The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Friday, May 01, 2009

Steal This Movie!

You know, I loathe the whole "information wants to be free" attitude, and consider internet "sharing" of copyrighted files nothing more or less than stealing. That said, I have to admit there are some instances of stealing that have more of my sympathy than others. I'm starting to wonder if the people who released a work print of "Wolverine" to the public via the net weren't doing it in protest of what seems like a lousy movie. Doesn't excuse it, and if I was on the jury, they're doing time. But I'd be laughing, just a little. Wow...those reviews! Hugh Jackman seems a nice and talented guy, but damn..!

##

I was in touch with an old friend, commenting on how meeting Tananarive was like getting hit with a ton of bricks. Within 48 hours, we just KNEW. My friend had a similar experience. The pastor of a church, she and her husband (co-pastor) had been somewhat separated, and she met a lady in the congregation and spent the next months trying to pretend there wasn't something happening. Then one day the denial broke down and right in front of everyone, they just grabbed each other. Wow...THAT must have been a scene. In the face of accusations of sin and promises of hellfire, my friend "Trish" just changed everything in her life, alienating family and friends, to follow her heart. That is courage. Must have been devastatingly difficult. The New Testament DOES make negative comments about (Romans Chapter I) but Christ himself never says anything specific, and I personally consider the logic trying to make homosexuality a greater sin than divorce rather tortured.

Love, to me, is such a precious thing. It is one of the few basic human damn-near-rights, and those pushing against gay marriage are simply going to lose. I'm so happy--there are just much more important things to worry about than whether Jason married Jane or Jimmy. And yeah, I'd flinch if he brought home a boyfriend, I promise you. But I'd also know that was MY stuff, not his.

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But the real question was: how many of you have ever just been hit upside the head like that? Just been whalloped? I think that my reaction to Tananarive can be explained logically (hah!) as a deep loneliness on my path as a writer, combined with a sense deep down that I'd been traveling in a foreign land, among perfectly nice people who always treated me as an exotic. I didn't want to be exotic. I just wanted to be Steve. And when T and I were sitting in the Atlanta airport, our heads together, talking about how we could build an empire together, I noticed that no one was paying any attention at all. Which had never been true with any of the white girls I'd dated. There was ALWAYS a little negative attitude from some of the passers-by. And I had lost track of how much energy it takes to deflect those little daggers. And that part of me, somewhere deep inside, was tired of it. Oh, I could have gone on. And happily would have, for the right woman. But it wears at you. And something inside me just said "yes." Ever happened to you?

##

There's some kind of Immigrant Rights rally in L.A. today. I have to admit to being a bit annoyed at the attempt to control the language. I wasn't aware that immigrants didn't have rights. It's ILLEGAL immigrants who have some problems. I always thought that the "Ugly American" image, being discourteous when visiting in another land, was terrible, and I've tried to be especially polite whenever traveling. I am quite certain of something: I always believed that Mexicans had the right to decide who should enter their country, and how those people should behave once there. By MY standards, illegal immigrants are being, at the least, discourteous. However, it is also inarguable that many people of whatever country believe it is their right to enter or manipulate or control another country and its resources in any way they can. America has certainly done it's share of this, so there is an element of "turnaround is fair play" in Mexicans immigrating to where the work is. But I don't have to like it, and no one who maintains they have the right to do so could simultaneously deny our right to protect our borders. No organism or country can survive without defining what is "it" and what is "not-it." Survival is survival. I have no idea how this will all shake out.

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A long time ago, Dan Moran said that "finances" should be included in the basic structure of life, along with career, fitness/health, and relationship. I maintained that finances can be seen as a sub-set of career. I've made a decision that I have the first three balanced well enough that I can afford to add "finances" as a specific arena to be specifically addressed separate from the others. It is one of the only areas of my life where I'm not clear on myself. I've made tons of money, but specifically managing it has never been a strength. That ends now. It's gonna be slow and probably uncomfortable at times, but it's time to widen my vision a bit. I think.

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I love Peter O'Donnell's "Modesty Blaise" novels, and hope someone will put the whole run of the comic strips (40 years! A world record, I think, for one writer) on CD-Rom or whatever. Back in the 70's there was a BBC radio play of "Last Day In Limbo" and I found a download of it on the internet. Since I can't find it to purchase, I have no compunctions about downloading for free. Is that hypocritical?

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So far, reviews of the new "Star Trek" have been, well...stellar. Ahem. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes? Outrageous. I suspect we have a major contender for biggest movie of the year.

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I feel very sorry for the people who feel that morality and personal safety are somehow in conflict. That in order to protect our bodies, families or countries we have to become something we previously thought shameful. I think this group overlaps with those who are shocked (shocked, I say!) at the idea of talking to our enemies. That, in my mind, is just fear and weakness. Speaking to, communicating with those who would harm you is strength. I've spoken with several of them, and invariably, they say they have enemies in their lives. I myself have none that I know of. There HAVE been people who had an issue with me, and in every case I sought them out, and the conversation reduced the tension. Almost every time, the problem was based on a misunderstanding. I HAVE had people try to push me into violence, threaten violence, try to hurt or rob me. And every time, communication was the key. I want to caution anyone who thinks that I'm namby-pamby about this that I'm also quite prepared for violence. I just think that most of the time, people's behavior is understandable in the context of "everyone feels alone and afraid." And those who think we should not speak with our enemies are coming from a belief that those enemies are irrational and beyond/beneath understanding. These people are the same as those of our enemies who simply believe we are evil. I'd like to give both groups knives, and lock them in a room. Then let the rest of us reasonable folks work it out.

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I'm pretty happy with Obama's first 100 days. The guy moved into a burning house, and seems to be carrying himself with enormous dignity and class. He is making people on both wings unhappy (too much! Not enough!) which strikes me as evidence that he is actually acting out what I heard in his campaign rhetoric...and much much more than most politicians. I really don't think most politicians are liars in the traditional sense. I think that the task of governing a gigantic nation damn near wipes plain talk from the table, unless you can ignore huge swathes of the public, and just not care what they think. But the more of a democracy you have, the more difficult that gets. I couldn't live that way. I have to admit that I'm praying that Obama does a bang-up job, not just because America as a whole needs it, but because if he has a successful Presidency, my son Jason will never understand what all the fuss was about, racially. And that is something I would happily die for. But..there is no way to be proud of what he does, unless he helps the entire country. Period. So...fingers crossed.

51 comments:

Chavo said...

Steve, my lady and I were like that. We were introduced and both fought reality for a couple days before we had the talk admitting that both irrationally (pure emotionally), spiritually (how we think the universe actually works and how you should walk in it), and practically we were on the same page and GOING to be together. We don't agree on everything, have our communication issues- but those are nearly always because of language. I was raised more or less, by wolves and mystics, while she-- not so much. It's an interesting thing and confusing to outsiders.

Mike Ralls said...

The first time me and the wife met was for a quick meet and greet and we maybe chatted for one hour before we had to both leave. As soon as we were done my wife then called her mother and told her that she had met the man she was going to marry.

I liked her on that first meeting, but didn't have that strong of a reaction.

Marty S said...

