August 29, 2006

Free and legal music downloads.

Isn't this where we will have to end up? The solution is to make the money through advertising, the same solution that we've already arrived at to support giving text away for nothing.
In spite of iTunes' popularity, a report released last month by the International Federation of Phonographic Industries revealed that there are still roughly 40 illegal downloads for every legal one as consumers continue to flock to peer-to-peer networks.

"Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling," said Robin Kent, who is SpiralFrog's chief executive and the former head of the Universal McCann advertising agency. "SpiralFrog will offer those consumers a better experience and environment than they can get from any pirate site."

Customers will be able to download an unlimited number of Universal songs to their computer and one other device. They will not be able to transfer those songs onto a compact disc, and they must visit the site at least once a month to maintain access to their music

46 comments:

VICTOR said...

How about stiffer penalties for file sharing. The RIAA (bad publicity notwithstanding) has done a great job of tackling the problem. Anecdotally I used to know a slew of people who downloaded everything from movies to music. One person I know was sued by the RIAA. No one really downloads any more.

Text and music (which costs money to create, market and distribute, and which requies divvying up the pie) are not in the same ball park. Not in the same universe.

The Water Ox said...

Or... people can continue to download songs for free and not have any of those restrictions.

Dave said...

Water hits the nail on the head.

hdhouse said...

The solution is NOT advertising. This is a simple greed issue. Secondary releases of entertainment properties are the single most profitable thing any production company can do. Many of the artist royalties don't apply or are minimal at best. It is electronic so the bandwidth costs are in fractions of cents, they take no store space, there are essentially no supply issues other than how much profit can one make.

It is wrong to ask advertising to essentially subsidize what is and should be a "pay for" service.

If the producers and distributors of online music are screaming about getting ripped off they should look at their own glass houses.

George Wallace said...

What I find most interesting in this story is the additional evidence it provides of our willingness to accept -- or the expectation that The Kids are only willing to accept -- companies with deeply ridiculous names. I mean, really: "SpiralFrog"? Heavens spare us. It sounds like something you order at a hotel bar in the Okefenokee Swamp.

I suppose they chose it because Crunchy Frog was already taken.

Michael Farris said...

I'd argue that the big music companies simply didn't know what they were selling (in retrospect maybe no one did consciously).

In the 70's their main product wasn't music (which you could get from the radio or copy on tape if you were determined enough) but packaging.
The 12" album with it's cover art (which ranged from the glorious to hideous to ridiculous and back again) and lyrics were what people bought.
Beginning in the 80's with cassettes and CD's and now mp3's the packaging has been more and more reduced until now it's non-existant and totally unimportant.
The big music companies need to find something new for consumers to pay for because the toothepaste is out of the tube and most people arne't going to pay what they used to.

Bruce Hayden said...

Victor,

Well, I am sure that the RIAA wouldn't be opposed to the death penalty for its in terrorem effect on file sharing. Realistically though, do you really think that the RIAA is going to volunteer to pay the cost of imprisoning those millions of downloaders at a cost of $100k or so a year each? Until they are willing to pay the cost they are foisting upon the taxpayers of this country, I consider any use of criminal laws here as free riding on their part.

Remember, this is a federal crime. That means using the U.S. Attorney to prosecute, and the federal prison system for incarceration. No tent city as Sheriff Joe had by Phoenix for these offenders.

Smilin' Jack said...

Have I downloaded music illegally? Yes I have. Have I driven 35 in a 30 mph zone? Yes I have. Which is the more serious threat to the public safety and welfare?

Laws protecting record industry greed should be pretty far down the list of enforcement priorities.

Balfegor said...

Remember, this is a federal crime. That means using the U.S. Attorney to prosecute, and the federal prison system for incarceration. No tent city as Sheriff Joe had by Phoenix for these offenders.

They might not necessarily be pursuing prosecutions. They may just be suing for copyright infringement, and asking for statutory damages per instance of infringement.

Incidentally, though, does anyone know how the RIAA is identifying litigation targets here? With dynamic allocation of IP addresses and free wireless networks, it seems to me as though there are (or shortly will be) major technological obstacles standing in their way, as they attempt to sue individual filesharers.

Bruce Hayden said...

Balfegor

The problem with statutory damages and the like is that the average downloader is effectively judgement proof. Think high school or, worse, college kids, running up their student loans. Jail works as a very mild deterrent for them, but not statutory damages.

