View Full Version : Is pirating a book that you already own ethical? Yes says NY Times Columnist.


Madam Broshkina
04-06-2010, 02:54 PM
Randy Cohen who writes "The Ethicist" column for the New York times answers a readers question if it is ok to download a book that you have already bought a hard copy version. He basically states that it is ok. He compares it to buying a CD and transfering it to your iPod. He states that:

Buying a book or a piece of music should be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform.

I found the following quote amusing:

Your action is not pristine. Downloading a bootleg copy could be said to encourage piracy, although only in the abstract: no potential pirate will actually realize you’ve done it. It’s true that you might have thwarted the publisher’s intent — perhaps he or she has a violent antipathy to trees, maybe a wish to slaughter acres of them and grind them into Stephen King novels. Or to clog the highways with trucks crammed with Stephen King novels. Or perhaps King himself wishes to improve America’s physique by having readers lug massive volumes. So be it. Your paying for the hardcover put you in the clear as a matter of ethics, forestry and fitness training.


Read it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/magazine/04FOB-ethicist-t.html

GA Russell
04-06-2010, 03:37 PM
When I lived in Georgia the Atlanta Journal and Constitution used to carry his column. I always wondered what his credentials were. That is to say, why does anyone think that this fellow is any more ethical than anyone else?

And whose ethics are we talking about? For example, if a Catholic priest wrote a column on ethics, you could assume that he was basing his views on papal encyclicals. If a Baptist minister wrote the column, you could assume that he is basing his views on The New Testament.

But where is this guy Randy Cohen coming from? Are his ethics based upon anything other than his own ideas about what makes him comfortable? He never says.

I would not object to a proposal that we agree that one need purchase a book only once. But Cohen acts like his opinions are based upon some view already arrived at, and I don't think that we are there yet.

riemann42
04-06-2010, 04:21 PM
But where is this guy Randy Cohen coming from? Are his ethics based upon anything other than his own ideas about what makes him comfortable? He never says.

To be fair, this is where most people get their ethics. The three main sources for ethics are (1) Tradition, (2) Reason, and (3) Doctrine. After attending Jesuit schools, my approach is (2) Reason. In light of this, I'll listen to anyone's argument as long as it appeals to reason.

I would not object to a proposal that we agree that one need purchase a book only once. But Cohen acts like his opinions are based upon some view already arrived at, and I don't think that we are there yet.

You hit the nail on the head here! Cohen fails to provided a reasoned argument for this, and while I agree with the concept of the "permanent license" to a book, we need to carefully consider where this takes us.

Copyright law is not about ethics, sadly. The idea behind copyright is to give writers an incentive to write. Copyright law grants creators control over the copying and distribution of their work. Downloading an eBook is an act of distribution and copying, thus the copyright holder, legally, has the right to decide what type of payment is required for this.

So now on to ethics. I see two approaches to the ethics of buying a book:

1) If your position is that the ethical reason you buy a book (as opposed to steal) is to pay the author, then "format shifting," even with the help of a third party, is ethical.

2) If on the other hand, your position is that the reason you buy a book is that this is the terms the creator has set forth for acquiring his/her work. Essentially, you are entering into a contractual arrangement with the author (publisher really, but let's not complicate things) in which you agree to pay them money, they agree to give you an item, and you agree not to copy said item. In this case, downloading an eBook would constitute violating this agreement, which is unethical.

Cohen fails to give a reason to go with (1) rather than (2).

I personally feel that as a society we need to reconcile in law, practice, and ethics, versions 1 and 2. In other words, book sellers should SELL YOU a license giving you permanent rights to a work, rather than a copy of said work.

Fat Abe
04-06-2010, 04:35 PM
It doesn't matter what the ethics of the matter happen to be. There is case law that allows a copyright holder or his representative to sue the owner of a hard copy of a work, if he/she also downloads a digital copy of the same work from a pirate site.

http://www.eff.org/wp/riaa-v-people-years-later

"... consider the case of the defendant who faced the $22,500 judgment discussed above, Cecilia Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a mother of five, was hit with the judgment just two weeks after she was laid off from her job as a secretary—a job where she made not much more than that amount in an entire year. Ironically, Gonzalez primarily downloaded songs she already owned on CD—the downloads were meant to help her avoid the labor of manually loading the 250 CDs she owns onto her computer."

On appeal, Gonzalez lost the case:

http://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2005/12/12/riaa_lawsuit_victim_loses_appeal

Robotech_Master
04-06-2010, 04:51 PM
It doesn't matter what the ethics of the matter happen to be. There is case law that allows a copyright holder or his representative to sue the owner of a hard copy of a work, if he/she also downloads a digital copy of the same work from a pirate site.

Except that the querant was not asking what the case law happens to be, he was asking what the ethics happen to be. From that point of view, it does matter, since the ethicist answered the question he was asked.

I’ve taken a look at this issue on the TeleRead blog:

http://www.teleread.org/2010/04/06/p-books-to-e-books-the-ethics-of-downloading-and-the-legality-of-scanning/

In short, courts have found that consumers do have the legal right to “space-shift” media they own into other forms for reading elsewhere (except if it’s protected by DRM, thanks to the DMCA).

As you point out, they do draw a legal distinction between consumers doing the work of space-shifting themselves (i.e. putting a CD into the computer to rip; running a book through a scanner, OCR’ing, and proofing it) and letting someone else do it for them (downloading the music or e-book from peer-to-peer).

What Cohen was addressing was whether there should be an ethical distinction between the two acts as well.

I think that publishers have gotten used to there being an “analog barrier” between printed books and e-books—they get to sell the same book twice, in paper and electronically, because the time it would take to scan and OCR is worth more to the consumer than the money that the e-book costs.

But as scanning and OCRing technology improves, there may come a time when that is no longer true, and the publishing industry may find itself in the same place the music industry did after space-shifting legalized CD ripping.

Of course, out of that court decision came the iPod and the entire digital music economy…

TGS
04-06-2010, 04:54 PM
It doesn't matter what the ethics of the matter happen to be.

But the question was, is it ethical - you seem to be suggesting that ethics don't matter in the face of "the law" - law trumps ethics.

Shaggy
04-06-2010, 05:01 PM
It doesn't matter what the ethics of the matter happen to be. There is case law that allows a copyright holder or his representative to sue the owner of a hard copy of a work, if he/she also downloads a digital copy of the same work from a pirate site.

I'm pretty sure you'll find that the case was really about sharing, not downloading. Sharing/uploading is obviously infringement, and has nothing to do with whether you own an original copy or not.

Qi__
04-06-2010, 05:03 PM
Taken from http://www.onlinelawyersource.com/criminal_law/shoplifting.html

"Shoplifting laws are governed by individual states and can vary depending on the location of the crime. Shoplifting penalties typically depend on the amount and value of the goods that were stolen, and whether or not the offender has shoplifted before. Each state sets their specific limit on the value of stolen goods which constitutes a misdemeanor charge and that which qualifies as a felony crime.

In most states, shoplifting goods with a value less than $300 to $500 constitutes a petty theft misdemeanor charge. Shoplifting goods with a greater value may constitute a grand theft or larceny felony charge. The charges for shoplifting also depend on whether a person has a criminal history of shoplifting and other specific factors.

The penalties for shoplifting vary by circumstance and location but can include fines up to two times the amount of the value that was stolen, prison or jail time, and community service. In some cases compensatory fines may also be assessed in shoplifting cases in order to compensate a store owner for his or her losses.

In some shoplifting cases when the value of the goods is minor and it is a first time offense, perhaps committed by a minor, the criminal justice system will issue a warning to the shoplifting offender rather than prosecute the case. This depends wholly on the circumstances, and does not mitigate the unlawfulness of shoplifting. "

She downloaded 30 tracks, say .99 cents per track. It's a first time, so it's either a warning or like a $60 fine.

Why is downloading 350x worse than shoplifting?

Shaggy
04-06-2010, 05:18 PM
She downloaded 30 tracks, say .99 cents per track. It's a first time, so it's either a warning or like a $60 fine.

Why is downloading 350x worse than shoplifting?

That's a common analogy, but a really bad one. This is about uploading, not downloading. The higher penalty is for distributing copies to lots of other people, not just the one copy that they downloaded.

Copyright infringement is primarily about uploading, which many people do not seem to understand.

It's not equivalent to shoplifting, it's equivalent to running your own black market store and selling things that you don't own.

Penforhire
04-06-2010, 05:33 PM
I suppose everyone has to decide for themselves but to me, ethics trumps law. If I do what's ethically right I can look in the mirror. That matters more to me than the law though I can't think of an American felony that clashes with my ethics, just a few infractions...

riemann42
04-06-2010, 08:10 PM
For me, the ethics depend on the intent of the transaction. If the intent was to allow you to read the book, then using an alternative means to read the book is not unethical, as you have certainly paid fair market value for the content.

If you believe, however, that the intent of the transaction was to give me a physical book, then getting another copy illegally is also unethical.

It all comes down to this: What are you buying? Are you buying the content, or the medium. The Law and Tradition state you are buying the medium. I believe we should change law and tradition to buying the content. Of course if you are buying a right to view the content, then neither the pBook nor the eBook would be resell-able, but that's another thread...

Robotech_Master
04-06-2010, 09:15 PM
It all comes down to this: What are you buying? Are you buying the content, or the medium. The Law and Tradition state you are buying the medium.
Are you sure of that? RIAA vs. Diamond Multimedia said that consumers had the right to space-shift works they purchased into other media for their personal, noncommercial use. That's the case that legalized CD ripping and mp3 players.

Iphinome
04-06-2010, 09:53 PM
Are you sure of that? RIAA vs. Diamond Multimedia said that consumers had the right to space-shift works they purchased into other media for their personal, noncommercial use. That's the case that legalized CD ripping and mp3 players.

So if its agreed your rights include scanning and ocr'ing the book yourself is it ethical to let someone do the work for you, if they are willing. The article says yes, the publishers no doubt say no. The authors? Dodgy bunch, might get up in arms about it or might shrug as long as you buy them drinks at cons.

GhostHawk
04-07-2010, 12:00 AM
You can not legislate morals, no matter how hard you try, it can not be done.

However if everyone behaved in an ethical, moral way we would not need 90% of the laws we have.

