Wed
Jul 23 2008 6:49am

Confessions of a Dirrrty Pirate

Photo by M. Willis MonroeI have a late night confession to make:

I’m a pirate. A bloody, stinkin’, thieving, baby-killing, livelihood-destroying, profit-sucking file-sharer.

There, I said it. If I don’t make it to Comic Con, look for me under the massive pile of DMCA notices.

I download mostly TV shows using a combination of BitTorrent and RSS feeds reliably and (seemingly) effortlessly, and I watch what I want, when I want. I regularly turn my friends onto good, new television shows by handing them a DVD and saying “Go. Watch. Enjoy. You’ll thank me later.” (boy, Battlestar Galactica’s been a good one for that). 



Why do I go through all the trouble, and run the risk, if I could simply be content with a cable subscription and be done with it? I think it's fair to say that there are legal alternatives out there for those that want to enjoy TV programming ‘on-demand’, but these solutions are not entirely adequate--at least for me--for various reasons. Let's look at the usual suspects:



#1- Regular cable hook up: In this day and age, this is an untenable proposition to the educated media consumer. I cannot possibly justify paying upwards of $80 a month on a cable bill (yes, I’m including the premium channels in that figure, because I watch shows like Dexter, Rome, Deadwood, etc.), just for the 'privilege' of channel surfing. I watch particular shows based on genuine interest and/or recommendations- I don't need to have 500 channels of crap at my disposal, 24 hours a day, so that I can waste a whole afternoon of my weekend surfing through sub-par content, just because I have nothing better to do. I’m enough of a slacker as it is. There are other reasons why cable doesn't cut it: some people aren't home when a show airs; some people follow two shows that air at  the same time, and inevitably have to choose to watch one over the other; some people hate commercials with a visceral passion (that would be me). And then some people are just subversive, cantankerous firebrands (um... me again).



#2- TiVo, and similar PVR (Personal Video Recorder) devices: I don't have $300 to spend on a TiVo box (I’d rather blow that kind of scratch on something that’s more than just a one-trick-pony, thankyouverymuch), and the device is dependent on your being subscribed to a cable provider anyway (see #1).



#3- The iTunes Store sells TV shows. But as much as I love Apple, iTunes has some very serious limitations:

 First and foremost, the quality of many videos bought off iTunes sucks. Big time. Due to bandwidth issues, TV shows from the iTunes Store are encoded at a resolution that is great for viewing on an iPod, look more or less adequate on your computer, or on a regular standard definition television set, but if you watch your shows on a 60-inch, high-definition (HD) display (like I do), this just won't cut it, at all. Granted, quality is bound to go up as high-bandwidth internet connections become more common, and iTunes has been doing a passable job at posting HD content of late. But full HD on iTunes is still a few years away, and it will be a gradual thing. I want my HD now, dammit.



Secondly, DRM (Digital Rights Management) sucks. If I buy a show for $1.99, I should be able to do what I want with that file, the same way I could with a store-bought DVD: play it on my computer connected to my HD set in the living room, play it on my other computer in my room, play it on my laptop in the back yard, even *gasp* give it to a friend who I want to get hooked on a show (thereby creating a new viewer)-- whatever. I bought it, fair and square. Hands off my stash.



Third, iTunes takes its sweet, sweet time in posting a new show after it airs sometimes, even though Apple says that they post shows on the day after the original air date (fans will remember the great furor after waiting for four days for iTunes to post the season 3 premiere of  Battlestar Galactica). Not cool, Uncle Steve. Not cool at all.



Fourth, while the selection of shows on iTunes is good, not everything I want to watch is on there. And if a network like NBC gets angry and wants to take its toys and play elsewhere, there’s nothing we can do.

 So, in essence, if you buy a show on iTunes, you're paying $2 a pop for a video file that you can only play under certain conditions, at sub-standard quality, and is only made available whenever iTunes decides it wants to post it. Now, most of these things aren't necessarily Apple's fault, but they are the reality nonetheless. Moving on....

#4- Streaming sites like Hulu offer network television in an ad-supported, streaming format. Did I mention I hate ads? Yes, that’s what happens when you work in advertising for several years. You can’t watch regular television anymore, ‘cause you know exactly what goes into making the sausage. Regardless, I don’t want to watch a TV show on my laptop, or on my desktop computer, for that matter. I want to watch on my large honkin' television screen, sitting on my couch. Newish products like the Netflix Roku box are moving towards this (and I have to admit, I haven’t tried the Roku yet, so it could very well be killer) but I haven’t heard anything that grabs my attention yet. I’d love to hear otherwise, though.

In addition, I like to own my media. I want to be able to shuffle a file around onto whatever device I want; or help out a friend who missed a show because they have, you know, a life; or turn someone onto a show I like. I can’t do that with streaming media.

With teh pirates (yarr), I get exactly what I want: a timely (these guys are good), high quality, non-DRM’ed, commercial-free file that I can do with as I please. If I could give these guys (or the networks, for that matter) a modest sum for their service, I would. Unfortunately, they’re kinda hard to track down.