One thing that might work with the under 18 crowd would be parental responsibility. If parents of underage infringers were made statutorily liable for the copyright infringement of their underage kids, they would presumabbly have a great inducement to police it. Or at least more than they have now.

Stephen B. said...

SpiralFrog will offer those consumers a better experience and environment than they can get from any pirate site.

No it won't. And young people don't want "a better experience and environment," they want free music. And they want to be able to share it with their friends and burn it to CDs and store it on multiple computers. They want free music. They don't want to be tethered to a site (ref: the requirement to visit the site once a month to keep your music) as if they are under house arrest. They just want free music without all the restrictions.

Free music, man. Make music, not war. It's the sixties...er, it's 2006.

Freder Frederson said...

Well at the risk of my collectivist bona fides being trashed, what's wrong with reviving the old fashioned notion that you are stealing somebody's property, no matter how abstract it is, or how easy technology has made the crime to commit.

Gee, when you people start popping off about the evil record companies and the RIAA to justify your theft you sound downright Marxist and, dare I say it, like Democrats.

And when I defend the notion that you should actually pay for the privlege of owning somebody else's property I sound like a damn Republican.

Balfegor said...

The problem with statutory damages and the like is that the average downloader is effectively judgement proof.

Isn't that what they invented garnishment for?

But somewhat more seriously, I don't think the RIAA actually cares about getting the money. They're spending huge amounts of money just firing off cease and desist letters anyhow. All they really want is to ruin the lives of their litigation targets pour encourager les autres. And they can do this simply by bringing suit and forcing young people (or, more likely, their parents, as you note below) to pay lawyers and court fees and go through the hassle and disruption of discovery and the like, to defend themselves. They can choose to settle, I suppose, but in all likelihood settlement monies will be coming out of the parents' bank accounts anyhow.

If parents of underage infringers were made statutorily liable for the copyright infringement of their underage kids, they would presumabbly have a great inducement to police it. Or at least more than they have now.

I think their biggest target is/should be the universities. It may be different now that broadband access is available to the general public, but when I was at university, it wasn't. People only got their filesharing start once they were on a high-speed university network where a 5MB mp3 (about 5 minutes of music) could be uploaded or downloaded in seconds.

cyberbini said...

It is amazing that a huge (maybe a majority) segment of the population has no moral issue with breaking the law.

Intellectual property and digital distribution are big issues - no?

Maybe Giuliani will propose the "Broken Windows" theory about file downloads.

Jeremy said...

Feder,
It's too easy to dismiss this as a "taking someone else's property" issue.

Afterall, I bought the CD. It's my property. Don't I have the right to do with it as I please? Can't I give it away? Can't I store the content on my computer? The RIAA argues that I didn't really by a CD; I bought the right to listen to a particular set of songs via a particular medium. But we consumers never agreed to that, did we?

Michael Farris said...

Jeremy has a good point, another is the insane intellectual property laws (indefinite and forever copyright held by those who didn't create the music in the first place) and another is the known sleaze of big music and its rich and varied history of screwing artists backwards forwards and sideways.

I think a lot of downloading is sleazy and questionable (probably based more laziness than larcenous intent) but the big music industry doesn't create any sympathy for itself and comes across as Tony Soprano complaining about someone stealing his morning paper.

Balfegor said...

It is amazing that a huge (maybe a majority) segment of the population has no moral issue with breaking the law.

I dunno. My general sense is that if it's actually a huge proportion, we maybe ought to rethink the law. No?

The laws loses some of its legitimacy when it becomes a creature of mere power and coercion. The law's power to coerce effectively is also somewhat limited, when the objects of its power disagree with it -- this is the insight underlying civil disobedience, after all. At best, it can affect behaviour on the margin.

Broken windows is not, I think, the best analogy here. My understanding is that in a broken-windows situation, you're not facing a rebel population, just a few rebel elements within the population. People living in a New York hellhole don't actually want to live in a neighbourhood like that, but there are gangs and young hoodlums and such who make the neighbourhood so. Suppress them, and the neighbourhood returns to life.

Here, on the other hand, other than paying elevated prices for computer software (sometimes attributed to software piracy), the average citizen hasn't experienced any real deterioration in quality of life due to piracy, and this huge proportion who are pirates are obviously delighted with the opportunity to pirate, or they wouldn't do it.