I fell for my wife in a thirty second meeting. Two weeks later I told her we were going to marry, but it took two years before she agreed. Of course I met her at a freshman welcoming dance so there was no real possibility of actually marrying till we both finished college.
Steve:On the talking to people issue. I agree that most times talking to people is better than assuming you can't reconcile differences. I have certainly got off on the wrong foot with people and ended up friends, but there are some people who are just bad news and no matter the communication, no matter how much you talk you are not going to change them. I worked with one such person. The only person in my life whom I have truly hated. He would stab a knife in anybody's back if it would help him get ahead. He destroyed the career, in our company at least, of several people who worked for him. In my case, since I did not work for him all his occasional shenanigans could do was inconvenience me and usually hurt the company more than me personally. Steve, I really tried talking to him many times. There was one fellow Walter who worked for him who was one of the best computer people I've known. He and I would talk and I knew he was unhappy with how Scott treated him. I went to Scott on Walter's behalf and told Scott we would lose him if he didn't start treating him differently. Nothing I said could get through to Scott and so the company lost another really good employee.
On the political front Nevil Chamberlain talked to and tried to appease Hitler and you know where that got the world. More recently, Jimmy Carter definitely a peace loving man talked to the Iranians about our hostages and it got no place. But, as soon as Reagan was elected and took office the hostages were the way home because they knew they faced a man who would act rather than just talk.
I totally agree that "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent." That's because the competent realize when violence is necessary before it is a last resort and are willing to use it to prevent worse violence as a last resort.

Brian Dunbar said...

how many of you have ever just been hit upside the head like that? Just been whalloped?I denied it for a long, long time. Because I was already married.

To me, then, didn't matter that the marriage was loveless and that the woman was slow poison to everyone around her. Didn't matter that she'd cheated on me. I made a vow and that was that.

Then one day I came to my senses and realized it takes two to make a marriage and it takes a real fool to uphold vows for a partnership that only one person is honoring.

Lucky for me, She was still waiting.

Steve Perry said...

Star-crossed ...

My wife and I were born in the same hospital two days apart. We were in the same nursery together.

We first met formally at thirteen, when she moved into our neighborhood. I asked her out at seventeen. We got married at nineteen. If we make it to November, it'll be forty-five years we've been together, forty-three of them hitched.

It hasn't always been a walk in the park, mind you, but I knew she was the one from the first date. I think it took her a little longer -- she came from a family where the men didn't stick around.

I think I'm off probation. I hope ...

Chavo said...

Stve P- So if you make it to November, will you move to California?

Wait, that's if we make it through December....

Ximena Cearley said...

Modesty Blaise has been reprinted in large-format books (paper, not ebooks)--you can obtain them at your local comics emporium.

Mike Ralls said...

On the not talking to enemies on the personal level-thing; Remember when you asked people how they handled crazymakers? The number one advice was to cut off contact and don't talk to them.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Actually, it's oddly hard for me to say, about the meeting thing.

Out of all the people I can think of that I've found romantically or sexually attractive at all, even for a matter of months, there are seven men and three women for whom I can remember anything distinct about our first meeting, whether it's something the other person said, or a shared interest, or me thinking that person was good looking. Some of those first meeting impressions were fairly slight, though, others stronger. Two of those are guys I later slept with, and a third is the guy I actually married.

Joel isn't the only guy I had a strong reaction to on first meeting, and there isn't anyone, Joel included, that I contemplated marrying within days - too cautious for that. But what I do remember is that he understood me in ways that I really needed to be understood, very quickly. And he also had a complementary set of Thomas Merton books to mine.

He was sure much faster than I was, but then, he's more the sort of person who's sure quickly than I am.

On a side note (and obviously not in reference to Joel):
Which had never been true with any of the white girls I'd dated. There was ALWAYS a little negative attitude from some of the passers-by. And I had lost track of how much energy it takes to deflect those little daggers.I suppose this shows extreme naivete, or something, but I was totally not prepared, when I was in this position, for the fact that there were people my own age who'd have a negative reaction to the white woman/black man thing. I mean, it was twenty years after the Civil Rights movement, so we should all be over that, right? And I still feel like a chicken for having been so rattled by it.

Dan Moran said...

It goes both ways (and I know Steve knows this, and wouldn't imply otherwise) ... ~27 years ago my black girlfriend & I had our car break down up in Big Bear. We got out and started walking down the mountain, a dangerous walk with blind curves and cars traveling too fast and no roadside to walk on ...

Bunch of white people drove by us, slowed slightly at the sight of me trying to hitch a ride, and then drove on, maybe at the sight of me, or her, or the pair of us ...

A truck full of black men drove by, slowed down and hollered, "Hey, girl! You want a ride? But not him."

