The Truth About Piracy (Blog)
Use this thread to discuss the following entry from Steve Pavlina's blog:
The Truth About Piracy
When you mentioned that copyrights do not protect ideas, I wondered about the existence of patents which basically gives protection to ideas, especially patents based on math and software. While patents are supposed to protect actual inventions, patents on things like the human genome or exclusive OR statements aren't exactly the kinds of things that people can create alternative inventions for.
As for freedom of choice in licensing, has anyone removed this freedom? I know I've been involved in arguments in which some people complain about the GPL because it forces them to comply to the terms of the license. No one is forcing them to use code licensed under the GPL any more than they are forced to use code licensed under an entirely different set of terms, and yet they complain about the GPL as if it is somehow forcing them to do something they don't want to do. It's just a EULA. If you don't like the terms, then don't agree to them!
I'm not a fan of software patents (or even patents in general) because I think they stifle innovation --too often they serve special interests more than the greater good. The way they're sometimes applied is ridiculous, and IMO the patent office doesn't really have enough collective intelligence to properly administrate them.
Hmmm... Steve, as a member of my country's Pirate Party, I wanted to ask some authors what they think about or proposals on copyright. In very reduced terms, it changed "copyright" for "author's rights", and could be summed up in two sentences:
1º. If you don't get money, you can have a digital copy of it.
2º. If you get money, you must pay the author.
I used to download like crazy when I was a late teen and university student. I know it sounds really bad, but as for me, I couldn't buy many things with the 6 euros a week my Mom gave me when I was studying.
After I started making my own money, I rushed to the libraries and theaters. I support the musicians by buying merchandise: I like Mp3, and I don't go to concerts. Most people I know go to concerts... But everyone wants to try first.
It's difficult to find good stuff, but when I do, I contribute. Of course, I suppose there's people in low states of consciousness who simply think themselves clever if they get everything for free. But that's a scarcity mindset, I suppose it can be avoided. But that's a problem few people have.
Another point about downloads and all that... It used to be "buy first, try later, no refunds". Now I can try first, buy later. I know companies and copyright holders think that it is downloads that make them lose money, but I assure you it's not that. It's just that the artistic field is full of commercial products of no quality. If cinemas played Conan or Labyrinth again, I'd rush to see those movies, despite I've seen them more than three times each. But directives want people to go see Eragon, and blame downloads if people don't. In fact, movie makers can be glad that downloads exist and people can try before going to the cinema. Whenever I go to the cinema and come out disappointed, or feeling cheated of my money, or feeling like my intelligence was insulted, it takes me months to go back again, until I forget the bad experience. But if I had seen Episode II of Star Wars at the cinema, I wouldn't have gone back in two years.
In case any author is reading this post, I'd please ask you to consider having a look at my Party's Proposal on author's rights. I would really, really like to see what other authors would think of it, how other authors would receive it. So if you could give your opinion, I'd be very thankful:
If you think this is spam, please tell me and I will erase this part of the message, or I'll open another thread in the forums. I really would like to know if our proposal is fairly balanced towards all parts:
Proposal on copyright (English version) - Partido_Pirata
I dislike digital piracy, but I also respect it. It's an instrumental and useful force that rather subtly demands change in the ways ownership is viewed.
Here's a way of thinking about things that I just came up with:
Content is culture. Shakespeare, the Beatles, the Matrix, you name it. They're forms of culture. Their importance is not so much the actual frames in the Matrix or in the couplets that Shakespeare wrote, but rather in the ideas that they generate: the culture that suffuses and surrounds them. You can say, "To be or not to be" to just about anyone, or remix it and say, "To study or not to study".
That's premise 1.
Premise 2 is that culture cannot be owned. Culture is something that's collectively created, by virtue of a kind of unconditional sharing that happens. Whether it's one-way "Check out this new piece of code I wrote!", or two-way "Hey, I'll lend you my music collection if you let me borrow some of your movies", culture is developed by a community and defines that community. And since I think we can agree that it's silly to say that something as unstable as a community (what, with all its changes in membership) can actually own something (unless it's a corporation, record label, etc.?), thus culture cannot be owned.
