Friday, March 26, 2010

Dialgue with a Pirate

A few days ago Gordon Van Gelder alerted me that an on-line pirate was giving away works of mine (and of William Gibson, Ursula LeGuin, Joe Haldemann, and more) at http://www.truly-free.org/. Gordon sent an email address for this guy, so I sent him an email telling him he was violating copyright and to cease and desist. The following exchange is offered here without comment, if nothing else as an illustration of the vastly different ways that human beings can think about the same topic:

NANCY: You are offering my books in electronic version free on your website. This is in violation of copyright laws. Please remove my works immediately, and send me an email to state that you have done so. Nancy Kress

PIRATE: I shall certainly consider it. And of course should start by sending me some documentary (scanned) proof that you are who you claim to be.-- The Burgomeister

NANCY: I don't know what "scanned proof" you require to stop breaking the law. meanwhile, I will turn this whole mess over to my agent.

PIRATE: That was the wrong move. I make a point never to negotiate with agents, publishers, or attorneys, all loosely grouped under the term "bottom-feeder". They cannot touch me or my library, since this is a question above all of jurisdiction.I am certainly not 'breaking the law', at least not where I live, and I resent the implication.I think you may have just blown it.

NANCY: It was not a "move" because this not a game. You do understand, don't you, that I make my living as a writer? That my stories are the product of my effort and creativity and passion? Taking them to give away is no different than taking anything from a store without permission or payment. I don't know what you do for a living but I imagine you don't do it for free.

PIRATE: The word 'move' does not necessarily imply a game: in common parlance, it also denotes an action of a general nature.But permit me to point out a fundamental error in your thinking:A text is not a physical object, so it cannot be stolen. Ownership of such an agglomeration of symbols (since 'unity' here is inapplicable) is an impossibility. The best you can do is _claim_ ownership - but anyone else can do that too. There is no legislation that can successfully govern the ether, thank heavens.I make my living, partly, as a librarian, but I don't claim ownership of my catalogue. It is there - it exists, but it is not my property. If anything, it is everyone's property - as are your texts.If you turn this over to the bottom-feeders, you will not hear from me again on this subject. I repeat, I do not do business with intermediaries and flunkies, and I resent their interference. But they are a minor irritant, nothing more - so go ahead if you must.


NANCY: Your thinking is flawed. Things which are not tangible can nonetheless belong to me. My identity is mine, for instance. And so are my stories, the result of my efforts and creativity, not yours.
And do you really imagine it would distress me to not hear from you again?

PIRATE: No, not at all. That is not what I meant and you know it. The intent behind my statement was that if you wanted your files removed you would negotiate directly with me and not attempt it through intermediaries (because that would have got you nowhere).As to our identities - these are fleeting, transient, insubstantial shadows, and our hold on them (if it can even be stated in such terms) is tenuous at best. I set no store whatsoever by mine, for example; in fact, I have a number of them to suit the circumstances at hand, changeable at will...I wouldn't dream of ever denying you the right to be named as 'author' of the texts cited; I acknowledge that they are indeed the fruits of your creativity. But that's as far as *your* hold on them goes; now they are 'out there', they belong to everyone and no-one. As a writer, surely you must be prepared for this? You're not a cabinet-maker: once those thoughts and ideas leave your head, they merge with the universal energy (or whatever you prefer to call Everything). Anyway, what I want to tell you is that the works of 'Nancy Kress' are no longer downloadable from my library. Listed, yes; downloadable, no.

NANCY: Thank you. But you are wrong about identities. Transient, yes -- everything in the universe is transient. But for now, this moment, I am me.

135 comments:

Joe Iriarte said...

Wow. What chutzpah.

Heidi Cautrell said...

This pirate must live in his own little world. One wonders what his reaction would be if the shoe were on the other foot. Somehow I feel it would become a double standard to him.

TheOFloinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheOFloinn said...

Also note the overwritten self-importance of his statements, references to the various equivocations of terms. They read like "manifestos." And his statement that identities "are fleeting, transient, insubstantial shadows, and our hold on them (if it can even be stated in such terms) is tenuous at best" may pass for wisdom among the Cult of the Cerebral, but simply sounds like a petulant teenager trying to change the subject.

Added in postscript: I found this elsewhere written on another matter entirely, but it seemed apropos:

One of the many patterns I have noticed among people who labor to excuse huge evils is that they are incredibly sensitive about minor linguistic points. ... This tendency to strain at linguistic gnats and swallow moral camels is one of the warning signs I now look for when detecting the presence of evil.

Chris Köhler said...

@TheOFloinn: Where did you read this?

Lou said...

User Name: kexibit@scrdmail.com
Full Name: Andy Brian
Email: kexibit@scrdmail.com

Lou said...

...and his phone number

(815) 494-4700

TheOFloinn said...

@Chris Köhler
Where did you read this?
If you mean "One of the many patterns I have noticed...", it was something Mark Shea wrote, commenting in particular on those who make excuses for torture and abortion.

S.M.D. said...

Your books are still available for download on his site, unless by "not available for download" he means "you can download it, but I'll lie about whether you can."

Just saying...I checked, and I can still download your books. I won't, because you deserve my money, but yeah.

Beth said...

This guy seems polished because he's been at this for several years. I have several exemplars of his style of correspondence in my email files.

Very very annoying person.

Martin said...

So Nancy, are you pressing DMCA charges against this guy or what? Clearly his ego needs taking down a few dozen pegs.

Vicki Rosenzweig said...

I wonder how he would feel about someone grabbing the contents of his bank account. That's just ones and zeros too, not a physical object.

Stina said...

Two questions:

1) If, as the thief states, identities... "are fleeting, transient, insubstantial shadows, and our hold on them (if it can even be stated in such terms) is tenuous at best." then why bother asking you to verify who you are -- let alone with scanned proof?

2) Second, if a book is merely "...an agglomeration of symbols..." and has no more value than that, then why doesn't he randomly type into a file and post that for download? Surely, that's the same in his world?

Rafe said...

Unhfortunately, Comrade Kretin here is, apparently, in Russia, per the WHOIS registration info:

http://samspade.org/whois/jnop2cg5ax3uhcevqkfclu5y6u

[if that link is munged, go to samspade.org and put in the pirate's domain in the search box]

Sorry, Andrey, we know who you are, where you are, and a whole lot more than you probably thought, with about five seconds' worth of effort.

But that knowledge is transient, is it?

(Asked whois.pir.org:43 about truly-free.org)

Domain ID: D140471263-LROR
Domain Name: TRULY-FREE.ORG
Created On: 26-Feb-2007 15: 52: 19 UTC
Last Updated On: 27-Feb-2010 01: 15: 29 UTC
Expiration Date: 26-Feb-2012 15: 52: 19 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar: Regtime Ltd. (R1602-LROR)
Status: CLIENT DELETE PROHIBITED
Status: CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED
Registrant ID: CO524771-RT
Registrant Name: Andrey Litovchenko
Registrant Organization: Private Person
Registrant Street1: ul Yuzhnobutovskaya 50-44
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City: Moscow
Registrant State/Province: Russia
Registrant Postal Code: 117042
Registrant Country: RU
Registrant Phone: 1.8154944708
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email: kexibit @scrdmail.com

Admin ID: CA524771-RT
Admin Name: Andrey L itovchenko
Admin Organization: Private Person
Admin Street1: ul Yuzhnobutovskaya 50-44
Admin Street2:
Admin Street3:
Admin City: Moscow
Admin State/Province: Russia
Admin Postal Code: 117042
Admin Country: RU
Admin Phone: 1.8154944708
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX:
Admin FAX Ext.:
Admin Email: kexibit @scrdmail.com

Tech ID: CT524771-RT
Tech Name: Andrey L itovchenko
Tech Organization: Private Person
Tech Street1: ul Yuzhnobutovskaya 50-44
Tech Street2:
Tech Street3:
Tech City: Moscow
Tech State/Province: Russia
Tech Postal Code: 117042
Tech Country: RU
Tech Phone: 1.8154944708
Tech Phone Ext.:
Tech FAX:
Tech FAX Ext.:
Tech Email: kexibit @scrdmail.com

Adam Lipkin said...

In perhaps the best act of chutzpah, he's also SELLING a package of books (allegedly aimed at Kindle and Sony owners -- http://www.truly-free.org/kindle-ready.php) for 60 Euros.

MikeP said...

The WHOIS information is nice, but it assumes that the person didn't lie when registering the domain. This happens as often as not, it seems.

One possible other avenue is to file a complaint with the registrar. Many don't care, but some do. I've had (some, limited) success doing this.

Og Ogleby said...

Your books are in fact not* downloadable from the site any longer. What you get is a file containing:

"You'll find it in the "Stacks"

In the interests of house-cleaning, cockroach-hunting, and general bandwidth-conservation, this title is no longer 'officially' listed. But this does not mean that it is unavailable. In fact, there are no less than three approved ways of obtaining this free ebook:

1) Over at the eBook Exchange: just post your request with author and title in the subject line - someone there will email it to you ASAP.

2) As part of the Kindle-ready bundle.

3) On the Burgomeister DVD, belonging to the complete collection on disk.

Apologies for any inconvenience or disappointment, but the Burgomeister now feels constrained to rationalise and further refine his rapidly expanding library. This particular book is one that he no longer considers entirely worthy of inclusion among the Greats.

Enjoy your read...

And now back to the shelves!"

Marilynn Byerly said...

If you are not a member of the group AuthorsAgainstE-BookTheft@yahoogroups.com, I suggest you join them.

They are authors who ban together to share info on how to take this people down.

tycho said...

The domain in question is registered in Russia/has a Russian address in the whois database, and it currently points to an IP address in Malaysia (according to the allocation), so for most purposes he's beyond the reach of our laws. I've done a little bit of poking and I can't find a part of that site that hits US soil.

There does, I think have to be a better solution to this problem, both the unlicensed distribution *and* the utterly absurd "false scarcity" premise that the we, by way of the publishing industry, use to make a living from literature.

Kevin Anderson said...

I can not beleive the list of authors on his site. This is unconscionable.

ephelba said...

I really wish you guys had furthered the discussion to the point that he described how his model of the universe is sustainable. I don't see how it possibly could be.

TheOFloinn said...

You will notice that many of them are dead.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

The utter brazenness of scumbags like that... Amazement vies with disgust.

Surely such a clownboy has never written a creative word. Or he would know how =hard= it is, and never dream of stealing a writer's work.

Will said...

You know. His point is not very well made, but I agree with it entirely.

He's not arguing about attribution, he's arguing about distribution. Essentially, in his world, an author writes a book: and they are rightly considered the author of that book. Pretending to have written a book that one did not is unethical.

However, the capacity to distribute that book, in many people's eyes, is not something an author should have any control of. The right to monopolise reproduction of an agalmic work is something that is only granted by social consensus: and if that social consensus doesn't exist, there's no right.

skiffywife said...

Will said,
"The right to monopolise reproduction of an agalmic work is something that is only granted by social consensus: and if that social consensus doesn't exist, there's no right."

The right to allow reproduction of a particular writer's work lies only with that writer, not any sort of vague "social consensus." It's my work or Nancy's work to do with as we please -- only show it to friends, self-publish, attempt to find a commercial publisher, whatever we wish.

People who wouldn't dream of breaking into someone's home and stealing their physical property often seem pretty casual about stealing their intellectual property. Besides, aren't you a reader? Don't you want writers to be able to make a living at what they do? Nancy couldn't be nearly as prolific and give us nearly as many wonderful stories and novels as she does if she had to have a "regular" job to pay the bills. Keep your hands out of her wallet.

Will said...

"The right to allow reproduction of a particular writer's work lies only with that writer, not any sort of vague "social consensus." It's my work or Nancy's work to do with as we please -- only show it to friends, self-publish, attempt to find a commercial publisher, whatever we wish."

According to whom? I disagree with this assertion, as (presumably) do the enormous numbers of filesharers in the world. Rights like these are by definition formed from social consensus: they are a subjective belief, not an objective fact. I can claim that I have the right to charge money for any public use of my name: but if society doesn't agree with me, I'm unlikely to get very far attempting to do this.

People who wouldn't dream of breaking into someone's home and stealing their physical property often seem pretty casual about stealing their intellectual property. Besides, aren't you a reader? Don't you want writers to be able to make a living at what they do? Nancy couldn't be nearly as prolific and give us nearly as many wonderful stories and novels as she does if she had to have a "regular" job to pay the bills. Keep your hands out of her wallet.

If I break into someone's house and steal their property, they are denied access to that property. If I copy someone's book, then we both have copies of that book. The former situation is zero-sum, the latter is positive-sum. Because of this, the use of the term "stealing" to describe copyright infringement is somewhat unhelpful: it's normative and pejorative, but doesn't really help with productive discussion between sides (frankly, it's a bit hostile).

To me, calling a filesharer a "thief" is similar to calling someone who runs a soup kitchen a "thief", as they are denying profit to restaurant owners. YMMV.

There are well-documented benefits to filesharing: a topic that doesn't seem to be addressed as often as it should. There was a fascinating bit of research done at Harvard (http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-132.pdf), which is worth reading if you want to get an accurate picture of both the downsides and upsides of filesharing.

I am a reader, and I am very concerned about making sure authors can continue to make money and continue writing. However, I do not consider controlling access to information an acceptable way of doing this: as I believe it comes with too many associated social costs (and it's more or less impossible, anyway). There are a number of models that have been proposed for authors to make money without attempting to control distribution of their works: which I am happy to reference if you are interested.

TheOFloinn said...

Fascinating exhibit of scientism, replete with dismissals of "subjective belief" versus something called "objective fact." [And then dismiss the fact as a social construct!] And the reduction of works of fiction to "information," as if by using a really-truly scientifical name we can pretend to be speaking with a white lab coat. It makes me wonder why these pirate sites don't have copies of Machinery's Handbook, or Dugundji's Topology. Now that's information. But they might not attract the volume of hits needed to sell ad space.

All this is typical of ideological thought that prizes abstractions over the lived life. Life just is subjective, after all. And we've already seen how the original pirate could be brought to doubt his own identity as being somehow unreal. As Orwell said in another context, You would have to be an intellectual to believe something like that. No ordinary person could be so foolish.
This sort of thing is of long standing. Mark Twain told of a man who reprinted some of Twain's essays, rewrote them, added some writing of his own, bundled them as "Mark Twain on (Topic)." "He's dead now," Twain wrote, adding, "I didn't kill him."

