Stealing music

I am surprised at various discussions and commentary I’ve heard recently on the subject of sharing music. Today there was the rather high profile case of a woman in the US who got a $200k+ fine for making 24 songs available on a file sharing site (for more info see here and here). A couple of days ago on local radio there was a some chap who sounded like he might be an ‘entertainment commentator’ or similar (I wasn’t concentrating until after the fact). He said something like ‘I don’t know any of my friends who buys music anymore – they just copy it’ – not ‘who buys CD’s any more’ note – he clearly meant electronic purchase like itunes as well. It may have been a sweeping statement, but I know folks who declare that they download all they want as well. What really surprised me though was the matter of fact way he said it – no shame, no careful positioning or apology.

Stealing is stealing, however you dress it up

This troubles me quite a bit. This isn’t theft as I think it is historically (and possibly legally) defined since that requires that you deprive the ability of another person to use the item. But, in any reasonable context, givingtaking something tofrom someone that theyyou would otherwise have to buy sure looks like theft. You can try and dress it up by talking about gouging by record companies, new technology or most erroneously ‘failing business models’ – but if it was applied to something like groceries then it would be seen as stealing, and I simply don’t see why it is any different.

Digital Rights (mis)Management

I feel it is a pity that the opportunity that DRM should have allowed seems to have been fumbled. It could have been a vendor neutral framework that allowed a thriving new area of business. It could have allowed me to validate a load of my music to any device via the internet, and allowed continued use even in the event that the supplier went bust. It could have removed coding issues by allowing me to download or record the music(/film/book etc.) in any format I want. It could have allowed open-source players to securely comply, rather than be forced to circumvent. It could have allowed dis-intermediation of people who weren’t adding value (e.g. record companies for established artists). It feels like it has done none of these things well, and some not at all. It is a pity, but it does nothing to excuse the theft as so many seem to think.

Edit – one sentence had survived a couple of years back to front!

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25 Responses to Stealing music

  1. Rebecca Johnson says:

    I hate to say but I disagree with your statement of theft. I am not illegally taking something that is not mine. If a friend lent you a book (sharing it around a group is common) is that theft? As with most things now people begrudge paying the prices of HMV etc. My knowledge of music corporations could be wrote on the back of a postage stamp. However the little I do know is that the bands actual make little money from record sales and much more on tours (from t-shirts, ticket and amount of beer drunk etc). The likely hood of me going to see a band without hearing them first in minimal. However since music sharing sites have become available I have listened to many bands that I would never have randomly gone into a shop and bought on the off chance I may like them. This in turn has also made me go and see a lot of these bands live. So surely in that context music sharing sites are actually helping bands make money by making their music freely available for a try before you buy scenario and more people going to their gigs? We just need to ask who is actually losing out? Many bands have become aware of the problem and are offering their albums out free with newspapers or letting the fans decide of how much to pay. If they feel they can give them away free they must see little return from sales in shops. This may sound like a ‘I’m doing my bit for music kind’ reason for using these site. However it’s my reason and I’m sticking to it.

  2. Greg says:

    I see your points – both the analogy of a book, and the way the bands make money. But, were you to simply photocopy the entire book and give that away it would be a breach of copyright, and probably frowned upon by most folks as well (esp. if you did it on a large scale). A chapter might be ok – that would be where ‘fair use’ comes in, as you can see on notices that appear near office photocopiers from time to time.

    Fundamentally, the license that most music and films is sold under does not permit the sharing that people seem to do, so making their doing it a breach of copyright (no way it can be classed as ‘fair use’) and their licence. Many seem to be able to rationalise it as what bands would like or some such, but it is a breach, and so remains effectively stealing as far as I can see. It is clear that some bands are exploring how to make the economics you describe work better for them (Prince, Razorlight etc.) In an efficient market, if what you say is true, then they should succeed and be increasingly emulated.