Thus, anything that isn't culture-creating can be owned. Or rather, anything that hasn't created a culture can be owned. What digital piracy feels like (though it isn't in many cases) is a reaction to a control on culture. So if you suppress Mickey Mouse from being copied, digital piracy breaks it open and lets people use Mickey Mouse, if illegally.
Differently, many pirates do it because it's interesting and difficult to do it. I certainly can't hack a keygen program: my coding skills are far and away too minimal to even know where to start. But I admire the people who can do it for their ability to do so; their choice to then distribute their hacks to others is also admirable. It's simply when you put everything together: that the system they're breaking happens to be owned and private, that distributing their achievements is aiding and abetting: that it becomes a bad thing.
Imagine if everyone had the skill and knowledge such that the choice to be a pirate or not were meaningful. That's the situation with common copyright infringement, come to think of it: everyone has the capability to copy and paste. Everyone has the ability to rearrange words and letters into imitative forms. That was kinda the job of the town crier, back in the day: distribute a message as widely as possible, imitating it down to the letter.
I guess not all culture is public. There is, for instance, Skull and Bones culture. But there's no right over how culture is distributed, really. If some sneak goes into a fraternity, records everything they're doing, and posts it on the Internet, it's not a crime, other than trespassing on private property. The actual film isn't criminal.
Just thinking out loud. I've had years to mull over this, and I still don't have a solid argument either way.
'Atlas Shrugged' didn't happen
About a world where there is no copyright: we already been there: hundreds of years ago, in the decades before the existance of copyright, everyone could copy anything like they wanted.
This lead to one very simple solution: secrecy. Everyone tried to keep their special feats secret. Masters of a trade only shared their trade secrets with long year students, or on the deathbed. Some had been so afraid of theft of their intellectual property they only shared it to their family.
And a lot of knowledge has been taken to the grave.
I think this is why copyright did happen: so everyone could share knowledge.
I thought of the same question (fear based thinking)to ask Steve, and the
answer came just before i posted -as usual.
Steve, your article is great, especially the part about Pirate's choice and after that. Also it is interesting that you turn piracy into an actionable meditation. Great!
As an artist whose work was pirated a lot, I can safely say that it didn't do any harm to me, on the contrary it seems to help me.
Do we not require opposites to have a reality?
Love/Hate Happy/Sad Anger/Joy Dumb/Smart Copyright/Piracy
Can anything be real without an opposite.
One interesting suggestion I heard is that music sharing is people's way of routing around the stranglehold that the commercial hit machine has over radio.
The RIAA like to count each song pirated as lost revenue, but in practice:
(a) the vast bulk of people who pirate a song never would have paid for it anyway; and
(b) they make sales that they never would have if not for piracy! ie. People are using filesharing networks to listen to songs and see if they can justify shelling out for the album.
It's also an end-around for how difficult companies make it to take a CD that you legitimately own and copy it to your MP3 player.
I pirate some stuff, and I don't have any qualms about it.
We are abandoning an age in which humongous distributors squeezed the last dime out of the public and out of the authors. And I'm tired of it.
I pirate music. I didn't do it at first, I still bought as many original CDs as I could. But once I learnt about how record labels (i.e. the MAFIAA) pay so few cents to the artists and shackle them with draconian practices (let alone the current trend of sueing P2P users), I stopped buying CDs. I grab the MP3, then I go to the live shows and buy a T-shirt. The artists see more money from me if I buy the ticket and some merchandising, that if I had bought several copies of the CD. In the very strange cases I get to personally know the artist, I invite them to beers.
I don't pirate books, even if there's a nice digital copy available. They are not really overpriced, and the writers don't seem to be as upset with their publishers. I might get both the dead tree and the PDF versions, and use the digital copy when convenient, but if I see a book I like in a store shelf, I grab it on the spot.
