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Old 08-04-2008, 08:03 PM   #61
Ralph Sir Edward
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I've always wondered what would happen to the RIAA, if some of the innocent people got a sharp lawyer and countersued under the RICO statue.....

It certainly sounds like extortion to me.....
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Old 08-05-2008, 01:26 AM   #62
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I think I am probably right in guessing that almost every person contributing to this debate has a library card. With that card you have access to virtually every book and many more that has been posted. Quite simply, with the rich tradition of free public libraries, downloading books is not the same morally as downloading music. And it should not be treated the same legally. As a lawyer, I look for factual distinctions that would cause a principle of law to be applied differently. Recording of broadcast material for time-shifting personal use is protected, at least in the U.S. Books are altogether different in their use and availability in that people will go through a much smaller number of books compared to music tracks and videos. The option of browsing books has heretofore only been able to be done in a bookstore or a library (I exclude personal collections of books). The denial of royalties to authors is a built-in part of the book business in that books are lent and bought as used. The downloading of books essentially accomplishes two things: 1) providing a means to browse books separate from a bookstore or library; and 2) saves the labor of either purchasing the book as used or borrowing it through interlibrary loan if not directly from the local library (I think it important to add that probably many of us only have access to meager libraries). Therefore, in the final analysis, equating the criminality of downloading music to downloading books just doesn't seem to fit in that the downloading of books does not represent much in the way of economic loss to authors because there are other legal means to acquire the book and bypass the royalties. In the case of a person downloading hundreds or even thousands of books, the act of creating a personal repository of books serves the same purpose for that person as going to the library or bookstore-an opportunity to browse, sample, and explore-not to exploit the creative energies of the author.
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Old 08-05-2008, 01:37 AM   #63
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I must respectfully disagree. The purpose of the RIAA is not to "be nice" to people, but to punish criminals.
And they are very good at lobbying international trade bodies to negotiate treaties that require signatory governments to create new crimes that people will commit, thus enabling the RIAA to send their lawyers after them.

Hint: the technical term for this is "rent seeking", and if there was any real justice in the world, the RIAA and MPAA would be on the receiving end of a RICO indictment.

Second (heavy) hint: the money they collect does not, for the most part, go to musicians, artists, and other creative types: it goes to the RIAA and MPAA.

Third hint: they've turned lawsuits into a profit centre -- a practice sometimes known as barratry, and regretably not currently a felony in its own right.

Bluntly, they're scum -- gangsters and extortionists who have figured out that lobbying for their business model to be legalized is the quick route to profits. They're strangling actual creativity in the crib, and damaging our social infrastruture in the process.

(I speak as a full-time professional novelist whose works are, from time to time, pirated, and who considers your proposed cure to be infinitely worse than the disease.)
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Old 08-05-2008, 03:26 AM   #64
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Sure, they make the occasional mistake, but I'm a big fan of the RIAA, overall. Knowing that you're liable to lose your house if you share files illegally is surely going to make people think twice about doing it, don't you think?
No, I don't.

Let's consider just whose interests are being served.

We agree, I think, that the rights of the creators should be preserved, and the the artists should benefit from their work. We can further agree that piracy is wrong because it violates those rights.

Now, let's contrast two roughly equivalent situations.

Consider the author who sells a book to a publisher. The publisher makes a guess as to how well the book will sell, and offers the author an advance against the royalties the book will generate. If the book "earns out", and generates enough royalties to cover the advance, the author can expect additional payments. If the book doesn't earn out, the advance is all the author will see. Most books don't earn out (and most agents try to negotiate a high enough advance that the book won't earn out.)

If the publisher guesses wrong, pays the author a big advance, and the book tanks, the author still has the money. The wrong guess is on the publisher.

When a band signs with a record label, they get a signing fee which is essentially an advance against royalties. Production costs to record and produce, manufacture, and distribute the album, marketing and promotional expenses, and tour support all get charged to the band. If the record company guesses wrong and the album tanks, the band will not only be dropped from contract, but might just find the record company trying to recover the signing fee from them.

(Can you imagine publishing if publishers tried to recover the advance from an author whose book didn't sell?)

I know a guy who worked his way through college playing bass in a metal band. His band was the house band for a local club, played the local club circuit, and served as an opening act when national bands came through on tour. They got paid in cash after each gig. He described opening for national bands touring in support of platinum albums who borrowed money from his band because they were broke! Is it possible to be a star act with a platinum album on the charts and be broke? It is if you sign with a major US label...

The record industry behaves a lot like the film industry - screw the creators and keep the revenue. Have you noticed how folks whose film contracts specify they get a cut of the net get nothing, because somehow, after the accountants are through, they isn't any net, no matter how large the grosses are?

The record industry is a lot like that with bands they sign. Bands sent out on tour may get just enough of a stipend to pay the bare expenses. The record company keeps the grosses.

And the record industry has forgotten how to develop and market acts. Once upon a time, they realized it took time for an act to build an audience, and expected low initial sales. Now, an act is likely to be dropped from the contract if the first album doesn't go double platinum out of the box, and what the record companies turn out is more of the same. If you aren't a hip-hop act, boy band, or Britney Spears clone, you might have problems getting a record company to pay attention...