Now, before you go stringin’ me up, let me make something perfectly clear: I don’t mind paying for stuff. As a matter of fact, I will go out of my way to pay for stuff I like. Case in point: Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I saw it online, when it was available for streaming last week. Multiple times. I’ve also seen torrents floating around. But I bought it on iTunes as it was made available. I want Whedon and company to continue doing their thing, and I realize that making TV shows costs money, no matter how much of a labour of love it is. So I am more than happy to contribute my fair share. I do the same for books, even though I work at a publishing house, and have access to lots of free books on a regular basis. If I read a free ebook, or a book at the office, and I like it, chances are I’ll go buy it as a hardcover, or as a gift to someone else. Maybe I’ll buy the sequel, or the next book the author writes. If the author has a tip jar somewhere online, I’m there faster than you can say 'starving artist' (a myth, if I ever heard one, btw). I’m a creative professional too, and I like it when people pay me for my work. It keeps a roof over my head. But I wouldn’t feel right charging you a hundred dollars for, say, a poster, and then telling you that you can only frame it in a certain way, or hang it in a certain room of your house, or give it to someone else as a present.

So TV networks, if you’re listening: I’m here, and I’m taking your candy. I’d like to pay you for all your hard work, but you’ve gotta play nice and meet me halfway. I’m nobody’s chump, and the days when you controlled the tubes are long gone. Give me a-la-carte, high-quality, non DRM’ed downloads, priced reasonably, and I’ll come back to the fold. In the meantime: Yarr, matey.

And a bottle of rum.

84 comments
Heather Wallace
1. heather
Another option to consider is buying DVDs of TV series.

This gets you high quality and no advertising. There is DRM, but it's so easy to break it might as well not be there. You can lend or give your DVDs to whoever you please.

The problems (pretty big ones) are the waiting time until they are released, and the price. Also, all the wasted packaging.

I would have to agree with you though - out of the available options, torrents are the best.

Arrr !
Peter Glaskowsky
2. pglaskowsky
You don't want to pay for (most of) the things you want to watch, but you want to watch them anyway, so you steal them.

Look, sport, that just isn't your call. It isn't your stuff. It isn't up to you to set the price or conditions for viewing it.

You act as though all this content was put on Earth by God and it's just a big free-for-all to decide who gets it.

No. It was created at great expense and creative difficulty by talented people who are entitled to be compensated for their work.

The methods that have evolved for providing that compensation may be arcane and inconvenient, but your only moral choices are to cooperate, or not. You have no right to unilaterally add the third choice of stealing it.

You DO have every right to agitate for the choices you want, of course. But you have to leave them some option that results in the compensation they're entitled to.

You don't want to sit through ads that will cause you to buy products to create money for sponsoring the programming, you don't want to pay a cable company that will pass along some of your money to the content creators, you don't want to buy (most of) the shows you like at retail through iTunes at the prices the content creators are asking.

But face it-- one way or the other, money's gotta come out of your pocket and end up in the pockets of the people who make those programs, or there won't be any programs.

You're not meeting anyone halfway. You're just demanding something for nothing, and that isn't ever going to happen.

. png
Mike Scott
3. drplokta
You omitted "timely" from your list of desirable characteristics for video downloads. And timeliness can't be limited by geography -- if something has been released in one geographical territory, then it's been released everywhere, and the content producers' only choice is to decide whether or not they're going to let the people in the rest of the world pay them for it or not. (Book publishers please also take note of this, and I suspect you're more likely than Hollywood producers to be reading tor.com.)
Sean Pratz
4. Galoot
png's right. Because the artists or their distributors haven't been quick enough to adapt to the possibilities in this era of perfect digital copies, you steal. Tsk.

Oops. Did I say "tsk?" I meant to say "Good for you." I steal, too, and so should everyone else. The sooner the world figures out that it's better for everyone to freely share content, the better.
nothorse
5. nothorse
Actually the problem for me is getting the shows at all. Contrary to entertainment industry opinion, the world doesn't end at the US borders.

Broadcatching is the only way to get current shows. And for payment, well I was there at the iTunes store, with credit card in hand to pay my bucks for Dr. Horrible. But then I found out that Joss doesn't want my money, or at least he hasn't come up with a way to get it. (Note: For Dr. Horrible I would have paid 5 times my usual pain threshold for TV series. More than 50 Eurocent per Episode is the "don't buy this"-barrier for me. )

Availability by national borders is simply incredibly stupid in an international internet world.
Marcus Loydl
6. prefectionist
It gets even worse if you're not a American (in my case a German). Then you basicly have the choice between piracy and not watching "the good stuff". Hulu and iTunes, which I would be perfectly happy with, don't even cater to the European market.
Le sigh...
kaolin fire
7. kaolin
I'm in the "watch it when I can buy the DVDs" camp--not social enough to need it "now", I guess. There're only a handful of shows I watch regularly (all on the sci fi channel, come to think of it; though I'd like some of the BBC America stuff, too). It's a shame I can't a la carte my package such that I'm only getting a small handful of channels.
Kyle Raines
8. FlameStrike
I can understand the frustrations involved in having difficulty getting the entertainment you want. I've experienced such frustrations myself. That, however, does not, under any circumstances, entitle you to steal from those of use who produce or help produce such content.

