It’s Not Stealing Because I Don’t Want It to Be

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When stripped of rationalizations, file sharing is clearly an act of theft. When Boston University grad student Joel Tenenbaum was recently charged for illegally downloading and distributing thirty songs, he did not express remorse.  Instead, he likened the situation to underage drinking, saying, “I don’t regret drinking underage in college, even though I got busted a few times.”  Tenenbaum is not the only one who feels this way.  Despite the potential consequences of illegally downloading music or movies, file sharing remains rampant in colleges.

When asked why they do it, some students point out that file sharing does not seem to be harming the entertainment industry.  Actors and musicians are still making plenty of money, and the entertainment and recording companies can afford the slight financial loss due to illegal downloading.

But compare file sharing with a prototypical example of stealing—not paying for a candy bar in a grocery store.  Most students who engage in file sharing would not steal a candy bar, even though taking one candy bar without paying for it will likely not cause the store any significant financial harm.  Why not?

In some cases, the motive might be fear of getting caught.  Most of us, however, would still not steal the candy bar, even if we knew we wouldn’t get caught, because we recognize that it’s wrong.  We understand that the candy bar belongs to the store owner, not to us.

Even though stealing just one candy bar is not enough to do serious harm to the store owner, we implicitly recognize that to the extent we deny him the compensation he seeks for his work, we deprive him of the ability to live his life as he has worked hard to be able to do—such as being able to pay his mortgage and save up for his children’s college tuition.  This also means it will be more difficult for him to sustain his business, making it harder for him to make the products that we value available to us.

The argument that the entertainment industry makes plenty of money and can afford the loss due to illegal downloading is, therefore, only a rationalization.  Most students who file share wouldn’t steal Brad Pitt’s latte just because he wouldn’t notice the loss.  In such cases, they would take the moral right of ownership seriously.

Yet such students do continue to file share.  Many reject that the analogy to shoplifting applies.  When you steal a candy bar, they note, the store no longer has it.  What are you really “stealing” when you download a song from bitTorrent?  The person from whom you downloaded it still has a copy of the song.  Indeed, that is why the practice is identified as file sharing, not file taking.

This argument, however, ignores the fact that the recording company owns the rights to the song.  After investing its money to have the artist produce the song, the company offered it to willing buyers on the condition that it would not be copied.   In buying the product, the student agreed to abide by those terms.  Should an honest buyer respect that agreement?  Or should he only pretend that he will respect the terms and then violate them?

File sharers insist that the latter is not dishonest.  But clearly it is.  Had the buyer called the recording company and told them he intended to distribute copies of the song, they would not have sold him the file.  It is only because he agreed to abide by the terms that they sold him the music.  For him to then go back on his word is a clear act of dishonesty.

The student who file shares, whether he realizes it or not, is engaged in an injustice comparable to the injustice he would commit if he stole candy from a store owner.  The recording company saw the value in the artist’s talent, gave the artist the means to create his music, and then compiled this music for our enjoyment (on specific terms).  Denying producers, artists, and distributors the value they seek, whether this is money, publicity, or recognition, in return for enjoying their products denies them the ability to enjoy the well-earned fruits of their labor.  One of these fruits includes being able to produce more of the music that we love.

Some students offer yet another argument in favor of file sharing—that file sharing is actually good for recording companies and artists because it gives their work more exposure.  This, too, seems like a rationalization.  The same analysis would apply to stealing a candy bar, yet these students don’t steal candy bars on that basis.  The fundamental issue is not whether such an action might benefit the owner in the future but whether the owner is able to determine the terms of distribution of his products.  If we are unsatisfied with his price, we are free to look for other music elsewhere, but we do not have the right to forcibly take it from him with the unjustified consolation that this action will benefit him in the long run.  Of course, if some artists offer their music for free, that is their prerogative.  Indeed, there is good reason for rising artists looking for exposure to consider doing this.  But if other artists seek monetary compensation for their music, that should similarly be their prerogative.

When stripped of rationalizations, at root, file sharing is morally equivalent to shoplifting.  It is stealing from everyone who put forth their time and effort to create the music and movies we enjoy.  Students who file share either don’t understand these arguments, or if they do, ignore them because they want music without having to pay for it.  Either way, it’s stealing.

We, as consumers, should be eager to repay those who produce products and services that bring immense value to our lives.  The people who make our favorite movies and our favorite music are not our slaves or servants. They work to produce those goods and, just like everyone else, they expect and deserve to be paid by those who use their products.  And it is to our benefit to repay these individuals—it is, after all, this payment that motivates and enables them to keep producing those very goods for us to enjoy.

It is easy to forego the responsibility of doing the right thing and paying for your music.  Downloading a song from bitTorrent is quick and easy.  Oftentimes, we can also get away with peeking over at someone else’s test paper or lying on a job application.  But when we look in the mirror, do we want our reflection to show pride in being an honest person?  Or do we want to see a dishonest person who does the wrong thing to his own and others’ detriment just because he can get away with it?  That, dear reader, is for you to decide.

Rituparna is a junior at Penn State University, pursuing an undergraduate degree in biology.  She is president of the Penn State Objectivist Club and is enrolled in the Objectivist Academic Center.  Rituparna won first place in the worldwide The Fountainhead essay contest in 2007.

Posted by on September 16, 2009. Filed under Culture, Fall 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
  • Seth

    I applaud your article and hope it is read by the millions of thieves out there, however I wouldn’t lump everyone who downloads music into that category. Many artists have advocated stealing their music because of less than scrupulous record companies taking advantage of them. Is someone who downloads a file from Archive.org that is uploaded by the artist doing something wrong? While I do think that bit torrent is a major issue, I also have noticed that the only people truly suffering the loss from these practices are the record labels whose business model was going to be forced to change whether or not illegal downloading takes place. By the consumers saying, “screw you big music, I am going to steal your product,” they are giving them valuable information that some labels ignore and others capitalize on. This change was coming with or without bit torrent. Is it right? No. Would it make a real long term difference? No.

    Oh, and I think you are wrong about the candy bar thing. Just take a look at Halloween. The same people who are illegally downloading music don’t think twice to taking more than their fair share of candy when they approach a house with a bowl out front.

  • Shea

    “Many artists have advocated stealing their music because of less than scrupulous record companies taking advantage of them”

    What do you mean, taking advantage of? Do the record companies violate the terms of their contracts? If not, they (not the artists) are the owners of the rights to the song (the artist sold those rights away). Just because the artist encourages you to steal, doesn’t make it right.

    Think of it this way: What if you hired a programmer to write software for an application that your company is developing, and of course you have a contract stipulating that you own the rights to whatever software he develops. Should that programmer then be allowed to post the source code online without your permission?

  • Daniel Casper

    Seth,

    Ends do not justify means. Even if someone had the “noble” intention of demonstrating to record companies their business model is prehistoric, you can’t break the law to do it. Is it morally right for me to steal from my neighbor until he finally learns to lock his front door? According to your argument the answer is yes – and you get to enjoy his flat screen as payment for the lesson you taught him.

    Also, on Halloween there is no contract negotiated between you and the candy-provider. Record companies, however, do have contracts and rights to protect them from such theft. If I had a sign instructing people not to take a piece of candy, or only take one piece, and they took more, that’s different than me leaving an unattended bowl out front on a holiday devoted to sweets. No one has the moral authority to ignore the rights of others. Others, by means of the government, do have the moral authority to punish you if you do.

