Some thoughts on the file-swapping ruling

Down with Kazaa and their ilk

Monday, June 27, 2005 by Draginol | Discussion: Industry

Over on the news page I gave my two cents on today's ruling.  Based on the poll I saw on, 2 out of 3 people disagree with the ruling.  What a shock.  "But...I don't want to have to pay for other people's work..I want it for free.." 

I know a lot of people who pirate software, games, music, movies, etc.  I don't harp to them about it.  What ticks me off are the companies that actually make a business model out of serving pirates.  eDonkey and Kazaa and the like made millions of dollars by enabling people to steal other people's stuff.

And in turn, they have harmed consumers in ways most people don't realize. Copy protection has gotten nastier, DRM has become a household term, and licenses have gotten more and more restrictve.  Not that such schemes don't get cracked -- they do -- but the record industry (whom I'm no fan of either) and the like have figured out that those who don't pirate can be made to buy more stuff with more DRM to make up for those who would have bought stuff but were able to download it for free from Kazaa or something.

Such services cheapen the value of hard work too.  The other day I read someone complaining how WindowBlinds was "too expensive".  It's twenty bucks for crying out loud.  That's just a bit more than a Pizza dinner.  A decent cooking knife costs $50. An AutoScanner is $140 (and I can tell you with some experience that the production/profit margins on these things is pretty significant). Cheap shoes are $50.  Stuff costs money.  Yet we'll see someone complain that a software product that took years to perfect that people run every day for years that costs $20 is too expensive.  And why? Because places like Kazaa have made software look worthless. 

People will complain about paying $40 for a game that took two years to develop and provides support to the user but you rarely hear the same people think twice about paying $40 for a small box of legos where the buyer will never interact with the company.  Places like Kazaa and their ilk devalue intellectual property.  And the results hurt us all in ways that people don't realize. 

Software piracy isn't as huge of a deal as many make it out to be, but the mainstreaming of it through these peer-to-peer services were steadily making piracy something that even the newbie down the street was able to do which definitely takes revenue away from hard working software developers, musicians, etc.

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Reply #101 Thursday, July 21, 2005 10:05 PM
I have to disagree, based on US laws though (as ruled by the Supreme Court), as well as semantically.

Really, if theft = copyright infringement = trademark infringement, why do you have so many terms and different laws applying to each?
Reply #102 Thursday, July 21, 2005 10:07 PM
Feel free to back that up with whatever laws you are talking about. I think you'll find reverse engineering, duplication and re-distribution are soundly violations.
Reply #103 Thursday, July 21, 2005 10:10 PM
Check out Dowling vs. United States.

The question is not whether or not they're violations. The question is, WHICH violations. Otherwise, one could call "murder" as "theft" since it is technically stealing someone's life. Same as "rape" as it is "theft" of their right to not have sex, and so on. Should I charge telemarketers with "theft" of my time when they call me?

Also, the whole lost sale thing is a really flawed argument. It is really only a lost sale *if* the person would have purchased the product if they did not have the substitute. A rather faulty assumption, but one made all the time anyway.

After all, I doubt I'll ever be able to afford a nice yacht. If I somehow replicated a yacht, did the company *really* lose a sale to me? I also probably would not buy products for women, but if I was able to make them magically appear, and did find a use for them somehow (heck, even if it's just recycling it), did they really lose a sale to me?

I'm not saying copyright infringment isn't against the current laws (whether or not I think copyrights are a good thing is another matter), but in terms of the discussion at hand, I'd much prefer people used words that actually say what they mean.
Reply #104 Thursday, July 21, 2005 10:37 PM
"I'm not saying copyright infringment isn't against the current laws (whether or not I think copyrights are a good thing is another matter), but in terms of the discussion at hand, I'd much prefer people used words to say what they actually mean."

poh-tay-tah, pah-tah-tah, toh-may-tah, toh-mah-tah. Semantics. That's a 1985 ruling on someone carrying bootleg records over state lines. As you know other rulings like that stood up in terms of bootleg videotapes.