One can make a philosophical argument about the sanctity of intellectual property, but because IP is non-rivalrous (as contrasted with, say, food in Soviet Russia), there are countervailing arguments, which others may find persuasive.

For my part, I think the argument for IP is a fair one, but the term of protection should be cut way down. 20 years, as with patents, seems a respectable period. A 10 year monopoly, given the sharp novelty fall-off for pop music and most other copyright products (e.g. fiction), would not seem unreasonable to me. With protection periods exceeding a human lifetime, though, I can't muster a whole lot of outrage about filesharing.

P. Froward said...

They will not be able to transfer those songs onto a compact disc...

Horsecrap. Of course they will.
The logic here isn't very involved: If the user can access the zeroes and ones, the user can access the zeroes and ones. The rest is implementation details.

Balfegor said...

Horsecrap. Of course they will.
The logic here isn't very involved: If the user can access the zeroes and ones, the user can access the zeroes and ones. The rest is implementation details.


Implementation details can raise a nontrivial barrier to general evasion of content protection systems. For example, with DVD's, it's fairly easy to get around the Content-Scrambling System and make personal home copies of DVD's you have rented on Netflix, say. But doing so requires going on the internet and downloading software which will enable you to DeCSS the DVD's. This is, comparatively speaking, a very, very low hurdle, and descrambling and burning a DVD doesn't take particularly long. But nevetheless, my sense is that people making private copies of rented DVD's is quite uncommon. I know of a few people who do it a lot, but it's nothing like filesharing.

The more likely outcome, I think, will be people taking the digitised library from this SpiralFrog site, ripping everything to a useable format, and then putting it up on filesharing networks. This is what goes on with DVD's, after all.

Sanjay said...

This is tangential but was inspired by what you wrote in the post. I wonder, Professor Althouse: how do you think would the content of this blog be different if there were no advertising on it ("not at all" is an acceptable answer)?

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with some of the previous posters. IP, esp. Copyright Law, has lost a lot of legitimacy through overreaching by the rights owners. Probably the best example of this was the Mickey Mouse (aka Sonny Bono) Copyright Extension Act, which added 20 years to the term of existing copyrights - with nothing in return from the rights owners (like Disney here, trying to maintain its copyrights over ancient Mickey Mouse cartoons).

IP is supposed to be somewhat of a contract. In trade for monopoly protection for a (IMHO short) period of time, the artist/inventor creates. But when copyright is extended essentially indefinately, this contract is really broken. The present value of those 20 extra years for someone authoring a work now is near zero, whereas it is very significant to those who own works created a half a century or more ago.

Of course, this is a worldwide problem, since part of the justification for the MM C/R Extension Act was to harmonize with a couple of European countries that had made similar extensions. Much of the First World now enjoys the same rights overreaching with essentially century long C/R terms.

P. Froward said...

Balfegor,

Implementation details can raise a nontrivial barrier to general evasion of content protection systems.

Er, sorry, I drifted off into jargon there. By "implementation details" I mean... Um...

Okay, a coffee mug is an "implementation" of a drinking vessel. A jelly jar is another, and a frat boy's plastic beer cup is a third. A giant pewter beer stein is yet another. The implementations differ in lots of details, but they all do the same job. Likewise, Arista's DRM and Columbia's DRM may differ in any number of specifics at the bits-and-bytes level, and the guy who writes the cracking software will have to figure those out to crack each one, but that's just detail. It's of no interest in the present discussion. That's what I meant. Nothing to do with the user.

I wouldn't assume that DVDs are a good analogy. Does Blockbuster rent CDs? How many DVDs does Tower sell? Those two products are bought and sold and consumed differently. People will listen to the same song forty times in a given week. Movies, you rent once and rarely watch again.

Lots of people downloaded Napster.

Or maybe more technically adept users will circumvent the DRM and put songs on file-sharing networks, as you suggest.

I don't know if all this is "moral" or not. Was it "moral" for buggy-whip manufacturers to die out when the internal combustion engine was invented? If not, what exactly ought to have been done?

BJK said...

My problem with the Univeral / SpiralFrog system: what happens to all that content once the sponsors shut the site down? (ie., when it stops being reasonably profitable.)

Anyone else remember DivX players...?

As to the larger issue of file sharing, I'm one of the many people out there who used Napster. I haven't downloaded a song illegally ever since the record industry made it possible for me to do so legally.