Further compounding the issue is the fact that electronic copies, and what is and what isn't ethical regarding them is still in the process of being worked out. This would be a much simpler question 10 or 20 years from now.

As to the argument of medium vs content. If they were truly selling the medium, all paperback books would cost the same. But we are not buying blank sheets bound into a book. What keeps us coming back for more is what is on the page, not the page itself.

If you have already paid for the book once I see no issue with changing it into a more different format. One that offers several unique advantages, including digital storage, space saving on bookshelves, etc. Yes, even if you bought it as a second hand book.

As for all of the other hoop jumping circus acts that people wrap themselves into about loaning an ebook. Consider this, word of mouth is still the most cost effective, and effective means of advertising. So every person you expose to a new author is potentially a new buyer of their books. Indeed, they may go on to tell 5, 10, 20 or more people about this great new author. Some of those people will indeed buy new books from that author. That benefit right there in most cases outweighs all other potential downsides.

delphidb96
04-07-2010, 03:15 AM
Randy Cohen who writes "The Ethicist" column for the New York times answers a readers question if it is ok to download a book that you have already bought a hard copy version. He basically states that it is ok. He compares it to buying a CD and transfering it to your iPod. He states that:



I found the following quote amusing:




Read it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/magazine/04FOB-ethicist-t.html

A man who understands ethics. I agree with his opinion.

Derek

delphidb96
04-07-2010, 03:17 AM
But the question was, is it ethical - you seem to be suggesting that ethics don't matter in the face of "the law" - law trumps ethics.

But of *course* law trumps ethics. Just ask those pesky Jews during WWII.

Look, law may be used to dis/allow actions, but it cannot change the ethics involved.

Derek

TGS
04-07-2010, 05:34 AM
Randy Cohen who writes "The Ethicist" column for the New York times answers a readers question if it is ok to download a book that you have already bought a hard copy version. He basically states that it is ok. He compares it to buying a CD and transferring it to your iPod.


Can't fault the argument - I wonder how far we can get down the slippery slope with this.
Bought the book then downloaded the ebook version from the darkenet = OK because it's just format shifting.
It's out of print and not available as an ebook and I can't get it second-hand so I downloaded it from the darknet, but would have bought it in any format if it had been available = OK because my intent was not to deprive the author or the publisher, and if I had the opportunity to reimburse them I would.
I could buy the print version but not the ebook version. I have no interest in the book but I would buy the ebook if it was available. So I downloded it from the darknet = OK because I wanted to buy the ebook but the publisher wouldn't let me.
I've no interest in paying £10 for something, whether it's a book or an ebook, if I can get it for nothing. In fact, if I had to pay for it I wouldn't want it. However, I can get it from the darknet for nothing = OK because I was never going to buy it, in any format, whatever the price - so I'm not depriving the author or the publisher of anything.

I guess we all put our own markers down in different places - but how many of those place correspond to "the law"?

Format C:
04-07-2010, 08:59 AM
That's the fun part of Ethics....

I buy the Hardcover, and then I download the ebook from the dark
Cost: HC full price.
Consequence: author and publisher get paid for one copy. I got two copies
The act is illegal in some jurisdiction, and unethical to most people.

I buy the Hardcover used in mint condition from ebay, I scan & OCR myself the book.
Cost: HC half price, 5 hours of work.
Consequence: author and publisher are not paid. I got two copies.
The act is legal with few exceptions, and it is considered ethical almost by everyone.

I buy the HC used, and don't make a digital copy at all
Cost: HC half price
Consequence: author and publisher are not paid.
The act is legal and ethical everywhere.

Let's go one step further:
I sell the HC half price.
If I keep the digital copy, even if it's buried down somewhere in the middle of an heap of old CD-ROM that will be trashed in a couple of years, I'm doing bad.
If I don't keep that copy, nobody will trust me, and everybody thinks I'm keeping it.
Unethical in both cases, maybe illegal somewhere (I don't know...)

Last step:
I haven't got any digital copy at all. The only copy of that book I ever saw, is the Hardcover I bought for 5$ at a garage sell.
I read the book, and I sell it for 12$ on ebay.
Now, not only I read the book without any form of compensation for the author or the publisher. I'm even making money out of it.
And it's legal everywhere, and, I bet, it's ethically fair to almost everybody.


That's why I say that when ethics are involved, Digital is Evil.
The "unheticality" of an action is definitely unproportioned when it's performed in the digital world.

Bob Butler
04-07-2010, 09:47 AM
That's the fun part of Ethics....

What about:

I bought the physical book at some time in the past before I owned an eReader. I want the eBook. I download it the digital copy, and destroy the physical book leaving me one digital copy. The author and publisher have been compensated and one potential used book is taken out of circulation.

dadioflex
04-07-2010, 10:51 AM
Edit.

TGS
04-07-2010, 11:05 AM
Oh, I've got one. I buy the hard cover, scan it as an ebook, then destroy the hard cover by beating it off a rare baby condor until it is destroyed, then I use the promise of an emailed copy of the scanned ebook to entice people into downloading my botnet virus, so I can take over their computers... in order to harness the computing power to develop my time travel theories, so I can go back in time and kill Hitler by feeding him a baby condor, sprinkled with poison... ethical, yesno?

Not nice to baby condors (twice) = not OK :D

theducks
04-07-2010, 12:17 PM
What about:

I bought the physical book at some time in the past before I owned an eReader. I want the eBook. I download it the digital copy, and destroy the physical book leaving me one digital copy. The author and publisher have been compensated and one potential used book is taken out of circulation.

But you destroyed the licensed proof you were entitled to the "shift" ;)

I resorted to leaving notes on both copies (original vinyl LP ripped to CD) to indicate which was master and that a x type copy exised that was tied to the y original just to keep the RIAA off my back.

Shaggy
04-07-2010, 12:33 PM
Are you sure of that? RIAA vs. Diamond Multimedia said that consumers had the right to space-shift works they purchased into other media for their personal, noncommercial use. That's the case that legalized CD ripping and mp3 players.

Exactly. The content industry likes to claim that you are only buying the medium. But it's not up to them, fortunately. The law generally disagrees.

Shaggy
04-07-2010, 12:36 PM
I buy the Hardcover, and then I download the ebook from the dark
Cost: HC full price.
Consequence: author and publisher get paid for one copy. I got two copies
The act is illegal in some jurisdiction, and unethical to most people.


Really? Have you asked them? Or do you find it unethical and just assume everyone else should too?

Format C:
04-07-2010, 12:51 PM
Really? Have you asked them? Or do you find it unethical and just assume everyone else should too?

I've asked around.
74,3 out 100 of the interviewd find it unethical. It's not an official statistic. It's not a scientifically sampled set. It's not a lab experiment driven by psychologist.

And I've never expressed my personal view about it.


Now, change the word "most" with the number you like.
And tell me what you think about the whole story, if you want.

The point is: if you do with digital goods the same things you do with non digital ones, you're doing wrong.

Let's stick with the last example only: buy used and resell at a higher price.
Do you find it unethical? No? Why?

Xenophon
04-07-2010, 01:41 PM
Format C: -- there are a few bugs in your analysis. I'll address them interspersed.

That's the fun part of Ethics....

I buy the Hardcover, and then I download the ebook from the dark
Cost: HC full price.
Consequence: author and publisher get paid for one copy. I got two copies
The act is illegal in some jurisdiction, and unethical to most people.

Opinions on the ethics of this one vary. It clearly involves an illegal act in many jurisdictions—the UPloading of the copy you downloaded. The act of downloading is legal in some jurisdictions and not in others. YMMV, and all that.

I buy the Hardcover used in mint condition from ebay, I scan & OCR myself the book.
Cost: HC half price, 5 hours of work.
Consequence: author and publisher are not paid. I got two copies.
The act is legal with few exceptions, and it is considered ethical almost by everyone.

Actually, the author and publisher were paid. They got their money at the original sale of the HC -- and that's all the law says that they are entitled to. Most folks (IMHO) agree that neither author nor publisher has any claim on any part of subsequent re-sale of the HC. Law and ethics both satisfied in my opinion. As always, YMMV.

I buy the HC used, and don't make a digital copy at all
Cost: HC half price
Consequence: author and publisher are not paid.
The act is legal and ethical everywhere.

As with the previous example, the author and the publisher WERE PAID IN FULL when the original purchaser bought the HC. That's exactly why this is legal and ethical everywhere! Your analysis of the consequence is flawed.

Let's go one step further:
I sell the HC half price.
If I keep the digital copy, even if it's buried down somewhere in the middle of an heap of old CD-ROM that will be trashed in a couple of years, I'm doing bad.
If I don't keep that copy, nobody will trust me, and everybody thinks I'm keeping it.
Unethical in both cases, maybe illegal somewhere (I don't know...)

Keeping the digital copy when you sell the original violates is a copyright violation. The fair-use argument for time- and format-shifting supported by the US courts is that your legal possession (ownership, really) of the original copy is necessary to make the shifting fair-use. If you sell or give away the original, you "must" delete any format-shifted copies. Note: "must" was in quotes because no sensible person will care about that old archived backup of your hard disk (or whatever). But you really should make a reasonable effort to get rid of your copies. At least delete them from your active storage (whether that storage is hard-disk, flash drive, or CD-on-the-shelf).


Last step:
I haven't got any digital copy at all. The only copy of that book I ever saw, is the Hardcover I bought for 5$ at a garage sell.
I read the book, and I sell it for 12$ on ebay.
Now, not only I read the book without any form of compensation for the author or the publisher. I'm even making money out of it.
And it's legal everywhere, and, I bet, it's ethically fair to almost everybody.

Gong! Same analysis bug as before. The author and publisher already got their compensation for that particular copy of the book.

That's why I say that when ethics are involved, Digital is Evil.
The "unheticality" of an action is definitely unproportioned when it's performed in the digital world.
No comment one way or the other on this last bit.

Xenophon
(Who is not a lawyer, and is not providing legal advice!)

dadioflex
04-07-2010, 01:58 PM
Edit.

Bob Butler
04-07-2010, 02:31 PM
But you destroyed the licensed proof you were entitled to the "shift" ;)

OK, I save the copyright page in my files. I don't have room for the whole book, but I can keep many title pages in a small space. :)

Guns4Hire
04-07-2010, 02:49 PM
- law trumps ethics.