M. Report said...

Chimpanzees have property rules,
with exceptions for Alpha Males. :)

I seem to remember a Russian
Spamster who offended someone
in his part of the world, and
voided his Lifetime Guarantee.

Rebecca Flys said...

This guy reminds me of my teenage kids, twisting the morality part of the rules to suite their purposes.

I found the first "Beggars" book in a used book shop. When I started reading you Nancy, I had to special order one of your books, and my little local bookshop ordered a last copy from a supplier. It was worth the effort.

I just pray the electronic generation (my kids) are capable of understanding right from wrong in regards to pirating. I really don't think they do, downloading is such a part of their lives that they don't see it as stealing...

Rebecca Flys said...

This guy reminds me of my teenage kids, twisting the morality part of the rules to suite his purpose.

I found the first "Beggars" book in a used book shop. When I started reading you Nancy, I had to special order one of your books, and my little local bookshop ordered a last copy from a supplier. It was worth the effort.

I just pray the electronic generation (my kids) are capable of understanding right from wrong in regards to pirating. I really don't think they do, downloading is such a part of their lives that they don't see it as stealing...

Will said...

Fascinating exhibit of scientism, replete with dismissals of "subjective belief" versus something called "objective fact." [And then dismiss the fact as a social construct!] And the reduction of works of fiction to "information," as if by using a really-truly scientifical name we can pretend to be speaking with a white lab coat. It makes me wonder why these pirate sites don't have copies of Machinery's Handbook, or Dugundji's Topology. Now that's information. But they might not attract the volume of hits needed to sell ad space.

Are you arguing that belief in an authors right to control distribution of works is in fact objective, rather than a matter of opinion? If not, I'm frankly not sure what you're trying to say.


All this is typical of ideological thought that prizes abstractions over the lived life. Life just is subjective, after all. And we've already seen how the original pirate could be brought to doubt his own identity as being somehow unreal. As Orwell said in another context, You would have to be an intellectual to believe something like that. No ordinary person could be so foolish.
This sort of thing is of long standing. Mark Twain told of a man who reprinted some of Twain's essays, rewrote them, added some writing of his own, bundled them as "Mark Twain on (Topic)." "He's dead now," Twain wrote, adding, "I didn't kill him."


I don't really see how this addresses anything I said, other than engaging in some vague hand-waving about types of thought. Yes, I've read Twain, and no, it's not relevant to the discussion at hand.

Chimpanzees have property rules,
with exceptions for Alpha Males. :)


I doubt they have any concept of ownership over ideas, though.

I just pray the electronic generation (my kids) are capable of understanding right from wrong in regards to pirating. I really don't think they do, downloading is such a part of their lives that they don't see it as stealing...

That's a strongly normative statement. Their understanding of right and wrong may differ radically from yours: and in this case it's certainly not clear-cut ethical issue.

What would you do if, after some careful research and consideration, one of your children decided that filesharing was socially beneficial, and proceeded to spend their life building tools to enable it?

I've address the fallacy in the use of the term "stealing" to describe filesharing above.

halojones-fan said...

Will: You're correct that copyright is the result of social convention, but so are all property rights. There is no inherent characteristic of physical property that makes it "mine"; if I have a banana, and a bigger monkey beats me up and takes my banana, then now it's his banana. There's no magic force that will come down from the sky and get my banana back.

"What would you do if, after some careful research and consideration, one of your children decided that filesharing was socially beneficial, and proceeded to spend their life building tools to enable it?"

I'd ask them to justify their decision; I would identify the specious or equivocative reasoning, and point out the fallacious arguments and incorrect assumptions; and then I would paddle the little turd until he squealed.

Jack Skillingstead said...

"...and in this case it's certainly not clear-cut ethical issue."

Of course not, because you don't wish it to be. You proponents of digital thievery all sing the same song, which essentially comes down to a simple equation: Since I can take this I will take this. After all it's just information. But a novel isn't "information." It's a work of the imagination. Emphasis on work. Somebody made a story. You think that's so easy? You think it's a god damn hobby? Suppose you made your living creating special one-of-a-kind widgets. It takes you years to hone your craft. Slowly, you build a consumer base for your wonderful widgets. There are other widget builders out there but that's cool. None of them can build a widget exactly like yours. Your product is unique, as are theirs. It's been a long road but you're finally earning a modest but honest (emphasis on honest) living creating a unique product that only you can provide. Things are going along pretty well than somebody discovers they can convert your widgets into "information," which makes it easy for them to take as many as they want and distribute the information widgets all over the world at virtually no cost. Happy days (for everybody but you)! Nobody has to pay for your widgets anymore! When the down-loader receives his information widget he simply re-integrates it into a physical, functional object. Why should you care, widget-builder? All we're talking about is distribution of information. So this is science fiction, right? It's like Star Trek. That can't really happen. But as we all know (unless we're a deliberately obtuse internet thief) books are not information. What does somebody do after downloading one of the books on Crazy Ivan's Free Library? Why, they READ it. What does reading accomplish? It reconstitutes information into a novel. The widget is back!

By the way, on the subject of libraries. Did the thief whose actions started this conversation pay for any of his e-books? Why not? Libraries pay for them. Rest assured, though, he stole the e-books from other thieves, and now prattles on about how publishers are the scum of the Earth. Give me a break. He calls himself a librarian but he's merely a thief of intellectual property who can't even honestly admit what he is.

wiederling said...

You are all aware that the US ignored foreign
copyrights well into the sixties?

Joe Iriarte said...

Well put, halojones-fan.

Nancy Kress said...

I, too, think halojones-fan raised an important point. Not only are all property rights social constructs, but so is civilization itself. If I stop at a red light (small example) or don't murder you because I don't like your ethnicity (large example), these are not laws of nature but rather agreement on behavior that makes living in groups possible. Yes, the agreements can change (witness the divine right of kings giving way to the elected rulers). But if there is no agreement that allows artists and other producers of imaginative and intellectual works to make a living from their efforts, then one of two things will happen. You will have no artists, or we'll have to go back to individual artists being supported by rich patrons, like Michaelangelo. I don't really want to have to petition Bill Gates to like my work -- and then possibly alter it to court that liking (as even Shakespeare had to do, to not offend the Tudors).

Will said...

Will: You're correct that copyright is the result of social convention, but so are all property rights. There is no inherent characteristic of physical property that makes it "mine"; if I have a banana, and a bigger monkey beats me up and takes my banana, then now it's his banana. There's no magic force that will come down from the sky and get my banana back.

Which is exactly why different forms of property are treated differently. The rights around ownership of land for example, while they differ between nations, are very different from the rights around ownership of bananas. There are pieces of land in New Zealand, for example, that no one can own at all: as it is considered in the public interest to maintain them as reserves: regardless of the potential for individual profit. Ownership rights around land have changed in the past, and will no doubt change again in the future.

The rights around ownership of copyrights, likewise, must be fundamentally different from the rights around ownership of bananas or ownership of land. Copyrighted materials are completely different categories from either: as they are agalmic, replicable, modifiable and non-scarce, when bananas and land are not.

What exactly these rights should entail is currently a matter of hot debate: there are many who believe they should be substantially lessened (the Swedish Pirate Party is the third largest party in Sweden, for example). Others argue they should be strengthened (like the MPAA, RIAA, and presumably many of you), and still others argue it's all irrelevant now anyway, because computers have obsoleted the entire concept and it's not enforceable anymore (I'm more or less in this camp, being a programmer and having reasonable familiarity with the mathematics involved).

I'd ask them to justify their decision; I would identify the specious or equivocative reasoning, and point out the fallacious arguments and incorrect assumptions; and then I would paddle the little turd until he squealed.

Do you beat your children whenever they disagree with you? Would you beat them if they produced a coherent and rational argument in defense of their opinions? Would you recognise such, given your prior beliefs on the subject?

Will said...

Of course not, because you don't wish it to be. You proponents of digital thievery all sing the same song, which essentially comes down to a simple equation: Since I can take this I will take this.

It would become a clear-cut issue if I wanted it to be? I had no idea I had so much power!

I've mentioned this repeatedly, but filesharing, more or less by definition, is not theft. Calling theft is emotive, incorrect and unproductive.

Speaking from personal experience as a filesharer, your equation is simply wrong. That is one possible motivation, but it's one among many. Even partisan IFPI statistics (http://www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/dmr2009.html) claim that this is far from universally true.

After all it's just information. But a novel isn't "information." It's a work of the imagination. Emphasis on work.

That's a distinction without a difference. All content: be it music, literature, interpretative dance or morse code is information.

Somebody made a story. You think that's so easy? You think it's a god damn hobby?

I have never claimed that writing books is easy, although it is sometimes a hobby. I have a great deal of respect for the skill and effort that goes into writing good literature: and own several thousand physical books myself. Most of which, incidentally, were bought second hand. Is this also immorally depriving an author of potential income?

Suppose you made your living creating special one-of-a-kind widgets. It takes you years to hone your craft. Slowly, you build a consumer base for your wonderful widgets. There are other widget builders out there but that's cool. None of them can build a widget exactly like yours. Your product is unique, as are theirs. It's been a long road but you're finally earning a modest but honest (emphasis on honest) living creating a unique product that only you can provide. Things are going along pretty well than somebody discovers they can convert your widgets into "information," which makes it easy for them to take as many as they want and distribute the information widgets all over the world at virtually no cost. Happy days (for everybody but you)! Nobody has to pay for your widgets anymore! When the down-loader receives his information widget he simply re-integrates it into a physical, functional object. Why should you care, widget-builder? All we're talking about is distribution of information. So this is science fiction, right? It's like Star Trek. That can't really happen. But as we all know (unless we're a deliberately obtuse internet thief) books are not information. What does somebody do after downloading one of the books on Crazy Ivan's Free Library? Why, they READ it. What does reading accomplish? It reconstitutes information into a novel. The widget is back!

Frankly, I'd be overjoyed. If people had that degree of power and freedom to access any widget they liked, it would be sheer hubris on my part to attempt to deny them access for the sake of my own personal gain. The benefit of one to the detriment of the entire human race? That doesn't seem fair to me.

Besides, in the situation you describe, I would also have free access to everything everyone else had designed: which would benefit me far more than holding onto control of my own (proportionally small) contributions.

I should also note that this technology is actually very close to existing. 3d printers are getting better at a rapid pace. They're going to really turn our entire economy upside down. The internet dramalulz are going to be immense.

For what it's worth, everything I produce (software, music, tutorial information, policy papers, more software) is all freely available for anyone to distribute in any way they wish.

Will said...

I, too, think halojones-fan raised an important point. Not only are all property rights social constructs, but so is civilization itself. If I stop at a red light (small example) or don't murder you because I don't like your ethnicity (large example), these are not laws of nature but rather agreement on behavior that makes living in groups possible. Yes, the agreements can change (witness the divine right of kings giving way to the elected rulers). But if there is no agreement that allows artists and other producers of imaginative and intellectual works to make a living from their efforts, then one of two things will happen. You will have no artists, or we'll have to go back to individual artists being supported by rich patrons, like Michaelangelo. I don't really want to have to petition Bill Gates to like my work -- and then possibly alter it to court that liking (as even Shakespeare had to do, to not offend the Tudors).


Hi Nancy. This is more or less the lion's den from my perspective, but I feel it's important to make my case as politely as I can, and stick up for the opinions and interests of filesharers.

Agreed. My point in bringing up the subjective nature of copyright is to emphasise that it's not innate or natural: that it can be changed, it can be wrong and it can be improved. I'm sure we can both think of many examples of ideas that have historically been socially accepted, but we would now consider bad or even dangerous.

I think when confronted with rational arguments and evidence that is opposed to copyright, many who support it fall back on a kind of "natural law" defense, asserting that copyright is some kind of inalienable right, and that attempts to reduce or remove it are fundamentally immoral. This is a common pattern when entrenched ideas are challenged, but it is non sequitur to the actual value of those ideas as concepts.

But if there is no agreement that allows artists and other producers of imaginative and intellectual works to make a living from their efforts, then one of two things will happen. You will have no artists, or we'll have to go back to individual artists being supported by rich patrons, like Michaelangelo.

This is an interesting point, but I don't think the assumption underlying it really holds up under scrutiny. If you read the Oberholzer-Gee paper I linked earlier in this thread, you'll find that the research so far suggests that filesharing has essentially no impact on artists' incentives and capacity to create content. It's common wisdom that filesharing will decrease artists' profits overall, but in fact the opposite seems to be the case, and in many cases increased access to content and thus inspiration can catalyse more people into becoming writers/musicians/artists themselves.

However, there are also a number of proposed mechanisms via which artists can make money without relying copyright, which would side-step this entire issue. Some of them would arguably net a higher income for the majority of artists than copyright currently does: especially as the cost of distribution continues to decrease.

It's worth mentioning that in my culture, the agreement on acceptable behaviour is that you do share your books/music/movies etc. It would be considered selfish and scroogish to do otherwise.

GordonVG said...

Jack Skillingstead: After all it's just information. But a novel isn't "information." It's a work of the imagination. Emphasis on work.

Will: That's a distinction without a difference. All content: be it music, literature, interpretative dance or morse code is information.
----------------------------------
To which I must disagree: Entertainment is not information. Treating it as such is a mistake.

And Will, if you really consider Morse code---which is just that, a code---to be in the same category as arts like dance and music, I suggest you give that issue more thought. The whole point of Morse code was that anyone could learn it and use it to convey information. Is that what you consider the point of entertainment?

---Gordon Van Gelder

flo said...

I agree with everything Will has had to say and would like to further discuss the point (preemptively) made about the library analogue:

Yes, a library pays for the physical copy it then lends to others, but this one copy can allow potentially thousands of people to access its contents, for free or for a fee which only benefits the library. Now, the only thing that limits the libraries ability to service that many people with a single issue are:

- durability of cover/pages
- loss or theft of the book
- inconvenience of accessibility of books
- unpopularity of library borrowing
- unavailability of books while someone else has them checked out
- unavailability of books while someone else is reading them

All of which are eleviated by the emergence of digital text transfer, so the internet is basically the perfect library and nothing should be done to reign in its spread as it serves the same noble purpose as public libraries: education and spread of culture.