There will always be people looking to free-ride on the entertainment industry. After all, the primary means of distribution for much of the industry's content has historically used this free-to-the-home backbone (radio and TV). The entertainment industry isn't making money off the guy who buys used or bootleg tapes....digital technology hasn't changed that.

Enforcement of copyright law is important, but the underlying problem is that - while the recording industry attempted to ignore demand for portable digital music - the consuming public latched on to a copyright-free format (mp3).

Balfegor said...

the consuming public latched on to a copyright-free format (mp3)

The irony is that there are patent claims around the MP3 format, specifically (I think) the Fraunhofer compression algorithm. As a result, Audacity and other legal open source audio programs don't "ship" with internal MP3 support. You have to download the MP3 support separately.

Ogg Vorbis is the truly free format, here, but no one seems to use it. It emerged too late in the game.

Ed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ed said...

It certainly isn't the artists who are suing music downloaders. Artists don't generally make money on albums. Record companies give them a contract and then charge them back for expenses. Most artists end up broke.

Musicians make their money from two things: performances and merchandise. Metallica got rich off selling 3 dollar T-shirts for 40 bucks.

Now it has become easy for musicians to put out their own albums and promote themselves on the internet. There is no need for the middleman record company. I think that the record companies are going to go the way of the buggy-whip manufacturers, unless they realize that their product is the value-added part of the music (the album cover, booklets, etc) not the music itself.

I have a problem with information being considered a commodity like any other. When information is duplicated, none of the value of the original has been lost. The original owner still has what he had before. The RIAA arguments amount to a shell game, meant to preserve the illusion that intellectual product is a commodity like corn.

Balfegor said...

none of the value of the original has been lost. The original owner still has what he had before.

To use a primitive economic analysis, I think we'd say that none of the use value of the original has been lost, i.e. the hedonic returns to listening to and enjoying the music. However, the exchange value of the information has been completely destroyed, because the information can be had for free. So certainly some value in the thing has been lost.

woodlandcritter said...

This is an interesting market because it has become all fixed cost and no(minimal) marginal cost. In addition, the barriers to entry (recording costs, marketing, distribution) are falling rapidly. This give an opportunity for competition limited only by the number of talented musicians out there, which, based on my experience is an extraordinarily large number. Economics tells us that in this situation, the price of the good must be free or nearly so.

At some point, music will be free because a very talented garage bands are going to be willing to give their music away. Bands will need to make their money touring, merchandising, and through PayPal.

You can pick-up hints at this by the names of the bands fighting the rear-guard action. Most of them are trying to protect hits from the the 80s and prior.

My younger daughter is already a big fan of a band that distributes free on the web.

The backers of the RIAA need to redeploy their capital before their existing market dies out.

Seven Machos said...

To the "it's-stealing" crowd: you mean to tell me that it's okay for me to sell the rights to own my entire CD collection at the used record store for, say, $400 but for me to give away those very same rights is a crime?

Michael Farris hits it on the head. The record companies pay radio stations to take their songs and play the songs for people to listen to for free, but want to charge people ridiculous amounts of money to buy the same product. Huh? What? It worked out great for decades, though. The music industry had it good because it controlled distribution and could charge exorbitant sums for its products.

The entire music industry must reconfigure. Technology has made music products worth a lot less. The only reason the price was ever high was because of the distribution issues. Were Twisted Sister or the Pointer Sisters ever worth tens of millions of dollars? No. It was that sweet monopoly on distribution. But technology has out an end to that.

File-sharing is here to stay. The recording industry needs to (1) enhance its product in other ways (like packaging) or (2) make the unit-price cheaper in hopes of selling more units or (3) radically reduce overhead. I wonder if the scribes reacted this way when the printing press was introduced.

hygate said...

To the "it's-stealing" crowd: you mean to tell me that it's okay for me to sell the rights to own my entire CD collection at the used record store for, say, $400 but for me to give away those very same rights is a crime?

You have the same legal right to give away your CDs as you do to give away a book. But if you digitized the contents of the book or started cranking out printed copies and started giving them away then you are breaking the law. It is called copyright because it defines who has the right to make copies. (I am not a lawyer but I am working on a Master's in Information Assurance and we covered this topic pretty thoroughly in the last seminar.)

Ann Althouse said...

Sanjay: No difference. If I wanted to write a job to maximize advertising, I'd do it very differently, like write about one thing -- maybe TV -- all the time.

Seven Machos said...

Covered it in a seminar, did you hygate? Well that settles it right there. The answer is clear.