I have a hard time with that. If that were true. Then the US shouldn't exist. India would of never freed itself from Britain. Pakistan wouldn't exist. South Africa would still be run by apartheid. What happened to the Jews is fine. Portugal should still be under a communist government. Israel shouldn't exist. The Iron Curtain (politically) should still exist today.

Um I could go on and on and on and on and on and of course on.

Ethics is what the law should be derived from. Law without ethics is unsupportable. The world has shown that over and over.

TGS
04-07-2010, 04:11 PM
Originally Posted by TGS
- law trumps ethics.

Just to clarify (though why I feel the need to clarify my position to a bunch of people I only "know" through screen names and avatars is itself an interesting question), when I said "law trumps ethics" it was a rhetorical statement. I was suggesting that the poster to whom I was responding was advocating that view. My own view is that, at the point that the law is constructed so as to be in the interests of the powerful at the expense of the less powerful it becomes decoupled from ethics.

Phew...I feel much better now :D

TGS
04-07-2010, 04:16 PM
The baby condor was a racist. ethical yesno?

The baby condor was a racist only because, as we all know, baby condors have no free will and so anything they do they do entirely as a consequence of their conditioning - they could not do otherwise = not OK

Guns4Hire
04-07-2010, 04:28 PM
Just to clarify (though why I feel the need to clarify my position to a bunch of people I only "know" through screen names and avatars is itself an interesting question), when I said "law trumps ethics" it was a rhetorical statement. I was suggesting that the poster to whom I was responding was advocating that view. My own view is that, at the point that the law is constructed so as to be in the interests of the powerful at the expense of the less powerful it becomes decoupled from ethics.

Phew...I feel much better now :D

Sorry for not catching the rhetorical nature of your post. Appreciate the clarification.

catsittingstill
04-07-2010, 04:54 PM
I think the ethicist is right.

Publisher got paid, author got paid; no harm no foul. John Scalzi appears to feel the same (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/04/07/on-how-many-times-i-should-get-paid-for-a-book/).

Angst
04-07-2010, 04:57 PM
Just to clarify (though why I feel the need to clarify my position to a bunch of people I only "know" through screen names and avatars is itself an interesting question), when I said "law trumps ethics" it was a rhetorical statement. I was suggesting that the poster to whom I was responding was advocating that view. My own view is that, at the point that the law is constructed so as to be in the interests of the powerful at the expense of the less powerful it becomes decoupled from ethics.

Phew...I feel much better now :D

...the law in its majestic equality "forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." --Anatole France

Jadon
04-07-2010, 07:51 PM
an illegal act in many jurisdictions—the UPloading of the copy you downloaded. The act of downloading is legal in some jurisdictions and not in others.

The first example never mentioned uploading, only downloading. Yes, for torrents and some other varieties of p2p, downloading implies uploading (or at least 'making available'), but for usenet, or RapidShare, or other ways of getting a file, no uploading is necessary, so it doesn't have to enter into ethical consideration.

TGS
04-08-2010, 04:17 AM
The first example never mentioned uploading, only downloading. Yes, for torrents and some other varieties of p2p, downloading implies uploading (or at least 'making available'), but for usenet, or RapidShare, or other ways of getting a file, no uploading is necessary, so it doesn't have to enter into ethical consideration.

I'm not sure the ethical considerations are that different, though the legal ones may be.

Format C:
04-08-2010, 11:06 AM
....

Actually, the author and publisher were paid. They got their money at the original sale of the HC -- and that's all the law says that they are entitled to. Most folks (IMHO) agree that neither author nor publisher has any claim on any part of subsequent re-sale of the HC. Law and ethics both satisfied in my opinion. As always, YMMV.

As with the previous example, the author and the publisher WERE PAID IN FULL when the original purchaser bought the HC. That's exactly why this is legal and ethical everywhere! Your analysis of the consequence is flawed.

....

Good point you made!

That the author and publisher are not being paid is the first and most used argument against ebook piracy.
And that's the ethical difference between digital and analog world: you can sell the hardcopy you bought, and that's legal (*) and fair. But you can't sell the digital copy you bought. Not even if you made it from the paper copy you own in a destructive manner and manage to keep it unique.

Another example is bookcrossing: you can drop a book on a bench to be taken and you're doing nothing wrong. But, if you create a web site where ebooks can be uploaded and downloaded only once (**), you are, at the least, a pirate and a copyright infringer.

[OFF TOPIC]
Another topic, with its own threads in this forum, is when you said that author and publisher are paid "for that particular copy", which have completely no sense in digital: which copy do you actually refer to? The one in the server? The one created by the web app when you download it? The one in your ISP cache? The one mirrored in some remote router? The one you got in your RAM while downloading it? The one in your disk drive? The back up one? and so on....
While paper copies of a book can be precisely accounted for, it's a nonsense to try to do the same for a digital file...
[/OFF TOPIC]

I know people who consider taping a 33rpm on a cassette and give it away an offence less serious than ripping a CD and give it away in a USB bar!

Personally I really don't know.
I've suspended my judgement on the matter, and I try to understand what's behind every opinion to make my own.
As for now, I've bought lots of books, sold or given away most of the paper copies, kept the digital ones for myself (after a DRM-stripping and format shifting process) and I feel good.


________________
(*) IMHO, the used book market is permitted only because it's impossible to enforce a strict prohibtion, even in a USSR-like state. In the digital world, DRM makes it possibile, and that's happening.
(**) That's hypotetical: imagine an ebook-crossing site, where the users ulpoad e-books deleting their original copy, and the server deletes every single file as soon as the first download is completed. Every book exists in a single "live" copy (misbehaving users do not exist by hypothesis). Guess what? It's not legal in my country, and I bet there are people who find it unethical...

Xenophon
04-08-2010, 11:45 AM
Format C: --

I'd have to disagree with your position on both of your two footnotes. For the first, the used book market exists exactly because of the "First Sale Doctrine" (U.S.) or the doctrine of "Exhaustion" (European Union). In this sense buying and selling used books is exactly the same as buying and selling used-generic-physical-objects. So the impossibility of enforcing a strict prohibition is not relevant.

For the hypothetical in your second, I think that the proprietors of such a site would likely end up in court (at least here in the U.S). I also fully expect that they'd win! Because (in this hypothetical case) there are no misbehaving users, the site would be conforming perfectly with First Sale Doctrine -- no harm, no foul. DRM issues might well make those single copies useless to the downloader, but that's not part of the hypothetical case. I also suspect that the EU doctrine of exhaustion would make it legal in Italy -- doesn't EU law take precedence?

As always, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice!

Xenophon

Shaggy
04-08-2010, 11:52 AM
I'm not sure the ethical considerations are that different, though the legal ones may be.

IMO, the ethical considerations are vastly different.

Shaggy
04-08-2010, 11:57 AM
And that's the ethical difference between digital and analog world: you can sell the hardcopy you bought, and that's legal (*) and fair. But you can't sell the digital copy you bought. Not even if you made it from the paper copy you own in a destructive manner and manage to keep it unique.


What makes you think you can't sell the digital copy?


Another example is bookcrossing: you can drop a book on a bench to be taken and you're doing nothing wrong. But, if you create a web site where ebooks can be uploaded and downloaded only once (**), you are, at the least, a pirate and a copyright infringer.


If the ebook can only be downloaded once and the original is destroyed in the process, then that's not piracy or copyright infringement. It's the same thing as giving away the physical book.


IMHO, the used book market is permitted only because it's impossible to enforce a strict prohibtion, even in a USSR-like state. In the digital world, DRM makes it possibile, and that's happening.


The used book market exists because of law, and the first sale doctrine. That has nothing to do with whether the media is physical or digital.

That's hypotetical: imagine an ebook-crossing site, where the users ulpoad e-books deleting their original copy, and the server deletes every single file as soon as the first download is completed. Every book exists in a single "live" copy (misbehaving users do not exist by hypothesis). Guess what? It's not legal in my country, and I bet there are people who find it unethical...

What makes you think that's not legal?

TGS
04-08-2010, 12:09 PM
IMO, the ethical considerations are vastly different.

In what way?

Shaggy
04-08-2010, 02:25 PM
In what way?

I assume what we're talking about here is

Downloading an eBook for a pBook that you already own.

vs

Uploading copies of an eBook to anybody that wants one.


Is that what you're talking about, or were you referring to uploading copies only to other people that already own the pBook?

TGS
04-08-2010, 03:01 PM
I assume what we're talking about here is

Downloading an eBook for a pBook that you already own.

vs

Uploading copies of an eBook to anybody that wants one.


Is that what you're talking about, or were you referring to uploading copies only to other people that already own the pBook?

I think I was questioning the ethical (though not legal) difference between the act of uploading an ebook* to enable others who haven't paid for it to download it (regardless of whether the uploader has paid for it), and the act of downloading an ebook that someone has uploaded** (regardless of whether the uploader has paid for it). I'm not sure whether the uploader having paid for it or not changes the ethical character of the act very much, and I'm not sure there's much difference between (maybe not no difference, but not much), between the ethical value of the act of the uploader and the act of the downloader.

*Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the book in question is in-print as a book and available as an ebook.
**Let's also assume for the sake of argument that the uploader has made it available to anyone who finds it.

Shaggy
04-08-2010, 04:20 PM
I think I was questioning the ethical (though not legal) difference between the act of uploading an ebook* to enable others who haven't paid for it to download it (regardless of whether the uploader has paid for it), and the act of downloading an ebook that someone has uploaded** (regardless of whether the uploader has paid for it).

In the first case (uploading an ebook to others), no, it doesn't really make any difference if the uploader owns a legal copy or not. It's still unethical and illegal to distribute somebody else's work without their permission.

In the second case (downloading an ebook), it's not a matter of whether the uploader has paid for it, but whether the downloader has. If the downloader has paid for the pBook, then it's an entirely different ethical matter.

TGS
04-08-2010, 04:54 PM
If the downloader has paid for the pBook, then it's an entirely different ethical matter.

