# Piracy

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Norsefire, Jan 10, 2010.

1. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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3,634
Jim Jarmusch is a famous thief, who doesn't care whose career he tanks, as long as he can steal a good idea from them...the littler the victim, the better.

(If fact, it was probably this incident that prompted Jarmusch's quote on why stealing is awesome, what he didn't mention was the ten years of (now wasted) effort that the guy from whom he stole put in trying to get his stolen screenplay made: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/03/arts/03iht-broken.2107556.html?_r=1)

It's not that surprising that Jarmusch defends thievery, because he's a scumbag. He's a good director, but that and scumbag are not mutually exclusive. See, e.g. Roman Polanski.

Last edited: Jan 29, 2010

3. ### kurrosRegistered Senior Member

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I believe there have been plenty of arguments put forward that the copyright holders benefit much more from the free advertisement etc. than they would have from direct sales...

5. ### vslayerRegistered Senior Member

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In order for "piracy" to be theft, there needs to be some sort of financial damage to the copyright holder. If I download a movie/album/game which I would not have purchased otherwise then I have done no harm whatsoever to the copyright holder.

If I download an album and discover that - like most albums - there are only one or two songs worth listening to, then I try to find a way of paying for one or two songs worth of music through websites like itunes. If on the other hand I buy a CD then discover that the majority of the "music" is worthless filler-garbage, then the copyright holder has now stolen the monetary equivalent of 11 songs from me by misleading me as to the content.

"piracy" causes no harm at all to those who produce quality content. If musicians that release albums full of garbage and game developers that produce bug-ridden online only(see steam, whatever bastard system i spent 3 hours trying to install in order to play GTA4) games suffer a loss of revenue, then that is not theft on our part, but the end of misleading non-returnable sales on their part.

7. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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That's can't be true. If you steal from me the first love letter I ever received, you have caused me no financial damage as that is a worthless trinket, save to me, and yet you clearly have stolen. Financial harm is certainly not a requirement. Plus, of course you'll just lie if caught and claim you would not have bought it, if that were the rule.

The debate should turn on whether you can be said to have "stolen" something when the owner still have access to the original. Is property "the right to possess" (which the owner still has) or is it "the right to exclude others" which you will have denied the copyright holder. In the case of tangible property the two entirely coincide. If you take my letter, then I no longer possess it and you have interfered with my right to exclude you from exercising dominion over it.

With copies intangible property only the right to exclude is violated.

That said, whether that is "theft" or not, it's clearly douchbaggery. Those with talent do, those without download.

8. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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That strikes me as a false argument and here's why: The leech is telling the law abiding citizen that what is best for him, even though (if the law abiding citizen agreed) the owner is permitted to freely give the property away. Clearly the copyright owner thinks that assessment is wrong a priori, or else he would do just that. Having decided not to, the lecch takes teh property anyway.

Your argument is similar to saying "Hey, if she just stopped struggling and screaming "no!", I could make her come, so I'm going to have sex with her whether she wants it or not."

First, when the authorities catch the leech, again, of course the leech will lie and claim she (or the copyright owner) "wanted it" or "should have wanted it." Second, I have never met a leech who said, "I illegally downloaded that movie to give it publicity." That's a pretext one adds after the fact to feel better about being a leech. No one downloads out of concern for the artist, they download solely to satisfy the desires of the leech himself.

If you wanted to give the artist free publicity, then you should write the artist and explain that you will give him or her good press if you get a free copy and like it, and then it is up to the owner to make the decision.

9. ### vslayerRegistered Senior Member

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4,969
I specified money because the aim of a sale is profit, if the object of copyright infringement was not for sale, but rather an item of solely sentimental value then that value would stand in place of money. I am not stealing your love letter though, I am downloading a digital copy of it. You still have the original, however I can now enjoy it too.

an analogy used by another member of this forum(whose name eludes me at the moment) would be to liken it to a physical item like a lawnmower. If rather than purchasing a lawnmower from the manufacturer, I made an exact replica of that lawnmower myself then I have not stolen your lawnmower, i have just deprived you of the ability to sell it to me, and if I find the lawnmower I have built to be sturdy and reliable I will happily write you a royalty cheque for your design.

10. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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6,226
Exactly. That's why it annoys the hell out of me when people talk about "stealing" music. You are not stealing anything - you are making something that you do not have permission to make. This is a fundamentally different thing from theft, and most of the commonly-accepted moral arguments against theft do not apply.

