We're All Going to Jail


If Congressmen Conyers and Berman have their way, that is. For now, we'll only have to worry about civil ramifications. That's right. 871 subpoenas.

Not having taken Intellectual Property yet I don't have anything terribly informed to say on the subject. For now I'll open up the floor to discussion, and just say that I find this really, really scary.


I, for one, am really really glad I don't have Kazaa. Thanks Matt, for being such a pain in the ass and refusing to sign up for it! As usual, you were proved right in the end.

Whether you've taken IP yet or not, you should know that in order to get the kind of information necessary to identify and locate the targeted users, the RIAA will need to do some serious invasion of those users' privacy. Although I haven't taken a single law class yet, it seems pretty sketchy that a powerful organization such as the RIAA can obtain your personal information from internet providers and/or file sharing sites, especially since the legality of file sharing, even copyrighted materials, is still a major question. It makes me sick that the RIAA and the "justice system" are setting this kind of precedent... that it's OK to use intermidiaries to obtain confidential information for a "crime" that is so common and such a natual extension of new technology's capabilities that most of society views it as a right. If anything, I'd say that this kind of reactionary, overly harsh, if not over broad, legislation will only serve to further alienate the RIAA and the government from music fans and (technological) civil rights advocates. The more laws like this they pass, it will only spur file sharing technology to become more advanced and secure from their prying eyes.

The above tirade seems to me a bit misguided. To call the legality of sharing copyrighted materials as up in the air is odd. I'm not aware of anyone making the claim that there is a right to obtain and use copyrighted materials without compensating the copyright holder. The precedent seems to be that people who "steal" on the internet will be pursued as agressively as those who "steal" in more traditional settings. My understanding was congress authorized what you describe as an invasion of user privacy in 1998 to curb this type of behavior. That is a function of law making, not of dangerous precedent setting by the "justice system". While most young internet competent people have obtained some material free on the internet, it seems like the government has finally caught up with technology. That being the case, the easy answer is to stop trading other people's copyrighted material, not to violate those copyrights and then cry invasion of privacy.

focusing in on the narrow issue of whether the government should be able to force the internet companies and universities to give up personal information... the standard, as i understand it, is whether the user has a reasonable expectation of privacy when they provide information to these companies. and given the devil-may-care attitude that most companies (magazines, credit cards, and ESPECIALLY internet companies) take regarding sharing and selling personal information, there really wasn't any such expectation.

the universities are another issue. if you're a student at a public university you're basically using government resources (albeit that you're paying for) to do these things, so the privacy expectation is nil. private universities are different, but are still pretty public places.

Since the RIAA won the suit agianst Verizon and made them give up the names of suspected-pirates that used Verizon DSL as their ISP, and the sacraficial lamb students that recently settled with the RIAA for the tune of like $20K, the main relevant piece of law here is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a draconian and horribly short-sighted law. It was enacted, as mentioned about by Mr Pickering, in '98, but not to deal with file-traders. Its main provision was to prevent the unauthorized reproduction of copy written material on the web. The government hasn't cought up to technology, infact it is using a dated, and some (http://legalminds.lp.findlaw.com/list/cni-copyright/msg13158.html) would say unconstitutional law to try and catch up.

"This law is supposed to be a shield, and I think the RIAA is using it as a sword. It's designed to protect people's copyright. It's not designed so we can just turn somebody over to the copyright holder with no due process." Les Seagrave, chief privacy officer for Earthlink.

On top giving too much power to multinational media giants, the DMCA hamstrings "fair use," an important aspect of Copyright. Copyright should protect the artists, not the giant corporations that are ALREADY screwing those artists.

The proliferation of on-line music trading is a symptom of a diseased and dying industry; one of the few industries that continues to charge the consumer more for less.


Apologies for the long post, but I have a lot to say on this topic...

For you legal-minded people, here's the full text of the bill (available as plain-text or .pdf)


My beef with this bill is not that it targets online file sharing. I'm not arguing that it should be legal to for people to always download for free what costs $$$ in the store, no matter how much I would like that situation.

But read the bill.
The language used is FAR too broad and written by someone who doesn't seem to have a real idea of what they're talking about. Their definition of "enabling software" includes FTP servers, samba servers, etc. etc. In fact, Windows Networking falls straight into the category of "enabling software".

