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  1. #1
    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Has Atlas Shrugged? A Discussion on Intellectual Property Rights.

    Hi guys. I was writing an article for another use and thought that it might be a worthy subject for SP discussion. The Canadian government is currently on a country-wide tour to solicit citizens' views on copyright reform. The tour was kept amazingly quiet and upon reading some of the commentary it feels like there is a real divide in the nation's opinions about pubic access to digitally managed content and copyright law. Many seem to feel that using others' content for remixes or sharing files (music, text, artwork, etc.) is okay. I'm stunned to see that there is a large fragment of public opinion that places the protection of artists' work below that of the public's so-called right to use that work in any way they choose without compensation (one comment poster even postulated that once a musician puts their song on the internet that he ceases to be an artist! Wha' the...?).

    This article is geared towards Canadians, but the subject should be of concern to all people involved in creative pursuits no matter what country they call home. Whether one writes content for the Web, articles for newspapers or magazines, creates Web graphics or code, composes songs or performs, paints masterpieces or creates illustrations, copyright law affects our rights not to mention our incomes.

    Just thought I'd get the SP community's take on things.
    Here's an abbreviated version of the article (yeah, really--it was way longer! ).


    HAS ATLAS SHRUGGED?

    July 31, 2009 – a Boston University student was ordered to pay $675,000 for illegally downloading and sharing music online.

    Jonathan Saltzman, writer for the Boston Globe, reported that a U.S. Federal court found that Joel Tenenbaum, a 25-year-old doctoral student "wilfully infringed on the copyrights of 30 songs", awarding the record companies $22,500 per infringement, or $675,000 in total. The unrepentant defendant copped to having downloaded hundreds of songs in a period from 1999 to 2007, but expressed relief that the fine was not the maximum $150,000 per infringement that the jury could have laid down (a whopping $4.5 million smackeroos). Read the Boston Globe article. (Be sure to read the comments section below the article. It's a real eye-opener.)

    Reform to Canada's copyright laws is currently under review (LINK) with a series of town hall meetings, initiated by The Canadian Intellectual Property Office, designed to consult Canadians about their views on our national IP rights policies. One such town hall is taking place in Toronto on August 27th (sign up for the Web cast HERE). After reading some of the public input of the town hall discussions, there appears to be a strong lobby for more public access to digital media and less protection for artists.

    My guess is that all of you have had similar situations with being ripped off as some I've experienced (there are a lot more but in the interests of brevity here are just a couple):

    • Several years ago a couple of us in our company were told face-to-face that we should be pleased that our artwork was of such a high caliber that a business organization that we belonged to decided to use some of our work without either paying us attribution or usage fees. They used it on brochures, business cards, newspaper ads and on their Web site.


    • In another instance, a person handed us a business card at an event. The card included their logo which, as it happens, turned out to be a direct rip off of a line drawing from one of my limited edition prints!

    Is this the modern definition of ethics and fair dealing? Has Atlas Shrugged? Does the public deserve unfettered access to the work of others?

    Why does society feel that it is acceptable to use an artist's work without compensation? To go online and steal the creative work of writers, designers and musicians when they wouldn't think of walking into a gallery, music store or book shop and pocketing a CD, art print or novel?


    Copyright Reform Vital to Artists – Ferne Downey, National President of ACTRA (Actors Guild).
    Graphic Artists Guild Handbook – Canadian and American copyright law as it applies to visual arts.
    The Canadian Intellectual Property Office
    Writers Guild of Canada - FAQs on registering Intellectual Property.
    "We're all mad here." Cheshire Cat—Alice in Wonderland, 1865
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  2. #2
    SitePoint Guru silver trophy JamesColin's Avatar
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    Repeating that copying is stealing will not make it less false.
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  3. #3
    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesColin View Post
    Repeating that copying is stealing will not make it less false.
    Just want to make sure that I correctly understand your statement: Is it your belief that copying is NOT stealing?
    "We're all mad here." Cheshire Cat—Alice in Wonderland, 1865
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    I meant that to happen silver trophybronze trophy Raffles's Avatar
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    "It's OK if loads of other people are doing it"

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    SitePoint Guru silver trophy JamesColin's Avatar
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    It's not a belief, look up the definition of stealing, and then the definition of copying.
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  6. #6
    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raffles View Post
    "It's OK if loads of other people are doing it"
    Following the logic of your statement:

    I can lift the code from a site that you have designed, without your knowledge and without compensation to you, but that action would be considered NOT okay; but if the entire Sitepoint community lifted the code, that IS okay, correct?
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    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesColin View Post
    It's not a belief, look up the definition of stealing, and then the definition of copying.
    The employment of semantics does not negate the ethical question of a person using material that they did not create, nor compensate the person who did create the material, for their own gain. How about we speak to the question at the root of the article without engaging in obfuscation.
    "We're all mad here." Cheshire Cat—Alice in Wonderland, 1865
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    Quote Originally Posted by failsafe
    Following the logic of your statement:

    I can lift the code from a site that you have designed, without your knowledge and without compensation to you, but that action would be considered NOT okay; but if the entire Sitepoint community lifted the code, that IS okay, correct?
    Notice Raffles had that in quotation marks.