  • WorBlux

    If I listen to a song, and it gets stuck in my head, do I really owe money to the person who wrote it every time I feel the need to sing it?

    Those persons who download the most songs are also the most likely to spend money on the physical products. Downloaded is a useful way to try before you buy, and many less famous bands and groups rely on making their music available as downloads as a primary method of promotion.

    The thing i agree with here is that if you enjoy a work, and would like to see more of it, then you should view them in ways that would encourage others to make similar works, and I agree that failure to do so is distasteful. I disagree that it is theft.

    The author has assumed that ideas are in fact property, but has failed to demonstrate it beyond a standpoint of legal positivism. (It is property because the law says so)

    Either statutory law is derived from and dependent on something logically prior such as natural law or it originates from arbitrary sources such as the opinion of men with power.

    In the later case, there can be no real moral judgment, and if a person has the power to oppose, evade, or defy the stated opinion of men most prominent with power, their actions cannot be considered essentially different than any other. Of course people would talk about morals in such a case, but it would only be one more tool used to gain power over others.

    In the first case there is no scarcity in the realm of ideas. Property is justified on the basis that no two people control the same object at the same time and in the same manner. Ideas do not have that limitation.

    Property is also justified by virtue of mixing about labor with and transforming tangible unowned goods to those already owned by the transformer to bring about and increase in value. Though the author tries to defend intellectual property on these grounds, it actually more strongly implies the rejection of ideas as property. To claim property in an idea, you must claim some property rights in the tangible property of a great many other people in who they can use their property. Such claims weaken property as a whole, the absolute and irrespective control over a thing,

    The author perhaps foreseeing or knowing this argument has argued for the existence of an implied contract when a person buys a copy of the idea not to use their property to copy that idea. However the fist person to come into possession of a copy not under contract, be it though abandonment of a CD or a surreptitious copying of an acquaintances CD, the meeting of minds chain would be broken and no valid contract could apply to those cases.

  • Daniel Casper

    “The author has assumed that ideas are in fact property, but has failed to demonstrate it beyond a standpoint of legal positivism. (It is property because the law says so)”

    You’re right – an idea does not exist, and therefore it cannot be property. But to say that a recording is just an idea is to ignore the fact that a recording is a tangible object – whether in terms of binary code or a vinyl record. If this somehow fails to serve as a legal entity, then there can be no such thing as property.

    An idea is something that exists in men’s minds. A tangible object is that which exists, independent of men’s mind. Even the code that governs this website is a tangible thing stored on a hard drive somewhere and would not cease to exist if we all stopped visitng the page. The code that creates this page, and its contents, are real, tangible objects and thus protected under property rights. The same can be said if I write down a scientific theory or a plan for a new type of factory. Those things are mine and fall under the jurisdiction of patent law.

    Last, property is not “justified.” A man does not have to “transform” his property in anyway for it to be his property. Property is anyway tangible object acquired by means of trade or creation, which the trader or creator has a moral and political right to.

  • Scott

    “After investing its money to have the artist produce the song, the company offered it to willing buyers on the condition that it would not be copied.”

    By your own logic the person you castigate is guilty of no crime. The person who downloads the song has no agreement with the company or artist who produced the song and is therefore guilty of no crime if he does not further share the file.

    At least be self consistent in your logic. You may yet be able to formulate an arguement against downloading songs, but this isn’t it.

  • Ryan Sager – Neuroworld – What do you call… – True/Slant

    [...] …file sharing minus self-justification? Theft. [...]

  • Daniel Casper

    Scott,

    Obviously you don’t read the EULA’s (End-User License Agreements) which you agree to accept when you download a song off of iTunes. Section 14 Sub-Article A titled “Intellectual Property” where

    “You agree not to modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, distribute, or create derivative works based on the Service, in any manner, and you shall not exploit the Service in any unauthorized way whatsoever, including but not limited to, by trespass or burdening network.”

    As far as FTP file-sharing goes, the same laws apply to that as they do movies in theaters we would illegal record. The rights are owned, and until the owner sells the rights – in whatever form he chooses – you have no rights to the product whatsoever.

  • Music Piracy: It’s Not Stealing Because I Don’t Want It to B

    [...] [...]

  • David Schwartz

    This article misses a critical logical step that deprives it of the force it should have. Many file sharers never share a song they personally purchased. There is no moral reason a contract should bind non-parties.

    Here’s a reductio ad absurdum to show why your argument fails:

    Suppose I hate blonde-haired people. I don’t want them to eat my apples. So I sell some apples to a merchant on the condition he not resell them to blonde-haired people. File sharing is like a blonde-haired person who secretly meets with the apple merchant and buys an apple against the agreement the merchant entered into.

    See how it’s now not clear that this is wrong at all? And do you see why this is more analogous? The two file sharers are satisfied with the exchange, just as the apple merchant and the blonde are. I would not have sold the apples had I known the merchant would resell them to blondes, but how is that the blonde-haired person’s problem? He didn’t agree to anything with me.

  • Grant

    David Schwartz,

    Anyone who downloads Inglorious Basterds off of bittorrent knows full well that the computer he’s downloading it from isn’t owned by Universal Pictures for the purpose of giving their movie away.

    Get real.

  • Daniel Casper

    Mr. Schwartz,

    This issue is cleared up by the nature of contracts. I shall demonstrate how your argument misses a crucial aspect which applies to file-sharing: contracts delimit what can and cannot be done with files – and are binding.

    Let’s say I sell you apples on the contractual condition you not sell them to any blonde-haired people, and if you do so, you must pay me $500 per apple. Well, if you do that, guess what? You’ve committed breach of contract and I get what is allowed to me in the contract.

    On the other hand, let’s say we have no contract and I just demand you not sell them to blonde-haired people. There is no legal recourse for me to stop you from selling it to blonde haired people. We may never deal again, but you are free to sell them to whoever you wish since you bought the right to those apples from me as per own contract.

    What you are missing is that the record companies own the rights to the song and every recording made of it. It is called a copyright and that means in order to use it in any form you must first ask the creator. It is irrelevant how or where you came upon this piece of property – the producer has the rights on it. The producer can set any terms he likes. People can listen to the song for free, share it with whomever they want, make millions of copies, resell it, but only by the explicit permission of the producer and by means of a valid contract between two parties. If you do not make a contract, then you have ignored the producer’s copyright, and therefore have broken the law.

    This is why file-sharing is illegal and immoral without the permission of the copyright owner.

  • Doug H.

    While that is the moral argument, another argument could be integrated — structured on the psychological consequences of the removal of purchasing constraints, namely price and time.

    i.e: When a product loses its scarcity it tends to be devalued.

    For example, at one point in maritime history, Lobster was looked at as a “garbage food” due to it’s extreme overabundance. People were unexcited by it because they could have it at any time.

    So too with “file sharing”. There are profound psychological effects for an individual who continues to pirate albums and movies.

    These albums, artists and films have less value to the pirate then the used to/otherwise would or could. Instead of making his life better with this easy access, they have caused him to lose the excitement he used to feel when being exposed to this new art.