    BTW, I’m reminded about the Microsoft Zune model here – I think you can share a song for free, but it travels with DRM that means it can only be listened to 3 times.

  3. Rebecca Johnson says:

    I am unable to see what the difference between photocopying a book 10 times to give to 10 people is, to just lending a book ten times to ten different people. in essence 11 people would still have read the book but only one copy would have been bought. Do you hear publishing houses getting angry about it in the media? I think if every person must purchase a cd to listen to it then that should also go for everything. DVD’s and books a like. I believe it says you should not broadcast a film in public, (or something to that effect) What does that mean? You and a friend can watch it but not more than three friends at a time? But three friends on three separate occasions can watch it? I think as well the difference between stealing and copyrighting needs to be addressed. Are both treated the same in the court of law? I believe the law states that one copy for personal use can be made of a cd (I think that is where your ‘fair use’ comes into play). If I bought a cd made a copy and then gave the original away to someone, they would then own the cd, so they can then make a copy for themselves and then give the cd away to someone else. Can you see a pattern here? If this was to happen and eventually everyone in the world had a copy of this one cd only one would ever have been bought. No stealing has taken place as the cd was given away by the original owner. Is this a loop hole in the system which can be exposed? If this were to happen who would be punished and for what crime? I have had cd’s given to me from people who have decided they don’t like them anymore, is this breaking the law? I think all this is just another way for the big corporations to continuing making mega bucks. File sharing is not destroying the music industry as it claims, as most bands I know just want to go on tour and have people enjoy their music. I band can make a thousand cd’s for about £500 including recording and mixing, and once that amount of cd’s are made a billion more can be made from the master copy for around 30p each. Record labels, although it is true profits have dropped, are in fact still making a profit and a big one at that. I know I am probably the biggest hypocrite as I work for one of these companies which I hate. How can you lose x amount of million pounds from fee charges changing and still make a profit like that? It scares me. Any way I think I may have gone off a bit there. I think we just need to look at the reason why these file sharing sites are taking place in the first place. I love having the original cd’s of the bands I really like. But at £15 a pop can this be a true reflection of the record industry?

  4. Rebecca Johnson says:

    Oh no you made me feel guilty. I bought 2 cd’s in HMV today. Only £18 so not too bad I guess.

  5. A big part of the problem is the moralistic tone adopted by both sides of the argument.

    To use an analogy, Israel and Palestine both convinced that they are the good-guys. That the sense of moral conviction is a seriously big hurdle to finding any workable solution. I worry that branding downloading music as a criminal offense is having the same unhelpful effect of polarizing positions.

    When I was leaving college my entire gang made and swapped swapped copies of each other’s favourite audio tapes. I resent (and reject) the insinuation that that was either illegal or immoral. Most reasonable people agree that ordinary listeners like you or me should be people should be able to share our music with our friends and family.

    Almost everyone also agrees that people who make music should be able to make a decent living. Nobody is really fussed about whether that decent living is paid for by CD sales, concerts or royalties from on-line radio stations.

    The hard part is finding a set of social norms on what constitutes a “reasonable” level of copying.

    For instance, I think there is something shady about borrowing a DVD from Blockbuster, burning a few dozen copies and selling the copies on eBay. I don’t have any qualms about copying a ~80 GB of music from a high-school buddy’s hard drive for my own listening pleasure.

    Calibrating personal judgments like this socializing them would help all of us evolve to a new set of norms. This is similar in spirit to calibrating performance or credit decisions at a company like Capital One. The courts could have been the credible authority forcing the calibration to happen. They could have forced results of the calibration to be socialized through the media.

    Instead, by coming down squarely on the side of the fat-cat media bosses, the courts have simply polarized the situation even more. It’s been a bit of a needless tragedy. The only silver lining is that enough reasonable and powerful people hate the court’s one-sided view passionately enough to hope that something will shake loose.

