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[personal profile] stephiny
I'm somewhat prone to obsessing over what is right when it comes to moral issues. I end up thinking way more than is healthy, like the time that it was suggested to me that using wikipedia in any way for coursework was cheating. I'm still of the opinion that it's not, because proper research papers include bibliographies too, and the main thing I use wikipedia for is to find relevant sources of information on a subject. She wouldn't explain why or how it was cheating though, so I still find myself occasionally tearing the subject apart in my head trying to figure out how it is wrong.

The same goes for my thoughts on piracy. B thinks I'm a thief, and today on facebook this status was posted, "Ebook piracy is theft. If you upload or download an in-copyright ebook without paying for it you are a thief. No ifs, ands, or buts. You are a thief. It's no different to walking out of a shop with a book under your coat."

When two people that I respect disagree with me, that's a fairly strong sign that there is some kind of flaw in my logic. I can't for the life of me figure out what it is though, and it's not like I haven't carefully examined every issue that I can think of relating to it. I'm obviously missing something and it's really frustrating.

I understand perfectly that in terms of what the law states, I am a thief. Ethically though, I don't want to steal. I just have a different definition of theft to most people and if it's actually wrong then I have a lot of fixing that I need to do.

When I've watched a film online more than once I try to buy a copy. This is why I have a pile of DVDs that are still in their wrappers. I buy them because it seems wrong not to, because I've watched it enough that I can't justify not owning a copy. When it comes to books I read whatever is freely availible online first. Google books or amazon often have long excerpts that I can read to decide if I want to buy something or not. If I can't find anything like that, I'll hunt down a copy to download and read and I have a hard time stopping reading something partway through. I almost always read those to the end, even if the books are shit and not worth buying at all, which is wrong but still not resulting in the loss of a sale. At least there aren't many books that I download and don't go on to buy. I have a nice little pile of unread paperbacks because of this, though most books I like to read multiple times and I get enticed by the new book smell so they tend not to go unread for long.

But then again, everyone already knows I do that. I'm still missing something and it's going to drive me nuts until I figure it out.

Date: 2010-08-16 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Step 1: Ask what the difference is between downloading the book/movie/album and borrowing it from a friend, or a library. Particularly since you're not downloading it to keep, but just to check out prior to purchase.

Step 2: ????

Step 3: Profit.

Even according to most law, you're not a thief, really. You're a copyright infringer. A lot of companies are trying to equate this to "thief", but it's not an accurate comparison, for reasons discussed ad nauseum elsewhere. If downloading media leads you to buy one dead tree edition/ebook/album/movie you never would have, it's a net gain for the industry. The problem is that the publishing, music, and film industries know that, for the most part, they are trying to sell you crap. They want you to commit to paying for it before finding out you don't like it, because it makes their gamble on promoting and publishing the content producer more secure. Yet, if the main result of piracy is that we stop buying crap and buy more good material, I'd say that's a benefit to the good artists out there.

One of my friends is opening up a small publishing imprint, which is, of necessity, starting with eBooks. We've recently discussed the one thing she should do, the thing most eBooks don't do - put a page in at the front or the back, linking to the company's page and the author's page: "If you downloaded this via a peer-to-peer site, you can find more like it and support the author here; if you can't afford to buy it, you can donate to the tip jar on the page in question." Suddenly, pirates and hoarders are at least getting you some traffic and maybe some small donations. Go figure.

Date: 2010-08-16 10:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Popping in, because I just wanted to say that you have raised some really brilliant points, like the equation between stealing and being a thief and copyright infringement.
And you are right, it does give them security to take on projects which just aren't as good.

That is a really intriguing idea, and that could actually work. Best of luck to your friend.

Date: 2010-08-17 04:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Digital piracy is really a much more complicated beast than either side makes it out to be. Certainly there are pirates ripping off content creators, and enjoying someone else's work without remunerating them appropriately is wrong, yet the high days of the original Napster also saw a boost in CD sales - presumably because people were able to listen to tracks they wouldn't have purchased, discovered they liked them, and bought the albums. Some piracy equated to increased sales, rather than the opposite, as you would expect.

It's something I've been thinking about for roughly a decade now, ever since I sat down with my buddies when Metallica was first getting in a huff and said "What the Industry should do is make a marketplace where you could listen to samples and buy individual tracks, see, maybe burn your own CDs at kiosks, or buy MP3 files, and the site you buy them from could recommend similar music you might want to buy..." Sadly, I didn't patent the idea, and thus I get no iTunes royalties. C'est la guerre.

