How to guilt trip software pirates

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Some excellently worded guilt-tripping by the makers of USB Overdrive X in a response to a pirated key code being entered. The exasperation just drips.

[via Crunch]

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186 Responses to How to guilt trip software pirates

  1. dculberson says:

    Ceronomus, just for clarity, the definition of inflation is:

    “A persistent increase in the level of consumer prices or a persistent decline in the purchasing power of money, caused by an increase in available currency and credit beyond the proportion of available goods and services.”

    So Wikipedia’s definition is incorrect through omission.

  2. zuzu says:

    It most certainly is not an ad populum fallacy. If anything it would be ad verecundiam

    I interpreted what DownPressor said as basically “it should be obvious to anyone”, which to me seems more like appeal to popularity than appeal to authority.

    While there’s no guarantee of future performance, there’s absolutely no question that the benefits of this approach have massively outweighed any disadvantages.

    No question? Stephan Kinsella disagrees, as do Jorge Cortell, and Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine for starters.

    Well, the first patents were issued around 2,500 years ago by the Greeks. Just to put that in perspective, that’s about 200 years after the invention of coins. The long view indeed.

    I’ll have to look into that; thanks for pointing it out to me! :)

    It’s true that copyright has been around for a much shorter period (around 400 years), but that’s only because printed books (not to mention a decent number of people capable of reading them) haven’t been around much longer.

    There’s also a question of where. Has every nation that’s had books always soon after had copyright laws of some sort? My impression was that the British Empire was alone in this regard until it was later taken up by the new USA and then from there pushed onto the rest of the world.

  3. zuzu says:

    Which has always bugged me about Windows and OSX.. there’s this legion of amateur programmers writing tiny little programs to make life livable, and every last one of them is under the impression their effort deserves compensation.

    That’s the problem with apps written for Windows Mobile. You get nickel and dimed just to make the damned thing useful.

  4. zuzu says:

    He also seems to be saying that the nature of software makes it trivial for a consumer to avoid paying what they think it is worth (what they would pay if they couldn’t just copy and crack it)

    This is weasely worded. It’s not “avoiding what it’s worth”. If obtaining a copy is free, then it’s worth exchanging nothing for it.

    Again, the problem lay with this rigid construct that “copies of software” are what’s valuable. It isn’t (as demonstrated by free copying). What’s valuable is the author’s ability to write the software; the value is in the author “renting her mind” as said before.

    Now, how that translates into a viable business model is what being an entrepreneur / businessman (or business woman) is all about.

    thus a new method of extracting that worth from the consumer is required of the developer.

    Wealth “extraction” is a weasley way of saying it. All voluntary exchanges are mutually beneficial (i.e. both benefit), or else they do not occur.

    The problem with each of them is that they don’t go very far.

    Only if you’re assuming that the only way to make money from software is to sell copies.

    Why this one particular business model is so rigidly held (to the exclusion of all others) in people’s perception is fascinating in itself. Perhaps it’s the availability heuristic.

  5. nprnncbl says:

    Rentacoder looks interesting, but they seem to have a very anti-GPL stance. While I understand their legal perspective about copyright in works for hire, they seem to be actively discouraging openness. I know I’ll probably have to suck it up at some point, but I’m not crazy about the idea that I am prohibited from using ideas or code that I came up with!

  6. jimkirk says:

    Zuzu, thanks for dodging my question for the moment. If I answer you, will you answer me?

    “For the moment I will dodge this question because, in asking me whether I “ensure that the author is compensated”, I’m curious about how you’ve taken this obligation upon yourself.

    Do you use any Free Software? Have you tracked down all the authors of it and paid them proportionally to their contributions? How do you decide what all those code fragments are worth relative to each other?”

    Yes, I use free software. Have I tracked down each author’s code snippet to determine what they each should get paid? No. That’s not my job. However, anyone familiar with SourceForge has probably see the “Donate” button. Many other websites have donate buttons as well. Click, decide what the software is worth to me, and donate. I leave it up to the development team to decide how to divvy up the proceeds.

    I’ve also downloaded free software from people who genuinely don’t want to or care about getting paid. Perhaps they developed a small utility to perform some task they wanted to simplify for themselves, and decided others might find some use for it, and make it available for free. Maybe it’s not worth the effort keeping track. I like to thank them via e-mail, and quite likely find some other software on their site that they DO want to get paid for, and support them in that way, as well. Another form of payment is by providing word of mouth advertising. I think that’s especially effective when I get great support, which is one of those things that isn’t easily copied.

    “Have you ever used an open 802.11 Wi-Fi access point? Do you always compensate the administrator?”

    Once, at a vacation rental, and it was included as part of the package. Well paid for.

    “Do you tip every attractive person you see on the street for making your view a little better?”

    Rather off topic, but to the extent that I smile at people, say “hi”, perhaps compliment them, or thank them for holding a door for me, or hold a door for them. It’s not always about the money, it’s a social nicety. And, it’s also not about the attractiveness of one person over the other, either.

    “Do you make sure that you watch every commercial that’s included with broadcast television shows you enjoy?

    Do you never use ad blocking software in your web browser? Do you click on every ad here on BoingBoing just to make sure that the Happy Mutants get the ad revenue they deserve?”

    This looks like a red herring to me. Commercial advertising operates under a different model which EXPECTS a majority to not respond. The intent there is to have a million pairs of eyes be exposed to the ad, and if one in a thousand responds, it’s considered a success. That’s a far different model than what we’ve been discussing here.

    That said, in this era of time-shifted viewing many advertisers are working to change the model of [show] [ad] [show] [ad]. For example show characters in a car chase scene may have a dialog about how well their Ford Focus handles corners.

    I agree that a better business model is wanted. However in the mean time, until someone figures that out, I make what I consider a reasonable effort to play by the rules set by the creator.

    So I ask you again, how do you, personally, ensure that the author is compensated for their work/idea/whatever that you find useful?

  7. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I do not believe illicit copying should be called either theft or piracy. It’s like referring to a rape or a beating as genocide – it’s deeply disrespectful to the victims of real theft and piracy.

    That being said, I personally do pay for what I use… because I try to only buy things that have value, and by paying for them I enable their creators to continue creating valuable things for my benefit. If nobody pays, the programmers have to stop programming and get day jobs to support their families. The categorical imperative applies.

    People who copy without permission are neither pirates nor thieves – they are just foolish.

  8. Droogy says:

    What a great discussion, y’all(to address another sticky grammatical issue)

    First of all – to say something is wrong because it is illegal is the weakest argument one could make. I won’t even bother listing the hundreds of past and current laws in the US and elsewhere you’d have to be morally challenged to follow.

    Law, regulations are often a direct reflection of who is in/has power. Breaking laws can reflect a
    grassroots protest when people don’t have the resources to challenge them in other ways.

    And I think “they” is the perfect solution to the pronoun problem. It’s only wrong until it becomes common usage. Grammer books are ultimately descriptive not perscriptive.

  9. zuzu says:

    you have no right to break the law, despite your philosophical views.

    Who’s law? In which jurisdiction?

    Allow me to put this argument another way, the so-called “free-rider problem” is not a problem, it’s an opportunity in disguise.

    Subjective theory of value:

    The subjective theory of value (or theory of subjective value) is an economic theory of value that holds that “to possess value an object must be both useful and scarce,” with the extent of that value dependent upon the ability of an object to satisfy the wants of any given individual. “Value” here refers to exchange value or price. The theory recognizes that one thing may be more useful in satisfying the wants of one person than another, or of no use to one person and of use to another. The theory contrasts with intrinsic theories of value that hold that there is an objectively correct value of an object that can be determined irrespective of individual value judgements, such as by analyzing the amount of labor incurred in producing the object (see labor theory of value).

  10. zuzu says:

    @ Newman

    Without patents (for instance), what incentive do the “thinkers” who come up with new, innovative ideas have to release those ideas?

    Economics is not about “incentives”, that’s what public relations / politicians / social engineers do to manipulate people.

    Instead of being freely available, the information died with the last holder BECAUSE the first copy never became available. This is what IP law is about – making sure the first copy becomes available.

    You have to share or sell whatever it is you’re making at some point, or else you’re not going to make any money off of it either. If you’re talking about automobiles or pharmaceuticals, competitors will buy one and then tear it apart to study it.

    OK, let’s go with this. If I did have a replicator that could reproduce cars, isn’t it someone’s responsibility to compensate the person who designed the car?

    Yes, it’s the designer’s responsibility to figure out how that’s going to happen — also known as a business plan.

    And WHY would ANYONE design a new car in this environment?

    People still need cars. Someone will do it.

    This seems awfully close to “why would anyone write Free Software?” Yet, look at how much of that there is (and growing).

    The reason that “free rider” is not an actual problem is that people adjust their expectations to fit reality. If the process is not viable without monopoly status, it will fail and something that does work will be erected in its place.

    I often wonder how staples get made. I buy a box for a dollar or so and it sits in a desk drawer, at home, gradually being used over like a decade. So I wonder how anyone can make money at this. Then it occurs to me, there is a demand for staples; and suppliers will provide staples if they can make a profit at it. Given the demand, whatever sales price level is necessary for a profit, that’s what supppliers will tend to sell for. Whatever that level is, is hard to say–but it must not be too out of line with current prices, even if it’s not easy for me as a consumer to see how a profit could be made. It must be in there, somehow. If a profit could not be made at $1 a box, then they would be selling for $2 a box.

    –Stephan Kinsella

  11. dculberson says:

    Zuzu, I’m curious – and asking this as a point of respect and not trying to cast any doubt on your credentials – as to how/where you learned about economic theory. I’ve never even heard of, much less understand, half the theories you’ve linked to. (I don’t have an economics background, just a small business background.) Are you in school or did you go to school for economics? Or are you self taught? I hope that’s not too personal.

  12. BCJ says:

    @RAGAHOL
    waaaaah
    we cant be arsed to find a new business model, so we’re going to whine at you, the end user, for being broke or lazy.

    Why does the fact that some people steal their product mean that there is a flaw in their business plan? There is a certain amount of loss with any business plan. It seems that these people have worked that out. Instead of trying to stop the inevitable, they are trying a different tact, and are trying to persuade people to buy there software. It seems pretty clever to me.

  13. nprnncbl says:

    Joel:

    I’m quite proud of you all for keeping it smart, spirited, yet civil.

    Screw you, you condescending twit!

    (Somebody had to say it.)

  14. zuzu says:

    This does NOTHING to disprove the labor theory of value.

    The argument goes that “labor theory of value” is just another way of saying “intrinsic value”, and the diamond-water paradox disproves “intrinsic value” ergo disproving “labor theory of value”.

  15. Ceronomus says:

    Being called an asshole by an admitted thief isn’t too harsh of a label to take I suppose. At least now I can understand the reason for the frenzy in which he is trying to defend theft by simply REDEFINING it. Of course, that did work for the Bush administration with redefining torture I suppose…

  16. Teufelaffe says:

    I realize I am chiming in pretty late in the discussion here, but I do feel a need to point something out to those that equate the illegal copying of software with the theft of a physical object. Since there has been a great deal of discussion about what “theft” actually means, I thought it would be prudent to look it up, and here is what I found…(note that any emphasis is mine)

    1. (Law) The act of stealing; specifically, the felonious taking and removing of personal property, with an intent to deprive the rightful owner of the same; larceny.

    Note: To constitute theft there must be a taking without the owner’s consent, and it must be unlawful or felonious; every part of the property stolen must be removed, however slightly, from its former position; and it must be, at least momentarily, in the complete possession of the thief.

    Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

    To wit, in order to qualify as theft the act must involve aftually moving the item, in its entirety, from one location to another, with the intent to deprive the original owner. Copying is not theft. The very fact that copyright and counterfeiting laws exist affirm that even the law recognizes this simple fact. Yet, for some reason, businesses and governments want to immediately forget this fact as soon as computers get involved.

  17. SamSam says:

    Zuzu (and rageahol): Is going to a bookstore and using your hand-held scanner to scan all the pages of a book, and then posting it on your website for free ok with you as well?

    It’s not “theft,” right? You say theft is only when you deny someone use, which this isn’t doing.

    You could have written the book yourself, but like you say, you may as well write it with the “copy” command (i.e. scan it).

    It doesn’t matter how long the author spent writing it, because ‘”Fruits of their labors” has nothing to do with it; the labor theory of value is bunk.’

    Heck, it’s “not even a product! (Hence why it’s possible to make copies.)”

  18. Ceronomus says:

    “The source of inflation is fundamentally derived from the growth rate of the money supply.”

    Inflation has a source, it is an effect, not a cause. I also have the advantage of knowing a retired Congressional Appointee to the SEC Oversight Committee to discuss this matter with.

    I also notice that you are now jumping from economic theory to economic theory. While they aren’t all mutually exclusive, they do not all work well together either.

    Also, since you are fond of quoting wikipedia, let me point you towards their entry on Inflation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_inflation.

    “In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.”

    I’m not confusing anything. You seem to be cherry picking answers from wiki posts on differing economic theories, I can do the same thing. It makes your argument no more valid, and weakens your overall credibility.

    And yes, damnit, like anyone who has ever decided to leave an internet forum discussion, I looked back. Now, much like Lot’s wife, I’m the equivalent of a digital pillar of salt.

  19. Downpressor says:

    I interpreted what DownPressor said as basically “it should be obvious to anyone”, which to me seems more like appeal to popularity than appeal to authority.

    Actually Tubman got it right. To be more clear, I believe that someone who has performed both the acts of creation and of sales/marketing (whether of that creation or not) is better qualified to opine on the matter. Someone who has gone as far as managing a business based on creative labor has even more to say on the matter.

    Never mind your patronizing “quiet, the adults are talking” attitude of dismissal.

    To further clarify, I’m assuming that I’m older than you and have some more experience in the matter at hand. It is unjust of me to assume you have any knowledge at all of my qualifications since I dont link to a website explaining my experience. To very briefly summarize, I’ve been involved in making and selling music on and off in various ways for over 20 years. I’m far from a big name but I have run a few small labels, produced/mixed over 100 releases of other peoples work and more than a few of my own under various names. I’ve worked also for various IT companies doing sales or sales support.

    I’ve dealt with the issue of non paying users/consumers on and off the whole time. This is not to say I’m an expert on the business side. The best I can do with selling music these days is just past break even on cost of manufacturing and shipping of media (yes, there are still people who want to buy a record over any digital format). The rise of the Web has made the business easier but again the problem of signal to noise in getting people to know that the product exists still remains. Just as equally the problem of unauthorized copies still exists as does the problem of unauthorized resellers.

    From the business side the problems of selling software and media are quite similar. Some folks choose the tip jar/begging bowl/busking approach, some choose to give it away, some still want to be compensated for their work/up front investments/production costs/etc, or a mix of the three. I remain convinced that its the right of the producer (and or authorized sales agent) to choose how to make their work available rather than the end user to assert their “right” to the work.

    With these two qualifications, please understand that I’m not “dismissing” you but remain to be convinced of your position.

  20. zuzu says:

    @ DCluberson

    Even when I was in school I had to self-teach myself virtually everything.

    I studied systems theory / complex systems. Economics is a proto version of that.

    Basically, everything comes down to epistemology.

  21. Anonymous says:

    my first try to comment on net – parshwa

  22. rageahol says:

    @joel:

    i dont make the argument in lieu of paying for software, unless “avoiding pay software entirely” qualifies. you might want to have that knee of yours checked out, it’s jerking pretty fiercely.

  23. dculberson says:

    Zuzu, I partially get what you’re saying here. For example, would providing support and upgrades to the software for a fee while providing the software itself for free fit as an entrepreneurial solution?

    I guess the problem, and the reason we stick to the ‘product’ business model, is that we’re used to it. It’s the only one most people are aware of. Other people have moved on and make money by providing, for example, updates to your virus scanning library or business class support or what have you.

    I do think that copying and using software that someone has specifically asked you not to is morally wrong. I do not think that because of the law, I just believe in respecting the wishes of the creator of a given concept/ device/ artwork.

    I am curious, though; you say that the “labor theory of value” is demonstrably wrong. How so? I’ve seen arguments for and against, but demonstrably wrong means more than just linking to a Wikipedia page. It means proving it. (Ie, proving yellow and blue make green? Show me yellow and blue mixed, don’t just point me to a page that says yellow and blue make green.)

  24. Tubman says:

    Zuzu, I’m surprised your reasoning process leads you to the conclusion that the software industry needs a new business model. To me it seems a little like telling the Titanic’s passengers that if they move up a deck then everything will be OK. Money has all the qualities you ascribe to software: it’s DRMed chunks of data which occasionally masquerades superfluously as physical entities. The logical conclusion to be drawn from your argument is that the under-pinnings of the economic system of the world are about to collapse to a level that will make present day Zimbabwe look like Utopia, and yet you’re merely concerned with the fate of a few hundred thousand coders. What gives?

  25. zuzu says:

    Is going to a bookstore and using your hand-held scanner to scan all the pages of a book, and then posting it on your website for free ok with you as well?

    Yes. Hence, Textbook Torrents.

    It doesn’t matter how long the author spent writing it, because ‘”Fruits of their labors” has nothing to do with it; the labor theory of value is bunk.’

    Right. Just ask Cory how well freely distributing his books online via Creative Commons is working out for him. I think I can quote him as saying, “You’d be stupid not to do it.”

  26. dustbuster7000 says:

    “All voluntary exchanges are mutually beneficial (i.e. both benefit), or else they do not occur.”

