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The Semantics of File Sharing

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-say-tomato-i-say-cease-and-desist dept.

The Internet 506

ethericalzen writes "The LA Times has published an opinion article about the legal semantics and analogies of file sharing. The article includes arguments from those who believe file sharing is theft and those who strongly disagree. As it points out, the common analogies to theft are often incomplete or inaccurate. The author states, "balancing the interests of content creators against the public's ... is a much more complicated task than erecting a legal barrier to five-fingered discounts." He recognizes that it is not a trivial concept, and that the clamoring from both camps about definitions and moral boundaries will dictate how businesses and users function in the future."

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No better then /. (5, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509794)

The article includes arguments from those who believe file sharing is theft and those who strongly disagree. As it points out, the common analogies to theft are often incomplete or inaccurate


So in other words its just an article that is what Slashdot is like every time an *AA story gets posted? Some calling it theft and others saying its not?

Re:No better then /. (5, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509884)

Actually it's very similar. He points out the arguments on both ends and comes to a middle ground by concluding that it's like stealing cable, which is much closer to the same thing. And as we all, they both happen a lot and only cost the companies in lost revenue that they may or may not have lost otherwise.

Re:No better then /. (5, Funny)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509962)

So in other words its just an article that is what Slashdot is like every time an *AA story gets posted? Some calling it theft and others saying its not?
Well it does not matter because we all know file sharers are gang lords, drug dealers, terrorists and any other type of hardcore criminal. How do I know this? RIAA says so!

Re:No better then /. (5, Informative)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509968)

The difference is, of course, that everyone already knows about it on slashdot, and has a dedicated opinion. This is the LA times, a somewhat more mainstream publication, ne?

Let me share the contents of your laptop (0, Flamebait)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509976)

If I shared the contents of your PC with the world, would that be OK?

How about sharing the contents of your bank account?

Let's face it folk. IP theft is theft. Just because it is easy to do or everyone does it does not make it right.

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22510046)

Internet Protocol theft? How is that done exactly?

If you meant Intellectual Property theft then it is not theft as Intellectual Property is a nonsense term invented by greedy lawyers for something that does not exist.

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (2, Insightful)

emjay88 (1178161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510254)

Clearly, you've never had an idea that you could sell.

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22510074)

No.

Theft is Theft.

Copyright infringement is Copyright infringement.

Both illegal, but both very distinct and seperated.

Why do people not get this?

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (2, Interesting)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510320)

No. Theft is Theft. Copyright infringement is Copyright infringement. Both illegal, but both very distinct and seperated. Why do people not get this?

Either way, you're getting something you haven't paid for, so the distinction is lost on most people.

"No, having a copy of this CD isn't stealing because it's intellectual property!" doesn't make sense to most people.

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (5, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510354)

No. Theft is Theft. Copyright infringement is Copyright infringement. Both illegal, but both very distinct and seperated. Why do people not get this?

Either way, you're getting something you haven't paid for, so the distinction is lost on most people.

"No, having a copy of this CD isn't stealing because it's intellectual property!" doesn't make sense to most people.

How about "No, having a copy of this CD isn't stealing because I didn't take it away from anyone!"?

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (4, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510076)

If I shared the contents of your PC with the world, would that be OK?
That's a privacy issue. It's completely different.

How about sharing the contents of your bank account?
If you could make a copy of it without taking away my copy, sure. But bank accounts don't work like that, do they? So this is also completely different.

Let's face it folk. IP theft is theft.
Why, just because you say so?

Just because it is easy to do or everyone does it does not make it right.
It also doesn't make it wrong.

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22510094)

How about sharing the contents of your bank account?
Easily done. Just vote Democratic. That's Socialism folks: what's the State's is the State's, and what's yours is the State's.
Not unlike a shotgun marriage to a butch bitch with a birch switch.

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (1)

deathtopaulw (1032050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510100)

yeah ok
go on paying large corporations too much money
I'll keep downloading until they're gone completely and the truly dedicated musicians have learned a little html

and don't give me a line about movies. there hasn't been a movie worth paying for in decades

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22510142)

If I shared the contents of your PC with the world, would that be OK?
That is unpublished information. I have no difficulty with people holding information private. I just say if they don't want it copied, they shouldn't fucking release it and then ask the whole world not to share it. fuck 'em. Our freedom to communicate is more important than their "freedom" to profit.

How about sharing the contents of your bank account?
That is a particularly idiotic argument. Note that just because you have a copy of the information of the balance of my current account, EUR17382.68, you can't affect it. You can increment, decrement it, tell your friends, all without affecting my bank account. That's because what matters is what the bank (and I) think my balance is, not what your copy says. Different copies of information are different physical things.

Re:Let me share the contents of your laptop (1)

bidule (173941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510264)

If I shared the contents of your PC with the world, would that be OK?

How about sharing the contents of your bank account?

Let's face it folk. IP theft is theft. Just because it is easy to do or everyone does it does not make it right.

Yes, obviously. I totally agree with you. Those 2 examples are as much theft as p2p sharing.

Now, I can't find my bridge. Is there any space left under yours?

There's only two (-1, Offtopic)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509808)

NFS and CIFS (SMB).

Not very new, is it? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22509812)

Haven't we seen this story before? Maybe just in the firehose a few days ago. Heck, it looks like old news, even to me.

I'd give my opinion on the matter, but I'm pretty sure I don't have to.