The worst part, though is the section which is meant to turn P2P sharing of a single song into a felony.

Let's read the original codes that this is amending

The bill is amending the punishment section, not the definition of the offense section. But the language suggests that it should also apply to the definition of the offense. So that would mean placing a single song on any public computer network (FTP, college network, etc. etc. etc.) is automatically escalated to be a criminal offense. Without this bill, you'd have to be an active pirate: making enough copies to exceed $1,000 retail value (since most singles can be bought from Apple for $0.99 ea, that's 1,100 copies). But now, a single sharing event is worth $2,500, which I don't think accurately reflects either the damage done or the intention of the person infringing.

Is it morally wrong to wish that Napster raped some more people? In fact, can I now call it Rapester since it serves no other function for me than the wishing of a now dead program to rape people that pisses me off?

I will speak for all the dumb-asses out there. They need to be heard. This post has too many intellectals posting here. And yes I know I spelled that wrong. Whenever a ton of people get targeted ( a ton would be over like fifty) by the goverment, I would hope it would be organised crime in someway. Targeting the listeners of the music is not going to stop it all and they are never going to be able to catch technological wise. It's impossible. They will always be playing the catch up game. Instead of attacking they should combat thier problem another way. Even if they stop everyone from sharing files on the internet people are going to burn them. Or find another way to steal the copyrighted item. Unless they plan to search everyone's house they think is burning cd's they are not going to fix that problem as well.

a few things.

first off, according to my civil procedure professor, when blank tapes and tape recorders first entered wide consumer use, the recording industry bitched about it. so they put a special tax on all blank tapes to pay off the music industry. i'd imagine a similar tax shows up on blank CDs these days.

also, i agree with paul that the RIAA would be better advised to adapt to the technology rather than try to defeat it, which they'll never do. apple music, i think, is a great idea. a dollar a song is certainly reasonable. the next step will be to create something that's just as easy but available to all of his neanderthal PC users.

until the RIAA starts cooperating with technology-savvy listeners, they're going to invest a bloody great deal of money into fighting their draconian lawsuits, funded by $19 CDs. very much like the war on drugs, i daresay.

Haha: "I agree with Paul"

I like how Matt took my whole comment and squished it into one sentance. Nice job Matt.. I guess college is worth it after all....

To respond to Mr. Pickering's comment about my questioning of the legality of sharing copyrighted materials, as far as I know (bear in mind that I haven't actually started lawschool yet), copyright law prohibits the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted materials *for profit*. When I share or download a song on the internet, neither I or the other "peer" in the "transaction" is making a damned dime. To my mind, that transaction then falls outside the domain of the kind of piracy copyright laws had in mind. As mentioned above, there has been similar arguments made by the RIAA (and the Motion Picture Association of America) when tape and video copying became available to the average consumer. As far as I know, it was found that as long as there was no profit involved, the RIAA and MPAA could do nothing about it. I realize that this kind of transaction is infinitely more common with internet file sharing as opposed to coyping video tapes and cassette tapes for your friends, but that doesn't in itself make file sharing illegal. It makes me terribly sick and anry when people are willing to accept actions as illegal when there is little or no justification for such a classifcation of the action, and when gross invasions of privacy are needed to enforce them. Whether or not such invasions of privacy have passed into law is totally irrelevant; privacy is a constitutionally protected right, as is the ability to share and distribute information on the internet. To outlaw a kind of internet activity altogether when there are potential legitimate and perfectly legal (to everyone's mind) uses, is overbroad and must be recognized as such by everyone.

As for artists getting screwed by downloading, I agree that record companies have been doing that; they've been doing it since the very beginning of recorded music. If people aren't buying CD's anymore, maybe it's because of file sharing, but maybe it's also because of the inflated prices of the total crap, over-processed, generic music out there. The music industry needs to evolve and embrace this kind of technology, because fighting it is futile... and unlike the majority of people out there who can't afford an entire MacIntosh system and an i-pod to be able to download music "legally", the music industry can afford to do it. (P.S. I know this issue is a lot more complicated than I have presented it here, so leave me alone about that... I only have so much time and space...)

copyright law gives the holder of the copyright the exclusive rights "(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords; (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending; [...] and (6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission." 17 USC 106.

so it would seem that if anyone other than the copyright holder does any of these things they've broken the law, regardless of whether they did it for profit. if i printed a hundred thousand copies of the new harry potter book and gave them all out for free, the publisher would still have an action against me because i (arguably) decreased their book sales.