Yes, there are a number of problems that need to be resolved in terms of adapting to changing technologies. Yes, it can be hard to find the patience to deal with the fact that the companies involved are only concerned with their interests and are therefore slow to adapt. Yes, I too wish these corporations would learn that national borders are no longer a barrier and would adjust their viewpoint accordingly. None of these, however, justify breaking the copyright laws that allow people like me to try to earn some semblance of a living, or even better actually allow us to earn a living.

As for the Blackbeard who started this topic, I hope you can live with being a hypocrite. I find I have a hard time with it. My days of engaging in piracy ended as soon as I realized the lengths I would go to in order to protect my copyrights. I no longer have any pirated material, just lists of what I used to have so I can make legal purchases, like those I've gotten through iTunes and Napster. Am I frustrated with the restrictions on iTunes videos? Absolutely. Do I think those restrictions are going too far? Absolutely. Will I continue looking for ways to bypass those restrictions so I can watch the videos on my TV. You bet I will. Until I do, though, I will be glad of the fact that I don't have to hate myself every time I look in the mirror because I haven't stolen from the people who, like me, simply tried to create something others can enjoy.
Arachne Jericho
9. arachnejericho
Hooray for instant gratification.

I forget if Amazon UnBox is more or less reliable for scheduled airdate releases. They recently hit the world with a cross-platform Flash streaming version of the UnBox player. I can live with that (lazy consumer).

I do know that it is currently more or less a losing battle against the big labels to convince them to do DRM-free for videos (though they finally realized DRM-free for music actually works in their favor) but some folks around and abouts in the tech industry are fighting it anyways. The only way is little steps at a time.

And for other countries, or stuff not available on UnBox or iTunes... doom, man. UnBox doesn't have some stuff (Doctor Who! Third season of Avatar!) but does have the popular American ones (House, MD! Battlestar Galactica!). You sometimes don't get any option that allows you to pay.

Thing is, people will always pirate when they can't get stuff. Provide it to them on a silver platter for two Euros, and they really don't mind. Studios have yet to actually understand this: no amount of moralization and shaking of fingers will stop the pirating, and enforcement has been non-existent and/or impossible.

They also don't understand the economics behind the digital age. They wish it would stop (kind of like VCRs) but it just doesn't. It's kind of a moot point to me. Eventually they will get it, because they like money, and that's pretty much their only motivator.

Horse, meet water....
Pablo Defendini
10. pablodefendini
pglaskowsky: you don't want to buy (most of) the shows you like at retail through iTunes at the prices the content creators are asking.

Please don’t put words in my mouth. I actually find iTunes’ pricing scheme very reasonable, and as I stated above, I do use iTunes when I think the situation merits. All other things being equal, I’d be a huge customer. But all other things are decidedly not equal. Below-broadcast quality, DRM-infested files are not my idea of a fair trade for my money.

In my opinion, the cooperate/not cooperate moral choice you propose is silly. No amount of hand waving and complaining will change corporate minds, not while they’re still raking in record profits and getting away with short-changing the people who actually created the content (remember that writer’s strike thing from a little while ago? Yeah, the people riding around L.A. in Ferraris aren’t creative, cast and crew, for the most part).

There is absolutely no good reason--technical, logistical, or legal-- for studios to not create a content delivery system that is profitable and fair, other than greed, plain and simple.

nothorse, prefectionist: Coming from outside the U.S., I’m also keenly aware of the geography issue. There is no good reason why I should have to jump through illicit hoops in order for me to share a post-viewing fannish conversation with my best friend outside the U.S.

FlameStrike: I sleep just fine, thanks. As a creative professional, who has worked in film in the past, and who works in media still, I have thought these issues through to my satisfaction. If the shoe were on the other foot, I can honestly say I have no problem with people stealing my stuff. It’s happened before, it will happen again. Regardless, I still manage to make a living off my work. I do commend you on your discipline regarding your list of previously pirated stuff to buy, but don’t you think you’re pulling a fast one as well, by circumventing/breaking DRM schemes? Once you break those, your purchases are hardly ‘legal’, and in the eyes of entities like the MPAA/RIAA, you’re still stealing....

arachnejericho: My point exactly. BTW, I just finished watching the end of the third season of Avatar.... zomfg so good!
Matt Schraeder
11. frozen-solid
It's always nice to see someone who shares the same viewpoints as myself. I pirate a lot of things but the moment I am capable of purchasing a legit, legal copy of it that meets my requirements I am more than happy to do so. I buy every season of Lost, House, and Heroes as they come out on DVD, and despite my complete and absolute hatred for iTunes and they DRM infected files I dropped money for Dr. Horrible because it was just that good.



However, just because I bought Dr. Horrible on iTunes does not mean I will EVER watch the files I bought from iTunes. Instead, I went ahead and pirated hacked DRM-free rips of iTunes and I watch those. I cannot watch my legal files on my main media box, which is a Linux machine. I cannot take my legal files to a friend's house on a portable hard drive and watch on their "FreeVo." Sure I paid for them on iTunes, but the minute Amazon rolls out an alternative to iTunes that gives DRM-free video as I can get DRM-free music on the site, I will take what little business I give iTunes and more directly to Amazon.