- I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property

Ahhh, Semantics... (3, Insightful)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509814)

The last resort of the desperate Internet argument.

Still, this will either a) finally put down on paper that file sharing is not theft, or b) put down on paper that the exchange of copyrighted information is, in fact, theft, and then everyone is in a world of poop. My old VHS recordings of Red Dwarf and The Muppets will suddenly become a complicated legal quagmire.

Now, quagmire is semantically defined as...

Re:Ahhh, Semantics... (4, Insightful)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509840)

Semantics does not always have to be used in the perjorative sense. Here we are literally parsing the terms to determine what might be good or bad for society. Semantics is legally important because most legal arguments are made by analogy (fundamentally, that is what a reference to a prior case is).

Re:Ahhh, Semantics... (5, Funny)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509908)

Now, quagmire is semantically defined as...

Giggety [wikipedia.org] !

Re:Ahhh, Semantics... (1)

Gandalf_Greyhame (44144) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509948)

I wish I had mod points :)

Re:Ahhh, Semantics... (2, Informative)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509914)

Your red dwarf and muppets tapes are protected under the time shifting ruling many years ago, that established that taping shows off of broadcast tv is not infringement. I also personally believe that the only people engaging in semantics are those who say that downloading music/movies isn't theft. Yes, to the letter it may no be, but you're enjoying a commodity without paying for it (and it otherwise isn't free), which is in spirit theft.

Re:Ahhh, Semantics... (1, Insightful)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509926)

In that case, please send me 75 cents for reading my post.

Re:Ahhh, Semantics... (3, Insightful)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510156)

You can legitimately argue that something like unauthorized file sharing is like theft, but not that it is theft.

Its not semantics (5, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509970)

Copyright violation is not theft. Period, and end of story. There is no semantical issue here, its simply not true.

Now, that said it may ( or may not ) be a civil offense, and even may become a criminal offense if the IP industry gets it way, but its not by definition theft nor will it ever be.

Re:Its not semantics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22510066)

Stating something forcefully as a fact does not make it a fact.

Re:Its not semantics (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510106)

Stating something forcefully as a fact does not make it a fact.
Agreed, but in this case it IS a fact. Go look up the definition of theft. It is not the same as IP infringement.

Again, im not debating if IP infringement is right or wrong as that is a totally different discussion, the only point im making here is that its NOT theft. The continued labeling of it as theft is dishonest marketing.

Re:Its not semantics (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510206)

Go look up the definition of theft. It is not the same as IP infringement.


Theft is generally defined as simply the act of stealing; there are many definitions of stealing, some of the common ones of which are certainly broad enough to include some or all instances of IP infringement. See definitions of theft [reference.com] , steal [reference.com] .

Re:Its not semantics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22510266)

Agreed, but in this case it IS a fact. Go look up the definition of theft. It is not the same as IP infringement.
I looked it up in a couple of dictionaries. The definition is "The crime of taking someone else's property without consent", or equivalent to it. There is nothing in there which states the original owner must be deprived of it. Now you can certainly argue that copyright infringement is not theft, and I would agree with you, but copyrighted works are property, and you are taking them without consent. From the simple dictionary definition, that qualifies as theft. If you disagree with that conclusion as I do, you'll need to make a better argument than a second-grade pissing match where you just say "is not!" ever louder.

Re:Its not semantics (1)

Tenebrarum (887979) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510278)

Agreed, but in this case it IS a fact. Go look up the definition of theft. It is not the same as IP infringement.

Again, im not debating if IP infringement is right or wrong as that is a totally different discussion, the only point im making here is that its NOT theft. The continued labeling of it as theft is dishonest marketing.


I'm sure that can be changed. If it is repeated. Over and over and over and over [wikimedia.org] . Hell, you've already adopted thinking in terms intellectual property, now all we need is for you to drop the intellectual prefix.

Re:Its not semantics-OF COURSE IT'S NOT (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510342)

Copyright violation is not theft. Period, and end of story. There is no semantical issue here, its simply not true.

Of course it's not. Theft is shoplifting the CD out of the store and getting a slap on the wrist for doing so. Copyright violation is a $220,000.00 fine from an ignorant, plus having to listen to the RIAA crow about their ONLY court win so far.

Re:Its not semantics (0)

Trogre (513942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510424)

That's not very helpful.

You're right - copyright violation in its current definition is not theft. And that's because both have clear definitions in whatever jurisdiction you happen to live in.

Now what happens if your jurisdiction changes its definition of theft? Say, to something broad like "the appropriation of property, tangible or otherwise, without explicit permission of the property owner". That encompasses copyright infringement right there. This is what a lot of IP-bound countries may well end up doing.

IP ninja (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22509818)

So the conversation goes something like this...

"Theft!"

"No, piracy!"

"No, NINJA!"

Read the FA (4, Informative)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509828)

This is very much worth the read. It is surprisingly erudite for a newspaper and it is also pretty nuanced. The critical points are illuminated (theft as deprivation of a good or theft as an unjust enrichment), the debate is balanced and excellent sources are used. Well worth the click away from /..

Re:Read the FA (4, Funny)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509846)

Use of those words must be granted expressly by the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. Please cease and desist all use of "hard words" until our lawyers can be in contact with you.

Re:Read the FA (2, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510166)

We regret to inform you that "hard" has been trademarked by the Viagra Spammers Association. Please cease, desist and buy products from dubious dealers until our lawyers contact you about a transfer opportunity from Nigeria.