I pirate movies, since so many of them are crap. I like to see the good ones in the big screen, but I feel very annoyed when I pay good money and the movie is utterly bad (which seems to be the majority of current movies). Thus I can see which ones are worth going to the cinema to see them. Heck, if I hand't downloaded Episode I from the net, I might have gone to the cinema to see it ;).
I don't pirate software. Mostly because I use Linux and other Free / Open Source Software, but still. When I used windows and played games, I did something similar to the movies: I grabbed demos or the whole game from the net and bought only the ones that were worth it.
I think basically my stance can be summarized in "if you try to shove loads of worthless overpriced crap down my throat, I'll pirate just to cut through all the chaff". And I feel totally cool about it.
On a personal note, the problem I see is that nowadays movies, music and almost all forms of creation are developed and marketed with one goal in mind: to grab as much money as possible! When you create something intended for everyone, by definition it can't be any good, since it caters to the common denominator.
So, usually, what appeals to the global audience is usually bland, uncompromised and empty. If you want quality you have to go to niches. That might be why specific writers or less-known bands usually have a fiery band of followers: it's easier for me to shell out cash to Children of Bodom than to Christina Aguilera, for example. You usually feel much better giving money to an author that resonates with you than to one who is a packaged product from multinational media cartels.
Piracy is a controversial issue, and I think it's very interesting talk about it from different perspectives. So here is mine.
I live in Spain, one of the most "pirate countries" in Europe. In Spain, by law, you have the right to copy audiovisual stuff (books, movies and music, but NOT software) for free, for your own private use (this also includes friends and relatives). That's why we pay an special tax "for private copy" when we buy a blank CD, or a CD recorder, or a scanner, printer, etc. On the other side, our own RIAA's (here SGAE and CEDRO) pressure and criminalize people for copying/downloading stuff. That's not fair, since we are already paying a tax to do that.
Why do we have this "curious" law here? Because movies books and music are CULTURE, and everyone should be able to access it regardless how poor/rich you are. Furthermore, copying/sharing stuff is something everyone does and it's no sense to criminalize all the population.
Now, think about one thing: money. Here the minimum wage is about 585€. For that money you can't even afford to pay the rent for a small flat (you'd have to share a small appartment with at least 2 or 3 more poeple). I'm gonna be generous and let's say that the rent for a shared apparment costs 200€ (actually it's more about 300€, but well...). So 585-200 = 385€ you have to buy food, clothes, bus tickets and so on. A new music CD costs 18€, that's aprox. 4.8% of your remaining money. What happens then? People with minimum wage (teenagers, young people...) can't afford to buy lots of CD's (maybe just 1 per month).
With all that above I mean it's easy to criminalize piracy when you live in a country where the minimun wage is about 1300€ (France, for instance). Also, in USA or even the UK music CD's and books are not that expensive, so circumstances are different there.
Nicely said. (Steve's blog posting I mean, though the comments here are good too!)
I'd love to see (and am working to create) an economic model that makes it easier to compensate people for things that they offer the world. Wouldn't it be great if everyone had their own "make a donation" (i.e., a "tip jar") option both online and off, so that people who offered things of value could easily be compensated for that value at whatever the amount seemed appropriate - based on the value itself and the amount someone could afford to give? For example, Steve has a donation link where you can monetarily thank him for his services, and I think it's an excellent way to offer a completely fair "satisfaction guaranteed" service. I think it would be a huge benefit to the world if this kind of open-ended employment became more of a standard. If you valued something that someone else was offering, you could offer them something of value in return. You could even offer them something other than money (for example, food, shelter, art, useful ideas, etc.), as long as it was of value to them. It would be the ultimate in fair trade!