Balfegor said...

You have the same legal right to give away your CDs as you do to give away a book. But if you digitized the contents of the book or started cranking out printed copies and started giving them away then you are breaking the law.

Ah, but in the case of CD's, there's the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) -- look at 17 USC § 1008, which prohibits suit for "noncommercial use by a consumer," and, based on the legislative history, this has generally been understood to mean that you cannot be sued for using audio recording devices to make copies of CD's you have purchase, so long as your purpose is "noncommercial." This probably rules out trading copies of songs (what, implicitly, goes on in most filesharing situations), since there is something of value getting exchanged there. But the argument could be made (though I certainly do not endorse it!), that it shouldn't cover making a million copies of a CD and giving it away to strangers on the street.

Michael Farris said...

"if you digitized the contents of the book or started cranking out printed copies and started giving them away then you are breaking the law."

Theory aside, there's a big difference between books and music. No one's come up with a better format for books than ... well, books.
I'm not interested in reading books online or in electronic format unless the format changes drastically. I've downloaded and printed e-books for my own use but even reading that (sprial bound one-sided one column A4 pages) was less comfortable than a 'real' book (paperback size is my favorite fiction format, about 7 by 9 inches hardback for something I need to learn from).

Music is different. A song I like sounds the same on cassette, cd, or a computer (the quality of the playback equipment is more important here than the format of the recording).
Packaging used to be important but the music industry's conscious choice over the last few decades has been to reduce that importance to the point that no one cares anymore (or they're willing to package on their own).
I might buy more CD's if more things that I wanted were available for reasonable prices in attractive packaging. It's not and so I don't, you couldn't pay me to listen to almost commercially available music.

Meanwhile I do download some music that I'm interested in (exotic, foreign, outsider and/or fringe performers) that aren't available in any commercial format and make do with no packaging.

word verification: nvwkrq, Inuit word for unexpected snow in late April.

hygate said...

Covered it in a seminar, did you hygate? Well that settles it right there. The answer is clear.

That seems unnecessarily snarky. Yes, I studied the subject of copyrights in a formal setting were I was required to prove that I had actually mastered the material. Where did you acquire the knowledge you have concerning copyright protection? In that setting I learned facts relevant to the question you asked concerning your right to give away copies of your CDs. I took no position concerning the morality of doing so. I simply relayed factual information concerning copyright law. In the future I will remember not to respond to your questions since you clearly have no interest in answers that do not conform to your prejudices.

Seven Machos said...

Hygate -- The point is that the law is an ass. First, there was Napster. That got shut down by a court so it was on to kazaa, which got pretty much shut down. Now, it's on to bearshare.

Why is murder a crime? Is it because the government simply says so? Or is it because there are good moral and practical reasons to have murder be a punishable act?

Any attempt to extricate law from moral and practical considerations is a foolish one. The law must follow from morality and it always eventually has to give way to technological reality.

hygate said...

Hygate -- The point is that the law is an ass.

The point is that you acted like an ass when I responded to your question.

Personally, I fail to see the morality of stealing the work of others, no matter how badly someone may want it for free. Tell you what, since you feel that music should be free to download, why don't you create some and distribute it without charge. Some artists are already doing so, which is their right. If other artists choose not to adopt this business model then that is their right as well, so don't download their intellectual property without paying for it. If you're right, they'll eventually have to start giving the music away for free anyway as they adapt to the new business environment brought into being by technology. (I know, I know . . . record companies are eeevvviiilll, they charge too much, etc).

As a practical matter, I must agree that technology is making the stealing of other people's intellectual property increasingly simple and that the creators of intellectual property (and the industries that exploit them) are going to have to adapt to that. So you will get your free downloads. However, morality has nothing to do with it. It just is.

Ordinarily I would mention that downloading music files from peer-to-peer networks is a good way to get you computer owned by some hacker who modified the contents of the files he is serving up to surreptitiously take over your computer, but hey who am I to interfere with your god given right to listen to mp3s of Metallica/Phil Collins for free?

Finally, I will make a prediction. Within a couple of years enough people will be burned by having their computers hacked using the method stated above and subsequently having their CC numbers stolen along with browser hijackers and spyware installed that only script kiddies trying to own each others computers will still be using peer-to-peer networks. There might even be a class action suit. (I know, I know . . . Windows is for lusers, Linux rocks, Mac rocks, etc. I browse Slashdot too.)