Re:Read the FA (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509994)

But, But...

This is the Los Angeles Times!

Have you forgotten where the movie studios are located?

Re:Read the FA (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510014)

:)

Totally slipped my mind. Doesn't change the fact that the paper:

A: Talks about editorials that they didn't publish.

B: Mentions with clarity the primary sources and arguments for feeling that copying as theft is wrong.

C: Explains some good reasons why copying may be construed as theft, sometimes.

And concludes that the answer isn't strictly to be found by parsing literature for a good analogy.

Re:Read the FA (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510122)

Well I call bullshit on their "theft of service" argument, because it has the same flawed reasoning that file sharing=theft has and should be called "infringement of service." Likewise so-called "identity theft" is really identity fraud. Case in point: If someone found out a way to use your identity in such a way that you no longer have it, then there is no one to dump the fraudulent charges on except the fraudster himself/herself, making the crime moot.

Re:Read the FA (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510236)

presumably identity theft could be treated as theft if you considered personal details as some sort of priviledged information. I'm not making that claim--I feel that "identity theft" is just fraud, but it could be made without too much contortion.

Re:Read the FA (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510180)

Content creators are not (usually) idiots. I guarantee you that some smart movie studio executives are sitting in a room somewhere on a regular basis watching what has happened to the recording industry. They've noticed that by significantly reducing piracy, music sales also plummeted. They recognize that a lot of piracy causes people to be exposed to movies, TV shows, actors, actresses, directors, etc. that they might otherwise not have bothered to rent or watch in a theater, and that a not insignificant percentage of that added exposure translates into future sales.

While the content creators may put up a front of myopia with their "file sharing is evil" remarks, they're smart enough to understand that it is a mixed bag---that lost potential sales are likely to result in increased exposure and greater sales, but do not generally translate into actual sales if the means to pirate the content is taken away. Anyone who won't admit that, at least off the record, is clueless and shouldn't be in a position of authority in the industry, IMHO.

I'm not at all surprised that the LA Times covered this well. If they'd presented a lop-sided, sky-is-falling, RIAA/MPAA-authored puff piece for this story, I'd be surprised. That's the stuff I'd expect from a small market TV newscast, not a major metropolitan newspaper. I know, I know. Everybody has gotten so used to lousy media coverage of... everything... that a well-written news story is a surprise. *sigh*

Re:Read the FA (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510124)

theft as deprivation of a good or theft as an unjust enrichment

I think he misses a little, with that "acquire value without paying" (unjust enrichment) expression. Worrying about other people getting ahead isn't really a good way to look at it. (Air has value and is free. Same for Linux.) A better way to express that view might be "denial of market." If you freely acquire a good that I have a government-given monopoly for, then I don't get to sell it to you. It devalues the monopoly.

Re:Read the FA (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510262)

right. I think that the leased monopoly on content creation is a MUCH better argument than unjust enrichement. However, that is a public policy argument, not a legal argument. government enacts a policy accordingly and the legal argument becomes "because I said so". That leaves is un a position of how to speak about it legally and publicly as well as how to use our command of that legal language to determine limits to punishment and scope.

I hate arguments by analogy (3, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509832)

Some things really just need to be explained in terms of themselves. Computer networks are not highway systems. They're not houses. They're not cars, or floor waxes, or dishwashing detergents. They do a totally unique thing, using technologies and paradigms that didn't even exist before computers were invented to make use of them.

OF COURSE analogies don't work.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (4, Insightful)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509910)

where does this literal thinking come from? Legally we need analogies because past cases dictate future decisions and past cases can't possibly be written with the future in mind. This does not mean that analogies are by themselves valid, we are not excused from thought and judgement. What it does mean is that we make connections between the past and the present and we reason based on those connections. Both the reasoning and the connection should be scrutinized.

Take, for example, the current case law surrounding IR surveillance by cops. The case was basically decided by treating heat radiated from a home as "waste" so the person involved forfeited their right to privacy to that waste heat. This may seem like a bad decision, but realize that it was made in a time when IR sensors couldn't 'see' through walls effectively enough to make out features, body parts, etc (they still really can't). Once that happens, the case will come up again and the reasoning will probably be revised.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (2, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510092)

Legally we need analogies because past cases dictate future decisions and past cases can't possibly be written with the future in mind.

There's a first time for everything. Why can't novel situations produce a novel body of laws based on consideration of the actual harm actually caused by those novel situations per se, rather than a derivative body of laws based on some poorly-conceived and thoroughly inaccurate analogy?

A man's life is not analagous to his property. We don't use property law to try homicide cases.

And why not be literal? Are the basics of computer networking too difficult for judges and lawyers to understand on their own terms? Let's take a literal look at bandwidth "stealing" for example:

When I "steal" you bandwith, what is literally happening is that my device is making a request to your device. Your device, configured by you, activated by you, either approves or denies my request. If it approves my request, there is literally no theft--I have your written permission, recorded in the configuration of your device, to use your bandwidth. And if it denies my request, there is literally no theft, because I cannot use your bandwidth. That's the way the protocol is written, that's the way the protocol is enforced. It's literally that simple and straightforward. No need for analogies. The thing is completely understandable in terms of itself.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510194)

When I "steal" you bandwith, what is literally happening is that my device is making a request to your device. Your device, configured by you, activated by you, either approves or denies my request. If it approves my request, there is literally no theft--I have your written permission, recorded in the configuration of your device, to use your bandwidth.
This makes the rather large assumption that I am able to configure my device with that level of detail. But it may not support such configuration, or I might not be knowledgeable enough to configure it that fully. And you certainly do not have "written permission". What is written is instructions to the device. If I get fired but the company forgets to deactivate my entry card, does that mean that I still have "written permission" to go back to the employee-only parts of their building whenever I want?