I stand corrected. Way to whip out the statutes on me Holohan. So, you decrease Harry Potter book sales by printing out copies and give them away for free... do libraries decrease book or album sales because I can check them out for free? I know that libraries buy books from publishers and the public is able to access them by checking them out (there are also photocopy machines in libaries), but libraries also receive donations from people that are then made available to the public. Is my making a CD I own available to a limited part of the public THAT much different? Could there be an online library under the same priciples as physical libraries... to provide the public with access to cultural and intellectual materials? Or would the scale of this electronic library turn what we totally accept as a legal boon to society in general into an illegal operation? With the technological capability to build a huge, permanent record of music recordings and literary texts, is the only reason we don't have electronic libraries because we don't want "too many" people to have free access to these materials? I realize we are a capitalist society and that people who write books and make music should receive compensation, but, once again, I contend that with technological advances, the way we conduct business and carry out the beliefs of our society (i.e. the belief that access to cultural materials leads to the improvement of our society as a whole)will have to evolve.

the library analogy is a good point, but i think there are a few pertinent differences. borrowing a book for two weeks is a lot different from downloading a piece of music (or written work for that matter) and having it as yours forever and ever. if libraries were all we needed to disseminate information there wouldn't be any bookstores. you can check out music at libraries too, you'll just be disappointed with the selection (this holds true, i daresay, for the books as well).

the big issue here is the copyright holder's control over the material. if the "owner" of a piece of music wants to put it out on the internet for all to hear there's nothing stopping him or her from doing so. there's just no legal basis for forcing him or her to do it. the sad fact, of course, is that almost all music is "owned" by one or another megalithic record company, most of which have joined together into a ruthless band of greedy luddites (the RIAA).

as i said before, i agree that the best thing for everyone involved would be for the RIAA to adapt instead of destroy. but people have the right to make bad decisions as long as the Law is on their side. so as it stands now those of us in favor of freely available online music are better advised to try and change the laws (adapt) rather than violate the RIAA's existing rights under the current legal system (destroy).


You're missing one point about the library analogy, that being that you can photocopy materials in the libarary for personal use. This isn't something you're going to be returning in two weeks. In fact, it's always been legal and even common practice to duplicate copyrighted works for personal use. You can duplicate movies and tape tv shows perfectly legally (although, as I understand, the various lobbying groups sued against this initially). You can tape songs off the radio, borrow your friend's CD and burn it, etc... All of these things are perfectly legal. In fact, they're not merely fair use but completely unregulated and fall outside of copyright law as per this Lawrence Lessig speech. That speech is also a good read because he points out some absurdities that result when companies try to enforce copyright laws. One such example he gives is that he can't even read his own book in electronic format. But I digress... The only real difference between downloading something and duplicating it the old-fashioned way is that it's a lot easier and that's why the RIAA is so scared. Do you think we'd even be having this debate if it still took 12 hours to download a song? No, of course not. And to all those out there who think "legal" downloading of music is going to replace file-sharing, just wait until you can download 10,000 albums a second. Do you think people are still going to pay $.99 a song then?

i think you're overstating the legality of certain forms of reproduction. if you look closely at most copy machines these days you'll see a little sign telling you all about U.S. copyright laws. the FBI warnings you see when you rent movies aren't just for show, and god help you if you try to do anything without the express written consent of major league baseball.

but even if these things are widespread (which they are) and legal (which they may be), they're still not free. a tv or music exec places their product on the airwaves with the understanding that they're likely to be copied without their permission. but rather than sit around and sulk about it they just charge their advertisers more (or, in the case of record execs, up the price of CDs). so when you pay $1.95 instead of $1.75 for a western bacon cheeseburger you're paying $.20 for the privilege of taping an episode of "friends."