Seven Machos said...

Wow. I seem to have hit a nerve. Isn't everything I am writing here subject to being stolen for free? If you don't want your art "stolen," don't put it in a format that can be stolen. How, for example, would I go about stealing a U2 concert? Also, you can't download really cool packaging. But rather than make the packaging worthwhile, the music industry is scaling down packaging.

Look. When a CD gets sold, the actual artist sees pennies. The people who get paid are the seller, the distributor, the manufacturer, the record label, the producer, and all the middle-people along the way. Those people are not needed any more, yet they still want to get paid.

Furthermore, when a CD gets sold, teh rights to the CD belong to the buyer. If I want to put it on an Internet site, that's my business.

Your other arguments, hygate, are kind of superfluous. File-sharing absolutely proliferates and viruses and whatever other super-scary boogeyman stuff you wrote about is a really minimal problem.

Finally, I, too, will make a predicition. In 10 years, the music industry will have given up suing their customers. They will lower prices drastically, cut out most retailing altogether, improve theri packaging tremendously, and/or minimize their overhead by massively cutting staff and pay. The era of the set of 10 mediocre songs for $18.99 is over. File-sharing will seem like using a cell phone.

Balfegor said...

Personally, I fail to see the morality of stealing the work of others, no matter how badly someone may want it for free.

The difficulty in IP is that the way in which the work "belongs" to others is a kind of legal fiction, because IP is nonrivalrous. Usually when you steal something, the person from whom you steal it can no longer use it (it being in your possession), so he has been deprived of any intrinsic value in it. In the case of IP, however, "stealing" the IP only deprives the IP-holder of the exchange value of that IP, and even then, only of one instance of exchange value (it is different, of course, if the IP-"thief" then redistributes the IP -- that can destroy the exchange value).

But at a more abstract level, I think viewing IP in moral terms is highly misleading. After all, under US law, IP-holders have control of the IP (a power to exclude other uses) for a fixed period (as mandated by the Constitution), and then, magically, that power evaporates.

There's nothing intrinsicly meritorious or moral about that arbitrary temporal boundary, that point when it ceases to "belong" to the copyright owner. I doubt one could come up with a philosophical argument giving the morally correct time at which that power of exclusion should terminate.

Consequently, arguments about IP founded in notions of moral authorial ownership founder on this point, I think -- if the author of the work owns the thing, "morally," because he created it (because it is "mixed with his labour" or somesuch), then how to justify the fact that that ownership vanishes after an arbitrary time? The logical conclusion of the author's moral rights argument seems, as I see it, to be that copyright ought to be of theoretically infinite duration, a kind of fee simple in the intellectual property.

And this is, of course, what Disney et al. would like, and what copyright grandfathering may effectively give them. But it's also, unquestionably, not the species of copyright authorised under the Constitution -- the Constitution does not make any moral claims about authorship when authorising copyright. Rather, the clause reads:

to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries

It's a pragmatic policy about incentives to creation.

Moral claims about the rights of authors to ownership of their works may line up with the copyright code here and there. But we shouldn't confuse the law and this particular moral theory, anymore than we should confuse "fair use" with the moral vision of Larry Lessig.

That is to say, under the copyright code, the copyright owner's moral right to exclude other people from use of the copyrighted thing is analogous to the rights some beneficiary of government regulation or spending has to the benefits of that regulation -- the rights Prius owners have to legislation that penalises automobile owners while exempting them, say, or the rights that farmers have to agricultural subsidies.

There is a sort of moral wrong involved in breaking the law, just as a general matter. But the moral wrong involved here is a much more attenuated thing than, say, the moral wrong involved when you steal a man's car.

You may think that "stealing the work of others" is wrong, but does the wrongness stand independent of the particulars of the copyright code? When does it cease to be wrong to "steal" the work of others? How long after creation do those rights endure?

hygate said...
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hygate said...

when a CD gets sold, teh rights to the CD belong to the buyer. If I want to put it on an Internet site, that's my business.


Utter nonsense. You have purchased the rights to the CD, not the right to produce and distribute copies of it. If you were the only person who could access the site then no law would have been broken, otherwise you are stealing revenue from someone else. The fact that you don't approve of some of those people does not change the fact that it is theft.