A few businesses and most organizations already run this way (non-profits being the pros at it), but what if individuals could do it too? For example, what if musicians, in addition to selling CDs and performing live, had a donation link on their website so that you could pay them if you downloaded their music (for free) and liked it, or just wanted to support their work in general? Since people are already downloading the music for free, I think it would beneficial to everyone to create an atmosphere that encouraged and legalized free downloading and that also encouraged people to make a donation equal to the value of the music. This would help the musicians, be more reality-based, and create a more psychologically healthy world that was centered in gratitude rather than forced obligation and theft. Some call it a gift economy, though I think it deserves a better term than that (though I have yet to come up with one...).
So, anyway, that's what I'd like to see.
not sure how to make it happen, but willing to try...
I quit pirating.
I quit. I'd been doing it for a long time, but lately things have been coming together that made me realize that it's not beneficial to me.
I pirated everything. Everything. Paraliminals, Self-help ebooks, music, PPV events, movies, PUA material, TV shows, and... um... "adult" material.
It's not that I think it's really cool to get stuff for free instead of pay for it, that I'm really putting one over on the man. I'd never given a second thought to the fact that it could possibly be my own insecurities playing themselves out in the real world.
When I pirated the new Pirates movie (no pun intended), I realized, "I didn't even want to watch this! Why did I even get it?!". That got the wheels spinning. Then I saw this, which I must have. But that's not something you can pirate. That got me thinking: what makes it different from any of the other stuff I get, the stuff I download, and was hard pressed to find an answer. Then I read Steve's article, and even if things don't make complete sense yet, it no longer makes sense to continue downloading.
At the same time, I've recently sank into debt. All that saving on media really hasn't saved me at all. So last night, I made some changes. I started out, thinking I'd only get rid of some songs, put a moratorium on downloading, maybe a one month trial of sorts. I deleted song after song after song, one by one. Then I just kept going. I deleted my p2p program, my bitTorrent program... until I was left only with the 9 songs I bought from iTunes.
What now? I don't know. In doing this, I am hoping I also will change as a person. Be more willing to give, to create... instead of take, and hide things. I laughed to myself yesterday, as I realized that even on the p2p and bitTorrent, I would download, and fix my settings such as that I never shared at all.
There are loopholes for me to think about... CDs I've already burned copies of, what I consider "fair": if I borrow a CD from the library, if I think it's fine to rip songs to my computer or not.
In the meantime, it's time to dust off the old CDs, DVDs... perhaps put a dent into that copy of "Atlas Shrugged" that I got months ago.
However, the GPL's restrictions are there to enforce certain freedoms and ensure that they remain free. The MIT/BSD/ZLib licenses can't guarantee those freedoms since the author of derivative code can do whatever he/she wants, as you said. This difference is why people choose the GPL over those other licenses. They want to make sure that future users/developers will have the same freedoms that the GPL guarantees.
Also, the GPL doesn't prevent use in proprietary software. See libstdc++ copying.
/me dons his eye patch.
The best example I can give of where MIT/BSD/ZLIB licensed code made a great contribution is Mac OS X. If FreeBSD was licensed under GPL, the current Mac OS X wouldn't exist. Even Microsoft used some FreeBSD code in Windows. And while Apple obviously didn't release OS X for free, they did release Darwin (the core of OS X) under an FSF approved open source license. Not forcing people to release their code doesn't prevent them from doing it anyway, and under less restrictive terms too. The bottom line is that I don't believe that any sort of control over other people via a license is true freedom, regardless of the intentions. Eric S. Raymond wrote a nice article which sums up my feelings on the subject: Eric Raymond: Freedom, Power, or Confusion?
As I understand the GPL, it is a way of enforcing one's beliefs on anyone who might want to use your code. Why do you do this? It's like saying that, if anyone wants to quote from my book, you have to agree with me first. It's absurd. If someone wants to use my code in a way I don't agree with, that's their right. That's freedom: their freedom. I'm not going to be uptight about how people aren't using my superior propaganda distributor to support the Republican party. (I'd write a counterworm. Somehow. :p)
It is perfectly alright for a political party to form advocating anarchy, oligarchy, etc. in a free democracy. That's the point: the view is there and permitted. And if everyone agrees on it, then it's the one we take. If everyone takes my code and closes up the gardens, then that's the way it is.