What you should think about is not punishing sharers (akin to librarians), downloaders (which are YOUR READERS!), or other infrastructure providers, but furthering public consensus about the value of books while being open minded about new technologies.

Imagine publicly funded internet libraries which offer all publications in digital forms but provide micro-royalties to authors either from (optional) subscriptions or public funds that now go to underutilized libraries.

flo said...

Also do not forget the allure of real books: Book aficionados still cherish (signed) collectors editions and even paper backs to show off their love for reading inside their homes, to decorate rooms and having their own libraries to browse in.

By lowering the necessary investment to read (physical purchase of books or going to the library) as well as allowing large scale, crowd based distribution, ranking and review, you add clarity to the whole market, making it easier for people to find what they want, as well as finding MORE of what they want.

David said...

WIll's comment ("normative" of his view), "That's a strongly normative statement. Their understanding of right and wrong may differ radically from yours: and in this case it's certainly not clear-cut ethical issue."

Of course it's not a "clear-cut ethical issue" to Will, because he has only one goal in mind here: rationalizing theft. Every single argument he's made is simply that: he likes stealing others' works and so excuses it with his rationalizations. Period. End of story. His ethics and morality revolve only around what he wants. Period. IOW, he and his ilk are well down the road toward sociopathy. The only reason to listen to him is a certain sick facination with evil "justifying" itself. Oh, dear. Did I just utter the word "evil" as a label for his attitude? Well, yes, I did. His vain disingenuity strikes me as more than just passably similar to the characteristics of evil described by M. Scott Peck in "People of the Lie."

Having seen his disingenuous rationalizations for theft, I have no further use for him or his elaborate (and transparent) bloviation.

halojones-fan said...

David, I hope that when you get done raping that thesarus, you at least buy it dinner.

Will, I'm glad you agree that property rights are inherently fictional. I'm rather surprised to see you advocate mob rule, though, or to claim that de facto should be de jure. I'm pretty sure that you hold at least one uncommon or unpopular opinion; would you like the idea that society could censure you simply by saying "there's more of us, so what we say goes"?

Incidentally, look up the Doctrine of Adverse Possession. There are mechanisms by which physical property legally pass from one private party to another without the owner's consent.

"It's common wisdom that filesharing will decrease artists' profits overall, but in fact the opposite seems to be the case..."

This is the part where you provide the facts that back up your assertion.

halojones-fan said...

flo:

"Also do not forget the allure of real books: Book aficionados still cherish (signed) collectors editions and even paper backs to show off their love for reading inside their homes, to decorate rooms and having their own libraries to browse in."

So physical books are a luxury item? Congratulations, you've just made an argument for strong copyright enforcement, since the general public will be interested in the infinitely-reproducible text rather than the physical artifact.

As for library copies: For one thing, libraries pay more for the thigns they actually buy, and it's well-understood that libraries represent a special (and limited) case of copyright. (Going back to Will's "special case of property" argument, here.) For another, you admit that the libary can only distribute the work in a very limited way; while a theoretically-infinite number of people can check the book out, it only happens one person at a time.

"What you should think about is not punishing sharers (akin to librarians), downloaders (which are YOUR READERS!..."

Ah-heh. "I stole this book and didn't give you money for it, but you shouldn't be mad at me because I'm reading your book!" That's some Cory Doctorow reasoning there. (Of course, he makes his money from Being A Famous Internet Person, so I can understand why he wouldn't care about copyright!)

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Dear me.

What fractious talk.

Here's the deal, gang.

We all know what's the right thing to do, pretty much.

We all know it, but find the most amazing excuses not to do it.

No great revelation here.

Right, Cain?

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Dear me.

What fractious talk.

Here's the deal, gang.

We all know what's the right thing to do, pretty much.

We all know it, but find the most amazing excuses not to do it.

No great revelation here.

Right, Cain?

Will said...

Of course it's not a "clear-cut ethical issue" to Will, because he has only one goal in mind here: rationalizing theft. Every single argument he's made is simply that: he likes stealing others' works and so excuses it with his rationalizations. Period. End of story. His ethics and morality revolve only around what he wants. Period. IOW, he and his ilk are well down the road toward sociopathy. The only reason to listen to him is a certain sick facination with evil "justifying" itself. Oh, dear. Did I just utter the word "evil" as a label for his attitude? Well, yes, I did. His vain disingenuity strikes me as more than just passably similar to the characteristics of evil described by M. Scott Peck in "People of the Lie."

Having seen his disingenuous rationalizations for theft, I have no further use for him or his elaborate (and transparent) bloviation.


I'm not really sure you can legitimately speak to my goals, given that you have no way of ascertaining what they are. You're loudly insisting that there is only one possible answer to this question, and that people who disagree with you are evil. This is farcical: I could equally well do the same to you, and what would be achieved? For what good it may do: here are a few papers that clearly demonstrate that the motivations of filesharers cannot be trivially dismissed as self-serving: http://www.wipo.int/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?bib=14365, http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/000282802320189267, http://ictsd.org/i/trade-and-sustaina%20ble-development-agenda/71019/, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=894162.

I also think it would be easy to drag up examples of individuals who are pro-filesharing that you would struggle to call evil with a straight face.

Will, I'm glad you agree that property rights are inherently fictional. I'm rather surprised to see you advocate mob rule, though, or to claim that de facto should be de jure. I'm pretty sure that you hold at least one uncommon or unpopular opinion; would you like the idea that society could censure you simply by saying "there's more of us, so what we say goes"?

You're comparing two very different things. Copyright is a privilege granted by society to authors for a limited period. Society is not obliged to uphold this privilege if it feels it is counter-productive or detrimental to overall welfare. You can't legitimately claim that authors are a beleaguered minority, and that changes to our social norms and legal structure amount to censure.

To flip your point around: society changes its expectations. There was a time when women could not vote: but consensus changed on this issue and we fixed it. When you're talking of mob rule you're assuming a-priori that filesharing is destructive: but you're not considering that many may consider it a form of legitimate civil disobedience.

Authors are free to express this wish for copyright to exist, but they have no absolute guarantee that this will be true. Similarly, landlords are free to express their wish for a removal of rent control in a region, but this doesn't mean they're going to get it.

Incidentally, look up the Doctrine of Adverse Possession. There are mechanisms by which physical property legally pass from one private party to another without the owner's consent.

I'm am familiar with this, but I don't see the relevance.

This is the part where you provide the facts that back up your assertion.

I've already posted to some excellent scholarly research on the topic, but here it is again: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-132.pdf. There are corroborating studies from both Blackburn and Pedersen, both of which are available after 30 seconds googling.

Jack Skillingstead said...

"It would become a clear-cut issue if I wanted it to be? I had no idea I had so much power!:

Of course you deliberately miss the point because you are in love with filesharing. If you were in love with shop-lifting you would find a reason to say that was also not a "clear cut" situation. If Nancy had wanted to give e-copies of her books to this guy so he could give them away (or sell them in Kindle packages or whatever) that would be her right. It isn't your right or Crazy Ivan's right to make that decision for her. Like everyone else, you have the "power" to recognize what's right and wrong in various situations. No doubt anything can be and has been rationalized. For instance, it's immoral to torture human beings -- even if the human being in question knows something that you really, really want to know, too.


"I've mentioned this repeatedly, but filesharing, more or less by definition, is not theft. Calling theft is emotive, incorrect and unproductive."

Gosh, you mentioned it before? Repeatedly? I didn't know that. It must be true, then. Perhaps even clear cut. I'll try not to be emotive about it. Suppose you had mentioned repeatedly that the Earth is flat. After a while, because you've been saying it repeatedly on the internet, the idea gains momentum. Pretty soon millions of people believe the Earth is flat. So what? To quote somebody or other, Just because a million people believe something stupid (or self-serving) that doesn't make it true.

Will said...

To which I must disagree: Entertainment is not information. Treating it as such is a mistake.

And Will, if you really consider Morse code---which is just that, a code---to be in the same category as arts like dance and music, I suggest you give that issue more thought. The whole point of Morse code was that anyone could learn it and use it to convey information. Is that what you consider the point of entertainment?


Information is any ordered sequence of symbols, by definition. Literature is an ordered sequence of symbols. Thus, literature is information.

Concepts like creativity or entertainment are orthogonal to concepts like information. Some information is creative, some isn't, but it's all information.

Morse code is an information format. You can express a book via morse code if you want.

Will said...


Of course you deliberately miss the point because you are in love with filesharing. If you were in love with shop-lifting you would find a reason to say that was also not a "clear cut" situation. If Nancy had wanted to give e-copies of her books to this guy so he could give them away (or sell them in Kindle packages or whatever) that would be her right. It isn't your right or Crazy Ivan's right to make that decision for her. Like everyone else, you have the "power" to recognize what's right and wrong in various situations. No doubt anything can be and has been rationalized. For instance, it's immoral to torture human beings -- even if the human being in question knows something that you really, really want to know, too.


Are you asserting that there is only one possible answer to this question, that there is no room for doubt, and that people who disagree with you are inherently wrong?

Gosh, you mentioned it before? Repeatedly? I didn't know that. It must be true, then. Perhaps even clear cut. I'll try not to be emotive about it. Suppose you had mentioned repeatedly that the Earth is flat. After a while, because you've been saying it repeatedly on the internet, the idea gains momentum. Pretty soon millions of people believe the Earth is flat. So what? To quote somebody or other, Just because a million people believe something stupid (or self-serving) that doesn't make it true.

It's not true by definition. Poking someone in the eye is not murder. Sneezing is not sleeping. Filesharing is not theft. Unless we're working under fundamentally different definitions of the word "theft", this is very simple. There's even a legal precedent! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowling_v._United_States.

halojones-fan said...

You can't call this manslaughter; he just happened to be standing in front of my gun when I pulled the trigger.

ephelba said...

Hey Will,
I'm really enjoying hearing your point of view. I've always taught my kids that it's theft to illegally down-load music/books/movies. I'm going to keep doing that until the laws change, because the laws (our ever changable social construct thingy) define it that way. I think that it would be great to change the laws to create the kind of system you're imagining- one where everyone can access info, and one where artist, authors and programmers got paid. Once the changes were made in the books, I wouldn't consider it theft anymore. I like the idea of an open source, umm, virtual library Utopia, but I firmly believe that the authors, copy editors, cover-jacket designers, etc. need to get paid.

Could you do more discussion of these alternate models where the producers get paid when people access content for free? A brief overview maybe?

Thanks for keeping it civil while voicing dissent.

Will said...

I'm really enjoying hearing your point of view. I've always taught my kids that it's theft to illegally down-load music/books/movies. I'm going to keep doing that until the laws change, because the laws (our ever changable social construct thingy) define it that way. I think that it would be great to change the laws to create the kind of system you're imagining- one where everyone can access info, and one where artist, authors and programmers got paid. Once the changes were made in the books, I wouldn't consider it theft anymore. I like the idea of an open source, umm, virtual library Utopia, but I firmly believe that the authors, copy editors, cover-jacket designers, etc. need to get paid.

Thanks!

I am definitely nitpicking here, but I will do it anyway because I think it's an important distinction :) Under our current laws (internationally through the Berne Convention and TRIPS), filesharing is not actually theft! It's another category of civil offense, formally called "copyright infringement", and is enforced quite differently from theft (which is a crime).

Could you do more discussion of these alternate models where the producers get paid when people access content for free? A brief overview maybe?

Sure. The simplest model is actually to do nothing! The research so far (I've posted some of this earlier in the thread) suggests that, even when people can get something for free, they'll often pay for it anyway. I have friends who release music both for free on their websites, and for money on CD: and they get far more people paying for the music than (legally) downloading it.

The second naive model is donations: simply using one's popularity as an author to get eyeballs, and requesting donations or (more complex) selling merchandise or services in order to generate wealth. Cory Doctorow does this, as does the guy who writes XKCD.

Between these two, artists can actually do reasonably well (A friend of mine called Tom Cosm is an example): but there are other more convoluted options as well.

The first of these is the "ransom" model: in which an author releases a book (or a chapter of a book), after a certain amount of money has been donated. Once released, the book is freely available to all: but the author can still generate and income stream.

Another option is the tax and distribute option: simply levying a very small tax on the public, and redistributing that money to authors based on the popularity of their books/music/etc on the various filesharing networks. You could even adjust the curve for this, so that smaller authors got a comparatively larger piece of the overall pie. That way people are free to download whatever they want: but artists will get proportionate compensation based on their popularity.

Obviously, these are only a handful of the many options available: but I think they're worth considering.

ephelba said...

What bothers me personally about the "Do nothing" option is that authors who have chosen to market themselves and their works in the traditional model are made part of a system they don't want to be part of without their consent.

I'm going to say that, whether you call it theft, piracy, or infringement, it's wrong to take the information because the author doesn't want you to.

Will said...

What bothers me personally about the "Do nothing" option is that authors who have chosen to market themselves and their works in the traditional model are made part of a system they don't want to be part of without their consent.

Do you believe that technological change should be handled on an exclusively opt-in basis? Specifically, that technological improvements should be able to be deferred by individuals, until those individuals give consent?

I would argue that such a model would be massively problematic, and cause complete social deadlock. It's certainly not the model our society currently works on.

To provide an analogy: if I start a shop that competes with yours, using fancy new technology, should I need your consent? After all, you've invested lots of time/effort in your existing business model, and I am obsoleting it!

If I asked for your consent, you'd almost certainly say "no", and then no one would have access to my fancy new technology, and you'd be able to defer technological progress indefinitely.

I hope this example makes my issues with the concept of consent clear.

A similar argument has actually been put forward in opposition to publicly-funded municipal wifi. Essentially: "if the state provides wifi for free, then I won't be able to make any money charging for it!". Personally, I have little time for these arguments.

I'm going to say that, whether you call it theft, piracy, or infringement, it's wrong to take the information because the author doesn't want you to.

To me, that seems like handing an inordinate amount of power to an author. I don't think it's reasonable to allow any individual to deny everyone else access to information, regardless of their personal desires or interests.

The Failureworks said...

