Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Pirate's Rant

"it's only stealing if you take something away from someone - so if i wasn't going to pay to see the movie if even if i couldn't watch it for free, then it would be ok if watched it for nothing - cos i wouldn't have paid to see it even if i couldn't get it for free - right?
if you are working in movies and you can't support yourself perhaps you should give up on a dream you're never going to achieve and step back into the real world."

To read the rest of this proud freeloader's remarks (I only lifted what I thought might be a Fair Use amount) you may find the discussion of Wolverine and some lovely shots of Hugh Jackman in action here:

It's been an interesting week.

J K Rowling and other bestselling authors took on SCRIBD, and the Times of London Online reported sympathetically.

On a Copyright Alliance blog, a commentator suggested that President Obama's gift to The Queen of England may have set an unfortunate example of piratical behaviour.
How about the Queen? Should she have to give her Ipod back? Technically what she did is infringement!

Another interesting discussion of infringement

Apparently, there is a report that someone at the prestigious TED conference has analyzed morality and petty theft, and the conclusions may tend to be rather depressing.

If I read the argument correctly, humans are hardwired to cheat and steal if they think they can get away with it, especially if they know someone else who does so.

Editorializing now:
When I started teaching, it wasn't easy to steal copyrighted material. Those were the days of carbon copies and the Banda machine which you rolled to press out glorified and very messy copies one at a time, and before you could do that, you had to use an old fashioned typewriter, and type every character. Your time had to be worth very little for piracy to make economic sense!

Now, photocopiers are everywhere, and they probably do not come with the same warnings that are stuck on FedEx Kinkos machines for the public to use. "Copying Is Illegal" is printed large on materials intended for school use, and teachers copy the materials, warnings and all, and give them to children. A generation has grown up honestly believing that, if you don't have the budget, it is fine to copy and share, and nothing bad will happen.

What a difference 25 years make! Where will we be (morally) in another 25 years, assuming that Nostradamus was mistaken, and the world doesn't end in 2012.

Will there be an entertainment industry? Will it be like ancient Rome again, with the Emperors responsible for putting on mass entertainment (free) to pacify the masses and deciding --based on brutal popularity polls and Imperial whim-- whether we are paid and how much, or whether we are put to death for not being appropriately amusing?

Also, what will happen with regard to the law, and theft? If Robin Hood were King of England, would he tolerate several million lesser Robin Hoods all over the merry realm, making up their own minds who had more than their fair share? If theft becomes a matter of interpretation... some sorts of stealing are acceptable... well, it won't be like feudal England.

Bring back the pillory and the stocks! (And the rotten, soft vegetables. I wouldn't want to hurt anyone).

PS. For those artists and writers and musicians who want their copyrighted work taken down from "file-sharing" sites, look at the Footer of the site in question for words such as "Copyright". That's the text link to find out what their requirements are for a "Take Down Notice". Usually, you will need a screen capture, and dual processor so you can have two windows open at the same time. You also need an ISBN. Not all works have ISBNs.

You also need an email account that suggests that you are the copyright holder. This, too, is a problem these days.

Here's the form of words that one site requires:

Pursuant to 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A), this communication serves as a statement that:

1. I am the exclusive rights holder for [TITLE OF WORK] ISBN [OF WORK], the titles of copyrighted material being infringed upon, which were published [DATE OF COPYRIGHT/DATE OF PUBLISHING];

2. These exclusive rights are being violated by material available upon your site at the following URL(s): [GIVE THE URLS TO THE DOWNLOADS AND TO THE PAGES OFFERING YOUR WORKS]

3. I have a good faith belief that the use of this material in such a fashion is not authorized by [YOUR NAME] the copyright holder, the copyright holder's agent, or the law;

4. Under penalty of perjury in a United States court of law, I state that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am authorized to act on the behalf of the exclusive rights holder for the material in question;

5. I may be contacted by the following methods

I hereby request that you remove or disable access to this material as it appears on your service in as expedient a fashion as possible. Thank you.