Freedom is not the freedom to have your way and everyone has to follow it. Freedom means that the people who you help have every right to slap you in the face in return, no gratitude required. They shouldn't. In the best case scenario, they'll see how awesome your viewpoint is and agree with you. But they are free to choose otherwise. They have to be.
I avoid financially supporting business practices that I disagree with, which includes the RIAA. Instead I see a lot of live shows and buy merchandise.
I worry more about whose hands I'm putting money into than whether or not something is piracy.
Piracy is in my blood, I've been doing it since the late 80's when I was a little child. I copied that floppy.
Now I download that 80000 gigabytes of everything.
You can practically see the parrot on my shoulder.
It's probably a poor excuse, I d/load so I can try before I buy.
I got so sick of paying to see a movie and feeling ripped off so now if I like a movie I WILL go to see it at the movies or buy the DVD.
If it's no good, meh, there's an hour of life I'll never get back.
I think out of the last 5 DVD's I bought, I wouldn't have bought any of them if I hadn't known the movie was good.
If the movie people want my money, they need to make sure the rest of the movie is as good as the trailer. I hate seeing a good trailer and finding out the rest of the movie is pathetic.
It's a tough question.
I like to copy stuff from BitTorrent whenever possible, but I really do find it's not a simple question of right and wrong.
For example, I object to buying DVD's where they FORCE you to watch a stupid advert of a teenage girl pirate baddie, with that annoying music.
DVD's get scratched FAR too easily. Can't they make them more resilient? But why would "they" want to to that. ;-)
I don't want to line the pockets of movie company executives and record company executives, who do very little to deserve that money.
I don't know if I'm going to like something, and can't really take back a CD / DVD because I thought it was rubbish.
Up until recently I've had HUGE debts, and found it hard to justify paying for stuff which I could get for free.
Does Tom Cruise really need any more money?
It's easier to download an album and copy to my slimserver / squeezebox than it is to go out buy the CD and rip it.
On The Other Hand....
I really can't be bothered to spend a great deal of time downloading / burning a movie, which often turns out to be poor quality (I'm being honest here about the REAL reasons). Life's too short. I suspect the record/movie companies know this, which is why they put up poisoned versions with noise / loops, etc.
Artists should be rewarded fairly for their work. And so should the distributors be rewarded FAIRLY.
Now software is a completely different story, as the charging model is completely different. Software tends to be expensive. I very rarely pay for software as I evaluate FOSS versions first, and only look to commercial if there is no decent alternative. I don't want to pay Microsoft a barrowload of money for an operating system which they have monopolised us all into using. Having said that I have spent several thousand pounds (GB money) on software in the last few years, mostly with Actinic so I'm not completely averse to coughing up when it's worth it.
Books are different again, but as people still like to read books on physical paper (for now) they are still impractical to copy.
Blogs and web articles are different again, as people are VERY reluctant to pay for any such content. How would you steal that anyway? You could only really plagiarise it, which is another story.
I would like to see a system where all music was distributed for a low fixed monthly license fee and you could get all you can eat.
I would like to see a movie distribution business where the independents get a look in, and are able to compete with the big four and keep them on their toes.
Books work quite well, leave them alone.
Blogs are supported by advertising and affiliation, which again works quite well.
We are not yet, if we will ever be, at the point where movie production can be simplified and made easy by technology: the industry does succeed in setting a higher bar that remains meaningful. This is something the music industry does not do: record label albums do not contain better music. Record labels only hold a role that has since been replaced by the Internet: a distribution and publicity channel.
