Tuesday, July 19, 2005

filesharing is evil pt2

"You're getting something for nothing you lousy ingrate!! OK, I grant that you don't owe anybody the right to make a buck -- but you're enjoying their (movie, music, software) and not giving anything in return; that's wrong."

Ahhh yes, the `ole something for nothing routine. Having discovered that no meaningful harm is being done, some have suggested that filesharing is immoral because it is gratis.

Me: I listen to the radio for free every day -- I enjoy it greatly and I don't pay a cent. Is this wrong?
RIAA Zombie: But you pay for it through commercials!
Me: No I tune into a different station when a commercial comes on -- do you have a problem with that. I also leave the room when the tv commercials come on, its my preferred snack/bathroom break time. Maybe I Tivo. Does this trouble you so? Can I not enjoy tv and radio for free? Did I sign some sort of a contract that I would watch the commercials? The fact is we get something for nothing all the time in life -- air, radio, tv, beaches, mountains, forests, those little snacks they give away in supermarkets, ...
RIAA Zombie: But its not fair, the record studio does all this work to produce the cds, then you just take the music off the internet without paying a dime!
Me: Wake up and smell the napalm! The only thing unfair about the record industry is how they treat the musicians (despite what you think, musicians make the great bulk of their money touring, as they've always done since before there were even vinyl records.) Record studios produce a zero-value product (since the cost of copying and delivering information in today's world costs basically nothing) when they offer me a cd. The artists provide value, but they make their money on concerts and merchandise -- which by all accounts can only increase with a wider distribution of their music. But we're digressing here, as these things always do, into a fight about the proper business model for the record studios. I don't owe the Record companies a profit (see my first post) and I don't give a rat's ass how much money they [don't] make. In a free market its up to the record company to provide me a valuable product if they want my business -- and copying and distributing digital files costs me nothing, so what value do they add?

Up next: why the idea of "owning" digital content is patently ridiculous.


Emily Curtis said...

On some levels I agree with your arguments and I share your position, however, I think I will always have a bad feeling about copying unauthorized material off the internet as long as it is not supported by the courts.
What's it going to take to get the law on your side? Do you really think it happen when the Record companies, and Publishers, etc. have such a strong influence in Washington already? How is somebody going to break that?
One of your arguments is that there is nothing wrong with file sharing morally, but in my case, if I have to decide between morality and legality, this time legality wins.

J. Willard Curtis said...

Filesharing is the largest instance of mass civil disobedience since prohibition, that's just the fact. (I'm considering only felonies here, because of course everybody speeds and jay-walks.)
To address you question: the law will eventually change, just as in the case of prohibition. Ultimately, the only way to enforce copyright in the way that the studios desire is to drastically restrict people's rights to privacy and speech -- this is a no-win situation for the RIAA. They either do nothing (in which case their business model is doomed and more agile competitors will arise with a business model that works while embracing file-sharing) or they try to pass more draconian legislation (like the DMCA on steroids) in which case the ACLU and company will get the courts to strike it down and/or there will be a huge public backlash as people see big brother taking over their digital lives.
Think of it this way honey: how is the government going to know when you share a file if it contains copyrighted content? You could encrypt it first and publicize it anonymously and then share it anonymously. The only way for the government to enforce copywrong is to start looking into your computer and all the packets you send out and receive -- a gross governmental intrusion into your privacy and personal life.

Anonymous said...

I can't say that I agree with your postition here or in previous posts about filesharing. You say no harm is done and yet methinks you'd change your tune if suddenly the Air Force or some co-worker said "thanks for all your research, but we're not going to pay you because we just took a copy of your data; you can keep the original. No harm done!"

Additionally, I must take issue with the idea that Emily Curtis put forward in her post..."if I have to decide between morality and legality, this time legality wins." There is no need to choose between morality and legality! Members of any civilized society have a moral duty to uphold the laws of the country they call home. Breaking the law is not the civilized way to change it, it only fosters lawlessness. (Oh, and citing speeding doesn't justify other breaches of the law either...that's a classic fallacy!) Filesharing is morally wrong, if for no other reason than that it is illegal.

If this position makes me some sort of "zombie" or "holier-than-thou" pinhead, well fine. It doesn't make me wrong! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments anonymous. No, I don't think you a pinhead or zombie ;)
I will disagree with you about legality=morality though. How do you feel about the classic examples of civil disobedience: rosa parks refusing to move from her seat even though a racist law was on the books, or David Thoreau refusing to pay the poll tax because it was discriminatory? If your moral compass is constrained by what congress says, then you should take a closer look at the guys writing these laws ... they're not exactly saints, you know.
It used to be legal to own slaves, it used to be legal to kill Mormons, it used to be illegal for women to vote, and on and on ...
Sometimes people have to make a stand for the things they believe in, especially when the law says otherwise ... just my 2 cents.

J. Willard Curtis said...

Oh, and all of my research is "open source" -- I hereby waive all my rights to anything I've published. (Actually most journals don't really give me a Creative Commons license option, but they don't enforce copyright -- if you go to the library and pull one of my articles, no one is going to harass you for making a copy.)
Also, I'd feel pretty lame if the only value I added to the Air Force was something that could be reduced to binary digits. They don't pay me for the papers I write -- they pay me to adapt my time and efforts to fit the needs of future Air Force mission needs by investigating things that noone else is looking into and to find research that they are presently unaware of which could benefit them...

Anonymous said...

Its awefully bold of you to compare trying to get your mp3 for free because you're too cheap to pay iTunes a buck to Rosa Parks, but I do see your point. However, I don't believe that entertainment rises to the level of civil rights, women's sufferage, or any of the other examples you cited. And, if we do espouse your ideas, where do we draw the line? Shall we call Martha Stuart, Jack Welch, and the like freedom fighters? It's a slippery slope, my friend.

Anonymous said...

"A-W-F-U-L-L-Y" (sorry, i hate typos)

J. Willard Curtis said...

Entertainment ... no, I wouldn't put that up there with women's suffrage. However, as I have alluded to elsewhere, ultimately the only way to enforce strong copyright in the digital age is to have big brother watch our 1s and 0s.
When it comes to personal privacy, freedom of speech (because filesharing is nothing if not a form of speech), and freedom of information flow -- yeah I think those are pretty significant, even the basis for civil disobedience.

For me its not about getting music without paying -- its about abusing peoples' rights so that the RIAA can continue business as usual; copyright is being twisted into a weapon whose only purpose is to prop up a dying business model. Fight the power bro!