when online music trading became widespread, the execs were faced with a new challenge. these companies don't have the presence on the internet that they have on radio and tv, so they can't milk their advertisers as much. and since you can download whole albums on the internet (as opposed to the individual songs released as singles on the radio), reducing costs by increasing the price of the CDs people aren't buying* doesn't make a lot of sense. so instead they're going for the jugular and cutting their losses at the source. copying music online may be physically easier than taping something off the radio, but it's obviously a lot harder to do it without getting caught. if record companies could find everyone who's copying CDs at home or taping things off the radio they would, they would have them sued or arrested, and cheeseburgers would be a lot cheaper.

i don't think i'm missing the point at all. the issue is control. producers exercise control over their television and radio products by increasing their ad rates. they're now trying to exercise control over the online versions in a more direct and sinister way.

finally, i just don't buy the "it should be legal because it's easy" argument. i could fit hundreds of diamonds in my pocket, but that doesn't mean i can walk into a jewelry store and have myself a time. if a song is worth a dollar it's worth a dollar whether you can download one every ten minutes or ten thousand every minute.

* there may be some merit to the argument that online music trading actually increases music sales because people use MP3s to "test out" albums before buying them. i'm not getting into that argument, i'm just playing devil's advocate and giving my prediction of what's going on in the misguided minds of record executives.

I'm not saying that file-sharing is/should be legal because it's easy, I'm saying that the RIAA is making an issue of it because it's easy and, hence, widespread. I was merely trying to make the point that there isn't a whole lot of difference between copying a borrowed VHS tape for personal use(which *is* legal as per a court decision in the 80s, despite the fact that they still try to scare you with that FBI warning) and downloading an mp3. The RIAA doesn't really have a good response to this kind of argument. They'll either make a highly techinical argument that because computers "copy" everything, then every use of a computer that involves copyrighted material falls under their control. I don't buy this because I'm copying the VHS tape and that's considered fair use, so why is the mp3 any different? Another response they make is to simply point out that there's rampant "piracy" (I prefer the term file-sharing) and something must be done about it. But to simply point out the fact that lots of people are doing it is avoiding the central thrust of the argument. They don't really have an answer as to why copying a VHS tape or a CD is fair use but downloading an mp3 isn't. I'm not really trying to make any outlandish claims/arguments here, just want a reason why I shouldn't expect to enjoy the same freedoms I do in the physical world when I use the Internet.

Just a quick follow-up, I found this on fairuse.standford.edu:

Fair use. In a lawsuit commonly known as the Betamax case, the Supreme Court determined that the home videotaping of a television broadcast was a fair use. This was one of the few occasions when copying a complete work (for example, a complete episode of the "Kojak" television show) was accepted as a fair use. Evidence indicated that most viewers were "time-shifting" (taping in order to watch later) and not "library-building" (collecting the videos in order to build a video library). Important factors: The Supreme Court reasoned that the "delayed" system of viewing did not deprive the copyright owners of revenue. (Universal City Studios v. Sony Corp., 464 U.S. 417 (1984).)

I believe this is the case which also established the legality of duplicating VHS tapes for personal use. So...there is some gray area, more than I was implying at least. However, the RIAA is almost certainly over-stepping their bounds and if they get their way you won't even be able to copy material that you do own, much less material that you don't.

Taping "Friends" doesn't make fast food more expensive. TV networks don't charge for advertising based on their potential losses through the taping of their product; they charge as much as someone will pay for the time slot. In fact, with the advent of Tivo, I would expect that advertisers would end up paying *less*, due to the greater possibility of having commercials fast-forwarded.

If ads are going out to a larger audience, ad space is worth more. If the audience is smaller, the ads cost less. TV networks aren't trying to make up for the cost of illegal copying of "Friends" any more than they are trying to make up the cost of paying Matt LeBlanc, or buying props for Central Perk, or funding Matthew Perry's rehab stints. The idea it's based on anything other than supply-and-demand of ad space would imply that Carl's Jr. cheerfully subsidizes "Friends" out of the goodness of its hollow corporate heart.

In the same way, cheeseburger prices don't reflect advertising rates, they reflect how much someone will pay for a cheeseburger. Tickets at Pac Bell Park don't cost $35 because Barry Bonds has a multi-million dollar contract, but because yuppies will still ante up for season tickets at that price. A lap dance isn't costly due to high infrastructure costs, but because it's the price the market will bear.