And if it denies my request, there is literally no theft, because I cannot use your bandwidth.
Except for the little bit you used to make the request...

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510272)

If I get fired but the company forgets to deactivate my entry card, does that mean that I still have "written permission" to go back to the employee-only parts of their building whenever I want?

Hey, look at that! A bad analogy!

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510338)

So please explain the difference from your "bandwidth theft" example.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510210)

Legally we need analogies because past cases dictate future decisions and past cases can't possibly be written with the future in mind.

There's a first time for everything. Why can't novel situations produce a novel body of laws based on consideration of the actual harm actually caused by those novel situations per se, rather than a derivative body of laws based on some poorly-conceived and thoroughly inaccurate analogy?

A man's life is not analagous to his property. We don't use property law to try homicide cases.

And why not be literal? Are the basics of computer networking too difficult for judges and lawyers to understand on their own terms? Let's take a literal look at bandwidth "stealing" for example:

When I "steal" you bandwith, what is literally happening is that my device is making a request to your device. Your device, configured by you, activated by you, either approves or denies my request. If it approves my request, there is literally no theft--I have your written permission, recorded in the configuration of your device, to use your bandwidth. And if it denies my request, there is literally no theft, because I cannot use your bandwidth. That's the way the protocol is written, that's the way the protocol is enforced. It's literally that simple and straightforward. No need for analogies. The thing is completely understandable in terms of itself.
OK. Let's be clear. Some principles of the law (namely stare decicis) dictate that we can't and shouldn't just generate bodies of novel law. The law is meant to apply some strong continuity--this is why it is not uncommon to see decision today that cite english common law from hundreds of years ago. It is only with great reluctance that new law is generated or decisions made without resting largely on the past.

Homicde cases don't deal with human life as "property" because some standing law exists that criminalizes the act of murder itself. CIVIL penalties exist which do treat human life as an economic object. we can and do value human lives in dollar form all the time for many different types of cases.

It isn't that judges are stupid, though some are certainly incapable of understanding the rather complex nature of computers/networks. Some are very capable (or have very capable aides). Plenty of decisions are made that apply sound judicial reasoning to novel concepts. decisions that are unsound should be reversed on appeal. It is that we make out legal arguments out of analogies. We make our arguments about Tivo by comparing time shifting arguments in Sony v. Betamax. We make broadcast/rebroadcast arguments by analogizing the situation to laws passed by conress for RADIO almost 80 years ago. By and large we come up with pretty sound decisions. Most of the judicial arguments have been sound, it is the legislation that is rotten.

You have to separate the DMCA from the wishes as judges. As silly as judges might feel the anti-circumvention provision is, it requires some pretty strong reasoning to reject it as unconstutional because congress took the time to write it. They have to defer to legislation iunless it is clear that the legislation is unconstitutional.

Fine. Your badnwidth stealing argument works ok, but what real life situation does that describe? The case where your badwidth use form the cable companies limits mine? That isn't really a legal issue, and it isn't accurate because I can't veto your use of the badwidth.

I could jsut as easily say that an unlocked door means that no trespass occured in a home. The door opened without resistance, so obviously this means that the owner provided consent to entry by proxy.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510296)

I could jsut as easily say that an unlocked door means that no trespass occured in a home. The door opened without resistance, so obviously this means that the owner provided consent to entry by proxy.

What's that, Lassie? A bad analogy? I better call the fire department!

Computers aren't homes. Different paradigm altogether.

Although I hadn't considered your point about stare decisis. I shall do so now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510352)

It's not a very good analogy, I'll admit, but there is hope yet. I would prefer that computers were treated MORE like homes in the legal sense, rather than less. I suspect that this treatment will change in the future to relfect that.

I mean, we seem to be at odds here about a few things, one of them is the possiblity that non-excludability changes the law in a fundamental sense. It does, but how? How does the fact that stealing a file off my hard drive leaves the file intact for me change the law about stealing? THat's one of the clear and fundamental differences.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510246)

Not always.

Suppose that I am an incompetent nincompoop who couldn't figure out how to secure my wireless router. You, looking for a hot spot, decide to leech, and as a result, you run up my wireless bill.

Now maybe my router did give you permission, but maybe it (and me) just either didn't want to, or couldn't figure out how to tell your device apart from my own devices.

It's just like an idiot who leaves his front door unlocked. An unlocked door does not automatically give you permission to enter. You set foot in my house without my OK, you are trespassing, lock or not. A lock doesn't grant or deny permission, it's merely an enforcement mechanism.

I may be stupid and lazy if I don't put a lock on my door, but a lack of lock doesn't give you the right to just barge in.

Similiarly, whether or not my device elects to service yours may have nothing to do with my property rights. You are running up my wireless bill without my consent, and it's just as if you stuck a machine into my outlets and ran up my power bill. My device might accept your device's requests simply because it doesn't know any better (the "no lock on the front door") part. It's still not my device that's accessing it, and furthermore, I'm not even sure if my "device" has legal power of attorney to grant access on my behalf.