I accept the point that downloading from, what for want of a better word, we are calling the darknet, is sometimes construed as a form of convenient format shifting. And I also probably accept there is "some" ethical difference between this and downloading where the downloader has paid for nothing. What I was questioning was whether there was a difference in ethical value between the act of downloading something you haven't paid for and the act of uploading something so that other people can download that thing, without paying for it.

I'm not expressing a view on what the ethical value of those act might be, I simply suggesting that, whatever value they have is pretty similar.

I'm not of course talking about those cases where the downloader "doesn't know" that this thing they are downloading isn't in the public domain, but where it's quite plain because of what they are downloading and where they are downloading it from that this is an "unauthorized" download. And of course, whether anyone knows about it or can prove it doesn't really change the ethical value of the act.

Shaggy
04-08-2010, 05:45 PM
What I was questioning was whether there was a difference in ethical value between the act of downloading something you haven't paid for and the act of uploading something so that other people can download that thing, without paying for it.

I don't believe that was the point originally made. In the original example given, the downloader did pay for it.

What it appeared that you were saying was that format shifting via the darknet (good way of putting it) was ethically the same as uploading without permission. That's what I was disagreeing with, but I see now that's not what you meant.

TGS
04-08-2010, 05:55 PM
I don't believe that was the point originally made. In the original example given, the downloader did pay for it.

What it appeared that you were saying was that format shifting via the darknet (good way of putting it) was ethically the same as uploading without permission. That's what I was disagreeing with, but I see now that's not what you meant.

Mmm, somewhere between Post 1 and Post 40 I think the topic meandered a bit - imagine that!

Worldwalker
04-08-2010, 06:40 PM
I buy the Hardcover, and then I download the ebook from the dark
Cost: HC full price.
Consequence: author and publisher get paid for one copy. I got two copies
The act is illegal in some jurisdiction, and unethical to most people.

Unethical to you, maybe, but certainly not to me. And probably not to most people if they have time to think about it without the influence of vested interests.

Ever notice how they tell you you're only buying a temporary, limited license to use the content, not the content itself? In those terms, you only HAVE one copy. You don't read two books at once. You have one "content unit" -- the words in that book -- displayed in several different forms.

Or, to put it in a simpler form, would you say your town library had a great selection of books when that they really had was ten thousand copies of "The Light in August"? That would be crazy. They have one book that could be read by 10,000 people at a time. If you have both a pbook and ebook of "The Light in August" you still have one book which, unless you do in fact behave unethically by giving away copies, can be read by one person at a time. One "content unit" which can be read by one person is pretty much the definition of what a single book is.

I buy the Hardcover used in mint condition from ebay, I scan & OCR myself the book.
Cost: HC half price, 5 hours of work.
Consequence: author and publisher are not paid. I got two copies.
The act is legal with few exceptions, and it is considered ethical almost by everyone.

First, in terms of the ebook, it's identical to the previous scenario. The ethics are not changed by who does the scanning. And you still only have one book.

Second, the author and publisher were paid. They were paid when the book was sold the first time around.

And yes, that is the only time they should be paid. If you bought a used bookshelf on eBay to put your new book on, would you think that the original manufacturer of the bookshelf should be paid, too?

I buy the HC used, and don't make a digital copy at all
Cost: HC half price
Consequence: author and publisher are not paid.
The act is legal and ethical everywhere.

Again, the author and publisher were already paid.

I sell the HC half price.
If I keep the digital copy, even if it's buried down somewhere in the middle of an heap of old CD-ROM that will be trashed in a couple of years, I'm doing bad.
If I don't keep that copy, nobody will trust me, and everybody thinks I'm keeping it.
Unethical in both cases, maybe illegal somewhere (I don't know...)

Specious argument. If digital content isn't available for use, it effectively doesn't exist. If your ebook is somewhere in that box of old CDs everyone has, and if it does turn up at some point you toss it out then, or just don't read it, there's no ethical problem.

I haven't got any digital copy at all. The only copy of that book I ever saw, is the Hardcover I bought for 5$ at a garage sell.
I read the book, and I sell it for 12$ on ebay.
Now, not only I read the book without any form of compensation for the author or the publisher. I'm even making money out of it.
And it's legal everywhere, and, I bet, it's ethically fair to almost everybody.

The author and the publisher got paid when the book was sold.

How about if you bought a bookshelf at a garage sale, then sold it on eBay? You used it without any compensation to the designer or the manufacturer! You made a profit from reselling that bookshelf! How could you live with yourself?

What is unethical is obtaining one content-unit and duplicating it into multiple separate (as in, possessed/used simultaneously by different people) content-units.

Someone a while back brought up the argument that reading an ebook you do not legitimately own (illegal download, etc.) is stealing because of sort of an opportunity cost of reading -- that is, you're only going to read X books in Y time, and if one of those is a book you didn't pay for, then you've robbed the company of a sale of a book you would have paid for if that one wasn't available. On that basis, not only buying a used book would be stealing, and reading a book in a library would be stealing, and borrowing a book from your brother would be stealing, but even re-reading a book you've already read would be stealing, because if you didn't re-read that book, you would have had to buy a new one. You're enjoying that book twice but only paying for it once! You don't expect to see a movie twice with the same ticket, right? So why should you expect to be able to read a book as many times as you want if you've only paid for it once? Re-reading is stealing! I expect to hear that from the publishers any time now.

The publishing industry, which is in financial trouble due to its own mismanagement (paying millions of dollars for books which never earn out their advances, for instance, and raising the price of children's books at several times the rate of inflation,) is slowly choking the goose that lays the golden egg.

Every year, fewer people read for pleasure. I've seen these statistics (http://dailysalty.blogspot.com/2007/10/book-reading-statistics-in-usa.html) quoted so many times that I'm not sure if they're valid or not, but they're disturbingly in accord with my own anecdotal evidence. The market is slowly drying up. People are not reading.

The publishers' response? Raise prices. Restrict availability. Limit ebooks. In short ... discourage reading.

If they don't wake up and smell the coffee soon, they're going to find themselves without a market and wondering what happened. They will, no doubt, blame "piracy" or some other force outside their own walls, but they're doing it to themselves.

Another item of concern is the racks and racks of spinoff kitsch you see spawning around every popular juvenile series. Harry Potter stuff. Twilight stuff. You name it, there's stuff for it. Why is this a bad thing? Simple: You have a parent and child in a bookstore. You've gotten them through the doors. The child could beg that parent to buy him a book ... or a stuffed Snitch. Every dollar spent in a bookstore on licensed items is a dollar taken away from buying books. And reading, like smoking, is an addiction which is easiest to develop in the young. You'll find very few (if any) avid readers and book-buyers who were not avid readers as children. The more that child who is standing in front of the Twilight kitsch display reads when young, the more likely he or she is to become a lifetime book addict. Or, in short, a customer. The publishing industry (with a heavy emphasis on authors who are easily seduced by the "free money" of licensing fees) is cannibalizing their own future by persuading their customers to spend their bookstore budget on non-book items which do not encourage them to become long-term customers.

Stupid way to run an industry, IMO.

Short-term thinking at its worst.

They need to expand the market. To do that, they need to get people, especially young people, to read. To do that, especially in this day when public libraries are losing their funding and used book stores are dying out as their proprietors retire (do you know of a used book store run by someone under 50?), requires cheap, readily available reading matter. Which comes down to ebooks.

Instead, they decide to do things that maximize profits per unit, like only releasing Steven Saylor's new books in trade paperback (I had to order "The Triumph of Caesar" from the UK to get it as MM). Sure, the profit per book sold might be higher -- but they're selling fewer books, and those people who aren't buying the books that just doubled in price are doing something else with their money ... which probably isn't going to be buying any further books in that series, either. They're positioning their books as luxury goods -- it is often cheaper to buy a DVD of a movie, now, than the book it was made from -- and thereby losing customers instead of gaining them.

I can just imagine the phone call:

Agent: Great news, Mr. Author! With the publisher's new pricing structure, you'll get $1,000 in royalties for every book sold.

Author: Wow, that's wonderful, Mr. Agent. How many copies did we sell this year?

Agent: Well, um, one. To a guy who bought that $999 "I Am Rich" app for his iPhone.

Author: ...

They need to get more people reading, and keep more people reading, and to do that, they need to sell cheaper books. They need ebooks. And they need to worry a lot less about someone who wants an ebook version of their existing pbooks and a lot more about the massive number of people who don't buy books at all.

Shaggy
04-08-2010, 06:41 PM
Mmm, somewhere between Post 1 and Post 40 I think the topic meandered a bit - imagine that!

You're kidding! :eek: .... :)

Actually, I was referring to the post by Jadon that you replied to saying that the ethical considerations weren't different. The example in that context was

I buy the Hardcover, and then I download the ebook from the dark

Opinions on the ethics of this one vary. It clearly involves an illegal act in many jurisdictions—the UPloading of the copy you downloaded. The act of downloading is legal in some jurisdictions and not in others. YMMV, and all that.

The first example never mentioned uploading, only downloading. Yes, for torrents and some other varieties of p2p, downloading implies uploading (or at least 'making available'), but for usenet, or RapidShare, or other ways of getting a file, no uploading is necessary, so it doesn't have to enter into ethical consideration.

I'm not sure the ethical considerations are that different, though the legal ones may be.

Iphinome
04-08-2010, 07:54 PM
Stupid way to run an industry, IMO.

Short-term thinking at its worst.



I haven't gone to buisness school thank the gods so I can't be sure but the impression I get from people who have but short term thinking seems to be the rule. Well that and using lawsuits as a substitute selling stuff. I'm pretty sure the second part isn't taught in schools so remember parents, if you don't teach your kids about civil suits they'll learn it on the streets in an unsafe way and you can't count on them waiting till they're part of a huge multinational befroe they start.

Jadon
04-08-2010, 08:04 PM
I think Shaggy and I and most others are focusing solely on the person in the original example who bought a pBook and format shifted via darknet to get an eBook, and TGS is saying that one can't simply focus on that person. One must also consider the provenance of the eBook. By paying for a pBook I may "deserve" the eBook form, but does that cover the right to receive the product of someone else infringing copyright?

Hellmark
04-09-2010, 01:59 AM
I haven't gone to buisness school thank the gods so I can't be sure but the impression I get from people who have but short term thinking seems to be the rule. Well that and using lawsuits as a substitute selling stuff. I'm pretty sure the second part isn't taught in schools so remember parents, if you don't teach your kids about civil suits they'll learn it on the streets in an unsafe way and you can't count on them waiting till they're part of a huge multinational befroe they start.