Of course, certain people on this board just insist on using the term "stealing" despite it being the wrong term from both a legal and ethical standpoint. This is because everyone already agrees that stealing is wrong, so if you can simply get people to go along with you that making a copy of something is the same as stealing, you've already won the argument a priori. If you say "making something that you don't have permission to make is wrong," you are making a statement that people won't just automatically agree with, and you will need to actually construct coherent arguments to support your position. But at least you'll be giving an accurate description of your position, rather than a bullshit straw-man description. I mean, if that's the way you want to argue, how about this: copying music is murder. You don't support murder, do you? That argument makes about as much sense as claiming that copying something is stealing.

11. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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Great. So if I bow and acrape before you (because you'll never pay me if I am rude to you), then at some point later on, possibly after years, you may out of the goodness of your heart finally deign to grant me the honor of paying me a price that you name and that I have no say over (I can name my price, but you'd only pay it if it were less than or equal to the one you want to pay, so naming my own price sets a maximum on the amount I will receive from you, which shoots me in the foot.) Forgive me if I don't hold my breath waiting for you to pay, as we start the hypoothetical with your taking the property of another over their objections, so all claims that you are ethical are immediately suspect.

Would you work for your employer if he only agreed to pay you for your labor based on this arrangement? *If* he thinks your labor was worth the cost, then he'll pay you. Maybe. Some day. I mean, after all, once he has taken your labor, you still have an unlimited supply to use yourself, so he's not really stealing anything from you right? I am guessing you'd tell him to go fuck himself, because that labor takes you time, you consider it "yours" and you want something for it. The time you spent on it is valuable to you.

Well IP takes time to create too, and authors want compensation for that. Under your system, they are reduced to being mere beggars, relying on your charitable nature to get them the compensation they feel they are owed.

The problem with this model is that it discourages people from making IP to the extent that IP can be stolen electronically. I could paint a painting, for example, or I could draw the same thing online and sell the print. With leeches taking it for free, though, there's no profit in that unless some of them grow a conscience. So here's what I do if I prefer the electronic medium: I slap onerous DRM or similar protections on it. Unfortunately, I then have to listen to legitimate customers legitimately complain, as the DRM imposes a cost on them that would be unnecessary if the leeches did not try to suck the lifesblood from me. (In addition, I probably also have to listen to the leeches leeches whine--as it can't be called a legitimate complaint for them--about how awful *I* am for responding to their ethical lapse with a DRM scheme. In fact anything I do to give myself somemeasure of control over my poroprty (and even you admit that it is my property, it met with chants of "unfair!" from the scumbags who are prepared to happily fuck me over.)

That's a the problem. You either drive me into a medium you can steal that I consider "second best" (or "third best" or worse), or you force me to spend time and money making my product less useful and convenient to prevent copying, or you force me to stand by waiting in vain hope that you will find my product "sturdy" enough to buy. Curious that, that my product can be good enough for you to use/view/listen to over and over again for years, but it has to meet some bullshit higher threshold to be worth paying for.

12. ### Cellar_DoorWhose Worth's unknownRegistered Senior Member

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Why should recording artists get so much money anyway? What useful service are they providing apart from the one that gives them fame and allows them to make a living from what they enjoy?

13. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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3,634

Yeah, like identity theft. That's not "theft" as I am just using your identity too!

The definition of "theft" is not alsways (though it sometimes is) "depriving another of property." If that were the sole accepted definition, then you'd be right, as you could only steal physical property in that case. But "theft" applies, by certain definitions to services as well as goods.

Still if I were to electronically add a few zeros to my personal bank account, without a deposit or my banks consent, I have not stolen cash from anyone, under your definition. I have merely "created" cash from thin air in much the way the bank creates cash when it makes a loan (save that this is a "loan" that I would only repay out of the kindness of my heart). I am nonetheless pretty sure you'd go to jail for it, and it's clearly illegal. The technical crimes would probably be "bank fraud" and "wire fraud."

Would you be happier if we simply criminalized IP infringement, because it is already an actionable offense. It has always been a crime to infringe on a copyright for personal financial gain. Congress extended that to cover cases where the infringer has no persoanl financil gain in 1997 under the "NET Act" ("NET" being "No Electronic Theft").

14. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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Clearly they provide "entertainment" just like sports players, actors and others who we pay large sums for no other good reason. Whethyer or not they make a living is an open question. Leeching copyrighted materials hurts independent films, struggling authors and others who are on the verge of making a living, but not quite there yet. In fact, I am more concerned for the people at the fringe of the market, who might have made it big, but their first album was dropped by the label as mot woirth it to promote, since the leeches would gleefully take it for free, than I am that someone has copied a Beatles album or the latest thing from Black Eyed Peas. The Beatles artistic output is zero no matter what. Established superstars have the capacity to absorb the losses (which is to say if you have to assault someone, assault the big burly guy, not the little blonde girl, because the big guy likely better able to take a punch). The struggling artists who are trying to earn a living don't have the same robustness in the face of unethical leeches.

