rights concepts benefits nobody.

That's why I was sighing. Adding something to the discussion wasn't my intent; rather, I'm trying to remove a really big and prickly straw man so we can talk more straightforwardly about the issues.

Given your clearly informed response, I'm just surprised that you leaned on the "theft" angle so strongly, that's all.
posted by Aquaman at 12:27 PM on June 3, 2010


delmoi, I admit to not currently being involved in media sales to library and other institutions, but twelve years ago this wasn't the case: Media, depending on the production company, was priced at differing rates depending on the library, the size of the membership, and the number of media being purchased. While this could be less than say your average price at Best Buy, this can also be much more.
There's no law that says libraries can't lend copies they buy at a best buy. If they get a discount, obviously they'll take it. I'm not sure why they would pay more. Maybe if they are to lazy to go out and buy it themselves. But anyway
You have left the realm we were orbiting -- talking about the misapprporiation of work without compensation
Lazy. Like VikingSword, that discussion has been had a million times. Why go over it again? You say "X is theft!" then when I say "Well, if X was theft then Y would also be theft" you say "Well we're only talking about X!" that's just lazy, seriously. I favor a narrow definition of theft. You want a broad definition, and I'm trying to point out the logical inconsistencies in that broad definition.

And more then that, I'm actually curious what "copyright infringement = theft" people think about this. Otherwise I wouldn't care at all what they think, I've heard it a million times and I disagree. I don't have any interest in hearing another polemic about metaphorical epistemology from people who don't seem to understand how people can disagree with them and simply restate their beliefs over and over again.
Maybe those rebuttals just aren't all that convincing. -- me & my monkey
Well, who cares if they're convincing or not? Semantic debates are never interesting. The law doesn't consider copyright infringement theft. So, that's the end of it right? What else is there to discuss? Are you going to answer my question about resale rights? Does the use of DRM locks equate to theft from customers under your broad definition of theft?
And, you know, that's really OK with me. I download all sorts of TV shows and books. But I don't think I can justify it as right action simply because it doesn't correspond directly with some conception of theft as applied to physical items. -- me & my monkey
Okay well, how do you justify stealing from the English language by using the wrong words for things? If you want to say "copyright infringement is as immoral as theft" that's one thing. That's something you can have a discussion about. If you say "copyright infringement is theft" then you're just fucking incorrect.
posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Somewhat off topic, but why has The Wackness disappeared from Netflix Instant Watch?"

I honestly don't know. The domestic distribution rights are licensed to Sony Pictures Classics, and they are the arbiters of the distribution windows for the films in their catalog. I assume it's part of some overall deal between Sony and Netflix. It's news to me, and a bit frustrating because it certainly makes it harder for me to point to it as a great way for someone to watch the film instead of pirating it!
posted by kcalder at 12:30 PM on June 3, 2010


delmoi, I do consider online piracy to be a form of theft/stealing. But then again I also consider someone who uses another comedian's joke in their routine to be "stealing" a joke. I consider someone who upstages a person at their own birthday party to be "stealing" their limelight. I don't like the expression, but in the past people have asked to steal a minute of my time.

I certainly know that good artists copy and great artists steal, and I'm pretty sure Picasso wasn't talking about loaves of bread.

My understanding of the English language is pretty good though, and I don't understand how I'm stealing from the English language when I'm "using the wrong words for things".
posted by kcalder at 12:43 PM on June 3, 2010


I acknowledge you've been talking about copyright law but I feel that, as it is currently codified (at least in the US), it does not apply to this problem. Remaking "Aladdin" with the same characters and the same song routines and calling it "Bobby" marketed by "Duckney", that's a copyright issue. -- cavalier
Okay first of all, Aladdin is an ancient folktale that would have been out of copyright for thousands of years if copyright law even existed when it was created.

Secondly, I'm not sure what you think the "problem" here is. Piracy is illegal. What more do you want? For the law to validate your personal semantic argument so you can call copyright infringement theft and be correct? (Because, of course, currently you're incorrect)

This is what's so annoying: People who argue that "infringement = theft" actually want to argue that the two are morally equivalent. Which is a fine thing to think. But being morally equivalent isn't the same thing as being the same actual thing.
but it sounds like a licensing arrangement where a station pays X amount to Sound Exchange for the performance of songs owned by SE's rights holders
Except it's not. It's written directly into the law. The only agreement was between members of congress. My point in bringing it up was to illustrate how complicated copyright law is, especially compared to the laws about theft, which are typically state laws and very simple (stealing is always a crime) whereas copyright law is complicated. And yes SE pays the original authors. But the rates are codified by law, not chosen by copyright holders.
I have seen a lot of Nigerian films. I think their industry is fascinating, and I know that they deal with huge huge piracy issues. That's also why the average film budget in Nigeria is $20,000. Even with the increased production value attainable within Nigeria at that budget, it's not even close to the production value that the rest of the world expects from a film.
Dude, the average Nigerian doesn't have $9 to blow on a trip to the cinema. Even if piracy was zero, budgets would still be pretty low.
Out of curiosity, can you explain your concept of government funded arts in more detail? It seems pretty untenable and unlikable on the surface, but maybe I'm missing something.
Well, first of all it's important to understand that copyright based revenue is dependent on the government enforcing those rights in the first place. I don't think my idea is any more untenable then soundexcahnge today. Basically if you wanted to watch a movie or listen to a song, you would download it from a legitimate site, just like streaming a movie today. Since the media would be free, there'd be no reason for illegitimate sites. The vast majority of downloads would be from these sites, and they would aggregate statistics and pay out funding based on the number of downloads. The money would come out of taxation. In my scenario, the government wouldn't have any control over content. It's no more susceptible to government control then copyright, since the government could refuse copyright protection to content it objects to.