Yeah, almost everyone wants short quarter gains. Sprint a year or so back sold majority of their cell towers, to have some short quarter gains, but are leasing those same towers now. Can someone tell me how that makes sense?

Blue Tyson
04-09-2010, 02:38 AM
Another item of concern is the racks and racks of spinoff kitsch you see spawning around every popular juvenile series. Harry Potter stuff. Twilight stuff. You name it, there's stuff for it. Why is this a bad thing? Simple: You have a parent and child in a bookstore. You've gotten them through the doors. The child could beg that parent to buy him a book ... or a stuffed Snitch. Every dollar spent in a bookstore on licensed items is a dollar taken away from buying books. And reading, like smoking, is an addiction which is easiest to develop in the young. You'll find very few (if any) avid readers and book-buyers who were not avid readers as children. The more that child who is standing in front of the Twilight kitsch display reads when young, the more likely he or she is to become a lifetime book addict. Or, in short, a customer. The publishing industry (with a heavy emphasis on authors who are easily seduced by the "free money" of licensing fees) is cannibalizing their own future by persuading their customers to spend their bookstore budget on non-book items which do not encourage them to become long-term customers.




I agree with most of what you say - but not sure I agree with this part. In this example, kid gets a toy - often kids get toys I believe, so if they have one that has contributed to making authors, publishers and bookstores money I don't think that will automatically be a negative.

Another example - I have been wondering why for example for popular authors - but not necessarily Harry Potter popular - don't have t-shirts etc.

There are a lot of cool pictures on the front of SF and Fantasy books for example. (not so much for garden variety thrillers or whatever that have a big fat author name and blurry indistinct photo of bugger all).

But take Alastair Reynolds and the cool spaceships on black on those covers, or a dragon on a popular fantasy novel.

A t-shirt or poster of those - wouldn't sell enough to be worth it? Art would cost to much to use?

Apart from the example though, people need clothes, and have 'poster budgets' that are separate from book budgets I think. Granted every dollar spent on something else is not spent on books.

For something massively more popular than either of the books mentioned - don't think sales of Spider-Man stuff or Batman, Superman, X-Men etc. changes the reading material purchase amounts much?

TGS
04-09-2010, 04:35 AM
I think Shaggy and I and most others are focusing solely on the person in the original example who bought a pBook and format shifted via darknet to get an eBook, and TGS is saying that one can't simply focus on that person. One must also consider the provenance of the eBook. By paying for a pBook I may "deserve" the eBook form, but does that cover the right to receive the product of someone else infringing copyright?

Thanks for that Jadon - you manged to say in a sentence what I've been rambling on about over several posts. I am saying that any downloading implies some uploading - though not necessarily by the person doing the downloading. Given that, I'm also saying - in my first post to this thread - that I am not sure wherein the great ethical divide lies between the downloader who "feels" justified in downloading because they have paid for a version of the book in another format, and the downloader who "feels" justified in downloading because they can get away with it. I'm not claiming they are ethically identical - just not as vastly different as it might appear.

ficbot
04-09-2010, 08:22 AM
How about this one: you buy the ebook when it first comes out in Format X, since that's all that's available. Later, other formats are added and you prefer those formats. One of your friends buys the book in another format and you copy his. I think this is perfectly fair and I did it once. The book had images which did not survive my initial conversion from the very messy eReader format, so when I learned a friend had the epub, I copied his. I still had paid for the book though since I bought the eReader version.

Worldwalker
04-09-2010, 09:23 AM
I agree with most of what you say - but not sure I agree with this part. In this example, kid gets a toy - often kids get toys I believe, so if they have one that has contributed to making authors, publishers and bookstores money I don't think that will automatically be a negative.
The reason it's a negative is that you have a customer already inside a bookstore -- and not just any customer, but a child who has the potential to become a lifelong reader (assuming for the sake of simplicity that the role of the parent here is just to set the budget). That child can buy something that will reinforce the reading habit (a book) or something that will not reinforce the reading habit (a T-shirt).

By and large, the more people read as children, the more they will read as adults. So it would be in the bookstore's best interest (and the publisher's, etc.) to sell as many books as possible to that child, in order to develop him or her as a reader. The more books you sell to that child, the more you will sell to that future adult. Selling T-shirts, stuffed toys, candy, and whatnot, will not have the same effect. You're encouraging the habit of consuming clothes, toys, and candy, which can all be satisfied in places other than a bookstore, and with products unrelated to publishing.

It's short-term thinking again. "Hey, we can get $X for licensing fees, and we don't have to do any work!" And since the licensed items are usually tied in to a super-popular property (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.), sales of those specific books will not suffer. Instead, its the money that might have gone to buy a different book in the same genre (i.e., "if you like this book, try that book") and thereby broadened the reader's interests, which is crucial to maintaining them as a reader once the Super Series du Jour ends, is lost to the sales of kitsch.

There has been considerable concern that the "Harry Potter effect" which boosted children's interest in reading for the first time in years applied only to the Harry Potter books themselves. I think a significant part of this was the explosion of spin-off merchandise. Just as movies nowadays seem to be just a two-hour advertisement for action figures and video games, the HP books were used as advertisements for everything under the sun. This diverted money from the household budget that could have gone to other books to spin-off merchandise, and it diverted the message from "reading is fun, buy more books" to "Harry Potter is fun, buy more Harry Potter stuff." Except that publishers are in the business of selling books, and training their customers to buy clothes or toys is redirecting them to a different market segment entirely.

Nice short-term profits, no doubt ... but that's exactly what I've been ranting about: The publishing industry is trading long-term customers, with their much greater profit, for short-term profits to satisfy speculators who care only about the very short term rise in stock prices, and care nothing at all for the long-term profitability, or even survivability, of that company.

I used to work for a company that decided to trade the slow but steady profit from customers who had, in some cases, been customers for 50 years or more, for quick short-term profits based on fads. Of course, fad customers are as fickle as butterflies, and when they moved on to the next fad and the next flower, the company didn't have either group of customers anymore. Nor, within a couple of years, did they have a company. It was a smaller industry with much less inertia than publishing, but that only means that the same thing will take longer, not that it won't happen, if the publishing houses make the same mistakes.

Bookstores need to sell kids books. If you're a bookstore, and you've got the kid in the store, you want to send him out with his hands full of books, so that he'll keep reading and come and buy more books from you. Sending him out with something he could buy at Toys-R-Us builds their market, not yours.

Worldwalker
04-09-2010, 09:33 AM
...I am not sure wherein the great ethical divide lies between the downloader who "feels" justified in downloading because they have paid for a version of the book in another format, and the downloader who "feels" justified in downloading because they can get away with it.

Simple: One of the two is making an ethical decision: evaluating the situation and deciding whether or not what he is considering doing is the right thing to do, and can be ethically justified. The governing factor is internal: his beliefs and his conscience. The other is ignoring ethics entirely, throwing right and wrong to the winds, and making his decision solely on whether or not there is an external constraint: whether or not he can get away with it.

It's the difference between character and reputation. The first downloader is governed by his character, and how his own conscience will regard his decision. The second is concerned only for his reputation, in the form of a criminal record or civil legal action against him. In short, they're both making the same decision, but the primary factor in how they make that decision is completely different.

(I say "primary factor" because of course the risk of reputation damage does occur to the first downloader, and it's highly unlikely that the second downloader is completely without conscience, so both factors enter into both decisions to some degree)

dpapathanasiou
04-09-2010, 02:50 PM
We have experience with this on FiFoBooks.com: Paul Carr, the author of "Bringing Nothing To The Party" distributes Kindle and Nook versions of his book for free on our site, yet if you bought the ebook on Amazon.com, it would set you back $10. Peter explains the reasons for deliberately pirating his own book here: http://techcrunch.com/2009/12/19/bringing-nothing-to-the-party/

Elfwreck
04-09-2010, 04:03 PM
Peter explains the reasons for deliberately pirating his own book here: http://techcrunch.com/2009/12/19/bringing-nothing-to-the-party/

That article had an interesting claim--
"The hardcore book buyers who regularly buy hardback books are also the ones most likely to have an e-reader...."

Which, if publishers believe, would explain why they think ebook sales are lost hardback sales. I'd love to know where that information comes from; the people I know who have ebook devices weren't buyers of mainstream hardcovers before they got them.

GA Russell
04-09-2010, 05:19 PM
Yeah, almost everyone wants short quarter gains. Sprint a year or so back sold majority of their cell towers, to have some short quarter gains, but are leasing those same towers now. Can someone tell me how that makes sense?

I don't think that it is just a matter of short term gains. It's been a long time since I have looked into it, but as far as I know US tax law still encourages sale/lease back arrangements.

If there were no tax code, it is unlikely that companies would engage in sale/lease backs.

Worldwalker
04-09-2010, 05:55 PM
Which, if publishers believe, would explain why they think ebook sales are lost hardback sales. I'd love to know where that information comes from; the people I know who have ebook devices weren't buyers of mainstream hardcovers before they got them.

I wasn't, for several reasons. One was the expense. I read a lot of books. I couldn't afford to buy them in hardcover. (and besides, waiting for the paperback gives me some time to hear whether or not the book is worth reading anyway; I've been saved from a couple of real turkeys that way). Another was the sheer cubic footage. One hardcover equals about three mass market paperbacks. That was actually the deciding factor in us both getting ebook readers: we don't have a lot of space, and we already have a lot of books. With a few very rare exceptions, we couldn't buy HC because we had no blessed shelf space for them (or any space for more shelves -- we even have a bookshelf in the bathroom, conveniently located for ... long visits). On very rare occasions, maybe once a year, we'd buy a HC we'd been very, very much anticipating, as a special treat -- and sell it off (for pennies on the dollar, of course) to the used bookstore as soon as the paperback came out.

The most avid readers have space problems. Individually, a book is small; collectively, thousands of them will drive you out of your living space.