The minute I can legally purchase an episode of any TV show I want to see and have it downloaded within an hour of the show airing and have it be DRM-free so I can watch it on Linux and not be forced to download some proprietary viewer that only works on Windows or Mac, then I will most certainly be paying for it. In the meantime, I am content on stealing the shows I want to watch and paying for them a year later when the DVD finally comes to stores. Hell, I even pay for cable even though the number of times I've turned on my TV to watch something on cable in the last year I can count on one hand. If I really wanted I could record the shows on my DVD-R or VCR and watch them and fast forward through commercials, but let's face it. Piracy is even more convenient than that.
Jack Bell
12. jackwilliambell
Important point: The copyright-related moral issues most people are raising here were engendered in a different world, one where copies were expensive.

Want a different example? The moral issue of no pre-marital sex was engendered in an era when there was no access to modern medicine or contraception. Does anyone want to argue that the introduction of new technology has *not* changed the moral climate for sex?

Copyright in the digital age is no different than the sexual revolution. We have a moral and legal hangover from the previous reality. We have young people (and a few older ones) experimenting with new moral structures, some of which are extreme and probably untenable. We have many people who cling to the old morality as being 'the only right way' despite the fact the world has moved on. We have laws attempting to hold back the tide with paper.

What we have not yet done is established new social norms and moral structures for copyright which work with the new reality.
luc betbeder
13. javelin
ninja's are better than pirates.

with that true statement out of the way I think that the discussion so far has outlined the major arguments.

Many of us want want want to pay for the content. But we would like easy access to the content...

My one addition to the discussion is... Does "too easy" devalue the whole marketplace?

I am thinking about how precious my books and comics and content was to me when I had to scrimp save line up, ninja attack, to get the content.. I know every crease and line of some of that content..

Getting content too easy.. I watch it but I dont value it as much.. I dont treasure as much I dont rewatch as much.. I crave the new easy calories of a new TV series I can just download but I just dont think I will treasure it once I have seen it.

Is this just me? Is it the quality of the content? Or is just too easy for me to get stuff now?

Ninja's 1 - Pirates - 0
Sam Bako
15. sebako
Death, welcome to the rest of the world. I sincerely hope ISPs don't begin charging based on bandwidth, but many many of my European friends already suffer that fate. It sucks. An awful lot.

We have a DVR, which came with our cable service. We do watch decent amounts of TV, but a lot of it goes to waste (which is a funny thing to say, but nonetheless...). Our cable provider only has a small selection of HD channels, most of which we don't watch, and there are only three non-HD channels that we watch... out of 700. I long for the day when I can look at channel selections like a menu, and only pay for the specific channels I want - not "packages". If I want TV Asia, dammit, I should be able to get it without buying the twenty other channels that come along with it.

I'm a pirate, too, but not as much, since I'm fortunately in a position where most of what I want is readily availabe. I wish most of the creative forces that produce the stuff I steal had tip jars, because I'd much rather pay directly and know who's profiting off of me.
nothorse
16. Jerm
I just love your analogy with a poster.

DRM is just like that: you pay for something and then the producer can tell you where you can use it.

It's really like you buy a car and then the manufacturer of the car says that you can only drive it to certain places, that's what DRM is at this moment.

I also would love to pay for shows like Battlestar Gallactica (I do buy the DVD's), but I downloaded the new episodes since else I have to wait more than a year for the European DVD's.

It's only until those rights-associations 'get it' that people will continue to pirate. Most people want to pay for digital content, but they don't like the DRM and they don't like to have to wait for the content.

In the end they only reach one goal: the honest guy is scr*wed while the others get what they want.

People should 'get it' that we'd love to pay for things we like.
nothorse
17. Smithy
go for it. I steal Sci-Fi books. All of them that I can. It is just too difficult to buy them from web sites or stores. You keep writing them, I'll keep stealing them.
Hunter Shoptaw
18. fellangel80
I'm glad for this article, it's the one reason I joined Tor - after being sent here from lifehacker with the promise of free books.

I'm a pirate. I steal, I loot, and yes, I'll kick a politician - I don't believe in kicking dogs.

Seriously, all the do-gooders out there spouting about how it s our moral and ethical obligation to pay this stuff is crap. I paid $150 bucks a minth to my cable provider for a year before I finally figured out that I don't need them. I mean $5 a month simply so I could get the local free air channels? $15 a month just to use their DVR? oh and lets not forget the rest - I'm paying for crap I don't watch! Yeah, there are a few shows I 'pirate', but then again didn't America itself go to war because of UNFAIR taxation? I mean England did the same thing to us in the beginning - "You can have this, but it cost this much, and you can only use it this way." We didn't stand for it then, and we won't now!

Corporate world thinks it can't setup a fair pay schema, I say it won't. Look at artists like Jonathan Coulton (http://www.jonathancoulton.com/), he's setup a tip jar, and a couple of different ways to pay for the music. People pay him. We respect him as an artist, and so he gets our money. We don't respect artists and labels and studios who regurgitate the same crap and ask for more money. Are you kidding me?

Hey, here's one. If I don't like a product I should be able to return it. If you don't like the movie you just rented, paid to see a theater, watched on cable - can I get my money back? Can I get a refund on the unused portion of my cable bill? No? Suck it. You can't work with me, I can't use you.