She declined, and we walked four miles down the mountain to the gas station, and no one stopped.

~~~~~

By the numbers I've dated about 50% white women, and 50% non-white, over the years. But I've gotten married 3 times to white women. I don't think I'm a racist, but that comfort zone thing Steve describes is real, and probably had something to do with it. My sons look like me ... and if they'd been half Latino or black or asian, they wouldn't as much. Certainly I'd love them every bit as much, but it's probably indicative that, long before my sons were born, I imagined boys that looked like me. And now here they are, and they do. (Well, not like me today; I'm shaved head with a black beard and an eye patch. But they look like I did at their ages.)

Shrug.

I've never had love at first sight. For whatever that's worth. Lust, sure.

Dan Moran said...

And those who think we should not speak with our enemies are coming from a belief that those enemies are irrational and beyond/beneath understanding. These people are the same as those of our enemies who simply believe we are evil. I'd like to give both groups knives, and lock them in a room.Where do I sign up?

:-)

Marty S said...

Steve Perry: Well we have something more or less in common. My wife was also born in the same hospital as me although six months and a few days apart and we have currently been together 45 years.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Actually, my imaginary children always looked like whomever I was sleeping with (despite the fact that my head told me the odds that I'd wind up marrying anyone I met in college were slim). So their race was somewhat variable, for better or worse.

Anonymous said...

I loathe the whole "closed systems tend towards entropy" attitude, and consider "sharing" of solar energy to be nothing more or less than stealing.

In all seriousness, "information wants to be free" isn't a philosophical statement or a political agenda; it's an anthropomorphic description of what amounts to a natural law. Information enters, naturally, instantly, and irrevocably, into what we call the "public domain" as soon as it comes into contact with anyone. We are information-sharing creatures, and that we've developed technology to accomplish that end only improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.

A civilized society, of course, recognizes the value of people making stuff up and gathers together to form agreements ensuring that people who are good at making stuff up will do so full-time. In olden times, this meant rich people sponsoring their favorite artists; more recently, in response to the advent of effective and efficient information-reproduction technologies (i.e. the Gutenberg press and beyond), it resulted in society as a whole granting the creators a legal monopoly on reproduction of their work. This meant that the creator could take civil action against anyone making copies without his permission, thereupon ensuring that, for a time, the creator would have a chance to make money selling copies. Without printing technology, people wouldn't have been able to distribute as many books; without copyright laws, people wouldn't have bothered to write as many as they could print. The combination of technology and law meant that people could suddenly spread their ideas as a full-time occupation without any sponsorship at all.

Which is great.

However:

Referring to "copyright infringement" as "stealing" demeans victims of theft and savagely rapes the English language.

Copyright exists soley and entirely as a legislated incentive for people to create stuff and tell other people about it. It does not somehow alchemically transmute an idea into a tangible good, and belief that it does is a toxic and virulent meme. It does not change the fact that, once replicated, information is factually in the "public domain", even while it remains legally outside of it.

Copying information does not deprive others of that information; nor does prevention of that copy provide any inherent benefit for anyone. However wrong it may be to illegally copy, it is simply unlike stealing, period.

Perpetually extending copyright so that works never, ever enter the public domain? THAT'S theft. We, The People have been deprived of something that should be ours, that WOULD be ours if it were not taken from us by force. If you want to shout "thief", point at Disney, not at The Pirate Bay.

--------------------------------

Today's problem is this: replication technology has been steadily improving. This leads to two concurrent issues:

1) The law, and the social contracts behind it, haven't been keeping up. Once, we started changing how we did things because the technology allowed copies to be made by the creator at a much lower cost than before, and therefore sold for profit; technology has since progressed to the point where copies can be made by the end user for practically no cost whatsoever, but the social contract hasn't adapted. That's not to say the laws haven't changed, however:

2) Corporations and other entities with a vested interest in making money from selling individual copies of information have been warping the intent of copyright law for decades in order to mitigate the impact of improving techologies. The result is The Media Establishment using the law to punish people for, essentially, being people and doing what people do; using technology to punish their own customers for loyally purchasing their products; and basically trying to privatize the public domain and set themselves up as its rent-seeking landlords.

---------------------------------

There's a BtAF cartoon that, perhaps unintentionally, puts light on both sides of this argument.

http://www.angryflower.com/supergo.html

So: Bob makes a copy of the car for free, and the car salesman gets almost nothing. He still has the car he's trying to sell.

On the one hand, this is a terrible injustice against the salesman. All that work, and Bob gets a car without giving him anything for it. He still has the car he was trying to sell, of course, but he'll never be able to sell it to Bob.

On the other hand, this is a man who lives in a world where people can make copies of cars at no cost. WHY IS HE TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING SELLING INDIVIDUAL COPIES OF CARS?

If you're, say, SONY/BMG, the answer to this is to throw money at Congress until it's illegal to not go to the dealer and give them $16,000 for the car, and maybe add a monstrously-expensive-to-develop widget that makes it so the car can't be copied until the widget is removed (and every once in a while keeps the car from running, oops). This will probably be about as successful -- and about as morally defensible -- as eradicating pot or gay sex, but hey, it's your money.

If you're one of those weirdos who take "information wants to be free" literally, like some sort of memetic PETA advocate, your answer is probably something like "that guy who wants compensation for that car is a bad, greedy person." Odds are, incidentally, that you suck at building cars and couldn't get anyone to buy one of yours if you filled the trunk with money.

-----------------------------------

People replicate information. People use technology. Do the math. Do you really want to live in a society that punishes people for being people? (I mean, you know, moreso than you already do?)

Of course you set limits. No, you can't leak a movie early and expect to work in the industry again. No, you can't put your name on someone else's stuff. No, you can't try to sell unlicensed copies for money.

But the world has changed forever. We need to look fresh at why there is such a thing as copyright, and what we want it to mean in the light of modern technology. And we need to take this look before the RIAA gets its own SWAT team.

(And no, that's not hyperbole. Obama's new Copyright Czar is an RIAA lawyer).

-----------------------------------

Some answers? (Fuck if I know, I'm just some asshole who anonymously trolls the intarwebs.)

1) Start adapting the social contract. Start getting people to think that they're not paying you for the work you've done when they buy a copy -- because they know they don't have to -- instead, they're paying for the work you'll do next. Which, if you think about it, is what already happens with creators. except until recently only the publishers you sent stuff to had access to all the stuff you were doing before your first published work. With modern technology, everybody can have that access. Look at webcomics artists: the transition from hobby to full-time-job isn't a one-shot "record contract" leap anymore, it can be a gradual transition.

2) Re-work business models. Let people be stockholders in creative businesses (or even individuals), with the dividends being the works produced. Account for only 30% of people who have access to your work being willing (and/or able) to pay for it (see Radiohead). Try something, anything new to adapt to the fact that the world has changed and can't be changed back.

3) Make copyright reasonable again. Since anything created today won't enter the public domain until sometime after your grandchildren are attending their parent's funerals, we need to loosen up the restrictions a lot, and let people make derivative works and personal-use copies and stuff. Or, you know, go back to that whole "for a limited period" concept codified in the United States Constifuckingtution and make it so that copyrights expire sometime before what is, as far as any living person is concerned, the End of Time.

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(Can you tell I'm bitter about never having met that special someone?)

Debbie C..... said...

I think I am too young to respond. Sooo I will just listen to everything you people say about marriage and meeting the right person.

suzanne said...

I've had the
". . . at first glance"
experience

more than once!

*laughing*

Frank said...

I met my wife and married her one month later.

We will celebrate our 33rd anniversary in July.