  6. Greg says:

    The difficulty is that what you describe as a social judgment or court calibration is in fact judged by courts (at least in the US) as a breach of copyright. I’m not quite sure if that is technically illegal or ‘just’ a civil offence, but that is splitting hairs. What is legal is ruled by the judiciary, following statute and case law. They have ruled that it is illegal. There may be room to appeal on the proposed damages, but I haven’t heard anyone seriously suggesting an appeal the basic judgement for a prima-face case of music copying – and copying 80Gb of music would fall squarely in that camp for me I’m afraid. So, you can resent the statement that it is illegal, but in the US at least it has been declared by the courts to be illegal – it’s not a matter of insinuation, and you can resent or reject it all you like. You’d still have to pay the damages.

    Your example is also odd in some respects. You’d find it uncomfortable to make a dozen copies of a DVD and sell them. Total ‘lost’ income of ~£100 for the studio concerned. But, you’d be happy to copy 80Gb of music (roughly 1000 albums depending on the codec). Even if you would only ‘buy’ 1 in 10 that is a lost income of ~£1000, or an order of magnitude higher. So, from an artist/producer perspective, you’d find it socially better to steal 10 times as much?

    None of that gets away from a personal dislike for the business model of the music industry (anyone watching what Guy Hands is up to?), but I have a choice there – I can not buy if I dislike their stance (e.g. crippleware on CDs). I can lobby for a change in copyright law. I can avoid oppressive DRM. All three seem doable.

    Oh, and before I leave too much of an impression that I am sitting on my pedestal, yes I am being somewhat hypocritical. I have occasionally gone above the speed limit, and that certainly is clearly a criminal offence (the points are timed out now though). But, I have no stolen music, films, books or any other copyright material. And, I remain surprised that people don’t feel somewhat ashamed if they do.

    • There is a key distinction that is often missed between *legality* and *morality*. As Greg rightly points out, legality is defined by legislation, and refined by the judiciary. But *morality* is defined by society, and should be the *basis* of that legality, not its slave.

      I once asked someone why they thought it was wrong for “illegal immigrants” to come to this country, and got the reply “because it’s illegal” – completely missing the real question of *why* it is illegal.

      I think the situation with piracy is similar – “copyright theft” is a deliberately emotive term, and industry campaigns frequently imply that it is *morally* equivalent to physical theft. This is not a legal argument, as copyright law and theft are separate areas of law – EMI cannot have me charged with shoplifting for downloading an MP3.

      As a society we should be discussing what (and whose) rights intellectual property laws should be protecting, and how best they can do that given the reality of technological advances. This is not as simple as “allow people to download whatever they like”, but nor is it a case of “accept the terms the current law, and the record companies it empowers, dictate”.

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  9. Osno says:

    I think there is a moral argument here. You state that this is not stealing as historically conceived because you’re not depriving someone of something (even a sale), but then jump directly to a groceries analogy and that’s simply because there’s no proper comparison between sharing and stealing that doesn’t include an “object”. I think the moral issue here is that when I buy content, I feel robbed. There is no added value between the content I can buy and the content I can download for free, and it’s way more expensive. I really think that the seller is not doing anything at all with the content. If the seller gave me some added value (like the things you mention in the DR(m)M section), I’ll probably buy. But getting the exact same thing (or most of the time, a lesser product) for an infinitely higher price is IMHO pretty absurd. That’s the failure, and that’s where they need to improve. If I could get a collection they manage, and I can download from anywhere or even stream from them, then that’s a service I’ll be willing to pay for. If my purchase came with a nice booklet with lyrics and pictures and I was interested in that, I’ll buy (as a matter of fact, I think that’s the only remaining reason to buy those plastic disks they sell). As it is, I’m not getting anything for my money other than what I can get for free. The composers are not getting anything either, and I think they can do perfectly fine without those sellers. That’s why it’s a moral issue for me, that’s why I think no one is ashamed of sharing, and I think that’s the failure in the business model.