When I buy albums, I buy them from the band at a gig. That way, I know they're getting the money. I don't know that if I buy the CD in a store or from the record company's website, but I strongly suspect they don't.

The record companies cry the blues about how record sales are flat or down and blame it all on piracy. There's no question about whether they might simply be doing a poor job of choosing who to sign, or of marketing them when they do, or of having unrealistic expectations of how well an act will sell, or pricing the CDs out of the market. Oh, no, it couldn't possibly be a failure on their part -- it's all those dirty file sharing pirates.

And I know people who get MP3s through file sharing. You know what the usual result is? They decide they like the band, go to see them when they play gigs in the area, and buy the albums. Does that sound like anything you might be familiar with, like, say, the Baen Free Library?

So what do the record companies do? They call upon the RIAA. Cstross is being polite when he calls them scum, gangsters, and extortionists. In their attempts to stop piracy, all they are actually doing is making themselves laughingstocks, and giving the record companies an even worse image than they already (deservedly) have.

There's a reason why more and more acts are going the indie route and promoting themselves and selling directly over the internet, rather than taking the questionable benefits of signing with a major label. They are less likely to get screwed.

Whose interests are served by the actions of the RIAA? Certainly not the artists.

You can be a big fan of the RIAA if you like, but I'd suggest looking a bit more closely at just what you're being a fan of. Personally, I like to look at myself in the mirror and like what I see. If I supported the RIAA, I couldn't.

{Incidentally, regarding your desire to go after the uploader? Look at the specs for the bit torrent protocol widely used for this. Just which uploader did you have in mind?)
______
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Old 08-05-2008, 08:46 AM   #65
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It's always good to know that copyright infringement is a more serious crime than, say, killing a pedestrian because you were speeding or even murdering someone.

Besides, the MAFIAA uses/used MediaSentry who themselves are breaking the law (they are not licensed PIs), so their indentification method is actually illegal. Secondly, their monetary claims are unconstitutional. Thirdly, they have repeatedly lied to the court or withheld important information/rulings.
These three reasons are coming around now to bite them in the ass. There's a reason they weren't seeking criminal lawsuits.

Not to mention that lobbying for a surveillance state is clearly the way to go!
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:18 AM   #66
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Look at what Project Gutenberg US has done with their Distributed Proofreading? Why not hire people to do proofreading the same way?
First, you need to define what you mean by proofreading. It has multiple meanings within the publishing industry. If what you mean is to compare the OCR version against the original version and mark OCR errors, then probably most liuterate people could do it. If you mean checking the editing work, then most people cannot do it -- even though they think they can.

Second, volunteer proofreading for PG will get some well-qualified proofreaders volunteering because PG is seen as a worthy cause. I don't know any professional proofreader who will donate their time and expertise to John Wiley or Random House.

Third, if the volunteer prospect would work for commercial publishers, I think they would have tried it by now. Instead they are trying to get professional proofreaders to accept pay rates significantly lower than what they were even in 1995.
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:24 AM   #67
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The best word to describe our current situation, regarding e-book piracy, copyright infringement and legal interpretation, across international boundaries, would probably be "churn."

We are at the head of a young and wildly-growing industry... or more accurately, a new section of an old industry. It is much like a section of ground bordering the ocean that has only recently been opened to direct connection with the water: While the older, established beaches have been worked by erosion into smooth sand and pleasant tidal action, the new section becomes crashing waves, riptides and jagged rocks before erosion gets to work on it.

E-books represent that new, jagged shoreline... the forces of economic nature are working on it, but they haven't been at it long enough to smooth out the edges and give us nice beaches yet. And there's really little the consumer can do to rush the process... like erosion, economic forces usually happen at their own pace.

All other media... books, movies, radio, television... have been through similar "churn" periods, enduring various amounts of economic chaos until the organizations concerned, usually with a little help from government-imposed regulation, worked out standards and methods of practice, figured out profit models, and cooperated in such a way as to make themselves and their customers happy. (Actually television did not have much of a "churn" period, as it largely used the already-established radio model). Today, books, movies, television and radio are enjoyed by the public, and profited upon by the corporations... a nice, soft, friendly beach for all.

History shows that when the public as a whole is satisfied with a particular market, they accept the conditions of that market, and losses from theft are reduced to easily acceptable levels. In such an atmosphere, we would not see massive piracy from the Darknet or Torrents, just as we do not at present have a serious bootleg television show problem (TV gets its profit from advertisers, often before their shows are even broadcast).

So right now, the onus is on the corporations (and, to an extent, on cooperating international governments) to create their publicly acceptable market. So far, the public has resisted all efforts at corporate or government imposition of any semblance of order, mainly as they have felt that the result has not yet been beneficial to them (DRM, high prices and conflicting formats do not a happy consumer make). This means the corporations (and governments) need to work harder to ensure an even playing field, to create a market that they and their users will be happy with.