15. ### RandwolfIgnorance killed the catValued Senior Member

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4,188
And this is, precisely, where it seems that the two camps split.

Your reference to identity theft, for example, implies economic harm to the original individual. If someone stole my identity and never used it to harm me in any way, I couldn't care less. I mean why would I? It would almost be flattering...

16. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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And yet that is not necessarily the case. If I impersonate you and take out credit cards in your name (as in fact happened to me once), and then use and pay those cards on time never missing a payment, I still run afoul of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. When I discovered the additional card, my credit card company was certainly keen to go after the thief, as was I, even though his payment history was perfectly sound.

I found nothing flattering about the situation, though admittedly I was less incensed than I'd have been if he had done me harm.

That said, if I have the right to exclusively use a patent, and you violate that right, you have done me harm even if it costs me no money in the same way a trespasser causes me harm even if he leaves my property as he found it. It was my right to exclude or permit as I see fit in either case, and you ignored and violated that right without my consent or good cause. The offense made worse if you go further and pass the details of the patented item along to others, since some of those may use the information to my detriment even if you don't. You become a link in a network of violators that make a harm to me all but assured, and do it knowing that you are without right and knowing the harm that will befall me.

Whether we call that harm "theft of a patent" I am indifferent about. It is certainly closer to garden variety theft than it is to piracy.

17. ### RandwolfIgnorance killed the catValued Senior Member

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4,188
Upon reflecting on your post, I have come to think that it may be more accurate to state that the "camps split" along the line of "pragmatism" vs "principle". I may have already said something similar, or someone did, I am too lazy to review all the posts to find out who.

Would you agree with that assessment? That some people seem to be concerned mostly when some sort of "quantifiable harm" arises, whereas others are more concerned with the underlying theory? Take your trespassing example - I take it you would still be upset if the trespasser left your grounds in better shape, e.g. picked up some trash that was already there, etc. Is this correct? See, you are arguing from principle, which is fine, and as you said, you have the right to keep people off your property, regardless.

Nonetheless, I personally see a drastic difference between the trespasser who destroys or trashes my property and the one leaves it in better condition then it started in, between someone who uses my identity to, say, gain admittance to the hospital to see a friend under the guise of being a relative vs the one who destroys my credit, and finally, between the "pirate" who downloads a copy of a Beatles song for personal use or the one that listens to a couple of songs and then buys the album vs a company that mass produces illegal copies for profit. But that's just me...

18. ### vslayerRegistered Senior Member

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4,969
If I do not have the money to buy a lawnmower, or value mown lawns as such that I wouldn't bother mowing my lawns unless one were freely available, then I cause you absolutely no harm by making one from your design. This is the case in the vast majority of material which I may or may not have "pirated"

If In order to buy a lawnmower from you I must also buy three feral bobcats, so instead I make my own lawnmower and reimburse you for what that lawnmower+bobcat package would have cost me sans the price of three bobcats, then the only way in which I have "wronged" you is by taking away your right to charge me for three bobcats I don't want. This is the case with every album I may or may not have "pirated" since online music purchase became available to me.

Your lawnmower does not have to meet any higher threshold, I pay for every lawnmower I purchase, I just don't allow you to force me to buy bobcats or pay for a lawnmower if - after building it from your design - I find that all it is capable of is catching my lawn on fire and shooting rocks at my feet.

19. ### stateofmindseeker of liesValued Senior Member

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I don't think it's unethical to pirate because no one gets hurt. I've never seen a homeless person bitter because he lost all the revenue on the software he produced due to pirates. The people that bitch are usually the ones most well off - wtf?

Pirating will only get worse in the coming years I think. The time and resources that companies are investing to stop it are not saving them money - it's just throwing more money into the hole.

20. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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3,634
But you do. First of all, most likely you are not only using my design to build one lawn mower, but spreading it around to friends and strangers so they can make their own. Each one of those strangers is a node in a network of unethical bastages, most of whom *can* afford the lawnmower and simply *prefer* to be free riders.

