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Against Monopoly

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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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A survey of people's attitude towards intellectual property in the 'Entertainment Capitol Of The World'

It seems that 25% of the population of Los Angeles County consists of "thieves" (at least as some would describe it).

Sample money quotes from the article -

[O]ne in four people in Los Angeles County knowingly bought, copied or downloaded illegal goods in the last year, according to a Gallup Organization survey commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and scheduled to be released today.

Although previous studies have documented piracy's toll on the Los Angeles economy, the U.S. Chamber report is the first to focus on the attitudes and behavior of consumers here who knowingly buy fake goods, including bootleg movies, illegally copied CDs, knockoff handbags and counterfeit auto parts.

"The study confirmed what we already knew: That the buying of these products is widespread and is viewed as a victimless crime," said Caroline Joiner, executive director of the chamber's global anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiative.

The 25% piracy rate of Los Angeles County residents surveyed in May and June was slightly higher than the 20% nationwide rate the chamber found last year.

Justin Hughes, a law professor and piracy expert at Cardozo School of Law in New York, said Los Angeles might have a higher rate of counterfeiting than other cities because of the high volume of goods flowing through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. But, he added, the latest data reflect broad consumer behavior.

"Most Americans do understand copyright and trademark laws, but it's a bit like speeding laws," Hughes said. "We know they are there, and they're a good thing, but we usually find ourselves going five to 10 miles over the speed limit."

In terms of trying to objectively describe the way many currently perceive their relationship with intellectual property, Professor Hughes' "speed limit" analogy seems to be a fair one. However, it leaves out a crucial component - the direct relationship between the perceived fairness/appropriateness of the law and the incidence of those who will ignore it.

For instance, let us assume that a federally mandated speed limit was increased to 80 mph in the U.S. Would people still continue to go "five to 10 miles over the speed limit"? Surely many would, but it is fair to assume that the overall amount of speeding scofflaws would drastically increase decrease as the overall speed limit increases - and vice versa. If the federally mandated speed limit was instead capped at only 45 mph, then surely the incidence of speeding would increase (not just in terms of the overall number of drivers who would ignore the law, but also in terms of the level of contempt for it. Speeders would likely start averaging 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit, instead of the more casual 5 to 10). They may continue to speed more often and with more vigor, even though they might end up confessing to pollsters that on a purely abstract level, a stricter enforcement of speed limits would be a good thing for society.

There would be a simple reason for this dynamic - many people of perfectly good character would inherently perceive a 45-mile-an-hour speed limit as an abuse of federal authority that would hamper our quality of life well out of proportion to any potential social good such as safety/environmental concerns or energy conservation. Obviously, the definition of a fair and proper speed limit is partially dictated by the state of technology and infrastructure (i.e., the conditions of our road and highway systems, how advanced current automobile engineering and safety features are in any given era, etc.).

So let's bring the analogy back to intellectual property. If we were to analogize the strictness of current intellectual property laws to the speed limit, what would the federally enforced speed limit be today?

I'd argue that it is only about 35-miles-per-hour; a quite unreasonable restriction that hampers human progress to a level far out of proportion to any potential goods that IP legal schemes might have to offer. This too is partially dictated by the current state of our technology and infrastructure (i.e., the Internet, digital technology, how communication has evolved with new media, etc.). That is real the reason why more and more people are simply choosing to ignore the current state of the law and are rightfully guilt free about the situation.

But none of this is preventing the L.A. establishment from lining up to do the bidding of the IP lobby. As the Daily News reports -

The findings were expected to be discussed at the Westin Bonaventure hotel in downtown Los Angeles this morning at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce workshop expected to be attended by several legislators, city council members and local officials, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.

You don't suppose that the "workshop" might convince local legislatures to help fight for sensible IP reform, do you? Nah. Didn't think so. We all know how these "workshops" play out and what the real goals are here: Creating an even harsher IP environment in order to hang on to the status quo business models for politically connected businesses. One that may very well turn an even higher percentage of the population into "thieves" and "pirates" in their eyes.


Comments

As far as I know, it is not against the law to D/L a song, nor a movie, book, etc. It is against the law to share (available for others to D/L), or to profit from the sale of these files.