Also fascinating how the comments drifted to the immediate gut reaction of the reader: "I can't believe a person would steal! From You!" I'm surprised you took the time to genuinely respond to the rhetoric! I did however think that you won over at least a small piece of this peron's brain with the beautiful resonation of your final response. Well played.

The Failureworks said...

Oh and Will! Do you write anywhere? I find you concepts revealing and basically going places that my own thoughts have been going lately. I'm thinking that opensourcing of all infomation to all people will bring unfathomable responses from all people. Perhaps revolutionizing the realms to a place where Nancy can share her creations openly and not have a need to be paid for them, but rather that society rewards her addition by absorbing her knowledge into the collective.

TheOFloinn said...

Back in the 60's shoplifting was sometimes justified as "liberating" the item from its capitalist so-called "owner." Some things never change; only the sort of thing being liberated.

My point in bringing up the subjective nature of copyright is to emphasise that it's not innate or natural: that it can be changed, it can be wrong and it can be improved.

Yes,the Intelligent Design theory of history. You seem to confuse "subjective" with "arbitrary." And since one's entire experience of life is innately subjective, it is the most natural thing in the world.

I think when confronted with rational arguments and evidence that is opposed to copyright, many who support it fall back on a kind of "natural law" defense, asserting that copyright is some kind of inalienable right, and that attempts to reduce or remove it are fundamentally immoral.

Life, liberty, and property, and more broadly the pursuit of happiness have always been accounted such. See Wm. of Ockham, The ninety days' work. The kool thing about natural rights is that no prince can take them away; but then that may seem a drawback from your perspective.

This is a common pattern when entrenched ideas are challenged

Whereas the common pattern of those confronted with rational arguments in favor of copyright is to make the irrefutable reply "You can't stop me. Nyah-na-na-na-naa." Or to enshrine their self-interest as the "inevitable wave of history."

but it is non sequitur to the actual value of those ideas as concepts.

What exactly is a "non sequitur" to a "value"?

What other values might ideas have other than as concepts?

TheOFloinn said...

Information is any ordered sequence of symbols, by definition. Literature is an ordered sequence of symbols. Thus, literature is information.

ROFL!

Concepts like creativity or entertainment are orthogonal to concepts like information.

Orthogonal, is it? Then it must be really-truly scientifical because you've used a really-truly scientifical word. I suppose it means that the product of creativity and information is zero, or something of the sort.

TheOFloinn said...

To provide an analogy: if I start a shop that competes with yours, using fancy new technology, should I need your consent?

Of course not. Neither would you need my consent to write a novel of your own and give it away for free.

You would need the shop-owner's consent to take his wares and give them out on the street corner.

flo said...

halojones:

So physical books are a luxury item? Congratulations, you've just made an argument for strong copyright enforcement, since the general public will be interested in the infinitely-reproducible text rather than the physical artifact.

I believe to have made a consoling argument for authors that paper book sales will never go away as seem to be a big fear, they just will not be the bulk of how literature may be consumed.

As for library copies: For one thing, libraries pay more for the thigns they actually buy, and it's well-understood that libraries represent a special (and limited) case of copyright. (Going back to Will's "special case of property" argument, here.) For another, you admit that the libary can only distribute the work in a very limited way; while a theoretically-infinite number of people can check the book out, it only happens one person at a time.

I know libraries pay more for their copies (not the least part of the added cost going towards a sturdier binding though), but what exactly stands against extending library laws to filesharing, seeing as the concept could be seen to be similar in aim with filesharing being an evolution of libraries.

"What you should think about is not punishing sharers (akin to librarians), downloaders (which are YOUR READERS!..."

Ah-heh. "I stole this book and didn't give you money for it, but you shouldn't be mad at me because I'm reading your book!" That's some Cory Doctorow reasoning there. (Of course, he makes his money from Being A Famous Internet Person, so I can understand why he wouldn't care about copyright!)


A person that downloads, but never reads, has not caused any kind of damage in any way, he may as well have never heard of the book in the first place. He may still share this file though, and thus continue to spread it.
A person that downloads and reads it, but finds it not to his taste may also never have bought a copy, because he can browse in a book store.
Someone that downloads, reads and likes your work is now your reader who you SHOULD feel grateful towards in my opinion. After all, he will provide you with free word-of-mouth advertisements for possibly all of your works and may be inclined to buy a copy of the book because people like to own things they enjoy.


TheOFloinn:

Orthogonal, is it? Then it must be really-truly scientifical because you've used a really-truly scientifical word. I suppose it means that the product of creativity and information is zero, or something of the sort.

Could you please stop with the aggressiveness and anti-intellectualism? But in case you are really-trully stumped, let me broaden your horizon: As orthogonal can be described two aspects of something which do not correllate, i.e. you can have a high amount of information coupled with a large amount of creativity (humor for instance), while all other combinations are equally viable.

TheOFloinn said...

Could you please stop with the aggressiveness and anti-intellectualism?

Only commenting on the actually anti-intellectual tendency to misuse technical-sounding jargon to lend a pseudo-scientific plausibility to one's claims.

let me broaden your horizon: As orthogonal can be described two aspects of something which do not correllate

I think the word you want is "independent." Orthogonal has meaning in mathematics - such as in geometry or vector analysis - and correlation has meaning in statistics. One may use them in an analogous sense outside their "proper locution," of course; but why use an obfuscating technological term when a perfectly good normal term is available. It's only purpose is to imply a spurious mathematical precision to what are in fact non-mathematical issues. It is hardly anti-intellectual for a mathematician and statistician to find humor in such practices.

What may actually be anti-intellectual is to insist that literature is merely information.

ephelba said...

Will:
I believe you're confusing the delivery model with the content.

"if I start a shop that competes with yours, using fancy new technology, should I need your consent? After all, you've invested lots of time/effort in your existing business model, and I am obsoleting it!

If I asked for your consent, you'd almost certainly say "no", and then no one would have access to my fancy new technology, and you'd be able to defer technological progress indefinitely."

This happens all the time. I live in the boonies, and there are still lots of gas stations that don't take credit cards at the pump. (???!!?!) If I wanted to start a new business from scratch with new fangled pumps, I wouldn't go to the old-fashioned stations, pump their gas into my own tanks and drive off with it to sell at my fancy new station.

Lets take it a step further.

Imagine how much better my local economy would be if gas were free. There are a lot of farmers here, so right away they'd see their cost go down and would start buying things they'd put off- new fencing, another pasturizuer, etc. Eventually they might even lower their prices, and then everyone in town could loosen their grip on cash as the money that had been going for food turned into extra money for movies and eating out. It would revitalize a region that been in decline for decades. Since it would benefit everyone, why not pop the lid off the tanks at the gas stations and siphon it off to share! It's all to the greater good! Even the people that own the station, because with all that extra money people will undoubtedly buy more cigarettes and ding-dongs and other things with a higher mark up than gas.

And I'm going to say that unless the station owners decide to give that gas away this is a Bad Plan. The gas was paid for by the station owners with the expectation that they would be selling it.

A creator's work is their own. You can argue that a wise generous author shares freely. You can make a case that it's morally superior to share,even. But I fundamentally disagree that a creator's consent isn't required in order to share.

I think the only reason we're having this conversation is that the material created is copyable. I mean, if Nancy was a potter, and she threw this super awesome pot, you wouldn't take her pot for the greater good. And if you could throw a pot on your own wheel that looked the same, no one would complain as long as you put your name on it.

Will said...

Only commenting on the actually anti-intellectual tendency to misuse technical-sounding jargon to lend a pseudo-scientific plausibility to one's claims.

I think you're asserting that reasoned argument is in fact obfuscatory jargon designed to confuse people: because this lets you do an end-run around the whole discussion without actually having to address any of the claims being made. This may get you a certain amount of traction with some audiences, but I'm familiar with the practice and I'm not interested :)

Will said...

I believe you're confusing the delivery model with the content.

Far from it! This is a crucial distinction, and one that doesn't get made often enough. Authors don't get paid for selling their writing, unless they work for a magazine or something similar. They charge money for distribution - which is increasingly not something that can be charged for.

This happens all the time. I live in the boonies, and there are still lots of gas stations that don't take credit cards at the pump. (???!!?!)...

Exactly. This is considered standard and normal.

Imagine how much better my local economy would be if gas were free. There are a lot of farmers here, so right away they'd see their cost go down and would start buying things
And I'm going to say that unless the station owners decide to give that gas away this is a Bad Plan. The gas was paid for by the station owners with the expectation that they would be selling it.


Actually, now I think about it, I don't think it's possible to give physical-world analogies to copyright issues that will generate any insights. Copyrighted information and physical goods are fundamentally different: having almost no common properties, so comparing one to the other is essentially pointless. Things that are true of the latter simply aren't true of the former, and vice-versa.

I don't think the fact that authors would like to be able to charge for distribution of their works (and may have expected to be able to do so) is, in itself, a particularly good reason to artificially increase the cost of distribution from 0 to > 0.

A creator's work is their own. You can argue that a wise generous author shares freely. You can make a case that it's morally superior to share,even. But I fundamentally disagree that a creator's consent isn't required in order to share.

I think we have a fundamental disagreement here. I am far too aware that all authors, no matter how original, are basically derivative. The language they use they did not invent. The tools they use to write they did not invent. Many of the sentences they use have been used before: and others probably coined most of the metaphors and expressions they invoke. They are standing on the shoulders of giants to make their own contribution: which is wonderful, but makes me seriously question the notion that an author should "own"

I write code regularly, and I would consider it sheer hubris to attempt to claim ownership of that. Everything I know I learned from someone. Every tool I use was written by something else. All I'm doing is taking existing pieces and putting them together in a slightly new way: a small contribution, compared with the masses of other people's work I rely on.

I think the only reason we're having this conversation is that the material created is copyable. I mean, if Nancy was a potter, and she threw this super awesome pot, you wouldn't take her pot for the greater good. And if you could throw a pot on your own wheel that looked the same, no one would complain as long as you put your name on it.

If Nancy was a potter and we built a machine that could instantly and cheaply make identical copies of pots, I think it would be unreasonable for her to assert that everyone who made a copy of a pot she happened to design should give her money.

you wouldn't take her pot for the greater good

I think this is the key mistake underlying what you're saying. If I take someone's pot, they have no pot. This is zero sum. If I copy someone's pot, we both have pots! This is positive sum. They've lost nothing and I've gained something. They might argue that I've deprived them of potential income: but almost every action I take deprives someone of potential income: so it's not a compelling argument.

Will said...

An important point which I think is being overlooked.

Authors would like to be paid for writing. Currently, however, they're actually charging for distribution, which has historically been an acceptable proxy, and has been around for long enough that many people think of distribution monopoly rights as innate.

Distribution, however, has become more or less free over the last few years: so people are becoming unwilling to pay for it. The tension now is between breaking these new distribution mechanisms so the status-quo can be maintained, or finding better ways to encourage authors to write, while keeping our awesome new systems. Obviously, I'm a proponent of the latter option.

Oh and Will! Do you write anywhere? I find you concepts revealing and basically going places that my own thoughts have been going lately. I'm thinking that opensourcing of all infomation to all people will bring unfathomable responses from all people. Perhaps revolutionizing the realms to a place where Nancy can share her creations openly and not have a need to be paid for them, but rather that society rewards her addition by absorbing her knowledge into the collective.

A short paper I co-authored on this topic is being released in the next few days. Throw me an email and I'll send you a copy.

ephelba said...

Oooo. I almost understand what you're saying. Not sure I agree. I want to to thank you again for patiently continuing to explain the ideas, and Nancy for hosting this incredible discussion.

OrenB said...

The core issue here is PERMISSION.


Nancy denied Permission.

The person who is presuming that Nancy denying Permission is not binding upon them is ethically indefensible. And whether they believe in Karma or not.. I suspect Karma will be less kind to them than Nancy was.

Will said...

The core issue here is PERMISSION.

Nancy denied Permission.

The person who is presuming that Nancy denying Permission is not binding upon them is ethically indefensible. And whether they believe in Karma or not.. I suspect Karma will be less kind to them than Nancy was


That's a very black and white statement :)

What gives Nancy the right to grant or deny permission in the first place? Social consensus, which is nebulous and certainly not consistent across time or culture (+10 post-modernism!).

I don't have the right to grant or deny people permission to drink whisky, for example. I could attempt to do so, but I suspect I would be ignored, or even ridiculed.

I suspect this filesharer considers Nancy's attempts to deny him permission to distribute the books she wrote just as ridiculous as you might consider my attempts to deny you the right to drink whisky. He doesn't recognise any such power on her part: and so is utterly unmoved by her attempts to enforce it.

You might personally disagree: but you're not going to achieve anything by simply condemning those who have different views from you: you'll need to engage in polite dialog and do your best to convince them that your position is better.

ephelba said...

But Nancy MADE the whisky! You could dictate rules about drinking or not drinking all day. But if she makes it she can get schnookered for breakfast lunch and dinner.

When she wrote iher book she could have gone all Salinger and only showed the manuscript to her dog. No one else wrote the book that she wrote. It is unique and hers. I know it is hers because I cannot write her book. You cannot write her book. Only Nancy can make her book, there for it is hers.

If she decided she didn't want to share another book with humanity, I could not pull one out of her.

I'm going to say that her consent is neccesary for distribution because, even though it's intangible the information she creates is uniquely hers and is bourn of her.

Rowena Cherry said...

This Burgomeister is representing that the books on his site are free. This is a falsehood.

He represents the the ebooks belong to him. This is a falsehood. What he purchased (if he legally purchased the ebooks) was the right to read them himself.

He did not purchase the copyright, the right to create copies or to distribute the works.

What is more, he is begging for donations, so he is attempting to make money.

Nancy, complain to PayPal. Complain to the Feds. Look for www.ic3.gov

Rowena Cherry said...

Someone here doesn't understand copyright.

The "information" in a Romance novel consists of "Man meets Woman. Man has a lot of trouble convincing Woman to become his woman. Woman convinces Man to become sufficiently attractive to her. Man + Woman promise the reader they will live happily ever after."

(Feel free to substititute "Man meets Man... or Woman meets Woman or Human meets Werewolf/Vampire/Alien" etc)

What is unique and original and worth paying for, and worth protecting by copyright is the author's expression of this basic plot... their storytelling skill and style.