    Except clearly the software developer does not view this as a voluntary exchange, since by you own argument, it is not mutually beneficial

  27. Ceronomus says:

    NPRNNCBL

    “No, I think you are actually in agreement here, that people do have a right to set a price for their labors. Where I think you disagree is on what that “price” should be allowed to include, namely, a potential future revenue stream based on exclusion.”

    That is a very good point, however it does not then cover how that price is to be paid. For example, I design a game and decide that, for my efforts I want to be paid $30,000. The company that pays me that money is only going to do so as long as they think that they are relatively certain of making their money back and making some money for their investment.

    If *I* get paid and the company doesn’t, the aren’t going to do that again. Thus dries up their revenue stream, and mine. If I, as a programmer, am to generate revenue, there must be a way to collect it.

    Now granted, I’ve long stated that in terms of the arts we may end up getting back to the whole patronage system. Perhaps a wealthy person or corporation would be willing to pay me $30,000 to create and release a game simply for the prestige of having his name attached to it…after all, it works for stadiums. Let’s not hold our breath though.

    We also might move to a more direct system of musicians and game designers going straight to the public. Of course, doing that under the guise of selling copies of their work means that they have zero value for being copies rather cripples that approach either.

    With the growing trend that theft of intellectual property is socially acceptable, it presents numerous problems for the industry as a whole that the industry is wholly unequipped to deal with. Let’s face it, when a culture embraces theft as acceptable, the old guard is going to be caught a little unprepared.

    However that we are rapidly becoming a nation of thieves, in which parents will have a teacher fired for daring to have punished their children for cheating in school, we as a society have some big issues to wrangle with.

    Regardless, there certainly must be better business models for SOME things…but what about film? If a DVD doesn’t make money, they stop making it. If DVDs as a whole were to stop making money because it is the accepted rule that one needn’t pay for them, why produce them? Now, this is operating on the discussion with Zuzu that if it can be copied you should be able to just take it, as opposed to just piracy as it stands. Even with current piracy people are buying DVDs and CDs.

    Certainly, they could be released in pure digital form but where is the incentive to do so? Why release a movie digitally at all for zero compensation? Why not just release it into the theaters and the to cable television for a much higher price for broadcast rights? Certainly the end user could still get the movie as a rip from HBO (complete with the HBO watermark for recognition of their paying for the film to broadcast). Studios would have no further incentive to go any further. Movie rentals wouldn’t exist because since you can just take it, why pay to rent it?

  28. zuzu says:

    “In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.”

    That definition is wrong (but a popular bastardization). I could go change it but I’m sure there’s already been an edit war there about it.

    Properly, inflation is defined as an increase in the money supply, and deflation is defined as a decrease in the money supply.

    Prices go up and down based on supply and demand, unless interfered with by force.

  29. selfsimilar says:

    Bravo, so far gentlefolk, for the well measured back-and-forth so far. I am very much enjoying the philosophical repartee.

    However, I think the pragmatic end of the issue has been given short shrift here so far. As much as Zuzu has offered some alternative models, I think the bottom line is that the primary mode of commerce associated with IP is and will continue to be to treat the end product as a saleable widget. Thank you Captain Obvious, I know. But here’s my point – as much there are alternatives, and as much as there’s an ideological inertia to the status quo, I don’t think we’ve seen the next real replacement for the current model, and there may not be one. I certainly don’t think it exists yet.

    Personally, I work for a small custom software house and we do mostly database work for local companies who’ve outgrown their spreadsheets but can’t afford an in-house programmer to write their widget-tracking software. I think this is a good place to be for the moment, because we’re able to target our market and most of the software we write would be pretty useless if you weren’t interested in selling X. So we’re typically more concerned about industrial espionage and keeping our business leads close to our vest, than about piracy of our binaries.

    This model doesn’t scale well, and maybe that’s the problem with IP businesss models, is that we’re looking for a universal business model or economic theory, when there really isn’t one.

  30. Ceronomus says:

    Whether or not YOU think someone’s work has intrinsic value they then have the right to not give it to you.

    And nprnncbl? That the bits CAN be copied is not the issue. I don’t think Zuzu’s arguments about the fact that it is physically possible to copy data has ever been philosophical, the arguments on why it is OKAY have been.

    Nobody has argued against the issue that there must be a better way to do it, what I’ve argued against is Zuzu’s assumption that if they don’t want to pay for something, they shouldn’t have to.

    I note that Zuzu used Common Law as a defining point and, when called on it called themselves intellectually lazy but has not been able to REFUTE the point that Common Law does INDEED recognize intellectual property.

    Oh and so I make typos when I’m in a hurry. If that is REALLY important enough to you to bring up during a discussion, call me. I’ll make fun of any perceived accent you have and we’ll consider it even.

    Now Zuzu, let’s look at your Wifi sharing. I think it is admirable, and you have made the choice to not secure your network. Couple things about that example though.

    1) My network is secured. This does not give you the right to hack into my system and use my wifi.

    2) While your leaving your network unsecured is not, in and of itself, permission for people to use your network, you have chosen to issue that blanket permission…you also have the right to rescind that permission at any time.

    In the end, you have the right to give away anything that belongs to you. You have a legal claim to those things and thus you CAN give them away. You CANNOT however, simply try to lay claim to anything that you want and take it.

    Now, it seems to me that we’ve been arguing several points and I’m going to try to sum up where I’m at…mostly so I can keep up myself.

    1) The business model is a poor one and should be replaced.

    I think we’re in agreement here.

    2) Do people have a right to set a price for their labors, whether intellectual or physical?

    We seem in strong disagreement here. Your point seems to be that if it costs nothing to reproduce that you should be able to take it. My point is that there is much more cost involved in the production than mere reproduction. I think many businesses take this into account when selling electronic copies of materials. An ebook is often cheaper than a regular book, buying an album electronically is OFTEN cheaper than purchasing the CD.

    3) Is copyright infringement stealing?

    We disagree. You say no. Criminal law says that it is, by definition, theft.

    4) Is copyright infringement morally wrong?

    Again we disagree. You seem to think that it is fine. I stick to the legal definition which makes it theft. Theft is wrong.

    Indeed, you argue that stealing a CD is wrong and illegal, but taking the digital code for the music is not. You put forth that one of those things is stealing and the other is not. Since common law shows that this is stealing and the criminal code (At least here in the US) reflects this as theft, how then do you move forward with it being okay, when it is clearly defined as theft, even by the very common law you claimed doesn’t recognize intellectual property.

    Rageahol – Wow, where to begin.
    Copyright infringement has been illegal for a VERY long time, and predates computer piracy. One can argue that certain laws are unjust but, as members of society, we have an unspoken agreement to either live by those laws or try to change them. Your very argument of claiming people are arguing “ITZ RONG CUZ ITS ILLEGAL!” is not only disrespectful, but also shows a basic lack to grasp the commonality of civilized society.

    The fact is, if you do something that you know to be illegal and then get arrested or fined for it? That’s your own damned problem and I have zero sympathy.

    Yes, it is outrageous when the RIAA goes after a single mother for millions of dollars in damages, or when they use broad and blanket claims of damages.

    HOWEVER, as the holders of registered copyrights they ARE within their legal rights to take action. While I take issue with HOW they go about it, I recognize that they do have a legal right under the law. Anyone who is just ripping CD after CD of music or software and gets caught? Well, the penalties are pretty clearly lain out and should come as absolutely zero surprise to anyone.

    If you don’t like a law, you can try to civil disobedience route. But software and music piracy isn’t about civil disobedience. It is about instant gratification, not some higher purpose.

    It is, as legally defined under common law, theft. Theft is morally wrong as defined by most codes of ethics. That people want to turn a blind eye because it is a so-called victimless crime makes no difference.

    Finally, this whole thing seems to be an argument against the concept of ownership as a whole. I’ll bite, the concept of REAL communism isn’t an ugly thing (despite the knee-jerk reaction that so many Americans have to it). Indeed, some very interesting concepts become only possible under such a system. The same can be said for Socialism and many other philosophies.

    However, in the end, your rights end at the tip of my nose. If I choose to sell my labor for profit, you do not have a right to steal it.

    I find it a basic moral failing of the internet age that people think that just because they CAN do something that it is okay to do it. That is not the case with theft just as it is not right with other crimes.

    Now, since someone decided to toss sodomy into the ring, we can discuss the concept of legislating morality and the criminalization of non-criminal behavior but frankly, that’s a waste of time here as that is a WHOLLY different subject and has ZERO to do with the discussion at hand.

    And if nprnncbl cannot tell the difference between a long, thought out (if rapidly typed response) and bluster? That’s their problem.

  31. DefMech says:

    I don’t know about other areas of software development, but according to what Zuzu proposes, the entire video game industry would likely dissolve overnight. You’ve talked incessantly about flawed business models, but in certain cases, there just is no other alternative.

  32. nprnncbl says:

    I think Zuzu is being misunderstood here, so I’ll try to summarize what I think he espouses, which I agree with:

    First, he is not advocating that people should copy commercial software freely, but rather pointing out that it can be copied freely, without denying anyone the use of the software. In this way it is distinct from traditional material goods, yet the producers of commercial software largely pretend that it is a material good.

    He is certainly not advocating, Colonel #23, that we treat material goods as if they were freely copyable in the way that software is. Nor is he advocating that no one should get paid for writing software.

    Zuzu’s position is, I believe, that collectively we would be better served if we stopped pretending that software was a material good, and figured out better ways of paying people to write software and otherwise innovate that don’t rely on this imaginary exclusion.

    The genie’s out of the bottle: everyone recognizes that bits are copyable. It seems the only way to get the genie back in the bottle is an increasingly draconian world of forbidden bits, which I’m not happy to see arrive.

    Zuzu, I think, is trying to tell us that it is possible to have the best of both worlds: there exist economic mechanisms which reward creativity without punishing or restricting the act of copying. That’s something I would be happy to see happen.

    (At the risk of greater thread-drift, I have a grammatical problem: for me, the semantically singular but syntactially plural third-person pronoun “they” is perfectly acceptable for use with a person of unspecified gender: “The crank who wrote this drivel doesn’t know what they‘re talking about!”

    However, I don’t judge *”Zuzu makes an interesting point about the nonrival nature of software, and I think they’re right” as being grammatical, and I find either of the gender-free substitutes “he or she”, “(s)he” stylistically awkward. “She” always feels contrived to me in a situation of unknown gender, so I fall back on “he”, knowing that this is sexist, presumptuous, and may be incorrect.

    Seriously, how do other people cope with this?)

  33. Downpressor says:

    Metaim, interesting comment. It wasnt that long ago that copying was a real time process, yet the law adjusted reasonably quickly. I strongly suspect that however logical the arguments in favor of unrestricted copying may be, the “should” side will continue to prevail over the entitlement side. I suspect that has something to do with the fact that the digital works in question are socially regarded as non essentials (luxury items even) and thus there is really no idea of a right to them.

    Come to think of it, the fact that the works in question are for the most part entertainment or non essentials has alot to do with why I consider this to be about entitlement.

    zuzu, the person you refer to is pretty much like Dawkins. Either people are in complete agreement, or they find him to be fanatical and alienating on the matter. Good for him that he sticks by his principles and that he is generous enough to give away his works, but otherwise I can live without his constant self aggrandizement and rabid advocacy without the least respect for those who dont agree with him.

  34. Ceronomus says:

    Businesses have a right to succeed or fail, based on the strength of their business model. That doesn’t give anyone else the right to say, “Your business model sucks so I’m going to steal from you.”

    Theft is wrong. Sure you can get into the moral ambiguity of someone stealing a loaf of bred to feed their family, but we’re not talking about Les Miserables, we’re talking about people wanting to steal software so that they can play games, increase their OWN productivity, or enjoy music.

    Flat out, I really shake my head and wonder about a generation that thinks such a thing is morally sound and right.

  35. sadmarvin says:

    To elaborate on Zuzu’s last comment, I’d recommend looking at the famous example of Weimar Germany. Prices didn’t increase just because, but as a response to the change in the money supply.

  36. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I am unsurprised to find Zuzu a fan of Ludwig Wittgenstein. His arguments are rigorous and logically correct, but ultimately unavailable to emotionally involved persons who would have to change their understanding of reality in order to comprehend them. For example – many arguments here fall apart if one correctly defines theft. Zuzu has done so, but unfortunately in an elaborate and clinical way that is unpalatable to emotional involvement. His reasoning is unassailable, unless of course you misinterpret what he is saying – therefore any emotionally involved person is forced by human nature to misinterpet his argument. “What? I worked HARD at that code! He must be saying it’s morally OK to steal cars!”

    All things are worth what your mind ascribes their value to be. (No-mind, no value, no problem.) A moral person will find a way to live that does not involve prosecuting children and grandmothers, or aligning oneself with thugs who justify such evil doings with a childish mantra of “I had to protect my intellectual property“.

    Copying is not theft. It never has been, and never will be. That is a false idea that prevents true reasoning. You must purge it from your mind if you wish to be enlightened. We have two separate words for a good reason, as Wittgenstein might say.

    Still, as Joel has said, it is impolite to copy things without permission.

    Impoliteness is ugly. Beauty improves life.

  37. zuzu says:

    Zuzu, I partially get what you’re saying here. For example, would providing support and upgrades to the software for a fee while providing the software itself for free fit as an entrepreneurial solution?

    Sure.

    Other people have moved on and make money by providing, for example, updates to your virus scanning library or business class support or what have you.

    Yeah, the anti-virus/malware market is such a botched opportunity.

    Another example is the value of availability, quality assurance, and ease of use. When you torrent music, you have to put in work making sure that there’s no pops or errors in the rip, and that the bitrate meets your quality standards, that the ID3 tags are all correct, and so on. And that’s assuming you can find a torrent of that rare album you’re looking for, and that it was easy to track down if you did find it. Enter a service such as the iTunes store (or Beatport, or eMusic), where if you paid a subscription fee, you’d be buying access (without DRM) to download from an enormous music library that you wouldn’t have to worry about making backup copies of, and that they have everything you’d want to listen to in pristine condition, that easily loads onto your iPod.

    I am curious, though; you say that the “labor theory of value” is demonstrably wrong. How so? I’ve seen arguments for and against, but demonstrably wrong means more than just linking to a Wikipedia page. It means proving it.

    As I noted before (and perhaps after you started writing this comment), the labor theory of value is just another way of saying intrinsic value, and since we can’t objectively measure value (as clearly different people value the same things differently), there’s no way to determine universally what someone’s work (or a particular object) is worth. We can only agree on an individual level when we both value what the other person has more than what we have ourselves, and thus agree to an exchange (by which we both benefit… because now we both have the thing we valued more).

    I do think that copying and using software that someone has specifically asked you not to is morally wrong. I do not think that because of the law, I just believe in respecting the wishes of the creator of a given concept/ device/ artwork.

    What you’re saying seems to still imply possession of an idea. My argument rests on that ideas cannot be “owned”. They do not meet the criteria by which property is defined according to common law.

  38. Ceronomus says:

    So, you cite post after post from Wiki, chapter, verse and link and yet anything from the same source you disagree with must be in error?

    I’m sorry Zuzu, but I took the time to follow up on these sources. You’ve admitted to being self-taught in this field and I think that has given you a few blind spots. In this case, the cited sources are not coming from self-taught folks, but economists. I’m reminded of the self-taught physicist who claimed that E-MC3 and made a fairly logical argument by cherry picking results without understanding them.

    Thinking that prices go up and down SOLELY based on supply and demand is incorrect, and I’m certain that you are already aware of that. Underplaying the importance of those other forces does the discussion no service.

  39. Bugs says:

    XZZY (13)

    Their appeal to end piracy is noble and all, but they should have attached it to something actually worth paying for.
    Which has always bugged me about Windows and OSX.. there’s this legion of amateur programmers writing tiny little programs to make life livable, and every last one of them is under the impression their effort deserves compensation.

    Well what’s wrong with that? If people want to charge for the fruits of their labours, that’s their perrogative. If a piece of software is worthless to you, then of course you won’t use or buy it and it doesn’t cause you any problems. If you happen to need a piece of software to “make life livable” then it obviously has some value for you; it’s only fair that you then have to decide whether that value is worth the asking price. If not then, again, don’t buy it.

  40. zuzu says:

    @ NPRNNCBL

    Yeah, that’s exactly why I lazily substitute “they” for he/she, even though I know that “they” is plural. English lacks a sufficiently ambiguous pronoun, so I’m appropriating one instead.

    Language is another great example of spontaneous order / evolution.

    And thank you so much for helping to clarify my argument. Now I know at least someone reading this understands what I’m saying. :D

  41. Eicos says:

    Zuzu, as I see it, your argument rests partially on the idea that the non-rival and non-excludable nature of software makes it a fundamentally new commodity not amenable to any current regulatory scheme or moral framework. However, I think this is at its root a dodge; software fits nicely into the realm of intellectual property, both in terms of legal theory (and thus moral justification), and its fundamental characteristics.

    Yes, software is non-rival and non-excludable, but so is all intellectual property, and Anglo-Saxon tradition has morally and legally recognized the concept of intellectual property for at least the last three centuries. The basic concept at its root, ownership of ideas, is hardly so outlandish as you make it out to be. If I produce a creative work that others enjoy, I have some amount of control over its distribution and use. And why shouldn’t I? You go on and on about how the labor theory of value is inadequate, but you seem to neglect the inconvenient fact that society broadly and historically recognizes the right of creative individuals to retain control over the ideas and works they produce – and as somebody earlier said, it really is the creator’s prerogative to determine the conditions of exchange, even by posted pricing if he/she so chooses. (Stupid English not having a gender-neutral 3rd per. sin. pronoun!)