But the thing I've learned is that sex and love have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Frank said...

Steve said

I'm pretty happy with Obama's first 100 days.That's because you haven't gotten a handle on finances yet.

Once you do, you'll be less impressed I predict.

And those who think we should not speak with our enemies are coming from a belief that those enemies are irrational and beyond/beneath understanding.So you believe. But there are other possibilities.

For instance it's possible for a group of people to be quite rational but have completely different assumptions upon which their goals are based than another group.

And it could be that the assumptions and goals of the two groups are mutually exclusive with respect to one another.

Now without making a judgment on which is "right" and which is "wrong" (if such is your predilection) it can easily be understood that only one can survive if it turns out that both are competing for the same space.

And it is also easily understood that everyone in these two groups would have to pick a side because not picking a side is not really an option, even though may want to believe otherwise.

Steve Perry said...

Anon --

You a professional writer?

If so, I find your screed amazing.

If not, it seems to me to be an example of somebody whose ox is not being gored, and rather like a person with no children trying to tell someone who has a couple how s/he should raise them.

You sound like a lawyer to me, parsing the notion like Solomon's offer to split the baby in half, and while that's a fine story, I have my doubts as to how well that would work today.

Theft is theft, and you can dance as many angels on the head of a pin and talk about the rape of the language and all, and it won't alter things. And because it is easier to do these days in no way invalidates the wrongness of it.

Thou shalt not steal ... unless, you know, it's really easy to get away with?

I don't leave my keys in the car's ignition, but if I did, that wouldn't make stealing it any less a crime.

How many keys do you have on your key ring? Any?
Because if you do, and you ever lock a door, you acknowledge the concept that dishonest folks might take your stuff.

Laws are -- in theory -- enacted to protect people from other people.

Copyright was set up to protect creative folks.
Copyright was designed to allow a creator to get paid for creating stuff, and if you want to toss it out, you need to come up with something to take its place. Depending on the milk of human kindness to Do The Right Thing is kinda iffy on a good day.

Apply this reasoning to any other product. Say you make soap. The reason somebody should pay for it is because if they don't, you might go out of business and stop making it? How many people you figure give a rat's ass about that? Enough to make up for the thieves who don't?

I see that you have considered your argument at some length. I couldn't disagree with it more, and I suspect most professional writers will find it unpalatable, too.

I suspect that the devil preaching to the choir doesn't get a lot of converts, and it sure sounds like that's what you are doing here ...

Marty S said...

On the copyright thing, I think there are points on both sides of the issue. I believe things like the characters and worlds you create, that is your ideas, are yours and should be protected absolutely 100%. On the other hand most of the I read I take out of the library so I am not paying for them. I don't feel like I am stealing when I do this. I also feel that when I do purchase a song or a movie or a book I am purchasing the right to enjoy it as long as I care to. So I don't feel again I am stealing when I copy a record I purchased to tape and then to CD and then to mp3 I am doing anything illegal. As the technology changes I am simply maintaining the usability of my purchase. In fact I feel that copy protection which prevents a purchaser from continuing to use something they have purchased when the technology obsoletes it is depriving the purchaser of their rights.

Scott Carpenter said...

Steve Perry: I don't think anyone owes you a replacement for the old ways just because the world is changing. Your statement reminds me of something Clay Shirky wrote recently about the problems of the newspaper industry:

http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/

When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.
I think Anon makes a lot of great points. No, I'm not a professional writer, but I think I can still have an opinion about this, and I think it is very much my ox that is being gored in the way that laws are being made to try preserving the old order.

Your comments about stealing are conflating physical goods with information. I lock my doors to protect physical property -- if that property is taken, I lose the use of it. But if you make a perfect copy of my car, it's not a problem for me. Drive your copy away in good health.

The sharing of Wolverine was *wrong* -- it was leaked before publication. This is a problem, and is much more akin to theft in my mind.

There are ways emerging to make a living when everything can be copied freely. Many people won't be as rich as they were before, but I don't mind if rock stars can't afford private jets. Sure, this is all frightening to people, like Mr. Barnes, who have established themselves under one system and are making their living that way.

It's not that I don't want to pay for anything. I'm happy to support the artists whose work I enjoy. I just don't want the harsh laws and restrictions that it would take to effectively enforce copyright in a digital age. I'm a strong believer in Free Software. (Which curiously thrives when the product is given away.) But my own fear is that Free Software wouldn't be allowed to exist in a world of effective copyright control. It couldn't be trusted to remove freedom from its users to do whatever they want to do with the software. Some people would use that software to bypass DRM and infringe copyright, so it would be outlawed.

Please don't think people like Anon and me as simply ungrateful freeloaders. You may actually find some principle in advocates of Free Culture, and a recognition of reality. However painful it may be to get there, it will be better in a world where we don't enforce artificial scarcity.

I think it's important to find ways to reward creative people and encourage works to be created. I want to continue to enjoy good books, music, and movies also. But the old ways of copyright just don't work anymore, and they won't in a free society. I want to keep living in a free society.

This is just a hasty response -- I initially meant to take my time and try to be more coherent in a post on my own site. But Anon's comment and Steve P.'s prompted me to throw my two cents in.

Steve B.: I'd love to discuss more with you -- I've gained such great respect for you and your opinions from reading this blog, and the way you honestly and openly approach so many difficult subjects. And here is an area where I expect we won't see eye to eye, but I'd hope to share out some points you may not have thought about.

Dan Moran said...

I've made about a quarter million dollars as a writer, which would be a good year for me but is an awful career. So feel free to filter that in and leave me out of the category of "professional writer" .... for all practical purposes I'm not one. It's a hobby that never panned out in any meaningful financial sense.

That said, I think I'm much to Anon on this than to Steve Perry. I try to do the right thing in a general sense with copyrighted material, but screw the RIAA, MPAA, and Disney. The fact that the characters in "Gone With the Wind" are still copyrighted is downright shameful, and the steps that the corporations will take to prevent copyright infringement (not for the benefit of the artists or consumers, but for their own benefit) are so injurious to general freedom that I can't see how anyone who values freedom more than copyright could possibly support them.

Steve Perry, you're right: stealing a book is theft even if all you take is someone else's pdf file. So is taking an mp3, or a copy of Photoshop. But seriously, do you want to live in a world where major corporations can monitor your internet traffic so closely that they know whether or not you've stolen one of those things?

I'm guilty: I have stolen pdfs, mp3s, and copies of Photoshop. I justify this by buying copies of the music I listen to, copies of the books I've read as PDFs, and (after I learned to use it) my copy of Photoshop. I've spent well over a hundred thousand dollars on books, software, music, movies, etc., over the years. (I may have spent over $100K just on software. I've certainly spent over $50K on books over the years ...)

I've probably spent $200 on various copies of "Graceland" over the years.

The numbers don't matter much. I'm a good consumer. But I've got about 200 mp3s on my computer right now that I haven't listened to yet, haven't purchased, and for which the RIAA would sue me into the dirt for copyright infringement. The fact that my heart is pure doesn't change the fact that I'm using copyrighted material in an unauthorized and indeed, illegal way.

Fact is, I don't know a single writer who doesn't have music he didn't pay for. I'm sure they're out there, but all of us know they're in the dead minority. Hell, I'm in the minority ... almost all the music I have on my computer was paid for. If half of all professional writers in the world could make the same claim, I'd be stunned.

Let's not talk about what's on my daughters' IPODs. Those things have 60GB drives in them -- at about 3MB per track on average that's 20,000 tracks. Assert a value of $2 per song and that's $40,000 worth of music walking around on the average teenager's IPOD.

"Everyone does it" doesn't make it right, but it does make law enforcement a bitch.

I don't mean to put you and Barnes on the spot, but we're the 3 people in this thread I know have made money as writers, even if I've made a lot less than you have --