It would be a huge sea change in terms of how arts are funded today, and obviously it would be hard to do make the change. But once the change was made, I don't think implementing it would be difficult.
posted by delmoi at 1:01 PM on June 3, 2010


"Well, first of all it's important to understand that copyright based revenue is dependent on the government enforcing those rights in the first place. I don't think my idea is any more untenable then soundexcahnge today. Basically if you wanted to watch a movie or listen to a song, you would download it from a legitimate site, just like streaming a movie today. Since the media would be free, there'd be no reason for illegitimate sites. The vast majority of downloads would be from these sites, and they would aggregate statistics and pay out funding based on the number of downloads. The money would come out of taxation. In my scenario, the government wouldn't have any control over content. It's no more susceptible to government control then copyright, since the government could refuse copyright protection to content it objects to. "

Got it, I thought you were talking about content creation. I actually like this idea a lot, but I really doubt you'd get any government to go for it. I also think the dynamic between taxpayer-government-creator would be pretty tense when it comes to negotiating fair pay rates.
posted by kcalder at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2010


"Dude, the average Nigerian doesn't have $9 to blow on a trip to the cinema. Even if piracy was zero, budgets would still be pretty low."

The Nigerian film industry is actually very healthy. I don't want my anti-piracy comments to speak against that. The films there are made for around $20,000 each, they sell almost exclusively on DVD for about $2 a disc, and a moderately success film will sell 50,000 units and a hit can do 200,000 units. That's a good return for an investor, and a much more sound business model than making independent films in the US.

My point regarding piracy is that Nigeria is an example of a system that *has* developed within a culture of heavy piracy. That is what the system will have to be like in the rest of the world if the culture of piracy continues to spread, which I suspect it will. The complaint isn't so much that you can't find a business model. It's that you can't make The Godfather, Star Wars, Citizen Kane, Laurence of Arabia, or really almost any movie that most of the world considers to be "great" cinema. You also can't make Transformers 2, so it's not all bad news. But if the filmmakers do have to embrace a reality with continually increasing piracy levels, it's going to result in a lot more soap operas and a lot fewer space operas.
posted by kcalder at 1:17 PM on June 3, 2010


The most compelling being that the month before our DVD was released we were one of the top 10 most pirated films online, and then when our DVD came out the sales were significantly lower than those for similar scope films with similar theatrical performance.

How much piracy do you think there would have been if, during that month, those people had been easily able to legitimately download or stream a high-quality copy at some low price ($2-10)?

How much piracy do you think there would have been if the dvd had been released 6 weeks earlier?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:27 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is not about piracy. A company has simply invented a wonderful automated machine that produces unlimited amounts of money - a fantastic generator of fast bucks through a form of (quasi?) legal extortion of fines. They don't give a shit about copyright, or about the content creators, they only split the profits with the suckers because they need a smoke screen of legitimacy.

The content owners (Uwe Boll for example) don't give a shit about shitting on their fans, because even if every threat letter slowly kills their market to the tune of ten legitimate sales per instance of extorted fine, it nets them more than fifty legitimate sales would. Who needs a market any more?

Uwe Boll has been accused many times of making movies through business practices that profit from bad box office sales (many have even gone so far as to suggest he intentionally makes bad films to retard their box office success, but artistic incompetence is a much better explanation)

This nothing about justice or fighting piracy. It's about a new way to make money for nothing.
Lots and lots and LOTS of money.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suggest you all sign up for P2P insurance.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:34 PM on June 3, 2010


How is it that, with all the piracy, the big problem is that too many films are being made?
posted by mullingitover at 1:42 PM on June 3, 2010


The discussion about whether illegal downloading is "theft" hopelessly mixes up lay rhetoric and legal terms of art, and as such is pretty useless.

On the one hand, the law has a bunch of different specific civil, criminal, and constitutional violations involving invasions of propety rights, all with varying definitions of the kind of property, the manner of invasion, and the remedy or punishment. Eg: theft, robbery, burglary, larceny, conversion, takings, due process violations, and (my personal fav) "money had and received." Copyright infringement is one of these kinds of property invasions recognized by the law. So to call infringement "theft" is, legally speaking, innacurate.

As a matter of non-legal rhetoric, it seems like people object to the use of the word "theft" because they believe it has a moral dimension they don't think applies to illegal downloading -- theft is sneaky, greedy, unjustified. Or they think "theft" implicates the existence of harm to the copyright owner, which they contest. Or they think "theft" implicates the existence property to be stolen, which they also contest or disapprove of the definition of property being used.
posted by yarly at 1:43 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


infringement:theft::jaywalking:trespassing
posted by mullingitover at 1:48 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I feel really, really sick at the thought of paying a fine I secretly think will be deserved because somehow we haven't got across to our boys WHY illegal downloading is stealing. Our sons are total angels in all other respects, she insisted!)