    You can argue that the theory of intellectual property is a bad idea, but in doing so, you’re going up against centuries of legal and moral precedent. Not that that automatically makes you wrong, of course, but I don’t think you have the support to back up your substantial claims; that the ideas can be reproduced flawlessly, losslessly, and fungibly is irrelevant, because the purpose of the creator is not to echo preexisting bits, but to create an original arrangement of bits that others find useful and pleasurable. This is hardly an arbitrary distinction, but one that is deeply ingrained in our society. In glibly comparing copying to creating, you completely ignore the fundamental reality of the situation.

  42. Macroscopia says:

    I’ve arrived late at this thread so I’m not going to join the battle – mainly because I find myself somewhere in the middle.

    Having said that, Zuzu – while you clearly know a lot more on the subject than I do and I agree in principal with some of your points, the world you’re advocating depresses me somewhat. Large corporations have had no small part in landing this situation upon themselves, but I strongly feel that it’s not going to be them that suffers for it in the long term. A lot of what you’re saying boils down to a business world parallel of darwinism. It strikes me as sad that an independant artist/musician/programmer should have their work devalued purely because they lack the entrepreneurial skills to extract money from it in a non-distributive medium. Of course, the industry will eventually adapt to find new ways of making money for it’s shareholders, but that puts us back where we started – perhaps a little further under the thumb of bland corporate controlled culture than we are now. Only with more advertising and less commercially unviable content.

    I’m reminded (not by you personally) of the example of Simon Cowell proudly stating and truly believing that he knows about music because he is successful at making himself rich by it. By the same sentiment, McDonalds know far more about good food than a fantastic but struggling chef with a small town restaurant and no business acumen.

    I think what I’m saying is that while copying something isn’t always wrong to my eyes, if something enriches your life you should try to support the creator of it at least proportionally to your own income and theirs. Going back to the restaurant example, just such a place used to exist round the corner from me. I didn’t go there all that much, but I liked it being there. Unfortunately it closed down, and although I never stole anything from them, I can’t help but feel partly responsible.

  43. dustbuster7000 says:

    nprnncbl,

    For the record I agree with some of Zuzu points, and I think few people other than RIAA, et al would argue that software is the same as a physical product. But I think some of the economic arguements he’s is making are flawed, hence the discussion.

    As for the second bit, I personally cope with it by using the male pronoun and not worrying about it too much. If the person is female and cares enough to correct me, I’ll change it.

  44. Ceronomus says:

    Oh, and to get back on the original topic? I think the company in question is approaching this in a decent way. They are telling people, “Look, we know you didn’t buy this product and we’re going to let you use it anyways, just stop for a second though and think about us.”

    They aren’t treating ALL customers as criminals like the DVD warnings do. They aren’t even treating criminals like criminals. They are just nagging a bit at the criminals in hopes that they’ll think twice about what they are doing.

  45. zuzu says:

    according to what Zuzu proposes, the entire video game industry would likely dissolve overnight. You’ve talked incessantly about flawed business models, but in certain cases, there just is no other alternative.

    Nonsense. I have only to point to Second Life. Many MMORPGs (e.g. WoW) use a subscription model.

    (But people can also run competing servers, which will eventually be possible with SL, and was demonstrated with bnetd competing with Battle.net)

  46. Ceronomus says:

    The concept that digital code is not a product is flawed thinking. It is a different TYPE of product, and SOME of Zuzu’s comments have merit.

    The question of “who’s law and in who’s jurisdiction” however? That rather shows the point. There are international copyright treaties. They are NOT in force everywhere, that is correct. HOWEVER, unless Zuzu is living in one of those places, his argument against this entire issue folds.

    It is illegal.

    As for equating legality with morality? In this case I most certainly can. You have no legal or moral right to enjoy the fruits of someone’s labor. Period. Such things are privileges, and privileges that software piracy is an abuse of.

    If I choose to sell something (that I have a legal right to sell), your choices are to purchase it at my listed price, haggle, or go without.

    Zuzu has been arguing philosophy without real world consideration. This is the same sort of thing you get when people argue on whether or not truth exists.

    However, Zuzu’s arguments are not “sound arguments” at all. They are the holding of particular economic theories as immutable truths, as well as using criminal behavior as an argument that a business model is flawed.

    We are living in an age where a great number of people feel that they are entitled to take something, merely because they can. While Zuzu is careful to separate copyright infringement from theft, the MINDSET is the same.

    “I don’t want to pay for something, so I’ll just take it.”

    The branch of criminal or civil law such an action falls under varies by what is taken, real or intellectual property, but the mind set is indeed the same. That the person wants it, and is entitled to take it.

    This is incorrect.

    Let’s look at it this way Zuzu. If you live in the United States, you do not have that right. End of story. You can argue until you are blue in the face, but the fact is that you have no legal right. I could just as easily use any other number of countries, but that is pretty immaterial.

    Should they devise a BETTER business plan? I won’t disagree with you there, there certainly is room for improvement. Heck, maybe treating computer software like the British treat BBC television by paying for it with a tax would be a better move for them (though not for the end user).

    But here is the thing. If I open a store and my business plan is to just leave a box out for people to pay for what they take I’ll probably get ripped off. While that would indeed be a failing of my business plan, that business plan does not give anyone the RIGHT to steal from me. Just as the software industry’s business plan does not give anyone the legal right to infringe on their copyright.

    For all the various economic and value theories you put forth, you pretty much disregard that very basis tenant of law. Under the law you have no legal claim, and thus no RIGHT to that software.

    As for intrinsic value? The argument can be made for or against such a thing really even existing. But really, the entire labor theory of value (nor any of your arguments) does not account for extrinsic value.

    Extrinsic value is why diamonds cost more than water, is why a child’s painting is not as highly valued as a Monet. Extrinsic value is the basis of the majority of our modern economy all the way back to, and including labor.

    So again, copyright infringement is illegal. No amount of morally bankrupt philosophical gerrymandering will change that. If you want to force a change in the model? Work for a change in the laws. Currently? Copyright infringement is viewed as the theft of intellectual property. While one can argue for or against THAT concept as well, the laws by which most of us are bound, has already created and enforced that definition.

    Much as you might argue that the color of the sky should be called green, society calls it blue. Society as a collective also labels copyright infringement as theft. Indeed, in criminal law, theft is the illegal taking of another person’s property without that person’s freely-given consent. As intellectual property is recognized by the majority of the world at large, copyright infringement IS theft.

  47. dustbuster7000 says:

    Zuzu, you talked above about possession of an idea, which is interesting. I think I agree with you on that, but software is not just an idea, any more than a photo of a hammer is a hammer.

  48. Ceronomus says:

    Sadmarvin –
    Correct. The change in the money supply caused inflation, much like now we are entering a period of economic deflation caused by too much money pumping into the economy. By your example, if it were ALWAYS true, prices would NOW be going up, where many prices are instead going down.

    Again, Zuzu at this point seems to be arguing against the very definitions of the terms being used here. This gets back to my earlier point that how one PERSONALLY defines a word is irrelevant for the sake of discussion as there can be no common ground if I swear that the color of the sky should REALLY be called green and is only called blue by those who aren’t in the loop.

    The reliance on wiki posts to support an argument and then denouncing those that disagree with their viewpoint undermines the entire credibility of the arguments put forth by Zuzu.

    Honestly, it is starting to look more like, “It is right if it agrees with Zuzu” than “I am right because I am in agreement with this information.”

    I know that sounds harsh and perhaps a bit combative, and I don’t mean it as such but for someone relying so heavily on Wiki to then simply claim that something from the same source that disagrees with them must be wrong?

    Seems to me that there is some cherry picking of facts going on.

    Now someone grind me up and put me in a shaker, lest I post again.

  49. zuzu says:

    So, you cite post after post from Wiki, chapter, verse and link and yet anything from the same source you disagree with must be in error?

    As references, not as The Truth. I link / quote them so that we can share a context for discussion — to avoid semantic debates.

    In this case, the cited sources are not coming from self-taught folks, but economists.

    What makes someone a “real” economist?

    I’m reminded of the self-taught physicist who claimed that E-MC3 and made a fairly logical argument by cherry picking results without understanding them.

    It’s not an argument from authority. Again, this is a genetic fallacy. Whether E=mc^2 was derived by Einstein, or a homeless person told you, or it occurred to you in a dream is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether the theory accurately explains/predicts reality or not.

    Thinking that prices go up and down SOLELY based on supply and demand is incorrect, and I’m certain that you are already aware of that. Underplaying the importance of those other forces does the discussion no service.

    What are those other forces you’re alluding to?

  50. jungleFish says:

    @Ito Kagehisa:

    If you’ve deliberately taken something valuable without compensating the person you’re taking it from, that’s theft.

    If that program has no value, why are you even bothering to go find a crack and put in an illicit serial number? If you find it useful enough to, I don’t know, USE it, then the person who was kind enough to share it should be compensated for their time.

    Otherwise, just write all the apps yourself.

  51. Eicos says:

    @Tubman,

    Money has all the qualities you ascribe to software: it’s DRMed chunks of data which occasionally masquerades superfluously as physical entities.

    Actually, it has neither of the primary characteristics he’s attributing to software (and IP in general it seems): money is both rival and exclusive. It’s rival in that if I have a dollar, you can’t also have that dollar. It’s my dollar. And it’s exclusive in that I can prevent others from benefiting from my dollar. Homeless people may surround me, but when I buy a cheeseburger with my dollar, they do not benefit from the transaction simply by their proximity – nor does the sight of a dollar transmit wealth.

    So he’s not being quite so dramatic.

  52. Ceronomus says:

    “Right. Just ask Cory how well freely distributing his books online via Creative Commons is working out for him. I think I can quote him as saying, “You’d be stupid not to do it.””

    And Cory has a RIGHT to do that. You do NOT have a right to FORCE him to do so.

  53. zuzu says:

    If the person is female and cares enough to correct me, I’ll change it.

    (Total thread derail ahead): Never mind the transgendered and the artificial intelligences.

    Greg Egan took a stab at it with using “ve” rather than “he” or “she”, in Distress. But constructed language almost always sounds silly (despite my affection for Tolkien and esperanto.)

  54. zuzu says:

    @ DCluberson

    Unlike Zuzu, I don’t think that software is the same as an idea. Software is the fleshed out consummation of an idea

    As I said, consider idea / software / photo / music as “set of information”, i.e. data.

    @ Ceronomus

    Whether or not YOU think someone’s work has intrinsic value they then have the right to not give it to you.

    If Alice sells a copy of Spore to Bob, and Bob makes a free copy for Dave, Alice is not involved in that Bob-Dave transaction. So I don’t understand where you’re getting this “right not to give it to you” from. As far as Alice is concerned, the “genie is out of the bottle” once she makes a copy for anyone.

    Again we disagree. You seem to think that it is fine. I stick to the legal definition which makes it theft. Theft is wrong.

    No, according to the law it’s copyright infringement. “Theft” is at best a colloquialism.

    That is a very good point, however it does not then cover how that price is to be paid. For example, I design a game and decide that, for my efforts I want to be paid $30,000. The company that pays me that money is only going to do so as long as they think that they are relatively certain of making their money back and making some money for their investment.

    That’s an investment risk, and you have to implement a business plan accordingly. Again, you’re not owed anything just because you paid $30,000.

    If you don’t like a law, you can try to civil disobedience route. But software and music piracy isn’t about civil disobedience. It is about instant gratification, not some higher purpose.

    Can’t it be both? c.f. counter-economics

    Copyright infringement has been illegal for a VERY long time, and predates computer piracy.

    Everyone keeps citing the length of time that copyright has been in effect. Well, for a long time it was only the British (again, mercantilism), and the USA quasi-adopted it but “piracy” was rampant for publishing British works in the USA for decades after the nation was first formed. In the long view, copyright and patents are actually a very recent socio-economic phenomenon.

    Anyway, if people are going to keep comparing “intellectual property” to real property, we need to first examine why we have real property laws at all. Why does a society recognize property rights? How did they come to exist?

    The reason we have property rights is because of scarcity, given that physical things are rival and excludable as mentioned earlier. Because there’s not enough to go around, we use property rights to decide in a distributed manner who gets to use what. Property rights for real physical things exists for a very rational reason.

    But so-called “intellectual property” does not meet these criteria. It originated in a completely separate construct of creating “incentives” for people to be creative, using the power of the State to provide monopoly privileges known as copyright and patents. However, we cannot even assess (because of subjective valuation) whether the benefits outweigh the costs of having such monopolies in our economic system. So “intellectual property” cannot justify its existence, while real property rights can.

    I’m a strong proponent of real property rights, but “intellectual property” is just a fancy form of government subsidies based on exclusion (i.e. “exclusive rights”). Furthermore, those exclusions infringe on how any of us may use our real property, such as how we may or may not use our computers, our printers, our printing presses, and so forth. Lastly, there’s the question of whether this violates Free Speech rights, for communicating certain sets of information or procedures with other people.

  55. Chris Tucker says:

    Wow! The stench of Randroid droppings is thick in the air today. Isn’t there some manner of plug in ultrasonic Libertarian repeller device, akin to the roach and mouse repeller gimcracks?

    Look. If you don’t want to pay for software you use, fine. No skin off my nose.

    But don’t then drape your unethical behavior in all manner of specious rationalizations.

  56. zuzu says:

    @12 Wordguy

    Amazon and eBay still require that you pay for the products. If I hacked together a coupon code that gave me a 100% discount and free shipping on every order at Amazon, it would be theft not enthusiasm.

    Software isn’t a product! (Hence why it’s possible to make copies.)

    I know BillG has convinced an existing factory-model supply chain to think that just because you put software on a disk and ship it in a box, that software are widgets. But they’re not.

    Software that already exists is, in reality, non-rival and non-excludable.

  57. Downpressor says:

    Lots of people have mentioned the entitlement angle. I too see the issue like that. Its as though an entire generation has not escaped the childhood wonder of Mommy’s Magic Purse.

    To me the real shame of Zuzu’s position is not the moral failure it exhibits but the fact that such obvious intellect is wasted in such a manor.

    Whether expressed with skill or with puerile haxzor venom, all this looks suspiciously like “look at how she was dressed, you could tell she was asking for it”.

  58. Ceronomus says:

    “They do not meet the criteria by which property is defined according to common law.”

    Again, seeing how entire volumes are devoted to Common Law in regards to Intellectual Property rights, I must disagree.

    As common law is molded by the courts as opposed to legislative law, I’ll simply cite International News Service v. Associated Press as evidence that there is indeed common law protection for intellectual property.

  59. Ceronomus says:

    By the way Zuzu, much as we disagree on this and are going back and forth. The whole exercise is very enjoyable and enlightening.

  60. rageahol says:

    like i said before:

    people who equate copyright infringement with theft are generally assholes.

  61. sadmarvin says:

    @ Ceronomous

    Actually, I don’t think that there is more money flowing into the system. I may be wrong (I’m a Canadian, so I don’t follow the US as closely as I do Canada), but isn’t the government merely borrowing existing money, rather than printing more? Inflation happens when you print more, as wealth is something resembling a bell curve (probably not exactly, but I’m in English, not Economics), and as such an increase in wealth is normalised over time. Just as 99% doesn’t mean an A when everyone else has 100%, $100 doesn’t mean much when everyone else has $1000.

  62. DefMech says:

    Competing “pirate” servers exist for any MMO with a sizable fanbase, so the subscription model is as tanked as selling a copy as a product. Just the same as it is with a “patron” system like Cortex Command. Once a legit copy is out, it’s fair game. They’re all broken. You can’t even argue digital downloads on a console(WiiWare, Live Arcade, etc) since those are cracked just the same. If you throw out the entire concept of selling copies you pretty much have to throw out everything else.

  63. jungleFish says:

    I know I said I wouldn’t spend any more time on this, but I’m still confused. Zuzu, you seem to have a handle on this subject, and have obviously researched it in detail (well, more than I have at least). But your conclusion, as far as I can tell, can be summed up in an early quote:

    “Your analogies don’t hold up, because software is not a product. Change your business model to reflect that fact, rather than bitching about how your customers don’t need you to make copies for them.”

    I’m interested in what business model(s) you would suggest to an independent software developer? How would YOU achieve food and clothing with your programming skills?

    I’ve read a lot of discussion about definition of terms and economic theory, but nothing that really addresses the basic issue of making a living from the skills you have. Can an independent studio charge by the hour? Or are we required to work for someone who will provide an hourly wage? If so, how does that someone make money, since they can’t sell software because software has no value? Is software only to be custom written for the end user, because only the end user has a use for it? And if so, how can I write a post on a blog site if I’m first forced to contract a programmer to write all the tools I need in order to do so?

    Are we doomed to sell advertising for physical products (because they’re the only type of thing that has value) to fund our obviously quixotic quest to make our corner of the world a better place while also being able to purchase necessities?

  64. zuzu says:

    @17 BCJ

    Why does the fact that some people steal their product mean that there is a flaw in their business plan?

    Again, because software isn’t a product, and copyright infringement isn’t theft.

    Theft is defined as denial of use.

    If I had a device that could scan your Porche and make a copy for me to drive as well, that wouldn’t be theft either.

    The fact that software is infinitely redistributable for virtually zero cost is a feature, not a bug, but it requires a business model that doesn’t try to pretend (i.e. copyright) like software is difficult to reproduce and share. In fact, a viable business model would take advantage of those features.

  65. Ceronomus says:

    It is, by definition theft. So your “argument” is essentially sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “I’m not listening.”