Second, that you and they are using my lawnmower at all means it is of value to you, so why the Hell are most of you paying $0 for it until a time and place of your choosing? Am I earning interest on this money you acknowledge you owe me (and many of those others who acquired it through you may or may not)? Because you people owe me that too. On the flip side, if you don't value lawn mowers enough to pay for them: don't use them. Problem easily solved. As noted, the very fact that you are using it means it must have some value, or else you wouldn't waste your time. What most of the semi-ethical "pirates" seem to do is determine whether the illegally obtained property meets a certain threshold of awesomeness (which can be set high or low). If it meets this (subjective standard), they compare what they think its worth (with all of their psychological biases that tend to depress that price in place) to the asking price, and if the asking price is *LOWER* than the value the asset added to the "pirate's" life, they pay that lower amount. If the asking price is higher than the amount of value they determine, they pay$0 and smugly declare the asset to be a rip-off (and yet they continue to use it freely themselves).

What this does is it forces the maker (the one who adds actual value to the world and makes the world a better place to live) to either spend his time and money defending his exclusivity rights referenced in the Constitution and enshrined in statute, or lower the price to a point where he can capture some more of that semi-ethical crowd's money.

And that leads to another harm to the system. IP rights were established to encourage people to create, and this downward price spiral works counter to that. That makes DRM a more attractive option, which is another harm...but this time it really harms everyone who paid for the damned thing and yet has to suffer the copy protection as if they were the common criminals the copy protection is aimed at.

My property, not yours. If your boss decided that after you worked 8 hours, he was only going to pay you for the three he felt were really "quality" hours, and the rest, frankly, you phoned those in, so you get $0 for those 5. My guess would be that you'd be a bit pissed about that. After all why should he pay for the stuff that wasn't that good? (N.B.: That you thought those hours of work were "good enough" is apparently irrelevant.) My guess is that any wage earner would not only be pissed, but would seriously consider suing the boss over that behavior, because wage earners aren't "cool" like bosses and "pirates." Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! Let's test your theory. The next time you eat out at a restaurant and find that you do not like some portion of the meal, refuse to pay for that portion. Don't eat it, of course, as that would be wrong, just leave it on the plate and tell them that you will subtract the related amount (determined by you, of course) from the total on the bill. Then when the cops come you can feel free to refer them to this thread for your defense of that behavior. The think you decry is called "product tying" or "bundling" and if you want to be consistent, then you really should download the song you want, and not the others (or immediately delete them without listening to them, save for any publicly available parts you get get from free radio, Amazon, etc.) What I gather from your statement is that you a re building the lawnmower, *keeping* the bobcats and ascribing a value of$0 to them. First of all, it's not clear again why *your* price, set solely by you, if controlling. Second, if you continue listening to the bobcat songs, then they must have some value to you, even if its low, because never listening to them is pretty easy.

21. ### vslayerRegistered Senior Member

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4,969
I would not ask to be paid for five hours which I did not work, to try and defraud my employer as such would be actual theft. In fact when conflicts in the workplace necessitated my resignation from a previous job, I told my employer that I did not expect to be paid for my final week in which I was significantly below par in my job performance.

As for determining value, If someone offers to sell you a balloon for 1 cent, but you determine your desire for that balloon not to be worth 1 cent, that doesnt mean you are obliged to give the vendor 1 cent if someone on the other side of the carnival gives you one for free and you accept.

22. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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6,226
Yes, "identity theft" is indeed an inaccurate term. It's simply fraud and/or forgery. Also, although it's not really "theft," identity theft is at least closer to actual theft than copyright infringement, because the person whose identity you were impersonating is actually left worse off after your crime than they were before it.
Of course that wouldn't be theft. It would be stupid for anyone to try to claim that it was.
Yes, it's probably fraud, computer hacking, and any number of other crimes, but certainly not theft. I don't get your point here. I mean, you seem to be admitting that your computer crime as described above would not in fact be theft. So, uh...what's your point? Clearly there are many illegal actions other than theft.
The NET act only covers exchange of copies between people. If I buy a DVD and then make a backup copy for myself, I am not violating the NET act (although I would be violating the DMCA).

Last edited: Feb 9, 2010
23. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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This is a bad analogy, because the "work" done by IP creators is unsolicited. That's why all these "what if your boss decided not to pay you" etc. analogies fail. Hiring a programmer to write me a piece of software and then refusing to pay him after he delivers it is not at all the same as a freelance programmer writing some software unsolicited and then trying to get me to use it and pay him after the fact.

Here's a better analogy: someone knocks on your door and hands you a box of pizza. He says "Here, I made this pizza. If you eat it, mail me \$10 to pay for it. If you don't eat it, throw it away and don't pay me." Then he walks off and leaves you there holding the pizza. Your position is analogous to claiming that it would be unethical for me to take a bite of the pizza to taste it before deciding whether or not I want to eat it and pay him or just throw it away.

Last edited: Feb 9, 2010