    And however much he may rationalize that he is “Sticking it to the man”, he is really sticking it to himself, and killing his own sense of values and artistic appreciation.

    Mixing this notion into the moral argument may appeal more fully to the self-interest of someone on the fence about intellectual property.

  • Tim R

    Great article. Easy to read and easy to understand.

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: I know that. I don’t see how that is responsive to my argument.

    Daniel Casper: The first part of your argument doesn’t respond to my argument at all. Yes, I agree that people who purchase a work and then redistribute it can be argued to be breaching an agreement they made when they purchased the work. I was quite clear that my argument was about people who did not purchase the work.

    Your last paragraph is a different argument to make the same point. You miss that I’m not disagreeing with the point, only the argument.

    If someone says “two plus two is four because my father is immortal” and I pointed out that his father is dead, a response with a different proof that two plus two is four is not responsive.

    I am pointing out the problems with the argument made in the article, not disagreeing with its conclusions. The article does not support its conclusions. We can take on other arguments elsewhere.

  • Grant

    Daniel,

    You’re asking to hold harmless the guy who logs onto bittorrent to download to a song because he isn’t the one doing the actual pirating. He’s simply benefiting from it. You’re basing this on the claim that he can’t be absolutely sure if the song he is receiving isn’t being made available to him within the terms of the contract or not. I’m saying he can be. Certainty doesn’t require omnicience.

    He may not be as immoral as the guy who bought the song and is not passing out copies of it, but he’s still immoral. He’s receiving stolen property.

  • Grant

    Whoops, David – not Daniel. Sorry.

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: No, I’m not basing it on the claim that he can’t be absolutely sure if the song is being made available to him in violation of the contract. I am saying that even if he is absolutely sure the song is being made available to him in violation of the contract, that doesn’t matter since he never agreed to the contract.

    The fundamental concept behind a ‘contract’ is that it is an agreement. It has no force on anyone who does not agree to be bound by it.

    If you agree to mow someone’s lawn on Friday and I take you to the movies instead, I’m not violated the agreement you made to mow someone’s lawn because I’m not a party to that agreement.

  • Grant

    David,

    Your original argument wasn’t that the blonde apple-buyer wasn’t in violation of his merchant’s contract with the apple-producer; it was that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. And I quote: “See how it’s now not clear that this is wrong at all?”

    I have never claimed that such a person is the one breeching the contract. Instead, what I have said is that (knowingly) taking advantage of a breech of contract is wrong. It is also illegal, as it should be. As I said, it’s receiving stolen property.

  • David Schwartz

    Here, I’ll put it really simply. The article says:

    It is immoral to violate contracts.
    Copyrights are like contracts.
    Therefore, it is immoral to violate copyrights.

    I say:

    The reason is it immoral to violate contracts is because you specifically agreed to keep them and other people relied on that promise and gave you something of value in exchange for it.
    People who do not purchase something do not make any kind of agreement nor does anyone give them anything of value in exchange for any promise.
    Therefore, downloading something through file sharing without purchasing it does not have the specific thing that makes violating a contract immoral.

    If copyrights were like contracts, we wouldn’t need copyright law. We’d just use contract law. Artists would love it, because they could set any terms they could get people to agree to. They wouldn’t have to allow fair use. They could make their contracts never expire.

    But copyrights are more powerful than contracts. They bind even third parties who never agreed to them.

    So a moral argument that it is wrong to violate a copyright cannot be based on contract arguments. (Except, of course, for those who purchase the work.)

    Is that clearer?

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: “Instead, what I have said is that (knowingly) taking advantage of a breech of contract is wrong. It is also illegal, as it should be.”

    Nonsense. If your boss tells you that “you have to work Saturday, I promised the client it would be done by Monday” you are perfectly morally entitled to tell him that in the future he should talk to you *before* he makes promises that impose obligations on you.

    “As I said, it’s receiving stolen property.”

    No, it’s not. Criminal violations have to violate criminal laws that are drafted by legislatures and provide clear notice. Contacts can be vague and fuzzy and even prohibit doing “bad things” with something. (As some EULAs do, for example.)

    For something to be “stolen” the actual transfer has to be unauthorized. A subsequent violation of an agreement or even fraud in the inducement does not make the thing stolen, it simply makes the contract breached.

    Even if I promise to pay you tomorrow for something you give me today so long as you give me the thing willingly, it is not and cannot have been “stolen”.

  • Grant

    However, the thought just occured to me: what would it mean to say that someone shared a file (ie: breeched a contract), but that he was the only one involved with the breech? How can someone share something with himself?

    A contract-breech file-sharing incident requires a recipient. Without him, there is no breech. The two are depedent upon one another to commit the crime, and as such, they are equally culpable. He’s not even aiding or abetting – he’s instrumental. He’s an accomplice

    Someone who downloads a pirated file absolutely is breeching a contract. Simply because he’s not the only one doing it doesn’t change that fact.

  • Anon

    David- let’s take another example. If someone steals a car and then sells it to me, is it wrong for me to purchase it when I know it was stolen? I would say that, yes, knowingly purchasing a stolen car is immoral and rightfully illegal. You are depriving the owner of the vehicle what is rightfully his and only his, and at the same time are furthering criminal activity.

    The same applies to file sharing. If you download a song knowing that it has been obtained through theft and in violation of contract, you are furthering the theft by downloading a copy of the song for yourself. You are furthering the injustice committed and you are further depriving the producer of the compensation he seeks for his work. This is not only morally reprehensible, but rightfully, a crime.

    If someone who rightfully purchased the song is offering it to others to download, the person who purchased the song is committing a crime and by downloading his song for yourself, you are aiding him in committing that crime. The immorality of such an act should be obvious.

    If someone file shares on this basis, they are simply using yet another rationalization to enjoy their music without paying for it.

  • Grant

    Assuming you’re describing at-will employment, if your boss asks you to work on Saturday, he’s breeched no contract. You have no contract with him. He, or you, can change the terms or end the relationship at any time.

    —-

    Contracts are “fuzzy”? Now you’re back to the “how can he be sure?” argument? I thought you said that you hadn’t made that argument.

    —-

    It’s “stolen” because the person had no right to give it away. The act of creating the copy, and making it available for download is the breech, and at that point his possession of it is illegal. If he then gives it to another person (ie: lets that person make a copy from the copy he just forfeited his right to), that person is receiving stolen property.

  • David Schwartz

    Anon: Your example is nothing like my example. Breaching a contract is not like stealing something. Stealing something renders that thing stolen. Breaching a contract does not somehow contaminate the items involved.

    The rest of your argument consists of other arguments that make the same point this article does. I agree with the point the article is making. I disagree with the arguments it uses to make its point. So other arguments don’t relate. (See my example of “two plus two is four because my father is immortal”.)

    Grant: You missed the point of my example. That your boss promised to get work done by Friday does not put any moral obligation on *you* to get it done by Friday. Contracts don’t impose obligations on third parties. That’s the difference between contracts and copyrights.

    My “fuzzy” argument is nothing like the “can’t be sure” argument. Again, the fuzzy argument applies even if he’s certain the contract exists. The point is that contracts are nothing like laws against stealing. If a contract says “if you take $5 from me, you promise to be good” and you do something the contract author considers bad, you did *not* steal the $5. At most, you broke the contract. Huge difference.