Have you really never in your life kept a copy of an MP3 you hadn't paid for? Have you never, back in VCR days, recorded a show on tape ... and kept it? That was illegal too ....

I've been in a lot of writers' houses. I remember, back in the day, the rows (walls) full of VCR tapes that were clearly homegrown, and therefore illegal.

When the law makes criminals of everyone, the law is wrong.

Scott Carpenter said...

Thinking about Photoshop makes me think about how much copyright infringement helps some software companies. Windows usage grew in part due to widespread copying.

It seems pretty clear now that if Adobe could somehow prevent all illegal copying of their Photoshop, it would hurt them because of network effects. Today's "pirate" of Photoshop is tomorrow's demand for paid copies.

People would use the free "GIMP" instead. All those users would draw in more developers. People would grow up using GIMP and knowing it, and Photoshop would greatly fall back in usage and influence.

Just a thought on unintended consequences. Of course, software works differently in many ways than things like books/music/movies.

Anonymous said...

"... how many of you have ever just been hit upside the head like that? Just been whalloped?"I've had two times when I was whalloped and I later learned that it was mutual. Once at first sight (but I didn't realize consciously what had happened); once in slow motion via e-mail. Result: one mostly unhappy emotional attachment, and one now-extinct marriage.

And then there were situations where somebody had a crush on me but one of us was married. That happened enough times that even I noticed the pattern.

I have just not been very good at this Heart chakra stuff. Sigh.


--Erich Schwarz

Steve Perry said...

"Please don't think people like Anon and me as simply ungrateful freeloaders."

Ah, but I do. Why would I not? You want something for nothing.

Building a house you can give to your children to sell or live in isn't any different than creating a book you can leave to them.

If you don't like the idea of intellectual property, that is your right. But the sense of entitlement that generation X and Y seems to have? No. Nobody owes you anything.

Knowledge may want to be free but entertainment has always wanted to be paid for.

I'm not Disney, Dan, nor are most of the people who thrash about trying to tell stories or sing songs. Last time I looked, my private jet was less than smoke and mirrors, and the weblings who want to toss out the old order haven't come up with anything with which to replace it.

I sang that song when I was young and stupid, in the Sixties -- tear it all down, it's corrupt!

Anybody can tear a house down. Where do you live then? You have to build something new, and so far, I'm not hearing anybody tell me where my new roof is supposed to come from.

Rationalizing theft is still just that. Software, books, a loaf of bread.

You don't have to be a writer to have an opinion, certainly. But if you want it to have any weight, you do need to understand more than you seem to.

Your logic fails -- if you pull out a gun and shoot somebody because you feel like it, that's murder. If a whole lot of people do it, it's still murder, and the law isn't wrong just because there are more killers running around.

Sorry, but none of your arguments are compelling, and they all sound like self-serving rationalizations from where I sit.

Scott Carpenter said...

A loaf of bread. If we could make perfect copies of a loaf of bread by pushing a button, would you deny starving people their bread?

Why am I a freeloader? I don't want to download unauthorized copies of your or anyone's work. I'm happy to pay artists for their work. (However, if I "buy" a song, I don't want the rights holder to dictate how many machines I can play it on. How many backup copies I can keep.)

I paid $40 to the Big Buck Bunny project up front, for a DVD of an 8 minute short animated movie, because I was willing to support that work. Big Buck Bunny is available under a Creative Commons license to anyone, yet the work was done. And the software used is all free also.

Copyright is a bargain that has gotten progressively worse for society. What is the deal with retroactive copyright extensions? The work is already done. It is revealed as a protection racket. How long do you think copyright should last for? "Forever minus a day?" I think that will leave our shared culture very poor. We're all building on each other's works. How could you write stories if all of the basic plot elements were all "owned?"

Entitlement and self-serving rationalizations work both ways. Heinlein wrote:

There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-Line

Scott Carpenter said...

I should clarify -- I don't necessarily want to throw out all copyright. (Not right away, at least.) Even Richard Stallman acknowledges that short copyright terms for "non-functional" works may be useful. And I really wouldn't mind if the proprietary stream of culture existed alongside the growing free stream. My concern is for the intrusive laws and technology that will be needed to prop up the proprietary side of things. (The "old" ways.) I won't be able to enjoy software freedom if it is judged a criminal tool that enables copyright infringement. I don't want to force you to give away copies of your work. It's just inevitable that there will be unauthorized copies.

I think with short copyright terms, *most* people will be willing to keep paying for copies, and that may help us in this transitional/disruptive time.

Anonymous said...

"And those who think we should not speak with our enemies are coming from a belief that those enemies are irrational and beyond/beneath understanding."

One can profitably talk with ANYONE, friend or foe, logician or lunatic. The urge to mute communication stems from presumptions about what "talking" means. Talking is habitually conflated with conceding or sympathizing. Talking can equally mean fishing for information, persuading, stalling, dissembling, misdirecting, lying, luring or sounding the Siren’s song. The best counter to those advocating a rigid "no talk" stance is to request they read Machiavelli's The Prince, particular the sections citing master dissemblers King Ferdinand of Aragon and Pope Alexander VI, and Cesare Borgia, who baited a fatal trap for his enemies with the promise of talking to resolve grievances. A more contemporary example is Hitler, who repeatedly used parleys (ex: Munich) to lure and trap his victims, to devastating effect. Although we deplore their aims and viciousness, studying what "talking" meant to such rogues expands our understanding of its multifaceted use and effectiveness. Disposing of Bin Laden et al through "talking", instead of knee-jerk all-out assault, would greatly benefit the US and most concerned.

Ethiopian Infidel

Dan Moran said...

>I'm not Disney, Dan

I know that. I'm not suggesting law that would make things worse for writers -- it's just that I fail to see how current law makes things better. Trust me, I really do understand the "you're a professional writer, of course you're rich" meme -- the average reader flat-out doesn't begin to understand the average writer's finances, and it helps justify the theft of the writer's work in a lot of people's minds.

>and the weblings who want to toss
>out the old order haven't come up
>with anything with which to
>replace it.

I and people like me have built a lot of the infrastructure that makes this infringement possible. It wasn't done with intent to harm copyright holders, but that's been the result in a lot of ways. But short of rolling back the internet, which isn't going to happen, we have to find ways for artists to get paid for their works that don't involve a descent into Big Brother.

What's happening here is an exact parallel of the standard issue gag used ruling classes throughout history -- set the peasants against each other and stay in charge. It's possible, though not guaranteed, that the changes that are coming will end up being of net benefit to artists. But artists need to understand clearly that their enemies aren't the webbies -- it's the people who've been paying us pennies on the dollar for our work for all of history. Now that the means of production are being completely flattened, it's criminal that writers should be making 8 to 12 cents a dollar (or much worse, in the case of tie-ins) for the sales of their work. The costs of selling and marketing a physical book made this business model legitimate, if a little ugly -- but in a world where it costs only a few thousand dollars in man-hours (in production costs, not the artist's time) to produce a book and sell it via amazon.com and read it on a kindle, this is an obnoxious economic model.

I don't know what's going to happen. Things might get worse before they get better, and who said they'd get better? But they might get better, and that's the direction we have to push in, because the transport mechanism of the internet's not going away ever.

Dan Moran said...

Steve Perry -- I sent you email.

Steve Perry said...

" If we could make perfect copies of a loaf of bread by pushing a button, would you deny starving people their bread?"

Oh, sweet baby Jane, spare me the straw men!

If you could fly by flapping your arms, that'd be nice, too, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the discussion at hand, now does it?

If you broke into my house and swiped my loaf of bread that I baked to make your copies, would that be okay, because you were going to feed the starving people? Ends justify the means?

Are we back to Marty's hang the innocent to make sure we get the guilty?

I might be willing to give you part of it, maybe even all of it, but if I worked to earn the money to buy the wheat, and then baked it at my house, why on Earth would you think you had any right to it whatsoever?

You aren't Robin Hood. You aren't stealing from the rich to give it to the poor. You are stealilng from people who created something from nothing and keeping it.