The dangers of downloading files from peer-to-peer networks are quite real, though irrelevant to the morality of downloading other people’s property without paying for it. I simply tried to warn others who may not be aware of them of some of the dangers inherent in participating in such networks. Other issues include inadvertently sharing personal data by incorrectly configuring the client and the use of your computers resources to route peer-to-peer traffic.

Balfegor, Seven Machos would do well to familiarize himself with your arguments since his seem to consist of "millions of people do it" and "it’s technologically feasible". In reply to your argument, the government offers a limited time protection for copyright because no creative act occurs in a vacuum. Creative people reshape the material of a shared culture to create their works. The government grants them limited rights to control those works so that they can profit from them, therefore encouraging them to engage in further creative work.

The government doesn't do this simply to enrich the artists; it does so because encouraging creative people to engage in creative work benefits society as a whole. The time limit exists because the creator used elements of common culture in their art and needs to eventually lose the right to control what they have added to that culture so that other creative people can in turn use those new elements, further enriching the culture.

People that download copyrighted material without paying for it are engaged in morally wrong behavior because their actions break the social compact. They lessen the incentive to create works of art and thus make society poorer. Seven Machos argument concerning the fact that much of the money spent for music goes to various middlemen is irrelevant, much of the money I spend at the grocery store goes to middlemen, and it is still immoral to shoplift rutabagas.

He is correct that most of those middlemen in the music industry will soon no longer be necessary. I don’t see how that justifies stealing music today. As I said in an earlier post, if you don’t want to pay for music don’t. Plenty of bands offer their music online for free, listen to that. Music is not a necessity after all, what harm are you suffering if you don’t have the latest Jessica Simpson hit on your Ipod?

By the way, I agree that the continuous extending of the copyright protection time frame to prevent the Walt Disney Co. from losing control of Mickey Mouse is a scandalous abuse of government power.

Seven Machos said...

hygate --

You said: if you don’t want to pay for music don’t.

Bullshit. If you don't want to deal with filesharing, don't make music and put it into CDs. There's jobs at the post office, you know. Also, I don't see Fifty Cent going hungry, or his producer or his various record executive hangers-on and lackeys. Do you? And this despite file-sharing.

Property law is merely a bundle of rights. Technology has completely changed the way this bundle of rights can be transferred. The music industry needs to understand this and accept it. The inudstry could also start making products that are not copyable -- non-digital products if it really wants.

A lot of people think a lot of things are wrong. A whole contingent of people thinks it's wrong to be gay. Another contingent thinks it's wrong to even tolerate treating gays differently.

For a law to function in a free society, you need two things:

1. You need a very substantial segment of the population to accept that the forbidden behavior is wrong (or the mandated behavior is necessary);

2. You need to have an effective means to enforce the law.

(By the way, all regimes -- free or not -- need effetive enforcement.)

You got a big problem with regard to your argument on file sharing because of these two facts. (1) A very substantial segment of the population does not accept that file sharing is wrong. (2) There is no way to enforce a law against file-sharing, at least insofar as the music industry advocates. This second fact is the real crux of the issue.

hygate said...

A very substantial segment of the population does not accept that file sharing is wrong.

I reject the notion that because a large number of people assert something that makes it correct, what you are really saying is that “might makes right". In any event, a large segment of the population thinks that sharing copyrighted material outside of fair use without the copyright owners’ approval is wrong.

If you don't want to deal with filesharing, don't make music and put it into CDs.

What about graphic artists, poets, novelists, photographers and others whose work can be easily copied and distributed over the Internet? Should they just stop producing their work and get a job at the post office also?

In the end your argument consists of "I want it" and "I can't be stopped." Blathering about property right bundles, changing business models, middlemen, etc. are just lines picked up while you browsed Slashdot, a salve to your conscience, I'm sure.

Balfegor said...

I reject the notion that because a large number of people assert something that makes it correct, what you are really saying is that “might makes right".

It's kind of odd for you to be characterising Seven Machos's viewpoint as "might makes right." Because he's making a broader legitimacy argument -- if you can't actually persuade the people you're regulating that your law is a good law, your law is lacking a certain legitimacy. To the extent we believe in consensual governance as a moral good, your regulation lacks moral validation -- what you're doing when large numbers of people disagree with your regulation is you're taking the awful power of the state and ramming it down their throats.

"Might makes right" is exactly the principle underlying copyright as it exists today -- those with the power made the rules, whether the people subject to those rules agree with them or not.