(Networks did pressure Tivo into removing their old "30 Second fast-Forward" button. And Turner executive Jamie Kellner said "Any time you skip a commercial... you're actually stealing the programming". The suit referenced in that column has since been dropped)

"A song is worth a dollar" is sort of an arbitrary concept. "Price" isn't an inherent quality of an object. If you can download 10,000 songs in a minute, any individual song is probably *not* worth a dollar anymore. Apple seems to be doing OK with that rate, selling songs for fifty cents, or two dollars might be more profitable for everyone involved. Some people *will* pay for downloading music at reasonable rates, it appears, so maybe not all file sharers are unrepentant thieves.

I don't think Dr. V was making a moral argument that the ease and convenience of downloading music mean it *should* be legal, but rather a pragmatic argument that, legal or not, such 10,00 song-per-second downloads would surely occur. It will be interesting to see how much the RIAA's lawsuit strategy discourages music sharing - I heard Kazaa had a drop of about a million users, but I have no idea if that's a significant number or not.

i'm not saying it's "based on anything other than supply-and-demand." in fact, we're saying the same thing. the cost of doing business is part of "supply." supply isn't just the number of products, or the number of hours that matt leblanc can work. it's also the amount of resources that must be invested to supply the product, or the cost of doing business.

if the law allows unauthorized duplication, they're forcing the entertainment industry to bear the costs associated with it. this becomes an additional cost of doing business, and decreases the availability of the entertainment products (the supply). so the price does go up, but remains constrained by demand.

i may have gotten mixed up in the details, and i'm not an econ major, but from a law and economics standpoint i know that any time the law forces a particular group to bear a cost, the group will internalize or spread those losses any way they can. so the losses ultimately get passed on to consumers, whether it's paying an extra $.20 cents for a cheeseburger or a surcharge on blank tapes.

i'm sorry if i mischaracterized dr v's argument. all along i've been saying that i AGREE that it doesn't make any sense pragmatically for the RIAA to be doing what they're doing, but that nonetheless the LAW is on their side, and the law allows people to make bad decisions.

then again, of course, the law may not be. if the distinction that dr v quoted between time-shifting and library-building is controlling, the RIAA has a pretty good argument that what goes on fits into the latter category. but i'd be interested to see the VHS duplication case, since it doesn't make any sense to categorize that as time-shifting. so if that's legal teh RIAA is on shakier ground.

this is fun. i'm glad i'm able to have these debates now before my interest in IP law is crushed by lecturs and papers and final exams and so-forth.

Don't kill this off yet! We are just getting rolling!

More absurd IP issues: http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,59701,00.html

I find it extremely interesting that, although we all seem to be pretty much on the same side of this issue (that the RIAA is a bunch of greedy bastards and this bill is total crap), we're still arguing amongst ourselves over particular points. This is classic liberalism and this is why people on our side of the argument (not to mention Democrats/Liberals in general) can't win fights like this against groups like the RIAA. We're so into hashing out the details of our opposition to bills and groups such as this, that we cannot conduct a coherent battle against them.

Having said that - and once again admitting that I haven't actually started lawschool so this is my intuition/UCB conception of the subject-I *do not* think that the law is on the RIAA's side. As mentioned above and in some cases we read in my First Amendment and the Press class (whoo-hoo Mass Comm!), I definitely think there are some cases from the 80's regarding video and cassette tapes and from the 90's regarding internet privacy and information sharing that pretty much pit the law *against* the RIAA and this bill. If I wasn't so damned lazy I'd go back into that reader and re-read them so I could talk about this more intelligently, but I enjoy being a reactionary, armchair legal theorist so much more than studying for "fun". However, even if these cases (that I read almost 4 years ago now) do not support what I'm saying, I still contend that there needs to be more energy into showing that the kind of access to personal information the RIAA seems to think that it has a god-given (or Title 17-given) right to, is actually constitutional. It may be easier to get caught file sharing than copying a CD or taping songs off the radio, but once you open the door to this kind of privacy invasion, who's to say that in the future, they won't be allowed to monitor that kind of activity as well. I am very wary of allowing my rights to erode away, even in the smallest of ways, because we see it every day in various aspects of our lives. To take it lying down and without a fight is not only naive, but unAmerican. Perhaps the RIAA and the representatives on their jock will win this fight over the ability to file share, but in the words of Dr. V, "They'll have to rip it from my cold, dead hands."