Anyway, there's been a lot of laws passed since then, especially in the present post-Napster era.

Doesn't matter if the owner loses money or not, it doesn't matter if you make money or not. If someone has the exclusive right to decide when, where, and how their product is produced/displayed/distributed, and you utilize that right without permission, you've violated their rights.

As Brad points out, not all companies mind, and as he also points out, if they don't like it and have deep pockets they'll get you regardless of semantics...
Reply #105 Thursday, July 21, 2005 10:53 PM
Actually, the potato and tomato thing isn't semantics, since semantics deals with different meanings of words. All those different ways of saying the same thing still mean the same thing, so it's more about speech differences in different cultures/geographies (certainly a part of linguistics, but not semantics)

See what happens when you play fast and loose with the correct definitions of words?
It's actually kinda similar to Creationists who conflate "scientific theories" with "hypotheses".

And like I said, I'm not arguing about whether their rights are violated. I'm arguing about *which* rights are violated.

BTW, it's your turn to bring up a more recent court ruling where the Supreme Court actually said that theft is the same thing as copyright infringement.
Reply #106 Thursday, July 21, 2005 11:05 PM
The No Electronic Theft Act (1997)? Last I heard Congress makes laws, not the Supreme court.

" Our citizens, policymakers and law enforcement experts must understand
that stealing intellectual property will be prosecuted for what it is:
not an exotic, hard-to-prosecute diversion or hobby, but theft, pure
and simple. " -Link

Janet Reno called it theft and stealing.

"And deliberate unlawful copying is no less an unlawful taking of property than garden-variety theft." -Link

Supreme Court Justice Breyer seems to think so as of a couple of weeks ago...

If I wanted to waste the time I could probably find dozens more such quotes from various and sundry legal authorites. If you want to call it something else, feel free, but "theft" and "stealing" are common terms for software and music piracy.
Reply #107 Friday, July 22, 2005 4:36 AM
The No Electronic Theft Act (1997)? Last I heard Congress makes laws, not the Supreme court.

Yes, but the Supreme Court interprets them.

Check the actual wordings in the act. Are they punished as theft, or as copyright infringement?

I repeat, if you insist that theft is the same thing under the law as copyright infringement, then you *must* also agree, in order to remain logically consistent, that people who murder, rape, call people on the Do Not Call list, etc. should be charged with theft as their crime as well.

Janet Reno called it theft and stealing.

"And deliberate unlawful copying is no less an unlawful taking of property than garden-variety theft."

Um, nope. Read the quote carefully again. It's saying it's basically unlawful as well. Well duh, they're both against the law, and thus unlawful. It's like saying murder is no less an unlawful taking of a person's right as rape. That doesn't make them the same thing. And most importantly, that's not my point. (In fact, punishments for copyright infringement tend to be heavier than actual theft, another reason why they're not actually the same).

It would help if you spent your time picking out actually relevant quotes to the discussion instead of quote mining in order to burn down strawmen.

Let me say for the 4th or so time, I am *NOT* arguing whether it's unlawful or not. I am arguing under WHICH law it's unlawful. Any more arguments stating that copyright infringement is unlawful is nothing more than strawmen as they have nothing to do with what I'm arguing. If you can't actually argue against my point, then there's no reason to continue our discussion.

Really, if copyright infringement was the same thing as theft, they would have simply replaced every instance of "copyright infringement" in the article with "theft," but they don't, and the punishments for copyright infringement and theft would be the same. But they aren't, and thus they are not the same. It's really that simple. But it baffles me that people don't understand that.

Here, I'll make it easy. Explain to me why two unlawful acts, that are supposedly (by your argument) the same thing, are treated differently, in what the defendant is charged with (copyright infringement vs. theft), what courts they generally go to (civil vs. criminal), and the type of punishments they generally receive (huge fines vs. smaller fines). Heck, I'm quite sure most people charged with copyright infringement would much rather have been charged with theft as the monetary penalties are *much* less. Link
BTW, I just benefitted from the rampant piracy here in Thailand. $15 legit version of Half-Life 2 (and Battlefield 2 as well) (the bootleg version is about $3.50). The wonders of economic laws and economic substitutes causing competition and thus lower prices.
Reply #108 Friday, July 22, 2005 9:04 AM
I posted three quotes where lawmakers, an attorney general, and a justice of the supreme court called copyright infringement theft and stealing. There's nothing 'strawman' about it, you're just trying to make a fuzzy point.