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    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaun(OfTheDead) View Post
    Notice Raffles had that in quotation marks.

    I did notice that, but no attribution was given so there was no clear way to know if it was meant as a tongue-in-cheek comment.
    "We're all mad here." Cheshire Cat—Alice in Wonderland, 1865
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  10. #10
    Is Still Alive silver trophybronze trophy RetroNetro's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure he meant it as tongue-in-cheek.

  11. #11
    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Okay. Raffles comment was meant as a cynical comment. Now, does anyone wish to discuss the article's premise or is it the general feeling that this is not an important issue?
    "We're all mad here." Cheshire Cat—Alice in Wonderland, 1865
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by failsafe
    The employment of semantics does not negate the ethical question of a person using material that they did not create, nor compensate the person who did create the material, for their own gain. How about we speak to the question at the root of the article without engaging in obfuscation.
    I think there's the question of ethics and the question of what's practical.

    It is equally unethical to steal music online to listen to for free, as it is to steal someone's image to use for a brochure. They are both stealing. They are both taking something from someone else without trading them a value for their value.

    But there are millions and millions (no exaggeration) of people who steal music to listen to. You can't arrest all of them! Are you going to arrest everyone who watches a music video on Youtube ?

    Yeah, that sucks for the producers; but unfortunately it's a reality of the market today. The best they can do, rather than waging all out war against the very people they hope to sell to, would be to try to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

    For example; People watch videos for free on Youtube ?... Publish your own videos for free on Youtube.

    People like to download songs for free ?... Create a website and publish them for free.

    And while they're there watching your videos, browsing your website and downloading your songs, push your stuff in their faces to get your sales. Promote your upcoming concerts, sell tickets, sell your t-shirts, sell the DVD of those videos.

    What that guy did wasn't ethical, no... But the way they wish to handle the situation I don't see as practical.

    Especially knowing that whenever the government intervenes (or is called to intervene) in ANY industry, it's almost always at the cost of the people who tie the line. There is too much bureaucracy in the world as it is.

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    It's like chopping off your arm to save your finger.


    Red-tape legislation is the enemy of producers, but in wanting the almighty government to step in, they'll give themselves more.




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    As far as your own story goes though, the company made money off of your work.

    It wasn't just some kid saving an image of your art to admire on his own; It was someone taking your value, to create more value for himself, while not giving you a choice or a cent. You have every right to be pissed. Is there anyway you can sue ?

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    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Shaun, I disagree with the notion that ethics are okay unless they interfere with what is practical (paraphrasing), but I do commend you on at least taking up the conversation.

    Is there really a difference in the actions of people ripping off a musician's work from an organization using my artwork or writing without payment? I don't think so—and, yes, I have sued people and have won court judgments but its a whole other thing to collect from the offender or get them to cease and desist. Corporations have a lot more money than sole operators so they can just out-wait or out-litigate us. Someone mentioned that there are millions of people engaged in illegal downloading of music files. There are also millions of artists who could stand together and mobilize efforts to safeguard their creations and incomes.

    Guess I'm just fed up with this 'new age' society where so many expect something for nothing; and disappointed that so many appear to think it is okay.

    Peace.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesColin View Post
    Repeating that copying is stealing will not make it less false.
    And repeating that downloading copies of copyright-protected material isn't theft will not make it less false.

    So what do you call it when someone takes something that belongs to another, without permission and without compensation, even if it's 'only' a copy?

    The fact remains: you're taking the bread from someone's table. Stealing a physical item or a digital copy makes no difference. None whatsoever.
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    Fluffy Kitten Programmer~ Elledan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AutisticCuckoo View Post
    And repeating that downloading copies of copyright-protected material isn't theft will not make it less false.

    So what do you call it when someone takes something that belongs to another, without permission and without compensation, even if it's 'only' a copy?

    The fact remains: you're taking the bread from someone's table. Stealing a physical item or a digital copy makes no difference. None whatsoever.
    In the case of copying you are not 'taking' anything from anyone. You gain something, no one loses anything. The fact that it is so ridiculously easy for you to make a copy of anything only means that the reproduction costs of that item are virtually zero and thus it is quite illogical to expect to be able to make money from reproductions of your product. Which is why there are always products which can not be reproduced that easily, such as live concerts and performances. Yes, it means that artists have to do actual, honest-to-god work to make money. Cry me a river.

    For cases like my company (software and game development) we don't have live performances or the like. All we can do is hope that we get the pricing on our products right and make enough people like us to actually consider buying from us instead of just getting a copy somewhere. We do the work, they get to play a game. They pay, we get to develop more fun games. That's how the system works and as long as the customers and developers understand this it'll keep working just fine.

    I do however not want all kind of organizations to act on 'my behalf', pursuing cases of copyright infringement, especially when it concerns regular consumers. We want people to pirate our games as well, to reach a wider audience. It's the cheapest form of advertising.