Let's fast-forward 20 years...

Maybe the RIAA has won the current battle over "file-sharing" of copyrighted music. The internet is now available via wire, fiber, wireless, or something else anywhere and anytime, and it's really fast--fast enough to download music and play it in real-time. This would mean that you don't need your own copy of a music file on your computer or mp3 player, instead, your mp3 player connects to the internet wirelessly, finds someone out there sharing the music you want to listen to, and plays the file off their server. No copy of the mp3 file will remain in your possession. The person who you downloaded it from is an original owner of the music. I wouldn't think this would be considered broadcasting either, since it's on-demand for each individual.

Just something to think about.

Kristina -- It's true that the Xerox and VHS laws that came about in the 80s and early 90s stand against the RIAA. But, having registered defeat on one front, the RIAA and MPAA quietly pushed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act through in 1998 (http://www.educause.edu/issues/dmca.html). The DMCA is incredibly vague and poorly worded, to the glee of media corporations everywhere. It has been used to attack everything from Napster to DVD decoders. Basically, since previous laws stood against media conglomerates, they went ahead and wrote their own laws.

As for a united front, I think the real reason we can't win against groups like the RIAA is that we aren't single organizations, and thus don't have the lobbying power. It's true that liberal groups need to figure out details, but that's because we don't all have the same goals, and thus need something concrete to throw money at. Whereas media groups all have the exact same goal and have large pools of cash to put in the same place as their mouths.

Jay -- Unfortunately, the way the law stands now, the "original owner" of the music does not own the music. Most record deals demand that the artist sell all copyrights to the publisher. Which means that, unless current copyright laws are actually overturned (and not just ignored), the scenario you outlined would still be illegal.
Of course, if artists manage to break free of the record label conglomerates, retain the work to their own works, somehow independently get advertising space, *and* figure out some way to be paid for each download, then it's a whole different ballgame.

Of course, in 20 years I don't think we'll have to worry about this. Technology is proving itself to be much more agile than the law. Maybe the conglomerates will just give up.

They'll never give up... at least, at the moment, they think that they're just getting started on the road to a world where "legal" online music downloads, authorized by and generating profits for music giants, will be paid for and used by the majority of music consumers.

"Roxios acquisition of Pressplay significantly accelerates the development of our online music business which is central to the strategic development of our company, said Chris Gorog, Roxios Chairman and CEO. With our acquisition of Napster we obtained the most powerful brand in the online music space. Now, with our acquisition of Pressplay, we have the most complete and scaleable legal technology infrastructure to use as a platform to re-launch Napster. After taking the necessary time to add features, enhance functionality and improve usability we will launch a new service with an extremely compelling consumer experience that builds on the qualities of the Napster brand."

"Sony Music Entertainment has always supported new technological innovations that help us bring our artists� music to their fans,� said Fred Ehrlich, president of new technology and business development at Sony Music Entertainment. �We are interested in working with peer-to-peer networks that respect copyright, and CenterSpan�s C-Star network does just that."

But the beautiful thing about software is that the RIAA can persist until they're blue in the face. And they'll be outthought and outprogrammed every time.

When the MPAA refused to release the specs how how to decode DVDs so that the linux community could make their own software players, it only took a few months for a kid to reverse engineer or and release the several-hundred-line DeCSS decoder. Even with the advent of digital rights management hardware, I'm confident that software developments will make the industry's efforts obsolete within a matter of months.

After all, everyone's trading MP3s right now, but the format has been around for *years*. If DRM shackles MP3, music sharers could just switch to Ogg Vorbis, which is the new up-and-comer.

Since prohibitive technology can't keep up with enabling technology, corporations been forced to resort to ridiculous laws stating, "It's illegal to try to break our puny copyright protection schemes." But are these companies are just now noticing (which is odd, since most of them are multinational), not everyone lives in the United States.

Even if most of the western world is eventually pressured into passing laws that prohibit breaking copyright-protection, people will just do the work on Sealand or HavenCo machines.