To my knowledge no one is charged with "Stealing in the First Degree", so according to you nothing would be technically 'stealing'. Anything anyone said about that idea would be 'strawman', since there's no real point there.

So embezzling isn't theft or stealing either? Since we don't use the same laws to punish a purse snatcher and a burgler, which isn't "theft"? If I take a lot of people's money, and then don't mail them my product, you're saying that no one is allowed to say it is stealing, since the law says "fraud"?

Silly argument. In common language supreme court justices call it stealing, legislators call it stealing, the companies in question call it stealing, most everyone here calls it stealing. If you want to call it a 'violation', fine, but it means basically dick in terms of the argument.

The fact that we make specific laws to address specific acts doesn't mean those acts don't result in the same effect, i.e. someone has something stolen from them. A burgler steals, an absconding CEO steals, a pirate on the ocean steals, a pirate on the Internet steals. The fact we have different laws for each doesn't change anything.
Reply #109 Friday, July 22, 2005 9:39 AM
The only quote in your post was from Janet Reno, along with alleged quotes from other sources. But considering your quote from Janet Reno was incorrect, I'd like to see the actual quotes in context from the others.

No, fraud is neither theft, nor stealing. It is fraud. There's a reason we have the word "fraud," to describe the act, why not use it? You still haven't answered why you don't think murder and rape is theft.

Common usage of words is not actually the best way they are used. Scientists talk about theories all the time to mean hypotheses, even though they realize there is a distinction between theory used by common folk (like stealing as used by you and those people), and theory as defined in science, and then we get Creationists who then think this gives them the right to then say that this means the "Theory of Evolution" is really the "Hypothesis of Evolution"
. It's just flip sides of the same coin with this discussion. And broad usage of "stealing" is just as wrong here as it is with the broad usage of "theory" there (BTW, the whole all your beliefs are "religion" used by certain theists is the same issue).

Heck, by your definition of stealing, if company A decides to offer some product to me at a lower price than company B, and I decide to buy company A's product, company A just stole a sale from company B! That means company B can take company A to court for theft! So answer me, do you think murder and rape are "theft" as well? Come on I've asked you this several times and you kept avoiding it. Surely you're capable of being logically consistent and saying yes to this!
Reply #110 Friday, July 22, 2005 9:46 AM
No, murder is taking someone's life, rape isn't. We have numerous laws that address different forms of stealing. The company A vs. B argument is idiotic, since nothing was stolen, the two companies are just competing. Now you are resorting to strawman arguments.

" The only quote in your post was from Janet Reno, along with alleged quotes from other sources. But considering your quote from Janet Reno was incorrect, I'd like to see the actual quotes in context from the others."

The Janet Reno quote was taken directly from The Industry Standard. Justice Breyer's quote was taken directly from his statements in the ruling METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS INC. et al. v. GROKSTER, LTD., et al. The "No Electronic Theft Act" is a friggin law, for heaven's sake...

Like I said, no one is ever charged with "Stealing", so I suppose to you no one has ever stolen anything in the US. Idiotic point, and not worthy of any more discussion. Your point seems to be that a shoplifter doesn't really steal, they shoplift. Waste your time nitpicking if you want, to most people and obviously the people I quote above, it isn't.
Reply #111 Friday, July 22, 2005 9:47 AM
You didn't actually give out Justice Breyer's quote in that post. You just made the claim he made some statement that meant something. That's not called a quote. Neither is simply saying X law claims to state something. If you're saying it's in the title, I say it's a misnomer, and read the actual text of the law. Here, I'll make it easy. - note that other than the title, "theft" is *never* mentioned in the rest of the law, for good reason. The title of the act is really nothing more than a psychological tool used by the **(A)A when they lobbied for the law, not to mention "NET" sounds a lot better as an acronymn than "NECI".