Two cases where it most DEFINITELY doesn't follow is if you use forged credentials or MAC addresses to masquerade or bypass my security, and cracking my passwords and then leeching.

Just because my *device* says it's ok, doesn't mean that *I* do. There could very well be a hardware defect that lets you in. Almost like some nut case putting a sign on my front door without my permission that says "come in"

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510350)

bla bla bla... bad analogy, bad analogy, bad analogy, bla bla bla

You're obviously capable of discussing the thing in terms of itself. Why muddy the waters with all this talk about homes and whatnot.

Maybe trespassing on negligently-configured routers should be legally the same as trespassing on negligently-secured property. But it doesn't follow from that possibility that computer networks are the same as houses, or should be discussed in legal terms as if they were houses.

I think we'd all be better served if we set aside the analogies and discussed computer networks on their own terms. I think we'd end up with better wiretapping legislation, better digital rights management legislation, better computer legislation all around.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22509916)

Computer networks are not highway systems. They're not houses. They're not cars, or floor waxes, or dishwashing detergents. They do a totally unique thing

Actually, they're a series of tubes.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (2, Insightful)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509960)

We use analogies to explain something people don't understand by using something they are familiar with. If you hate arguments by analogy, you simply hate people who don't have the same knowledge set as you.

Now, arguments by analogy can and are often abused, and analogies are easy to overextend, but basic logic and common sense are tools in preventing these problems. Maybe you hate logic and common sense, too. I don't know. Understanding your position is like ...

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510160)

Explanations by analogy are one thing. Arguments by analogy are something else entirely.

Explanations try to give someone a better understanding of something. And even then analogies can only go so far. They break down at some point, and if the wrong analogy is chosen, or if the audience requires a deeper understanding than an analogy can provide, it can do more harm than good. Ultimately, a good understanding of a thing can only be accomplished by studying the thing itself in terms of itself.

Arguments by analogy try to prove a point. Legal arguments are serious things, that depend heavily on an accurate presentation and understanding of facts. Analogies are not facts; quite the opposite. They're rhetorical devices designed to give the impression of understanding, without actually explaining what's really going on. Judges like them because it means they don't have to learn anything new; they can go on pretending that the body of case law they're already familiar with can be applied willy-nilly to any new scenario or paradigm or technology. Juries love them, because they get to feel informed and knowledgeable about a subject, without the hassle of actually overcoming their ignorance. And lawyers like them, because it means the freedom to choose whichever bizarre and grotesque distortion of reality best supports their case and undermines their opponent's case.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510174)

Analogies are like cars. They help you get there.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510256)

Analogies are like Conspiracy Theories. The closer you look at them, the less sense they make.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510302)

Conspiracy theories are metaphors. They're full of exciting, if unrealistic, images.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510374)

Metaphors are like phors, only, you know, meta.

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510390)

Phors are like cascades. They go on and on and on and on...

Re:I hate arguments by analogy (1)

Etrias (1121031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510414)

I don't understand you. Can you make a car analogy to clarify what you're saying? Or maybe a sports euphemism?

Cue the inevitable /. line of reasoning... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22509834)


"It's easy to steal your shit now, so clearly your business model is broken. I bear no personal responsibility to see that you get paid for your work, as it's easy to steal your shit, which is clearly your problem. I'm not a greedy fuck who only wants free entertainment, I'm striking a blow at the greedy black heart of worthless, fluff entertainment that's not worth my time by downloading terabytes of it on a weekly basis. I'd follow the 'as a protest, I'll just do without' road, but that would get in the way of my social unrest tactics of steali... oh, sorry, 'sharing' my 10,000 mp3 collection as a sort of lossy-digital Che Guevara-esque way to fuck Big Entertainment right up the pooper. Fight the power, my oppressed brothers of the People's Pirate Party for Free Entertainment We Want Even Though It's All Shit."

Re:Cue the inevitable /. line of reasoning... (3, Funny)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509890)

Looks more like, "Cue the trolling and stereotyping. Brought to us by our favorite, the ignorant anon. cowards. Stay tuned now for logic, followed by flamewar, Only on Slashdot!"

semantics vs debate (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509854)

It is my opinion that factual clarity leads to intellectually honest debate and discussion about important issue, and that means clarifying fact from opinion, legal from morals, etc. Sometimes it may be necessary to put it down as semantics however, but I fele this is too often a cry used to exxtinguish debate/discussion, a promotion of intellectual dishonesty if you will;.

The car theft analogy (5, Insightful)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509862)

It always amused me how the popular analogy from the other camp was "Oh, so if you want a car, it's okay to steal it is it?" So they can get all high and moral. But when you break it down and say "Okay, I'm going to make an exact duplicate of your car, never once depriving you of the usage of it. It will not inconvenience you in any way." The argument rather falls flat on it's face.

The whole "filesharing = theft" equation is almost entirely down to MPAA, RIAA and other organizations brainwashing people. Saying something a 1000 times doesn't make it true. If it did, downloading WOULD be theft by this point. But it's still copyright violation, which is why these groups, with their large political donations, have made copyright violation are far FAR harsher crime than theft ever was.

I break into your house and nick your Transformers DVD, at worst I'd probably go down for 30 days, unless I'm haibitual. Small fine probably. The charge will be breaking and entering, theft etc... I download Transformers from you instead, we BOTH face tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and many years in jail.