    You seem trapped on the notion that it is illegal or theft to violate a contract. It is neither, and it does not make any property stolen. It is, very simply, breach of contract.

    A contract is like you promising your dad that you’ll clean your room or you can’t go to the prom. If for some reason it becomes more important to you not to clean your room than to go to the prom, then you are neither breaking the law nor stealing anything by not cleaning your room.

    Contracts are freely-entered into agreements that bind the people who agree to them and stipulate (at least notionally) the penalties for breach. It is *not* illegal to breach them, and it is not stealing legally unless it breaks theft laws. Whether or not it’s stealing morally is a complex argument. It’s not obviously morally equivalent to stealing.

  • Grant

    The only way a third party would be able to possess a copy of a file, if the contract were respected by the second party, is if he purchased one from the first party.

    Because the contract is not respected, the third party comes into possession of a copy of the file without paying the first party. He is now in possession of money which no longer belongs to him. Even if he deletes the file, he owes money to it’s creator.

    You keep saying that there’s some fundamental difference between breech of contract and theft. Explain it.

  • Grant

    If your boss promises something to someone (contracts with him), so do you. No, that doesn’t mean that you have to work to help him fulfill the promise (you can quit), but so long as you work for him, you accept that his word is your word. You can’t expect be free from the consequences of not working on Saturday. You can’t refuse to help your boss fulfill his contract yet keep your job.

    Similarly, if your friend promises not to put the DVD he owns up on bittorrent, you promise not to download it if he does. Copyright holders are not against people putting files on bittorrent per se. They’re against it because when people do, other people make copies of them. You have no right to expect to be free of the consequences of refusing to help your friend keep his word (ie: refraining from downloading the file he posted) when, without you downloading the file, he wouldn’t be able to break it.

    You are personally responsible for the actions of your boss – even if the punishment isn’t criminal but instead economic – just as you are responsible for the criminal actions of your friend. (It’s civil in the one and criminal the other because meeting the terms of the one is not guaranteed and meeting the terms of the other is).

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: The difference between breach of contract and theft is that theft is a violation of objective rules that are the result of a legislative process while contracts are not vetted in that way. Laws, if vague, are void. Contracts can be vague and still enforced.

    A theft does ‘contaminate’ the object stolen. A breach of contract does not. For example, if I buy a TV from a store, but then the store doesn’t pay the wholesaler, that’s not my problem. My TV does not become stolen by the store’s breach and I am under no obligation to see that the store complies with its contract.

    And you still miss the entire point of my work example. To make your argument, you would have to argue that you are morally obligated to keep your boss’ promise.

    All of your side arguments about responsibility for his actions due to other agreements are totally irrelevant. The point is really this simple — your boss’ agreement with the client imposes no moral obligations on you. He can promise the client you will work 24/7 on his problem, and that promise is not your problem. Contracts only bind those who agree to them.

    Copyrights are not like contracts because third parties have to agree to contracts to be bound by them. It’s that simple.

  • Grant

    Of course contracts are vetted by the legislative process. A contract formulated in this country which states that I agree to produce and deliver nuclear warheads to Osama bin Laden in exchange for you building me a house in West Palm Beach is not a valid contract and will not be enforced by any court in the land. Contracts absolutely can be more vague than laws, but they can not be endlessly vague. They are still circumscribed by the laws of the society in which the signatory parties live.

    —-

    No, the TV does not become stolen and you have no obligation to return it, but that’s an entirely different contract. The parties are the same (retailer and wholesaler), but the contracts are not. An obligation to pay the wholesaler for the TVs the retailer purchases regardless if he sells them is not the same as an obligation not to resell the TVs he purchases.

    —-

    If you want to keep your job, you absolutely are morally obligated to keep your boss’ promise. No, you’re not legally obligated – the customer should understand that the boss’ of the company he’s buying from is assuming that his at-will employees will agree to the request to work on Saturday and that there’s no guarantee they will (and thus no guarantee that the product will be ready by Monday) – but assuming that it’s the rational decision to help your boss, you are morally obligated. Just as if you make a determination that it’s of greater value to you to refuse the boss’ request, you are morally obligated to quit and thus spare yourself having to continue to work for a disorganized man.

    —-

    And finally, as I’ve explained a number of times now, there is no “third party” in an instance of copyright infringement through file-sharing. A person cannot share a file with himself. A “third party” must necessarily participate. If a person offers to give you a copy of a file he has no right to offer you, you are obligated to prevent him breeching YOUR contract with the copyright holder by refusing to accept it. Where does your contract come from? It is implied in the fact that both you and the copyright holder are citizens of the same country living under the same set of laws – one of those laws being that each and every individual has sole ownership and dominion over his property.

    Ever heard of that part of The Declaration which says “… that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men…”? That’s a contract we all have with each other.

  • Grant

    More about the boss: If a boss does make a binding, guaranteed, disclaimer-free promise to a customer, and in truth he has no way to guarantee it because his employees aren’t themselves contractually bound to him to meet his requests, then he has committed fraud. He has misrepresented the nature of his agreements with his employees to his customer.

    If he allows the customer to give him money, and if all of his employees suddenly quit making him unable to deliver the product, he should have to return the money. However, if he takes some of that money and gives it to you at the end of the day on Saturday for that day’s work, but then on Sunday your coworker who had been scheduled calls in and quits – thus making the product unfinished and unable to be delivered on Monday – that doesn’t mean that you should be able to keep that money.

    You, knowing the nature of your agreement with him, should have known that your boss had no right to promise what he did to the customer. By agreeing to work for him – to help him get away with his misrepresentation under the rationale of “no harm, no foul” – you have also chosen to put yourself at the mercy of the whims of the employee scheduled to work Sunday. You have become an accomplice to the fraud.

    You can’t say that just because you didn’t start the breech of contract (making a file available on bittorrent) that you’re not responsible for your decision to download it. Downloading it is the thing preventing it from being put up is trying to prevent! Just the same as making it clear to the customer (either explicitly, or implicitly through a disclaimer) the nature of your boss’ relationship with you is not trying to prevent being unclear – but rather the wasting of time contracting with someone who cannot guarantee delivery when that’s what you need.

  • Jeff Montgomery

    I can never understand how people can talk themselves into thinking this is OK. Clearly they are taking something that the record companies charge for. There is no justification for it.

    This is yet another indication of our culture’s A) lack of understanding of individual rights, B) encouragement of NOT thinking in principle, and C) lack of an effective overall moral code.

    Regarding B), if it’s wrong when you steal from a bank, it must also be wrong if you switch a bank with a record company. It’s still the same principle. The fact that computer geeks with questionable ethics are writing what are effectively *peer-to-peer theft servers* does not make it right either. It would be the same as downloaders were using peer-to-peer stolen merchandise fencing software to buy stolen electronics.

    Because file-sharing theft is easier to get away with, I think it makes a better litmus test of someone’s moral character. It’s easy to do the right thing when police are watching you. But do you do the right thing when they are not? That says a lot about a person.

  • Daniel Casper

    Legally speaking, David Schwartz is correct. Copyright is more powerful than contract as it “legally binds third parties who do not agree with it” and contract law would not apply to some cases of filing sharing (it would apply to others). Copyright infringement is the crime of people who receive shared files without any consent from the copyright owner.