Murder is theft of the person's life. Rape is theft of the person's right to not have sex with you. How is that not stealing?

You're saying nobody's been charged with "theft"? Oh REALLY? Let's look what falls under "theft" "PETTY THEFT, BURGLARY, ROBBERY, EMBEZZLEMENT, FORGERY, INSURANCE FRAUD" - hey, no copyright infringement! And what's "petty theft" if not "theft"?

BTW, I think we're both getting a bit heated in our responses, so I'm gonna sit out for a while and be back tomorrow.
Reply #112 Friday, July 22, 2005 10:02 AM

You didn't actually give out Justice Breyer's quote in that post. You just made the claim he made some statement that meant something.

Yep, I actually did, and even posted a link after it to the Grokster ruling. Evidently you aren't even bothering to read them. You're quoting attorney advertisements, for heaven's sake, and you want to nitpick?

"If you're saying it's in the title, I say it's a misnomer, and read the actual text of the law."

No, you seem to be saying that unless a law uses a particular word, then we can't use it. In that case most rapes aren't even rapes, they are "sexual assaults". Asinine point.

"Murder is theft of the person's life. Rape is theft of the person's right to not have sex with you. How is that not stealing?"

Now who is scraping for strawman arguments? In that light you're stealing a small hunk of my life dealing with this insipidness...

"You're saying nobody's been charged with "theft"?"

Nope, I said no one is charged with "stealing", so according to you no one ever stole anything. I agree with you, it is an ignorant point, the problem is you are the one making it, not me. If you want to be the funny guy with facial tics who raves at people about their use of a particular word, hey, knock yourself out. Don't expect people to take this rot seriously, though.

Reply #113 Friday, July 22, 2005 10:35 AM
Bleah, I guess I will respond before tomorrow.

Ok, so I confused Janet Reno with Breyer's quotes, so the above I said about Janet Reno should've applied to Breyer's quotes. So I have to address Janet Reno's quotes. Ok, so that's her personal opinion, it isn't an actual ruling. So your point?

No, my point is that if the law doesn't actually use that word, then fine, use it, but it's just like Creationists calling evolution a "theory" and meaning hypothesis. If that's fine with you, nothing I can do about it.

Ah ha, so are you going to take me to court for "stealing" or "theft"? It's not actually a strawman, your definitions of stealing really are too broad. I'm merely pointing out the absurdity of your definition. Since you agree calling murder and rape as "stealing" is stupid, you've basically agreed that you're being logically inconsistent. I'm fine with that as well.

Uh uh, but I do consider stealing and theft as properly related words. So unless you're going to argue that they're not the same, then what I said about you saying nobody has been charged with theft applies. But are you sure you want to take that position?

BTW, my point is not really to convince *you*, but rather the other people reading this. Years of debating with Creationists has shown that usually the people you're arguing with won't admit they're wrong, and won't even agree to disagree, but that doesn't matter. It's the people on the fence that need to be convinced.

And seriously, take a deep breath and chill out.
Reply #114 Friday, July 22, 2005 10:41 AM
If calling it theft or stealing is absurd, then most people are. This is becoming a "The world is crazy, not me" thing.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics calls it theft: Intellectual Property Theft, 2002

Since you like Legal advertisements, here's one: Serious Criminal Defense: Intellectual Property Theft

The fact is I could post hundreds of links to the term "Intellectual Property Theft". I could also post, as I have, where legal authorities call it stealing. Just because no one is ever charged with "stealing" in court doesn't mean no one ever stole anything.

If you want to nitpick about it, fine, but then you should also be out there harassing rape victims for not using the term "sexual assault". Idiotic point, and not worthy of further discussion.
Reply #115 Friday, July 22, 2005 10:43 AM
Did I actually call you stupid? No, I called the broad usage of your definition stupid, just as I would call broad definitions of "religion" stupid. Stop being so friggin' defensive.