  10. Greg says:

    Actually, the groceries analogy works very well for me. The base cost of the vegetables (measured in money to farmers) is materially lower than that paid by buyers. To steal groceries would deprive the store (analogy – record company) of much more cash than the farmer (analogy – artist). The farmer also gets income from other sources (e.g. set-aside payments for stewardship of the land). Some might even get quite a nice income from that, and not need to sell the produce at all (analogy – concerts). But, I doubt that the argument would cut much ice with most reasonable people (or a court). It would be judged immoral.

    The argument above seems to imply that if I can steal something then there is no more value to me if I buy it. Er – yes, what other outcome did you expect? I’d respectfully suggest you don’t try that with a judge, for fear they choke on their port. I could steal a new car and I wouldn’t get a warranty … that doesn’t mean I value a new car at the price of a warranty. In exactly the same way, I do not value music by measuring the price of a plastic case or sleeve notes.

    In short, I simply can’t see why the lack of a physical artifact makes one whit of difference to the ethics, even if it means something in law. It deprives the artist of an entirely reasonable way of making money from their endeavours. In that respect, I can’t see the difference between spuds and notes – both involved sweat.

    Now, none of that does anything to suggest that record companies deserve the slice of pie that they have taken historically. There may even be an open-source model that does away with their need entirely, and I pretty sure that the quality of music I hear on radios etc. wouldn’t drop. The business model needs to change. And, there may be artists that choose to give their recorded music away so that they get a wider following for concerts – that’s their choice. But, not paying artists where they should be paid doesn’t seem an ethical way to do it. It’s not that the legal position is wrong and the the ethical one right – more the other way around. In my mind, the ethics are clear, it is the law that has not caught up. It’s stealing.

  11. Osno says:

    I liked the “choke on their port” bit. Made me laugh. But I still believe the groceries analogy is wrong. If I steal groceries, the store doesn’t get to sell them anymore. If I share, the label doesn’t get to sell the content to me (most of the time). There’s a big difference there. Also, the store is actually adding value. I don’t want to go to every farm in the region to buy the different products I need everyday. With the internet, there is no value in the distribution of digital goods (but there could be, as you pointed out, if DRM served the public and not only the labels).

    Also, my point on the added value is that the distributors are not adding value over what the musician did. That’s why I perceive them as immoral. They sell something over and over and over again that they only need to produce once. Piracy have showed that the value of the copy is zero, but they sell you the copy as if it where the original. I’ll pay for the original, but that doesn’t exist anymore. I’ll pay for a signed copy of something I like, that would be as paying for the original.

    Also, there is a tendency to think that I’m paying an artist for their hard work. I don’t think that’s true. I’m paying for the result of their work, completely different. When I but a car, I’m not paying for the hard work of the people who built it. I’m paying for the car. If cars could be freely copied like music is (because of the materials involved, not the hard work), I’ll probably have a moral argument on paying the price I pay today for a car. I’ll probably be ok with paying the price of the warranty. You’re also supporting a moral argument by establishing a new moral argument. I think stealing a car is immoral for the same reasons I think stealing vegetables is immoral, and I don’t equate that to sharing digital goods.

    And I know none of this would stand in a court of law, but I thought we were discussing morals, not law.

    BTW, I liked your piece. Even though I don’t agree with it, I think it’s balanced. Your discussion is too. Thanks for that.

    • Greg says:

      I’ll keep this brief to avoid it becoming repetitious, but the issue is not that the VALUE of the copy is zero (as you say), but that the COST of the copy is becoming zero. I may also value it less – a judgement only I can make. But, even if it is much lower, I may well acquire a copy that I wouldn’t otherwise have done since the value is higher than the now zero cost … standard economics would predict that I’d acquire it.