    However, the effect of ignoring someone’s copyright is in effect stealing the rights to the work for yourself. You are taking something without the knowledge and without the consent (IE the right to play the song) of the producer. The dictionary defines stealing as “to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force.” Morally speaking, the author is correct when he calls file-sharing stealing on the part of the downloader.

    Keep in mind this article seeks to expose the rationalizations that college students use in order to justify file-sharing so they might stop, not present a theoretical treatise of law. It is a perfectly logical and valid statement to say that file-sharing constitutes theft, though you might be charged with a more precise title than that when you are taken to court.

  • David Schwartz

    The crux of theft is the victim is worse off for the theft than he would have been had you left him alone. Theft deprives its victim of something they had. File sharing is not wrong because it’s akin to theft.

    File sharing is not wrong because it’s like breaking promises. Only the person who legally acquired the work can be argued to have made any promises.

    The problem with simple arguments is that they’re almost always wrong. The reasons it is wrong to share copyrighted files are not simple at all. That’s just the way it is.

  • Daniel Casper

    Mr. Schwartz,

    Do not think that I’d debate you this long and let you get away with a skeptic’s claim.

    The crux of theft is not “that the victim is worse off for the theft than he would have been had you left him alone.” If I “steal” your stash of heroin, are you not better off than you were before, since heroin is a dangerous substance? No, it’s obviously still theft. What this stance on theft is evading is that anything owned may not be taken without the owner’s consent, regardless of whether it benefits either party. To do that, like my quote from the dictionary above, constitutes theft.

    If I own something, in this case a copyright, you do not have the right to take it from me, regardless of whether it “hurts” or “helps” me. Besides, these record companies are worse off than they were before – another person has their song and can share it with other people who will not pay them for the copyright. Even if that person elected not to share, the company still lost a potential profit which it has a right to.

    You say that file sharing is not wrong because it’s like breaking promises. You are right. I made no promise to the record company, they made no promise to me. Why it is wrong, however, is that to download a copywritten file is a form of theft.

    If a person owns a copyright, he controls who can and cannot purchase, use, and/or distribute the copywritten work. Anyone who seeks these abilities must negotiate a deal between himself and the copyright owner in which he is granted permission to any number of these. To fail to negotiate this, in effect, is to steal the copyright and act as if it did not exist, namely that you had the right to play the song to begin with.

    This is why it is theft, and therefore, why it is immoral. If the record company did not have the copyright, or if it wanted to give songs out for free, then to take them wouldn’t be immoral. It is because the copyright exists, created by American Law to protect intellectual property, that you are committing a crime.

    These record companies deserve profit for the service of providing us music and it is morally and legally wrong to take it from them.

  • David Schwartz

    Your argument is circular. File sharing certainly makes more file sharing possible. So if you want to argue that file sharing makes the rights holder worse off, you can’t do it simply by arguing it enables more file sharing. It would have to make them worse off in one instance, otherwise furthering additional instances wouldn’t matter.

    Your heroin argument is besides the point too. The point is that if you get a copy of a file from a friend, the rights holder is no better nor worse off than if you did nothing at all. In fact, there is no way he can even tell. So to say this is wrong for the same reason theft is — that’s simply ridiculous.

    Yes, you can have a theft that leaves the “victim” better off. Stealing a suicidal person’s gun may be a moral good deed. But just like you can’t justify theft in general by pointing out that some thefts might occasionally be good, you can’t condemn file sharing by saying it’s like some cases of theft.

    In essence, theft is wrong because it deprives someone of something they have justly acquired and leaves them worse off. In essence, file sharing generally does not do that.

    It is simply incorrect to state that file sharing is “like theft” and therefore morally wrong for the same reason theft is.

  • Daniel Casper

    Mr. Schwartz,

    I will condense my argument to a logical syllogism for the purpose of simplicity.

    1. David Schwartz obtains a copywritten work without the consent of the copyright owner.

    2. Theft is to obtain a piece of property without consent of the owner.

    3. Since a copy is owned by the copyright holder, and theft is to obtain a piece of property without the owner’s consent, David Schwartz has therefore stolen.

    Once again, the meaning of a copyright is that the owner owns all subsequent copies made. To obtain the right to play, distribute, or produce a copywritten work, an individual must ask permission of the copyright holder to do so. This garuntees that intellectual property is preserved in society.

    You’re right that theft is immoral when deprive someone of something when you take from them without their consent. What you are not recognizing is that by taking a copywritten file, even if only to copy it, you are denying the profits and the rights from the owner which he deserves.

    To return to your argument, a person is much worse off without their rights and their profits then with them. That much cannot be rationally debated. If you think there are additional or different reasons why file-sharing is immoral, I encourage you to state them.

  • David Schwartz

    Stealing a gun from a suicidal person obtains their property without their consent. But surely it doesn’t make this theft morally wrong.

    The reason theft is morally wrong is complex and varied, but the primary slam-dunk reason that is not nuanced and that nobody can disagree with is that it deprives the legitimate owner of something he would otherwise have had, thus leaving him worse off. Copyright infringement doesn’t do this.

    Your syllogism is also:

    1) Copyright violation is like theft.
    2) Theft is morally wrong.
    3) Therefore copyright violation is wrong.

    But the point is, copyright violation isn’t like theft in the very important way that makes theft morally wrong. It does not leave the “victim” worse off. So copyright violation, though it is like theft, is not morally wrong for the reason theft is.

  • A. Chambers

    Mr. Schwartz,
    So file-sharing a song or movie does not leave the copyright holder ‘worse off’ for the loss of profit?
    It does. Because it is theft.
    Cheers,

  • David Schwartz

    No, it does not leave them worse off for the loss of profit. They’re in exactly the same situation they would be in if you didn’t have the file.

    Loss of profit is not theft. If I choose not to go to Burger King for lunch, they lose profit. But I have no stolen from them.

  • Grant

    The theft is of the segment of a copyright holder’s life which he must give up in order to consider the effect ELUA breeches will have upon his business’ dynamics.

    In the current state of affairs, where rhetorical hair-splitting and sophistry is ignored, and being knowingly involved in an ELUA breech remains illegal, a copyright holder can predict how many people will have a copy of his music. He can do that because he’s the one who determines how many copies come into existence.

    Under the state of affairs Mr. Schwartz is suggesting should be the case, the copyright holder is completely at the mercy of countless strangers he has no control over. Instead of saying to himself “If I produce an additional 1000 copies of this file, I will receive payment for an additional 1000 copies” he has to spend time saying to himself “If I produce an additional 1000 copies of this file, how many of them will I be paid for?”

    It’s one thing to ask “will this sell?” It’s another thing entirely to have to ask “Has this already ‘sold’?”

    This is analogous to how the government, when it regulates things it shouldn’t, steals parts of the lives of citizens. The citizens, instead of only having to take into account the facts of the market place at the time they choose to enter it, have to exert some sort of effort in order to hedge against an unpredictable, arbitrary whim from some government official somewhere.

  • Anon

    Mr. Schwartz,
    You may choose not to buy a burger at Burger King but neither then would you have a Burger King hamburger and fries.
    You may choose not to buy a file but neither then should you have the file.

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: I’ve made it clear, I agree that file sharing is wrong. But not because it is theft. All you are doing is showing ways that file sharing causes harms that are nothing like the harms theft causes, which simply reinforces my argument.

