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Glare, Grouchy

[Rant] Copyright

As this has been getting discussed in the discussion groups of both Katherine Kerr and Megan Lindholm (Robin Hobb) over the past few weeks, it's been on my mind lately. Today I got a note on a game I help keep running that a couple users were using one of the communication venues in the game to discuss how best to trade around cracked games and whatnot.


There are some zealots, I admit, who really do believe that authors should release books for free and copyright shouldn't exist at all, or that all software should be free. Putting aside the question of 'if it's free, you are unlikely to make money on it, and there's no incentive to actually work on it as opposed to getting a different job,' there are other considerations.

Without copyright, for instance, someone could take a book and decide they want to publish their own version of it. They alter it -- cutting scenes, and adding a few they think are better -- and release their own revised edition with the same byline. The author's message is no longer there, and you no longer have any guarantee that you're getting the actual /book/ and not just someone's mutant edited copy.

Add to that the fact that our copyright laws were specifically altered some time ago to adhere to the Berne Convention guidelines, so that our copyright would be enforced and upheld by other countries who are signatories to it.

Really, what it boils down to, I think, is that the majority of people who pirate stuff do it because it's simple (just download something!) and it's free (and people are all about the free stuff). And all the arguments about how it 'doesn't hurt anyone' or how it 'only hurts the publishers' are largely just justifications. And 'I wouldn't have bought it anyway' doesn't really count for anything. If you wouldn't have bought it anyway, that's no excuse for theft. Hey, I wouldn't have bought that DVD player, but that makes it okay to steal it! Bzzt.

If you can convince yourself you're taking a Moral Stand against Big Business or whatever, you don't have to think about the fact that you are stealing from the people who wrote that game you're enjoying so much, that piece of software you use every day, composed and performed those songs you just downloaded in MP3, or wrote that book you just downloaded in eBook format.

The immaturity shows in a number of ways in the pirate community. Witness people who cheerfully accept acclaim and praise for making pirated goods available; the eBook scanners who cheerily accept the acclaim and thanks of the various pirates, acting as if the books were their own work. Hell, think about our Russian hacker friends who have an entire site devoted to Trillian as if it were their work, when all they're doing is distributing pirated copies of Trillian Pro and plugins.

I'm halfway tempted to talk to some of the authors, game developers and so on who I know, and ask them each to write a short essay on copyright and piracy, and collect them into a freely-available eBook to distribute on the net...


And one last clarification (sorry, I'm on the phone, so doing these replies in pieces): I'm not defending the outlawing of technology or the legal strong-arming that the RIAA and MPAA use.

I am, however, absolutely decrying the mentality that because the RIAA and MPAA use those tactics, it's /all right/ to pirate. I am decrying the people who try to justify piracy because it's moral, or tell themselves they're not really hurting people.

If someone wants to pirate, they had best know that they /are/ stealing, they /are/ hurting people, they /are/ breaking the law, and no moralistic justification of 'it's not REALLY stealing' or 'it's not REALLY hurting anyone' or 'it's alright to do because the RIAA takes stupid approaches to laws' can change that one simple fact.

Done now. :)
People will try to take the moral highground for anything. ;) I mean, people who murder abortion doctors take the moral high ground, for chrissake. ;) (to use an extreme example)

On the other hand? The /reason/ that China's DVD market normalized to the new low price for legit items is because people just flat-out refused to pay the higher prices. They stole, they copied, they borrowed, and they bootlegged, until the industry in China finally agreed to their terms.

I'm not saying the same things needs to happen here for that to happen, but I certainly think something drastic needs to happen for the prices to normalize. :)

(PS: This debate is one I'd love to have sitting in a diner with a cup of bottomless coffee at 2am. :P Ah, the good old days before responsibilities. ;) Man, I feel so ooooold.)
Yes, but I -enjoy- hurting the RIAA and the MPAA. Because Jessica Simpson doesn't need another Cadillac SUV and the head of FOX deserves to go bankrupt for cancelling Firefly.


Artists exist to create art. For the most part, those people in the multimillion dollar pop machine aren't making art anymore. They're making crap. The stuff I'm willing to steal? It's stuff that isn't worthy of buying, and if that theft forces people to develop better and more worthy things in order to pry my hard-earned dollars out of my cold hands, fine. Yes. I'm hurting them. I'm twisting the screws in order to make those service people dance to my wishes and stop making crap and selling it to me for 50% margin. :)
There's a difference between saying "I'm morally in the right for breaking the law" and saying "I am doing this because I want to, even though I know it is illegal."

The latter, while odd, is at least true. The first one is just a rationalization to remove guilt.
It's not odd. It's always been the way that consumers punish producers who aren't producing what they want. Either they don't consume, or they consume without rewarding the producer.