      The car point you draw is also suspect. If I give you a few piles of iron ore, bauxite, silica, a lot of raw energy, and a few cups full of trace elements, will you value it as highly as a Ferrari? I doubt you’d even be bothered to pick the stuff of the ground if it was free. It is the design that you value, just as it is the assembly of tones that you value in music, not the air vibrations. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who will give away their efforts (I am a long-time supporter of Linux) … but the offer needs to be made from their end, not taken from yours.

  12. Bob says:

    “But, in any reasonable context, giving something to someone that they would otherwise have to buy sure looks like theft.”

    You heard it here first: charity is theft.

    More seriously, unauthorised copying isn’t theft, and copyrights aren’t property. That doesn’t mean it’s suddenly OK to infringe copyright. The laws are designed to make copyrights operate like property in some ways, by for instance being transferable, but not in others, like in having a time limit (although the rent-seekers have made this less and less relevant over the years).

    Being secure in your property, possessions etc is a precondition for a dignified and free life. Copyrights are a mechanism for giving incentives to authors, artists and other creative types so that they may make a living being creative without having to depend on a patron or grants from the government or other things that would compromise their independence.

    The equivocation between copyrights and property looks a lot like the arguments of middle men seeking rent. The problem with it, and the accompanying “copyright infringement is stealing” is that any difference between copyright law and property law — and there are innumerable differences — would be an incredible irregularity, and a grave injustice. For instance, that the RSC is able to put on performances of Shakespeare plays without first asking his estate (whoever they are now) for permission first, would be equivalent to trespass, a pretty serious crime. You think I’m being silly here? Apple has sued companies making software and devices that are compatible with their iPos/iTunes system, accusing them of trespass. Does that sound right to you?

    Your previous sentence makes this clear: “This isn’t theft as I think it is historically (and possibly legally) defined since that requires that you deprive the ability of another person to use the item.” In order for creative works that can be copied, which would otherwise be public goods, to become private goods, a separate set of laws regulating their duplication and distribution needed to be created. That’s why it’s file sharing that’s the illegal part — the law regulates distribution, and possession of the goods is only interesting insofar as unauthorised copying and distribution may be inferred.

    Copyright infringement isn’t a victimless crime (even if most of it isn’t strictly speaking a crime), people do lose money as a result. It’s a serious issue, but it’s not theft.

    • Greg says:

      Hi hum. You found the error in the original piece. An entire sentence back to front! Now, fixed, thanks.

      And, your point on theft is not copyright breach is also well made and entirely accurate. The challenge I have is that the word ‘theft’ or ‘stealing’ carries connotations of wrongdoing, and copyright breach seems to have acquired a wholly different patina. That said, I have then got sloppy in separating the two. So, in saying that such copyright breaches equates directly to ‘stealing’, what I really mean to say is that it feels hard to distinguish, in moral off-sidedness, to stealing. The value of the music is dominantly that of the music itself, not the medium it is on. So, whilst theft of the medium would be dealt with as theft/stealing, in my head the acquisition of a digital copy, carrying the vast majority of the value, is virtually indistinguishable. Both should be treated as copyright breaches, but the words should carry the right moral weight.

  13. Osno says:

    I concede your point on the car. Let me rephrase: when I buy something I’m buying the value I perceive in the product, even if no human effort was spent in it (which is, I accept, highly unlikely). I’m not paying for the effort, but for what the effort produced. If you gave me all that iron in the form of a highly sofisticated piece of junk that many people worked in for years, I wouldn’t buy that either. Not even take it for free.

    That said, I’m sure that the value is in the music (in the case of traditional distribution at least, not so with social stuff like the cinema, youtube, parties, etc.). The cost is not there, though. Of what you pay for a CD, for instance, 5% goes to the musician. The cost is being taken by the labels. They add no value. They are immoral. I think I’ve been over this path.