I don't think the media giants truly understand that the cliche, "You can't stop progress" is a cliche for a very good reason.

Word, Jacob.

More DRM insanity: Apparently if you leave the United States, iTunes will automatically delete all of the mp3s that you paid $.99 each for.

I think I need to proofread my comments before I post them. The grammatical errors are killing me every time I read my old comments.

pobody's nerfect.

Your link doesn't work, Dr. V

Good article, Dr. V (and I'm not just saying that because of my natural bias toward you). It's nice that they have the technology to enforce that kind of silly and, to my mind, completely unfair policy. Once you buy something, let alone go out of your way to buy something that is potentially free and doesn't have that kind of limitation, you should be able to keep/use it wherever and whenever you want. Sadly though, we're now in the new millenium and the rules about ownership of information have changed. Now you can only own something in a particular place, losing your right to it if you leave, and heaven forbid you share what you own with anyone else. I seem to recall something about it being a violation of copyright law to use/play videogames and videogame consols intended for a particular region outside that region... that is, I would be in violation if I took my PS2 and my games to Japan and played them there. I was looking for some proof of this notion, but I couldn't find any because I'm too lazy.

On a related note, my favorite part of the iTunes fine print is this:

All Sales are final.

I certainly don't agree with Apple's "go to Canada and lose your songs" policy. But I think your statement, "the rules about ownership of information have changed" is really the only way information-for-profit can operate in an era of easy networking.

Before the digital age, information was easily saleable. An entity (company or individual) could sell a piece of information (or data, or etc.) to Customer A and be relatively secure in the knowledge that Customer A wouldn't distribute their product to Customers B, C, D, E, F, and Z, simply because Customer A had no easy way of doing so.*
This put information-based businesses on the same footing as businesses that sold things like charcoal grills and lawnmowers. Sure, Customer A could loan his grill or mower to Customer B, but there was still only one grill or lawnmower to go around. So Customer B might still buy his own item, just for convenience.

Now, though, things have drastically changed. Information flows so freely (speech) that people have begun to consider it to be free (as in beer). The groups that have made their living off information now have to come up with new business models and ways to keep Customer A from distributing their information-product to every other potential customer and undercutting their profits.

So like I said, I definitely disagree with Apple's method. But I think that, if a company has information to sell (even if that information is 1s and 0s), then it has a right to protect that information through technical means (eg - cryptography). But it doesn't have a right to do so by stifling freedoms (eg - the DMCA).

*Even as late as 1995, widely distributing digital information was possible, but very difficult. I remember spending days downloading the RaZoR 1911 release of Terminal Velocity. But once I had it, the only way to distribute it was to lug my box over to a friend's house and start a serial connection.

Whoever said information-for-profit would work in an era of easy networking? I certainly don't think it will. The RIAA has further polarized things for me by making it a civil rights issue rather than just a natural progression of the technology. Now, I view it as a moral imperitive that I spend a long time searching for a download of something before buying it. It used to be because I was cheap. The RIAA's actions have angered me to the extent that even if the price was no factor at all I wouldn't pay because I believe that overly-restrictive business models stifle innovation and the dissemenation of knowledge. Let's see, World Wide Web for 10 years now and still no decent digital library?


To reply, the problem is that we live in a for-profit economy. It's a plain as that....we can wish and strive towards making it a not-for-profit economy, but right not we've got to deal with what we have.
And if we can't figure out a way to make information-for-profit work in an era of easy networking, then companies that hold valuable information will just take the drastic steps we see the RIAA taking. They believe that they will never make an MP3-distribution model show a profit, and are attacking the community as a whole in an attempt to keep their information off the networks. If a workable information-for-profit model were developed, the RIAA would probably not be taking these steps, since they'd be making they money they like to make.

Flouting the law and refusing to pay is a valid option. But it's not one that's going to make companies eager to develop a business model that includes information distribution. I think it will just reinforce their perception that online distribution of information is completely unworkable and should be attacked rather than embraced.