As I D/L music that I have purchased previoulsy on Vinyl, cassette and CD, I am breaking no laws. I take offense to the presumption of guilt because I can and do D/L Music, Movies, and ebooks for personal use, not for profit.

Perfectly Legal. Show me the law I am breaking by Downloading and NOT sharing files for others to D/L.

Don't blame me for inherently bad business models the likes of the RIAA cling to. Should have been selling mp3's for a quarter since Napster emerged, dumba$$e$.

PuppyFace

I think it's definitely against the law to knowingly copy copyrighted work without permission. Uploading is copying, but downloading is copying too.

"As I D/L music that I have purchased previoulsy on Vinyl, cassette and CD, I am breaking no laws."

Really? That depends on the license the work is on. Under copyright, the copyright holder has the exclusive right to copy, and you require his permission for any form of copying that is not fair use. I'm not an expert on copyright law, but if this isn't fair use, then you require permission. It also seems that you can waive fair use rights when agreeing to license terms.

The biggest evil in copyright is that you are misled. Instead of "I'll sell you my book for 15$" it's "I will let you make limited use this book for 15$." Even though it's the latter, they still call it selling. What limited use you are allowed to make of the work is entirely up to the copyright holder.

"I take offense to the presumption of guilt because I can and do D/L Music, Movies, and ebooks for personal use, not for profit."

You mean that you don't profit from your personal use? Or, is what's important to you that no other profits from your breaking the law?

What is unfair here is not that you have to pay for works of art, but that you cannot enjoy your own property after the transaction. The problem is exactly that you are not allowed to share what you own. I'm fine with having to buy what you don't own.

There are a number of cases where copying a copyrighted work is perfectly legal. Thanks to the Betamax case I can time shift with my Tivo. I can print my directions and map from Mapquest on to paper.

The vinyl copy that I have of the Beatles White album did not come with a license; only a copyright.

Your book example is incorrect; or at least misstated. The $15 copy of the latest Harry Potter book is indeed mine and I can do what I want with it. I can read it anywhere and any way that I wish. I can read it out loud to a group of people. I can loan it to a friend. I can dispose of it in any manner I chose when I am done with it. This is all because of the right of first sale. About the only thing that I cannot do is make copies of it in any form and give it to someone.

For some reason, as we reached the digital age, people have been claiming rights that they really don't have and have never defended. The fact that making copies of a CD is easy and cheap doesn't mean that the copyright holder should be granted more rights than they had before. I agree that I am not allowed to copy the CD and give the copy to another. I agree that I am not allowed to copy the tracks to a computer and share them via the latest torrent or P2P server. Why? Because of copyright.

Why do the labels get their shorts all in a bunch because I want to copy it to my iPod, or toss the (mostly) bad tracks from the CD and make my own mix or include the tracks in a home digital jukebox? Per their EULAs, all of those things are technically illegal. From the Sony rootkit fiasco part of the EULA said that the music wasn't mine anymore if I go bankrupt...what's up with that? A pox on them all.

From your last paragraph, I think that we actually agree on what the world would be, if we were in charge.

Actually, copying something you already own for solely private use IS fair use (e.g. making a backup). That you copied a different copy than the copy you own doesn't seem like it should matter, since the end result is the same (you now have two copies, and one is for your private use only).
The speeding analogy isn't quite correct. When you go over the limit you are violating a law, but not directly stealing from another person.

When you take a copy of something without paying, you are stealing a copy of what the author created without paying the price they set to sell it. If you don't like the price, don't buy it and don't steal it.

You can argue that the model should be different, but it is the right of the owner to choose the model, even if he chooses the "wrong" one.

You can't go to a Lexus dealer and decide you don't like the high price, taking a car and throwing down the amount you think is proper. You have to go to a Ford or Chevy dealer and buy a cheaper car to get the lower price. If you don't like the price of music, listen to the radio to satisfy your music desires for the lower price (free).

Testing anti-spam feature.
And it failed... can't believe you actually publish my email address for spam robots on this blog.

Fortunately, I entered a fake one.