    As per open source, I really don’t think that people engage in open source projects out of the goodness of their hearts. Not all of them at least. It’s just a different business model. You don’t pay for the software, but you’ll pay for consulting services, support, computers (in the case of IBM/Redhat), books (the physical objects, I have the same feelings about eBooks that I have for mp3’s), etc.

    And it works, and it works fine. The people working in open source generally do it to make a name for themselves, to interact with a cool community or simply to advance software that they use everyday (I know my modest contributions to open source where on this last camp). I’m absolutely sure that musicians (or labels, but they are not as open) can find similar models. And I agree that we are in not position of forcing their hand, but it sure is something that’s happening, and they should wake up to that fact. Piracy has always existed. A few years ago, it was difficult, and there was added value in the labels. Today, all the labels do is to damage an otherwise cool product.

    As per the corrected sentence, I do like it better this way. It’s more thought provoking. But I insist that sharing is not taking. Taking deprives, sharing does not. Except, yes, of the money I may have paid. But not of the product, and not of the money another person will be willing to pay. And surely not of the opportunity of having me as a fan and paying in another situation (if the product is good enough).

    But this sentence is built for the physical world and it’s very difficult to translate it to the digital world. And the digital world is different, there is no doubt in my mind about that. Maybe “But, in any reasonable context, listening to something from someone that you would otherwise have to pay for sure looks like theft.” And then it doesn’t sound a lot like theft.

  14. tim says:

    Good grief. You actually start your post about piracy being stealing by explaining why it isn’t. And groceries – I take your carrot, I have a carrot that doesn’t belong to me, you don’t have a carrot that does belong to you.

    Is piracy ok? Well even though some people clearly think so, that’s a complex and interesting question, but confusing matters by calling an orange a lemon doesn’t help anyone.

    I really hate those copyright messages that the DVDs I PAY FOR force me to watch. “You wouldn’t steal a car!” – no, and neither would I assault an old lady or set light to a block of flats, but I would download a film just to avoid the copyright messages every time I put the DVD in the machine. Your point is?

  15. tim says:

    Plus, your redfinition of theft is clearly well into confused, as your initial mistake shows. I take things that I would otherwise have to buy a lot. Christmas and my birthday would be good examples, and if that’s theft there are a lot of kids that are in a lot of trouble.

    Fair enough, if I buy a cd, I do so on the basis that I won’t make the contents available to strangers (or friends? define friend…), and if I do make them available, any stranger that takes advantage of my “goodwill” is arguably complicit. So maybe it’s not ok (maybe), but it’s really not stealing.

  16. I hope I’m not solely repeating arguments here, but I feel a personal stake in the idea that “intellectual property” should not be paid for or traded for or whatever.

    Someone wrote: “When I was leaving college my entire gang made and swapped swapped copies of each other’s favourite audio tapes. I resent (and reject) the insinuation that that was either illegal or immoral. Most reasonable people agree that ordinary listeners […] should be able to share our music with our friends and family.” [“Our” being “what we like,” not “what we have composed ourselves.” There’s a shade of meaning.] “I don’t have any qualms about copying ~80 GB of music from a high-school buddy’s hard drive for my own listening pleasure.”

    Not to make an attack on the original writer, but here’s an idea. Back when cassette tapes, eight-tracks, and reel-to-reel (typically not Ampex studio master quality, but consumer level as we had at home back in Bedrock) were the way you copied vinyl records or radio broadcasts, the copy was not of the quality that the digital copy can be (a WAV file or an MP3 at high bitrate). Therefore, people often would buy the record (if I may use an archaic model here) to get a great quality of sound. Mixtapes were fine in the car, but not on the “big hi-fi stereo.” But if you copy 80meg of high-bitrate MP3s or WAV files, you have virtually the same as the original CD copy and have no motive to buy the CD. Where does this leave the artist and the composer, who would get a pittance from the sale of the CD or the sale on iTunes? I think this is the same as stealing from those artists and composers. When they can’t make a living from making the music, then we don’t get more of the music. (Touring takes it out of an artist in a terrible way–some artists feed on the energy, others turn into a mess. You can’t begrudge those who are studio artists their due.)