Responsible Piracy Rules.
Robert N. Lee
19. RNLee
MY RUSSIAN DOWNLOAD SITES FEATURING THE ENTIRE TOR CATALOG, LET ME SHOW YOU THEM
Marcus Loydl
20. prefectionist
go for it. I steal Sci-Fi books. All of them that I can. It is just too difficult to buy them from web sites or stores. You keep writing them, I'll keep stealing them.


Goddamn books that selfdestruct after I read them three times. Damn them bookstores that won't sell me books published in another country. Bloody websites that won't ship books once they come out.

Oh, wait...
will shetterly
21. willshetterly
I would have more sympathy for the cries of hypocrisy if the corporations weren't working to endlessly extend copyright. Online pirates are privateers for the public domain.
Robert N. Lee
22. RNLee
"I would have more sympathy for the cries of hypocrisy if the corporations weren't working to endlessly extend copyright."

I know. It's so awesome to have a safe indie space to talk freely in like this one. Thanks, freecycling punk rock pagans at the Holtzbrinck Group!
Matt Schraeder
23. frozen-solid
Goddamn books that selfdestruct after I read them three times. Damn them bookstores that won't sell me books published in another country. Bloody websites that won't ship books once they come out.

I read e-books. I've been reading e-books for ~10 years. Until VERY recently every book I've wanted to read I'd have to pirate. Granted, I would go to the store and purchase a soft back copy of the book because I believe in actually supporting the author, but I would be forced to pirate it to read it in my chosen medium. The few legal e-books out there were a pain to get through the DRM in order to put it on my palm pilot and read it away from my desktop.

Only recently have I been able to read e-books legally. The first legal purchases of e-books I made were George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, followed by the recent free releases on Tor.com. It is a changing climate, but even books are difficult to do legally sometimes for someone like me.
Laurel Amberdine
24. amberdine
Clarification please? You mentioned buying the iTunes version of Dr. Horrible, and buying books when you've got access to free copies, but nothing about DVDs.

Do you eventually buy the DVDs of the shows you download?
Robert N. Lee
25. RNLee
I don't know about the OP or anybody else in this thread, but I only pirate movies and TV shows I *never* intend to buy.

Also, I look at pornography only when I feel like masturbating. I don't know what everybody else does with it, maybe that's just me.
nothorse
26. Don DAmmassa
It's amazing the lengths that people will go to in order to try to prove that they're not thieves when they steal copyrighted material. All of the rationalizations in the world don't change that basic fact. Pirates are basically shoplifters with a high opinion of themselves.
Robert N. Lee
27. RNLee
"Pirates are basically shoplifters with a high opinion of themselves."

It WANTS TO BE FREE, man!
Robert N. Lee
28. RNLee
BTW, in case it wasn't clear, the "it" in my last post is gold. Doubloons want to be free. You should just take them. It's a proven fact. Plus, you are totally vivaing la revolucion when you do so. You have nothing to lose but your booty chains.
Torie Atkinson
29. Torie
@ pglaskowsky
@ Don DAmmassa

The question of Is this legal? is entirely separate from the question of Is this wrong?

For instance, is it wrong if your DVD was broken/stopped working so you copied your friend's DVD? What if you downloaded a movie or show from a legitimate site, only to have your hard drive fail and lose all your data so you download new, pirated copies? What if you have gone through three copies of a book, each of which fell apart, so you download the ebook?

All of these are examples of things which are blatantly illegal but that many people would not consider wrong.

As it stands right now copyright law is nonsensical. When any copyright extends beyond the lifetime of nearly anyone who would make OR enjoy it (what is it now, 80 years after the life of the artist?) it is clear that the only real benefactors of this kind of law are the corporations that own rights to the artists' work, not the artists themselves or the people who consume the product. As such there's a healthy amount of skepticism and even animosity to said corporate entities, whose entire profit model is by definition built around how to make the most money from the artists as possible while spending the least.

So while piracy is obviously illegal, there's a whole lot more involved when deciding for oneself whether or not it's wrong. Laws aren't always good or fair, and sometimes they change when people demand that they should.
Robert N. Lee
30. RNLee
And timeliness can't be limited by geography -- if something has been released in one geographical territory, then it's been released everywhere, and the content producers' only choice is to decide whether or not they're going to let the people in the rest of the world pay them for it or not."

In all seriousness, this. Back in the eighties, I started buying and trading bootleg VHS tapes of stuff that wasn't available commercially in the US and never looked like it was going to be until DVD made anything and everything a potentially profitable release. That's the only way I was able to see a ton of foreign and ancient and otherwise OOP movies, coming up, and I'm sure I'm not the only geek over a certain age here for whom that's the case.

So, yeah, I download movies and TV shows from elsewhere on the planet when it's going to take the content owners years to get their shit together and offer it for sale, here in the US. Why the hell not? It's no different than what I used to do to see, say, Japanese stuff ASAP, except it's a lot easier to watch and I'm not paying some middleman troll to run me off a crappy nth-generation dupe. I could also buy copies from outside my DVD region (which I'm also not supposed to do, legally) and play them on my hacked player (wasn't supposed to do that, either). And I do. BUT THEN I'M SENDING MY DOLLARS TO TERRORISM.