  • When you take the liberty of speeding you are jeopardising people's lives.
  • When you take the liberty of copying you are ignoring a commercial monopoly.

I think you'll find that corporate copyright holders are the one's jeopardising people's lives here. In jealous enforcement of their unethical privileges they violate citizens' rights to privacy and liberty, and resort to extortionate litigation potentially resulting in million dollar fines and jail sentences.

  • Speeding is a liberty ethically denied to protect life.
  • Copying is a liberty unethically denied to reward publishers.

Ethics and law are as different as vegetable and animal. The latter may ultimately survive on the former, but don't look to animals to get an understanding of vegetables.

As all can see, there is not one person who can reference a violation of any legal code when D/L for my personal use. Also, quite correctly, what I own on Vinyl, tape or CD I can legally own in Digital form on my PC, Ipod, phone.

I was one of millions suckered into Google's Movie/TV Download scam; told I was D/L to own the copy, now I don't. If it is available on the Net, I will pay for product I want, and D/L what is offered for Free if I want it. Show me the LAW that says I cannot D/L music files off of LimeWire or any other Music provider and I will stop.

PuppyFace

There are a number of cases where copying a copyrighted work is perfectly legal. Thanks to the Betamax case I can time shift with my Tivo. I can print my directions and map from Mapquest on to paper.

The vinyl copy that I have of the Beatles White album did not come with a license; only a copyright.

Your book example is incorrect; or at least misstated. The $15 copy of the latest Harry Potter book is indeed mine and I can do what I want with it. I can read it anywhere and any way that I wish. I can read it out loud to a group of people. I can loan it to a friend. I can dispose of it in any manner I chose when I am done with it. This is all because of the right of first sale. About the only thing that I cannot do is make copies of it in any form and give it to someone.

For some reason, as we reached the digital age, people have been claiming rights that they really don't have and have never defended. The fact that making copies of a CD is easy and cheap doesn't mean that the copyright holder should be granted more rights than they had before. I agree that I am not allowed to copy the CD and give the copy to another. I agree that I am not allowed to copy the tracks to a computer and share them via the latest torrent or P2P server. Why? Because of copyright.

Why do the labels get their shorts all in a bunch because I want to copy it to my iPod, or toss the (mostly) bad tracks from the CD and make my own mix or include the tracks in a home digital jukebox? Per their EULAs, all of those things are technically illegal. From the Sony rootkit fiasco part of the EULA said that the music wasn't mine anymore if I go bankrupt...what's up with that? A pox on them all.

From your last paragraph, I think that we actually agree on what the world would be, if we were in charge.

Ken writes:

When you take a copy of something without paying, you are stealing a copy of what the author created without paying the price they set to sell it. If you don't like the price, don't buy it and don't steal it.

It depends whose copy it is. If you go into a bookstore and take a copy of a book and walk out without paying, that is indeed theft, because the copy of the book is the store's property. Recently I observed a man in a bookstore saying to his young daughter, who was cradling a children's book, "We don't own it until we pay for it." Go Dad!

On the other hand, if you download a copyrighted music or video file, or photocopy a borrowed book, say in a library, or make a copy of a book you own, you have probably violated someone's copyright. However, you no more steal the copyright owner's property than a slave steal's his massa's leg irons if he hobbles off his plantation and onward toward his freedom.

That a copyright is someone's property is a legal fiction, just like the idea that a slave is someone's property is also a legal fiction. Just as fictitious is the notion that the act of copying a copyrighted work is an act of theft. It's actually an act of liberation, just as a slave who escapes his bonds engages in an act of self liberation.

(That said, I'm in no way saying that an act of copyright violation is morally equivalent to an act of slave liberation.) So Steal This Idea .

Now more than ever.

Just remember that it's not the copy that is being liberated, but the person doing the copying. They are attempting to liberate themselves from someone else's unethical suspension of their liberty.

Just as it is arguable whether a state can sanction slavery, we can similarly argue whether the state can suspend the public's liberty with the public's consent (in order to grant this suspension as a privilege for the benefit of publisher's).

We can also argue whether any copyright holder can ethically retain this suspension of the public's liberty for their own commercial exploitation, except as a means of manumission (GPL, CC-SA, etc.).


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