And yes, I know a lot of people call it "theft," but that doesn't mean it really should be how it's used. It's like a lot of people call people "hackers" when the correct term for what they're really talking about is "crackers". Yeah, the common people use it, people in the government use it, that doesn't meant it's the real word, although people do understand what they mean. But that gets into a debate on the philosophy of language. Now if you're really interested in that debate, *maybe* I'll humor you, but not in this thread.
Reply #116 Friday, July 22, 2005 10:48 AM
My all means, don't waste the time. Write yourself a nice long manifesto on what we should and shouldn't say, and make sure you mail it to everyone so we'll know...

No offense, but Webster doesn't invent language, culture does. Webster responds to usage, it doesn't impose usage. As much as people would like to invent standards and practices for language, it goes where the culture takes it.

That's why something that is "stupid" or "sick" can now be "cool", when "cool" didn't even mean cool in the first place. If you want to get uppity because someone calls IP Theft stealing, then you have a long life of being outraged ahead of you.
Reply #117 Friday, July 22, 2005 10:51 AM
Of course Webster doesn't invent the language. But the problem with culture is that it's not one homogenous mass. That is why people disagree, as we are now. Of course sitting by and doing nothing doesn't really help your view either. That's why you are sitting there writing back as well.

Seriously, let's just agree to disagree here.
Reply #118 Monday, July 25, 2005 9:21 AM
I have to admit, before the release of WindowBlinds 3, I pirated the software from Stardock. I made every excuse in the book about why I didn't need to buy it. I got a new job right around the same time as the release, and bought Object Desktop, and it's funny how much better it seems to run, and how much better I feel looking at my desktop knowing my money (and I'm a developer too) is helping those developers that helped me enjoy my PC a little more.

Concerning the whole copyright issue, and DRM: I think the RIAA and a lot of the corporate entities have gone too far, and are making people like me want to support them even less. Do I download music? Yes. Do I pay for all of it? No. Would I go out and buy a CD of most of the stuff I listen to anyway? No. I have XM. I have the MP3s that I download just so I can make up mixed CDs on which I make no money. I do it for fun. I help advertise for these artists. Do I get any money for that promotion whatsoever? No. Yet, the RIAA would come after me in a minute because I didn't buy music I wouldn't have bought anyway. If I didn't download and use the MP3s, I wouldn't do anything with them, simple as that. I don't NEED the music, therefore I wouldn't BUY the music. It's all about the supply and demand. I don't really demand it, therefore, I have no need for their relentless supply of BS.
Reply #119 Friday, August 26, 2005 3:49 PM
P2P is practically the only way to get good software in many countries, especially in the third world... I should know, I live in Colombia. The thing is, why would I pay 40 USD for some software that doesn't do anything relevant or productive (no matter how cool it is) when I make less than 5 USD an hour? There needs to be a new model for international sales, I bet this would bring piracy through P2P down.

And in case you're wondering, 5 USD is about 5 times the minimum wage.
Reply #120 Monday, September 19, 2005 7:59 AM
i dont wanna say to much or go into more detail on things but i feel i have to say this, in MY defense.
the main reasons i download things are

1) I cant get something i want as its not available where i live.
2) To try something without having to buy it first.

the ONLY exception to these is when i download wrestling. there is more than 1 wrestling company out there (TNA Rules ) but where i live i only have the choice of WWE. so i download the TNA weekly shows and the monthly PPVs. but after that, im usually buying the decent PPVs when they come out on video.
any music i download and like, i buy the albums (with the exception of rare or foreign stuff, i love the Final Fantasy soundtracks and they're HARD to track down).
any games i have downloaded i now own, either because i want to play online or because i love the game. i prefer previewing the game AS A GAME, and not a demo which will only show you the best bits.

dont get me wrong i understand that most illegal bittorrent users DONT do these things, but i also think that saying that everyone that who does use it is taking away from the companies is wrong, for the reasons ive pointed out above, i often do buy anything i download.

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