    Anon: I agree. However, the evil of theft is not that you have something that you should not, but that someone else does not have something they once had. That is why copyright infringement is not like theft.

  • Grant

    David: You can talk all day long about how preventing someone from having something they don’t yet have is not the same thing as taking something they already have, but the fact remains: a copy of my file coming into your possession *should* involve an exchange of value for value. I *should* never lose value when you gain value. I do. In other words, you *prevent* me from having a value (the money you used to own before you decided to acquire a copy of my file) which is rightfully mine.

    The only way you can disagree with that notion is to claim that possession – literal, physical possession – is the determinant of ownership.

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: I agree. I never said that file sharing wasn’t wrong, only that it’s not wrong for the reason that theft is wrong. In other words, this article is wrong, because it claims file sharing is wrong because it’s like theft. But file sharing is unlike theft in the exact way that makes theft wrong. (That it takes away from someone something they had.)

  • Grant

    David: Let me see if I understand you. You agree with the article, that file sharing is like theft, but you don’t agree that it’s wrong for the same reason?

    How on Earth can something be “like” (ie: essentially the same as) something else, but not have the same effect as that other thing?

    You seem intent upon making this distinction – that actual, literal theft involves the physical transfer of physical property from one location to another, whereas a copyright violation only involves depriving the copyright holder of compensation – yet at the same time you want to point out that this distinction is inconsequential.

    I agree, it is inconsequential (the copyright holder is not in physical possession of money which has rightfully become his by virtue of the downloader downloading his file – just the same as if he had given him the money, and then broken into his house and taken it back), yet you keep making it.

    Earlier, you were trying to use it as a basis for holding harmless the downloader (“he didn’t ‘sign’ the EULA – only the copyright and the ‘EU’ did), but now you’re just making it, well, to make it.

    Do you plan on muddying the waters enough to where this distinction takes on an appearance of consequentiality yet again, so that you can go on making arguments for the legal (if not moral) legitimacy of file sharing? Because frankly, that’s the only motivation I can discern.

    The idea that you’re guarding the integrity of the word “theft”, or the practice of conceptual hierarchy in general, has an appearance of nobility, certainly, but as I just explained, both physical removals and copyright violations have EXACTLY the same effect.

    I see no reason to keep them in seperate conceptual categories. “Physical removal” and “copyright violation” should both be included under the genus “theft” – and the words “physical removal” versus “copyright violation” should be enough to distinguish them therein. Otherwise, if not theft, what EQUIVALENT genus would “copyright violation” belong to?

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: I don’t understand why you’re asking me to explain something after I’ve clearly stated it.

    Yes, file sharing is like theft in many ways. However, it is specifically unlike theft in the way that makes theft morally wrong. That is, file sharing does not deprive the copyright holder of something he had prior to the act of theft.

    Your attempt to fix this by analogizing it to stealing the money after you’ve paid him utterly fails. By this same logic, not going to Burger King for lunch is morally equivalent to going to Burger King for lunch but stealing back the profit Burger King made on the lunch.

    You ask what genus copyright violation falls in if not theft. I think the answer is that it does fall into the same genus as theft. It is like theft in many ways, enough to consider them very, very similar.

    However, it differs in a very key respect from theft and that just happens to be the specific reason theft is wrong. If I steal from you, I take away from you something you would have had even had we never interacted. If I share a file you own, that doesn’t happen.

  • Grant

    David: I keep asking you to explain it because you haven’t clearly stated what your point is. Saying that file sharing should be considered a type of theft (ie: you think that it falls into the same genus as theft), but then saying that it’s not theft because it doesn’t involve the physical transfer of a physical object from one person’s possession to another’s, doesn’t make any sense. It also doesn’t make any sense how any of this affects the moral and/or legal status of file sharing. That is a connection you’ve inconsistently made aswell, and which I will address in a moment.

    First, the semantical issue: I have pointed out a number of things (eg: time, control of money) that the copyright holder has stolen from him when his copyright is violated. Sometimes when I do, you’ve agreed with me that those things things actually do belong to the copyright holder and that he shouldn’t be deprived of them; usually you haven’t agreed. Because of this tendency of yours to focus on the mechanics of why these things are no longer/not yet in the holder’s possession – which are different than the mechanics of physical transfer even though they have EXACTLY the same effect upon his life – more often than not you haven’t agreed that they’re literally stolen (which is also when you claim that is follows that file sharing isn’t wrong, yet have never explained why exactly).

    No matter though. Even if I were to concede (I don’t) the semantical issue – that file sharing is exactly the same in effect, but because of these mechanical differences, shouldn’t be referred to as theft – it wouldn’t do anything to change the moral/legal argument you’ve been making. In some instances – those where you’ve come as close as you ever have to clearly explaining why file sharing isn’t wrong like “theft” is – you’ve immediately begun using your only other argument: that the recipient of a file made available in violation of an EULA, because he himself didn’t “sign” the EULA, isn’t responsible morally (and shouldn’t be legally) for taking advantage of that opportunity. I’ve already pointed out how without this third party such a violation of the EULA wouldn’t be possible (ie: that a a person can’t share a file with himself), and thus he is just as responsible for copying the file as the second party is for making it available to be copied, but whenever I have, you don’t accept that. You’ve never directly rebutted it, but you’ve never accepted it. Instead, you’ve reverted back to trying to bypass it entirely through the semantical issue.

    You’ve failed to bypass it. Your attempt involved claiming yet again that possessing the exclusive legal right to provide copies of files, or to make one’s files available to be copied, to new and discrete individuals isn’t something physical, and thus cannot be stolen. Yet, in doing so, you’re relying upon that very assumption – that it is and it can – to make the “hold harmless the third party” claim. The very same claim you’ve moved on to whenever you’ve recieved a concession on the semantical issue, yet still been challenged on the moral/legal issue. On the one hand you’re trying to argue that file sharing isn’t theft, and so it doesn’t have the same moral status (nor should it have the same legal status), but then on the other you’re making an excuse for the third party which is predicated on the notion that file sharing actually is theft; just that recieving the files isn’t part of the theft. You have been contradicting yourself throughout this discussion.

  • David Schwartz

    Grant: It’s like theft, it’s just not morally wrong for the reason theft is morally wrong. Theft is morally wrong because it leaves the victim worse off than he would be had he not interacted with you, depriving him of something he had. File sharing does not.

    Your EULA argument shows how clearly file sharing is unlike theft. Nobody makes such arguments about theft, and for good reason, they make no sense.

    In any event, the response to your EULA argument is simple — two people can agree to anything they want, fair or ridiculous, I don’t care. And the reason I don’t care is because that agreement puts no moral obligation on me.

    If you want to sign an EULA that says you have to give away your first born son or that I have to give away my first born son, I don’t care. I have no moral or legal standing to contents your EULA or argue that it’s fair or unfair, and there’s no reason I would bother since that agreement has no effect, morally or legally, on anyone who didn’t agree to it.

    I may think it’s a good deal or a bad deal. I may think it’s fair or unfair. I may not even understand it. And it doesn’t matter, because it is not in the least binding on me at all.

    And that is why copyright is not at all like an EULA. Copyrights *are* binding on third parties and function very differently from EULA. Violation a copyright is very different from violating an EULA or breaking a contractual agreement.