(Okay, I said I'd be serious.) Like drplotka said, they need to catch up. If it's out digitally in one region, it's out digitally everywhere. Find a way to charge me for it, and I'll pay you. Otherwise, if I'd stuck to the letter of the law on this crap, I wouldn't have seen Ringu until after the DVD release of the US remake. And fuck that.
Blue Tyson
31. BlueTyson
Mr. Shetterly's point is a good one.

The USA stole 20 years of the public domain from us, and will probably try for more. That is a huge amount of thievery. Take an astronomical number of downloads of crappy tv shows to make up for that.

Disney makes a lot of money from pirate heroes, too, come to think of it. :)

On the making stuff available thing: A lot of large corporations are pro-globalisation one-way only cf getting tv series a year later, or never, or different iTunes stores, or Sci-Fi channels, or whatever.

If free trade is good, why can't we buy textbooks from India? :)
nothorse
32. jasonmitchell
Pablo- I just don't buy your argument- you're a whiner/hypocrite
1) "cable is too expensive" so get a dish - usually includes a dvr so you can skip commercials or suck it up - $80/month isn't that much - I think you can afford it- YOU BOUGHT A 60inch HDTV for what $2k? $3K? and how much for internet access? and for the computer? is it the latest and greatest?

2) "I'd pay if there was a way..." subscribe to cable/dish or buy the dvd's

3)"I'll meet you 1/2 way" piracy as a form of protest etc. all bullshit - these are not utilities producting this stuff, this is not stuff you "need" - 'perfect, drm free, commercial free copy of Battlestar Galactica is a luxury item, a want, a non essencial - buy it- if you think it costs to much - DON'T BUY IT

pretty soon the content providers will adapt to the market because if (good)artists don't get paid - they won't continue to produce (everyone's gotta eat) and the quality will go down, then demand will go down, then prices will have to come down to meet demand etc.
Matt Schraeder
33. frozen-solid
Do you eventually buy the DVDs of the shows you download?

I thought I mentioned that in my first comment, but yes I do. I have a pretty large DVD collection and I purchase everything I can because I prefer having the official DVDs to pirated content, both as a way of giving back to the creators and because the DVDs are almost always better quality than an xvid download.
Caroline Ring
34. Caroline
jasonmitchell, or -- in your last paragraph -- someone bursts on the business scene, selling good-quality DRM-free stuff for a reasonable price and less hassle than torrenting. They make millions, artists make millions. Everyone is happy.

There's a reason iTunes makes money -- because they make it easy to find and buy music, known good-quality recordings, for a price that's not painful to most people. If it were un-DRMed, they'd make even more money. (Apple, as a company, is well aware that most music played on iPods isn't bought from the iTunes store. I don't think they're stupid enough to think DRMing iTunes music will prop up iPod sales -- not like they need propping up anyway.) They haven't been able to cut that deal with the record companies who provide them the music to sell. The time is ripe for someone who can. Someone can make a LOT of money providing customers with what they clearly want: high-quality media that is completely, easily portable.

You make it easier for someone to pay $5 or $10 for a high-quality, portable movie, and most people will switch to doing that rather than pirating. (Sure, you'll still get a certain percentage who will pirate. But you always will, and they wouldn't buy anyway.) Piracy has costs too -- chiefly in the time it takes you to find stuff and apply cracks, but also in the uncertain quality of what you get. You could sell someone the same thing they're getting from piracy -- if you sell them the convenience of not having to deal with those costs.

That's how you break the cycle you describe. You recognize that there's a demand, and you recognize that you can make money by filling it. ("You", here, meaning "someone.") In short, you run a business by selling your customers what they want -- applying the principle of supply and demand -- rather than by trying to lock them in to whatever you give them and prevent them from going elsewhere, which is the solution you (jasonmitchell) propose.
Jeff Soules
35. DeepThought
@JasonMitchell --
Okay, so boycott the folks who won't sell you what you want. Fair enough. But that boycott is just as effective through piracy as through refusing to consume something. Drinking smuggled tea or drinking no tea, the effect is the same so long as it's not the East India Company's, dig?
"DON'T BUY IT" seems to be exactly what the OP is doing. If he's going to not pay, his personal moral fortitude in choosing whether or not to watch the show anyway doesn't change the amount of money in anyone's pocket.
So can we skip the self-righteous finger-wagging and name-calling?
Jeff Soules
36. DeepThought
"Free" is the inevitable future of content. Whether you like it or not is immaterial; it's going to happen. That's why this corporation is putting up this website: to figure out how to make money in a world where the whole catalog will always be available for PDF download on some sketchy Russian site.

This topic has been hashed to death on /. many a time, so I will make only two points:

-- First, the majority of alternative payment systems proposed ("just get dish, just get cable, just buy the DVDs" etc) send the vast majority of their money to people who are not content producers or in any way creatively involved with the process. They are artificially inflating the price of the goods and decreasing the share of the benefit their creators receive from selling them. My heart does not bleed for the end of their gravy train.