Until they do, we'll continue to see "churn." But eventually, the economic forces will erode all the jagged edges down to comfortable levels. We'll just have to wait it out, and try not to cut our feet on the rocks in the meantime.
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:27 AM   #68
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. . ., but regarding prostitution, it is perfectly legal in my country. I do agree that making prostitution illegal creates a victim - the prostitutes.
Unfortunately, Acidzebra, the United States has a puritanical streak that makes many moral choices crimes. And because the individual participants do not consider themselves victims of a crime, the only way to legislate morality is to make the state the victim. Consensual prostitution (as opposed to forced prostitution) between adults is one example; homosexuality (i.e., consensual relations between adult homosexuals) is another. And while prostitution may be legal in your country, as it is in a number of countries, there are undoubtedly other moral crimes for which the victim is the state rather than the participants.
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:52 AM   #69
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In the case of a person downloading hundreds or even thousands of books, the act of creating a personal repository of books serves the same purpose for that person as going to the library or bookstore-an opportunity to browse, sample, and explore-not to exploit the creative energies of the author.
While I agree with you in general that the downloading of books is not significantly impacting the revenues of authors, I don't agree that it is the equivalent of borrowing a book from a library.

In many countries, e.g. the UK, library loans are tracked and authors are compensated. Even in the US, library loans affect which books libraries decide to buy, so a book which is borrowed frequently may be purchased again by the same library (the first copy may wear out, or in the case of large libraries and very popular books, the library may decide to keep more than one copy in holdings), may be recommended to other libraries, or (most frequently) more books by that author may be purchased by the library. These are often "Library Editions" which have higher quality bindings and are more expensive, and generate more revenue for the author.

In contrast, no one (that I know of) is tracking torrents and making purchase decisions based on which books are downloaded most frequently. So the cases are not really equivalent.

Downloading books is also not the same as buying used books, as the number of copies of used books are limited, so the impact on the author's potential revenue is limited. However, I would like to see vendors of commercial ebooks use the used book market as a pricing model, because I think it would be a reasonable approach to factoring in the lack of resale value of ebooks.
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Old 08-05-2008, 11:28 AM   #70
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They should do like Koreans.
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Old 08-05-2008, 11:40 AM   #71
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The purported goal of the RIAA is laudable.

Their methods are immoral and border on the criminal. My next door neighbor had an unsecured wireless connection; so anyone with a laptop could have used her connection to download. The RIAA would have gone after her in a heartbeat.

One major problem I have with the RIAA is that they have a habit of dropping any case where they have a chance of losing.

As cstross said they are treating it as a money-making opportunity much more than piracy prevention.
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Old 08-05-2008, 01:54 PM   #72
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In such an atmosphere, we would not see massive piracy from the Darknet or Torrents, just as we do not at present have a serious bootleg television show problem (TV gets its profit from advertisers, often before their shows are even broadcast).
I think this is an important contrast point because it is only partially true. In the US this is probably a minor problem but for the rest of the world it is not.
Getting a current TV series (should one actually not suck horribly) in mainland Europe within a reasonable timeframe and for a reasonable price is just about impossible. Shows typically air 1-2 years after they premier in the US, if they are aired at all. If they are aired, they are normally horribly dubbed and only very few stations offer dual-audio (which is then mono btw). DVD releases aren't viable either because of the price and because they are delayed as well. Lastly, iTunes and all the other legal online services are US-only.

I think this would be a nice demonstration for the publishers if they ever did a study comparing TV series downloading in the US, Canad and the UK vs. the rest of the world.
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Old 08-05-2008, 01:59 PM   #73
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There's a fairly simple solution to the whole piracy problem, anyway -- not just books, but films and music and software too:

1. Legalize it,

2. Put a tax levy on all ISP mediated internet connections,

3. Organize a licensing agency to distribute the tax revenue to creators.

Part #3 is the hard bit, but if downloading of copyrighted media is legal, there's no reason for users to hide their activities, and so participating in a ratings scheme (to track popularity of downloads) shouldn't be problematic.

There are plenty of surveys out there that say most folks would be happy to pay on the order of $5-10 a month for legal, free, access to all the copyrighted media they can eat; pitch it at the public as "conscience money" and at the creative industries as their new, easy-to-administer revenue stream, and there you go: everybody wins, and we can forget all this nonsense about piracy and copyright infringement, and move on.

(Yes, there's a lot of detail work to sort out in order to make a system like this work, and the biggest issues are: disruptive new mesh networking technologies, and how to extend it internationally -- the internet takes little notice of borders. But I think it would certainly work better than the current mess ...)
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Old 08-05-2008, 02:14 PM   #74
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I think pirated ebooks are pretty annoying to read on computers for most people and people with ebook readers are certainly in a niche market. People who buy ebook readers AND support piracy are even more rare, but, for the time being, with the current software and hardware available, those people are in a pretty sweet spot at the moment.

I wouldn't know anything about all that though
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Old 08-05-2008, 02:31 PM   #75
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2. Put a tax levy on all ISP mediated internet connections,
Ah... no thank you!
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