    So file sharing is also not wrong for the reason breaking a freely-negotiated contract is wrong. You did not choose to accept a deal and then later break that deal.

    File sharing is wrong, but it’s for complex and subtle reason. It’s not wrong for the reason breaking contracts is wrong. It’s not wrong for the reason stealing is wrong. The simplistic arguments are fatally flaws.

  • Anonymous

    I understand how file sharing is wrong, but I have a question that I think could probably be answered here. It could be of topic, but here it goes. I purchased a video game for my computer. Since I purchased it, I can acess the game files ordinarily on the computer. This game has a good soundtrack, so I found a program to convert the files to mp3s and allow me to listen to them. I don’t intend to share them at all or sell them. I am wondering if by purchasing the game I can take the sound files and listen to them independently, without showing them to anyone else. Help?

  • Anonymous

    Think of it in terms of this – who owns that music? The video game company, who allowed you a copy of that music. Since the video game company owns it, you should check with them. Either read your EULA (end-user license agreement) for the details, or, even better, try contacting the company and asking them permission to use it for personal reasons. If there’s nothing in the EULA and the video game company approves, then I’d say it’s perfectly moral to use it for your own personal enjoyment. If, however, the video game company tells you “no,” you have to morally (and legally) respect their right of control over all the copies of their product (hence the term copyright).

  • Anonymous

    The last reply is on the right track, but could be misleading. The important distinction is that while the company owns the music as such (intellectual property), you own the *copy* that you purchased. And in purchasing, you agreed to certain terms, contained in a EULA or other license document. The intent of most EULAs is to secure copyright protection for the IP owner, i.e. to protect them legally against reproduction of their IP, since their livelihood depends on their ownership of it and ability to sell it. Thus, in purchasing your copy, the company intends that you individually enjoy that copy on the condition that you not copy and distribute it. Under that intention, there is nothing wrong with changing the form of your copy, assuming that it is retained by you. Changing a record from CD form to MP3 form, or from DVD to digital file, is not a violation of the spirit of copyright, and as such is completely moral.

    However, ultimately these things are governed by the fine text, so that would be the place to go for a full legal answer.

    - Noah

  • Anonymous

    Thank you.

    I was wondering about this since many mainsay games don’t carry their music in such a manner, because of what I believe to be paranoia over pirates, but some indie games and other developers have their music just blantantly displayed as mp3 files. I’ll check those EULAs.

  • Wayneljm

    ok, i’ve read this or that and understand the control mechanisms set in place that we are depended to agree and follow, however, we are all animals and do as we please.

    in life everyone will soon discover that we do as we please with what we are able to, physically.

    if someone wishes to earn profit for their investment they will have to accept the fact of life that they may not earn a single dollar.

    someone setting up a yard sale with tables and millions of signs has invested in that idea with their time and physical components and they may have zero sales!

    a fisherman can set up 5 nets and come back to find zero fish inside, or one or more nets torn apart or completely gone as a result of an animal or rocks.

    with regard to the yard sale, someone walking by may take a picture of the layout, copy the signs and use it next week for their own yard sale and profit from their successful example.

    even if there were no cameras available, they can use their own memory to reproduce what they’ve been exposed to and come up with their own version for their own profit without providing any form of payment to the origin.

    if you’ve heard a song playing, or a live band the following day you could be singing that tune and someone could hear you and write a melody and sell that song or music and individually profit from it.

    the issue is not the copying of something that was created, it is simply the idea of loss of investment in the engineering and transfer of such intellectual property and potential return on investment from the people involved.

    if sales are low, it can be claimed that the prospective loss is due to people copying the material which influences sales.

    a copy of something does not ever remove the value of the original, unless it is a design of timed marketed release where its value has been misplaced as hype or projection.

    an example of this would be an ordinary break and enter of a home to remove a normal tv that you use day to day and one day it goes missing so you yourself cannot enjoy it, while someone else who acted without consideration removes it and then enjoys it themselves.

    well the other scenario would be to distribute flyers door to door down your street and advertise the up and coming state of the art NEW TV that no one has ever seen but everyone will want line of B.S to be revealed and for sale at your house friday morning….. and to create the flyers you had to borrow the $ for it from a neighbor and they expected payment a week later plus interest.

    if by thursday night you began seeing this same tv in homes everywhere down your street and you had hoped everyone would come friday to buy your NEW TV that was for sale you could not possibly earn enough to pay for the loan of the flyers or earn a profit.

    come friday morning, no one shows up who already has the new tv as there would be no reason to. anyone who does show up is someone who does not have a way of acquiring one and this would be the only way for their limited exposure.

    the claim of loss would function as a standpoint to provide possible repayment extension to the loan and no penalty would come of not being able to repay on time.

    it serves as merely a disclaimer for the person attempting to profit from an idea and a failed marketing scheme.

    with the example of the yard sale, if the person influenced with the idea then profits they are not obliged to share their rewards with the original persons’ idea as it is simply how life and nature are… an example of success is meant to be shared unless a monopoly is strived for using such tactics as law and force and moral confinement.

    so now we are adapting the word theft to encompass that which is not of physical material, such as patterns on a digital storage medium.

    fact remains that nothing can be shared or stolen without the functional software that is made specifically by individuals for the purpose of copying code from one computer to the next using current transfer protocol.

    no one could or would download anything if it weren’t made possible

    i’ve personally explained to everyone i know that they can take a cd they’ve bought and make a copy for themselves and reproduce copies as many as they like.

    they did not know this and i’ve known this for the past 15 years. they also have no clue that they can download the mp3 version from the internet of someone elses copied cd. they also do not know how to copy the cd they have or download or burn the mp3.

    if you provide someone with the tools and knowledge they too can share that knowledge and the content that can be created/recreated.

    everything in the world is a copy of a copy; sperm, plants, photographs, music, ideas and conversations, vehicles, animals, you name it its a copy. the big difference is that when you steal, you remove something from existence somewhere and move it elsewhere. when you copy you simply use a tool and a mechanism to recreate the pattern using new material and build it the same way.

    when you download a file from the internet a pattern of code in binary is copied to your system in either the RAM or Hard Disk of your computer. it is not removed it is simply copied, same as everyone checking the lottery numbers or weather online, it doesn’t remove the information for any one else to see, it simply regenerates on your computer for ALL to see.

    same deal with copying music files or video or programs, they are all in binary and stored on media for transfer and storage. there is no limitation on what you can have but there are limitations as to what you can do with what you have.

    at one time a person was able to remove as many fish as they could from lakes and rivers and then limitations have been placed for good reason. there was no limit because there was no problem or foreseeable negative with the ability to acquire something that is renewable.
    once we knew there was a problem then control mechanisms were set in place. same as file sharing. once people realized that millions of the same file was being shared in a short period of time they began to formulate a plan to make a claim of loss because of it.

    at one time i purchased games and cds and dvds from stores every paycheck. 15-25 dollars per cd for maybe 1-3 songs that i wanted, 25-40 dollars per dvd for a movie that i wanted bad and 50-80 dollars per game for my console. some of those cds are still around today and the dvds have all been sold at a yard sale for dirt cheap. all the games are safe and sound and fully functional.
    i never use the cds anymore. i would never use the dvds anymore and once in a while i pop in a game just to enjoy with my son on the old console.