GordonVG said...

In case anyone wants to read up on copyright, this Website has a lot of info and a lot of useful links:

http://www.scrivenerserror.com/copyrite.shtml

---Gordon Van Gelder

Joe Iriarte said...

Some of the comments from those who advocate for a different economic model for non-tangible products seem to start from the position that their views are the consensus, but saying it is doesn't make it so.

A necessary, but so far unstated, I think, consequence of this would appear to be the following: if you have the ability to violate a law that you consider wrong without any fear of getting caught, then you think it is okay to violate that law. The only reason for following laws is to avoid punishment. The fact that the law represents the consensus of the rest of civilization doesn't matter, because you put your judgment above that of the rest of humanity, if humanity doesn't have a gun to your head.

Is that about right?

So if you don't believe in private property, for instance, then it would be unwise to trust you with the keys to my house or business, because if you think you can get away with stealing from somebody, you will do so.

-o-

That's an interesting mentality to try on for size. Generally speaking, I follow the law even if nobody is watching.

Him said...

What I will say is thanks for advertising the site with a direct link right to it should anyone fancy pirating a few books.

Will said...

But Nancy MADE the whisky! You could dictate rules about drinking or not drinking all day. But if she makes it she can get schnookered for breakfast lunch and dinner.

See: there's the thing. She didn't make the whisky in this case, she just wrote the recipe. Or in the case of these books: she didn't make that copy of the book and doesn't own it: she just wrote the first copy of the book.

I'm going to say that her consent is neccesary for distribution because, even though it's intangible the information she creates is uniquely hers and is bourn of her.

Is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies uniquely Grahame-Smith's, or uniquely Austen's?

GordonVG said...

Will: Is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies uniquely Grahame-Smith's, or uniquely Austen's?
-----------------------
Jane Austen's book is in the public domain. It's not protected by copyright.

Try writing CATCHER IN THE RYE AND ZOMBIES and you'll find that the U.S. law prohibits you from publishing it without permission from J. D. Salinger's estate. That's because CATCHER IN THE RYE is protected by copyright. (In fact, a Swedish writer using the pen name "JD California" tried publishing an unauthorized sequel to CATCHER. Its publication was not allowed in the US.)

Truly, Will, you ought to read up some on copyright.

---Gordon Van Gelder

Will said...

The "information" in a Romance novel consists of "Man meets Woman. Man has a lot of trouble convincing Woman to become his woman. Woman convinces Man to become sufficiently attractive to her. Man + Woman promise the reader they will live happily ever after."

I think you need to check the definition of information. The information in a romance novel consists of everything in it that a person can understand (and potentially stuff they can't). Information is a very general term for any ordered set of symbols.

Some of the comments from those who advocate for a different economic model for non-tangible products seem to start from the position that their views are the consensus, but saying it is doesn't make it so.

I'd say quite the opposite. Proponents of the status quo assume that their views are the consensus: but the popularity of filesharing proves conclusively that this can not be so. I am not attempting to assert that there's any consensus: the fact that I need to discuss this at all again proves there is not. I do however think that the model I am proposing is more ethical and more productive, and I am willing to argue in its favour.

Many of you are coming from a more or less tautological "filesharing is bad because it's bad" position: but no one has actually provided any references to research or analysis to counter that which I have put forward. I realise this is a sticky emotional issue for many people, but I really do try to hold discussions in terms of evidence-based policy: and frankly I think the evidence ends up being ignored in favour of emotive reasoning.

A necessary, but so far unstated, I think, consequence of this would appear to be the following: if you have the ability to violate a law that you consider wrong without any fear of getting caught, then you think it is okay to violate that law. The only reason for following laws is to avoid punishment. The fact that the law represents the consensus of the rest of civilization doesn't matter, because you put your judgment above that of the rest of humanity, if humanity doesn't have a gun to your head.

Is that about right?


Not really no. For starters, you're engaging in a logical fallacy called "Appeal to Law" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_Law_(fallacy)). In my view copyright infringement is usually a victimless crime, and as such, no harm comes from it.

The law clearly doesn't represent the consensus of civilisation (Whose civilisation?): as is clearly proven by the popularity of filesharing.

Will said...

Jane Austen's book is in the public domain. It's not protected by copyright.

Try writing CATCHER IN THE RYE AND ZOMBIES and you'll find that the U.S. law prohibits you from publishing it without permission from J. D. Salinger's estate. That's because CATCHER IN THE RYE is protected by copyright. (In fact, a Swedish writer using the pen name "JD California" tried publishing an unauthorized sequel to CATCHER. Its publication was not allowed in the US.)


You're missing the point I am making: which is about originality and attribution, and nothing to do with how long Austen has been dead or whether any specific book is under copyright.

Truly, Will, you ought to read up some on copyright.

I'm very familiar with copyright and how it works :) It would be hard for me to argue effectively against it if I did not.

GordonVG said...

Will---

In citing Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, aren't you using a work that's out of copyright to argue against copyright? That seems like a specious argument to me.

---Gordon V.G.

Will said...

In citing Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, aren't you using a work that's out of copyright to argue against copyright? That seems like a specious argument to me.

Indirectly. I am using a work that is a recent example of directly derivative writing to explain the issues I see with assigning exclusive copyright to any individual. Obviously most cases are less clear: but I think it helps make my point.

The actual copyright status of Pride and Prejudice isn't relevant to what I'm saying.

Jack Skillingstead said...

"The actual copyright status of Pride and Prejudice isn't relevant to what I'm saying."

It's directly relevant. You simply choose to ignore that. You accuse others of not being able to see different points of view, but you are the worst offender in this discussion. Who are you, anyway? I suppose that isn't relevant, either. There's nothing more annoying than people who hide behind internet anonymity while they lecture others about the ethics of stealing.

Will said...

It's directly relevant. You simply choose to ignore that. You accuse others of not being able to see different points of view, but you are the worst offender in this discussion. Who are you, anyway? I suppose that isn't relevant, either. There's nothing more annoying than people who hide behind internet anonymity while they lecture others about the ethics of stealing.

Can you explain to me in what way it's relevant?

My point, as I've mentioned, is about the ambiguity of authorship: and the extent to which authors are dependent on previous authors for everything they do. I don't personally see how the copyright status of Pride and Prejudice is relevant to this point, although I'm happy to be enlightened.

Who am I? I'm posting using my public google account. My personal website is http://marshall-law.co.nz/, if that's of interest to you. My involvement with these issues is currently primarily through publicacta.org.nz/ - as I am one of the organisers. I'm a programmer, burner and musician: I help run a non-profit arts festival called Kiwiburn (Kiwiburn.com).

TheOFloinn said...

I think you're asserting that reasoned argument is in fact obfuscatory jargon designed to confuse people

No no. Not to confuse others, but lend yourself an air of talking scientifical-like and thus implying that your position is somehow a "scientific" conclusion "objectively" reached.

Will said...

No no. Not to confuse others, but lend yourself an air of talking scientifical-like and thus implying that your position is somehow a "scientific" conclusion "objectively" reached.

As I said earlier: I'm familiar with what you're doing, and I'm not interested in engaging.

TheOFloinn said...

I don't have the right to grant or deny people permission to drink whisky, for example.

I thought physical product examples were not appropriate. Or is it only when they are being proposed in counter?

Granting or denying permission is not a "right" but a "power." It is like the power to appropriate someone else's work and use it as eye-bait to attract donations or advertisers to maintain one's website. A "right" is something the defense of which is perceived as legitimate, regardless whether it is successful. Thus, as Ockham noted, when one defends one's life or liberty or property, these being inherent in human nature. Post-modernism notwithstanding, such things are broadly recognized, even if the social details vary.

Thus, Nancy is justified in defending her right to her own property in a way that the thief is not justified in taking it. The thief merely has the power to do so. Current technology may enable it, just as current technology enables one to fly airplanes into skyscrapers. "The strong take what they can," the Athenians told the Melians, "while the weak suffer what they must."

A similar example was the fully-rigged sailing ship. Such a ship could sail anywhere and re-provision. Propulsion was free, granted by the winds. This enabled an earlier generation of high seas pirates. Their ships need not enter any established port. A secluded bay would work. This lasted until steam ships could outrace sailing ships. You can't be a pirate with a steam ship because you need to put into a coaling station now and then.

Will said...

I thought physical product examples were not appropriate. Or is it only when they are being proposed in counter?

It's not possible to make meaningful analogies between concrete goods and information, because their intrinsic properties are different.

It is possible to describe the social construction of rights using examples from the physical world.

Granting or denying permission is not a "right" but a "power." It is like the power to appropriate someone else's work and use it as eye-bait to attract donations or advertisers to maintain one's website. A "right" is something the defense of which is perceived as legitimate, regardless whether it is successful. Thus, as Ockham noted, when one defends one's life or liberty or property, these being inherent in human nature. Post-modernism notwithstanding, such things are broadly recognized, even if the social details vary.

Yes. And as I've said before, we've got clear evidence that the consensus you claim exists on the topic of copyright doesn't. If you're going to define the terms of debate circularly, and generate 'consensus' by excluding anyone who disagrees with you from the tally, then you're not going to achieve anything.

You might want to read up on the financials of file-sharing websites. Here's a hint: they run at cost at best.

Thus, Nancy is justified in defending her right to her own property in a way that the thief is not justified in taking it. The thief merely has the power to do so. Current technology may enable it, just as current technology enables one to fly airplanes into skyscrapers. "The strong take what they can," the Athenians told the Melians, "while the weak suffer what they must."

Again: copyright infringement is not theft, by definition and by law.

She may be justified to herself, and to her peer group. I doubt she's justified to me, or the filesharing community, or the free culture community, or any of a number of sizeable social movements that don't happen share your particular opinions on copyright.

Flying Airplanes into skyscrapers? Athenian history? These are red herrings.

A similar example was the fully-rigged sailing ship. Such a ship could sail anywhere and re-provision. Propulsion was free, granted by the winds. This enabled an earlier generation of high seas pirates. Their ships need not enter any established port. A secluded bay would work. This lasted until steam ships could outrace sailing ships. You can't be a pirate with a steam ship because you need to put into a coaling station now and then.

Random historical examples of people taking scarce resources by force have nothing to do with modern examples of people copying non-scarce resources peacefully. As above, these are red herrings.

GordonVG said...

Will: My point, as I've mentioned, is about the ambiguity of authorship: and the extent to which authors are dependent on previous authors for everything they do. I don't personally see how the copyright status of Pride and Prejudice is relevant to this point, although I'm happy to be enlightened.
----------------------
I thought that bringing up J. D. Salinger as a counterexample was pretty clear, but here's a brief attempt at explaining:

You're arguing that copyright should be invalid because authors are "dependent on previous authors for everything they do."

To back up this point, you bring in an example of a book that exists only because one of the authors' works are no longer protected by copyright. (In fact, the book exists *specifically* because Jane Austen's works are in the public domain.)

So I tried to show that if a writer attempted the same thing with a work under copyright, that work could not be published in the US legally.

That is to say, copyright laws have rules and guidelines detailing how much of an author's work can be derived from another author's work. They're not all ironclad rules and courts sometimes have to make rulings on just how much is allowed, but what I'm saying is that there are lots of precedents and guidelines.

You seem to be arguing be that these rules and precedents should all be discarded because every book is derivative of other books on some level.

Lots of luck to you if you want to get a court in the United States to take up your cause. While you're at it, you might want to see about getting every patent overturned. I think you'll have a hard time finding any patented object that isn't derived on some level from another object.

---Gordon V.G.

Will said...

You're arguing that copyright should be invalid because authors are "dependent on previous authors for everything they do."

To back up this point, you bring in an example of a book that exists only because one of the authors' works are no longer protected by copyright. (In fact, the book exists *specifically* because Jane Austen's works are in the public domain.)


Ok. I see what you're saying now, and I partially agree. My point in bringing up that example was to illustrate that there are simple examples where "authorship" cannot be readily defined: with the hope of expressing that I think in all cases, authorship is extremely difficult to define. Not in the "who wrote this book" sense, but in the "what proportion of your ideas are actually original" sense.

Because I feel that only a tiny proportion of the ideas in any new piece of art are actually original: I think it's not justified to give a single person absolute copyright over that art. To do so you must ignore all the cultural/social components of that work: and deny the culture that is arguably responsible for the majority of the work the right to copy or access it freely.

Is what I'm trying to say more clear now?

You seem to be arguing be that these rules and precedents should all be discarded because every book is derivative of other books on some level.

To an extent. I am a huge fan of attribution protection: so if someone copied a book of Nancy's and distributed it as their own, I would be quite happy for her to take them to court. If someone this book and distributed it (on a non-profit basis), while freely admitting that Nancy wrote it, then I would have absolutely no problem with it.

Lots of luck to you if you want to get a court in the United States to take up your cause. While you're at it, you might want to see about getting every patent overturned. I think you'll have a hard time finding any patented object that isn't derived on some level from another object.

I'm not actually interested in pursuing this in the United States. For various macroeconomic reasons, the US is the single most pro-copyright country in the world. In fact, I am currently involved in defending New Zealand and the world against copyright and patent aggression instigated by the United States, via the ACTA treaty. Can provide more info on this if you're interested, or not. Economic imperialism is interesting, but maybe irrelevant to this discussion.

Currently this is something I am trying to achieve in New Zealand: although the EU is another place that it might be possible. Non-profit filesharing is, for example, already completely legal in Spain (http://mashable.com/2010/03/16/file-sharing-legal-ispain/), and semi-legal in Canada.

OrenB said...

I have seen some points both good and just plain wrong tossed around on the concepts affected by Nancy's situation.

There's a VERY short list of points I am going to invoke as MY viewpoint- and it would be interesting to see a world that accepted them as BINDING.

1:When you "make" something that can be copied- anyone wishing to copy it ethically is obligated to follow your "rules" about copying.

2: #1 is qualified by assignment or encumbrances of the common sense type that are customary for works of that "type"

Well, *IF* we had a world where folks accepted that Honorable persons simply do not break such rules at all? But we don't have such worlds nor such persons in any great numbers.

I heard a phrasing of topical value to close with:

If it ain't your property-it ain't to be touched.

halojones-fan said...