We have a word for that. Lemme see, it's ... ah, yes, here it is: Thief. That's somebody who takes somebody else's property without permission. And now, you want to take away the right to own the property, so you can feel good about swiping it?

Oh, yeah. Right. That's a good one.

My family gets to eat first, if'n I bake the bread, and if you aren't comfortable with that, well, I hope you enjoy life on the commune.

You do have car keys and house keys, right? Ever lock either? Sure, because you worked to get the money to buy your house or your car and you want to keep it. You don't want some thief to make off with your stuff. Imagine that.

So tomorrow, your boss comes in and says, "Look, the old way of you getting a salary for work is inefficient, it's not fair to people who get less, so from now on, you work, and if I feel like paying you for it, I will."

*You* like that model?

Not even to mention we are talking about entertainment, which is not quite the same as feeding the starving masses.

Because it is easy to swipe stuff from the net still doesn't make it right -- morally, ethically, legally.
You can dance all you want to, blow smoke hither and yon, but that's what it comes down to, and we all know it.

As it happens every bit of software on my computer, commercial or shareware, I paid for. Some of the freeware, too. I'm not claiming any high moral ground -- I've swiped stuff before -- but I know it for what it is and I'm not trying to rationalize it as anything else.

If I run the stop sign and get a ticket, my fault, and I'll pay it. I won't claim that because a lot of people do it, it's okay and I shouldn't have to pay the fine.

Stealing Photoshop actually benefits the company?
Oh, I love that one. Rape okay because it gives the victim sexual experience they can use?

Sure, enforcement may be an absolute bear, but we aren't talking about the war on drugs, which comes from a law designed to protect people from themselves. There are places where suicide (or attempting it) is illegal. As long as you don't jump of a building and take somebody with you when you hit, that's none of Uncle Sam's bailiwick, either.

Laws are supposed to protect people against the unjustified initiation of force -- and that includes assorted forms of thievery.

You want to swipe stuff and you can get away with it, that's your choice. Just don't pee on my shoe and tell me it's raining -- I ain't buying it.

Anonymous said...

Look at the bigger picture of what's changing with creative works due to technology. Regardless of which side you're on, the debate on copyright and infringement is de facto over, barring multinational draconian monitoring and enforcement. If you focus on it, you're reacting rather than looking where to step next. If your focus is on how to make your next dollar, it's past time to move on.

(1) It's much easier to get your creative works published now than it ever has been in history. The cost is lower, and you can do a lot more of the work yourself.

(2) Depending on the mechanism you use to do so, you can get more of the total proceeds, however large they are.

(3) People appreciate free things, and since it's easier for you make it available, it's easier for you to get them interested in what you have to offer.

(4) Once you have someone interested, you can offer other things that people will pay for. The model for how to do so is MUCH more interactive than it used to be - you have to engage your clients and create value for them.

(5) How? Steve, you're already doing it! The workshops and teaching you've done, and programs like Lifewriting that you've set up fit very well with this paradigm.

(6) Where's it headed? We're partway through a transformation right now, and it's confusing people. Kevin Kelly has a great article that explores the logical conclusion of the current trend.

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/01/better_than_fre.php

Think about how close to that world we are now, where we were ten years ago, and twenty five years ago. The times, they are a changin'. Duplication technology - the printing press - made being an author more profitable, now more advanced duplication technology is changing the playing field again.

Note: I respect where Steve Perry's coming from on an ethical level. By the current laws of the land, copyright infringement is - yes - a crime. And, if you want to break those laws while they still exist, you shouldn't be too surprised if there are consequences. (Although in practice very little copyright infringement is persecuted!) He's calling it like he sees it, regardless of other issues, and I respect that clarity.

Personally, I use only free software, and don't infringe on copyright - there's so much great stuff out there that people give away for free! I listen to great music on Pandora, I can go to Barnes&Noble and read almost any book I want in the store, and I can research almost any topic online and interact with the top people in many fields directly in their blogs! I do buy a fair number of books (2-4 a month) but that's me expressing my desire to keep the bookstore in business rather than acting out of any real expectation that I'll buy books on their part. If I was so poor I couldn't pay for anything more than what I have right now, I could be happy as a clam for *years* without infringing any copyright or acting against social expectations, there's so much excellent and truly free material out there. And, that should scare the hell out of anyone who wants to keep playing by the old rules. If copyright *were* strongly enforced, there'd be a lot more people like me (without the charity/respect factor) since the convenience factor of using copyrighted material would be removed. There'd be less money in the pot overall, and paid works would be competing with very high quality works that were completely free, where the author (who didn't have to pay very much at all to publish said works and thus considered them just an effective marketing tool) was making money through other mechanisms. Not saying we aren't actually headed that way anyway, but strong enforcement might actually speed up the process!

Dan Moran said...

We switched to Linux at my house a while back. 3 of our 5 computers are now Linux boxes, and if I didn't write SQL Server code for a living, all of them would be. The gap between commercial and free code is a lot smaller than it used to be. GIMP isn't Photoshop, but it's good enough that I haven't broken out my copy of Photoshop but twice in the last year.

Ubuntu 9.04 is better than XP -- not Vista, XP -- for the average user. OpenOffice is better than Microsoft Office, for the average user. GIMP is better than Photoshop, for the average user. My wife, who's nontechnical, loves Ubuntu -- she had a Vista computer for almost a year before I burned it down and reformatted it with Ubuntu, and it took her no time at all to get up to speed.

The next time I see my mother, her computer is going to Ubuntu.

Back in the 60s the times really weren't changing much. Now they really are. We can coopt and guide the change, but there's no way in the world it's going back the way it was.

Marty S said...

Ethiopian Infidel: There is difference between the position "never talk to anyone" and the position be careful who you talk to and know what you can expect from talking before you start. All the successes you quoted from talking resulted in a major success for one side and a major failure for the other side. There are many people with whom you can talk and come to a reasonable compromise that is good for all sides. The trick is recognize the difference between these people and those who are out to trap you and will only agree to a bargain that actually benefits them.

Scott Carpenter said...

Steve, I'll read your comment more closely later, but want to respond to the loaf of bread thing briefly. It is relevant -- we'll eventually have technology to duplicate physical objects, creating a similar situation to that of information copying today. If someone can make a copy of many physical objects using their own raw materials, we'll have the same discussion of whether this should be allowed or not.

You keep insisting on conflating physical theft with unauthorized copying. They are different. We can discuss the laws we currently have and might create to deal with authorized and unauthorized copying. Comparing theft of a physical good with creating an exact copy of something with no loass of the original owner's copy (or physical good) is just not relevant to me. Theft deprives the owner of property of the use of that property. Copying does not. Of course, copying *may* deprive the creator of intellectual work from profit from the sale of copies. But this is different than theft.

Seriously, as a SF author, imagine the time to come where replicating basic goods that people need to live is a possibility. Are you going to insist no one should make copies until they pay the monopoly price? It's just not going to happen.

(Also, since I mentioned the rock start private jet thing. I also have a good understanding of author finances and what it is like for most people who do this for a living. I'm suggesting that with intellectual monopoly, it has been possible to concentrate money in the hands of *some* artists, and even more so in the publishing/recording industry, and if that kind of concentration is no longer possible, I don't think it's a problem. I'm more concerned that people should be able to make a *decent* living. And while it's not my place to say what is a decent living, I think it's my place as a member of society to discuss how much intellectual monopoly we want to grant.)

Scott Carpenter said...

(After reading more...)

Unauthorized copying of software absolutely benefits companies. Microsoft has acknowledged this with respect to Windows. I would *love* it if people couldn't make unauthorized copies of Photoshop (although I wouldn't love the mechanism that would make this possible). I'll say it again, if people were unable to casually copy Photoshop, it would be a huge win for GIMP and Free Software.