As a side point, as far as I'm concerned, the only part of this whole scuffle that is a civil rights issue is the RIAA tracing downloaders' online identities back to real-life identities. And in that case, it would be hypocritical of us to say, "even though you can do it, don't do it" (since that would just be the DMCA reversed to apply to corporations). So protecting online identities with strong encryption is a step that i feel is necessary and justified, and possibly one online file sharing services should take. However, I don't think downloading copyrighted material for free and then being hit with a lawsuit impinges on my civil rights. It impinges on my views of how items should be copyrighted and how copyrights should apply. I don't feel that I have a right to online file sharing, but I do feel that copyright law should grant me the privilege to do as I please with a product that I have bought. Namely, to encode a purchased CD into the digital format of my choice and place it on any network I feel like.

Anyway, if you're looking for a digital library, I've found Project Gutenberg to be quite serviceable. It's true that it only holds books whose copyright has expired. But even if copyright laws were reasonable (eg - no Mickey Mouse law), I don't think I'd support the distrubution of literature without at least some of the proceeds going to the author.

I've heard of the Gutenberg Project. But when I say decent digital library, I mean one that doesn't only contain books that are 70 years old or older. Libraries have been around since before the printing press. Indeed, society would probably cease to function without their existence. It's with this in mind that I can't understand why you and others would throw away the prospect for a digital library by claiming that you don't have a fundamental right to disseminate information in a not-for-profit manner. Yeah, the digital world isn't exactly the same as the physical world: you don't check out the book, you just download it. However, I find it ludicrous that we would scrap an extremely powerful technology merely because of a few (to be expected) technical differences from the current way things are done.

Throw away? OK, I'll bite, since you're trolling. No one has suggested scrapping a technology (since it would be like trying to put water back behind the dam). No one is talking about throwing away digital libraries.

The place we're really running into difficulty lies in your implied meaning of not-for-profit. What you actually seem to mean is "free", as in doesn't-cost-anything.
Libraries aren't actually free. Libraries are your tax dollars at work. In fact, Alameda County's fiscal year budget is a bit over $2 million. And before you complain that a digital library wouldn't possibly cost that much, consider how much bandwidth would be consumed if all the New York Times Bestsellers and Oprah Books of the Month ever written were suddenly available free-of-charge. Especially since now it's not just Alameda County that can download them, but the entire world.

What if a digital library were actually not-for-profit? That is, they charge a small amount to cover the cost of upkeep and nothing more. Maybe it would look a little something like this
or maybe less expensive.
The reason it's not less expensive is because many of the "digital libraries" are really extensions of brick and mortar libraries.
Because someone has to license the technology (eBooks, in this case) and pay for the bandwidth and etc. and there's currently no viable way to do that without tax $$$ backing you.

But let's say that an organization has secured funding from somewhere and wants to distribute copyrighted literature. Anyone has the right to disseminate information in any way they goddamn well please. As long as it's their information or they've gotten permission to do what they want to do.
When it's eventually written, I could donate my doctoral thesis to the Public Library of Science. And I probably will. And then it will be freely copyable by anyone anywhere anytime. But I do not believe anyone has the right to take someone else's work and put it in the public domain without their consent.

To be blunt, what you seem to be advocating is placing texts in the public domain against the wishes of the authors. Instead of sending their newest book off to a publisher, authors can put their works in the public domain and publish online. You can download and distribute these texts to your heart's content. The technology is there and authors do use it. But a lot of authors don't. Do you want to force them to?

Perhaps you'd like to check out the following resources. For all of these works, either the copyright has expired or the author has released the copyright so that it can be published online.

Less-than-book-sized free texts online

Free full-sized-books online
http://www.ipl.org/ (check under "Reading Room" -> "Books")

If you wrote a book, and it started selling well, and you were getting nice fat royalty checks... then you found out people were copying your book and selling it and leaving you out of the loop, you'd be majorly pissed. That's why they call it copyright infringement. Your exclusive right to distribute and profit from your personal work is being circumvented by these thieves. They are stealing money out of your pocket. You become the thief and YOU ARE STEALING money out of someone's pocket every time you dupe a music CD or download music off the internet. Now, does that make it clear why duplication of copyrighted material is wrong???

You know, I've heard this argument a million and one times. And every time the treatment of copyright as guarantee of profit has struck me as an oversimplification. But now that Yosemite Sam has repeated it this one last time, I'm convinced. Thanks, Sam, for giving me this opportunity to be snide.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on July 18, 2003 3:56 PM.

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