Will: "It's not possible to make meaningful analogies between concrete goods and information, because their intrinsic properties are different."

Wait, didn't you agree with me when I said that the protections afforded to physical goods were as arbitrary as those given to information? And that therefore it was useless to claim that there was some unique property to information that means it should not be protected as strongly as physical goods?

"as I've said before, we've got clear evidence that the consensus you claim exists on the topic of copyright doesn't."

Actually, the consensus DOES exist; all you're doing is "neener neener i dont believe u".

Incidentally, just to humor you, I looked at that "Harvard Research" you linked earlier. It claims:

1) There are more creative works now than there were in the past, and filesharing exists, therefore filesharing does not affect the creation of new creative works.

2) Breaking the law only matters if you actually benefit from it.

3) Certain forms of creative work are inherently dependent on copyright infringement.

4) People tried to use piracy arguments against VCRs but that didn't stop VCRs.

5) People prefer to preview works and identify ones they like, and this is a primary use of copyright infringement via filesharing.

6) Creators can/should make money from ancillary goods instead of the actual creative work.

7) Creators shouldn't be in it for the money anyway.

1: Correlation-causation fallacy.

2: Sorry, son, but that just ain't how the law works.

3: Actually, what's going on here is that a bunch of lazy idiots can't be arsed to GET PERMISSION FIRST, because it's like all hard man and I like wanna do this now man.

4: Yes, but A) videotapes and DVDs have anti-copying systems (what we now call "DRM"), B) the broadcast movies and shows in question have commercials in them (and the broadcast version is often of degraded quality relative to a standalone purchase), and C) premium movie channels charge an expensive monthly fee.

5: Perhaps this argument was valid back in 1994--and strictly from a practicality standpoint, at that--but now there are numerous ways of previewing media works which are both free and legal.

6: Not every creator is a furry anime webcomic artist with a link to CafePress on his sidebar. (Note that this paragraph of the paper cites Cory Doctorow, who has a steady gig as a columnist and doesn't need to sell books to make money.)

7: You know what? Screw it. I made it to Page 5 and I can't take any more of this. I skimmed the rest of it, saw a table listing artist incomes, and figured that I had better things to do with my time. Hit "Publish Your Comment".

Will said...

1:When you "make" something that can be copied- anyone wishing to copy it ethically is obligated to follow your "rules" about copying.

2: #1 is qualified by assignment or encumbrances of the common sense type that are customary for works of that "type"


Whereas my viewpoint is more akin to:

1. If you make something that can be copied, people are ethically obligated to give you kudos as the author, for as long as this is technologically possible.

2. If you have something that you could share with and thus benefit others at no cost to yourself, you are ethically obligated to do so.


Wait, didn't you agree with me when I said that the protections afforded to physical goods were as arbitrary as those given to information?


I agreed with you when you said that all property rights are formed from social consensus. That does not mean I think information and goods are the same thing: nor that property rights would be the same for both if we were forming them in an evidence-based fashion.

Actually, the consensus DOES exist; all you're doing is "neener neener i dont believe u".

So the consensus exists, in spite of all the people who don't agree with you? Doesn't sound much like a consensus to me.

Incidentally, just to humor you, I looked at that "Harvard Research" you linked earlier.

Scare quotes? The man is a well-respected economist, and he does specialise in this stuff. Vastly more educated on the topic than either of us.

1: Correlation-causation fallacy.

If you'd bothered reading the methodology, you'd discover that this is not the case. Economists have this hammered into them from about age three: it's a mistake far too elementary to slip into peer-reviewed research.

2: Sorry, son, but that just ain't how the law works.

This is a combination of the Appeal to Law and Is-Ought fallacies.

3: Actually, what's going on here is that a bunch of lazy idiots can't be arsed to GET PERMISSION FIRST, because it's like all hard man and I like wanna do this now man.

Two things here. First, once again, you're putting the cart before the horse, and assuming the power to grant or revoke permission as both necessary as good. Secondly, this point is well argued. I am a DJ. All DJs who do any form of controllerism/turntablism/mashup work breach copyright in many jurisdictions. There are other examples of this: art forms that depend on copyright infringement for their existence are common.

4: Yes, but A) videotapes and DVDs have anti-copying systems (what we now call "DRM"), B) the broadcast movies and shows in question have commercials in them (and the broadcast version is often of degraded quality relative to a standalone purchase), and C) premium movie channels charge an expensive monthly fee.

DRM. Expensive, painful, dangerous and utterly ineffective.

Historical context is important. People have fought viciously against every new technology that has affected copyright, and always lost. I'd hate to think how much worse off we'd be now if they'd ever won.

5: Perhaps this argument was valid back in 1994--and strictly from a practicality standpoint, at that--but now there are numerous ways of previewing media works which are both free and legal.

That rather depends on what the work is and what you consider acceptable previewing, among other factors. Besides, as the paper suggests, this previewing process is benefiting artists, regardless of any alternatives you might prefer people to be using.

6: Not every creator is a furry anime webcomic artist with a link to CafePress on his sidebar. (Note that this paragraph of the paper cites Cory Doctorow, who has a steady gig as a columnist and doesn't need to sell books to make money.)

At what point did the paper suggest anything of the sort?

doesn't need to sell books to make money.

Exactly.

Phenimore said...

Will, email is phe ni more at gmail com,

I think that if people would just read over the thoughts the pirate was sharing above without passing judgement on them you will find an interesting undertone that is, quite frankly, the future of shared ideas. its simply the next step in the distribution of information. the radio changed music and actually helped develop the modern music market that is once again evolving because of the net... literature is no different.

Nancy once again thank you for seeding this conversation. I was not familiar with your writing before but will now aquaint myself post haste. just as an example: First I will access it freely at my public library and, if I find it rewarding, will eventually purchase it probably first from a reseller on amazon, then eventually, will buy it and you will
get a tiny percentage of my reward for, what I am sure, is your very hard work.

flo said...

I think that if people would just read over the thoughts the pirate was sharing above without passing judgement on them you will find an interesting undertone that is, quite frankly, the future of shared ideas. its simply the next step in the distribution of information. the radio changed music and actually helped develop the modern music market that is once again evolving because of the net... literature is no different.

I think this is really gets gist of this discussion: Some simply cannot see a way how distribution of literature can change without themselves becoming uncomfortable or having to change their ways. This is hard of course, but in my mind necessary for progress. Think how writing changed the exchange of ideas when before you had to know the right people personally to gain knowledge. When writing was at last well stablished among a certain caste, printing again changed the playing field by allowing far faster and cheaper spread of books when before they had to be copied by hand:

- Pre-writing: Know someone who has the information you seek.
- Pre-printing: Seek out or find the (sometimes only) library where the book that contains what you want to know may be stored.
- Post-printing: Procure the book you want or look it up in most or at least one of several libraries available to you.

The next step is upon us now where text will be available not just as printed letters, but as ethereal information that can be cross-referenced and made available almost instantly, from almost anywhere. If you want to stop this development, you effectively have to outlaw the internet and some people seem to try very hard toward that end.

I might even go so far as to suggest that this move might improve the material available for consumption: Creating something, wether a literary piece of work, an encyclopedia or a dry-to-the-bones book on technical expertise in a certain field, is hard work. Before printing, you basically had to know how to write in addition to having the motivation to write and having a skill or topic worth writing about. There was also a very, very limited audience you could write FOR, so there was pretty much no gain in it. You wrote a book because you deemed important what you wrote about.
With printing, you had a bit of a wider audience and with ever better technology emerging, you could sell books to pretty much everyone. Mass-marketing. With the chance of capturing a really wide audience, but all the while having distribution monopolized by publishers, might have lead to an abundance of simply mediocre and bad writing:

- Pre-writing: No books.
- Pre-printing: Books were a treasure and not many people could even read one. People dedicated entire lives toward writing just one book.
- Post-printing: Books became ever more common just as more and more people knew how to read them. This allowed also more people to become authors and sometimes to even make a living off writing.

But here is the catch as I see it: By allowing to live off of writing (and the prospect of even gaining immense wealth if you just tickle the right syllables), you encourage a mass of authors to spew out uncountable masses of books. And a lot of them will be rubbish to most people, designed to draw a few pennies in the hopes of getting rich.

I think that with the threshold to publish getting lower and lower, while the chance of making a living off of it becoming smaller, this might just serve as an evolutionary quality control, in that people that write not to educate, preserve knowledge or raise awareness will simply be discouraged to write in the first place.

OrenB said...

I propose disposing of all the whingings that abrogate TANSTAAFL.

Nancy has to eat so she can write.

flo said...

Please do not think I disrespect any fictional writing because of my last comment, I very much feel that such literature can contribute very much to society by writing about current events in a seemingly neutral setting or postulation societal and technological advances, not least to simply entertain.

Abraxas Z said...

Thanks everyone for the entertaining read. I just want to toss in my two cents.

Someone had dismissed libraries as non-threatening because of the limited availability of books. However, many libraries are now offering ebooks.

Nearly everyone is in favor of libraries, but we've forgotten what a tremendously radical thing libraries really are/were. But we support them because they serve a noble and just cause. But how will you respond when they perfect their system with ebooks?

I believe that filesharing truly does help artists and most any artist who has embraced it will tell you it has benefited them. Not only does it cut out do-nothing middle-men, it frees you to do your purest work and garners you a greater percentage.

I am a consumer and a file-sharer. Yesterday, I bought my 20th or so Frank Black album, but I only ever heard his music by getting an album online. Nancy, this past summer, a friend lent me "Beggars in Spain." I didn't pay you and, as it turns out, I won't be paying you. It's not that I didn't like it (I did and hope it's turned into a good sf movie); it's that I never would have bought the book on my own and Beggars didn't inspire me to read any others. That sounds harsh, but the point is that a person who isn't going to buy your book just isn't going to buy your book, no matter what. My friend loved the book and bought all your other books, just as I fell in love with Frank Black's music and bought all of his albums. I also attend a lot of shows and buy merchandise, which earns artists a greater profit than their corporate controlled albums (plenty of suggestions have been made for how authors can continue making money). You can't say that filesharers are depriving artists of income. Choices have to be made. You're not losing money on borrowers, you're only potentially gaining money from them.

The amazing thing about art, for me, is this: If someone furnishes, say, a footstool, but no one buys that footstool, no more footstools are made. Art, good art, on the other hand, will continue to be produced whether or not anyone's buying. There're some here who've argued that filesharers reject opposing thought merely because we looooove stealing. Well, an argument could be made that proponents of intellectual copyright reject opposing thought merely because they love money. I'm not arguing that. We're all human and I'm not asking you to turn down money for your works. But whose argument is more convenient? The pro-intellectual copyright team is sticking their fingers in their ears and ignoring the world around them rather than learning to adapt. Why be so stubborn? Learn to swim.

halojones-fan said...

Learning to adapt? To what? To FUCKING WHAT?

How are you supposed to adapt to people stealing your fucking work? No, fuck you Will, I'm done with civility here. You are taking something without paying for it. That is wrong. It doesn't matter that you wouldn't have bought it, it doesn't matter that you didn't like it, it doesn't matter if thousands of other people do it every day and it's super easy and it doesn't feel like stealing, it doesn't matter if you never even fucking look at it. The deal is this: you pay and then you get, otherwise you're stealing.

I think the issue here is that most people don't think of themselves as bad people; and only bad people would steal; ipso facto what they do is not stealing.

玉鳳 said...

Unable to give you a heart. so have a reply to push up your post. ........................................

Abraxas Z said...

I also think it's interesting to consider Chaucer.

Nancy, suppose someone were able to memorize one of your books, entirely. Would you take them to court for telling it over the course of several days while sitting around a campfire?

Chaucer is not noted for his originality. He stole the majority of his works. His versions were simply among the first to be recorded. What he and other story-tellers relied on was the oral tradition: public readings, donations, and word of mouth. So maybe no one can memorize your entire book. But surely that can recall the basic plot and fill in the rest. And what of poetry. Anyone can memorize a poem and read it aloud, for money even. Buskers do it all the time and some make quite a lot of money doing it. Who takes buskers to court? Filesharing is not even for profit.

The Burgomeister offers up to forty dollars US for titles he wants (if memory serves. it was on his site). So the argument that libraries pay more for their copies doesn't hold here either.

Abraxas Z said...

halojones:
I am not Will.

Borrowing a book from a friend is wrong? Libraries are bad? Curiouser and curiouser.

Will said...

How are you supposed to adapt to people stealing your fucking work? No, fuck you Will, I'm done with civility here. You are taking something without paying for it. That is wrong. It doesn't matter that you wouldn't have bought it, it doesn't matter that you didn't like it, it doesn't matter if thousands of other people do it every day and it's super easy and it doesn't feel like stealing, it doesn't matter if you never even fucking look at it. The deal is this: you pay and then you get, otherwise you're stealing.

I didn't make that comment, actually. I do agree with it entirely though: so I'll defend it.

Filesharers are taking nothing: they are copying. This has been discussed at length in this thread: and your uncivil assertions to the contrary simply don't change that. You're comparing apples with oranges and insisting that we respect the juxtaposition.

If you outright refuse to listen to anything filesharers say, then we will stop listening to you: and not bother giving you a chance to voice your opinions in future. Personally, I don't think that's a good outcome for anyone, but there's only so much effort anyone is willing to invest in trying to have dialog with people who are, it seems, basically fundamentalist about complex issues.

I think the issue here is that most people don't think of themselves as bad people; and only bad people would steal; ipso facto what they do is not stealing.

Your argument is tautological: it boils down to "filesharing is bad because it's bad". You're outright rejecting the notion that there could be any other possible interpretation, and engaging in ad hominem attacks on an entire group of people who disagree with you. If you actually want to get involved in copyright issues and make a real difference, this won't help you.

Will said...

I propose disposing of all the whingings that abrogate TANSTAAFL.

Nancy has to eat so she can write.


Sure. That doesn't mean that copyright is the only mechanism via which she can eat, or even the best one.

GordonVG said...

Will: Sure. That doesn't mean that copyright is the only mechanism via which she can eat, or even the best one.
-------------------------------
Copyright might not be the best mechanism, but it *is* the law and until a better mechanism is in place, ought not one abide by the law?