I'm a tech, so I have to have this discussion sometimes. Whatever my feelings are about it, when I'm doing my job I tell parents who have kids who have received warning letters and subpoenas that, if it were me, I'd tell the kid don't torrent or get your own high speed line, because it's too much liability to carry. But I can't talk to the kid like that, myself. Some teenagers react badly to this, but I'd rather deal with an irate teenager than court battles and money down the drain, probably still with an irate teenager.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:49 PM on June 3, 2010


If the MPAA would like more of my money, I suggest they get every single movie possible distributed through as many channels as possible. If they won't put something on Netflix Watch Instantly, because there is a rights conflict with movie channels on TV or something, they're losing my money. I know that means they can charge more for exclusivity periods on rights to the movie, but how do they know they couldn't make up the revenue with a business model that makes a movie cheap and widely available everywhere, shortly after release?

As a consumer, I think there are about five movies max a year that I think are good enough to pay $10 for in theaters. I haven't bought a DVD in years because I rarely watch things twice. I think most movies are worth about $2 to me for a good quality stream on Netflix. When the movie industry gets in line with my habits and the value I put on a movie, they will definitely get me to spend more overall.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a matter of non-legal rhetoric, it seems like people object to the use of the word "theft" because they believe it has a moral dimension they don't think applies to illegal downloading -- theft is sneaky, greedy, unjustified. Or they think "theft" implicates the existence of harm to the copyright owner, which they contest. Or they think "theft" implicates the existence property to be stolen, which they also contest or disapprove of the definition of property being used.

Theft is not quite a legal term, but generally it means larceny. What people object to is using a term which is not accurate when talking about the specific laws in question, and instead becomes about people's emotions. That can be satisfying in its own way, but it's kind of hard to have a good discussion with loaded and inaccurate terminology being thrown around.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:53 PM on June 3, 2010


Well, who cares if they're convincing or not? Semantic debates are never interesting.

Apparently they're interesting enough for you to engage with them by replying.

The law doesn't consider copyright infringement theft. So, that's the end of it right? What else is there to discuss?

As yarly points out, the word "theft" has legal and moral dimensions that are separate. For the life of me, I don't see how people can function as native English speakers without being able to perceive those sorts of differences in language usage.

Had you read my response carefully enough, you may have noticed that I don't really address the legality of copying things. I don't really think the law is all that useful a guide to morality. It's ok by law to do all sorts of things that I consider immoral, and not ok by law to do all sorts of other things which I think are moral.

My problem with "copyright infringement" as a moral description is that it carries the implication of a victimless crime. The plain fact is, you're taking some sort of perceived value from the owner of something. How the law categorizes that exactly, as this term or that, doesn't really matter in the plain English use of the word. If I were to say that someone has stolen my idea, or my good name, or my identity, or any other sort of intangible thing, would you fail to comprehend that because it's not a literal taking of a physical object?

Okay well, how do you justify stealing from the English language by using the wrong words for things? If you want to say "copyright infringement is as immoral as theft" that's one thing. That's something you can have a discussion about. If you say "copyright infringement is theft" then you're just fucking incorrect.

I had no idea the English language had filed a complaint. But again, really, you can't tell the difference between plain English and legal terms of art? What are you, Humpty Dumpty?

Are you going to answer my question about resale rights?

No.

Does the use of DRM locks equate to theft from customers under your broad definition of theft?

I think plenty of uses of DRM are immorally taking value from me, yes. Again, though, I probably wouldn't rely on the word "theft" to describe that in court.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:03 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, realistically, what if you just throw the letter out? Nothing?
posted by WeekendJen at 2:07 PM on June 3, 2010


me & my monkey: "Apparently they're interesting enough for you to engage with them by replying."
posted by mullingitover at 2:12 PM on June 3, 2010


3 points:

1. "You wouldn't copy a handbag! You wouldn't copy a car" Nah, yeah, nah, I would.
2. Bottled water sellers advise: "You can compete with free".
3. Lighting a bonfire is not arson, though it does involve fire.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:15 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


And three questions for creators.

1. How much money do you get from 'beating' the pirates?
2. How much money do you get from people buying your stuff?
3. Given the answers to 1. and 2., where should you put your efforts?

I actually don't see anything particularly wrong with extorting money out of people for pirating your shit, but it does seem to be getting away from... core business.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:30 PM on June 3, 2010


Somewhat off topic, but why has The Wackness disappeared from Netflix Instant Watch? I added it to my instant queue a few weeks ago, then tried to watch it last night--but it was no longer streaming, now available only in disc format.

The movies in the watch instantly list are constantly shifting and the explanations as to why have been pretty nebulous. The closest I have seen to it being addressed was an occasion when Netflix indicated a large number would be leaving WI availability shortly because of an expiring agreement with the distributor.

However that's not enough to explain it as far as I can see, since it doesn't seem like all the movies from distributor X all come and go at the same time. I believe that this is a deliberate shifting around of availability to try not to completely dilute sales, a la Disney's practice of periodically re-releasing classic films for short periods of time.

This theory is somewhat supported by discussion I saw when Netflix was negotiating with certain studios to have a lag time between initial release for sale and when they would offer them for rent. Supposedly one of the items on the table was greater access to streaming titles and several analysis I saw speculated that Netflix would be open to this deal since they view streaming, not physical rental, as the inevitable path for their business.