The second issue folded in there is that you lose legitimacy when you're incapable of enforcing those laws you do adopt. And part of this runs straight back to the original legitimacy issue -- you can't enforce the laws if a sizeable fraction of the population thinks your laws are idiotic. See the drug laws, for example.

In any event, a large segment of the population thinks that sharing copyrighted material outside of fair use without the copyright owners’ approval is wrong.

I'm not sure on this point. For one thing, I think the general public is broadly unaware of the nature of copyright law today. One encounters huge numbers of copyright "myths," and there is what I like to call a "folk law" of copyright out in the general public -- one that is in some particulars more restrictive than copyright as actually constituted (e.g. some people seem to think authors have more rights than they actually have, even after they sell the work, or that securing copyright requires things like mailing a copy of your work to yourself to get a valid date from the postoffice, and marking the work with the little circle-c), and in some respects much, much broader (huge numbers of people think "fair use" is a heck of a lot more generous than it actually is, even to the point that they think any and all "noncommercial" use is "fair use"). So while I think the public are broadly supportive of copyright (including lots of people who engage in filesharing), I think this support is in part founded on widespread ignorance of the law as it actually is.

What about graphic artists, poets, novelists, photographers and others whose work can be easily copied and distributed over the Internet? Should they just stop producing their work and get a job at the post office also?

I don't think we'd exactly be running out of graphic artists, poets, novelists, photographers and others, if we abolished copyright. One thing the internet has shown us is that people who want to do art will do art whether you pay them to or not. Indeed, whether you'd want them to or not. Just look at places like DeviantArt. Is it mostly crap? Sure. But there's some really impressive stuff there too. And done for free.

Whether artists et al. will continue to make a living at it, the way a small proportion of them are able to at present? That's a different matter. But I suspect they will. There will still be people who work on commission. There will still be corporations who cannot find, in their clip art files, the perfect picture, who will need to hire graphic artists and designers to make their presentation just so. There will still be the premium of first-to-release, or first publication.

Michael Farris said...

"In any event, a large segment of the population thinks that sharing copyrighted material outside of fair use without the copyright owners’ approval is wrong."

I really doubt this.
Format and intent matter here.
I would say that a large segment of the population (including me) thinks that _profiting_ directly from copyrighted material without the copyright owners' approval is absolutely wrong no two ways about it, but by definition 'sharing' does not profit the sharer (materially at any rate).
If X to sell copies of YZ's music without their (or the copyright holder's) permission that would be one thing, if X buys a copy and lets people make their own copies (or copies it as a favor) for their own private use, then that's another matter. Many (most?) people perceive the two situations very differently. No matter who's right or who's wrong, feasible laws need to take that into account.
The same laws that apply (for instance) to books aren't going to necessarily work for recorded music and those who argue they do are pushing water up a hill.

hygate said...

It's kind of odd for you to be characterising Seven Machos's viewpoint as "might makes right." Because he's making a broader legitimacy argument -- if you can't actually persuade the people you're regulating that your law is a good law, your law is lacking a certain legitimacy. To the extent we believe in consensual governance as a moral good, your regulation lacks moral validation -- what you're doing when large numbers of people disagree with your regulation is you're taking the awful power of the state and ramming it down their throats.

I don't agree that just because large numbers of people don't agree with a law or regulation it lacks legitimacy. Let’s look at the obverse. If large numbers of people agree that a law or regulation is good then does that automatically lend it legitimacy? A majority of the people in the south supported Jim Crow laws. Many people opposed the Voting Rights Act. Others would like to be able to discriminate against African-Americans and other minorities when renting out property. Popular support for a policy and its morality are separate issues. Using the awesome power of the state to safeguard its citizens’ rights and property is a legitimate use of state power. In this case that power is being used to prevent one subset of the population from taking the property of another subset without their permission. Just because millions of people decide that they have the right to take my property because technology has made it feasible doesn't make it any less a theft. Seven Machos makes a might makes right argument every time he asserts that millions of people agree with him and therefore the law must be changed. It may sound like an argument concerning the legitimacy of the law; it is really an appeal to force.

As for whether or not millions of people agree with copyright law – millions of people may not be intimately acquainted with the laws covering their rights as land holders; does that make their support of property rights in general any less legitimate? Most people are for the concept of copyright simply because they feel that people have a right to control the fruits of their work. Good luck convincing them otherwise.

And now I must leave this debate. Between returning to work, school, and assisting my wife in the master bath remodel I won’t have time to respond. Been a lot of fun.