You're better off, from a jailtime perspective, heading into your local WalMart, nicking a few DVD's, then rape the cashier on the way out. You'll serve less time than if you get caught downloading the movie.

The semantic aren't really the issue here, as the powers that be want to have their cake AND eat it too. They want the association in the public eye to be IT'S THEFT! IT'S NO DIFFERENT THAN STEALING A CAR! But in the back rooms they know this is bullshit, and continue to push on with copyright violation punishments being exponentially increased.

What you or I call it is irrelevant.

Re:The car theft analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22509990)

Have you seen some of those cashiers at Walmart?

No way I'd be better off doing that.

Re:The car theft analogy (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510020)

Whatever they're doing, it's slowly but surely working. There are actually some students at my college who think that downloading is in fact stealing.

Re:The car theft analogy (2, Insightful)

Damon Tog (245418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510064)


Let's consider your analogy of cloning a car:

It doesn't deprive the original owner of anything, but modern cars do require a considerable amount of investment to design and test. By cloning a car, you are taking advantage of the work and investments of the company that builds them, while choosing not compensate them for it.

The logical conclusion of your analogy is not that it is OK to clone cars, but that the clones themselves would have to be sold in a manner that reflects the fact that copies are unlimited (even if the resources and time that goes into designing and testing a car is not unlimited).

Re:The car theft analogy (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510134)

Saying something a 1000 times doesn't make it true.
Yeah, but for those rare times when it DOES make it true...

        "Natalie .... hot grits... . Natalie .... hot grits... . Natalie .... hot grits... . "

Re:The car theft analogy (4, Insightful)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510176)

It always amused me how the popular analogy from the other camp was "Oh, so if you want a car, it's okay to steal it is it?" So they can get all high and moral. But when you break it down and say "Okay, I'm going to make an exact duplicate of your car, never once depriving you of the usage of it. It will not inconvenience you in any way." The argument rather falls flat on it's face.
One of the very goods point TFA makes is that this argument from the industry associations is not helping them because it's so clearly false. It really is a sophism, and by persisting with it they are effectively saying that either they think we are idiots or they are idiots. Either way the argument ultimately hurts their position.

Re:The car theft analogy (3, Informative)

isomeme (177414) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510364)

The thing is, IP theft really does deprive owners of that IP of money. Ask Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens, all of whom had to go to court to prevent IP pirates from profiting from their works...and depriving them of those same profits. IP law got careful coverage in the US Constitution for a good reason; the Framers were well aware of its benefits.

I'd readily agree that current US law has gone much too far in reducing the scope of fair use and overestimating the monetary value of piracy in civil and criminal cases. But it's not fundamentally wrong, it just needs tuning.

Shoplifting vs. Downloading (5, Insightful)

Pearson (953531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509864)

"Downloading a movie off of the Internet is the same as taking a DVD off a store shelf without paying for it," adds the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

If this were true, the punishment would be the same.

Greed on all sides (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509886)

Any time you find weasel words and bad analogies going unchecked, follow the money trail. This isn't about artist's rights. If anyone gave a crap about that there'd be an uproar about unfair record contracts and middle men getting all the money. Basically in this case you have:
1) Artists who hope to get rich by gaming the system (as a few artists certainly have).
2) Middle men going to extreme measures (like bankrupting or jailing people, draconian drm) to protect their "right" to collect most of the money.
3) Lots of people who are happy to take content without compensating anyone for it.

There are exceptions but the status quo is pretty bad. Still, the human race has bigger problems. Pollution. Overpopulation. War. Disease. Compared to that this is all petty bullshit and a waste of words. All these people just need to stop grubbing for every last dollar and accept that sometimes life isn't going to hand them what they're due, what they're worth, or what they've earnt. Other people will take you for all that you're worth if they can - it doesn't give you the right to adopt the same attitude.

In other words: Life ain't fair. Get over it. There are many more important things than the latest film or pop song. Stop penalizing everyone you can to protect your own money grubbing arse.

Unlimited Supply Argument, Revisited (2, Interesting)

Damon Tog (245418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509888)

This article brings out the common observation that copies of files are, in theory, unlimited. If this is true, it means that the way music (and movies, and books, etcs.) are sold must change.

BUT this does not mean that music should be free--it means that today's "a la carte" method of selling music is obsolete.

A rough comparision would be to the cable industry. When you subscribe to cable, you are not forced to pay for each television show that you watch (think iTunes), you simply pay a flat rate and watch as much as you want. This is how recorded music must now be "sold." Selling music one file at a time does not reflect the "fluid" nature of digital media and is rightfully held in low regard by filesharers.

Re:Unlimited Supply Argument, Revisited (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510070)

They're already doing this with multiple services. Between those services and iTunes, iTunes is clearly winning. Some people like a la carte, some like flat rate (compare renting one movie at a time and having a club where you can rent as much as you want).

Re:Unlimited Supply Argument, Revisited (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510082)

Your solution implies that the cable model of distribution is the correct one, which hasn't been proven.

On the other hand, if your model were adopted by the MPAA, the world would be vastly improved. Imagine if the MPAA said, "We'll let you listen to all the music you want as long as you pay us $20 per month forever," would you do it? I wouldn't either -- there's just too much good music that doesn't come from MPAA-member artists to bother.

The MPAA and its members would collapse, and all music would become essentially independent.

IOW, I support your proposed solution wholeheartedly.