I'm sure we're not the only people whose primary reason for buying an ebook reader was just to be able to read without having to find a place to put all those books! (even with that, you stil have to move a stack of books to find anywhere to sit down here)

Bob Butler
04-09-2010, 07:54 PM
I'd love to know where that information comes from; the people I know who have ebook devices weren't buyers of mainstream hardcovers before they got them.

I agree. I almost never bought hardcovers, especially not fiction hardcovers. In fact, I had mostly been buying used books for the last decade or so.. I'm certain I've bought more new eBooks in the last 18 months than I bought new pBooks in the last 15 years.

The hardcover sale the publishers are worried about never existed in my case. The eBook sale that did exist, however, is being jeopardized. I'm not going to pay more than $10 just to get a book a few months sooner. And if they delay publication of the eBook, I might get it from the library instead in which case the lost the sale altogether.

daesdaemar
04-12-2010, 09:43 PM
It doesn't matter what the ethics of the matter happen to be. There is case law that allows a copyright holder or his representative to sue the owner of a hard copy of a work, if he/she also downloads a digital copy of the same work from a pirate site.

One of the most basic tenets of ethics is that there is not necessarily any relationship between what is morally or ethically correct and what is legal. Morals and ethics deal with what is right or wrong, or if you prefer, good or evil.

Laws are made to control or regulate the behavior of persons within a society. It should be clear to any serious observer that there exist laws which are not morally right. The existence of such laws then leads to the subject of relativistic and/or utilitarian ethics which are devoid of any relationship to natural law-based morality which is, arguably, the only source of objective morality.

GA Russell
04-12-2010, 10:30 PM
One aspect that I haven't seen mentioned here is that many consider current copywrite laws around the world to be absurd.

There are probably many people who would consider it unethical to violate copyright, but who aren't so sure when the period lasts fifty or seventy years beyond the author's death.

Worldwalker
04-13-2010, 12:11 AM
A common example of right/wrong versus legal/illegal: A society in which it is legal to own slaves, and illegal to help a slave escape. Laws are about expedience, about order, and about the protection and increase of the power of those with the power to make laws. Some of the most tyrannical governments on Earth, past and present, have been amply provided with laws that legalize their abuses (the word Ermächtigungsgesetz should have some meaning in this context).

On a forum which required users to not violate any law, anywhere, I used to have a sig that said something like "Liberty ... Democracy ... Human Rights ... this post is illegal in China."

Or here's one to really throw some gasoline on the fire: If abortion is illegal, does that make it wrong? If it is legal, does that make it right? Does your opinion about it change if you walk across a state or national border to a jurisdiction with the opposite law?

No government, no matter how well-meaning, is immune to errors of judgment and the creation of unjust laws. The less well-meaning, the more likely it is that it's no error. Free people cannot allow their morality and their ethics to be dictated by the rules laid down by any government. No matter what you find the most praiseworthy, some government somewhere, somewhen, has banned it; no matter what you find most appalling, some government has likewise legalized, even mandated, it. A government can choose what to make legal or illegal, but it cannot choose what to make right or wrong. And we, as individuals, must not -- by adopting their laws as our morality -- allow them to do so.

jonsbjons
04-13-2010, 09:14 AM
No, it's not ethical. Here I completely agree with GA Russell. But, unfortunately, too many people don't think so and to avoid piracy almost impossible. We can only look at the iquestion from another side: piracy is not bad publicity for the book.

Worldwalker
04-13-2010, 12:52 PM
You say it's not ethical, but don't tell us why you think so. That makes a discussion kind of difficult.

But with regard to it being good publicity for the book, how? Remember, we're talking about a situation where the person already owns the book on dead trees. If they're going to tell all their friends to read it (which probably sells more books than the fanciest marketing campaign), wouldn't they have already told them to read the paper version? Who says "I wasn't going to tell you how great this thing called 'Harry Potter' is when I first bought it, but now that I have it as a badly-scanned electronic copy, I can't wait to talk about it"?

riemann42
04-13-2010, 07:09 PM
This is an interesting conversation, as the concept of ownership and copyright and eithics are hard to describe.

So, I'm going to think out loud for a second.

* When purchasing a physical or electronic book, you are not buying the content, as this is clearly owned by the original copyright holder.

* When purchasing a physical book, you are buying a copy of said book. This copy is, most notably, the physical copy you hold in your hands.

* When purchasing an electronic book, you are also buying a copy of the book. This copy, is a little harder to define, but I'll try. You are buying a file, which you have limited rights to.

So if all of the above are true, and you have agreed to it, then it seems like acquiring something you don't have rights to... namely an electronic copy of a book you own a physical copy of... is no more ethical than stealing a hard back book because "you bought the electronic version."

I'm not sure I agree with the above, but if the moral principle at stake is "keeping your word" or "living up to your end of an agreement," then I find it hard to argue with.

I tend to usually take the moral stance of "pay an author when you read the book," but that moral stance is very difficult to convert to practical application (what about free ebooks, library books, web pages, etc.).


Suggestion to Publishers: For new hardbacks, grant the right to download an ebook version of the file. Make it so the only way to get an ebook of a new release (in some cases) is to buy the hardback. This solves several problems for you.

Elfwreck
04-13-2010, 07:54 PM
This is an interesting conversation, as the concept of ownership and copyright and eithics are hard to describe.

So, I'm going to think out loud for a second.

* When purchasing a physical or electronic book, you are not buying the content, as this is clearly owned by the original copyright holder.

Nope. You are buying the content. The copyright holder controls the *rights to some uses* of that content. You have the rights to other uses of it--you may memorize it, critique it, compare real people to its protagonists, learn its facts & use them to further your career, write poetry inspired by it, cross your eyes to look at the stereogram pictures therein, uncross them to see them inverted, recite it to your children, or turn it upside down to better study the typography.

If it's physical, you may also use it as a doorstop, tear its pages for kindling or paper mache, or make a safe out of it. If it's electronic, you may search it to discover how many times it uses the letter "q," or change its title to "SUPERKILLERVIRUS.exe" and leave it on your desktop to scare your spouse.

The author's (or company's) monopoly on some usage rights doesn't mean they own the book you bought.

So if all of the above are true, and you have agreed to it, then it seems like acquiring something you don't have rights to... namely an electronic copy of a book you own a physical copy of... is no more ethical than stealing a hard back book because "you bought the electronic version."

Except that the right to format-shift has already been legally approved in several venues. The right to access in one setting includes the right to make it accessible (for yourself) in another setting--if you can watch the show on TV legally, you may tape it to watch it later; if you can listen to the song on the radio, you can record that too. You can even touchup your recordings--change the sound levels, remove the commercials.

By the same principle, if you can flip the pages physically, you can record them on a camera, and play them back very slowly on a PDF.

This doesn't give you the right to someone else's ebook, any more than having a TV gives you the right to a free set of VCR tapes of your favorite series. But you can hire someone to come to your house and tape your favorite shows without commercials; theoretically, you can just as legally hire someone to scan & convert your book for you.

The issue is whether you can hire someone who's *already* taped a show to give you that tape. And whether he can make multiple copies, or if he has to wait for another rerun of the episode to make another tape for someone else. Which starts to fail the common-sense test, regardless of what the law believes.

Solicitous
04-13-2010, 08:35 PM
So if all of the above are true, and you have agreed to it, then it seems like acquiring something you don't have rights to... namely an electronic copy of a book you own a physical copy of... is no more ethical than stealing a hard back book because "you bought the electronic version."


Ah but in some countries, like here in Australia you are permitted by copyright legislation to, for personal use, digitise a book for viewing on an electronic device, provided you own both the device and original book.

So, the question is, ethically do you feel it ok to download a copy of an ebook of which you already own a paperback copy? Does this count as digitising your book to electronic format (given the legislations don't specify how to digitise)? I raised the question some time ago and people felt that it is wrong and violates copyright law. Then I posed the question "Legally a person is able to record a free-to-air TV program for timeshifting purposes (ie: view at a later time) provided once they watch it they delete/destroy the copy and do not share or distribute. One day you forget to record a TV show however your neighbour did. Do you borrow the recorded copy to watch?"

If you borrow the copy you are illegally acquiring a copyrighted material, secondly your neighbour is distributing without authorisation copyright material. Given that the copy will be viewed at least twice (once by your neighbour and once by you) that is in breach of personal use, you can timeshift to view at a later time, NOT view any number of times you like. Most people would borrow the copy without even thinking twice, but with downloading a copy of an ebook of which you already own the paperback to (and despite fair use specifying you can digitise a paperback for personal use), people feel it unethical and wrong. I actually find it quite interesting the differences in what is deemed socially allowable and what isn't despite deep down there is in fact little difference.

Worldwalker
04-13-2010, 08:55 PM
What they keep telling us, though, is that we're buying a) the physical medium, if any, that the content is delivered on (paper, CD, whatever), and b) a license to read that content. The question is whether we only have the right to read the content from that specific medium, or whether we can format-shift it. It is exactly analogous to ripping your CD collection so you can listen to them on your MP3 player, or burning your MP3 collection to CD so you can listen to it in your car.

My take on it is that I've bought the right to use (read, listen to, watch, whatever) that content for my personal use. That includes whatever is necessary to use it in any particular way, such as format conversion so that it will play in whatever device I happen to be using. The best description of what "content" means goes something like this: "What is a song? If you destroy every recording of it, if you burn every piece of sheet music, if you wipe every computer file, then what's left is the song."

That's also why the straw man of "if you buy a hardcover, should you be able to steal a paperback?" is just that: a straw man. We're dealing with two separate items: One, the content (the words in the book), and two, the carrier (the ink on the paper). You paid for the content, which is an abstract concept, and you paid for the carrier, which is a single instance of physical ink and paper in your hand. If you need more carriers, you need to buy those separately, either with content included (a paperback), or without it (a blank CD). And, of course, you need to take care that you're only using a single instance of the content at a time. It wouldn't be right to give away the content+carrier package (aka the pbook) while keeping a copy of it.

Mind you, this is just my take on it, an IANAL. I consider myself an honorable and ethical individual, and I've given it a lot of thought. Your mileage may vary; certainly, that of the people who want to keep selling me the same content over and over (without even any carriers to put it in) does.