    I am a novelist. I am unusual in that I have a desire to be read that overshadows any desire to make money, but most writers need the pittance they get from royalties–not to mention that the sales measured at bookstores dictate whether they will get another book published or not! Again–in the Dark Ages it would’ve cost MORE to photocopy a book (at 25 cents or more a page in the 1970s) than it would to buy a copy, so libraries didn’t worry. Authors felt that readers who loved their books would read them from libraries and then buy a personal copy. But to clone a book digitally and never leave a record that you read it (to give the author power with his/her publisher to say “I have a readership!”) is also unfair, I think. How is it not theft of intellectual property?

    Morals are different in this generation, I realize that, but still . . . we can rationalize all we like about why it’s fair for us to copy off stuff, but in the end, it is still a sin of omission because the artist doesn’t get paid and doesn’t get any kind of count of how many are reading/hearing the work. At least if there were a count of some type, the artist would know that his/her work is succeeding. Now it’s tough to really measure that.

    Grandpa and I come down on the side of “it is stealing.”

  17. Dan says:

    Actually it doesn’t look anything like theft of physical property. Remember that by your argument buying second hand and borrowing/lending are also theft. And contrary to claims otherwise it is nothing new for people to copy without feeling guilty. People never have felt guilty about copying. Furthermore the ability to make exact copies is a red herring. In the tape days people simply didn’t care. Besides its hardly like vinyl was a source of audio quality for the average person; that took very expensive, extremely high-end equipment (and even then vinyl deteriorated quickly). And anyone that cared then would care now. Those people would be the ones who buy the original because no matter what anyone claims MP3, AAC etc. are no substitute for lossless formats. That’s assuming you can find a modern CD with any dynamic range.

  18. Osno says:

    Shalanna, I hope you’re publishing on some sort of Creative Commons license. That way, it’s really easy for you to get read. Also, piracy is something that happens because publishers fail to provide an equivalent service. If you publish your book in a site, you will surely get a count of how much you’re being downloaded.

    Still, I think you’re making the same moral argument as I am. When I perceive an artist is trying a grab for money I am less inclined to pay than when I perceive him as doing art because he wants to be read/heard/seen. And labels are all about a grab for money. I still don’t believe you deserve to get paid for your effort. I do believe you deserve to get paid for what you produce if it’s good enough. And I still think there are ways for that to happen. Books are more difficult but books have the advantage of the actual book being cool enough to buy. Music doesn’t have this benefit, as the CD is not a nice object to have as a book is. I have a very big book collection (over 1500 books between me and my girlfriend). I think I own a total of 20-30 CDs. And books are as easy to share as CDs. My point being that if I read your book in a CC license and like it, I’ll probably want to own the physical book or buy it to give to someone.

  19. hxa7241 says:

    Your argument presupposes its conclusion: “taking something” — how is copying taking? Not like taking a physical object; “sure looks like theft” — how is copying theft? Not like taking something away. Removing these prejudicial parts gives something like: “copying something you would otherwise have to pay for is wrong”. That only really says something is wrong because it is commonly, currently considered wrong. But why? You have not explained anything. One must look closer at what copyright is and does.

    Copyright does not enforce a trade, like exchanging money for an object. Copyright enforces a restriction. It dictates that I cannot use my property — eg. recording equipment — or my ideas — eg. to reuse other influences — even though the copyright-holder is not affected in any way. Why should a law restrict my freedom, though no-one else is actually affected? It is not copying or sharing that needs justification or dressing-up, it is copyright!

    Copyright creates an artificial restriction where naturally there is none. Communication of ideas is naturally free.

    Freely and widely sharing good things is one of the most obviously moral acts possible. It is a behaviour we want to generalise: You help someone else, and if everyone did the same, you would benefit too. And this is magnified because sharing is practically costless. Any artificially imposed restriction is, as such, clearly immoral.