    So even as a business owner I see absolutely no use in criminalizing copyright infringement by consumers. Pursuing commercial copyright infringement is fine and a worthy cause, but please, don't take all decisions away from us business owners. Thanks.
    www.nyanko.ws - My web-, software- and game development company.
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  18. #18
    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elledan View Post
    In the case of copying you are not 'taking' anything from anyone. You gain something, no one loses anything.
    <snip>
    We want people to pirate our games as well, to reach a wider audience. It's the cheapest form of advertising.
    I'm speechless.
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    Quote Originally Posted by failsafe
    Shaun, I disagree with the notion that ethics are okay unless they interfere with what is practical (paraphrasing), but I do commend you on at least taking up the conversation.

    Is there really a difference in the actions of people ripping off a musician's work from an organization using my artwork or writing without payment? I don't think so
    You didn't actually read anything I wrote, did you.


    You paraphrased wrongly. I agree with you that wrong is wrong. And one of the first things I said up there was that stealing music to listen to isn't different to stealing an image.

    But even though it IS un-ethical... there's no point fighting it down in some situations. And especially when the attempt to fight it down may make matters worse for yourself and other producers (as per government interference).


    My point is that there are better ways to handle the situation than getting upset about it.

    You can shrug if you want, Mr. Galt. I prefer make my art as long as I can and figure out how best to work among (or around...) those second-handers who want something for nothing. That's reality. This isn't a novel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by failsafe
    I'm speechless.
    Do you think he's wrong ?

    It is a good form of promotion.

    If he wants to give away his game for free, that's his business. Who are you to decide that he should do otherwise, or look down upon him for doing things that way ?

    You'd resent it if someone came up to you and told you what to do with your art too, wouldn't you ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elledan
    In the case of copying you are not 'taking' anything from anyone.
    But it is stealing, though.

    You're 'taking' the product of my mind. My mental effort, my creativity, not to mention my time and physical effort. Creating isn't easy, as I'm sure you know.


    But that said, if someone 'copied' my art to look at and admire, then fine, I'd be glad for them to admire it.

    BUT... if someone 'copied' my art to make something of their own... to re-brand it as part of themselves... to act as though it was a product of their mind and labour and not my own... to convince themselves and others that they produced it and not me... THEN...

    THEN I don't even care about the money.

    THEN I'm coming at you with both barrels blazing.

    THEN I'll fight you down on a principle.


    Because how dare you steal something that I created, and remove me from the equation!

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  22. #22
    Always have a backup plan! failsafe's Avatar
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    Every person has a right to their beliefs. Most of us, no matter what age, gain knowledge through civil discourse in communicating and listening to others on forums such as this. When offering commentary or opinions it's my practice to make every effort to maintain a high level of professionalism and respect for others and have come to expect the same in return.

    To sum up, I believe that using the work of other people for gain or amusement without payment to the person who created it is wrong—period. That is my personal belief. I do not seek to impose my views on other people but merely expound on my own.

    Thanks to all who have offered opinions.
    "We're all mad here." Cheshire Cat—Alice in Wonderland, 1865
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    whagwan? silver trophybronze trophy akritic's Avatar
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    Law exists solely to ensure human rights are upheld, both physical and intellectual.

    To water that principle down is reprehensible.

    Also, no other kind of law besides the above is in my opinion a valid application of law.

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    Quote Originally Posted by armchaircritic
    Also, no other kind of law besides the above is in my opinion a valid application of law.
    Correct.


    But in this case, to enforce that very valid law about no illegal file-sharing, the authorities should not step on anyone else's rights either.

    Because what are they going to do, monitor your online activity to see when you download a song ?

    Boot down your and your neighbour and your tanty's doors at all hours of the night to scan your PC for illegal files ?

    Those will be the types of suggestions coming up. And I'm sure the government will be all too happy to get a shoe-in on macoing people on the 'Net... they've been wanting that for years.


    I'm scared of pirates. But I'm more scared of the government.

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  25. #25
    SitePoint Guru silver trophy JamesColin's Avatar
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    You know what? I don't want to instruct you, I let it to the braves such as Elledan, but personally I don't wish to WASTE my time discussing things so obvious.
    Keep on repeating that copying is stealing, maybe stupid people will repeat it too like parrots and one day it will become truth? I hope not.

    Nonetheless, here's some wasted time:
    "A person is guilty of theft, if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it".
    Copying doesn't deprive anyone of the copied item. Copying is not stealing.

    Now if you tell me copying is not paying whatever price is asked for the item, then we could discuss if I would actually buy this item if I couldn't copy it for free!
    So it's not like copying is equal to loss of sales, because the fact of copying for free doesn't mean I would have spent any money on the item in the first place. So me watching your lame movie or listening to your boring song probably isn't making you any poorer.

    Now reusing someone else work in a commercial setting is something else yet, but still copying is not stealing, find another word, don't misuse the word because you can't articulate better or because you want to reach out to the largest pool of people with simple (but false) concepts.
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