-- Second, I'm surprised we haven't been confronted with the bugaboo of ZOMG NO MORE CONTENT EVARS much yet in this thread. Let me head that off preemptively by saying "So what?" The vast majority of books ever written have been written on spec. Most authors never make a dime. If nobody ever again makes money like Stephen King of Jo Rowling... we won't go without books. And if we lose CSI: Miami, well... was that really the best use to which we could put months of our lives?

Parting shot: without piracy, no one here would ever have read Hamlet.
paul wallich
37. paulw
I'm one of those people who have taken yet a different approach. I rarely pirate stuff, but the price and hassle of buying new is also generally too much to bother with. So I reread, I haunt the used bookstores, I go out for walks or down in the basement to build stuff. Rather choose between hating myself for taking food out of starving artists' mouths or doing it for supporting some of the nastiest enemies of expression since Qin Shi Huang, I'm trying to opt out.

That's not really good for either "side", but it gives me some peace of mind.
Robert N. Lee
38. RNLee
Apple, as a company, is well aware that most music played on iPods isn't bought from the iTunes store. I don't think they're stupid enough to think DRMing iTunes music will prop up iPod sales -- not like they need propping up anyway.

Yeah, that must be why they're currently enjoying the kind of monopoly on digital music downloads and hardware anti-trust laws were invented to prevent.

(Oh, wait - that's heresy. Apple's a good control freak megacorp! An Apple monopoly is a good monopoly! Hell, send the Tripods along to cap my kids when they hit puberty, so long as those caps feature gorgeous industrial design and That Logo.)

Oh, and their music downloads are wildly overpriced for about the lowest quality compressed files they can get away with, too.
Matt Schraeder
39. frozen-solid
I rarely pirate stuff, but the price and hassle of buying new is also generally too much to bother with. So I reread, I haunt the used bookstores, I go out for walks or down in the basement to build stuff.

Quite honestly, I have less respect for people who buy from used bookstores than I do those who download from torrent sites. The problem with people how buy from used bookstores is that they are purchasing a "legal" copy of a book, sure... but they are not giving in a PENNY of that money to the original creators of the content. All of the profits from used books go to the owner of the used book store. I would rather someone pay nothing and obtain something illegally, than I would pay an entrepreneur who makes a profit on other peoples' works legally or not. What difference does piracy vs used books make, when in neither case does money show up in the people's hands where it belongs? You might as well be purchasing a copied DVD from a street vender when you're buying a used book, because in both cases the money is 100% going to the vender, and not to the people who made it.

You also have to note, that I am a huge proponent of Open Source and Creative Commons. Look at NIN's online release of ghosts. He put it online for free under a CC license, and then charged $5 for a "higher quality" download and $10 for a physical cd. He made millions. Every person who bought it, or downloaded it for free, is 100% legally able to pass it on to every person they know, and not have to worry about piracy. I am more willing to give NIN money than I am any artist who releases music traditionally in stores.

That is how media should be. Period.
Robert N. Lee
40. RNLee
The problem with people how buy from used bookstores is that they are purchasing a "legal" copy of a book, sure... but they are not giving in a PENNY of that money to the original creators of the content.

I think you'd be really hard pressed to find any authors who'd agree with you on that one.

Except over at the Baen boards, maybe.
nothorse
41. jasonmitchell
DeepThought, and others -
my problem (mainly) whith the original post was that Pablo's complaint was he doesn't want to pay for cable (or other) subscription, or get anything less than HDTV/ commercial free. He has an option to get the stuff he wants - he just thinks $80/ month is too much (I cannot afford a 60" HDTV, I percieve those that can complain about cable being too expensine as whiners, "the luxury tax is too high on my BMW, whah!"

I agree that artists should be paid for their work and that the networks/ cable providers/ record companies etc. get a disproportionate share. The model is broken. The more artists that adopt NIN's model described by Frozen-solid above, the more pressure will be put on the big corporations to adapt.
Matt Schraeder
42. frozen-solid
I think you'd be really hard pressed to find any authors who'd agree with you on that one.

Authors have been "giving away" their works for free forever. What do you think libraries are for? Libraries give books on loan free of charge. Anyone can walk into their local public library and read just about any book in existence for free. You can spend 8 hours a day at Barne's and Noble and read an entire book for free and never have to pay for it. I find it hard to believe that most authors aren't for free exchange of ideas.

I might not be an author, but I am a software developer, and if given the choice between someone who is not a customer and will never be a customer stealing my software and enjoying it and getting use out of it, and that same person not being able to enjoy my works because I fill it with DRM and other technology to keep people who don't pay me from using it, then I would choose to allow him to steal that work from me instead. If I were a musician or a writer, this would not change. I would honestly rather someone download my works for free illegally, than to never experience them for themselves. If they were never going to pay for it to begin with then I am losing no profits from them stealing it contrary to the beliefs of the RIAA, MPAA, and similar organizations.

However, if someone takes my GPL'd software and sells it for a profit, I cannot stop them. That's what the GPL is for. However, I have very little respect for someone who takes someone else's works and makes a profit, without that profit going at least partially to the original author. Sure it's legal, but to me that's worse than the people stealing.