---Gordon Van Gelder

halojones-fan said...

Will's point is that he doesn't think the law is valid and so he shouldn't have to obey it.

He proposes no mechanism by which authors would be compensated for creative work--well, unless you consider his citation of Important Papers Written By Smart Guys At Harvard (wherein it's claimed that authors should live off of T-shirt sales and voluntary donations.)

"Your argument is tautological: it boils down to "filesharing is bad because it's bad"."

You haven't cited anything either, except for a paper that bases its reasoning on correlation-causation fallacies and similarly shoddy research. The fact that most cars are not stolen doesn't mean that car theft should not be punished.

flo said...

He proposes no mechanism by which authors would be compensated for creative work--well, unless you consider his citation of Important Papers Written By Smart Guys At Harvard (wherein it's claimed that authors should live off of T-shirt sales and voluntary donations.)


As a matter of fact, several alternative models have been described by both myself and (mostly) Will:

- public reimbursement (society pays authors based on their popularity)
- donations and merchandise: You generate the content itself for free, and make money through voluntary donations or the sale of merchandise.
- 'ransom': An author self-publishes chapter for chapter, but only after a certain goal in donations (or call it fees) has been reached.

Self-publishing will in my mind become ever more popular, as physical books fall by the wayside. When an author writes in machine-readable format, all that stands between an ebook publishing is a thorough proof-reading and possibly a format conversion. This takes an editorial staff and a small IT department: Publishers might have to resign themselves to being service providers to authors instead of the defacto-copyright holders and sole purveyor of the authors written works as it is now.

Jack Skillingstead said...

"- public reimbursement (society pays authors based on their popularity)"

This has never worked. Stephen King was the first high profile writer to try it. You could even argue he is popular. He began publishing a long story (The Plant) in installments, requesting people donate some small amount per download. Some did. Most didn't. He stopped the story. King is beloved by his fans. He was asking for a buck donation. They didn't pony up. Why should they have? Anybody could take the story whether they donated or not. The mentality of file sharers, etc. is that everything is free, and if it's not then it's being controlled by evil business people or whatever. King is beloved by his fans. He was asking for a buck donation. They didn't pony up. Why should they have? Anybody could take the story whether they donated or not. Just like now. The donation model doesn't work, period.


"Self-publishing will in my mind become ever more popular, as physical books fall by the wayside."

It's already pretty popular. Virtually anybody, at minimum cost, can produce a nice looking pod book or e-book. Almost all of them are dreadful. This model appeals to people who don't want to get their feelings hurt by mean editors and legitimate publishers who might not be enchanted by amateur efforts. There's nothing wrong with being an amateur, but the idea is to get better and eventually write something good. In the arts this is accomplished by a dedicate commitment to the work. People who want to dash something off and immediately "publish" their effort on the net do not demonstrate the necessary stamina to be writers of any worth. I'm not saying they couldn't demonstrate it, just that they don't. It's the same I-want-it-now-without-making-any-effort attitude that drives a lot of activity on the web. Nobody wants to work his ass off in obscurity for years. It's depressing. Self-publishing cloddish prose and then waiting for the donations to roll in is depressing AND embarrassing, not to mention naive.

OrenB said...

It seems that no consideration here is given to the nature of "Who" is getting paid- or not. And asking why also seems to have been left unstated.

SHUT UP! is my unashamed scream at critics etc prattling about how an author's rights can be best nullified. If you have something constructive to share about how an author can survive as an author- I bet Nancy- and us would love to hear it!

If you want to bemoan a cruel world that denies you a free lunch? Please do so in a place where you are not mocking the person hosting the party you are using for your soapbox. Make no mistake about my intent either.

Speaking from MY viewpoint alone- Nancy tried to be a gentlebeing and informed the person posting her works that there was an express REFUSAL of permission.

Well- I won't speculate on how anyone else reading my comments was raised, but I was taught that such a statement was simply not disputable. It was not a matter for quibbling. If you were a person of honor. Sadly it seems that Honor is deader than Common Sense in some social realms.

Oh, there was always some *PRIVATE* Quid Pro Quo dialog between parties as simple civility. Which likely "might" offer a fix to our present Anarchy. I openly disclaim any wisdom on HOW authors can survive when their works are perceived as not needing to be paid for in ANY method. I can totally safely presume one concrete reality.

Were it instantly made so-that YOU were told that your next paycheck would be only single pennies per hour-you would not be happy.

Welcome to the result of your "it should be free" logic. Ayn Rand wrote a cautionary tale that retold the lesson of why ALL debts are concrete even if for intangible objects.

My head hurts contemplating how irrational folks can be when it's someone else's paycheck they are dividing up THEIR share of claim upon.

flo said...

This has never worked. Stephen King was the first high profile writer to try it. You could even argue he is popular. He began publishing a long story (The Plant) in installments, requesting people donate some small amount per download. Some did. Most didn't. He stopped the story. King is beloved by his fans. He was asking for a buck donation. They didn't pony up. Why should they have? Anybody could take the story whether they donated or not. The mentality of file sharers, etc. is that everything is free, and if it's not then it's being controlled by evil business people or whatever. [..] Just like now. The donation model doesn't work, period.

This is not what public reimbursement is about, you are talking about donations... Which of course is not the only option that was presented. You could come up with something else entirely as well , of course.

But to speak of 'The Plant' by SK (I had to read up on it, as I had never heard of it before). Here the timeline I could piece together:

- King offered to 'sell' 'The Plant' in installments of 27 pages, each costing 1$, if people were honest enough to maintain a 75% donor to downloader ratio.
- The first installment was downloaded upwards of 120.000 times with a very decent ratio.
- The next two issues also received a high number of downloads with good (>75%) ratios.
- The fourth issue had its 'price' (what King would have liked to receive for it) RAISED to two dollars. Downloads dropped (to 40.000 I believe) while the ratio sunk to 46%. King seemed to try to offset the increase in doubling the amount of pages delivered.
- The fifth and sixth issue were published, as they seemed to be already finished, but were not well received.
- King stopped publishing then and even removed all previous installments from his homepage (the only place where they could be gotten 'legally').

- In the End, King seems to have made upwards of 700.000$ in half a year with his ebook that he did not finish to date and has not announced plans to do so.

King had not given an expected final price of his book until the fourth installment, when he announced to expect to make 13$ off of a person that paid for all installments as King released them. So he expected people to pay him more than a 1000+pg. monster like 'The Stand' could be gotten for and not have a book in hand at the end of it. He did not even make promises to finish installments to allow people that had already paid to finish the book.

I think this experiment points toward a success rather than a failure. After all, for a bit over 200 pages, King got a whole lot of money, all the while expecting his readers to be faithful to him while he himself let those that paid drop under the rug. And yes, his initial rules for this experiment allowed him to do that... but still, the initial rules were far from complete:

* There was no upper 'donation limit' set for the book.
* Rules were changed mid-experiment by varying the 'price'.
* There was no provision to be made for people that might want to pay after the book was finished or at least foreseeably being finished.

Also, seeing as the story was an two-decades old dusty piece he decided to warm up, maybe quality just fell off for readers and they decided to hold out on paying.

TheOFloinn said...

Because I feel that only a tiny proportion of the ideas in any new piece of art are actually original: I think it's not justified to give a single person absolute copyright over that art. To do so you must ignore all the cultural/social components of that work: and deny the culture that is arguably responsible for the majority of the work the right to copy or access it freely.

That's not very original. Of course, the post-modern culture is largely responsible for the notion that authorship is "undefined," and this in turn is due to the slow collapse of Modern civilization. By the same token a man who fashions an axe from a piece of wood and a lump of metal is not entitled to the axe because his work is "derivative" of the work of others. The Vanguard is therefore perfectly justified in taking it away from him and giving it to someone who needs it more, usually a relative of one of the Vanguard. After all, the axe is merely information. It is completely defined by the drawings and instructions for shaping it.

In fact, one marker of the modern collapse, as noted by Barzun in the 1950s is the gradual replacement of "I think that..." By "I feel that..." Thus, you feel that only a tiny proportion ... are [sic] actually original. And who can argue with so subjective a notion as feelings.

TheOFloinn said...

For various macroeconomic reasons, the US is the single most pro-copyright country in the world.

An interesting factoid, if true. What proportion of creative works are originated in the US? E.g., pharmaceutical patents, novels, electromechanical inventions, scientific theories, etc. If the proportion of creative people is constant the world 'round, you would expect to find more creative activity in a country of 300 million than in a country of, say, 4 million. Further, there is far greater opportunity for cross-fertilization since the number of interactions is a factorial function of the number of nodes.

Will said...

Copyright might not be the best mechanism, but it *is* the law and until a better mechanism is in place, ought not one abide by the law?

That depends on the law. If there's a law that criminalises sodomy, ought a gay man not sleep with his partner until that law is changed? I don't think there's any moral imperative to obey the law: and there are many situations in which it is best ignored.

You haven't cited anything either, except for a paper that bases its reasoning on correlation-causation fallacies and similarly shoddy research. The fact that most cars are not stolen doesn't mean that car theft should not be punished.

I have posted links to several other studies in this thread. The correlation-causation fallacy you reference is not present: as you'd discover if you read the entire paper, or had a working knowledge of economics.

Car theft is another red herring.


Well- I won't speculate on how anyone else reading my comments was raised, but I was taught that such a statement was simply not disputable. It was not a matter for quibbling. If you were a person of honor. Sadly it seems that Honor is deader than Common Sense in some social realms.

Personally, I was raised rather successfully by a family of secular humanist academics.

Your views on honour presuppose your beliefs about permission. I am denying you permission to use a computer for the next 24 hours. Is it dishonourable for you to ignore this?

Welcome to the result of your "it should be free" logic. Ayn Rand wrote a cautionary tale that retold the lesson of why ALL debts are concrete even if for intangible objects.

In this part of the world, Ayn Rand is something between a comic-book villain and a source of lulz. Not the best author to cite if you want to be taken seriously. Just FYI.

That's not very original.

Exactly. It's far from original: I copied it from a friend after a conversation one day. He came up with it by making a slight adaption to an idea someone else had. I've extended the idea a little bit, into dealing with attribution on computers: but I wouldn't claim any kind of ownership.

By the same token a man who fashions an axe from a piece of wood and a lump of metal is not entitled to the axe because his work is "derivative" of the work of others. The Vanguard is therefore perfectly justified in taking it away from him and giving it to someone who needs it more, usually a relative of one of the Vanguard. After all, the axe is merely information. It is completely defined by the drawings and instructions for shaping it.

You're making the same mistake I've referenced before: comparing tangibles with intangibles. No one suggesting taking the axe. That would be theft. I am suggesting that it would be perfectly legitimate to take the information defining the axe, and use it to make an exact copy.

Historically, making copies of things has been expensive: so the value of each unit was high. Now it's cheap: so the value of each unit is low, and there can be as many axes as we want.

What is this "Vanguard" you are referring to?

Of course, the post-modern culture is largely responsible for the notion that authorship is "undefined," and this in turn is due to the slow collapse of Modern civilization.

Can you explain to me in what way the "modern civilisation" is collapsing? I'm reasonably certain it isn't: but I could be wrong.

In fact, one marker of the modern collapse, as noted by Barzun in the 1950s is the gradual replacement of "I think that..." By "I feel that..." Thus, you feel that only a tiny proportion ... are [sic] actually original. And who can argue with so subjective a notion as feelings.

I would be happy to replace "I feel" with "I think" in this context. Feel free to do so, if you prefer the latter phrasing.

Will said...

An interesting factoid, if true. What proportion of creative works are originated in the US? E.g., pharmaceutical patents, novels, electromechanical inventions, scientific theories, etc. If the proportion of creative people is constant the world 'round, you would expect to find more creative activity in a country of 300 million than in a country of, say, 4 million. Further, there is far greater opportunity for cross-fertilization since the number of interactions is a factorial function of the number of nodes.


Interesting question. I doubt that would be possible to measure, and I certainly don't know.

I do know that the US is economically much more dependent on "IP" than other countries: with an economy that's focused more on IP and services than production. This is why the US pushes treaties like ACTA and TRIPS.

I suspect that, rather than meaning the US produces more creative works (which is unlikely), it means the US relies more on IP around their creative works as an economic process. Essentially, creativity is treated as an economic enterprise in the US (backed up by copyright and patents), whereas creativity is treated as a social enterprise elsewhere. This would certainly fit with the (rather well documented) eccentricities of US culture: where things are valued based more on their economic impact than elsewhere.

TheOFloinn said...

Filesharers are taking nothing: they are copying.

Heh. On my very first post, I quoted another blogger who had been writing on another issue entirely [the efforts of some to justify the use of torture], to wit:

One of the many patterns I have noticed among people who labor to excuse huge evils is that they are incredibly sensitive about minor linguistic points. ... This tendency to strain at linguistic gnats and swallow moral camels is one of the warning signs I now look for when detecting the presence of evil.

Of course, the very issue is copyright.

Here's a test by substitution:
Spies are not taking nuclear secrets, they are copying nuclear secrets.

There also seems to be a deliberate conflation of the act of theft with some sort of duty to support a particular notion of Progress. But it is entirely possible to believe that the future of publishing will be electronic, even to be enthusiastic about it, and still desire that permission be asked before copying.

"Hi, I'm going to copy your work electronically and give it away to others in return for donations to my web site."

"You do not have my permission to do so."

"What?! You mean you're against Progress and the Internet? Electronics is the future of publishing!!!!"

"It may well be. But that is not the issue."
+ + +
Copyright was a product of the Enlightenment and, as the Enlightenment dies, perhaps copyright will die with it. The Unenlightened will triumph. Maybe.

But note that the idea is very nearly coterminous with mass book production and that copyright was the social response to the ease with which books could now be copied -- and changed.

By 1500, there were a thousand presses operating in Western Europe, having produced 8 million individual books. [These are modern estimates, of course.] A tipping point was reached in the number of presses and they began pirating works to print and sell. This meant that unauthorized [note: un-author-ized] changes could be made to the author's texts. The new technology allowed this; and sometimes the pirate press would make its own changes to the books it appropriated. By 1700 this has become a serious problem, and the first copyright law was the result. The author had full control of the content of the book. Changes had to be author-ized, and this meant that the author had to retain control over who had the right to copy the work.