The website InstantWatcher has a page listing things that will be expiring from the IW listings soon. I find it interesting.
posted by phearlez at 2:30 PM on June 3, 2010


If you're subpoenaed and fail to appear, it may be considered a default judgment for the plaintiff ... right? That's if you're actually subpoenaed. Some of these firms have been using "cease and desist" type letters, which don't necessarily mean you're going to court.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:39 PM on June 3, 2010


Yes, mullingitover, everyone who disagrees with you is a troll. Clearly, there is only one viewpoint worth consideration, and that's yours.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:44 PM on June 3, 2010


"How much piracy do you think there would have been if, during that month, those people had been easily able to legitimately download or stream a high-quality copy at some low price ($2-10)?

How much piracy do you think there would have been if the dvd had been released 6 weeks earlier?"

I wish that the DVD was released earlier, and that there would have been a high quality downloadable version available. I campaigned for this with Sony, but the decision was out of our hands. This gets into a broader conversation about release windows, ancillary rights, and distributor/exhibitor/retailer relations.

Basically the legacy distribution pipeline and contracts (which still, by far, provide the majority of revenue) are in direct contradiction to the ideal model for releasing films in a way that would reduce piracy and increase access to digital formats of films for the audience. There isn't a great way to reconcile these differences without basically ignoring the benefits of the traditional distribution model (which are still very high). This is the real reason why you don't see media companies reacting faster to changes in the market and digital distribution.

I think piracy could be effectively combatted by having digital downloadable or streamable versions of films available soon after their theatrical release. But I also know that doing so would drastically reduce the revenue potential from television, home video, VOD, and pay-per-view. This is especially problematic for studios where they have standing deals with television channels to provide content for high licensing fees based on exclusive windows of time.

That said, I am looking into a model for some of my future films that would basically ignore all of the traditional revenue streams in favor of ones that I think fit closer to a distribution system that meets modern audience demands. But really you can't do that unless you're making the film for such a low price that you can ignore the traditional revenue streams.
posted by kcalder at 2:45 PM on June 3, 2010


My problem with "copyright infringement" as a moral description is that it carries the implication of a victimless crime. The plain fact is, you're taking some sort of perceived value from the owner of something.

One of the main problems with these conversations is the two sides talking past each other. The way I see it, pirates are a symptom of a bigger problem, the changing of the media distribution model. The pirates may not have moral justification, but they're ahead of the distributors, who have fought tooth and nail to keep their content offline. It's a losing battle, is the thing, particularly in the shaming angle. It's just a rough spot on the road to a different method to distribute media. The distributors are getting there but still act like it's about scarcity, which worked for a long time but is not going to be a successful model in the long run. You can get mad at the pirates, but that's not getting anywhere when it comes to discussing this subject (because it inevitably turns personal), and it's not as fun as making music anyway.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:50 PM on June 3, 2010


me & my monkey: "Yes, mullingitover, everyone who disagrees with you is a troll. Clearly, there is only one viewpoint worth consideration, and that's yours."

That wasn't the point I was trying to make, but I'm glad you're starting to see the light :)

Seriously though, successfully starting an argument is not proof that you have a claim worth arguing about.
posted by mullingitover at 2:59 PM on June 3, 2010


You can get mad at the pirates

Oh, that's not going to work for me, since I am one. But I do object to the rationalization that goes on about this.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2010


"1. 'You wouldn't copy a handbag! You wouldn't copy a car' Nah, yeah, nah, I would."

You wouldn't steal a handbag. You wouldn't steal a car. You wouldn't steal a baby. You wouldn't shoot a policeman. And then steal his helmet. You wouldn't go to the toilet in his helmet. And then send it to the policeman's grieving widow. And then steal it again! Downloading films is stealing. If you do it, you will face the consequences. (Man bursts in behind the girl downloading the film and point a pistol at the back of her head and a pool of blood is then seen on the keyboard)
posted by Mitheral at 3:33 PM on June 3, 2010


My problem with "copyright infringement" as a moral description is that it carries the implication of a victimless crime. The plain fact is, you're taking some sort of perceived value from the owner of something.
There's such a thing as criminal infringement, but for the most part copyright infringement isn't a crime in any sense, much less non-victimless. It's a tort. That means you sue rather then having the government prosecute offenders.

But look, just because you don't like the connotations of a word you don't get to change the denotation of the word.
Oh, that's not going to work for me, since I am one. But I do object to the rationalization that goes on about this.
This is kinda what makes you a troll though. If you pirate a bunch of crap and also argue that it is theft, then you're not really invested in the argument. You're just being annoying.
(Man bursts in behind the girl downloading the film and point a pistol at the back of her head and a pool of blood is then seen on the keyboard)
Sounds like a Nigerian copyright warning. Actually, I googled around to see if I could find one online but I didn't see anything. I did find this though.
posted by delmoi at 3:55 PM on June 3, 2010


Oh, that's not going to work for me, since I am one. But I do object to the rationalization that goes on about this.