Although it's actually only a question in the abstract. My only overlap between physical and electronic forms of my books is either the Baen Free Library, public domain books, or a handful that I've bought in multiple formats. I'm not actually scanning my books, and feel no particular need to. I've just thought through the ethics of the question as more of an academic exercise.

riemann42
04-13-2010, 10:06 PM
It is interesting how these conversations always seem to get around to what is legal, as opposed to ethics.

Elfwreck, I had a long rant about how the right to format shift demonstrates flaws in my argument, but I removed it as it seemed to be getting too legalistic, and I was making an ethical argument, essentially, that by buying a book you were entering into an agreement with the author, publisher, etc. It was a pretty weak argument, essentially assuming that it was ethically wrong to violate a contract.

In the end, however, all attempts to avoid legal arguments will always fail, because Copyright is a legal construction, not an ethical one. The only way to make this into an ethics discussion is to make an argument that author's deserve to get paid when you read their work, but this argument leads to all sorts of problems as well, as we have discussed in detail when I tried to make this argument previously on another thread...

Rich_D
04-13-2010, 11:21 PM
I'm paying for the content, not the medium. One of my favorite authors came to me through a book I never paid for.

About 30 years ago, a friend told me about this great new fantasy book he just read and lent me his copy to read. I was hooked on the story and have purchased every book this author has written. Many of them I have purchased multiple times in multiple formats. I started purchasing the paperbacks because I was a kid. I'll read favorite stories over and over again, so as the paperbacks wore out, I'd replace them. Then I started purchasing the new releases in hard cover and if possible, I'd replace paperbacks with hard cover. Then I started listening to audiobooks and I've bought audible copies of almost all the books that I have physical copies of. Then I started reading on my various pda's. I will purchase future books as e-books, but I've downloaded all existing versions from various p2p sites.

I've downloaded the illegal copies and I'm donating my existing paperbacks and hard covers to the library with all my other books.

The author has gotten plenty of royalties from me and will continue to get royalties from future ebooks and future audiobooks. My hope is that someone will give their kid, who just finished Harry Potter, one of the books I donated and that kid will start buying the books too.

If the author wants to sue me for the pirated versions, he can have at it.

VictoriaP
04-13-2010, 11:48 PM
Suggestion to Publishers: For new hardbacks, grant the right to download an ebook version of the file. Make it so the only way to get an ebook of a new release (in some cases) is to buy the hardback. This solves several problems for you.


I've never understood why anyone wants an HC/ebook bundle, but hey, go for it. The section I've highlighted above though makes absolutely no sense in this scenario though. All you're doing with that concept is alienating the majority of ebook readers, who want nothing to do with a hardcover book and rarely purchased them prior to shifting to the ebook format.

Personally, if a publisher tries that with a series I'm following, that will be a clear sign to me that I need to spend my money on another author's work, similar to the earlier poster that was discussing trying to get Steven Saylor's latest in MMPB rather than in trade PB form. If it's only going to be released as an exclusive HC/ebook set, I won't be purchasing it. And that's a net loss of one customer for the publisher. If you don't bundle the two, you have two customers: Sell the HC to one buyer and the ebook to another. Bundle them, and at best, you've created ONE customer. Worse yet, the HC can be sold as a used book, which nets the publisher nothing, and takes a possible new book sale away from them. All around, that's just a bad idea from a business perspective, even if it's appealing to a given set of customers.

As far as the original topic goes, I'm still not certain where I stand on it. I suppose in general I'd consider it ethical if it's done with the author's permission. But though I'd love more free books, I put this in the same category as shifting from cassettes to CDs and from VHS to DVD. No one gave me copies of what I already owned in the new shiny format, and I don't expect them to do so now. Which is why I don't troll the darknet.

J.K. Rowling and her ilk are the flaw in that whole idea though. I've not gone to the darknet for the HP books, but if she continues her attitude on the ebook subject, I'll probably do it eventually. Ethical? Probably not, certainly not by the guideline I just outlined. But if she and her publisher won't take my money to buy the complete set in my new preferred format, then yes, the temptation is there regardless of legalities or ethics.

Worldwalker
04-14-2010, 07:46 AM
@edward, if you'll note the topic of this thread, it is about ethics, not legality.

I'm the one who had the hard time getting Steven Saylor's latest in a shelf-fitting format.

Yep, if the only way I can get an ebook would be to buy a hardcover, that won't sell me a hardcover -- that'll sell me nothing. The whole reason I want ebooks in the first place is I've got no freaking room left for books! Or, if I get any more books, I won't have any room left for me.

@riemann42: Authors don't deserve to get paid when I read their work any more than woodworkers deserve to get paid when I sit at their tables, or sewing machine operators deserve to get paid when I wear their clothes.

Authors deserve to get paid when they sell their product, just like people who make tables and T-shirts. I don't have to put money in a meter when I sit down to breakfast. I don't have to pay some kind of royalty to whoever made this T-shirt when I put it on. And if I sell that table, or that T-shirt -- or that book -- at a yard sale, nobody but me gets the money. If I want to saw the legs off of the table and make it into a bench, or sew up the bottom of the T-shirt and use it as a strange pillowcase, I can do that too. I bought them, and I can use them, sell them, or make them into something else (that is, format-shift them) without paying anyone a second or third or tenth time.

I've always thought that Richard Stallman's rant about the right to read was a ways out in left field, but it's starting to sound more and more like reality every day. And it's not what's changing.

So it isn't enough that not only has copyright stretched "for a limited time" to mean "long after the author, and his children, and his grandchildren, have died of old age," but now you think he and his distant descendants have some special privilege that the makers of tables and T-shirts don't, to get paid every time their product is used?

Aside from all other issues, it's a Bad Thing for society. The original purpose of copyright was to enable authors to make a living, because the output of those authors was considered to be good for society as a whole. (oddly enough, empowering their great-great-great-grandchildren to collect royalties for a book written by someone who died decades before they were born never entered into it). Its purpose wasn't to benefit authors -- they're no more deserving of special benefits than the makers of tables and T-shirts. It was to benefit society by ensuring that books would be written and good writers could make a living from their books (at least, if people wanted to buy them) so they wouldn't have to give up writing to sell tables or T-shirts to make ends meet. Reading books is good for people. Reading books might be best, in fact, for the poorest people. Books are a path to an education, even if it doesn't involve schooling. So by charging every time someone reads a book (I have to assume this would involve ebooks) you're putting up a barrier to the people who could most benefit from those books. I long ago lost count of how many times I read, say, The Hobbit. But how many times would I have read it if the book was a single-use item, and I had to buy it anew every time I wanted to re-read it? In hard times, when I haven't been able to afford other forms of entertainment, I could always take a favorite book from the shelf and relax with an old friend. You would take those friends away from people who couldn't afford the reading fees? Or make them decide between buying food and re-reading The Hobbit?

"Son, I can't read you bedtime stories anymore. They're charging $5 per use now, and we just don't have the money to spend hundreds of dollars a month on reading fees."

"But Dad, I know my favorite stories by heart. I could tell one to you!"

"No! NO! Don't ever do that! That's book piracy, and you can be hanged at the yardarm."

The world of literature has existed for hundreds of years without the sort of thing you're proposing. The great authors of history wrote classic works despite finding it hard enough to get publishers to pay them, let alone their distant descendants. They sold books to people who could read them over and over again, with no extra fees, and who could do the same things with them they could do with a table or a shirt. Surprisingly, in the time that copyright terms have doubled or tripled, the quality of writing has not followed along. Who is today's Dickens, or Twain, or Dumas? There are 5x as many people on earth now as when Twain was alive, and with copyright terms being at least double what they were in his day, shouldn't there be ten Twains penning great novels? And a dozen Dickenses, and another dozen Dumases, etc. Authors in the 19th century wrote classics while they struggled to pay their bills; shouldn't authors in the 21st century be writing many more books as good or better, since they know that their great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will be collecting royalties on those books?

Frankly, it isn't happening. Sturgeon's Law has gone and squared itself, or maybe cubed itself. We don't have ten Twains or Dickenses or Kiplings writing today. We don't even have one. The idea that giving authors' distant descendants (or, more likely, large corporations that some slightly less distant descendants sold the rights to for pennies on the dollar) royalties for decades after the author is dust would produce a social benefit, specifically an increase in the production of great literature, that outweighs the social loss of freeing those books for public use once the author is dead has, in fact, failed. There's no more great literature being written today than there was fifty or a hundred years ago. In fact, there's arguably less. Just more Harlequin romances and celebrity tell-alls. So, given that the "pay their descendants unto the 7th generation" concept has failed, why do you think the "pay them every time someone reads their book" concept will work any better? Whatever the secret is to great literature, how authors are paid (so long as they are paid enough to be able to buy their tables and T-shirts) doesn't seem to be a factor. What might be a factor, on the other hand, is people reading books, reading good books, and demanding good books in the market. And that is exactly what you would choke off with the "re-read, re-pay" model you advocate.

I've seen novels written as fan fiction, by amateurs, that are better than a disturbing percentage of the published novels out there. These are written by people who will never see a penny from their work -- who, in some cases, are even at risk of legal action by some of the more anal-retentive rights owners (though most have realized that suing their most hardcore fans is not, in fact, a good public relations tool). They not only don't have the right to profit from the work for a hundred years or more, they don't have the right to profit from it for a millisecond. And yet they write. Some of them write abominably, most of them write simply poorly, a few write well, and a rare handful write on a professional level. Without royalties. Without reading fees. Without any money at all.

So I would have to say that whatever it is that motivates an author to write well, neither increasing their remuneration (19th century to today) nor decreasing it (fanfic writers who will never see a penny) seems to affect it. Therefore, there is no social benefit to extending copyright beyond a writer's lifetime, and even less to authors getting paid any time someone reads their work.

jonsbjons
04-14-2010, 08:42 AM
You say it's not ethical, but don't tell us why you think so. That makes a discussion kind of difficult.

But with regard to it being good publicity for the book, how? Remember, we're talking about a situation where the person already owns the book on dead trees. If they're going to tell all their friends to read it (which probably sells more books than the fanciest marketing campaign), wouldn't they have already told them to read the paper version? Who says "I wasn't going to tell you how great this thing called 'Harry Potter' is when I first bought it, but now that I have it as a badly-scanned electronic copy, I can't wait to talk about it"?

OK.