The argument that because copying and changing the text have now become even easier the safeguards should be loosened is awe-inspiring.

If we suppose the modern notions of logic and reason - and hence, of texts and "I think that..." survive, the social response is likely to be more stringent protections for authors.

But if we suppose the final collapse of bourgeois sensibilities and the triumph of icon over logos, of image over idea, of "I feel that..." over "I think that..." then the opposite may well happen. As a result, even fewer will be able to eke out a a living at writing. [Those who posted that writers like copyright because they are greedy for money have obviously never labored at writing.]

TheOFloinn said...

Flo wrote in response to halojones:
As a matter of fact, several alternative models have been described by both myself and (mostly) Will:

- public reimbursement (society pays authors based on their popularity)


This is called "book sales." The publisher collects a portion for the cost of copying and distributing and passes the rest along to the author. In the e-model, in which the cost of copying and distributing is nil, then all of the price of securing and reading a copy should go to the author and none to the "[other people's]filesharer."

- donations and merchandise: You generate the content itself for free, and make money through voluntary donations or the sale of merchandise.

This is what halojones noted as selling T-shirts of your book. It was probably suggested by someone who has never written and sold a book.

- 'ransom': An author self-publishes chapter for chapter, but only after a certain goal in donations (or call it fees) has been reached.

Sure, that'll work.

Self-publishing will in my mind become ever more popular, as physical books fall by the wayside.

Books in general will fall by the wayside as people lose the ability for the close reading of texts. It's already happening.

Free books! You get what you pay for.

TheOFloinn said...

Will: The US has this thing called a Constitution, a relic of the Enlightenment and one of the products of the Enlightenment was the granting of copyright to authors for a limited time. [We can debate what the time limit should be.] This was established when the US was still a largely agrarian nation, so I don't think the transition to a service economy was a factor.

I don't think it is astonishing that a country of 300 million people may produce more creative work than a country of 4 million people. If genuine creativity is "one in a million", that's still 300 in the US and 4 in the other country. Those countries with larger populations - only China and India - have other internal impediments to creativity.

We could consult lists of Nobel prize winners in the sciences for another tack on the matter; or lists of original patents.

GordonVG said...

Will: That depends on the law. If there's a law that criminalises sodomy, ought a gay man not sleep with his partner until that law is changed? I don't think there's any moral imperative to obey the law: and there are many situations in which it is best ignored.
----------------------------
So are you saying you're above the law?

Good luck to you with that:

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/world-news/woman-fined-19-mn-for-illegal-download_100206816.html

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/06/riaa-jury-slaps-2-million-fine-on-jammie-thomas/

http://www.zadanews.com/2009/12/17/gilberto-sanchez-arrested-for-uploading-wolverine-to-megaupload/

---Gordon Van Gelder

Abraxas Z said...

"So are you saying you're above the law?"

Are you saying you want all gay people put on an island somewhere?

I mean really.

GordonVG said...

Abraxas: "So are you saying you're above the law?"

Are you saying you want all gay people put on an island somewhere?

I mean really.
--------------------------
Nice job of trying to misconstrue what I said, Abraxas. Would you also like to know when I stopped beating my wife?

In point of fact, what I want for gay people, or lesbians, or straights, or any other particular group, is irrelevant. I am not the law. I am a citizen. I abide by the law. When I don't like a law, I do what I can to change it---using my vote, communicating my feelings to my representatives, etc. I don't feel it's my place to decide that it's best to ignore the law, as Will says. If I do ignore or break the law---and hey, at 8:25 am on Tuesday I parked my car in a place where there's no parking from 8:00 am to 9:00 am---I'm willing to pay the price for my infraction.

I have to add that Will's analogy of likening civil rights like gay rights to property rights like copyright strikes me as being way off the mark. I just can't see Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King marching on Washington so that they can have the right to download books online without authorization from the rightsholders. Nor do I see courts showing support for any such efforts (which is largely why I added those links).

But who knows? I don't a crystal ball. I mean, ten years ago, I thought most book publishers, agents, booksellers, and authors would have worked out some relative industry standards for e-book selling by now.

---Gordon V.G.

GordonVG said...

Oops, make that, "I don't *have* a crystal ball."

Private said...
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Private said...
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Abraxas Z said...

GordonVG, I'm not sure one can TRY to misconstrue something. But whatever. I didn't naturally misconstrue it either. I was merely extending your comment to the inflammatory ends that you extended Will's. My point was that you didn't address the issue. You only tried to rouse ire through some time-tested propaganda: do you think you're abooove the law? Will made his point clear. If you don't plan to respond or try to counter it, why bother posting again?

Abraxas Z said...

Good points there, Private.

I also think reining in greed is a great place to start. I don't think that most authors are greedy, but their publishers are. I've read untold apologies for the cost of books, movies, and most other products. But has anyone ever sat down and done the math? I have and costs are, across the board, completely out of whack with average income compared to what they used to be 40 years ago. That Stephen King scam is a prime example. And, by the way, it can't be said enough how shady that whole deal was.

It's willful ignorance that has driven the economy into the ground. Where prices should be going down, they've risen. The whining is intolerable. "But it's not fair that people aren't buying our products. So we'll charge MORE to make up for losses." Everyone is crying "unfair" and it sickens me. As I've said, choices, unfortunately, have to be made in order to make ends meet, but if prices were more reasonable to begin with, maybe fewer choices would be necessary.

Kane said...

So I got blind-linked here and started reading without looking around. The pirate's not a great rhetorician, but I guess I'm inclined to his side by nature.

Now part of that's just a generational thing, but the part that made me laugh after I looked around a bit more is that if you'd asked who first sent me down that path of thinking, it would be Nancy Kress, reading the first 2 Beggars books when I was 13 and thinking about what it meant to not assume scarcity.

That's cute.

Farseer said...

I have actually read through this whole thing, and I found the discussion quite interesting. I think Will made his argument well, and I sympathize with many parts of it. Let's see:

1) Universal and free access to culture would be very nice.

2) I agree that copyright infringement is not the same as theft. (That does not necessarily mean that copyright infringement is good, though).

3) I agree that the right to control the information you have created is not an inalienable right. One could indeed imagine a legitimate model of society where copyright does not exist.

4) From a practical point of view, I believe it's impossible to prevent people from distributing and downloading digital copies. I mean, you can sue some people, but if it becomes a real problem I'm sure they'll design ways to distribute files that are impossible to trace. DRM is just a way to punish people who are actually willing to pay.

On the other hand:

5) I have sympathy for Gordon Van Gelder's argument: even if we disagree with a law, shouldn't we still respect it, and (if we feel strongly enough about it) work to change it with the mechanisms democracy gives us? I mean, that's the civilized way. If people only followed the laws they liked we would be unable to function as a society. Of course, breaking a law could be ethical if the law in question is illegitimate (like that sodomy law), but I'm not convinced that the copyright law is illegitimate. Maybe it's unpractical, and maybe it's not the best model, but that's debatable. I would not call it illegitimate yet.

6) Regarding point 3, one could also imagine a legitimate model of society where private property does not exist. In fact, communism does sound quite altruistic in principle, but we have seen that it doesn't work well at all in practice. Maybe, to a lesser extent, the no copyright model won't work either. I'll elaborate in the next point.

7) Regarding point 1, while free and universal access to culture sounds very good, copyright laws protect authors in the belief that doing so is good for society. For example, Nancy Kress is able to devote a lot of time and effort to her books because she gets paid. If she didn't, she would need a different job and she would devote less time to writing, or maybe she would not write at all. She would be unable to afford editors / proofreaders. Therefore, making it possible for authors to get paid is in the interest of society. I believe this is a crucial point. I don't even mind if extremely popular authors like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling lose some money because of this. I mean, they are already extremely rich; society's interests come first. However, does the model Will proposes make it possible for authors like Nancy to earn a living from their writing? If the answer is yes then I'm all for it. However, I'm still not convinced that this is the case, in spite of the several methods that have been proposed. I mean, I can see that digital downloads may be good for obscure writers or musicians. People may get to know them, and end up buying their discs, books or going to concerts. Will it be good for modestly successful writers like Nancy? Perhaps it will. Cory Doctorow claims so, but I'm still not convinced. Before abolishing copyright, I would like to see more authors try and be successful.

8) Now, point 4 is not an ethical argument, but from a practical point of view it's very strong. I believe you can't defeat piracy, so maybe it would be wise not to fight it and instead find a way to work with it. What's the use of a law you can't enforce?

I have a suggestion, but this is already too long so I'll continue in the next post.

Farseer said...

(continuing from the last post):

I'm Spanish, and here we have an organization called SGAE that, according to Wikipedia, is "the main collecting society for songwriters, composers and music publishers in Spain. It is similar to ASCAP."

This society gets money from the Digital Canon, which is a tax on hard drives, blank CDs and DVDs, MP3 players, etc. (They also get money from radio stations that want to broadcast music, from organizers of public events who want to use music...) They distribute the money to musicians who are members of the organization according to their popularity (measured in sales).

Theoretically, this tax is meant to compensate musicians for the right their buyers have of making a private copy of their work. However, most people here believe that's grossly unfair, since they buy things like hard drives for purposes different to storing copies of those musicians' work. They (correctly in my opinion) believe that they are actually being taxed to compensate musicians for piracy, and since they are already paying for it, why not become a pirate?

Maybe, if we admit that it is indeed compensation for piracy, that model might actually work: Since you can't stop people from making digital copies, why don't allow them to do so? Then compensate by creating a tax on computers and similar devices and distributing it to authors, according to their physical copies sales or some other measurement system. As digital formats become more popular, editorial will have to become service providers to writers. Then, we have free access to information, not free, but paid through a tax.

This could be complemented by some kind of donationware-like system. I mean, I want to help support my favorite writers. I feel strongly about this: they are providing me with many hours of enjoyment and I want them to be compensated for their work. I'm just not sure I want to pay 20$ for them to get 1$. I'd happily pay 5$ or 10$ if I really enjoy the book I have downloaded, in addition to the previously mentioned tax, as long as most of the money goes to the writer. Many other people won't pay, but as long as the writers end up being adequately compensated I can live with that.

patrick said...

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Luke said...

Is the site down now?

GordonVG said...

Just in case anyone is still watching this here blog thread, this article is of much relevance to the discussion:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-20003005-38.html

---Gordon V.G.

Will said...

I am!

I'm very familiar with the ACTA issues, as I was one of the organisers of PublicACTA.org.nz - a counter-summit held in Wellington, NZ recently.

What's being proposed in that article is something called secondary liability. It seems to appeal to the ACTA negotiators, but it's a completely unworkable model. ISPs simply don't have the resources to be able to meet these requirements, and the internet works in such a way that secondary liability would make all carriers/ISPs/infrastructural agents liable for something or other.

DMCA-style safe harbour provisions are also pretty untenable: they're eminently hackable and easy to cause much mischief with.

Likewise, the TPM-protection laws are unworkable. Copyright is the existing model for covering access control, and legally enforcing a secondary model that doesn't respect the legal compromise will ... not work out so well.

In short, it's all a bit shit. Thankfully, it seems that the US is behind most of the ridiculous bits, and that New Zealand won't be signing the treaty if they're left in.

Joe Iriarte said...

I ran across this today, and it reminded me of this conversation: Ursula K. LeGuin on Art, Information, Theft, and Confusion

Somebody up-page somewhere replied to me that the tons and tons of filesharing going on indicates that the consensus is *not* of copyright. I disagree. The numbers of people illegally downloading books aren't, I believe, that significant. I think most people still pay for their novels etc. (And if that isn't true for music, it's because filesharing grew popular on the backs of young teenagers, with little disposable cash, lots of wants, and less-than-fully formed consciences. Teens who don't work are less likely to wonder about the livelihoods that get lost when art is taken but not paid for.)

I'm actually closer to the middle on this than I might sound, though. I think that if artists choose to go the Cory Doctorow route it's probably a good thing. I personally have started reading groups at my school where we read a book that was available in stores and also as a legal download, twice. (Once we read Little Brother, and once we read Uglies, by Cory Doctorow.) The fact that the book was available legally for free influenced my choice, because I didn't want to require buying something to participate. But in each case I actually bought the book, and most of the kids did too. So I believe that making work available for free online can increase sales. Someone spoke derisively about Doctorow in the comments as well, but I don't see anything wrong with him. I don't agree that his profession is "web celebrity" and not author, or whatever it is that was said.

The difference? Choice. The artists *chose* to make their works available this way. I hope the choice pays off for them. I don't think you get to make that choice *for* an artist because you want something badly enough and think paying for it is so last century.

And I agree with LeGuin that a novel is not information--it's art.

nathan said...

I want something.

I don’t want to pay.

So I’m just going to take it without paying.

While I take without compensation the product of another’s labor I’ll decry the whole system as corrupt and flawed; retreat into Logical Fallacies, pseudo-intellectual communism, pop-nihilism and pedantic anarchy.

If I can continue to be as obtusely academic in my speech as possible, despite the death of post-modernism, then suddenly it will be okay to steal.

OR I could simply have the stones to admit I am a thief.

Either way I steal.
But by using tortured arguments the only one I am fooling is myself--and then only because I want to be fooled.

Will said...


Somebody up-page somewhere replied to me that the tons and tons of filesharing going on indicates that the consensus is *not* of copyright. I disagree. The numbers of people illegally downloading books aren't, I believe, that significant. I think most people still pay for their novels etc. (And if that isn't true for music, it's because filesharing grew popular on the backs of young teenagers, with little disposable cash, lots of wants, and less-than-fully formed consciences. Teens who don't work are less likely to wonder about the livelihoods that get lost when art is taken but not paid for.)


I think it's dangerous to A: group opinions by age demographics, and B: dismiss the opinions of specific groups based on their age. I can certainly point of many examples of opinions that have gone from being "what young people think" to socially-standard Received Wisdom.

In some ways, I think the prevalence of filesharing amongst the young is a strong argument in favour of its future social acceptance: consider the parallels between this and listening to rock music as an example.

Filesharing is more prevalent amongst the young, yes, but that group also includes adults in their early and mid 20s. Teenagers now will not be teenagers in a few years, and teenagers during the napster years are now adults.