I can understand, but to me it seems like getting mad at someone working on an oil rig for all the problems with oil production, in other words a bit misdirected and not productive. Most people who are truly egregious p2p leechers and media hoarders usually grow out of it once they get real jobs. But sales of media has been so skewed to teenagers for so long that it's having an outsized effect. For that market, one idea that works - all you need to do is put a snippet of the song in a ringtone and people will pay up to $4 for it, if you put it right in front of them. This doesn't work with all music, but we're talking teenagers here ...
posted by krinklyfig at 4:08 PM on June 3, 2010


It would probably work better if anti-pirate people revised their stance to "copyright infringement is crap" and revised the PSAs to show a bunch of the really hard work that goes into making a movie, all so some sweaty toad can download it at 3am and watch the flick in a second window as he plays WoW or something.

The current situation is crap on a number of levels, including but not limited to the parts where random college students are singled out for $30k fines by raging suitborgs, or where cheery douchebags tell film producers "hey your flick was really great, I downloaded it the other night, you could really go places."
posted by furiousthought at 4:22 PM on June 3, 2010


If you pirate a bunch of crap and also argue that it is theft, then you're not really invested in the argument. You're just being annoying.

Or maybe he's just a knowing hypocrite.


all so some sweaty toad can download it at 3am and watch the flick in a second window as he plays WoW or something.

Are you kidding? Bittorrent wreaks hell on my ping!

Seriously, though, that would involve the people at the top of the film-making industry acknowledging the people at the bottom of the industry as being anything but interchangable parts, and that's pretty much antithetical to modern capitalism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:27 PM on June 3, 2010


It would probably work better if anti-pirate people revised their stance to "copyright infringement is crap" and revised the PSAs to show a bunch of the really hard work that goes into making a movie, all so some sweaty toad can download it at 3am and watch the flick in a second window as he plays WoW or something.

I dunno. I have a friend who works in the movie industry, and he hasn't ever paid for a computer game as far as I'm aware. He's more than capable of paying, but the DRM is a challenge to him, and that means he's going to live up to the challenge and try to crack it. I get the feeling cracking the DRM is the real game to him, but anyway ... point being, and I do have one, that he'd probably pay for the games if there were no DRM, because there's no challenge. But I don't know. Just don't assume everyone who gets paid to make copyrighted content feels the same way about paying for it. Personally, I buy all my games and music today, but I don't find the DRM as intriguing in itself as my friend.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:49 PM on June 3, 2010


Uwe Boll has been accused many times of making movies through business practices that profit from bad box office sales (many have even gone so far as to suggest he intentionally makes bad films to retard their box office success, but artistic incompetence is a much better explanation)

Well, up until a few years ago, an investor could deduct 100% of a movie's production costs (including loan fees) in Germany and only pay taxes on profits. So, an investor could borrow the money to give to Boll, write it off completely if there's no profit, and only be taxed if the movie makes money. So, maybe there is something to be said for Boll's sheer lack of competence as an artist, but I think he's just smart enough to know how to play the game and come out ahead without ever having to make a good movie.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:02 PM on June 3, 2010


My goodness, delmoi. I don't think I've had the opportunity to debate you directly before, and I'll enjoy the opportunity to not do so again in any near future! :)

I appreciate your passionate interest, but it seems that since I don't share you're viewpoint you're going to label me lazy for not engaging on your changing of the discussion and then I'm incorrect because my worldview doesn't match yours? Dinner parties with you must be a blast!

Lazy. Like VikingSword, that discussion has been had a million times. Why go over it again? You say "X is theft!" then when I say "Well, if X was theft then Y would also be theft" you say "Well we're only talking about X!" that's just lazy, seriously. I favor a narrow definition of theft. You want a broad definition, and I'm trying to point out the logical inconsistencies in that broad definition.

Please, please, read my messsages from the top of this thread downwards. I've been consistent in my messaging -- countering the statement "it isn't theft", saying it does not work simply because the current statutes ascribe theft to the physical removal of property in addition to misappropriation of the property. I'm sorry if this discussion bores you but that's the one I was having, so I don't need to spend more time having the goal posts moved and moved again so we can talk about copyright law and DRM and used books and whatever other issues you'd like to talk about. You call me lazy for not obliging you, and I'd call you rather impish. Fnord.

And more then that, I'm actually curious what "copyright infringement = theft" people think about this. Otherwise I wouldn't care at all what they think, I've heard it a million times and I disagree. I don't have any interest in hearing another polemic about metaphorical epistemology from people who don't seem to understand how people can disagree with them and simply restate their beliefs over and over again.

LOL. Are you talking about yourself in third person here?
You're the only one who gets to decide what we discuss, you don't want to talk about what we were talking about, and you're tired of people not listening to you and saying the same thing over and over again... Again, it does not seem like you're engaging what I've been saying, only the position behind what I'm saying, and since you don't want to have discourse about that, only what you want to talk about.. well... I don't have the time right now, sorry? :)

Well, who cares if they're convincing or not? Semantic debates are never interesting. The law doesn't consider copyright infringement theft. So, that's the end of it right? What else is there to discuss? Are you going to answer my question about resale rights? Does the use of DRM locks equate to theft from customers under your broad definition of theft?
You are a strange one! "This topic is dead! There is nothing to discuss! Who wants to talk about resale! And other things that interest me!" I'm going to stop quoting these, as I guess I end up repeating the same mantra here -- I'm sorry this thread wasn't about what you wanted it to be about, and I hope you find some nice people to chat with about it later!

Remaking "Aladdin" with the same characters and the same song routines and calling it "Bobby" marketed by "Duckney", that's a copyright issue. -- cavalier

Okay first of all, Aladdin is an ancient folktale that would have been out of copyright for thousands of years if copyright law even existed when it was created.