    WTG you winner you.

  66. Anonymous says:

    Zuzu, don’t you think that rape is a crime? You haven’t “taken” the victim’s ability to engage in sex acts, you’ve just taken a “copy” of the process…I’d bet cash you don’t actually “create” anything for a living. Perhaps steal.

  67. SamSam says:

    Zuzu: Sure, some books may now be downloaded for free with a CC copyright, but that doesn’t make it right to do to to all books.

    It’s wonderful that Cory’s licensed his book under CC, and it’s fine that he thinks “you’d be crazy not to do it,” but I’m not about to go scan and upload all the works of my favorite living authors just because I happen to believe that it’s in their interests.

  68. zuzu says:

    Lots of people have mentioned the entitlement angle. I too see the issue like that. Its as though an entire generation has not escaped the childhood wonder of Mommy’s Magic Purse.

    If you’re talking about bailouts, subsidies, and special government privileges, then yes that’s entitlement. If you’re talking about increasing the availability of software / music / movies / photos by making additional copies of them, then no that’s not entitlement.

    To me the real shame of Zuzu’s position is not the moral failure it exhibits but the fact that such obvious intellect is wasted in such a manor.

    Moral failure? Geez, brainwashed much? Setting aside the whole “philosophy” of moral relativism / perspectivism, at least I’m reconciling my morality to be logically consistent, rather than whatever hodge-podge I’ve been indoctrinated to believe. Because we could have just as easily been indoctrinated to believe that slavery is natural, that white people are an inferior race, and that the universe was sneezed out of the nostrils of a giant space goat.

    Please, go watch The Day the Universe Changed and then come talk to me about the punctuated equilibrium of belief systems. (Oh wait, that would be “copyright infringement” by watching them on YouTube, even though there’s no copies available for purchase anywhere at any price.)

  69. Joel Johnson says:

    Just want to mention that I’ve been following this all with rapt attention. I’m quite proud of you all for keeping it smart, spirited, yet civil.

  70. wearsmanyhats says:

    Ya know, I have trouble understanding why anyone would agree with Zuzu’s argument that intellectual property abuse is permissable. It’s the intellectual equivalent of rape. “Oh, I just made a copy of it because I could, it doesn’t actually take anything away from someone” versus “Oh, I just had intercourse with her without her consent, but it didn’t take her ability to have intercourse away, so it was acceptable, right?”

    Yeah, right. Continue to rationalize theft as not being theft because no one could prevent you and “Ideas should be free”. Ideas may be free, but the implementation of them in code is another matter entirely, and requires brains with apparently Zuzu does not possess. Fortunately, history will likely deal appropriately with people who have this mindset. I’ll think of it as evolution in action.

    Keep stealin’, bitch. You’ll get yours eventually. The fun thing is, nobody in particular has to do anything about it. Market forces will take care of it all by themselves.

    I’d bet cash you don’t make a living doing anything that is actually creative.

  71. dustbuster7000 says:

    (derailing thread begins here)

    “Never mind the transgendered and the artificial intelligences.”

    Again, if they ask me to use something else (politely), I’ll do it. When the AIs start asking me to change pronouns, I respectfully suggest that we have other things to be concerned with :)

    “Greg Egan took a stab at it with using “ve” rather than “he” or “she”, in Distress. But constructed language almost always sounds silly”

    Is that from Diaspora (its been a while). And Anethem is giving me head aches :)

    (re-railing thread begins here)

  72. colonel gentleman says:

    Thanks everyone, I’m going to try some of these new euphemisms out.

    Yelled exiting a restaurant as I dine-and-dash – “Your business model is broken!”

    To my neighbors kid after he mows my lawn – “It bugs me that you are under the impression that your effort deserves compensation”

    As I take parts off the shelf at Autozone and walk out the door, “Perhaps you should spend more time and money figuring out how to harness the popularity of this headlight for revenue and less time shaking down the people users for it.”

    It seems that the only time and effort that is worth any money is your own.

  73. neotaco says:

    After reading this, all I can think of is “Hmm, what is this USB Overdrive X? It sound cool. I could download this off the net, and use a pirate code on it.”

    Is it ethical to advertise that this software has given up on preventing piracy? Won’t that just lead to more pirating of USB Overdrive X?

    Or will guilt stop people?

    I doubt it will.

  74. Ceronomus says:

    - You haven’t tried to avoid semantic debates. Every link and definition that you disagree with has been debated, including definitions of theft. Heck, some of the assertions you’ve made about common law were wholly incorrect. Some of your arguments are economics, some are large scale arguments of semantics and attempts to redefine things to fit your views.

    - What makes someone a “real” economist?
    I find your usage of “real” economist interesting and frankly, not worth answering.

    As for genetic fallacy? I haven’t discounted you for being self-taught, I am however reminded of that physicist who, even when presented with proof after proof that he was incorrect, clung to his own confused notion of how the laws of physics actually worked. You ARE beginning to sound like him. This is an observation, not an argument against the possibility of your being right.

    Forces that I’m ALLUDING to? You are kidding me right? If you are honestly telling me that you think supply and demand is the ONLY force that drives prices, we really are done here because you will be so far from the base as to be unimaginable for someone such as yourself who has been trying to argue from a position of authority.

  75. zuzu says:

    @ 56 DustBuster7000

    Zuzu, you talked above about possession of an idea, which is interesting. I think I agree with you on that, but software is not just an idea, any more than a photo of a hammer is a hammer.

    “Idea” is substitutable for “set of information” in this case.

    To keep with your analogy, I see the attempt to sell schematics of hammers as if they were hammers in a world where everyone owns a hammer-making machine, as flawed.

    @56 Ceronomus

    HOWEVER, unless Zuzu is living in one of those places, his argument against this entire issue folds.

    This is picking a nit, but technically it’s only the copyright infringement (i.e. making the copy) that has to occur outside a jurisdiction of prosecution.

    It is illegal.

    So is recreational drug use, sodomy (in many states), and many other things that I don’t have a problem with other people doing.

    As for you taking that argument at length… clearly The Law means way more to you than it means to me. And apparently never minding the problems of political capture and government-business partnership.

    I’ll have to get back to you with a more rigorous reply, but to me your definition of morality borders on political religion.

    You have no legal or moral right to enjoy the fruits of someone’s labor. Period. Such things are privileges, and privileges that software piracy is an abuse of.

    Nonsense… there’s plenty of legitimate externality / free-rider examples. I share my 802.11 Wi-Fi with anyone who needs it. If I see a beautiful girl sunbathing, this is an accidental benefit for me by her getting a tan in public. If I walk past a restaurant and smell delicious food. and so on.

  76. rageahol says:

    ceronomus:

    you are the one relying on the axiom that copyright infringement is theft. you are the one “sticking your fingers in your ears” and relying on a definition rather than exploring the ways in which that definition is possibly insufficient or wrong.

    in fact, copyright infringement can be either civil or criminal, and in the example that sparked this discussion, it seems pretty clear that it would be a civil matter. theft, on the other hand, is pretty much always a criminal matter. furthermore, the “hundreds of years of precedent” have been for copyright violations and intellectual “property” “theft” to be CIVIL matters rather than criminal (up until quite recently) which kind of puts the lie to your notion that they are unequivocally the same.

    you’re like the high school debater who makes reference to the dictionary not to extend a point, but as the final, authoritative word in the matter.

    and that is why you are an asshole.

  77. sadmarvin says:

    @Zuzu

    There are indeed business models that sidestep a lot of these problems, but those are called contracting and patronage. The big problem with those business models is that they offer very little job security. Sure, people are by no means entitled to job security, but it certainly makes the work a little nicer to do, doesn’t it? It’s harder to convince oneself that it’s worth investing time and skill into something if one does not see any long-term benefits. Once again, this does not mean that those long-term benefits should simply exist because someone made effort, but once again, these long-term benefits encourage productivity, and that is worth considering, if nothing more.

    Further, such models as you propose would lead to a lot of redundancy, as it encourages companies to have their own in-house coders to create every application they may need, rather than having a team of specialists who can create a robust product that meets many peoples’ needs. This is not as big a problem if we have a central core of software that these coders are then paid to customise (e.g. OpenOffice, etc), but it certainly does diminish the amount of skill that a specialised and dedicated team can bring to a single product.

    Finally, this creates odd and seemingly arbitrary divisions between a class of materialist workers and intellectual workers, even when what they do seems quite similar. A painter, for example, is put in a superior position to a computer-based artist, as the former’s product cannot be so easily copied, while the latter’s can be copied willy-nilly (to use an amusing phrase). What should account for the distinction here? The cool side effect of this, however, is that it encourages people to create material aesthetic experiences that they may not otherwise create, but at the same time, I’m not sure that it’s worth the hit to artists whose work is less adaptable to material works.

  78. Anonymous says:

    I won’t pay $20 for an application, but I would pay $20/year for unfettered beta-tester access to a suite of similar applications.

    This sort of subscription model is older than shareware, easier to maintain and more effective. Pirates will still crack, there’s no stopping it. But people like feeling welcomed as part of a community, and being able to contribute to it. Purchases of licenses don’t foster that.

  79. dculberson says:

    Zuzu, not to nitpick, but if you’re able to fall back on brainwashing and indoctrination, then it’s reasonable for someone else to resort to just-a-kid.

  80. zuzu says:

    @20 jungleFish

    If you’ve deliberately taken something valuable without compensating the person you’re taking it from, that’s theft.

    No, two problems with your thinking there:

    1.) Value is only determined at the moment of exchange. e.g. Fish for Bread, or Tires for Money.

    2.) As I said, theft is defined as denial of use, not as “possibly denied you prospective revenue”. If the latter were true, every competing product on the market would be “theft of a possible future sale” to their competitors.

    @19 Bugs

    If people want to charge for the fruits of their labours, that’s their perrogative.

    “Fruits of their labors” has nothing to do with it; the labor theory of value is bunk.

    t’s only fair that you then have to decide whether that value is worth the asking price. If not then, again, don’t buy it. Otherwise, just write all the apps yourself.

    Yes, that’s correct, in line with the subjective theory of value. The trick with software though is that “writing the app yourself” can be done with the copy command.

    (I know that’s twisting your meaning a bit, but I do so to highlight that everyone with a computer is capable of doing enough “writing” to make their own copy of anything that already exists “in the wild”.)

    Software with serial numbers / key codes are just another form of DRM, and clearly that’s just as much of a losing battle. Hence, they need a better business model.

  81. jimkirk says:

    A question for Zuzu, and apologies if you’ve already talked about this and I’ve missed it in the hundred or so comments so far…

    Obviously you use software, otherwise you wouldn’t be posting here. Unless you write all your own software, you use software that someone else created and presumably you find some utility and worth in it, however you define that.

    How do you, personally, ensure that the author is compensated for their work/idea/whatever that you find useful?

    I agree that the current system has flaws, and I find this discussion very interesting. I use a lot of share/donate/freeware, and pay for what I use, via whatever method the author has selected. If I feel the asking price is more that it’s worth, I don’t use it. If I feel the price is too low, I’ve been known to make an additional payment/donation.

    One of my favorite musical artists is Issa (nee Jane Siberry). On her website, http://www.sheeba.ca/store/home.php, you have several payment options. A gift from the artist (free), market price ($0.99 per track), self-determined (what the song is worth to you), or “creative currency” (things like “I’ll make dinner for a shut-in” or “I’ll clean up the litter in my neighborhood”.) She keeps statistics on her website, and on average, as I just looked, people have paid $1.24 per song, 25% above market price.

  82. Downpressor says:

    Stop conflating creating additional copies with transferring use of a physical object from one person to another.

    The analogy of copyright infringement to physical theft is not legitimate.

    Perhaps we’re missing something. Given the fact that all legal systems (gangster states excluded) recognize a difference between what is given and what is sold, what word do you propose instead of theft? “Copy” is not applicable here since it side steps the fundamental legal reality. You can wave your arms around and call that a fiction all you want, you can point to this guy and that guy as evidence, but you’ve still yet to lay out the groundwork for your assertions.

    Its all fine and dandy to be a GNUitairian, a software communist or whatever, but generally the folks who get respect in these areas can point to some contributions, some experience which can justify their claims of authority. It gets back to that persuasion thing I mentioned before.

    /I’ve seen the ideas in Boldrin & Levine chapter 6 before, they hardly apply to this particular case, a specific purpose utility software, or equally not to small volume sales music. Some of the logic presented in that chapter looks circular or only applies if you have bought into their initial assertions. Verdict: preaching to the choir/all hat no cattle.

    //Dawkinsists and their ilk often suffer similar problems regarding preaching to the choir.

    ///none of these arguments address the fundamental issue that some people choose pay software over free when pay has less suck.

  83. zuzu says:

    Competing “pirate” servers exist for any MMO with a sizable fanbase, so the subscription model is as tanked as selling a copy as a product.

    Or, you know, perpetually improve the server you run to justify continued subscription fees in the face of competitors attempting the same. Just like with every other competitive enterprise.

    If you throw out the entire concept of selling copies you pretty much have to throw out everything else.

    Customers want games. Ones willing to pay for new games will find a way of compensating developers to do so. Free-riders don’t take anything away from that; they’re irrelevant (unless you’re going to harness Metcalfe’s Law to create value for your patrons).

  84. Eicos says:

    Rageahol, you’re evidently capable of making strong arguments. So why do you say something so pathologically idiotic as “people who equate copyright infringement with theft are generally assholes”? It’s bare ad hominem, does nothing to advance your point, and really makes YOU look like the asshole.

  85. nprnncbl says:

    Ceronomus- Let me apologize for pointing out the typo; and maybe I meant fluster rather than bluster. You really seem upset.

    Finally, this whole thing seems to be an argument against the concept of ownership as a whole.

    Whoa there; I don’t think that’s what’s being discussed at all. Perhaps there’s an argument here against the ownership of information, but as I stated before, I think it’s misrepresenting the argument to transfer to material goods the ideas being discussed here about information.

    I find it a basic moral failing of the internet age that people think that just because they CAN do something that it is okay to do it. That is not the case with theft just as it is not right with other crimes.

    I get this. But you could just as easily make this point about the power of the state with respect to copyright: just because the state can use the threat of force to uphold a monopoly, does that make it okay?

    Do people have a right to set a price for their labors, whether intellectual or physical?

    We seem in strong disagreement here.

    No, I think you are actually in agreement here, that people do have a right to set a price for their labors. Where I think you disagree is on what that “price” should be allowed to include, namely, a potential future revenue stream based on exclusion.

    That said, people who have produced works under copyright have essentially set a price based on this exclusion being upheld; until we move to an economic system that rewards creators that is not based on exclusion, it just doesn’t seem fair to avoid paying for their creation just because it can be had for free. Everybody needs to be on board.

    Tubman:

    the under-pinnings of the economic system of the world are about to collapse to a level that will make present day Zimbabwe look like Utopia, and yet you’re merely concerned with the fate of a few hundred thousand coders. What gives?

    Either you haven’t read Zuzu’s posts on other topics, or my sarcasm meter is broken.

  86. Ceronomus says:

    SadMarvin – The way the banking system works is that banks essentially create money (I’m going to go the simplified route here) by loaning money.

    Banks are allowed to loan out more money than they have. To do that, they borrow money from the Federal Reserve. The BANKS are giving out borrowed money, but the government is essentially printing more money to cover those loans.

    Now, the US prime lending rate is at the lowest I remember it ever having been at (someone will surely correct me if I’m wrong) but it is not at the lowest it has been at for any country. To salvage Japan’s financial crisis some time back, their prime lending rate fell into the negatives. The Japanese government was actually paying banks to borrow money to put into circulation.

    Not really germane to the discussion I suppose, but an interesting fact.

    Anyhow, US banks literally create money through their partnership with the central bank. That is pretty much how most banking systems work. There may be exceptions, but I am not versed enough in non-US banking practices to know of them.

  87. gabejones says:

    #22 and #23 pretty much sums it up, both ways.

    The fault in Zuzu’s argument lies in the fact that while he correctly identifies software as a type of entity that can’t properly be considered “stolen” in the classic denial of use sense, he ignores the fact that it also cannot properly be produced and sold for a profit for the exact same reason. This level of replicability is something fundamentally new, and I don’t think anbody’s really figured out the ramifications.
    I sure don’t think the philosophical onus is on the people working to provide useful/well-made inventions to figure out how to profit from it in some new and as yet unknown way, but rather on those who think everything digital should be free to explain what this undiscovered business model would be. I certainly think that people who work to provide useful, popular services to other people should be compensated for their time and effort. This benefits everybody.

  88. Anonymous says:

    I realise this conversation has wound down. However as an economist I would like to chime in with an alternative from another fellow economist. Tim Hartford proposed an alternative solution to the intellectual property issue, whilst this may be hard to implement at a large scale prizes would seem to be one solution to the “without patents/copyright there would be no innovation” argument. There’s not much point for me to rehash his argument hence I recommend to anyone interested to read the following article:

    http://timharford.com/2008/01/cash-for-answers/

  89. Simon Cameron says:

    ““Why would anyone pay $20 for a program that lets me map system functions to buttons on a mouse?” ”

    Perhaps this program is not worth $20. This does not give you the right to steal it, only to not purchase it. Software publishers are justified in charging however much they want for their products (unless they have a monopoly). as consumers are only legitimate choices are to purchase, make our own, or go without.

    ““A commercial enterprise can’t rely on only innovating its products, but it must also innovate the entire exchange of how customers get what they want for the money that you want. The “New Economy” was predicated on the latter, and that’s why firms such as Amazon and eBay have succeeded; they redefined the platform on which exchanges happen. Clayton M. Christensen coined this as “disruptive innovation”.”

    Innovation is all well and good. But just as a failure to install a security system does not justify a thief breaking and entering, why does sticking with this buisness model justify piracy?

    “Which has always bugged me about Windows and OSX.. there’s this legion of amateur programmers writing tiny little programs to make life livable, and every last one of them is under the impression their effort deserves compensation.”

    If their programs are so little and unworthy of compensation, make your own version and release it for free. A $20 dollar app that is a waste of money probably won’t be successful, but that does not justify pirating it.

  90. Downpressor says:

    Ito Kagehisa,

    By quoting my own words back to me you got me to see the flip side of the coin. Thank you. I guess then the topic has come full circle, its an arms race, each side trying to out pace the other technologically, but as evidenced by my experiences and those of the author of USB Overdrive X, the little guy is caught in the cross fire.

  91. nprnncbl says:

    Joel- perhaps you spoke too soon?

  92. zuzu says:

    Zuzu, not to nitpick, but if you’re able to fall back on brainwashing and indoctrination, then it’s reasonable for someone else to resort to just-a-kid.

    To be fair, I said that about the tangential claim that the popular disregard of “intellectual property” is some kind of moral failing. (To which I scoffed.)

    There’s many circles being run around what seems to be the central crux of whether you believe copyright-infringement is “theft” or not.

    I thought I provided a very well reasoned argument, and the “counter-argument” has mostly been “yeah, but we all know it really is just stealing, so you’re just making up a fancy-sounding justification for stealing”. (Which to me just seems like a dodge.)

    I don’t mean to sound grandiose, but it seems rather like how Richard Dawkins never seems to convince anyone who isn’t already convinced that evolution is real and God isn’t. He’ll provide a thorough and well-reasoned argument, but ultimately to no avail.

    Will it be any more persuasive coming from Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine in Against Intellectual Monopoly? There’s even a whole chapter devoted to “How would artists and innovators get paid without copyrights and patents?” (PDF). or Download the whole book (PDF).

    See also, “Without IP who will invent? How about everybody.” by Tim Swanson.

  93. Tubman says:

    @#85, Eicos: What makes you so sure I can’t have the same dollar? What if I copy the the state of your checking account to mine before you withdraw some cash from the ATM? What’s stopping me other than some DRM and a few laws?

    I’m not sure where you’re going with the cheeseburger transaction analogy: if I download software to my computer and run it, the benefits accruing to proximate parties are broadly analoguous to those gained by people able to smell your cheeseburger as you eat it.

  94. nprnncbl says:

    Zuzu- “affection for Tolkien and esperanto”? I would have pegged you as a Lojban fan.

  95. PeaceLove says:

    Zuzu, you’re my hero.

    Thanks for the clear-headed commentary. A surprising number of BBers (obviously not the Cory Doctorowites!) still subscribe to the notion that copying is theft and you may as well give up on trying to convince them otherwise using logic, reason, or facts.

    It’s amazing how many commenters above accuse you of not wanting software developers to get paid! Of course, you never say anything of the sort; you only say, quite correctly, that they will get paid if they find a sustainable business model and they won’t if they can’t.

    Musicians nowadays are beginning to understand that music is free. The smart ones give their stuff away and are happy when people listen. They monetize a different piece of the chain, namely concerts and merchandise.

    More musicians than ever before are able to make a living under this new paradigm. They embrace technology and use it to run their new businesses, rather than lamenting that same technology for killing their old business model.

    If creators can’t figure out a way to get paid without suppressing technological innovation, or without creating a police state to monitor all electronic communications, then they don’t deserve to get paid at all. Information is free. It’s our laws that remain medieval and repressive.

  96. dainel says:

    Yes, programmers put in lots of effort in making their programs. But why should they be the only ones getting compensated? I spend a lot of time trying out software. I should get paid too.

    Supposed I were to spent lots of time and effort researching audio processing software. After investing hours, days, weeks; searching, downloading, installing, testing countless programs; I become an expert. I know exactly which program is suitable for what. One day I see a post on a forum. “Help, how do I record a podcast?”. I post a concise reply, listing all the required software, where to get them, and how to use them for that purpose, ending with, “that’ll be $20 for my advice. I have 10 children and 4 aged parents as dependents. If you don’t think my time and advice is worth $20, please don’t put my advice to use. Don’t use the software I recommended. Otherwise, you’d be stealing my expertise. All those time and effort I put in”. Obviously, prowling the forums, hawking my expertise is not a good business model.

    A month ago, my boss told me to help my colleague who had spent a few weeks (not full time) searching for software/hardware combos to solve a business problem. I searched for a week (again not full time), then got sick of it, and decided to write the program myself. It took one week (full time), most of which consist of taking free components, gluing them together, and adding some code of my own.

    If you wanted to take my program, make a billion copies and give it to everyone on the planet, I couldn’t care less. My employer wouldn’t mind either. Yes, I continued to draw a salary in the week I spent writing that program. No, I was not paid overtime for the 16 hour days I put in in that week.

    The reason I don’t mind is, when I started, I did not have any illusions about selling a million copies of my program. There is no moral wrong about making copies of software or music, and not paying the creators; if society did not promise them that they’ll be future toll-gate keepers, that everyone’s right to make a copy will be removed, and they’ll be the only ones permitted to make copies, and they can charge any fee they like.

    Yes, I’m in RMS’ camp. I want a world without copyright. And one without software patents. I haven’t decided on hardware patents yet.

  97. rageahol says:

    waaaaah
    we cant be arsed to find a new business model, so we’re going to whine at you, the end user, for being broke or lazy.

    this is why i became a linux nerd.

  98. zuzu says:

    @ Ceronomus

    Some of your arguments are economics, some are large scale arguments of semantics and attempts to redefine things to fit your views.

    The redefinition occurred when copyright and patents were referred to as “intellectual property” to confuse it with real property. Not the other way around.

    Heck, some of the assertions you’ve made about common law were wholly incorrect.

    There’s real property as it was defined in common law, and then there’s the Copyright Clause originating copyrights and patents. Confusing them is a modern retcon.

    @ Chris Tucker

    But don’t then drape your unethical behavior in all manner of specious rationalizations.

    How is the rationale I’ve given specious?

    Wow! The stench of Randroid droppings is thick in the air today.

    It’s the Randroids who are most strongly in favor of “intellectual property” as “products of the mind”.

  99. Ito Kagehisa says:

    JungleFish saith:

    If you’ve deliberately taken something valuable without compensating the person you’re taking it from, that’s theft.

    Value and deliberate intent are not relevant to the definition of theft. If you take my car without permission you have stolen it; I no longer have it, it has been stolen, regardless of value.

    If you copy my car you have taken nothing from me. Copying is not theft, and it is rude and disrespectful to victims of theft to refer to illicit copying as theft.

    Copying things without permission is also rude and disrespectful. Copying valuable things without permission is very foolish. But it’s simply not equivalent to theft or piracy.

    The rest of your comment does not appear to apply to mine.

  100. zuzu says:

    This does not give you the right to steal it, only to not purchase it. Software publishers are justified in charging however much they want for their products (unless they have a monopoly).

    Copyrights and patents are by definition monopolies.

    Innovation is all well and good. But just as a failure to install a security system does not justify a thief breaking and entering, why does sticking with this buisness model justify piracy?

    Again, I think this is backwards reasoning. Real property rights have a justification for their existence. “Intellectual property” doesn’t. The burden of proof is on “IP” for why we can’t (under threat of State violence) use our real property (i.e. computers) to reproduce/share any set of data that we have access to.

    If their programs are so little and unworthy of compensation, make your own version and release it for free.

    My choice was to give up on using PDAs and switch to a BlackBerry smartphone instead.

  101. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I wish I truly knew a solution that would serve the noble intentions of copyright in the face of changing technology, but the only sure remedy I can see would be a metamorphosis of human culture itself; a change in values.

    If we humans were stronger of heart and mind, we would not make illicit copies, and we would not create economic or legal systems that make creators want to sell their copyrights to thugs. Absent such strength, I have only feeble recommendations.

    I think you, I, and also Mr. Zuzu are coming from the same basic principle – as you put it, advances in technology are not in fact sufficient reason to remove rights or to victimize others. I see no perfection in the current system, and I also do not see how we can enforce the existing rules without removing rights (such as the right to make backup copies for personal use) and victimizing others (such as Dmitri Skylarov and his children).

  102. Captain Kibble says:

    Errr why bother with the serial codes at all then?

  103. zuzu says:

    @23 Colonel Gentleman

    Yelled exiting a restaurant as I dine-and-dash – “Your business model is broken!”

    Food is actually rival and excludable. I can’t just “copy” your dinner and also eat it myself. Only one of us can eat that meal, if I eat it and you’ve been denied eating it as a result, I’ve stolen your meal.

    To my neighbors kid after he mows my lawn – “It bugs me that you are under the impression that your effort deserves compensation”

    That kid rented you the use of his body, for lawn mowing. Again, use of his body is both rival and excludable. He can’t mow your lawn and deliver a pizza at the same time. But if you could clone the kid, then it wouldn’t be theft.

    As I take parts off the shelf at Autozone and walk out the door,

    Again, by taking those parts you’re denying other people from using them, so again physical things are rival and excludable.

    Your analogies don’t hold up, because software is not a product. Change your business model to reflect that fact, rather than bitching about how your customers don’t need you to make copies for them.

  104. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I create things for money. Many of these things can be easily and cheaply copied; for example I have written a great deal of complex software, sung on several music CDs, and I have drawn extensively in pencils. I do little or nothing to prevent my work from being copied; the CDs have a polite request in the liner, the drawings have a little c-in-a-circle on them, and my software is GPL’d (except for some which I do not personally own).

    I am old, and I live quite comfortably and have healthy happy children, both biological and adopted, who have always earned good grades in school. My spouse gives a rather large portion of my income to the Heifer Project and Habitat for Humanity, but I have everything I need.

    I post these intimacies only because some here have claimed that any original creator must see things oppositely from Mr. Zuzu; this claim is false. Others claim it is not possible to “earn a living” without jealously guarding the products of one’s mind; this is also false.

    Zuzu, I think you are wise not to post answers to these personal questions.

  105. Downpressor says:

    Ito Kagehisa,

    Thank you for your reply. Regarding the transferability of copyright, it would seem that your idea is based on concern over corporate ownership of copyrights. If I assume this to be true, non transferrability would also remove the author’s ability to assign a work to a NPO or charity. Lets say I wish to assign the rights to profit from my work to the Red Cross or to Save The Endangered Moonbat (j/k) how is it then possible?

    There is also the problem that non transferability places the sole burden of reproduction, distribution and potentially contract negotiation on the author themselves. If an author an not transfer the copyright or assign it within a defined framework, the author MUST take on those tasks themselves.

    Also I think you and I have come away with vastly different readings of what Zuzu has written here. It may be that the terms and enforcement methods are out of balance as they currently stand, but I dont see removing the choice to profit from the author as the solution. Copy protection is in fact a red herring in my view since the abuses occur with unprotected works as well as those which are protected. The relatively recent advances in the law vis a vis the GPL and CCL protect those authors who wish to give freely of their labor. I fail to be convinced that those same terms should be applied to those same authors who wish to be compensated.

    Advances in technology are not in fact sufficient reason to remove rights or to victimize others. Western legal systems do seem to strive for balance in cases like this. Advances in weapons technologies led to the later concept of proportional response in the Geneva Convention for example. Similarly when police or armies use machine guns to stop rock throwing protesters or quell rioters, general moral sensibility if not actual law do not excuse the technological advantage. I understand that these examples are not direct analogies to the copyright situation and are only intended to address your point concerning technological advances.

  106. Ceronomus says:

    Zuzu, I think you are wholly misunderstanding what common law is. You are fighting semantics fights against actual definition. I’m sorry that we’ll get no further, but as you argue to redefine things we get nowhere.

  107. zuzu says:

    Again, seeing how entire volumes are devoted to Common Law in regards to Intellectual Property rights, I must disagree.

    I’ll simply cite International News Service v. Associated Press as evidence that there is indeed common law protection for intellectual property.

    Appealing to “common law” is perhaps a bit intellectually lazy, but it usually underscores the important distinction between “material property” (of historic Roman-Germanic common law) and the government-granted monopolies provided through the copyright clause in the United States constitution.

    So-called “intellectual property” is a rhetorical device (in the style of Frank Luntz) invented as recently as, what, 1997? to purposely confuse real property with those government-granted monopoly privileges.

    I’m not enough of a copyright scholar to trace it back through the British origins (which were mercantilist).

    Sure, some books may now be downloaded for free with a CC copyright, but that doesn’t make it right to do to to all books.

    I’d flip that around by asserting that it’s the monopoly privilege that requires the onus of proof. c.f. celestial teapot

    I’m interested in what business model(s) you would suggest to an independent software developer? How would YOU achieve food and clothing with your programming skills?

    I’ll say it again: dominant assurance contracts seem like one viable option. Another are companies who need software written as a means of doing otherwise unrelated profitable business (e.g. pharmaceuticals, engineering, etc.) and can afford to pay programmers outright. Another perhaps would be some form of advertising model, as has done very well for Google. Another would be fund and release bounties that Joel mentioned.

    I’ve read a lot of discussion about definition of terms and economic theory, but nothing that really addresses the basic issue of making a living from the skills you have.

    Those are the same thing. A theory explains how things happen.

    Can an independent studio charge by the hour? Or are we required to work for someone who will provide an hourly wage?

    What’s the difference? Either way you’re “employed” by a “customer”.

    Is software only to be custom written for the end user, because only the end user has a use for it?

    That’s already what happens now with all software that’s written. It’s just “custom” for a particular audience. (Just as Levis jeans are sold in different sizes, but they’re working on body scanners for use in stores to manufacture custom-cut jeans.)

  108. zuzu says:

    @ Ceronomus

    By the way Zuzu, much as we disagree on this and are going back and forth. The whole exercise is very enjoyable and enlightening.

    @ Joel

    Just want to mention that I’ve been following this all with rapt attention. I’m quite proud of you all for keeping it smart, spirited, yet civil.

    Thank you both for saying so! :D

  109. zuzu says:

    How do you, personally, ensure that the author is compensated for their work/idea/whatever that you find useful?

    For the moment I will dodge this question because, in asking me whether I “ensure that the author is compensated”, I’m curious about how you’ve taken this obligation upon yourself.

    Do you use any Free Software? Have you tracked down all the authors of it and paid them proportionally to their contributions? How do you decide what all those code fragments are worth relative to each other?

    Have you ever used an open 802.11 Wi-Fi access point? Do you always compensate the administrator?

    Do you tip every attractive person you see on the street for making your view a little better?

    Do you make sure that you watch every commercial that’s included with broadcast television shows you enjoy?

    Do you never use ad blocking software in your web browser? Do you click on every ad here on BoingBoing just to make sure that the Happy Mutants get the ad revenue they deserve?

  110. sadmarvin says:

    Zuzu: “Copyrights and patents are by definition monopolies.”

    Thank you! I wish people would just come out and say this more often.

  111. DefMech says:

    “Ones willing to pay for new games will find a way of compensating developers to do so.”

    There’s already a functioning, profitable way of doing this: buying a copy of the game. So profitable, in fact, that basically the entire industry uses it.

  112. zuzu says:

    he ignores the fact that it also cannot properly be produced and sold for a profit for the exact same reason. This level of replicability is something fundamentally new, and I don’t think anbody’s really figured out the ramifications.

    I’m not ignoring that at all! But figuring out how to solve that problem is what businessmen do! That’s the whole point of competitive business strategies — to innovate how business is done (to serve customers)!

    I sure don’t think the philosophical onus is on the people working to provide useful/well-made inventions to figure out how to profit from it in some new and as yet unknown way, but rather on those who think everything digital should be free to explain what this undiscovered business model would be.

    You’ve got that wrong/backwards, but I’ll do your job for you anyway:

    * dominant assurance contracts
    * futures markets

    The crux of the issue is that it’s the author of software who is rival and excludable, and needs to be compensated for writing, not for what’s already been written (and published).

  113. rageahol says:

    #89 eicos:

    perhaps we’re getting too meta here, but if someone, whether deliberately or out of ignorance, relies inordinately on a rhetorical fallacy like, in this case, appeal to tradition, then i’m perfectly fine having a bit of fun at their expense. when its clear that no consensus will be formed, it’s time for a good old fashioned flamewar imho.

    because i do not like being called a thief.

  114. jungleFish says:

    Sigh. Nice “logic”. In the end, the “authors” of that piece of “software” still aren’t receiving “money” for the “time” and “knowledge” and “trade skill” they’ve “invested” into the “product/service” they’ve “created”.

    Because, of course, you’ve “written it by hitting the copy command” and therefore can feel free to “make use of / store on your data storage unit / duplicate and distribute to others” because obviously it’s yours merely by the fact that it “resides on your data storage unit”.

    Semantics aside, TIME equals MONEY. That’s what our economy is based on. That’s what’s putting food on your table. That’s the value that the programmers have invested into their code, and that’s the value that they should receive compensation for.

    Define it how you will, if you have software that someone else laboriously assembled, revised, debugged, revised again, tested, revised, received feedback, revised, revised, revised, and finally made available for, let’s face it, a minuscule amount of money, and you haven’t provided the authors (without whom you wouldn’t have this software) with an equal exchange of goods or services, then you should be ashamed of yourself.

    You can talk to yourself all you want about “DRM” and “copyright” and whatever technical or legal terms you choose to bandy about, but the reality is still there: time is money.

    (Speaking of which, I’d try to revise what I’ve just written to reduce comma usage, but really I’m tired of this whole discussion and I’m not going to spend any more money on it.)

  115. Simon Cameron says:

    @Zuzu ‘s long list of arguments:

    “Just because it’s an expensive investment does not mean you’re entitled to a return on investment. It’s a risk, and the payoff depends on the sustainability (or not) of your business model.”

    So what you are saying is that, because software piracy exists, selling software is an unsustainable business model and therefore software piracy is justified. In case you can’t see the fairly obvious flaws in this argument let me use a non-software example: If grain theft is particularly widespread in an area to the point where it is almost impossible to farm it profitably, does that make it justified?

    The fact is, the companies which can create the perfect business model you seem to believe exists will perform better over time. This alone should be enough to drive the innovation you believe is so imperative that it justifies piracy. If anything, piracy actually slows said innovation: since the new business model must not only compete against the out-dated one, but against piracy as well. In any case, a bad business model does not justify theft: the auto industry is pretty screwed, does that mean it’s alright to steal cars?

    “1.) Copyright (and patents) are not part of a free market system. Those are government interventions in the marketplace.”

    We are no longer living in a resource based economy. Most of the cost of producing a software good is in the innovation (you do think that programmers deserve to be paid, right?). We are still living in a free-market system, we have just expanded our notion of property rights to include intellectual property.

    Furthermore, the concept of the right to one’s intellectual labor dates back to 500 B.C, and has been present in English law since the early 1600′s, about the same time that modern property rights evolved as well.

    “Actually, it is those who naively assume that software is a product who possess the “infantile sense of entitlement by default”, as I have already illustrated.”

    How can you possibly say that wanting to give someone the composition they deserve constitutes a “infantile sense of entitlement”?

    “Again, you’re merely describing the labor theory of value. “It’s worth something because I worked hard on it.” That’s a disproven belief. c.f. diamond-water paradox”

    The Labor Theory of Value, which states that the cost of a good is determined SOLELY by the cost to produce it has indeed been discredited for some time. This does not in any way mean that the cost of producing a good no longer plays a role in its pricing. Companies cannot sell a good for less money then it costs them to produce it. Therefore, while other factors may drive the price of a good upwards, it’s floor price will almost always be the cost of production. (The exceptions are when the government intervenes – effectively subsidizing the goods).

    I look forward to your responses:
    Simon

  116. Teufelaffe says:

    @174 – You have completely and utterly missed Zuzu’s point. At no point during any of Zuzu’s many posts do I see anywhere that they have stated, suggested or even implied that “…intellectual property abuse is permissable.” Let me try to sum up the argument here:

    1. Copying is not theft. (Note, I am not saying that illegal copying of software is not a crime…only that it is not theft.) If the owner of the item in question retains possession of said item before, during and after the crime has been committed, the crime is by definition not theft.
    2. Treating copying as if it were theft is foolish and accomplishes nothing useful as it focuses energies in the wrong direction. Trying to treat copying as theft would be like putting extra dead-bolts on your front door because your neighbor is accessing your wi-fi connection without your permission…it doesn’t accomplish what you want, and is a waste of time, energy and money that could be spent actually addressing the real problem.
    3. Those who wish to protect their “intellectual property” would be wise to seek a new method of doing so, since many of the current methods are mired in antiquated thinking and simply don’t work.

    Equating the illegal copying of software or other digital materials to rape is…well in a word, stupid. The closest analogous crime to the illegal copying of software/music/movies would be counterfeiting.

  117. Ceronomus says:

    I’m pretty much done here as this isn’t even going in circles anymore, it has come to the point where people are just redefining things.

    In the US theft is defined as the illegal taking of another person’s property without that person’s freely-given consent.

    Under US legislative and common law, intellectual property is recognized as property. Thus, we are talking about theft, flat out, redefine it if you want to, but that doesn’t change the bottom line.

    All of Zuzu’s points seem to head towards the side of “The system is broken”, which is true. However Zuzu’s options only break the system further. Completely disregarding the desire for people to get a return on investment goes beyond attacking a business model. It attacks the basic workings of our economy.

    If there is no incentive, why take the risk? Are business owners simply going to do it out of the goodness of their hearts? I can assure you that they will not. I think this very fundamental aspect of our economy has been overlooked. You can, quite properly say, that there is no assurance of a return on investment. But if there is NEVER a return on investment, nobody is going to invest. Period. There is no incentive.

    It is all fine to say that “Information should be free”, or to assume that businesses should do things out of altruism instead of profit motive. Hell, I don’t think that those are bad concepts at all. I also think it is beyond unrealistic to expect such things to happen.

    Folks mention that they’d gladly pay for subscription based software. It isn’t a bad idea on a small scale, but how far do you want to take it? Do you want to pay a yearly subscription to be able to go to a theater? Do you want to pay an additional subscription (beyond any cable or satellite) to directly fund the creation of television programs?

    Heck, it is the property ownership arguments like this that helped spawn the whole “you’re not buying it but licensing it” crap that annoys all of us end users.

    In the case of most major software, you are NOT purchasing it and the legalese tells you that you have zero legal right to distribute it. Now, we can certainly argue the legality of the agreements (I come down firmly on the AGAINST side) but it is easy to see how an ill-prepared industry could be driven to such a sweeping move.

    Heck, one could say that as business models go, if you can’t be sure that someone is buying it, licensing it actually makes sense.

    So here we are, no closer to an outcome. The legal definition of theft is clearly defined, and this does fit. A semantics battle does us no real good, but it continues.

    Zuzu, you really do seem to be arguing more and more against the concept of ownership as a whole. It opens up interesting possibilities, VERY interesting possibilities, however I don’t think those possibilities will ever come to pass (though the novel Neanderthal has some great examples of what COULD be done).

    Lastly, be careful of clinging to tightly to any economic theory. Widely accepted economic theory, until a few months ago, showed that the US’s current state of recession couldn’t happen.

    Hell, until recently the thoughts against pumping money into an economy were the fear of creating inflation. The US is pumping money into the economy and we’re suffering deflation (which, while sounding good is NOT what we want at the moment as we try to stabilize the markets and get things moving again).

    Sometimes we need to look beyond theory, no matter how sound they seem, and look at if they will ever be put into practical application.

    In the end, theft if intellectual property is theft. We can argue if intellectual property SHOULD be treated as property, but it *IS* treated as property so it becomes the real versus the “how it should be”. That gets us nowhere.

    How it should be in the world, and how it is, are subject to the whims of humanity, and not to the thinking of rational minds. Hell, in the US we’re still fighting over if we should be teaching that God created the world in a week as opposed to science. Expecting that the populace will embrace a whole new economic system is a bit much to hope for. Let’s just get them all fed first.

  118. Agies says:

    @1 Rageahol:

    What, pray tell, would you propose as a new business model for a shareware USB ultility that you can alredy download and register over the internet? The thing only costs $20 for fucks sake, people pay more for coffee in a month.

  119. Tubman says:

    @#90, nprnncbl: It would appear that your first condition has been met and I’ve not read enough of Zuzu’s musings in other threads. Doubtless he’ll shortly see fit to rectify my knowledge deficit in a concise manner, rather than obliging me to wade through what I suspect is a fairly substantial volume of data.

    Unfortunately, natural language or is not exclusive, so while I hope all is well with your sarcasm meter, I can offer no guarantees.

  120. zuzu says:

    There’s already a functioning, profitable way of doing this: buying a copy of the game. So profitable, in fact, that basically the entire industry uses it.

    Except, that very particular model relies on a form of government subsidy/protectionism (i.e. copyright) for which it is impossible to determine whether it does more good than harm for the whole of the economy.

    To put it another way, it’s like saying that relying on agricultural subsidies are a profitable way to operate a farm.

  121. Chrisos says:

    Seems fair to me, I read it as, on the one hand:

    “Yes, you can have our software for free, we have better things to do than waste more money and time on making the product hacker proof, we can be building a better product”

    but on the other:

    “Have a think about this, don’t try to deceive yourself, you are stealing from us, a small company without cash to burn, but with employees who have families to feed and mortgages to pay.”

    Face it, a lot of the people who commit copyright infringment, do it so often that they no longer pause to think about what they are doing, nor the morals or the impact of their actions.

    This is just a reminder to these people of what they are choosing not to think about.

  122. Simon Cameron says:

    “Copyrights and patents are by definition monopolies.”

    Only in so far as there is no way to do without them. I don’t think the patent office should be granting patents so broad-reaching that they preclude any other similar products.

  123. Downpressor says:

    Daniel,

    Asking for payment post facto without indicating that the service is billable is by any understanding deceitful. Unless I missed some veiled sarcasm, your proposed scenario of getting paid to learn to use software is just weird.

    Your (and your employers purported) choice regarding giving away software is again odd reasoning. You are drawing salary to perform labor based upon your expertise. You sell your labor the same as an independent programmer who chooses to charge for the result of their labor. Just because you choose to give something away doesnt give you the right to make that choice for others.

    If anything the moral wrong is in applying your standard to others who choose differently. The law recognizes the creators right to choose, The moral distinction here is quite plain. A deceitful business practice may be proscribed by law, minimum wages are commonly set, but the idea of enforcing a zero minimum wage in a viable market is just foolish.

  124. zuzu says:

    Semantics aside, TIME equals MONEY. That’s what our economy is based on. That’s what’s putting food on your table. That’s the value that the programmers have invested into their code, and that’s the value that they should receive compensation for.

    Just because you made an expensive investment does not entitle you for it to pay off.

    Your time has to be worth money to someone willing to make the exchange. Without a buyer, your time (or money) is worthless.

  125. Trent Hawkins says:

    Honestly, has anyone ever actually read a disclaimer before hitting the “agree” button?

  126. zuzu says:

    Zuzu- “affection for Tolkien and esperanto”? I would have pegged you as a Lojban fan.

    Ha! I’m not crazy. :D

    And really I’m way more of a Wittgenstein fan.

  127. zuzu says:

    “Copy” is not applicable here since it side steps the fundamental legal reality.

    What about the fundamental reality (period)?

    “Copy” is the whole thing of it! If you could “copy” physical goods virtually cost-free, we wouldn’t have property rights for those either. (Hence the replicator analogy.)

    but you’ve still yet to lay out the groundwork for your assertions.

    Yes, I have. We recognize property rights for real property because real property has the qualities of rivalry and excludability — in other words, scarce goods.

    Information (e.g. ideas, software, music, movies, chemical formulas, etc.) are neither rivalrous nor excludable. Each copy increases its availability. Information is ostensibly not scarce; it’s available from anyone willing to make a copy for you, and then you can make copies for anyone who asks you.

    Its all fine and dandy to be a GNUitairian, a software communist or whatever

    Here’s another twisting of definitions. Government-granted monopolies (via filing paperwork) are the hallmark of communism. So-called “intellectual property” is actually the communist-like activity, whitewashed by calling it “property”. Very newspeak.

    but generally the folks who get respect in these areas can point to some contributions, some experience which can justify their claims of authority. It gets back to that persuasion thing I mentioned before.

    What stands to reason is only that the argument be logically sound, regardless of whether or not you personally prefer the conclusion or not.

    Anecdotal evidence (i.e. experiences you remember) are biased/selective. In other words, What is Seen and What is Unseen

  128. Eicos says:

    @Tubman, you’ve missed the point. First of all, money is an abstract concept. One of the several defining characteristics of money is that it serves as a unit of account. And an account is basically a way of tallying up everything that you’ve earned against everything that you’ve spent to see how much more you’re allowed to spend. If money were not rival – in other words, if my dollar could be counted in your account as well as mine – then there would really be no point in having accounts at all, because they would no longer track the accumulated status of transactions between parties.

    This also means that the electronic state of my checking account, or of any account for that matter, is not itself money, but only representative of money. If you copy the state of my checking account to your checking account, you’re not taking my dollar, because you didn’t affect my account. But you’re not sharing my dollar either – you’re stealing from your own bank. The bank has a balance sheet where it tallies up assets versus liabilities; deposits are liabilities, and if you’ve enlarged your account illegally, you’ve increased their liability without compensating them with your cash. The money has to come from somewhere – that’s one of it’s defining characteristics.

    And as for the cheeseburger transaction analogy, it wasn’t necessary a very good one, but it was intended to show that money is not a non-excludable good. It was NOT intended to show that software is a non-excludable good – that is precisely the point; that money and software are not the same thing. It may be fashionable to describe everything in terms of DRM and FOSS, but it doesn’t reflect the much larger world.

    Now, I don’t personally believe that software is really non-excludable, because antipiracy measures probably do decrease free riding to some extent. But for our discussion, Tubman, it’s beside the point.

  129. Eicos says:

    I know it’s a little typo, but I need to apologize for the “it’s” at the end of the 2nd graf of my last post. Unforgivable.

    And @rageahol, that’s fine, but you said it at the very beginning of the discussion even before you were egged on. And since theft, in the broadest sense of the word, is the wrongful taking of another person’s property and software = intellectual property, pirating non-free software is theft. I’m sorry if you don’t like it, but it’s true.

  130. zuzu says:

    @ Ceronomus

    According to Wikipedia at least, Property law:

    Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property (land as distinct from personal or movable possessions) and in personal property, within the common law legal system. In the civil law system, there is a division between movable and immovable property. Movable property roughly corresponds to personal property, while immovable property corresponds to real estate or real property, and the associated rights and obligations thereon.

    Land and personal goods. Not exclusive rights forbidding everyone else from reproducing certain sets of information.

  131. Joel Johnson says:

    Pirating software isn’t polite.

  132. igpajo says:

    All that needs is a middle finger frowny face.

  133. dustbuster7000 says:

    “To keep with your analogy, I see the attempt to sell schematics of hammers as if they were hammers in a world where everyone owns a hammer-making machine, as flawed.”

    OK, in this case you’re presenting the software is a hammer schematic, I think the software is the hammer. But even that’s not quite right.

    And I think labour does have a intrinsic value, it just doesn’t have a fixed value. Just because people have varying idea about what something is worth doesn’t mean it has no worth. Labour is definitely worth something, its why people are willing to pay others to do it. Even if you include slaves, people were/are willing to either pay others for the slaves or expend resources conquering others to enslave them.

    To get back to an earlier point, you said that the exchange should be mutually beneficial. If the exchange is not, both parties have the right to refuse the exchange. If you decide to take it anyway because it is easy to do so in spite of the other party’s refusal of the exchange, then you have deprived someone else (the vendor) of something. You seem to be equating the ease with which you can avoid paying for something to its worth, is that right?

  134. dculberson says:

    Zuzu, I’m confused as to what you’re advocating. It seems to me that you’re saying that only people that are employed, and paid, by someone else to write software should do so. (Unless of course the person is willing to give away the software 100%, as in FOSS, which is great.)

    Selling copies of a software package is perfectly reasonable. Asking for people to try – then – buy software is great. Why do you think that’s a “broken” business model? I mean beyond the philosophical “rival and excludable.” If there is a need for a given function, and someone spends their time filling that need, it’s not unreasonable for them to seek compensation.

    Feeling entitled to it and demanding it regardless of the usability of their software is wrong, but something that’s genuinely usable and stable is worth money.

  135. rageahol says:

    @3 agies:

    i dunno. how about “hey, please donate!” instead of “U R A THEEF!”

    @4 chrisos:

    people who call copyright infringement “theft” are generally assholes.

  136. Downpressor says:

    Ito Kagehisa,

    You made some interesting points and seem to have a good understanding of human nature. Age helps with the second point as far as I can tell. By claiming direct personal experience, you appeal to your listener. Your points regarding Wittgenstein and emotional involvement make a certain sense. I assume I’m transferring my personal involvement in making music to a sympathy for individual software authors in this case.

    I’ll admit a lack of familiarity with Wittgenstein so I cant directly comment on those points, but it does seem to me that like many bare metal logical theories, that one has little to do with the world we actually live in. Addressing the question of compensation, the problem boils down to that its quite hard to think on an empty stomach. A line of reasoning that was recently presented to me in regards to Mosaic law (going back to “thou shalt not steal” but lets understand that in the context of “thou shalt not deprive someone else of their dues as accepted by society”) is that Law, be it civl or moral, must include the needs of the human members of a society. At the most basic level people need to eat. Generally that will involve compensation for labor and no matter how one sees it, creation of software, music, manuscripts, (AKA “works”) do involve labor. Depriving someone of their due puts someone in the condition where they may not sufficiently provide for themselves or their children, a state hardly conducive to other than manual labor.

    I think you understand clearly the way I’m using words like “due” since you seem to know the difference between what is freely given and what compensation is asked for.

    The logical distinction between copying a digital work and “theft” of same look nice on paper, the copying logic may be self supportive, but down here on earth, if you have taken what wasnt freely given, said logic dont mean a thing. I cant see a way in the real world that this question boils down any further than freely given vs asked compensation.

    I’m sure much smarter and better educated folks have tried to work out these questions of law vs logic. Until Olam Haba comes along and the human need for compensation is removed, I dont see the logical view prevailing.

  137. dculberson says:

    Captain Kibble, a lock is pretty much always there just to keep an honest person honest.

    Meaning: I’d pay the $20 before bothering to get a pirate code for a software package I like, but if a “trial” package doesn’t have a serial # requirement or nag screen, then I’d probably just forget to register it.

  138. nprnncbl says:

    Ceronomus: I don’t usually pick on people’s SPELLING, but “tenant of law”? I’d overlook it if it weren’t for all the accompanying BLUSTER.

    “Zuzu has been arguing philosophy without real world consideration. This is the same sort of thing you get when people argue on whether or not truth exists.”

    I disagree. That bits are copyable is a fact of the real world. That they should not be so is a philosophical point.

    And as a programmer in search of a job, I’m very interested in what Zuzu’s talking about. I want to be rewarded for my creativity and work, but at the same time, I want the fruits of my labors to be used as widely as possible, without restriction. I’m open to ideas on how to accomplish this dual goal in the real world.

    Software bounties, for instance those mentioned in the Neuros Link thread, seem interesting, but this point are (1) too low paying, and (2) too high risk to be a legitimate way to make a living.

  139. DefMech says:

    It’s no more reliant on it than any other model that relies on exchange of money for goods/services/IP/ethereal, non-physical entertainment units. Unauthorized copying is going to happen no matter what business model you use. I don’t see any evidence that those will work any better than what currently exists, and is making loads of money, right now. All of the models you have suggested are just as reliant and susceptible to government subsidy/protectionism as selling copies.

    But to be completely honest, I’m not even sure I can keep track of what point(s) you’re trying to make anymore.

  140. KriptoNYC says:

    People who think that all software should be free sicken me. Don’t you understand that creating these products requires huge amounts of time and effort?

    Without compensation, many programmers will simply never bother to create and perfect their products for users. If there is a software product offered to you at a price you find unreasonable, don’t buy it. Seek out competitors who will provide the price and features you want. That is how the free market system encourages innovation.

    Do you think developers program solely for your or their enjoyment? You are owned NOTHING from these people, so get over your infantile sense of ‘entitlement by default’.

  141. Ceronomus says:

    Again, that isn’t common law but legislative law.

  142. Anonymous says:

    Here here colonel. The balls on display as people argue semantics to rationalize theft is appalling.

  143. Downpressor says:

    Hooray for zuzu for having constructed a justification of his actions. Less hooray for the sidetracking, tired use of troll words like “brainwashed” & “indoctrinated” and for setting up a strawman about a video on youtube.

    I dont know you zuzu beyond posts here and what youve chosen to reveal on your website. You seem like a clever young person, maybe you are a good DJ (or whatever it is you do). Unfortunately, like many others who have come before, you fail to persuade.

    Shouting at those who dont share your viewpoint, regardless of how eloquently you phrase your words, does not win over anyone who is not already convinced. For a few thousand years the idea of “thou shalt not steal” has worked pretty well for Western civilization. You can pretty up the argument and spend time trying to redefine or reject the word “steal” here, but you are still faced with the problem that adults differentiate what is freely given from what is sold, paid labor from begging and community property from individual property.

    I been watching both sides of this discussion for ten years or so (though really its just a rehash of old arguments about labor and compensation). For all the talk of new business models, all I’ve yet to see any of the promises fulfilled in terms of software and media.

    This isnt to say that some smart person will one day cut their way through the Gordian knot of “fair compensation for the little guy”, but up to now there are too many pieces of the puzzle missing. Just because the web enables producers to reach customers with greater ease doesnt mean the problems of marketing or unauthorized copies are solved.

    The coders of USB OverdriveX are taking a somewhat novel approach here. Although retailers know that they will experience loss to pilferage, etc. I’ve never seen such politeness in a sign regarding shoplifting.

    Again, zuzu you seem to be a clever young person. If I saw some evidence that you applied your energies and intellect towards persuasion or saw that you understood more than one side of the issue, I wouldnt have discussed failure on your part.

    /My choices of words like producers, consumers, marketing, sales, etc are deliberate. I recognize the difference between what is offered for sale and what is freely given. Anyone who has done both should have little trouble understanding the difference.

  144. Downpressor says:

    More hand waving and redefinition. Could you kindly help me out and point to something you have created either for pay or as a gift to the world? I’d take you more seriously if I saw that you had a horse in this race.

    I freely admit that I’m biased towards taking people seriously when they can demonstrate they know what they are talking about.

  145. colonel gentleman says:

    Zuzu,

    I get what you are saying. Yes, there is no denial of service involved. But for me it is simple – someone has invested time and money into something and asks for compensation. If I use it, I pay for it. They’ve done a service for me. Trying to get around it by going to the dictionary for the exact definition of the word and lawyer-speaking doesn’t sit right with me. I think it is easier to do with software and music because it isn’t face-to-face. My analogies were meant to take the semantics and apply them to daily interactions.

  146. Anonymous says:

    The PC version of Pinball Fantasies by digital illusions had text included in the .exe-file saying something like “hey hacker please don’t crack this game it was made by demogroup The Space Pigs”.

  147. rageahol says:

    i’d like to point out that criminalization of a widespread practice, like recreational drug use, sodomy, or filesharing, is an invitation to selevtive enforcement and thus, oppression of disliked minorities. law is not monolithic, but evolves in response to changing cultural practices, so asserting that “ITZ RONG CUZ ITS ILLEGAL!” is less than convincing.

    junglefish:
    rentacoder.com
    besides that, just because someone has the skills to program competently does not mean that they are owed a living. for example, many people spend four+ years pursuing what they enjoy in college, but are unable to make a living in that field and become mid level cogs in a cubicle farm. i think programmers in particular are generally whinier about this because those currently existing have just lived through probably the biggest expansion of need for those skills and expect that that demand curve will continue at its historical rate. we’ve got a situation now where expertise has now become very cheap.

    I know plenty of musicians, for example, who, while they would like to make a living doing this thing that they love, understand that unless they are very shrewd and lucky, they have little chance of making it anything more than an avocation.

    my advice is to suck it up, program because you enjoy it, and if need be, find a day job.

    samsam: sure is. though actually, my practice tends to be more along the lines of time-shifting my library usage, scanning books that are difficult to acquire, such as through interlibrary loan, and then sharing those copies with others after i get around to perusing them myself.

  148. Tubman says:

    @#95, Eicos: The money most definitely does not have to come from somewhere, that’s why it’s called fiat currency, as in fiat lux.

    And Governments said let there be money, and there was money.

    Money only has value if people believe it does, and that value is determined by how rival and exclusive it is perceived to be, and that in turn is based on faith in the security measures put in place to ensure that things stay that way. The only things propping up that faith are laws and DRM, which is exactly what we have propping up the software industry. That can work for both or it can work for neither, but there’s no a priori reason why it should work for one and not the other.

  149. MadFist says:

    Wow, have I been asleep? So it’s now impolite to expect people to actually pay for the products you create?

    DUDE, THAT FUCKING ROCKS!!!! I’M SO GOING TO TOY ‘R US RIGHT NOW!!!

  150. zuzu says:

    It seems to me that you’re saying that only people that are employed, and paid, by someone else to write software should do so.

    I’d like to underscore that this includes everyone who makes a living writing software, whether the income is from a patron/employer, or whether you receive advertising revenue from the website where you publish your software, or whether you use a platform where a group of people can get together and agree to pay a share for you to write software that they all need to exist.

    (Unless of course the person is willing to give away the software 100%, as in FOSS, which is great.)

    In the same way that agile programming / XP is really just open-source development methodology contained to inside a firm, the alternatives I propose would provide a means by which programmers could be compensated and all software could be Free Software.

    Selling copies of a software package is perfectly reasonable.

    No, it’s not, actually. It’s just popular. (Like religion.)

    Why do you think that’s a “broken” business model? I mean beyond the philosophical “rival and excludable.”

    Because those aren’t irrelevant “philosophical” constructs; they’re accurately descriptive of the economic action taking place.

    If there is a need for a given function, and someone spends their time filling that need, it’s not unreasonable for them to seek compensation.

    Yes, but the difference between a sustainable and an unsustainable business model rests on how that’s performed. It’s not a trivial problem.

    Actually, it’s exactly the problem that managers and executives are paid to solve — and they have to keep adapting and creating new solutions because of the inherent uncertainty of the future.

  151. nprnncbl says:

    Zuzu: ‘Yeah, that’s exactly why I lazily substitute “they” for he/she, even though I know that “they” is plural. English lacks a sufficiently ambiguous pronoun, so I’m appropriating one instead.’

    It’s not just you, and it’s not laziness; singular “they” has a long history in English. It was appropriated long ago. Still, though, people vary considerably in their acceptance or production of it.

  152. dculberson says:

    Well, I think the current method of “pay for it if you choose” is reasonable and good. I just wish the commercial houses would realize that it’s down to that rather than bother with DRM that only punishes the paying customers.

    Unlike Zuzu, I don’t think that software is the same as an idea. Software is the fleshed out consummation of an idea.

  153. Downpressor says:

    @177 peacelove,

    Dont piss on my back and tell me its a spring shower. Come talk to me again when you’ve spent time on tour away from friends and family, when you’ve been stiffed by promoters, had the pleasure of using your hotel & food budget to pay for repairs for the van or otherwise actually tried to make a living with music. Lets not forget how this often proposed “solution” does nothing for those who create studio music only. Some of the best and most creative musicians I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years cant or wont get on stage or tour.

    The musicians you hear the most about who are giving away their music are almost entirely ones who have an established following who have built up their brand either through years of their own hard work or with the support of the music industry. Note also that these bands generally still get paid for any sync licenses such as use in movies, TV, video games, etc. The idea of the free sample is hardly new even in music. As I understand it theres precedent at least as far back as commercial sheet music.

    What we’ve seen in this thread by zuzu is stage magic, lots of redirection of the audience’s attention away from the fact that they are being manipulated. Its a carny con at best.

    @178 teufelaffe,

    Counterfeiting derives financial benefit from an unauthorized copy. thats what happens when the russian maffia MP3 sites sell copies of the records I release. They profit off my work selling it below cost. It doesnt apply to when my music shows up on torrent sites or to the case of keygens used to circumvent software licensing.

    We just dont have a good short word in English for referring to unauthorized copies of works. It gets more complicated when the person uses the unauthorized copy as part of a process of their compensated work, unauthorized copies of AutoCAD used as part of a paid design job or a DJ who gets paid for playing an unauthorized copy of my records, etc. Maybe theft is the wrong word, but until a better word to describe the situation comes along, railing against it is pretty much yelling at the tides.

    FWIW, I do trust my users to do the right thing by releasing without any copy protection and for the vast majority of commercial releases of music the same thing applies. Unfortunately I’ve got enough first hand experience that people still take whats not freely given or try to make a buck for themselves on your labor.

  154. Simon Cameron says:

    “The analogy of copyright infringement to physical theft is not legitimate. If you’d read what I’ve written you’d address that argument instead re-invoking what has become a cliche.”

    You are talking about individual copies of software. I am talking about an industry. While the marginal cost for producing additional pieces of software is low, this does not eliminate the sizable cost for creating the first copies. Tell me why companies should not be compensated for that.

  155. zuzu says:

    All of the models you have suggested are just as reliant and susceptible to government subsidy/protectionism as selling copies.

    How’s that, exactly?

    Here again were the alternative models I presented:

    I’ll say it again: dominant assurance contracts seem like one viable option. Another are companies who need software written as a means of doing otherwise unrelated profitable business (e.g. pharmaceuticals, engineering, etc.) and can afford to pay programmers outright. Another perhaps would be some form of advertising model, as has done very well for Google. Another would be fund and release bounties that Joel mentioned.

  156. Joel Johnson says:

    “people who call copyright infringement “theft” are generally assholes.”

    People who make this semantic argument in lieu of paying for software are usually assholes, too.

  157. zuzu says:

    someone has invested time and money into something and asks for compensation.

    Again, you’re merely describing the labor theory of value. “It’s worth something because I worked hard on it.” That’s a disproven belief. c.f. diamond-water paradox

    Trying to get around it by going to the dictionary for the exact definition of the word and lawyer-speaking doesn’t sit right with me.

    I’m trying to communicate this as clearly as possible. This is not mere sophistry, but a sound rational argument.

    I think it is easier to do with software and music because it isn’t face-to-face.

    No, it’s easier because making copies does not increase its scarcity — actually the opposite. To quote 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. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

  158. zuzu says:

    Only in so far as there is no way to do without them.

    This reveals my point. What makes you think that there’s no way to do without them?

    Why is that such an immutable assumption?

  159. zuzu says:

    What, pray tell, would you propose as a new business model for a shareware USB ultility that you can alredy download and register over the internet?

    This “There is no other business model!” mentality is exactly why the RIAA and MPAA never manage to remove their head from their ass. It’s also exactly the thought process behind why Karen’s “No software is free!” was so stupid.

    “In stormy times, some people build shelters; others build windmills.” If the software is so popular that people spend time and effort writing keygens, the author could harness that popularity for revenue other than shaking down users for it. Or figure out a way for users to pay for further development to add new features.

    A commercial enterprise can’t rely on only innovating its products, but it must also innovate the entire exchange of how customers get what they want for the money that you want. The “New Economy” was predicated on the latter, and that’s why firms such as Amazon and eBay have succeeded; they redefined the platform on which exchanges happen. Clayton M. Christensen coined this as “disruptive innovation“.

    This guilt-tripping was popular with CD burning software on Windows years ago. Sometimes it would instead silently enact revenge by purposefully burning coasters.

  160. metatim says:

    Like others, I have found this discussion extremely interesting. I note that everyone tends to see things through their own lenses, which is why the first thing I try to do is understand the lens someone is using – what does it hide from them, and what does it enable them to see clearly?

    In the case of Zuzu, without whom I suspect this discussion would be much reduced, I am seeing what I think of as the ‘autistic’ lens (with no prejudice intended). This tends to grant extremely clear, lucid thought, at the expense of disliking and/or disregarding the awkward and inconvenient complexities of human nature.

    (Examples of this type of view: asserting that the net benefit of copyright systems are ‘impossible’ to calculate – true in an absolute sense, but untenable if we are prepared to tolerate even a little uncertainty – and appealing to the fact that what society deems acceptable varies through history and between countries.)

    This is the same kind of lens used by those that try to derive ethics from ‘survival of the fittest’ applied at the individual level, when the extremely successful human race and all its quirks (like tending to explicitly help the “least fit” survive) show this to be a fatally limited view.

    Of course, the reason I notice this is that it is thrown into sharp focus by my own lens of choice, “can vs should.”

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about working out how abstract theory and the plain facts of what we “can” do collide with the annoyingly amorphous notion of what we “should” do.

    The law (in any given country at any given time) is some kind of encoding of what that society thinks people “should” do. (This is why many in this thread appeal to the law to answer this issue). But the law changes, because what society believes changes, often because what people *can* do changes. This is why, when taking the long view, appealing to the current law is not sufficient to resolve the argument.

    The real challenge is that what we “can” do has changed so radically and so fast that working out what we “should” do is getting increasingly difficult. Ultimately I think we are wired to stick to one view of what we “should” do – this is why so few people change their minds on these kinds of things. There’s a great quote on this which I can’t remember precisely, but it’s something like:

    “New ideas do not replace old ideas because they are better. They replace them because the people that advocate the old ideas grow old and die.”

    Technology is changing things too fast for this generational method to keep up.

    I don’t have the answers, but I think what we can do will continue to race beyond our ability to work out what we should do, and one way or another it’ll all end in tears. Post-apocalyptic tears of loss, or post-singularity tears of joy.

  161. zuzu says:

    And I think labour does have a intrinsic value, it just doesn’t have a fixed value. Just because people have varying idea about what something is worth doesn’t mean it has no worth. Labour is definitely worth something, its why people are willing to pay others to do it.

    It’s only worth something to the someone who’s willing to pay for it at that particular time. But that’s entirely subjective, like sometimes you’re hungry for pizza and other times for ice cream and other times not at all.

    However, some people just cannot believe that intrinsic value doesn’t exist. Just as some people just cannot believe God doesn’t exist, or that evolution or photosynthesis do exist. Arguments with such people are at an impasse.

    If you decide to take it anyway because it is easy to do so in spite of the other party’s refusal of the exchange, then you have deprived someone else (the vendor) of something. You seem to be equating the ease with which you can avoid paying for something to its worth, is that right?

    No, I think this is a confused statement. An exchange is predicated on losing the thing you have to gain the thing you don’t have, and that you’re happier with the new thing than you were with the old thing. If you’d be happier with the thing you already have, you wouldn’t give it up.

    But software is different, because you’re not losing anything when someone makes an additional copy for themselves.

    People might think that they’re losing “potential revenue” (as the RIAA and MPAA do with their “pirating” statistics), but it’s not accurate to equate that with an actual “sale” because for most of them if they had to pay for it they wouldn’t anyway (they’d just go without the software).

    But more fundamental than any of that is the idea that software often currently written and sold according to the familiar economy of scale used in factories, where you make a major investment up front (in building a factory, or learning a skill) and then make up that investment plus a profit by selling units that it outputs. This is why Bill Gates was able to pitch the idea of selling software to IBM. It was familiar, and it took advantage of existing copyright law (which itself is disputable).

    However, what’s become more obvious with the rise of personal computing and inexpensive telecommunications is that both this software development model and the copyright model are deeply flawed. However, intrenched business has chosen instead to say that those features such as copying and distribution are instead the “flaws” — because they jeopardize their business model. So we have silliness such as “copy protection” and DRM — which are actually anti-features. All to prop-up a business model that wouldn’t be viable otherwise.

    Then of course we get all kinds of nasty unintended consequences and chilling effects from this government intrusion in the market. Not surprisingly, these serve the interests of those big businesses with the most political influence. This perverts the market and disenfranchises the power of consumers to be served by businesses; in other words, companies shift from profit-seeking to rent seeking.

  162. zuzu says:

    People who think that all software should be free sicken me. Don’t you understand that creating these products requires huge amounts of time and effort?

    Again, an invocation of the labor theory of value.

    Just because it’s an expensive investment does not mean you’re entitled to a return on investment. It’s a risk, and the payoff depends on the sustainability (or not) of your business model.

    Without compensation, many programmers will simply never bother to create and perfect their products for users. If there is a software product offered to you at a price you find unreasonable, don’t buy it. Seek out competitors who will provide the price and features you want. That is how the free market system encourages innovation.

    I agree, except on two points:

    1.) Copyright (and patents) are not part of a free market system. Those are government interventions in the marketplace.

    2.) I’m not arguing against programmer compensation, but merely that this one very particular business model of relying on selling copies is not a naturally viable business model.

    get over your infantile sense of ‘entitlement by default’.

    Actually, it is those who naively assume that software is a product who possess the “infantile sense of entitlement by default”, as I have already illustrated.

  163. zuzu says:

    Anyone who has done both should have little trouble understanding the difference.

    Appeal to belief fallacy.

    Never mind your patronizing “quiet, the adults are talking” attitude of dismissal.

  164. dculberson says:

    I think Zuzu has a good point, and I don’t believe he’s directly advocating the wholesale piracy of all software regardless of license. But I do think that what this particular software author has done is a good example of a way to deal with the new software business climate.

    One thing it boils down to for me is: it’s likely that eventually all major software needs will have a solution that is Free, either as in speech or as in beer. Hell, it’s pretty close to that now, it’s just a question of refinement. Ubuntu Linux, Open Office, and Firefox create a package that will fulfill the majority of computer user’s needs. What’s left then for the programmer and entrepreneur to do for money? That has yet to be figured out. Support, subscription models, customization, the tip jar, who knows.

    But it will be a long time, if it ever comes, before commercial software is made rare. It’s firmly entrenched both legally and intellectually for the majority of computer users. And regardless of your philosophical standpoint, the consequences of breaking civil or criminal laws can be a lot more inconvenient than just forking over the dough for a legit license.

  165. Ceronomus says:

    Zuzu,
    You are correct that, just because you make an expensive investment doesn’t mean that you are entitled to have it pay off. Investments fail all the time.

    HOWEVER, just because you don’t want to PAY for something doesn’t mean that you have the right to simply take it. You can argue about business models all you want but the end result is, software piracy is illegal. That ends the moral ambiguity right there.

    It doesn’t matter if you agree with it being illegal or not. It is illegal. Hence you have ZERO right to copy the software and those creating the software have every right to expect that they will be paid for their efforts.

    You used the concept of the kid mowing your lawn as having rented out his body. By this argument programmers are, in effect, renting out their minds and have a right to be paid for their efforts.

    If you don’t like the price, you have a LEGAL alternative. Go without.

    How hard is that, really? Just go without. You aren’t ENTITLED to the fruits of someone’s labor, no matter how easy it is for them to reproduce it.

    Flat out, end of story. You have no RIGHT to the software and, under copyright laws, they DO have a right to take action against you.

    People bitch about the MPAA and the RIAA alot. I’m among them. But it is attitudes like yours, the unapologetic folks who seem to think it is their right to simply enjoy the fruits of someone’s efforts without paying any sort of compensation, that are going to keep those monolithic dinosaurs rolling forward.

    By refusing to pay, you are denying them the compensation they are do.

    If you are going to take food from someone’s table, don’t try to play games of semantics. Just say, I’m going to commit a crime and take whatever I want. At least be honest about your dishonesty.

  166. Wordguy says:

    @11: Amazon and eBay still require that you pay for the products. If I hacked together a coupon code that gave me a 100% discount and free shipping on every order at Amazon, it would be theft not enthusiasm.

  167. Ito Kagehisa says:

    Downpressor, I apologize for my late reply to your comments. I have been mostly away from computers for the holiday season.

    I agree with all that Teufelaffe said a few posts back; artisans, and especially artists who release their creations freely to the world, should be supported by those who appreciate their art, yes, absolutely, but that has little or nothing to do with theft or rape or any other violent crime.

    There is nothing morally wrong with copyright or patents as long as these things are non-transferable and exist for a limited time. In a perfect theoretical world, such monopolies would exist just long enough to encourage makers to continue to create at their optimum capability. That is certainly what the inventors of copyright intended.

    Unfortunately, the ability of modern technology to make high quality copies at low cost means that copyright is no longer practically enforceable; with 3-D replicators coming ever closer to true self-replication, patent may soon face a similar obsolescence.

    Mr. Zuzu is arguing that creators need a better method than copy protection to garner support that will enable them to continue to produce works, because copy protection cannot work without totalitarian control of all human activity, but he is not defending illicit copying. I think he is recognizing that it exists, and stating that he believes that it would be impossible to prevent without grievous harm to society, harm done to everyone and not just to artists. I think current trends support Zuzu’s beliefs, this may be simply because I place great value on my privacy.

    I hope everyone had a delightful Divali, a righteous Ramadan, a sensational Solstice, a happy Hannukah, a cheery Christmas, a fine Festivus, and a quality Kwanzaa.

  168. DefMech says:

    Is the presence of copyright your main objection to selling copies of software? If so, I’ll politely exit the discussion. That’s an entire can of worms to itself that stretches far outside of the software realm. I was under the impression that you considered the concept of selling copies terminally flawed in its current state, to which I disagree. This is an unusually complex discussion, so I apologize if I lost your position in the back-and-forth.

  169. Tubman says:

    Zuzu,

    In the long view, copyright and patents are actually a very recent socio-economic phenomenon

    Well, the first patents were issued around 2,500 years ago by the Greeks. Just to put that in perspective, that’s about 200 years after the invention of coins. The long view indeed.

    It’s true that copyright has been around for a much shorter period (around 400 years), but that’s only because printed books (not to mention a decent number of people capable of reading them) haven’t been around much longer.

    It originated in a completely separate construct of creating “incentives” for people to be creative, using the power of the State to provide monopoly privileges known as copyright and patents. However, we cannot even assess (because of subjective valuation) whether the benefits outweigh the costs of having such monopolies in our economic system. So “intellectual property” cannot justify its existence, while real property rights can.

    You’re slightly mis-stating the intentions here: yes, the aim was to promote creativity, but above all, they were about disseminating knowledge. The Copyright Act was officially entitled “The Act for the Encouragement of Learning”, while patent legislation (on the whole), has been the exchange of a temporary monopoly on new inventions for the publication of how to do it.

    While there’s no guarantee of future performance, there’s absolutely no question that the benefits of this approach have massively outweighed any disadvantages. Prior to patents and copyright there were only trade secrets belonging to secret societies or passed from father to son. Maybe. Remember all those documentaries that drone on about all the amazing things ancient cultures built and how nobody can figure out how they did them? It’s not amazing, it’s a tragedy: in every case some master stonemason died before giving up his secrets and deprived humanity of that knowledge for centuries or even millennia until someone else came up with another way of doing the same thing.

    Once patents and copyright kicked in seriously in the 1700s, almost all the knowledge that would previously have been lost got saved. There weren’t too many giants’ shoulders to stand on back then. Are you sure you want to go back?

  170. Newman says:

    Information (e.g. ideas, software, music, movies, chemical formulas, etc.) are neither rivalrous nor excludable. Each copy increases its availability. Information is ostensibly not scarce; it’s available from anyone willing to make a copy for you, and then you can make copies for anyone who asks you.

    OK. Let’s go with this definition. Without patents (for instance), what incentive do the “thinkers” who come up with new, innovative ideas have to release those ideas? After all, your entire argument is predicated on the fact that the first copy is available.

    But, as someone pointed out WAY earlier in this thread, prior to patents, individuals and societies used trade secrets to control information. Instead of being freely available, the information died with the last holder BECAUSE the first copy never became available. This is what IP law is about – making sure the first copy becomes available.

    If I had a Star Trek replicator that could fabricate copies of cars from existing ones, then that would be a reason for companies that manufacture and sell cars to be screwed.

    OK, let’s go with this. If I did have a replicator that could reproduce cars, isn’t it someone’s responsibility to compensate the person who designed the car? Yes, the materials are “free”, but the design is the MAJOR cost in any vehicle. Or are you suggesting that one person pay for the MILLIONS of dollars that it costs to design a new car, and everyone else gets it for free? How is this fair? How is this just? And WHY would ANYONE design a new car in this environment?

    On another note, Zuzu, I’m curious about wone thing… what do you do for a living? I’d love to be able to apply your theories about IP to you and see how you like it?

  171. zuzu says:

    For everyone reading this thread, don’t miss Cory’s lovely holiday message about his novel Little Brother and the role of copying in society.

  172. dustbuster7000 says:

    ZuZu seems to be saying that the product only has value according to what the consumers are willing to pay for it, not what it cost the developer to write it. Which is fine as far as it goes. He also seems to be saying that the nature of software makes it trivial for a consumer to avoid paying what they think it is worth (what they would pay if they couldn’t just copy and crack it), thus a new method of extracting that worth from the consumer is required of the developer. Also fine as far as it goes.

    The problem with each of them is that they don’t go very far.

  173. zuzu says:

    So what you are saying is that, because software piracy exists, selling software is an unsustainable business model and therefore software piracy is justified. In case you can’t see the fairly obvious flaws in this argument let me use a non-software example: If grain theft is particularly widespread in an area to the point where it is almost impossible to farm it profitably, does that make it justified?

    Stop conflating creating additional copies with transferring use of a physical object from one person to another.

    The analogy of copyright infringement to physical theft is not legitimate. If you’d read what I’ve written you’d address that argument instead re-invoking what has become a cliche.

    In any case, a bad business model does not justify theft: the auto industry is pretty screwed, does that mean it’s alright to steal cars?

    This is not my assertion at all. Software companies are screwed because of their reliance on a legal fiction which is divorced from reality.

    If I had a Star Trek replicator that could fabricate copies of cars from existing ones, then that would be a reason for companies that manufacture and sell cars to be screwed.

    If there is no incentive, why take the risk?

    Once you start thinking of economics as a rigged game of socially engineering “incentives”, you’re no longer an economist but a moralist. (That’s like being an astrologer instead of an astronomer.)

    Zuzu, you really do seem to be arguing more and more against the concept of ownership as a whole.

    No, I’m not. It’s very simple. Physical things (due to excludability and rivalry) requires property rights. Information, which is neither excludable nor rival, does not need property rights. That’d be like assigning property rights to the air we breathe, or to who may use the colors red and blue.

    Lastly, be careful of clinging to tightly to any economic theory. Widely accepted economic theory, until a few months ago, showed that the US’s current state of recession couldn’t happen.

    Mainstream economics is very flawed, though popular. The positive economic analysis I’m using here foresaw many years ago that this depression was destined to occur.

    Hell, until recently the thoughts against pumping money into an economy were the fear of creating inflation. The US is pumping money into the economy and we’re suffering deflation (which, while sounding good is NOT what we want at the moment as we try to stabilize the markets and get things moving again).

    You’re confusing inflation/deflation with prices going up or down. Inflation is a cause, not a result. c.f. quantity theory of money

    We can argue if intellectual property SHOULD be treated as property, but it *IS* treated as property so it becomes the real versus the “how it should be”. That gets us nowhere.

    No, the world is what we make it. If you’d watch The Day the Universe Changed, you’d know that. If practically no one recognizes “intellectual property”, then it ceases to exist as a social construct.

  174. zuzu says:

    You are talking about individual copies of software. I am talking about an industry. While the marginal cost for producing additional pieces of software is low, this does not eliminate the sizable cost for creating the first copies. Tell me why companies should not be compensated for that.

    Because it is not the role of government to protect a particular industry with special privileges at the expense of everyone else.*

    Just because you have a defective business model does not mean that government should provide you with extra privileges to make it work. To do so is called corporatism (or fascism), not capitalism.

    The problem with doing so are all of the negative unintended consequences.

    *This is also why the bailouts for the investment banks and the “big three” automobile manufacturers should never have been authorized either. It undermines the necessary market corrections, shrinking the economy even further.

  175. Eicos says:

    Tubman, let me sum up your post in less infuriatingly trendy terms and without unnecessary comparisons: money has value because people believe it does. And without rules, money would be impossible.

    … no disagreements there.

  176. xzzy says:

    Why would anyone pay $20 for a program that lets me map system functions to buttons on a mouse?

    Their appeal to end piracy is noble and all, but they should have attached it to something actually worth paying for.

    Which has always bugged me about Windows and OSX.. there’s this legion of amateur programmers writing tiny little programs to make life livable, and every last one of them is under the impression their effort deserves compensation.

    Some of it may be worth money, but the vast majority is not. These days I look for linux solutions first, because it’s almost guaranteed the author is trying to scratch an itch, not make a buck.

  177. zuzu says:

    You can argue about business models all you want but the end result is, software piracy is illegal. That ends the moral ambiguity right there.

    You equate morality with legality?

    You used the concept of the kid mowing your lawn as having rented out his body. By this argument programmers are, in effect, renting out their minds and have a right to be paid for their efforts.

    I agree. They’re renting their minds, but not selling the “products of their minds”. There’s an important difference.

    You aren’t ENTITLED to the fruits of someone’s labor, no matter how easy it is for them to reproduce it.

    Again, an invocation of the labor theory of value. This argument is demonstrably incorrect.

    But it is attitudes like yours, the unapologetic folks who seem to think it is their right to simply enjoy the fruits of someone’s efforts without paying any sort of compensation, that are going to keep those monolithic dinosaurs rolling forward.

    Nonsense. I’m merely consistently applying deductive logic to their conclusions, regardless of whether I prefer those conclusions or not. c.f. positive economics

    By refusing to pay, you are denying them the compensation they are do.

    The implication here is, again, I think, that selling copies is somehow the only business model software developers have available to them. This is an incredibly narrow view.

    If you are going to take food from someone’s table, don’t try to play games of semantics.

    Again, these are sound arguments, not sophistry. Disprove them if you can.

  178. zuzu says:

    And as a programmer in search of a job, I’m very interested in what Zuzu’s talking about. I want to be rewarded for my creativity and work, but at the same time, I want the fruits of my labors to be used as widely as possible, without restriction. I’m open to ideas on how to accomplish this dual goal in the real world.

    Elance is cool, based on Thomas W. Malone’s The Dawn of the E-Lance Economy, though I think this has been extended with his full book: The Future of Work. Richard Florida and Daniel Pink are also interesting, if a bit in the style of motivational speakers. People also seem to use LinkedIn as a “Facebook for work”. (I have waaaaay more resources on organizational theory, if you’re interested; after I get back from my other job that starts in less than an hour.)

    Also, Granovetter’s strengthof weak ties and social capital matter a whole lot. Like the adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know.”

    my advice is to suck it up, program because you enjoy it, and if need be, find a day job.

    Another pop culture / motivational speaker book that’s actually pretty good on this subject is Robert G. Allen’s Multiple Streams of Income. Job loss / change isn’t nearly so traumatic when it’s only a fraction of your income, just like diversifying your capital investments instead of “putting all your eggs in one basket”.

  179. DefMech says:

    “On another note, Zuzu, I’m curious about wone thing… what do you do for a living? I’d love to be able to apply your theories about IP to you and see how you like it?”

    I’m going to guess it has little to do with making a living off of being creative.

  180. zuzu says:

    samsam: sure is. though actually, my practice tends to be more along the lines of time-shifting my library usage, scanning books that are difficult to acquire, such as through interlibrary loan, and then sharing those copies with others after i get around to perusing them myself.

    Also, consider the tightrope that Google Books search has to walk; they’re clearly pursuing a marginal revolution by showing people how useful this would be if it were legal.

  181. Ceronomus says:

    Zuzu – “Again, you’re merely describing the labor theory of value. “It’s worth something because I worked hard on it.” That’s a disproven belief. c.f. diamond-water paradox”

    Quoting the Wiki link you provided…
    “The paradox of value (also known as the diamond-water paradox) is the apparent contradiction, or paradox, that although water is on the whole more useful, in terms of survival, than diamonds, diamonds command a higher price in the market.”

    This does NOTHING to disprove the labor theory of value. What it does help explain is perceived value.

    Going further down the same page one comes across “Hence, Smith denied a necessary relationship between price and utility. Price on this view was related to a factor of production (namely, labor) and not to the point of view of the consumer.[”

    You seem to only count reproduction costs as labor, but PRODUCTION is the entirety, not just making a copy. Your argument on this basis is fundamentally flawed.

    Again though, should they come up with a better business model? Yes, I think they should and they might be better for it. In the meantime though, you have no right to break the law, despite your philosophical views.

  182. Tubman says:

    @#111, Zuzu: It most certainly is not an ad populum fallacy. If anything it would be ad verecundiam, but seeing as I am someone who has done both, I find an appeal to my own authority very persuasive indeed :P

  183. Agies says:

    @11: People spend time writing keygens because they can. It’s a hobby of sorts that can get them notoriety in certain circles. It doesn’t mean that the software is popular enough to generate revenue trough some other means.

    As a freelance writer (who is finding less and less work) it pains me to see a small one-man developer become the target of such ire and rhetoric. I have no desire to see anyone become a modern day Stephen Foster.

  184. colonel gentleman says:

    Ceronomous,

    Amen.

    When I was a kid some families would leave a bowl of candy by their front door with a sign that said, “Take One”. A classmate dumped an entire bowl in his pillowcase and said, “There, one bowl taken.”
    Technically he was correct, but still a dick.

    Flowery language just makes lawyers and graduate students feel better about it.

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