Re:Unlimited Supply Argument, Revisited (1)

adminstring (608310) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510196)

Small correction: members of the RIAA distribute music; members of the MPAA distribute movies.

Re:Unlimited Supply Argument, Revisited (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510232)

That's horrible. If you're right, it means things are going to get a lot worse than they already are. Cable is already 99% filler and 1% what you want. What's funny is that when this crap started, some people were complaining that music wasn't a la carte enough: they listened to styles of music where there's a CD with one song they wanted and 9 songs they don't, and they resented paying for those 9. (Not my thing, but hey, whatever.)

The move to TV-show downloading also suggests people don't like the cable TV approach. The want to just get the shows they want.

Selling music one file at a time does not reflect the "fluid" nature of digital media and is rightfully held in low regard by filesharers.
Well, then, those filesharers are weirdos, because I have 100x the regard for a la carte music as I do for all-you-can-eat-buffet music. I want my money going to Exodus, not Britney!

Re:Unlimited Supply Argument, Revisited (1)

ancientt (569920) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510402)

And rehashed in an article on lockergnome [lockergnome.com] .

Your suggestion that music should be "sold" by subscription is interesting. This is what satellite radio is doing for the most part, and somewhat successfully. It is interesting to consider how many companies would suffer bankruptcy if it were suddenly universally not illegal to share copies of digital information.

Lets consider a moment a world where people pay only to receive new content via subscription. That would mean that software would no longer be sold, except to those who paid to have improvements made. It would virtually eliminate most of the software companies, or at least their business models, as we know them today. What would it leave in it's wake?

Arguments about copyright hit mainstream (4, Informative)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509930)

I think what's really positive here (besides the very good article) is that these ideas have finally hit mainstream. There's at least acknowledgement of a debate, and I think that will really help to move things forward. About the only point that's missing is that the temporary (I use the term loosely) monopoly provided to creative works should be set so as to balance the production of work with the public interest. We've seen several lengthenings of copyright, but there was no discussion of whether or not these were a good deal for the public at large. Greg London's Bounty Hunters (http://www.greglondon.com/bountyhunters) gives a good picture of this side of the issue.

Re:Arguments about copyright hit mainstream (1)

Damon Tog (245418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510384)

There is definitely a problem with orphaned works that are out-of-print and effectively lost for the next 100 years or so.

However, a blanket reduction of copyright term lengths is a blunt instrument.The problems of copyright can be more effectively be resolved by reducing the copyright terms of works that are out-of-print and are no longer actively being sold. 90 percent of copyrighted works are out-of-print and collecting dust. If the copyright holders can't be bothered to release them, these works should revert to public domain.

No, it's "unauthorized value creation". (3, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22509940)

Seriously. The copies have value (otherwise, why would you spend the time to get them?). When you download something, the result is that more people have these valuble copies. For some kinds of things, this may even increase the value of copies that other people already have (anything that has network effects). So by downloading a copy of something, you create value. The only catch is, the copyright holder isn't able to take out their cut.

Re:No, it's "unauthorized value creation". (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510212)

The only catch is, the copyright holder isn't able to take out their cut.
I'd be perfectly happy to give them 10% of what I paid.

Double Edged Sword (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22509974)

Knee jerk reaction is that "Music sharing isn't wrong." However, consider if Microsoft was 'sharing' binary-only versions of Linux on P2P networks, many people would be rightfully angry; "Either respect the license, or stop distributing the material."

To this end, I'm in favor of making sure all Copyright violations are caught, but the punishment being fairly limited. So, if I download Britney Spears' CD without paying for it, then I have to buy it at $(list price * 1.5), for instance. In addition, terms for using and reusing materials should be clearly stated up front.

Then perhaps we can get to the point where the market says, "Look, $15 for your latest crappy pop-star and I can't share the music isn't worth it. I'll find a local artist on CDbaby.com instead." And, at the same time, we can enforce the GPL.

Do your part; respect the RIAA's music enough to leave it on the shelves and off your digital devices. The natural inclination to follow the money will allow the artists to do the rest.

sharing v. piracy isn't the question, fair use is (2, Interesting)

schwaang (667808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510062)

Yes, there are some who will make various intellectual arguments for why it should always be legal to rip the latest Disney movie for free. In the end, it's for the common good that we have created an artifical set of rules that allow creators to be compensated for their otherwise easily copied works. The guy on the street overwhelmingly agrees with this, just as he also agrees on an artificial speed limit for his car.

But there is room for serious dispute over where that artificial line is drawn, and how the rules get enforced. The problem isn't that copyright makes piracy (aka "sharing") illegal. It's that technological enforcement of copyright via "digital rights management" (DRM) just goes too far in restricting human nature. And such attempts to force universities or ISPs to police their students from committing piracy is draconian (plus so lame).

The hard problem isn't to decide whether or not to have copyright law. It's how do we let Disney be paid for every copy of a movie, while still allowing the common man to make a backup copy of his DVD library, or lend a movie to a friend, or use a clip in a remix?