I would certainly hesitate to pirate movies on the basis of not "lining executives' pockets" more frequently than I would hesitate to pirate music. Music is a medium that requires the talent of a group, the expertise of using reasonably quality recording equipment, and competent marketing and distribution. Beyond that, it's a matter of getting on stage in front of large crowds and being paid for it. Movies, on the other hand, remain a labor of love for thousands of professionals, even the extras; the difference of quality between a Hollywood film and an indie film is clear and meaningful. It might not be a necessary difference: see recent films Babel and Borat: but it does exist.
I guess I rambled a bit; sorry. :p
I think you guys are too tripped up on good/bad, deserving/undeserving, ethical/unethical, feel-good-about-myself/feel-good-about-my-self (notice you all try to feel good about yourselves).
I think what Steve meant is... to really make sure you're staying true to your core. And that his core was contrary to him pirating.
Oh wow, this is one of the very few of your articles that i totally disagree with on many points (and that's not a problem at all). That said, i really approve of this article and thread, anyways.
For me, it's really far from a deep issue. Piracy is a very practical thing on the technological side. You pirate Nintendo DS games because it allows you to keep many of them on one card instead of having to carry around multiple game cards. You pirate video games in general because you live in Germany and the game is not going to be released here for the next 6 months, or maybe it's not going to be release at all. You pirate music because it's possible to hear a neat song, look up the album it's on and go hit up a torrent of that album (or even that artists complete discography if you really like the song) and have it on your harddrive 15 minutes later, ready to be copied to a portable media player.
I can't deny that the intention so save money is somewhere in there, too; but it's far from the main reason to pirate media.
Same goes for DVDs - with all these incompatabilities, region codes, or even malware like on the Mr. and Mrs. Smith DVD you usually are better of ripping it somewhere.
Some Software goes down this road, too. I had a language trainer with so many copy protection stuff it was unusable.
Most copy protection schemes punish legal users more than pirates :(
I have no qualm about "pirating" yet I like books and would love to buy one.
To me, copyright law should be treated as mere tools. Their benefits should be measured in economic term.
I viewed copyright law as limited monopoly right. Without copyright laws, the authors are not free to restrict what I can do with the material I aquired. Copyright law are ways that you can restricts people's ability to sell, distribute, and display works. They shouldn't be treated as naturaly given right. It should be treated as "compromise" between the publics and the authors. The public give up their right in the hope of economic benefits(lower price, more books, etc)
The morality should be able to line up with economic pretty well. For example, in an economic point of view, slavery is bad.
To me, copyright laws' benefit are uncertain. For example, they can be used to protect people from copycat frauds but also can be used to bully the public via threats and lawsuit. Patents law are just plain evil. We don't need to burden poor inventors with big threats by large corporations. It is often used by rent-seekers to crush their competitions who also have made spectular innovations. Patents inspire fear, rather than "security".
In all, I am all for the copyright and patent if they promote the advancement of culture, technology, and science(and also the economy). If they do not, I don't support them.
For now, I look at patents and copyright laws with suspicions.
I don't have the time to make a full post on the subject at the moment, but I want to start one:
Research the original intent behind copyrights and patents and other IP law. They weren't created arbitrarily. I'm not defending them, but the point I want to make is that IP law is generally an inadequate and incomplete system, which is why it's so poorly defined and enforced. Copyleft is an example of the attempt to fix it. So is Creative Commons. The major reason they don't work, IMHO, is because many creators simply don't know about them, don't understand them, and don't understand the general point, leaving it to their lawyers to deal with stuff and thus going contrary to what they would otherwise believe.
Then someone went and published it as a paper book.
He wasn't exactly happy about it.
I was saying, if incompletely, that there were good and solid reasons why IP law exists, even if I hate IP with a passion. That there were attempts to patch the holes it ignores, and that the main reason most people don't use them is because they don't know about them.
Godin used CC, and thus he has the right to sue. I don't remember that incident, so I can't actually speak to it or its relevance.
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