It is unethical because the work on the book, as we are with you well know, takes time and effort. Often, even more than work in any other place. But it's not the point.
We do not think that we'll get a free meal at a restaurant just because we are hungry? So what's the difference?

Turning to the second part of your message - yes, this question is not an easy one. It is hard to deny your right about good marketing, but I am talking about this: piracy is not ethical in some circumstances and very unethical in others.
But this raises another question. Not about the ethics, but about profit. And it seems to me to be solved, rather, consistent with the specific situation. Someone is using to advertise my blog. Someone is trying to take the maximum number of trading sites. And so on.
By the way, and you are sure that we are talking about ethics? :)

tompe
04-14-2010, 11:47 AM
OK.

It is unethical because the work on the book, as we are with you well know, takes time and effort. Often, even more than work in any other place. But it's not the point.
We do not think that we'll get a free meal at a restaurant just because we are hungry? So what's the difference?

The difference is that you do not have an unlimited supply of the food. The suplly of electronic copies of a books is in practice unlimited.

Elfwreck
04-14-2010, 02:48 PM
Sturgeon's Law has gone and squared itself, or maybe cubed itself. We don't have ten Twains or Dickenses or Kiplings writing today. We don't even have one.

Sure we do. Many of them.
You just can't *find* them for all the schlock being published. (And I'm not anti-schlock; I enjoy Harlequin romances and urban fantasy, no matter how formulaic they are.)

When thousands of books were published every year, a discerning person could read a few reviews (okay, a lot of reviews), and with a bit of effort, track down one or two very good books, and over the course of a decade, pick one that stood out as truly enduring and likely to become part the foundations of literature as we know it.

Those books are still being published; they're just swamped. Writing quality hasn't dropped any (although publishing editorial review has, in many places), but the difference between finding one or two books among thousands, and ten or twenty (or 100-200) good books among millions is beyond human capacity. A single person no longer has the time to find the really good books; he can happen across some by luck, but has no way of systematically searching for them.

Add in the self-publishing nightmares--since the 1980s, everyone with a printer thought he could write a book. And some of those people are excellent authors who couldn't possibly have reached mainstream publishers (because they write about subjects too weird, or because they're socially maladapted, or because they excel at blog posts not novels, or whatever) but most are just talentless amateurs who've been fooled by spellcheck programs into thinking they can write. Sturgeon's law applies to mainstream published works; I think it's closer to 99% for amateur work.

There are *gems* out there... but we've moved from "find the needle in the haystack" to "find the grains of diamond sand on the beach."

There's no more great literature being written today than there was fifty or a hundred years ago.

Sure there is. Including in genres and styles that couldn't be published a hundred years ago. There's just so much more of everything else that it's much, much harder to find.

I've seen novels written as fan fiction, by amateurs, that are better than a disturbing percentage of the published novels out there. ... Some of them write abominably, most of them write simply poorly, a few write well, and a rare handful write on a professional level. Without royalties. Without reading fees. Without any money at all.

I suspect that the reason no publisher or author has actually sued a fanfic writer for copyright infringement, is that the court failure would crack open the marketplace in a way that *terrifies* the big trademark-fandom companies. There've been C&D orders, but AFAIK no actual lawsuits for copyright infringements.

Because while a lot of fanfic, like a lot of any other kind of literature, is badly-written tripe, some of it is breathtakingly excellent--and some of the best writing is the stuff that the original authors would be most deeply offended about.

Therefore, there is no social benefit to extending copyright beyond a writer's lifetime, and even less to authors getting paid any time someone reads their work.

The social benefit to extending copyright beyond an author's death is to encourage late-in-life publications that he knows will benefit his family. It's also to encourage his family to publish posthumously; otherwise, why should they bother? Why not just put their own names on the work and get the benefit of copyright? Books "by the son of Stephen King" (if he were hit by a bus tomorrow) wouldn't be quite as popular as books by Stephen King, but if the other choice is releasing it to the public domain, the family might take the loss in sales.

It also prevents weird murders; if copyright ended on death, I'm sure it'd have occurred to *several* companies & weird individuals that Rowling doesn't normally wear a kevlar vest. Harry Potter books, movies and merchandise are worth millions; that's more than enough motive for murder.

riemann42
04-15-2010, 02:49 AM
@riemann42: Authors don't deserve to get paid when I read their work any more than woodworkers deserve to get paid when I sit at their tables, or sewing machine operators deserve to get paid when I wear their clothes.


Fascinating rant, all the way through. It got a little weird when you starting rating about the lack of good modern literature, but I will refer to Elfwreck's response to that

So I offered two base ethical arguments concerning copyright that, while not mutually exclusive, at least came from different perspectives.

1) A system of ethics which assumes it is immoral to violate a contract entered into in good faith. Therefore, violating copyright in any way is immoral. The problem with this argument is that it comes down to a legalistic argument fairly quickly, and enters into complicated territory which varies from country to country, etc.

and

2) A system of ethics that argues that an author deserves to get paid when I read his book. While I think your woodworking example is ridiculous in the extreme, the sentiment is understood. This position is very difficult to apply, and as I have mentioned before, has some bizarre implications. Do I deserve to get paid for this post? I think not!


So is there any basis for an ethical argument one way or the other on the issue raised by the article???

EDIT: I will answer my own question. Yes, the 1st case I made above. In the end when it comes to copyright, the ethics are, in general, in line with the law, as copyright is a legal construction. Any attempt to remove it from this context and move to some sort of larger ethical issue about compensation causes long rants by Worldwalker.

Iphinome
04-15-2010, 03:24 AM
1) A system of ethics which assumes it is immoral to violate a contract entered into in good faith. Therefore, violating copyright in any way is immoral. The problem with this argument is that it comes down to a legalistic argument fairly quickly, and enters into complicated territory which varies from country to country, etc.



Without getting into an argument over technicalities Would you agree that if the copyright holder broke the contract infringement would no longer be immoral at least for people using example number one?

LDBoblo
04-15-2010, 04:35 AM
I'm glad we can all agree on this. Please remember to seed generously. :bookworm:

jonsbjons
04-15-2010, 09:08 AM
The difference is that you do not have an unlimited supply of the food. The suplly of electronic copies of a books is in practice unlimited.

Yes, this is the reason we are talking about ethics. And earnings, right?
Here I would add that I am personally not interested in the question but in the answer: what to do?
Addressing at the legislative level, yet does not help, as we can see.
However, this only thought, but would like something specific.
Do not be rude of me to ask: you are personally faced with the problem of piracy in their activities?
(Maybe open a separate topic?)

GA Russell
04-15-2010, 01:51 PM
I imagine that all of us believe that it is unethical to take what doesn't belong to you, or to use something without the owner's permission.

In the case of library books, we have that permission. But I don't think we have anyone's permission to use the dark net. That's why it's called the dark net!

daesdaemar
04-15-2010, 03:30 PM
I'm glad we can all agree on this. Please remember to seed generously. :bookworm:

Cute...:D

Shaggy
04-15-2010, 06:03 PM
The social benefit to extending copyright beyond an author's death is to encourage late-in-life publications that he knows will benefit his family. It's also to encourage his family to publish posthumously; otherwise, why should they bother? Why not just put their own names on the work and get the benefit of copyright? Books "by the son of Stephen King" (if he were hit by a bus tomorrow) wouldn't be quite as popular as books by Stephen King, but if the other choice is releasing it to the public domain, the family might take the loss in sales.

It also prevents weird murders; if copyright ended on death, I'm sure it'd have occurred to *several* companies & weird individuals that Rowling doesn't normally wear a kevlar vest. Harry Potter books, movies and merchandise are worth millions; that's more than enough motive for murder.

That's why copyright should be for a fixed length (like it was originally) and have nothing to do with the life/death of the author. It would solve all those issues.

Shaggy
04-15-2010, 06:09 PM
In the case of library books, we have that permission. But I don't think we have anyone's permission to use the dark net. That's why it's called the dark net!

The receiver of copyrighted content does not require anyone's permission. You don't need the author's/publisher's permission to check a book out from the library, or to download an eBook.

The distributor of copyrighted content certainly does. It's an often misunderstood, but very important, difference.

Joebill
04-15-2010, 06:42 PM
I'll agree that there is lots of dreck out there; however, I doubt any here will agree on what is dreck and what is not dreck.

As an example: I will some years buy and read a book called 'The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy' of a particular year.

Some of those stories are very good. Some years I read it say to myself 'If that is the best, the rest is worthless'. I have found some excellent stories that 'series' never printed. So, my opinion is it isn't the best, but more what the editor wanted to print.

Some folks may not like Harlan Ellison's 'Dangerous Visions' stories, 3 volumes, but they got you to think. Even if I find the story offensive, I like stories that get me to think.

I have read books and short stories that were extremely popular, and I wondered on some of them Why ? I felt they were not worth the paper printed on.

Other books I have read, barely on the public reader's radar, I found very excellent swriting.

I have found several stories and books online due to free ereader sites I would highly likely never found otherwise. Some of them were very well written. Some not.

Have I been tempted to write and upload ?

Yes, but it wont happen yet.

At least it wont cost me money to hire a vanity press publisher, I can do it myself.

Which is what I might do with some of my poems, and anthology of previous poems, with 50-100 new ones added on to that.

Dreck and good stories, like gold, is where you find them.

tompe
04-15-2010, 07:39 PM
I imagine that all of us believe that it is unethical to take what doesn't belong to you,


If it does not belong to anybody then it is no problem taking it. And a copy does not belong to anybody.

riemann42
04-15-2010, 11:25 PM
Without getting into an argument over technicalities Would you agree that if the copyright holder broke the contract infringement would no longer be immoral at least for people using example number one?

That would be consistent with the ethical system I mentioned.

HOWEVER, entering into a contract, either implicitly or explicitly, where you know the other party is not going to meet their end AND you intend to break it because of this seems to be very duplicitous and unethical.

NOTE: I am not sure I agree with the position that contract infringement is the ethical issue at stake, but it seems to be the case with many folks around here. I still think the moral issues really only apply when you use a fair compensation for services rendered model, but I have been called a Marxist for making that argument in the past, and it has been beaten to death.

Iphinome
04-16-2010, 12:06 AM
riemann42 well I would have eventually made the point that retroactive copyright extension is breach of contract.