    And similarly for economics: copyright adds drag and inefficiency where there are otherwise no costs. And furthermore, it obstructs market function by stifling competition, as any monopoly. So again, any artificially imposed restriction is, as such, clearly uneconomic.

    Any such plain, direct, immorality and uneconomicality would need equally plain compensatory benefits to justify it. But there are none. The evidence for economic benefit is either absent, or dubious and equivocal. It simply fails to reach the level.

    On examination things look rather different from the accepted convention, don’t they? To reuse your original formulation: ‘taking something from someone’ — ie. reducing the availability of cultural items to us all — ‘that you would otherwise have to pay for’ — ie. we get no compensation — ‘sure looks like theft’ — but in this case it really is like theft. The belief in copyright is a construct of corporate/commercial behaviour. Do not simply accept it blindly. Culture is something to be shared and enjoyed.

  20. tom says:

    I’m a musician. Here are my points:
    The music industry does not give a crap about artists. They treat them like shit, telling them they’ll be stars, then making loans to the artist so he/she can afford time in the studio, which the industry owns. If the industry doesn’t do a good job promoting the album, the artist is then in debt to the music studio.
    The studio will do this to 99 people before they find ONE that actually makes them a profit unrelated to loan sharking.
    They are loan sharks and gamblers with n0 talent and now that they’ve lost control over duplication and distribution, their power is greatly reduced, and it’s terrifying for them because they have no actual skills that anyone needs.
    oh and if you don’t believe me:

    As a musician I am glad that people make copies. If I charged for my stuff only 1000 people would buy it. If I let people copy, and 10 million people eventually listen, that is a HUGE amount of advertising. If only 10% of those 10 million give me donations, or wind up buying a different tune at some point, then I suddenly have a million customers.
    So just because it is illegal to make copies of my music does NOT mean that I am losing money when people do.

    As a musician if someone is poor and can’t afford my music, I want them to be able to listen to it anyway. Why would I want to deprive someone of something that costs me nothing to give them? What kind of asshole would I be to do that?

    OK let’s do the groceries analogy:
    Let’s imagine that you could duplicate a bag of groceries any number of times and distribute it to the world and it cost you nothing to do so. Would you feed the world’s hungry? Yes.
    Would the large grocery stores be upset? Yes.
    Would they sue you? Yes.
    Would they be right? No.

    Why have the RIAA corporations lost business?
    A. Because for decades they could force people to pay $13 for a whole album even thought the buyer only wanted one song. Well what did they think would happen when we can now pay 99c for the song we want? GUESS! They lost 90% of their profits. Well duh.
    B. Because the internet allows buyers to be MUCH more discerning in their purchases. This affects the movie industry. With rottentomatoes people simply abstain from watching crappy movies.

  21. C says:

    The reason stealing is bad is because it denies the original owner their property. Copyright infringement denies the copyright holder the profits they might have got from a sale to you. If there would have been no sale* then there would be no lost profit and copyright infrgingement would be morally correct (you’re increasing your own happines at noone’s expense).

    * It’s hard to prove that there would have been no sale but all I need is one example to disprove the general rule that piracy is immoral. I for one am definitely in the “no sale” category because I’m dirt poor. In the bottom 1% poor.

    • Greg says:

      Actually, you need considerably more than ‘one example’. You need to show that in general there would be no material loss – i.e. that few of the people who would have bought the music are now taking it in an unauthorised way .. that’s a world of difference from finding one case that breaks some kind of universal law. The existence of some folks who wouldn’t have bought is irrelevant, it’s the loss of sales tat would otherwise have been statistically likely that hurts.

      Oh, and can I respectfully suggest that access to the internet almost guarantees you are not in the ‘bottom 1% poor’. I suspect that the bottom 1% poor each year probably live in refugee camps or starving.

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