(And, really, bringing rape into the discussion of copying software is wonderful. Talk about straw men.)

Payment for employee services: The model I work under is one where I'm payed for today's work once, and not receiving money for that work 30 years later. If my boss only payed me on a whim, I wouldn't continue working for him (or her). You're working under a model where people are prevented by law from making copies, and you may be paid again and again for your work. If that bargain changes, you also have the right to stop working under those terms. However, I don't want you to stop creating fiction. I'm not familiar with your work or with anything you do outside of the comments here, but I think it's great that you're making a living this way. I imagine many people enjoy your work in order for you to be successful at it. (I'm under pressure from changing practices also, BTW -- outsourcing is a threat to me, but I don't consider Indian firms to be taking what is rightfully mine. I know, I know -- different situation...)

With your other analogies, they just don't work for me when you compare physical theft of a good to copying. If you want to talk about the consequences of not being able to sell copies of your work, fine, but any speculation about me breaking into your house or someone breaking into mine is unhelpful for me. You have to compare it to the situation where I can make exact copies of your stuff (*without* breaking into your physical property) or someone can make exact copies of my stuff (again without breaking and entering). You still may not like that kind of copying, but it has to be about making copies with no unlawful entry and with no loss of physical property. Sure, *again*, there may be loss of revenue for someone, but that's a different discussion around how we get people to make the *first* copy.

Apologies if I'm coming across as overly antagonistic or obnoxious -- I don't usually get down into this level of back and forth on the subject. I do appreciate where you're coming from, believe it or not. I just think copying is a good thing. I want to live in a world where people can be rewarded for creating, and also where copies are sold for their marginal cost. $0.

Branching a little bit into patent discussion, where I think software patents are *horrible*, I like this quote from Thomas Jefferson:

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."


My agreement with that goes along with my horror at software patents which tell me I can't use an idea. Imagine if people could patent *story ideas*. I've heard of at least one attempt to do so. Writers will often say -- and maybe you agree with this -- that the idea is the easy part. It's the creation of a good story around it that is difficult. With that, you may see the problem that developers of software face today. There are so many obvious patents out there that it is diffcult to be creative. This is especially a problem for free software developers, who often don't have a lot of money to defend themselves against patent lawsuits.

But think about the story idea patents. With the constant extensions of "intellectual property" law, this could happen.

I'd extend Jefferson's sentiment to any information, including fiction, but not quite so quickly. As I mentioned, a short term of copyright (10 years? 20 years?) could still serve as incentive for people to create stories. But once it is created, it is a light from a candle. I don't want to use that candle to burn your house down, Steve. I would be happy to pay you for your work were I to be a "consumer" of it. But I don't think writers will continue to make money the same way in the future, no matter what we say here. Reading that Clay Shirky article really made me think about the disruption of the Gutenberg Press. Computers and the Internet are going to be so much more disruptive. (They already have been, but oh how I wish I could read the history of this time 500 years from now, to see how it all plays out and how it is viewed from the other side.)

Dan Moran said...

500 years from now the only humans we'll be able to understand will be the Amish. Whatever other intelligences are running around will be orders of magnitude smarter than we are, and incomprehensible to us. As to what they'll think of us ... "they were genetically almost identical to monkeys. They did OK, considering."

Steve Perry said...

First time I wrote about fabbers -- those 3-D printers -- was twelve, fourteen years ago, and I'm not offering that technology isn't changing the world.

Somebody threw Bob Heinlein at me, so let me respond with him: TANSTAAFL.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Somebody, somewhere, has to invest sweat-equity to produce any product. If you figure out a way to no-pay that person for that effort, s/he will have to look elsewhere to keep body and soul together.

You think fanfic is the height of fiction writing? Fine. But without an original, copying doesn't do the trick, does it? If nobody writes the book, the script, develops the drug, creates the music, where does that leave your replicator?

Can copyright laws be made better? Sure. Should they be dropped and people allowed to take whatever they wish, whenever they want? Not no, but hell, no!

If you believe that they should, we're done talking. You don't have anything I'm interested in hearing. It's my ox, and I object to having him gored, and will guard him until I fall over.

Those folks who want to equate those of us who labor in the midlist with Disney, or the folks who hold the rights to Tarzan, don't have a clue about how things work in the real world viz writing, and such hat, talkers through, deserve the consideration an uninformed opinion is due -- which is to say not much. What I see when I look in your direction are a bunch of guys with hoop earrings, waving cutlasses.

From each according to his ability to each according to his need is the center point of a philosophy tried by a lot of people and proven unworkable.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Scott Carpenter said...

Well, we don't disagree that people need to be rewarded (in some way or another) to create things. We just disagree, and likely will continue to disagree about what is necessary for this to happen.

It appears that you're looking for a way to close down the discussion, and I'm happy to oblige. So far, you've stretched the discussion to include rape and murder as things "my side" would support, and now the people on "my side" are uncivilized savages, so I guess all you can hear is incomprehensible hooting and hollering.

Scott Carpenter said...

Dan Moran: Agreed!

But I hope those big brains would be so kind as to try giving me *some* history and explanation that I could grasp. :-)

Maybe if I'm still around after the Singularity, I'll still be here and able to comprehend for myself. Of course, that's a disturbing thought. I don't necessarily want that much change in my lifetime either...

Anonymous said...

Steve Perry:

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch... without an original, copying doesn't do the trick, does it? If nobody writes the book, the script, develops the drug, creates the music, where does that leave your replicator?"

You think people won't create high enough quality work and make it available for free? That's simply not true, they're doing it very successfully already in some fields, and most others are coming along. Take a look at two examples that are already advanced - open source software and Wikipedia.

There are corporations where the entire computing infrastructure is based on free software. The most widely used web server in the world is Apache, and it's free (and better than the alternatives for anything but niche applications). This isn't something new, free software is quite mature and is either in the dominant position or a strong competitor in many areas of computing. People pay for *support* of the software, and if they don't want to do even that, they don't have to! Go with CentOS instead of Red Hat, or use Ubuntu, and you have a completely free operating system and set of applications that you're free to modify - yes, you can make a derivative work for free! And, people do. In fact, in some cases, there are thousands of people contributing to a single project - take a look at Linux kernel development. There have to be pretty advanced protocols and software tools just to manage that many people contributing their creativity to the project!

Encyclopedia Britannica used to be an incredible resource. When digital media was just in it's bare infancy they came along with a CD with the information on it *hyperlinked*. That was spectactular at the time. But, that one CD replace the entire bookshelf. And then, Wikipedia replaced Encyclopedia Britannica, for all intents and purposes. The quality is high, it's updated more often than EB, and people are willing to live with whatever quirks that it has.

We're not going to reach an equilibrium on this as long as technology keeps advancing; in every field, higher and higher quality products are going to be available for free. Money is still going to be made, but it won't be made in the same way or maybe by the same people. That's *REGARDLESS* of copyright law or its enforcement. In fact, rigid enforcement would cost a lot and be very intrusive at the same time it sped up the transition. I want that money and effort spent on more useful things, and I don't want to artificially speed up that transition - it's already damned fast to begin with!

Steve Perry said...

Well, Scott, since you seem okay with the notion of breaking this set of laws, why would I think you'd draw the line at something more socially frowned upon? I've already seen you run the Jolly Roger up your mast, the only question now is whether I get taken prisoner or made to walk the plank.

Rewarded "in some way," you say? How noble of you. How? By the good nature of people who are perfectly willing to swipe stuff they don't own? Who want to make intellectual property rights illegal?