Completely irrelevant to the debate of theft with regards to electronic piracy. Again you want to attack copyright law, fine, but that's not my angle here.

Secondly, I'm not sure what you think the "problem" here is. Piracy is illegal. What more do you want? For the law to validate your personal semantic argument so you can call copyright infringement theft and be correct? (Because, of course, currently you're incorrect)
"NO U"? Really, what kind of response are you hoping for with that incendiary line of communication? I'm so wrong and incorrect so why am I even bothering? Geez!

Except it's not. It's written directly into the law. The only agreement was between members of congress. My point in bringing it up was to illustrate how complicated copyright law is, especially compared to the laws about theft, which are typically state laws and very simple (stealing is always a crime) whereas copyright law is complicated. And yes SE pays the original authors. But the rates are codified by law, not chosen by copyright holders.

You're rather simplifying larceny at this point in hopes of.. what? You want to talk about a (more) complicated issue? I am really left grasping at what would constitute a debate of this issue for you.

Actually, I think I'd rather not drag this out with you that much further. You win, you're awfully intelligent, if that's what you're looking for here.

I'm disturbed by people escaping the morality and the harm their piracy of films cause by closing their eyes and saying "I never took it!! It was just a copy!! It harmed nobody!" That's what I'm against. If you don't agree that that's harmful, or if you feel copyright is so screwed up that the films have it coming to them, well, you know, that's your opinion, man. I'm not sure I have the stamina to keep up with more rehashing of this. :)
posted by cavalier at 5:53 PM on June 3, 2010


metafilter: well, you know, that's your opinion, man.
/thread
posted by mullingitover at 6:17 PM on June 3, 2010


[...]the heavy-handed application of 19th-century property rights concepts benefits nobody.
Given your clearly informed response, I'm just surprised that you leaned on the "theft" angle so strongly, that's all.

Well, thank you kindly for that -- I'm not sure I would ascribe applying criminal statutes against electronic theft (i.e., patching Larceny to handle non-physical objects, or clarifying the definition of physical objects to include data) as trying to push forward sending infringers to Australia or sticking them in the stockades. I exxagerate for a joke but sincerely my thought process is that there's a certain sort of disconnect that occurs in a [X] number of , er, "pirates" (yarr), that goes something like "I haven't done anything wrong because I haven't hurt anyone by downloading this creative work."

We've tried all sorts of campaigns (First person to say "Don't Copy that Floppy" gets a swift Amiga Kickstart 1.2 disk in the head) to impress the idea that creative works are still protected even if the technology allows for easier duplication, and, well, it doesn't work. There are certainly many, many ways business models could help adapt and guide people towards paying, but the argument "Man I never would have paid for that anyway, I just downloaded it" would still survive any type of financial lure. So I think there have to be (stronger) penalties. Now, that may sound heavy handed and authoritarian, and I really don't enjoy playing the role of "The Man" here, but I'm thinking that maybe if there were direct and actionable consequences for the missappropriation of eletronic property, then just maybe we could start to get some mindset changing. I don't believe that everyone is a dirty stinking animal incapable of having a moral compass of right and wrong -- but why do we have laws, anyway? Why are there laws against battery, and fraud, and stealing cars, and dealing drugs? *STOP* -- I am NOT EQUATING the piracy of creative works with crimes resulting in bodily harm or worse, but my point is we don't see these crimes occuring in a majority of the population. Do laws have an effect in the deterrence of crimes? We already have laws against larcency and or thievery, yes. But they are not suited for electronic media. Yes, copyright infringement provides civil penalties for copying a videotape, but I've been pondering that a criminal remedy more readily actionable could go a ways in tilting the scale. I'm not saying it's the only potential solution, and indeed scaling it would prove a challenging and robust debate, but simply providing for some mechanism to get people to equate "virtual media" with "real things" so we can start to get some sense of responsbility in the fight.

I realize by saying that I essential out myself as a pariah amongst the hip computer froods but understand that my purpose is not to throw everybody in our horribly overcrowded and corrupt industrial prison complex (say that two times fast). Far from it. As a creator of works and associate of many a creator, my dog in this fight is that we cannot continue this myth that just because it's fast and easy to duplicate a piece of work that it is right and acceptable activity to do so.

Yeah. This is gonna go over well. (*dons flame retardent underpants*)
posted by cavalier at 6:17 PM on June 3, 2010


Whoops! /thread
posted by cavalier at 6:18 PM on June 3, 2010


"Now, that may sound heavy handed and authoritarian, and I really don't enjoy playing the role of 'The Man' here, but I'm thinking that maybe if there were direct and actionable consequences for the missappropriation of eletronic property, then just maybe we could start to get some mindset changing."

Your problem is that in order to get your wet dream of heavy-handed and authoritarian (and whatever that entails) punishment for non-commercial infringers, first you have to get the mindset to change. Because right now the general population really has no moral problems with infringement, and heavy-handed enforcement would be an express pass to radical populist copyright reform that would not benefit rightsholders.
posted by mullingitover at 6:32 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


My goodness, delmoi. I don't think I've had the opportunity to debate you directly before, and I'll enjoy the opportunity to not do so again in any near future! :)

I appreciate your passionate interest, but it seems that since I don't share you're viewpoint you're going to label me lazy for not engaging on your changing of the discussion and then I'm incorrect because my worldview doesn't match yours? Dinner parties with you must be a blast!