    ever since file sharing was made possible i’ve chose to download all that was made available. i’ve never shared any file i download in its digital form, only analog as in it was playing in the background or on tv. i paid 1000′s of dollars for the “tool” to download to and reproduce the digital content and per month i pay 45-60 dollars for the internet connection for the primary reason to acquire information from the internet and websites and email. downloading is simply a background perk of this connection.

    my first computer was just under 5000 dollars, first cd burner was over 500 dollars and each disc was 2 dollars. the first dvd burners were over a grand and the discs were 5 dollars. now you can find a combo drive for 27 dollars and dvds are now a quarter each. hard drives are 1000GB for 100 dollars and a computer is simply 300 dollars. internet promotions come in for around 10 dollars a month and with that you could download the entire library of music once purchased for 1000′s of dollars on cd in about a month…

    my dad does not know how to rip a dvd or download torrent files. my mom hasn’t ever used a computer. my grandparents would use a cdr as a mirror. and my son plays flash games on the pc for free while the 260 dollar nintendo wii combination sits there collecting dust.

    all this made possible and to be expected this day in age because of technology and sales. our connectivity is so advanced yet so primitive. even planning a camping trip i’ve already thought about 3 things to bring that have digital content to enjoy while in the “outdoors”.

    the question comes down to what are we going to be allowed to do with things that we are told to buy and enjoy. we as consumers are the market and we make decisions to spend our money on what we believe we want. however, i’ve been noticing that we spend our money on things we are shown we want or need. i like being in control of my money and of what i do with what i purchase. i like having the option to make a backup of what i purchased and showing a fellow friend how to do it. one thing remains true is that not everyone is capable or is as concerned as myself about backups and media. most people will purchase a dvd and cd and have it damaged in a week due to life and negligence and willingly replace the same disc to have it ruined again. myself i simply burn a copy because most devices support burnt media, not all though. when the copy becomes damaged or misplaced, i simply return to the original and make a copy for myself. if the original is damaged or unreadable, then i download the equivalent file from whoever is sharing it at the time.

    i’ve personally purchased the same content on 5x of medium. one martial arts movie i’ve rented again and again, purchased the individual vhs tape, then the vhs tape again as it was offered in wide screen, purchased the boxed set containing that movie, purchased the dvd individually and then purchased the box set of dvds. recently i found the bluray ripped version online and that copy is better quality than each version i’ve previously purchased and now the “value” of the copies i’ve purchased is almost zero for that particular title because of the quality of the technology of today. i still watch the dvds in a portable dvd player because it doesnt read copied media but for personal home theater i always watch the highest quality version available. each boxed set was near 100 dollars. each video individual was over 25 dollars for vhs and 30 for dvd. the downloaded copy is only useful for a high-end pc that is capable of playing that file and a high-def tv to view it. so money is spent, i’ve enjoyed the media of the time and was forced to pay whatever price tag was on it to “have” it. now that is not the case.

    i’ve rented videos for 5-6 dollars each and returned them, and they were a total waste of time, crappy quality and acting. i’ve downloaded files that were a total waste of time except i can delete them and warn others of the crap quality of that particular title and it cost zero dollars to learn that lesson. pop in a j-lo cd and you’ll realize the cd is crap loads of songs surrounding 1-2 good songs, still costing 20 dollars at the time. i can download those 1-2 songs and pair them with other quality songs on a single burnt cdr, rather than skipping past the bad tracks. i can only do this because other people have the tools and technology to share the files, and i’ve purchased the tools and have the technology to make useful media from it.

    fact remains that the radio plays music for zero cost for service to the listener and if i record the music onto a cassette tape and give it to someone then i’ve had to have purchased the mechanism and media to do so. if these things didn’t exist, radio, cassettes, receiver and recorder then it could not happen. same deal with computers and internet. trying to control peoples behavior does not start with the end user, it starts with those that make the tools and the technology. if there is binary code on a cd or dvd, it can and will be copied… simple

    if there are programs that share binary code using the internet then that code will be shared. the engineers are responsible for the capabilities of the tools and technology, users simply find ways to make use of what they’ve purchased and find ways to cut costs to run them. i have a purchased version of everything i download when i burn the file to disc. i dont steal the computer or internet or the disc. it was made for a sale and i traded money for the item. the rest is simply electricity and patterns on a storage medium.

    eventually it will all fade and there will be zero record of anything that we once cared to make to share with the world. all digital media is designed to create a temporal feeling or thought and its simply a form of communication, no matter the technology… and that experience will fade and exist no longer. it is however, a wonderful thing to be able to return to the feeling of past using the storage medium we once used, like that old tape or movie we enjoyed as a child and smile in marvel that “wow, i watched or played this as a kid” and here it is right before your eyes.

    i guess that’s the power of the technology, compare the results over 50 years from a typewriter v.s. word processor… old worn smelly paper and faded ink v.s. clear and bright words that can be read and reproduced at home or mobile… neither matter as the end result is a synthesis of patterns within the readers mind. and the end result fades into non-existence as do our memories of it.

    there is a significant difference between the copy command and the cut command on a computer.

    sometimes i send my files to digital pergatory by just cutting them and shutting down the computer. they’re not deleted they’re not copied or shared… just cut, removed, gone

    usually i copy everything 2 or more times to create a backup just in case and that is for important stuff, never downloads or anything unimportant or insignificant. if someone wants a copy of my copy it is freely available, but if its from the internet as a source then i simply direct them to the link that was provided for me…

    so the end result is quit complaining or trying to control nature, its impossible in reality. if a wild animal took one of your fishing nets away when you go to reel in your 1000 fish for the day then be happy your technology was able to provide such an abundance for something/someone in need

  • Benny

    Intellectual property isn’t stealing because you don’t want it to be!
    http://umassopenthought.blogspot.com/2012/08/intellectual-property-is-theft.html

  • Davidtemmy

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. Below are the six exclusive rights of copyright holders. If you do any of these things without a copyright owners permission or a license, you are a thief and you are stealing. Your story makes no sense because you don’t know the law. Please don’t talk about something you don’t know about because you sound like a blubbering moron. BTW, when you steal a song, you deprive the copyright owner of income. That’s how they get paid. They create a song, get the song/sound recording registered, then people get licenses (pay money) to play the song, distribute the song, etc. WHy do you think radio stations have ads and commercials? Radio stations let people buy time on the radio for commercials and that money pays the people who run the station but more importantly pays the songwriters and publishers for creating the music. If you had a job where you created a product or service, you would want to get paid for that, right? Unless you’re a hippie, communist who would work for free, I feel that you should get my point. Do you want to work for free? Why not? Because if you work for free, then you have no incentive to continue creating your product or service. Get it? See, you learn something new everyday. 

    §106 · Exclusiverightsincopyrightedworks38 Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has
    the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
    16 Copyright Law of the United StatesSubject Matter and Scope of Copyright § 106a
    (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;
    (4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
    (5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pan- tomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copy- righted work publicly; and
    (6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work pub- licly by means of a digital audio transmission.

  • Davidtemmy

    What if someone came in to your house, copied your debit/credit card number down and then left? Would you not cry thief then? Or does he just possibly have the same card number as you? You have weak arguments. Get educated. Did you go to college?