I think, at the very least, it's unlikely to decrease sales. It seems to me that the rigorous pursuit of filesharing violators is a giant moneysink for any small business, and thus the best bet is to appeal to the better nature - it may only work some small percentage of the time, and it may only garner a small percentage of what actual sales would have made, but, hey, it's money you wouldn't have gotten by ignoring the reality - a nice middle ground between the extreme approaches: "oh, lawks, any exposure is its own reward!" and "You wouldn't shoot a policeman. And then steal his helmet. You wouldn't go to the toilet in his helmet. And then send it to the policeman's grieving widow. And then steal it again!"

Date: 2010-08-19 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It really is incredibly complicated. I think that they need to find a way to use it, and benefit from it. Banning it won't stop it, that never really works, and it could be possible that sales for some things actually go down.
It would definitely be nice if they could come up with some kind of compromise. And that Policeman thing? Brilliant!

Date: 2010-08-20 01:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*nod* One way or another, they have to deal with the reality - that's the main thrust of my arguments on the topic. The RIAA et al. have done their best to be draconian on the legal side, install horrible insecure rootkits into people's computers without their knowledge, spy on peer-to-peer sharing, sue college kids for millions of dollars, etc, etc, and piracy isn't going away. They need to divert those funds from pointless legal battles into user experience improvements, finding better, cheaper ways to deliver content, trim fat, and generally make their product more attractive. They're always going to be competing with "annoying, risky, and illegal but free", and they therefore need to focus on making their channels easy to use, useful for the average user in terms of perks, suggestions, freebies, etc. They've tried making the "illegal" drawback as scary as possible, they need to work more on value-added features to entice, as opposed to scare tactics.

And, yeah, that bit from The IT Crowd has popped into my head every time piracy comes up - it's too hilarious. Sort of less funny, though, when you realize that the new, serious version of "Don't copy that [floppy]" from the SPA includes footage of a kid's house being raided by heavily armed police who give mum a heartattack, and some implied prison rape, IIRC.

Date: 2010-08-16 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The publishing, music, and film industries are just publicity machines. They take something of dubious quality that they think they can market effectively and cram it down the throats of the audience. I don't like it but it works, people tend to be sheep and go on to buy these things and enjoy them. Though this causes problems for smaller labels/publishers/whatevers, I can't see it changing.


I hate the idea that anyone suffers a loss of earnings from piracy. That just seems wrong to me. I love the idea of having a tip jar that you can add to if you can't afford to buy the ebook!

I'm always up for supporting small publishers, even if I do prefer dead tree editions. When she's got it up and running, send a link to me? There might be something there that is worth a read.

Date: 2010-08-17 04:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The thing is, they were supposed to be publicity machines. The industries came to be, in essence, to spread the risk of bankrolling performers for what were increasingly high production costs. Maybe Garage Bands X, Y, and Z wouldn't earn out the initial investment of getting them into a studio, setting them up to tour, and putting sexy displays into major music shops, but if you averaged their performance with a U2 or a Metallica, the loss of investment didn't really matter. Same thing with films and novels - you were playing a statistical game by assuming the risk for a wide number based on the payoff from a few breakouts, and providing content creators with the sort of amenities they'd be unable to afford on their own at first, like editors and layout artists and sound crews and roadies, etc, etc. Division of labor.

I think my friend actually blogged about how the Publishing Industry as we know it first Borg-ified to assimilate small publishers and offer ludicrous advances to big-name authors and such. It's probably somewhere in her blog at Candlemark & Gleam, though I'm not 100% sure if it was there or on her LJ. That is, for the record, the company site I was talking about. She's remarkably levelheaded, and I'm really hoping it works out for her.

Since ebooks really do have to cost almost as much as a print book, especially when you're not publishing in print to begin with, and since most people are unwilling to pay those prices for digital ephemera (myself included), I really think the "tip jar" is a decent way to at least allow those people to pay something, rather than making it the all-or-nothing deal it's so often seen to be. In a perfect world, everyone would have ten quid to drop on a digital book, and a dandy indestructible ereader to read it on - in the real world, there are some people for whom that digital edition isn't worth the money because it lacks the convenience, and while it isn't fair that the publisher still has to take the same risks and invest the same in editing and layout, etc. to produce what's seen as a lesser product, it's good to at least give people a chance to plunk down what they think is decent when they've managed to snag a pirated copy.


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July 2011


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