For crying out loud. delmoi came prepared, you didn't. delmoi has done his research, you haven't. delmoi is a veteran of these discussions, you apparently aren't. Don't take it personally.

... I think there have to be (stronger) penalties.

Okay. So, let's imagine this is all up to you. In this scenario, you're the guy who gets to set the penalties. Everyone is coming to you with their opinions.

Now, I'm not going to ask you what a fair penalty is, because that is clearly too hard a question for one person. Instead, what would too harsh a penalty look like? What, in your mind, is definitely off the table? Is jail time totally out of the question? What level of monetary damages would be too much? 10 million dollars? 1 million? Should there be some public shaming? If so how much shaming is too much?
posted by Ritchie at 8:34 PM on June 3, 2010


isn't a justification for pirating The Hurt Locker the year it comes out.

Well, a friend of mine saw The Hurt Locker at the Toronto Film Fest in Sept 2008. Six months later, he still hadn't heard about it coming out--though he told everyone he knew that it, and The Wrestler, were the best films of 2008. Assuming it was going to get a non-American theatriical release, and wanting to see it again, he downloaded it in April/May 2009, almost 9 months after he'd paid to see it in the theatre.

It finally came out the end of June, 2009. He saw it in the theatre then as well and took me and 4 other friends to see it. He now also owns it on DVD. He's now scared he's going to get one of these letters from the lawyers even though in total he's paid about $60 to see the film so far (film fest ticket (expensive), regular theatre, dvd). God knows how many people he turned onto the film in the 9 months it wasn't released.

Lawyers and filmmakers don't seem to at all understand how film watchers/lovers work.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:19 PM on June 3, 2010


Sorry, I meant "assuming it wasn't going to get a non-American..."
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:20 PM on June 3, 2010


It finally came out the end of June, 2009. He saw it in the theatre then as well and took me and 4 other friends to see it. He now also owns it on DVD. He's now scared he's going to get one of these letters from the lawyers even though in total he's paid about $60 to see the film so far
I think everyone who's going to get sued has probably been notified by now.
posted by delmoi at 10:36 PM on June 3, 2010


Gosh people, I can't believe this is still being discussed in 2010.

A relevant movie today would showcase the fusion of media that makes up our lives. The iPod and torrents make young people's lives into a fast switching nebulous of both entertainment, and in-between that, put-downs of major corporations/individuals.
To show this is very expensive due to high licensing costs, libel laws, and copyright.

Copyright was invented to to encourage "learned men to compose and write useful books" Copyright is now for an extremely long duration. It provides for the descendants of the person who creates the work - why?

With copyright nearly infinite, and the harm inflicted by downloading being non-existent (apart from lost revenue - and arguably given banking in recent years, money is a fantasy too), it is not a surprise people are downloading. If it were for a short enough period, I am certain people would respect it more. Something to do with "here are two marshmallows, I am now going to leave the room forever"

There is also the problem of faceless corporations. I believe Steve Jobs is the thing that sells iPads, not just Apple. We know he drives Apple forward, and we know he's someone we can give our money to - there is respect. But who owns Paramount again? This guy - yes, I'd love to give him my money, he sounds so nice and creative (sarcasm).
posted by niccolo at 10:57 PM on June 3, 2010


I've been consistent in my messaging -- countering the statement "it isn't theft", saying it does not work simply because the current statutes ascribe theft to the physical removal of property in addition to misappropriation of the property. I'm sorry if this discussion bores you but that's the one I was having
Well, you certainly haven't said anything new.
You are a strange one! "This topic is dead! There is nothing to discuss!
That's correct.
Remaking "Aladdin" with the same characters and the same song routines and calling it "Bobby" marketed by "Duckney", that's a copyright issue. – cavalier
Okay first of all, Aladdin is an ancient folktale that would have been out of copyright for thousands of years if copyright law even existed when it was created.
Completely irrelevant to the debate of theft with regards to electronic piracy. Again you want to attack copyright law, fine, but that's not my angle here.
Uh, what? You're the one who brought it up, not me. Are you complaining about me responding to something you said now? Odd. You would think that if it wasn't relevant, you wouldn't have brought it up in the first place.
You're rather simplifying larceny at this point in hopes of.. what? You want to talk about a (more) complicated issue? I am really left grasping at what would constitute a debate of this issue for you.
No. I brought up soundexchange as an example of how IP laws are not at all like physical property laws. You were apparently confused about what soundexchange was (it's not a voluntary agreement, it's mandated by law and musicians have no choice over whether or not they participate, as far as I know.)

--

Look. Let me be clear. An argument about the definition of a word is inherently uninteresting and pointless. Copyright infringement isn't legally theft. Whether or not you personally feel like is only relevant to you. Certainly, you can have a discussion about whether or not it's as bad as theft if you want too. But you don't seem interested in that.

On the other hand, if we expand the definition of theft so that it covers copyright infringement, what other things would also be theft? That seems like a fairly important thing to think about if you're going to do make that argument, but apparently that's too much work for you. Oh well.
posted by delmoi at 10:58 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It burns! I must, again, clarify for you:

Uh, what? You're the one who brought it up, not me. Are you complaining about me responding to something you said now? Odd. You would think that if it wasn't relevant, you wouldn't have brought it up in the first place.