Please be aware that if you send a take down notice, the site is likely to post a note telling the world that you were the person who requested that the download be removed.


  1. Rowena:

    You have nailed the essence of the problem with publishing that is sending so many into bankruptcy or even Chapter 7.

    The euphemism extant is "business model."

    Our "business model" has collapsed.

    And Congress has demanded the auto companies produce a new, revamped, "business model" to prove they are viable.

    Likewise, artists have had their "business model" collapse because of the forces you (rightly) say started with the photocopier.

    COPYRIGHT as an element in the business model is obsolete.

    The question is not how to enforce copyright -- but what to use instead.

    Artists aren't usually (by temperment or talent) business people.

    A business person will find the answer to how to exploit art for profit and then make jobs for us artist types.

    Unless we can use our imaginations to solve the problem.

    But you have defined the problem very well. It's not only the technology, but the culture in collusion with technology that has destroyed this business model.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  2. Jacqueline,

    Thank you for your wise and insightful comments.

    Maybe we'll go back to the Italian Renaissance model, where patrons and donors supported artists, and therefore the grateful artist immortalized his patron's face in important works of art.

    This means product placement in novels, I suppose. perhaps Pantene will patronize some author of wonderful chic lit where young, fashionable heroines have long, beautiful hair.

    (Misspelling intended, btw.)

    Who makes shoes...? Gucci will sponsor Gemma Halliday as long as she writes stories about a heroine in high heels.

    NASA will sponsor our Linnea Sinclair.

    The question becomes, what will happen to our editors? What will happen to quality literature, and historical accuracy? As we can see from Shakespeare, when the monarch is the patron, Macbeth becomes a monster, as does Richard III.

  3. Disclaimer.
    I'm a GM wife.

    The "business model" discussion over GM seems incredibly unfair to me.

    GM did not create the current economic storm. They had small cars, electric cars years ago... everything they are being blamed for NOT having now, but when oil was cheap Americans refused to buy the small, environmentally responsible cars.

    One gets into trouble when one doesn't supply what the customer wants to buy, so, of course they made trucks when everyone wanted trucks.

    Suddenly, oil went up. You can't switch from making one type of vehicle to something different without re-tooling. It takes a few years. At the same time, the banks stopped lending. And, everyone was worried about losing their pensions if not their jobs.

    If the business model was to satisfy demand, it wasn't really not viable.

    The contracts were contracts, some negotiated in Sloan's day. American does business by insisting that employers supply health care for workers and pensions.

    How fair is it that various States gave huge tax breaks to invite in foreign assembly plants, and did not insist that they provide health care and pensions... or allow them to employ a young, healthy workforce that is unlikely to need healthcare or pensions for some years?

    If it is fair, it doesn't mean that the Big 3 had a bad business model. It means that their competition was allowed to come in and compete using a different model.

    In Detroit, most people are driving relatively new cars. Elsewhere in America, Americans are driving much older vehicles, and reported perceptions of American quality are based on cars that may be 15 or 20 years old.

    It's incredible to me that no one on the Auto Task force drives an American vehicle. At least our President has Cadillacs!

  4. Rowena:

    Absolutely correct that GM has been thrown out with the bathwater.

    The particular situation at GM though was not the issue I meant to point to.

    GM's business model is out of sync with modern realities -- precisely because it can't turn on a dime while the pace of the world has increased.

    That, too, is what's wrong with our governmental structures -- AIG being the case in point. The government structures had not been constructed to handle the inventive, original, unique, rapidly growing and even more rapidly crashing, CDS's. We didn't have the regulations because the government couldn't turn on a dime.

    Publishing, in a way, is working an even older business model than government or GM - or anyone. Storytelling is one of the oldest professions!

    But my reference was made precisely to point out that most Americans don't even know what a business-model is, or why it's important to their well-being when the business model belongs to some business they don't do business with.

    Business model is usually totally invisible to the end-user, and ought to be.

    But the reason people don't know what's happening in publishing is that they aren't aware of the way technology impacts the business model.

    And the impact of technology on human endeavors and values is the main stuff of SF.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg