Stealing Music

Once upon a time ago it was not illegal to download copyrighted music (circa 1997). I remember my brother downloading a strange new file type onto my computer and then playing from these files cd quality music. He was quite excited about it, and the question of legality and ethicality never even came up. It was legal to trade copies of songs, and make copies of songs as long as no money was being exchanged. And why not? We had been doing it for years in analog form - creating cassette copies of songs off of CD's, the radio, and even other cassettes for friends, family, and co-workers.

What was different about mp3's? The quality first of all, and the ease. There was no pausing, rewinding, editting, etc. But a 1.5 meg file on a 1.2 gig computer wasn't exactly free in my mind either. One song was taking up as much as an entire software application, a whole playlist would have quickly eaten up my hard drive.

Fast forward to the present and the same sort of download is not only illegal but seems to be considered unethical by mainstream america. People who exchange music online without paying for it are called criminals, and theives, and are slapped with expensive lawsuits via The Recording Industry Association of America.

The RIAA in its never ending quest to right the wrongs of internet past has stated time and again that downloading music for free is no different from shoplifting. But clearly it is different if for no other reason than the fact that shoplifting involves tangible objects. If you walk into a store and walk out with a tune in your head that you heard inside the store no one is going to apprehend you for stealing no matter how precise your memory may be. Also to shoplift one always had to enter someone else's property.

It's not even clear what is being stolen. Some say music and some say royalties for sales that would or should have occurred but never existed. The copies of songs that are created during a download are copies that didn't exist until they are created on the computer of the recipient. They are taken from no one, only copied from other copies possessed by those who either copied them from someone else or from their own cd collection.

It's data, its not even music until you hit the play button on your mp3 player or computer. And what matters is ultimately the sound that comes out through the speakers when that data is translated into sound. They can't make a claim to the order of one's and zeros of the file itself, there would be too much variance between copies, and it would be easy to make minor changes to the data that would invalidate such a claim. Ultimately they are claiming as property the sound, specifically how precisely the sound translated from your mp3 file replicates the sound of a recording that someone somewhere in the recording industry owns and likely made.

They have no interest in midi files, karaoke recordings, or lyrics on a page. There interest is in you and the likelihood in their minds of having gotten money from you for a copy of a song if you had not downloaded a high quality replica for free.

Its not about taking because there is no taking involved. To say the issue is about theft is to say that you took something that didn't exist until it was in your possession. The issue is about having. If you have a copy of a song and neither you nor anyone else paid money to acquire it then you owe them money and thus have stolen that money from them or rather from the starving artists whom you obviously care nothing about.

They never had the money to begin with nor your copy, but there are theoretical royalties involved. Money that would have exchanged hands if you had chosen to purchase a cd with the song on it. Money that could have been paid in royalties if that theoretical event had come to pass. Money that may have existed if you had not chosen to create your own copy of the song via the internet.

My point is not that we should feel one way or the other about the issue, but that its absurd to consider this a simple issue of theft. Its equally absurd to let the RIAA decide for all of us whether or not downloading free music is ethical. I'm sure they had no small role in criminalizing what was an already widely practiced activity, and too many people are willing to believe that legality=ethicality.

From Foxnews.com:

"Our goal with all these anti-piracy efforts is to protect the ability of the recording industry to invest in new bands and new music and give legal online services a chance to flourish," she said. "The illegal downloading of music is just as wrong as shoplifting from a local record store." - Jenni Engebretsen, spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America

Is it really just as wrong? Whether or not it is depends on whether we can consider a specific pattern of sound to be property, and by extension a compressed file format with the capacity to replicate that pattern of sound in the presence of the right software and equipment.

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RIght on Rainbough! (What

RIght on Rainbough! (What sort of name is 'Rainbough' anyway?) The crucial fallacy in laying claim to the 1's and 0's is that, as you point out, the sequence of 1's and 0's can be altered almost completely without changing the resulting playback of the sound (say, by compressing the file into zip format). They are trying to lay claim on a vague fog at best, an ethereal Platonic form at worst.

An interesting twist is that IP can be also be interpreted as a form of human slavery (due to Roderick Long): What does it mean to own a song if not to own all instances of the song in reality? But if you hear a song, you thereby come to have a copy of the song imprinted on your brain. Thus, if ideas can be owned, it follows that the RIAA can legitimately own a part of your brain, to dispose of as they will, a condition also known as slavery. QED

Furthermore, all the

Furthermore, all the materials that one uses to make these copies, including the original cd from which they came onto the internet, were the private physical property of those who bought them. How can a music cartel tell someone what they will do with their own purchased, physical property and then claim ehtics is on their side? I'd also like to point out that since markets are arguably darwinian in nature, the music industry should find a market method of getting around their problem. Eventually they will since the force of the market and its creations cannot be destroyed. THye could start with lowering their ridiculous cd prices in order to compete better. Fucking Virgin records and HMV!

Stefan: I don't remember the

Stefan:
I don't remember the name of the fallacy where you make a true statement, then change the meaning of a word or phrase in the statement and assume that it's still true, but that's the foundation of Dr. Long's argument.

When we say that someone owns a song, that doesn't mean what you said it means. It means that he holds the copyright to the song, which means that he has the exclusive legal right---which he may delegate at his discretion---to manufacture recordings or hold public performances of that song. I'm sure there's more to it, and there are definitely some exceptions, but that's the gist of it. Nobody owns part of your brain just because you happen to hear a song whose copyright he holds.

It's called "amphiboly" --

It's called "amphiboly" -- and I don't think this qualifies, because the argument starts out by saying "What does it mean to own X if not...". Of course you can dispute that characterization, but I think the definition of ownership you've given is not very illuminating; exactly how should that legal recognition be granted, once you've defined it that way? Many libertarians, myself included, subscribe to some form of labor-homesteading, whereby in a state of nature you come to "own" some property by adding value to it, using it, mixing labor with it, etc. Then the legal powers-that-be are supposed to recognize that right in law. I'm arguing that the analogous process here would be to basically homestead people's brains. You can't respond by saying "But ownership is just the exlusive legal right to control how the idea is used" - because the question is how to acquire the ownership in the first place.

which means that he has the

which means that he has the exclusive legal right—which he may delegate at his discretion—to manufacture recordings or hold public performances of that song.

Anyway, even if we assume this arguendo, the case against IP is even easier, for it is perfectly libertarian to manufacture recordings or hold public performances using your own physical stereo, CDs, amplifiers, acoustic guitars, etc, since all these things are your own acquired property. If you listen to a song, then use a pencil, which you own, and a piece of paper, which you own, and a desk, which you also own, to transcribe the song and sell it for a zillion dollars, then you have only used physical property that you own. Saying there is some sort of property right held by someone else in your things which prevents you from doing these things is to deny that you own them in the first place. Contradiction.

Not to quibble, but

Not to quibble, but technically, the fallacy that Brandon is looking for is called 'equivocation'. Equivocation involves using the same word in two different ways in the argument. Amphiboly involves a sentence or a claim that can be interpreted in more than one way.

Equivocation example: Philosophy is better than nothing. Nothing is better than sex. Therefore philosophy is better than sex.

Amphiboly example: For sale, one German Shepard. Eats anything. Especially likes children.

Ah, I'm sorry Joe has the

Ah, I'm sorry Joe has the right of it. My mouse is to the right of me, therefore Joe is to the right of my mouse.

It's not accurate to say

It's not accurate to say that it was legal in 1997 to download copyrighted music that you didn't pay for. Nor was it legal to copy friends' music--though it was virtually impossible to detect and enforce, which led to a tax on blank tapes and recording equipment in 1992. It was affirmed at that time that making tapes of material you already owned (for your own personal use) was legal.

The whole point of the

The whole point of the digital millenium copyright act was to make the trading of music online illegal, because trading it without any monentary exchange was legal. They didn't considering trading to be copyright infringement in part because they didn't expect new copies to be made in the process. In other words if I trade my Bee Gee's CD for your ABBA CD then no new copies have been made we've simply traded one album for another. You could argue that the legality of it was ambiguous, but given that it was legal to make copies of your own music and it was legal to trade copies you already owned I don't think its inaccurate to say that it was legal.

Yeah, I kept on asserting

Yeah, I kept on asserting that copyright law is immoral, but it didn't get me that far in my Copyright Law class.

The whole point of the

The whole point of the digital millenium copyright act was to make the trading of music online illegal, because trading it without any monentary exchange was legal.

I'm pretty sure that's wrong. Take a look at Wikipedia's summary. It says that the main provisions were laws forbidding the circumvention of of copy protection technology and the dissemination of devices designed to accomplish it, copyright liability protection for ISPs, and some miscellaneous stuff.

I would be very surprised to learn that it was legal to make and distribute unauthorized copies of any copyrighted work at any point in our lifetimes. The only reason record companies didn't go after people back then was that on-line piracy wasn't big enough to be an issue. Broadband and CD burners were too rare, and hard drives were too small. It was definitely illegal to make and distribute unauthorized copies of computer software when I first started using computers in the late '80s.

I can't decide if your

I can't decide if your definition of property is behaviorist, positivist or simply Austrian ;-)

I disagree! The criminal here is the person that copies the content of the CD to his computer (which would be fine for personal use) but then shares those files online.

As a CD buyer, by doing this you violate the trust and agreement you have with the CD seller.

Similarly, if I go online and download a copyrighted track from a P2P network I'm well aware that what I'm doing is buying stolen goods.

I don't think that any amount of linguistic gymnastics, from people who just want to decriminalize a form of theft, can affect this.

The acts in question (redistributing the CD) are theft, theft of private property and breach of agreement (with the CD seller). The fact that it's intellectual property rather than hard objects is non-sequitur. The agreement between buyer and seller is all we need, legally.

I'm also appalled that a respectable site such as Catallarchy decided to run such a story, obviously bent on injecting a dose of moral relativism, if not nihilism, in its discussion of a plain-and-simple breach of contract and intellectual property.

The degree to which copyright law is OK, or the way intellectual property is thought-of in today's world... these are all distinct, theoretical issues.

I've heard many naive, some even Communist, points trying to rationalize the widespread crimes concerning copyrighted music, but frankly this seems to be the lamest... and to put a libertarian spin on it... well, I won't say more.

Hi Rainbough, Is it really

Hi Rainbough,

Is it really just as wrong?

I don't think it is wrong, though it's probably still illegal. For our lawmakers are blessed with such wisdom that they can rule something morally wrong, then morally right, then morally wrong again, in the blink of a page of legislation.

But if we think that laws should follow morals, rather than morals following laws, Stephen Kinsella has persuaded me to drop my previous belief in copyright:

http://www.stephankinsella.com/ip/

The key document which finally brought me over to an anti-IP position, is his PDF article:

Against Intellectual Property

I think Kinsella would have even persuaded Uncle Murray Rothbard to drop his support for copyright, though Uncle Murray himself argued against the absurd arbitrary nature of patents.

I put my copy of Eat the Rich down the other day, and decided to manfully wade up the slope of Man, Economy, and State. With hindsight, and after reading Kinsella, you can almost see Rothbard reach an anti-IP position in the early part of his Magnum Opus, when discussing the abundance of air, in relation to human welfare:

In the first place, all means are scarce, i.e., limited with respect to the ends they could possibly serve. If the means are in unlimited abundance, then they need not serve as the objects of attention of any human action

Later, we get to Uncle Murray's definition of property:

What goods become property? Obviously only scarce means are property. General conditions of welfare, since they are abundant to all, are not the objects of any action, and therefore cannot be owned or become property. On the free market, it is nonsense to say that someone "owns" the air. Only if a good is scarce is it necessary for anyone to obtain it, or ownership of it, for his use.

He's so close to Kinsella there, it hurts. A CD disk is scarce property, because it is made of tangible metal and plastic you can touch. The songs recorded upon it, as binary streams, are potentially unlimited in abundance, like air. This is especially obvious when these data streams are broadcast through the air! :-)

If something has unlimited abundance, such as a song broadcast through the air, then it cannot be property and it cannot be owned. End of argument.

If the great bespectacled one had managed to take Kinsella's intellectual leap into anti-IP, I'm sure we would be a couple of decades ahead in our argument against the self-righteous believers in IP, though I'm sure we'll get there in the end; the truth will out (eventually).

Rgds,
JackM

PS>

I disagree! The criminal here is the person that copies the content of the CD to his computer (which would be fine for personal use) but then shares those files online.

Ok Gabriel, what about the following linguistic gymnastics. I build a radio from scarce components, including an FM tuner and an MP3 recorder. I turn my radio on. A stream of binary bits comes to me through the ether, from where I know not; it could be aliens transmitting it from the moons of Saturn for all I know. I record this stream of binary bits. When played through an MP3 player, this stream of bits sounds remarkably, though not exactly, like Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven', though I couldn't swear on it. Who owns this MP3 recording of the stream of bits? Me? Led Zeppelin? Or the aliens?

Will the lunar council of Saturn be within their rights to beam me up and try me in their copyright courts? I ask merely for information.

Here's another one. I buy a house in Somerset, in England. It's right next to the field where the Glastonbury rock concert is held each year, behind where the stage goes. And yes you've guessed it, this is the year that Led Zeppelin are going to perform a one-off reunion, with Phil Collins stepping in on drums. With my MP3 recorder I sit in back garden and record 'Stairway to Heaven', blasting at me uninvited through the air in my garden as I recline on my deck-chair, sipping a gin and tonic. Who owns my MP3 recording? Me? The Glastonbury festival owners? Or Led Zeppelin (and Phil Collins)?

But read Kinsella, if you want to avoid linguistic gymnastics. I too used to believe in copyright, but I found his case unarguable. You might do the same if you can bring yourself down to a low enough moral plane to read him.

I’m also appalled that a respectable site such as Catallarchy decided to run such a story, obviously bent on injecting a dose of moral relativism, if not nihilism, in its discussion of a plain-and-simple breach of contract and intellectual property.

Oh dear, Gabriel. No doubt the editors of Catallarchy should be taken out and shot for daring to discuss ideas that you find offensive. I'll volunteer for your firing squad. These linguistic gymnasts ought to be put out of their intellectual misery. Now where did I put my Kalashnikov?

… and to put a libertarian spin on it… well, I won’t say more.

Good.

"As a CD buyer, by doing

"As a CD buyer, by doing this you violate the trust and agreement you have with the CD seller."

Yes but what is this aspect of the agreement presume? That the government will punish you if you don't abide by the no-copying stipulation. The CD seller is augmenting a naturally enforceable deal (money for product) with a less enforceable rider (limits on behavior with product). Can a seller reasonably place conditions on use of product that he has no way of personally enforcing?

It seems to me that any aspects of CD sales agreements that limit behavior with the CDs themselves after purchase are entitlements provided by the government to sellers. I don't see a moral issue here except for the willingness of the government to abuse liberties in the name of subsidizing industry.

Can a seller reasonably

Can a seller reasonably place conditions on use of product that he has no way of personally enforcing?

Ah, and here we come to the heart of the statist/anarchist debate. A good statist would argue that no seller has the ability to _personally_ enforce any parts of a contract. Or, to the extent that sellers can personally enforce contracts, doing so leads to pretty bad consequences. That's pretty much the entire Lockean case for government, unless I'm misremembering.

That’s pretty much the

That’s pretty much the entire Lockean case for government, unless I’m misremembering.

I'm not sure your remark makes any sense; this is the sort of thing that neither the seller nor the state could readily enforce; you'll have to look for the heart of the anarchist/statist debate elsewhere...

As a CD buyer, by doing this

As a CD buyer, by doing this you violate the trust and agreement you have with the CD seller.

Similarly, if I go online and download a copyrighted track from a P2P network I’m well aware that what I’m doing is buying stolen goods.

I don’t think that any amount of linguistic gymnastics, from people who just want to decriminalize a form of theft, can affect this.

There is one obvious confusion in your post I'll point out - you say that by copying a CD you've purchased and uploading it that you are violating the trust you have with the seller. Assuming this is valid, your next sentence doesn't make any sense - a person can download a file from a P2P network without having met any sellers of CDs at all. How can they have a "trust" or "agreement" with someone they don't know exists? The answer: They can't. People who download files from P2P networks violate agreements with nobody, and hence by your own criteria can steal from nobody.

I’ve heard many naive,

I’ve heard many naive, some even Communist, points trying to rationalize the widespread crimes concerning copyrighted music, but frankly this seems to be the lamest

You're name-calling aside, here is a "serious" libertarian critique of intellectual property:

http://www.libertariannation.org/a/f31l1.html

And here's a long paper on the topic:

http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/15_2/15_2_1.pdf

I think you have just stumbled on a side of the libertarian movement that makes you a bit uncomfortable personally. If that's the case, you'll love this site:

http://praxeology.net/molinari.htm

Happy New Year!

Stefan, If you'll read my

Stefan,

If you'll read my comment carefully, you'll notice that I said that a seller cannot personally enforce _any_ part of a contract (emphasis added this time around). Whatever we happen to put into a contract, it's pretty rare that either side can _personally_ enforce those terms. It's possible, of course, but not very easily and not without considerable messiness. The state, for Locke, serves as the neutral third party that can disinterestedly enforce both sides of a contract. My point was not that this particular case underlines the statist/anarchist debate, but rather that David's claim about personally enforcing the terms of a contract illustrates the statist/anarchist divide. Only somone who has been reading too much Heinlein can really think that individuals can personally enforce their own contracts.

Indeed, as I understand it, ancaps don't think that's possible either. Their objection is not generally to law and legal systems, but rather to monopolistic law and legal systems. Outside of a few SF writers, I can't think of anyone who seriously endorses the sort of thing that David implies. (I don't know if he thinks it either, but his comment would seem to commit him to such a claim.)

Your distinction is a fine

Your distinction is a fine one, I'm afraid that's why I missed it. Kudos to you as well for differentiating the ancap opposition to monopolistic law from a supposed opposition to law as such.

Of course the reason that you can't personally defend the terms of a contract is that you personally cannot always defend your own property. For example, if I pay you for apples, but you deliver rocks, then you are in possession of property which I own (the apples, or their monetary equivalent), but it's difficult for me to go about getting it back.

The ancap response is indeed that the dispute should be submitted to a third party; here there is perfect agreement with Locke. But just having this doesn't let you conclude that there has to be a monopoly provider (which is what Locke wanted). As Roderick Long noted in his anarchy talk, A, B, and C could in principle have A submit disputes to B and C, B to A and C, and C to A and B. The statist would then have to give some reason why non-monopolistic systems will be worse than the monopolistic ones.

My point has nothing to do

My point has nothing to do with ancap or Heinlein (who is he?). All I'm saying is that there are aspects of a transaction that are readily enforceable (payment for product being one) and some that are not enforceable without government assistance. That government assistance is commonly used with enforcement of the former doesn't alter the distinction. Neither do the presence of enforcement agencies or third party mediators. But laws against copyright subsidize no-copying clauses because those clasues would be meaningless without government enforcement.

For me, the moral distinction is between a reasonable claim and a non-reasonable one. Of course, whatever payments or promises of payment are needed to satisfy the seller before his product leaves his possesion are reasonable. But if a seller of alcohol makes me sign a pledge that I will not serve to minors under threat of punishment from a government, I can disregard the stipulation because I personally find such interference to be immoral. However, if an alcohol seller asks me to sign an honor pledge stating that I will not serve to minors under threat of dicrediting my integrity, that's a far deal and one whose enforcement is just.

Anyway, regarding CDs, no trust is being violated. When I buy a cd, I pay money and sign nothing. I verbally endorse nothing. The only implicit understanding is that the government may have an interest in stopping me from sharing the music on the CD with others. After I walk out of the store or purchase my CD online, the seller isn't of any consequence to me.

My point has nothing to do

My point has nothing to do with ancap or Heinlein (who is he?)

You've never heard of Robert Heinlein?! (He wrote about a libertopia in one of his novels, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress").

After I walk out of the store or purchase my CD online, the seller isn’t of any consequence to me.

I think we both agree solidly in that particular situation. But the hypothetical that I think matters more to libertarians is the scenario where there is no government, but the seller requires you to utter words to the effect of "I hereby promise that I will never ever copy the CD and give it to others without the permission of your boss", etc. I could understand enforcement of such an agreement if you are merely leasing or renting the CD - after all, you can't just appropriate Blockbuster's property when you rent videos from them. But what about the more ambiguous case, where the seller just says "you can do whatever you want with X, except A, B, and C"? Are you really buying in that case, really leasing, or neither?

There is a difference

There is a difference between theft and copyright infringement. The music labels would have you believe that copyright infringement *is* theft, but it is not. If anyone were to be criminally charged for their involvement in a P2P network (and to my knowledge this has never happened), the charge would be criminal copyright infringement, not theft.

By the way, copyright infringement has been illegal for as long as there has been copyright. It was not legal to infringe on copyright by giving a copy of a cassette to a friend in the 80s, and it is not legal now. It has never been legal to share copyrighted music online, and there were busts of operators of IRC (chat) channels where mp3 sharing was going on well before napster hit the scenes, and well before the DMCA existed.

I strongly disagree with the music industry's treatment of their customer base as criminals, but I also agree that it is their right to do so. If we accept that intellectual property exists (and I grant it is debatable whether or not it should, but it legally does exist), then the owner of that intellectual property has a right to protect that property and dictate how that property is used within the law, so long as he does not infringe on the rights of others.

The RIAA represents the copyright owners of virtually all commercial music out there, and they have made it perfectly clear they do not want anyone sharing their copyrighted material on P2P networks. It is unethical to violate the RIAA's intellectual property rights against their wishes.

I respect the RIAA's wishes and do not engage in online sharing of their intellectual property. I also don't buy any of their music anymore. There are alternatives out there (Magnatune is a good one) which will become more commonplace in time and as more consumers stand up to the RIAA and refuse to do business with them any longer.

Doug G., I strongly disagree

Doug G.,

I strongly disagree with the music industry’s treatment of their customer base as criminals, but I also agree that it is their right to do so.

From your next sentence it sounds like you would define rights as something granted by government, to take away or impose as they like; what would be your reaction if there were only three people in the world, a CD maker, a CD buyer, and X, and the maker announced he held "copyright" over the songs he sold, so that the buyer could not sell them to X. Then is there a "right to intellectual property"? Can you reconcile your answer with your views on the RIAA?

It is unethical to violate the RIAA’s intellectual property rights against their wishes.

Why would that follow? You've already stated you disagree with the RIAA treating their customers like criminals; indeed, if some of the arguments against government and monopoly presented here are correct, the RIAA ARE the real criminals here, not ordinary people. Why is there any obligation, moral or otherwise, to respect the wishes of criminals?

I am aware of the various

I am aware of the various work done on copyright and trademarks. Just the fact that it exists doesn't mean that I have to agree with it.

I simply stated that:

- When you buy a CD, part of that deal is that you won't "share" it.

- When you "share" the music via MP3/P2P you are redistributing against the very terms of the deal you made with the CD seller. A banal case of fraud, if I ever saw one.

- The fact that one downloads music isn't, in itself, criminal but rather comparable with purchasing clearly stolen goods or otherwise knowingly trading with thieves.

- The deal you reach with the CD seller is not about any pattern of bits or sound wave but about your use of the CD and its contents. Actually, the terms of the deal are up to the market. If I listen to a track played in the town square and then use my incredible memory to replay each note, I haven't breached any agreement since I never reached one.

- If a seller can or can't enforce a deal is of no consequence... otherwise it's just "might makes right"... The posibility of enforcement for a deal depends on many factors.

Sorry I was actually

Sorry I was actually thinking of the NET act - no electronic theft act. it was passed at the same time (actually I had thought it was a part of the DMCA but apparently it was separate). The point of which was to make trading songs online illegal. It did this by redefining the term "financial gain" in u.s. copyright law to include the receipt of other copyrighted works. As I said before it was previously legal to make copies of songs for your own use and it was legal to trade cds you owned previous to the passage of this law because it was not legally considered a financial gain. It was not legal to "distribute" songs you did not hold the copyright for but "trading" was not considered distribution and thus the legal ambiguity of the issue of online trading of music.

When you buy a CD, part of


When you buy a CD, part of that deal is that you won’t “share” it.

No seller has ever asked me to make such a deal either verbally, in written form, or in any other form. Yes there is typically information in fine print on the cd itself regarding the relevant copyright laws, but that does not constitute any agreement. The gist of which is usually if you do x (copy, distribute etc.) it constitutes a breach of U.S. copyright law. They don't care whether or not we agree to this. It is simply informing us that that is the law. It is not an agreement with the seller, the record label, the artist or even the government. Its just a notice.


- When you “share” the music via MP3/P2P you are redistributing against the very terms of the deal you made with the CD seller. A banal case of fraud, if I ever saw one.

Once again there were no "terms" and "no agreement." In fact I imagine that if I went over to wal-mart right now and bought a cd and asked whomever sold it to me if he wanted me not to make mp3 copies of it he probably would be bewildered that I even asked. Or I could write a letter to wal-mart asking if that was a term of agreement I made when purchasing the CD. I doubt they would respond much less send me an affirmative yes.


- The fact that one downloads music isn’t, in itself, criminal but rather comparable with purchasing clearly stolen goods or otherwise knowingly trading with thieves.

Given that you have no basis for claiming that there is an agreement not to "share" cd's that is made at the time of purchase, this does not follow. Once again nothing has been stolen, and no agreements have been breached. You could argue that copyright laws have been broken but thats a separate issue entirely.


- The deal you reach with the CD seller is not about any pattern of bits or sound wave but about your use of the CD and its contents. Actually, the terms of the deal are up to the market. If I listen to a track played in the town square and then use my incredible memory to replay each note, I haven’t breached any agreement since I never reached one.

Is there some store that you go to where the owner comes out everytime you buy a cd and says "before I give this to you do you agree not to share it with anyone? and by "it" I don't mean the pattern of bits or sound wave I mean the cd itself?" Cause I've never been in that store. And even if large retailers did care (which I doubt) there are plenty of small cd shops that would probably not only not care what you did with the cd but would likely tell you how to put the whole thing onto the internet if you asked.

I wrote an article arguing

I wrote an article arguing that copyrights can be viewed as physical property rights over on my blog here.

Whether I can enforce my property rights or not has no bearing on whether they exist. The costs of declaring ones copy right is minimal and by social convention can be made even less so. Just like we have made it the social convention that one can't just start using other peoples property without permission, even if they are not using it at the moment and you return it when you are done.

This idea of changing a few bits or converting it by zipping it and such doesn't work against the arguments in my article. If I own a mold and you use it without my permission it really doesn't matter whether you add additional details to the object you made with my mold. I still have property ownership in the item since you used my property to produce it without my permission.

The fact that you read and enjoyed a book does not mean you have copied the article in a way that was not intended. In fact the whole point of novels is to sell them so people can enjoy them in this way. If I rent a car to you and tell you that you cannot off-road with it that doesn't mean that I am somehow claiming ownership over the use of your body. Likewise telling you that you are not allowed to copy a book is not the same as saying that I own part of your brain when you read it.

Could someone fix this blog

Could someone fix this blog so you can cut an paste easily. The damn thing always selects everything from where I want to cut to the end of the blog. I use IE if that helps. Please don't tell me it is intentional and for the protection of you IP rights either. I wouldn't appreciate that joke.

I don't think anyone made

I don't think anyone made the argument that changing the order of one's and zero's or zipping a file would change its legal status or its status as intellectual property. My argument was actually that it would be futile to claim the actual binary data of a file itself because it could easily be changed without changing the quality of the output of the file. The point I was making was how vague the actual item being claimed is. I.e. its not the mp3 files themselves but the pattern of sound that is put out by the files in the presence of certain software and equipment.

For example if I had a copy of Elton John's The Circle of Life on mp3 but changed the file name to "The Grass is Green" by Rainbough Phillips, the only way anyone could prove that that song was not my own property that I could freely share and distribute would be by running the file, listening to the pattern of sound it created and comparing it to the copyrighted work it resembled. In short their crucial claim is on the pattern of sound.

The fact that one downloads

The fact that one downloads music isn’t, in itself, criminal but rather comparable with purchasing clearly stolen goods or otherwise knowingly trading with thieves.

Well gee, up above you said it was identical to buying stolen goods, and hence presumably criminal. Which is it?

Quite simply, there are no stolen goods being traded when you download a file from a P2P network; if there are goods present, they must be invisible or something.

Just the fact that it exists doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.

I would have thought "the fact that it exists" would impel you to (gasp!) read them, not say something like "Well that's just your opinion!". If you agree with what you read, then I will have changed your mind. If you disagree, then maybe you can try and formulate a reason why you disagree. Ever thought of doing that?

When you “share” the

When you “share” the music via MP3/P2P you are redistributing against the very terms of the deal you made with the CD seller.

So am I violating the agreement if I play the CD while my friends are over? What if one of my friends records the CD by imprinting the pattern onto his brain and then redistributing it? No contract I make can cover the actions of my friends and their brains (the point I'm trying to make is that these contracts, even if valid, are pretty silly and easily circumvented).

Likewise telling you that

Likewise telling you that you are not allowed to copy a book is not the same as saying that I own part of your brain when you read it.

Well if not my brain then some piece of my own property; for the action of reading the book necessarily makes a "copy" of it.

Let's look at it another way: You say it's ok to read the book, and that in fact that's the intended purpose of owning the book. If so, then your argument falls apart, and copyrights are meaningless. For I can do all the evil copying and distributing after I've finished reading the book by merely making peaceful use of the property I possess (incidentally that's the answer your question about why some libertarians just can't accept intellectual property; we see it as an affront to individuals peacefully using their own property, something no libertarian can stomach). I'll diagram a possible thought-experiment for you step by step:

Step 1) I read the book. Photons bounce off its surface, impact on my retina, and I create a software duplicate of the whole book in my brain (this could take awhile, but we'll assume I have a super-memory, or else a lot of time). This step must be legitimate, because you yourself admit that it is.

Step 2) I walk into the other room, leaving the book in the first room. While in the second room, I pick up a pen and a piece of paper, both items which I bought at Best Buy. This step too must be legitimate, since it involves only using the property that I possess.

Step 3) I proceed to record on paper the status of every neuron in my brain (let's suppose I have a lot of paper). This step must be legitimate, since I own my brain, my pen, and my paper.

Step 4) I select out of this insanely huge roll of paper the part corresponding to the book. I then translate this segment into english. This step must be legitimate because you yourself admit that changing the particular order of the 1's and 0's in a computer file makes no difference.

Step 5) I now have a bunch of sheets of standard white notebook paper, each of which I own. Since I own each sheet, and the ink imprinted on its surface, I can sell it. I can sell it because I own it.

Step 6) The person I sold it to takes the piece of paper and the ink patterns on it and uploads the contents to the internet. This step is legitimate because he owns the piece of paper, his computer, his brain, his hands, etc.

For music replace "sheets of paper" with "a hard drive" and "reading" with "listening".

Just as Nozick purported to show that a series of "ethical transformations" could lead from anarchy to government, I have presented a series of transformations, each one of them fully justified by libertarianism, which starts with a supposed "copyright" and ends with the intent of the copyright being voided. Thus, under libertarianism copyrights are illegitimate. QED

Sorry I was actually

Sorry I was actually thinking of the NET act - no electronic theft act. it was passed at the same time (actually I had thought it was a part of the DMCA but apparently it was separate). The point of which was to make trading songs online illegal.

Well I'll be. You're right, mostly. Prior to the NET act, noncommercial copyright violation exposed you to civil liability, but it wasn't a criminal offense.

Stefan, Step 3 is

Stefan,

Step 3 is illegitimate. Not because it is not possible, some idiot savants may be able to do it or new technology might make it possible, no it's because you are now making a copy with the intent to break the copyright. You "own" the copy of the book in your brain but not the right to copy it into book form for distribution.

Think of it like software, you’ve bought a license to one copy of the book and you may install it on as many people’s brains as you wish using that single copy. You may sell that copy of the book to someone else under the same terms. You have not purchased the right to copy the actual contents of the book to any other external form. You are not allowed to use any new technologies to circumvent the spirit of the copyright.

It's like owning land but not owning the mineral rights.

Patents are a completely different beast than copyrights. I see no legitimate non-rights violating way to enforce, "Inventor A came to us first so Inventor B is not allowed to use or sell his independent invention".

Copyrights, as instituted, go even further in rights violations; you can copyright something that someone else was using privately, and then prevent him from selling it publicly. He still can use it privately.

-Brian

no it’s because you are

no it’s because you are now making a copy with the intent to break the copyright. You “own” the copy of the book in your brain but not the right to copy it into book form for distribution.

Who cares about my intent in copying down the contents of my brain? Your response just begs the question of why the copyright should be respected. Further, notice I said nothing about owning copies of books or anything - I said I own my brain, pen, and paper, as well as my hands, etc. I don't see how you can dispute this; putting the contents of my brain onto paper surely doesn't qualify as any more substantial than changing the order of 1's and 0's in a computer file, and no contract can cover the use of my brain, unless perhaps it is a slave contract.

You may sell that copy of the book to someone else under the same terms.

I can sell something I own to anyone at anytime and for any price I wish.

It’s like owning land but not owning the mineral rights.

This analogy seems confused; I can imagine a person owning land, but not owning the mineral deposits several hundred feet below the land. Your point?

Stefan, From your next

Stefan,

From your next sentence it sounds like you would define rights as something granted by government, to take away or impose as they like

Well, there are different kinds of rights, some are 'natural' rights, and these cannot be taken away or superceded by other rights. Then there are goverment-granted rights and contractual rights. Where does intellectual property fall? I guess I would say that it is government-granted. In this case I'm mostly ok with it, because it doesn't really intefere with any of my natural rights.

what would be your reaction if there were only three people in the world, a CD maker, a CD buyer, and X, and the maker announced he held “copyright” over the songs he sold, so that the buyer could not sell them to X. Then is there a “right to intellectual property"? Can you reconcile your answer with your views on the RIAA?

Since there is no government here, there are no government-granted rights. In this case, the CD maker would have to stipulate as a term of sale that the buyer cannot sell them to X. If he did so, then the buyer would be ethically bound to comply. If the maker simply announced it after the fact, too bad, it wasn't part of the terms of sale. The grey area would be if he announced it before the sale, but didn't specifically make it part of the terms of sale. That seems to be close the situation we have today. I would have to say the existance of a copyright notice on the packaging makes it pretty clear that the CD maker doesn't want buyers to make copies.

As for you next question about ethics, I think it comes down to how I define "ethical" versus "moral". I consider these two different things. Ethics is strictly respecting the rights of others, as opposed to morality which is a more personal decision over what is right or wrong. I personally find this distinction useful in working out my beliefs, but perhaps it is not a common distinction. If you agree with my definition, and agree that intellectual property is a (government-granted, in this case) right, then I am ethically bound to respect the RIAA's rights, as long as I am not giving up any of my own rights in the process.

It's not an airtight

It's not an airtight argument for copyright, but it is worth noting that the set of things you can do with your CD burner is not diminished in any meaningful sense when someone creates an original recording and copyrights it. To all intents and purposes, it was impossible for you to make a recording of [whatever you crazy kids are listening to these days] before [whoever you crazy kids are listening to these days] wrote and recorded it.

It's also worth noting that this principle doesn't necessarily apply to patents. Some inventions are more or less inevitable when their time has come, and an inventor may, in a very real sense, reduce the available options of his competitors by beating them to something that they were working on.

High-tech hippies can

High-tech hippies can justify their piracy but let’s put this into historical perspective. When rock music moved into the postmodern age signified by the late sixties revolution in thinking, there was a quantum acceleration in the creativity of the music kids were listening to. Also rock music took on a different sociologic perspective. It was no longer just a commercial product for the temporary entertainment of teenagers and the irritation of their parents.
The 60’s was still a low tech era. Technological change consisted of a movement from 45 rpm singles records to 33 rpm albums and taped music of various kinds. With the introduction of tape, free reproduction of music became possible. Since it was laborious and expensive and had a diminution of sound quality, it was no threat to the record companies.

The first golden goose that was killed was the large scale outdoor concert. The top bands of the era attempted to put on concerts lasting several days at a time, but the hippie mentality of the time dictated that a howling mob would usually break down the fences converting the affair into a “free” concert.
As the immortal Frank Zappa stated in his song Teen-age Wind- “Free is when you don’t have to pay nothing or do nothing. We want to be free!” This attitude plus the consequent emergence of violence against concert goers by thugs hired by the promoters of the concerts, lack of profits, bad publicity, etc. put an end to this era. Eventually promoters figured out how to make money at live concerts with horrible, ear damaging sound systems, bad music and extortionist pricing, but that is another story.

Now the recorded music goose is being menaced by computer savvy, high tech hippies with their elaborate justifications of stealing other peoples produce. This might not hurt the highly established bands, but how will it affect new, original acts, striving to be heard? Judging by the product the music consumer is getting nowadays, something is amiss. The formulaic pap divided, as it is, into an infinite number of predictable genres is hardly satisfying. Though I am not musically trained, I can detect the predictable trajectory of 90 % of records within a few chords of their beginning. I find it hard to believe that composers of these jingles have the guts to register these things as original.
At present is better to consult the online archives where you can find numerous hidden treasures and pay the royalties. You can do this for a very reasonable price by listening to the music offered by various online vendors.

Now the recorded music goose

Now the recorded music goose is being menaced by computer savvy, high tech hippies with their elaborate justifications of stealing other peoples produce.

Your name-calling aside, I listed several serious links further up the page arguing against IP, none of them by "hippies". The history you bring up is interesting, and I personally find it sad that the outdoor-concert idea didn't work out, but of course the amount of information being "pirated" goes far beyond music, let alone rap music.

Here are some thoughts as an addendum to my "elaborate arguments" presented above. This is an age of information, and the restrictions the law recognizes on people's ability to peacefully distribute information is terribly damaging; the Gutenburg project, for instance, lives up to only a fraction of its potential due to their fear of publishing post-19th century works on their website. Copyright wasn't so damaging in the past, since there just wasn't that much information to go around, but it's become increasingly burdensome as the world becomes more information-oriented and more high-tech. Libertarians should be glad for these (largely private) improvements and should support people's freedom to peacefully use their own property to share the information they have with their friends, family, or even the whole world if they so choose.

Stefan, Copyrights should be

Stefan,

Copyrights should be respected because to do otherwise is to use other peoples property without their permission. You will have to figure out for yourself why you should respect other peoples property.

Brandon,

I've made that point before. To no avail. Some people just want to violate other peoples property rights.

This is an age of

This is an age of information, and the restrictions the law recognizes on people’s ability to peacefully distribute information is terribly damaging; the Gutenburg project, for instance, lives up to only a fraction of its potential due to their fear of publishing post-19th century works on their website.

First, I think you're overplaying your hand. I don't see how it's "terribly damaging" that people have to buy the books they want to read instead of downloading them off the internet. The cost in time of reading a book is generally much greater than the monetary cost of purchasing it.

Second, you're only looking at one side of the equation. Sure, it's a bummer that I can't download every book ever written from the Internet for free. But you have to weigh this against the value of the availability of all the books that would never have been written without copyright. I don't know what this is, but you can't just assume it away.

Copyrights should be

Copyrights should be respected because to do otherwise is to use other peoples property without their permission. You will have to figure out for yourself why you should respect other peoples property.

Begging the question again.... Would you mind explaining exactly whose property is being violated and in what way in the example we've been discussing?

I don’t know what this is,

I don’t know what this is, but you can’t just assume it away.

Sure I can, since I'm not a utilitarian in the business of balancing consequences. :)

However, if you are interested in utilitarian considerations, you can consult Roderick Long's article I mentioned above for a few.

Stefan: You may not be a

Stefan:
You may not be a consequentialist, but you're trying to make a consequentialist argument, and you can't do that if you just look at one side of the balance sheet and ignore trade-offs.

Stephan, I already answered

Stephan,

I already answered your question. You violated the copyright holders property when you used your brain as a copying machine with regards to the book. Step 3. The fact that you walked into another room doesn't matter. When you used your brain to copy the work you were using the work as a template. You aren't allowed to use the work as a template since you don't own that aspect of the property.

It really doesn't matter if you own all the other stuff. You don't own the book for the purposes of copying. A template is a factor of production and you are not allowed to use the book as a factor of production. It's really as simple as that.

BTW, All those steps in your example are irrelevant.

1) Doing an entire brain dump is irrelavant. Why bother downloading all the info in your neurons to paper, why not just the portion that constitutes the book. The criminal portion is the copying down of the book not the rest of your brain. Would you give an example where you rape a woman plus ask her out on a date, plus look at her admiringly, plus every other non-criminal act you did against her to confuse the issue. Who cares about the rest of the stuff in your brain dump?

2) If your argument were valid for the whole book it would be valid for parts of the book. Thus you could remember a sentence at a time an then go to the other room and write them down.

3) Who cares if you go into another room. You've already used the book as a template.

4) Using the above your example is no different than if you read the book a sentence at a time, turned away from the book remembering that sentence and copied it to another piece of paper.

Long and the short of it is the in you example you copied the book. You weren't allowed to do that by the terms under which you bought the book. No one else is allowed to use the book without your permission and you don't have the right to allow them to copy the book either. So there is no way anyone can produce an unauthorized copy of the book without violating the property rights of the copyright holder.

Copyrights are logically viable.

In addition, I have seen arguments that one could not enforce such rights due to costs involved. I think that argument is a non-starter also. My ability to protect my rights has no bearing on whether I have them. In addition I don't think it is true. I think that one can enforce ones copyrights even under anarchist systems so long as one is allowed to get reimbursed for enforcement costs.

If it is hard to catch graffitti artists I don't see why they cannot be charged not only for restoration of property but also restitution of enforcement costs, and be made to put some money in the kitty to pay back other people who have suffered similar damages. This way they would be making restitution for the full costs to others of their behavior.

Likewise a copyright violator might be assessed charges not only for the value of the books they copied but also for the reasonable costs incurred in catching them, court costs, and revenue lost due to a fair proportion of the actual damages caused by other bootleggers.

In this sense criminals could be assessed fines that go way beyond what most libertarians would consider restitutive, without actually going beyond the bounds of restituion. I thought up the actual mechanisms for this that are libertarian friendly but have not laid them out here.

Perhaps; those are more my

Perhaps; those are more my personal thoughts on the subject, as opposed to a formal argument (you'll notice I preface that paragraph with the sentence "Here are some thoughts as an addendum to my “elaborate arguments” presented above."). As I indicated, you can find this particular consequentialist argument fleshed out in Roderick Long's paper above. The short of it is that I don't really find it realistic to imagine that authors are not going to create once copyright is gone; historically, the greatest ideas, say Special Relativity for example, needed no copyright for their inception because their creators were motivated purely by the joy of creative effort itself. I certainly understand that; aside from poking holes in other people's arguments, one of the reasons I post here is the satisfaction I get from generating new ideas and giving form to them through words. Some of my closest friends have written books and placed them online so as to maximize dissemination of their ideas (one in particular would consider it an honor if people copied his work and redistributed it!). And when you consider the literally millions of blogs on the internet right now, most without a hint of a profit motive, it becomes very difficult for me to imagine a future devoid of creativity, ideas, and thought because rent-seeking behavior with respect to ideas becomes intolerable.

But to those who place their faith in the marketplace and monetary profit alone, there is still hope I think. Aside from direct donations to the artists (which will always be possible and desirable in my opinion), already many artists are exploring alternative business models that don't rely on unjust coercion. There is J. Jacques, the author of my favorite daily webcomic, who lives solely off of the T-shirt and merchandising sales he makes from his webpage. There is Magnatune, already mentioned and still unproven, and representing a definite change from the litigious tyranny of the RIAA. And what computer geek could forget Red Hat, pioneer and market-leader in the open-source development of GNU/Linux, which manages to support itself through corporate subscription and service fees (incidentally, the new version, Fedora, is just as good as Microsoft Windows XP for many common tasks). And these just barefly scratch the surface of what the human mind and will are capable of creating. I really and honestly believe that the end of copyright spells not the doom for the creative capacity of our race, but the beginning of its reawakening. That process is a slow and arduous one, but will ultimately yield rewards back a million-fold.

How's that for good consequences?

Stephan I'll have you know

Stephan

I'll have you know that I have a copyright over the correct spelling, which you are required to use under the End-Seller License.

When you used your brain to copy the work you were using the work as a template. You aren’t allowed to use the work as a template since you don’t own that aspect of the property.

Not so. That's why I separated the reading of the book and the writing down of the book's contents into separate steps to make the process more clear. By your own admission reading the book is OK (step 1). Libertarianism then implies I can copy whatever is in my brain and distribute it to anyone I please (steps 2+). You do the math.

You aren’t allowed to use the work as a template since you don’t own that aspect of the property.

It's clear to me I was using the book as something to read in step 1), not as a "template" or anything. You yourself admit I can do this, so I presumably "own that aspect" that lets me read it. And of course I'm allowed to use my own brain as a template, since you admit nobody owns any part of my brain except me.

A template is a factor of production and you are not allowed to use the book as a factor of production. It’s really as simple as that.

The only "template" being used here is my brain, which I own. It's really as simple as that.

BTW, All those steps in your example are irrelevant.

I'd imagine so; I'm trying to map out the process I would imagine an ideal copyright-violator would do in order to make my argument clearer. There is obviously a world of difference between our ideas, since you think property in ideas is as self-evident as property in scarce means.

Why bother downloading all the info in your neurons to paper, why not just the portion that constitutes the book. The criminal portion is the copying down of the book not the rest of your brain.

I phrased it that way because I would have thought it obvious I can legitimately write down on my own paper whatever is going on in my brain at any time I please. Do you disagree?

If your argument were valid for the whole book it would be valid for parts of the book. Thus you could remember a sentence at a time an then go to the other room and write them down.

Bingo! You win $64 (just kidding).

Using the above your example is no different than if you read the book a sentence at a time, turned away from the book remembering that sentence and copied it to another piece of paper.

At least we agree on the reduction of the ideal case to the actual one. The ideal one where you memorize the contents of the book takes slightly fewer words to talk about though, which is why I used it.

Long and the short of it is the in you example you copied the book.

I think you're starting to catch on...

You weren’t allowed to do that by the terms under which you bought the book.

... but then we lose it again. Quite simply I can read the book, then go do whatever I want with the information I've read. Other people are not your personal property Brian, even when they read your books. :juggle:

So there is no way anyone can produce an unauthorized copy of the book without violating the property rights of the copyright holder.

I suppose you would be against me selling my books on Amazon, since if that were OK then I could just sell the book to a friend who then proceeds to copy the entire text of the book online before selling it back to me. There are just so many holes in these "copyrights" it's hilarious.

Copyrights are logically viable.

Copyrights are illogical nonsense.

Likewise a copyright violator might be assessed charges not only for the value of the books they copied but also for the reasonable costs incurred in catching them, court costs, and revenue lost due to a fair proportion of the actual damages caused by other bootleggers.

I love how you portray the decisions of many adults to not purchase a product due to bootlegging as something "caused" by the original violator of the copyright. Even if we assume arguendo you could do this (maybe a super-government the likes of which we've never seen exists which can snoop into everyone's lives anywhere they go), it's still a moot point financially; what good is "charging" some 15-year-old a zillion dollars, since the company couldn't possibly extract that much wealth from the kid or his parents? Maybe if you had a large coercive organization that could forcibly extract small amounts of "damages" from large numbers of people. That organization could provide public goods too while we're at it, maybe even feed the people, institute social security, etc (we could even call it a "government"!).

In this sense criminals could be assessed fines that go way beyond what most libertarians would consider restitutive, without actually going beyond the bounds of restituion.

You are living in fantasy-land I'm afraid if you think that charging a kid more than 8 billion dollars would not be "beyond the bounds of restitution".

This is going nowhere the

This is going nowhere the long way. Those who support copyright think that authoring a creative work gives someone the right to control its reproduction. Those who oppose it think that there can be no such exclusive right. You're not going to resolve this by with convoluted stories.

So there is no way anyone can produce an unauthorized copy of the book without violating the property rights of the copyright holder.

True. But the anti-copyright camp will never accept this argument. Once someone gives an unauthorized copy to another person not party to the agreement, it's free and clear. The recipient can make and distribute copies all day long since he never signed on to the agreement.

The copyright holder could theoretically seek damages from the person who made the first unauthorized copy, but they probably won't find him, and he probably won't be able to pay full restitution.

You could say that the recipient is knowingly receiving stolen property, and should be held liable for that reason, but no one who opposes copyright will agree that an unauthorized copy is stolen property.

But the anti-copyright camp

But the anti-copyright camp will never accept this argument.

Once again I think Roderick Long has a good point; the libertarian movement has been roughly split on this issue according to whether one believes in property because individuals should be able to control the products of their labor or whether one believes property is a way of allocating scarce resources in the most naturally beneficial way. I'm not too sure if Brian will be convinced by my arguments (you, I would guess, will not be), but at least I have put my thoughts down for public consumption. On the bright side, even if everyone decides to enforce copyright it's still impossible, unlike the rest of the problems libertarians face from government.