I was acknowledging that you were talking about copyright infringement law -- and I used an example of someone attempting to imitate Disney's Aladdin (Remaking "Aladdin" with the same characters and the same song routines and calling it "Bobby" marketed by "Duckney", that's a copyright issue.) as an example of this ([...]copyright law, while it needs to be reformed ,is where that stuff can be tracked). I went on to clarify, again, that that sort of thing was outside the scope of what I was talking about (My axe in this thread was/is solely to counter the ongoing denial [... etc.. scroll up to see it again] ).

Either intentionally or mistakenly you brought up Disney's appropriation of the idea of the story, and thus its interent intelletual property issues, etcetera, where I specifically told you that was not that path I was going down. You were/are the one who wants to talk about that, while I kept telling you I'm not addressing that here (read above my statements on copyright law, while it needs reform, handles the notion of ideas and stealing them, and how I am not dealing with that here, where instead I am talking about the finalized product, and the denial of "thievery" of that).

No. I brought up soundexchange as an example of how IP laws are not at all like physical property laws. You were apparently confused about what soundexchange was (it's not a voluntary agreement, it's mandated by law and musicians have no choice over whether or not they participate, as far as I know.)

I'm not sure how you are applying this back to the copyright infringement = theft piece -- Netflix et all provide all the movies you can stream for a flat rate that is then paid in part back to the content providers. This is perfectly fine -- as long as the creators are being compensated.

I'm still not. Yes, I was unaware of Sound Exchange until you brought it up. I guessed at how it might work. I'm not still not understanding how you're relating this back to theft of digital assets.

Look. Let me be clear. An argument about the definition of a word is inherently uninteresting and pointless.

Then why do you keep engaging me? I've repeatedly stated what my agenda is in this thread. I don't have the time/resources to discuss the grander copyright / intelletual property enigma that you want to talk about. Why do you keep engaging me to coerce me to?

Copyright infringement isn't legally theft. Whether or not you personally feel like is only relevant to you. Certainly, you can have a discussion about whether or not it's as bad as theft if you want too. But you don't seem interested in that.

I'm not sure if you're separating "copyright infringement" and "1:1 digital copy of a finished movie product" when you're making this statement. If you're not separating it, then, yes, we vehemently disagree with each other. Perhaps immovably so, certainly at least in this thread. If you are separating them, then please recognize that I don't have a dog in the former fight -- right, I am not interested in it at the moment -- , as I am addressing the latter (1:1 digital copy..).. and I actually agree with you that the concepts of copyright law need reform. Desperate reform.

On the other hand, if we expand the definition of theft so that it covers copyright infringement, what other things would also be theft? That seems like a fairly important thing to think about if you're going to do make that argument, but apparently that's too much work for you. Oh well.

Yes yes, keep insulting me, it seems to draw me back into this against my better judgment. Hamburger!

I see the term "copyright infringement" as being a much thornier and complicated issue because it does not alone deal with the misappropriation of a finished product, it also deals with the misappropriation of ideas, about the buiding blocks of a product, about imitation and fraudulent reproduction and all that jazz. I am attacking a specific aspect of what could presently be labeled copyright infringement but in my opinion should be labeled as a criminal act to encourage deterrence of it: the misappropriation/consumption of media without compensation to the producer. That is solely what I am addressing, and what I have addressed, in this thread.

Ritchie,

For crying out loud. delmoi came prepared, you didn't. delmoi has done his research, you haven't. delmoi is a veteran of these discussions, you apparently aren't. Don't take it personally.

This is a disingenuous characterization -- I came, and stand prepared, to talk about the axe I've repeatedly stated I'm here to swing around. delmoi wants to have a different conversation, and I don't. Simple.

Now, I'm not going to ask you what a fair penalty is, because that is clearly too hard a question for one person. Instead, what would too harsh a penalty look like? What, in your mind, is definitely off the table? Is jail time totally out of the question? What level of monetary damages would be too much? 10 million dollars? 1 million? Should there be some public shaming? If so how much shaming is too much?

Tricky. As you disclaim, this is a bit much of policy creation to ask of one man, especially not one schooled and experienced in the realm of criminal statutes and their prosecution. One movie = life sentence? Yeah, that's pretty amazingly ridiculous. So what then, one movie = one day? I think you'd need to scale it relatively to the scale of theft, and certainly the degree of damage should be reflected in the degree of potential consequences.
posted by cavalier at 12:00 PM on June 4, 2010


cavalier: "Then why do you keep engaging me? "

Cavalier has a point here, you need to stop getting trolled so easily. You're getting dragged into a really lame essay-writing contest.
posted by mullingitover at 3:07 PM on June 4, 2010


related
posted by mullingitover at 3:10 PM on June 4, 2010


The judge presiding over the case is a bit skeptical about the 'let's cram thousands of different people and different instances of infringment into a single class and sue them' scheme: Judge may dismiss 4,576 of 4,577 P2P defendants from lawsuit.
posted by mullingitover at 12:04 PM on June 9, 2010


In other copyright news: Court Says It's Okay To Remove Content From The Public Domain And Put It Back Under Copyright
posted by homunculus at 5:14 PM on June 22, 2010


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