Sunday, April 01, 2012

No Laughing Matter

It was with great dismay that I read law professor Stuart P. Green's NYT opinion piece titled  
When Stealing Isn’t Stealing

How many people glanced at the piece, took in the credentials of the eminent author, registered the standard
copyright infringers' argument that"sharing" isn't stealing, and entirely missed the point that the good professor
does not condone copyright infringement?

I respectfully disagree with the professor's argument that copyright owners use the wrong terminology when they
compare copyright infringement to stealing.

How many law professors publish opinions that IDENTITY theft should not be called "identity THEFT"?
Mar 19, 2012 – Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S., with over nine million victims each year.
Try googling "When Identity Theft Isn't Theft".

Someone's identity isn't tangible property, any more than intellectual property is tangible, yet most sensible people agree that Identity Theft is THEFT and Fraud, and "theft" is an appropriate and widely accepted term to use for that crime.

How long does it take to establish a valuable identity? In some cases, one only has to be born. Far less active work goes into one's identity than an author puts into writing a work of fiction. 

One spends nothing to create an identity, but an author could easily spend $40,000 or more in time, materials, equipment, licenses, services, advertising etc etc in the course of creating a full-length novel.

Please consider that in many cases of copyright infringement, a form of identity theft does indeed take place. As does fraud.

Authors' identities are stolen for the specific, limited purpose of "sharing" their works without their knowledge or permission and in violation of various laws.

The Terms Of Service for many hosting sites state that only the author of a work may upload the work.
Similarly, auction sites state that only the copyright owner may sell an e-book, or collection of ebooks. One prominent auction site obliges "Sellers" to publish statements that the e-books they are selling are their own, or are in the public domain.

Copyright infringers falsely and fraudulently purport to BE the author and  claim to OWN the copyright, sometimes to tens of thousands of copyrighted works by living authors. 

Copyright Infringers do not pay attention to hosting sites' default settings intended for the use of copyright owners (authors/musicians) who wish to distribute their works freely under Creative Commons Licenses. Therefore, the hosting site explicitly advertises that these (copyrighted works) are in the public domain, or that they are shareware, or that they are GNU licensed for free sharing.

This is not true. 

Unfortunately, the DMCA does not require these sites to verify that their users make truthful representations, and it does not require the sites to use reasonable judgement, even when a User appears to believe that he/she is simultaneously Nora Roberts, James Patterson, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, Barack Obama, Georgette Heyer and a couple of thousand erotica authors as well.

The law is an equine ass.

The result is that every day, more and more internet users believe that current bestsellers are in the public domain, and that there is nothing illegal about uploading e-books to file hosting/sharing sites and publishing and distributing them to all the world. 

Moreover, copyright infringers claim to be "Non Profit" and make money from advertising and subscriptions and donations and bounties "for traffic" paid by hosting sites.... while "finding" illegally uploaded e-books and distributing copies for profit. Their subscribers wish to believe that it is lawful to upload and download new movies before they open in cinemas, and new books before they are released for sale.

How can people possibly believe that a book or a movie is in the public domain before it is even released for sale? Perhaps because teachers and law professors tell them that Stealing isn't Stealing if they would not have paid to see the movie or read the book if it hadn't been available free?  You think?

Copyright infringement does not stop with "sharing" in private yahoogroups and on "sharing" sites. Auction site users believe that it is perfectly legal for them to copy tens of thousands of modern ebooks --from these hosting sites and torrents and yahoogroups and SocialGo sites-- onto DVDs, and to sell those collections.

Those who purchase these "thousand-ebook collections formatted for Kindle or Nook or what-have-you" go on to Re-Sell the collections again and again, and believe with a passion that what they are doing is both incredibly profitable and legal.

It isn't.

What is more, when one reads the Feedback left for these Mass Copyright Infringers, time and again their satisfied customers say, "I will never have to buy another book in my life!" 

Chances are, if readers have 200,000 modern bestsellers in 10 different genres on their e-book readers and on DVD, they indeed will never buy another book.

That's no joke.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

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