Call it ice cream if you want, but it's still spinach.

I expect I understand human nature as well as you do, and I'm certain I have more experience living in the real world, as opposed to the virtual, and you still sound like a pirate to me.

Well, okay. So maybe you aren't uncivilized savages. Merely thieves.

So, yeah. We're done. You had anything I needed to hear that might help things, you'd have said it by now. I didn't hear anything but "Get out of the way, grampa, the future is coming through."

Adios.

___________


Anon said "You think people won't create high enough quality work and make it available for free?"

Why, yes, that's exactly what I think. You might be able to publish your own material a lot easier these days, but that doesn't mean it will be particularly good material.

What's the best novel you ever read? Second best?
Were those written for free? Bestowed on a loving public gratis?

Terry Karney said...

It's happened to me a few times.

Usually thought it's more a short-fuse thing. I meet someone and go, "wow, this is an interesting person" and the next thing I know she's a focal point in my life.

That's been the story of all my successful relationships.

The Bam! at first sight have all burnt bright, high, and fast, leaving, usually, a small heap of messy coals behind.

Anonymous said...

An example of something I've noticed many times before, when the topic of "dialogue" comes up:

"Well, Scott, since you seem okay with the notion of breaking this set of laws, why would I think you'd draw the line at something more socially frowned upon? I've already seen you run the Jolly Roger up your mast, the only question now is whether I get taken prisoner or made to walk the plank."There's something I've noticed about this idea of "let's have dialogue with all our country's enemies":

It is somehow a lot easier to fantasize about getting along with (say) the Taliban in northwest Pakistan, or the Iranians, through sweet reason, de-escalating rational self-interest, and mutual dialogue ... than it is in real life merely to get along with one's own countrymen, or even just one's own next-door neighbors, relatives, or fellow blog readers.

Just look at one side of the left-right, blue-red divide in the U.S. some time. Pick the side you like to think of as enlightened and correct. Then watch really carefully how the rhetoric describing the Other Side tends to go. Peaceful dialogue? enlightened self-interest? spiritually aware recognition of commonalities? Not so much.

When somebody who's argued for pacifism ends up getting furiously angry in an argument with another American about what, after all, is a much less immediately loaded topic than whether New York City or Tel Aviv will get atom-bombed in the next five years ... it painfully illuminates just why I am not all that sanguine about Peace In Our Time.


--Erich Schwarz

Scott said...

Back in the 70's there was a BBC radio play of "Last Day In Limbo" and I found a download of it on the internet. Since I can't find it to purchase, I have no compunctions about downloading for free. Is that hypocritical?"

Pete's still kickin'. Mail him $5 and you're not a hypocrite; cheap at twice the price. ;-)

Scott said...

Steve P: You really can't tell the difference between bits and atoms?

Unauthorized copying isn't stealing, it's marketing; free, effective marketing.

Steve Perry said...

Take down a couple levels, Scott, it's all waves and particles and you can't see them without heisenberging them into uncertainty.

Like I said before, peeing on my shoe and telling me it's raining just isn't convincing. I surely know a pirate when I see one, HAR!

Scott Carpenter said...

Steve P.: You're very clever so I'm sure you realize that's a different Scott on those last two comments, right?

(I acknowledge that I didn't present my arguments very well, but for your part I think you ignored anything from me and others that didn't fit into your pirate narrative.)

Steve Perry said...

Scott, Scott, and (maybe) Scott --

Ignoring information? Moi? Nope. Because nobody has offered any new stuff to gainsay the notion that I'm dealing with somebody who has decided that intellectual property doesn't really deserve protection, and that eventually such a quaint and outmoded notion will go the way of the dodo, and good riddance.

I hear a lot of, Yes, but -- dismissals. Yes, yes, we agree artists should be compensated somehow ...

How, somehow?

"Copyright is a bargain that has gotten progressively worse for society ..."

Society? Who is society? How has it been harmed because writers get paid? Like soylent green, society is people.

Or this:

"I should clarify -- I don't necessarily want to throw out all copyright. (Not right away, at least.)"

That "Not Right away ..." clause indicates the heart of your position, doesn't it? Just a matter of time.

Crank up the theme from "Born Free." After you find somebody who will write it, publish, and offer it for free.

I'm not talking about hiding the cure for AIDS, I"m talking about entertainment, which is not a right but an option. You can't copyright story ideas, not even a title.

Thing is, the law now does offer a means of compensation. What the gimme-it-free crowd hasn't done is come up with anything to replace it, other than platitudes -- somehow we should take care of the artist; business models need to be changed; let's all sit around the campfire and sing Kumbayah and it will all somehow work itself out.

All well and good, but not speaking to the point. If you want to tear down the house where I live, I need to see there's another place for me, or you sure as hell aren't going to get my support. You haven't demonstrated anything other than wouldn't-it-be-swell theory, none of which has been put into effect.

Build the new place, then come see me about tearing down the old one. Otherwise, a portion of the "society" about which you seem so worried is gonna suffer for sure -- those of us who put in the hours and come up with the work.

So far, you got nothin' other than information wants to be free. No, it doesn't. Information doesn't want squat. Pirates want it to be free, so they don't have be thought of as pirates.

Vidi et scio. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Build the new place, then come see me about tearing down the old one. Otherwise, a portion of the "society" about which you seem so worried is gonna suffer for sure -- those of us who put in the hours and come up with the work.Just a bit of clarification (from the anonymous not-a-Scott). I'm clarifying this since I seem to be getting lumped in with an anti-copyright position by virtue of the fact that most people take a pro-or-anti side v. copyright and you've read my posts that way.

I don't have an aversion to copyright; I am deeply concerned that it's not going to be an effective way to ensure that people get paid for what they do (when that's what they explicitly want for their labor, unlike the folks who do software for free). I've stated why - I think there's an ongoing trend towards zero value for things which are copyable, which isn't going to be stopped by draconian enforcement of copyright law.

I've also given a lot of thought to how someone can make money in a creative field regardless of the trend towards zero-cost/zero-value copies. I have worked that problem out decently enough for myself (for now), and I've seen others in the same field who have as well. At the same time, I've seen a lot of people who aren't bad at what they do, just not paying attention to what's going on and actively positioning themselves, who've lost their jobs and been shocked by it. I've also got a close-enough view of some other fields where I can see clearly how something similar is happening there. I mentioned some things related to this as well.

That was my concern and why I chose to write anything at all. I was looking forward to a discussion of how to build the new place and what we wanted it look like, to use your analogy. (If you disagree and think the old place is in great shape, or getting better, that would be an interesting conversation as well!) There was a bit too much else going on this time to have that conversation, but this blog is in general pretty good about handling intense discussions, so maybe another time.

Steve Perry said...

Earlier in the thread, I allowed that I thought copyright law wasn't perfect, and when you have organizations like Disney who have herds of lawyers they can unship to defend their property, you might make a compelling argument to fix some of the loopholes.

Fine. Make it life of the artist plus twenty-five years, so s/he can leave his kids sometime -- assuming there are any royalties to be passed along. For most writers, most of the time, that's not the case.

But throwing the baby out with the bath water or burning down the barn to get rid of rats aren't the solutions.And I'm still not hearing any specifics as to how artists get any kind of protection/income from any of the Har! crowd.

TANSTAAFL is at the root of economics. Somebody, somewhere, somewhen has to pick up the tab. If people can't see that, they have no grasp of how money and property works. Until they do, I'm not going to be swayed by theory that gets pulled out of a rectal orifice. Because, as the old saying goes, no matter how hard you try, you can't polish a turd.

Look at the Swedes and Pirate Bay, an organization that by its name tells you what it believes. Bittorrent sharing got hammered again, and rightly so. PB's comments that they are no more than a search engine didn't convince anybody, and some of the boys got convicted -- maybe overly harsh on the sentence end -- for their parts in the wink-wink-nudge-nudge endeavor.

We aren't talking about the cure for flu here, information-wise, but a lot of guys downloading movies so they can watch them free.

People who are telling artists they should give their stuff away and be happy would blow an artery if somebody suggested they put in a forty-hour week down at the light bulb factory for no pay, and smile and be happy.