Re:sharing v. piracy isn't the question, fair use (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510258)

The hard problem isn't to decide whether or not to have copyright law. It's how do we let Disney be paid for every copy of a movie, while still allowing the common man to make a backup copy of his DVD library, or lend a movie to a friend, or use a clip in a remix?
Hard problem? That was the status quo prior to 1998! The IP industries didn't want it so they lobbied for DMCA. If there's a hard problem, it's convincing legislators that 1978 copyright law was a damned sight better than today's.

i am not getting it (2, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510108)

Why do we need analogies? Why do we need to find similarities? It is a simple case of two parties, one of which is accusing the other as the source of their financial losses. It does not matter what do you call it. If one side can prove that their losses were because of the actions of another, that's it. Copyright violation is already a crime. If I make a VHS tape of the Seinfeld episode, they will have hard time proving that I incurred significant losses on NBC. If I made a torrent out of it and put it on the seeder it's another issue.

See? No need for bad or any analogies.

Semantics of Analogies (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510148)

As it points out, the common analogies to theft are often incomplete or inaccurate.


Analogies are always incomplete and inaccurate (the former necessarily implies the latter, anyhow); if they were complete and accurate, they would be equivalencies, not analogies.

What is important is whether the similarities in the things which are held up as analogous support the conclusion drawn from the analogy; IOW, whether and to what degree the similarities (or, conversely, the inaccuracy and incompleteness of the analogy) are relevant to the purpose of the analogy.

Whats not clear about "theft of services"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22510154)

The article is concise and well written. I've often wondered why "theft of services" has not been the main point of argument all along. I'm a musician/producer/small label co-owner. What I sell is not really a CD, vinyl record or digital download, its the experience of listening to the music, a few minutes of entertainment that can be enjoyed as many times as you like. Its a service plain and simple. And yes of course it costs us real money and time to create, mix, produce and make each song available. If we choose to give it away for no cost, thats our choice to make, not anyone else's.

Downloading a copy of one of our songs or making copies available for download is theft of that service or facilitation. Never understood how there could be any confusion on this point at all. Also for anyone who will try to invoke fair use as a counter argument under the guise of "sharing", tell me with a straight face that making a copy for your Mom or friend is the same as making a copy available for x amount of strangers on the Internet and I'll laugh and ask you to pull the other one.

I Call It "Speech" (3, Insightful)

LuYu (519260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510172)

I have a word for "file sharing": I call it "speech". I have the Right (as in God-given, inalienable, fundamental, and/or natural -- take your pick) to repeat any speech that enters my realm of experience from any source.

  • If a picture is worth a thousand words, I have the Right to repeat those thousand words.
  • If I hear a tune, I have the Right to sing it.
  • If I read a book, I have a Right to repeat any or all of the information in that book.

Before the internet became popular, copyright did not very significantly encroach upon the territory of Free Speech. Now, no one can reasonably claim that copyright does not restrict Free Speech and education. Obviously, Free Speech is more important than copyright, just as Democracy is more important than monopoly privileges.

File sharing is Free Speech.

Re:I Call It "Speech" (1)

Damon Tog (245418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510314)

Apples and oranges.

Copyright does not prevent you from writing and distributing your own book, song or ideas.

Re:I Call It "Speech" (1)

d34thm0nk3y (653414) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510422)

Copyright does not prevent you from writing and distributing your own book, song or ideas.

The first amendment says nothing about originality.

Re:I Call It "Speech" (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510332)

Soo.......is there any room for compromise in that model? Any reason why, perhaps, the right to a limited monopoly on intellectual property comes BEFORE the right to free speech in the constitution?

Re:I Call It "Speech"-I HAVE A DREAM (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510376)

I have the Right (as in God-given, inalienable, fundamental, and/or natural -- take your pick) to repeat any speech that enters my realm of experience from any source.

Go out and repeat the already plagiarized I Have A Dream speech, and the King estate will sue you for copyright infringement. All this despite the fact that it was read for free at a highly attended public gathering.

Re:I Call It "Speech" (1)

oracle128 (899787) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510394)

The *AA don't have a problem with you repeating lines from a song/movie, so much as they have a problem with you recording it and distributing it to others. They're not impeding your right to talk about it, or even to act out certain potions of it. In fact, I'm sure they'd love for you to talk about it as much as possible, to ensure that others know about it and possibly even purchase it just like everybody else did. They're preventing you from illegally duplicating, redistributing and/or reselling it as if were your God-given right to, because you somehow think you're better than those "suckers" who actually paid for it.

File Sharing isn't Illegal (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510220)

Sharing files without permission is.

"File sharing" is just a technology that lets people share files.

When it is used to share files without authorization legal issues come up, with copyright violation being the top one.

But, if I share a Ubuntu ISO over a file sharing program, no laws anywhere are being broken.

Can we please be more specific? With specificity, it is hard to have an argument.
(The article is correct, the /. summary isn't. Big surprise there...)

File Sharing != Lost Sale (3, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510288)

The biggest lie out there is that file sharing equates to lost sales on a 1:1 basis. In fact, the record industry is hard pressed to make the case that file sharing results in ANY lost sales. They don't have some line of reformed file sharers testifying that, "I didn't buy that single/record/cd because I downloaded it on KaZaA instead." But with NO EVIDENCE to back them up, they continue to insist that:

Every illegal download is a lost sale.

Their entitled to THOUSANDS OF TIMES THEIR ACTUAL LOSSES from every infringer they haul into court.

You can absolutely identify the infringing user and computer from nothing more than an IP address and a timestamp.

There is no other explanation for the overall decline in CD sales.

We're only doing this for the artists.

What Would Hitler Do? (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22510324)

I had to put an end to comments on this article somehow, before it rehashes absolutely every argument that has appeared in every other article about filesharing and the RIAA.
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