The only time I would agree that a used book sale is for a good purpose, is when it's going to fund a library, school, or some sort of reading program. Libraries require money to run, and if a used book store is giving their profits to fund libraries and reading programs for kids then I would be all for it. I cannot agree with someone profiting on another's works, without the author receiving at least some compensation for it.
Bridget McGovern
43. BMcGovern
So, for all the cries of hypocrisy flying around, it seems like some people are missing the spirit of the original post. I don't think the point of the post was an attempt to over-rationalize or excuse the act of piracy, but rather to unrepentantly declare a position on a controversial topic (and in the process raise some internet hackles, stir up a shitstorm for all too enjoy--nice job with that, by the way :).

I think we can dispense with the accusations of whining and hypocrisy--feel free to disagree with his position (and I mean really--go to town), but it's not as if Pablo's tentatively running a few ideas up the flagpole here. He's pretty much flying the Jolly Roger in the face of television networks, and I really don't think he's apologizing for it. An explanation of a position isn't an apologia or an excuse, and this was a straightforward statement, not a defense.

If pirates are thieves or shoplifters with a high opinion of themselves, fine--Shoplifters of the World Unite. To return to the proverbial bottle of rum (and I always do), faced with all the unsavory prohibitions of the current system, I'd rather enjoy an ill-gotten, top shelf bottle of Don Q than the overpriced, half-empty fifth of Captain Morgan's usually available through legitimate channels. I'd prefer, as most people do, that the system were different, and I look forward to any and all progress and improvements, but for now, that's just the way it is, and I'm going to go enjoy my mojito in peace...(oh, and for the record, I have a really crappy, ancient TV, but I'm still not forking any money over for cable, whether I can afford to or not, for many of the reasons Pablo points out. It's just not a tenable option, regardless of how massive and shiny and ridiculous your set-up is).
Robert N. Lee
44. RNLee
I'm not sure why you're coming at me like I spoke up against libraries, but...

You can think whatever you want, but the law everywhere is against you, regarding used book/movie/record sales. Also, most if not all writers train themselves, at least in part, through exposure to as much written work on the cheap as possible. From past experience with this same argument elsewhere, you aren't going to get very many pro writers joining you in harping about used book sales. Most genre fiction writers, in particular, aren't the kind of delusional "Social Darwinists" who become convinced that any measure of success is due to their god-like force of will and personal superiority. Thus, they aren't particularly interested in kicking out the very ladder they climbed behind them. (You'll probably get a few "yeas," but whatever. Assholes are everywhere.)

Oh, and as somebody who also worked in software development for many years: the bending of IP and consumer protection laws regarding software is bullshit. You ought to be able to resell your copy of Photoshop, same as you already can your copy of Resident Evil - the video game, the DVD, the soundtrack, the tie-in novel - any of them. You ought to be able to take it back to the freaking store if it's broken or you just don't like it, too, and the fact that you still can't represents one of the bigger breakdowns in consumer protection in the US in my lifetime. IMO.
will shetterly
45. willshetterly
BMcGovern, yep. We call ourselves pirates because we know what we're doing is both illegal and right. There's no more rationalization on our part than there is on the part of the corporatist who thinks ideas should be bought and sold for as long as they can extend the law to protect their monopoly. What we have is the continuing clash of two tribes, the sharers versus the sellers.

And should anyone ask, sometimes we pirate things and buy them to support them. (Why, yes, Emma has legal copies of Criminal Minds.)
Matt Schraeder
46. frozen-solid
I'm not sure why you're coming at me like I spoke up against libraries, but...

I didn't mean to come off as attacking you, just that I think most writers are on the right side of the curve in that they do see that giving something away for free doesn't necessarily mean you're losing profits and that "free" has been fairly standard practice for writing for a very long time.

And while I'm not directly condemning used book/cd/software sales, I am saying I find them more immoral than piracy because money is exchanging hands but not supporting the original works. It's not near as bad in the used book business, but in the way of cds and software you get paid a ridiculously low price for your copy and the used store makes twice that back in profits. I would rather give a friend an old book, cd, or game I finished with for them to use, then to sell it to someone who's going to turn around and sell it again for double what they paid for it.
Avram Grumer
47. avram
Like most arguments about copyright, this one features people banging the dinner table and declaring that copyright violation is stealing, no two ways about it, because they say so, with no legal evidence to back up their argument, because if you can't take the word of a guy making stern declarative statements on the Internet, who can you trust?

Stealing is when you deliberately take another person's property with intent to deprive them of its use. In the case of pirating a video, you haven't deprived the copyright-owner of use of the video, so you haven't stolen it.

If you steal someone's property and get caught, you'll face criminal charges. The name of the court case will be something like The State of New York vs Jack Jackson. If you lose the case, you may go to prison.

On the other hand, if you violate someone's copyright and get caught, and they decide to pursue legal relief, you'll face civil charges, not criminal. The name of the case will be something like Tom Tompkins vs Jack Jackson, and if you lose, you'll just have to pay money.

Arguing that these two cases are identical is just nonsense. If you oppose "piracy" of copyrighted material, fine, say so. But don't go calling it "stealing" or "murder" or "breaking and entering" just because you don't think "copyright violation" sounds dramatic enough.
Avram Grumer
48. avram
Furthermore, those of you who are sensitive to the plights of the poor artists who aren't getting paid for "pirated" works, you're blaming the wrong people. If you're really concerned about artist compensation, direct your anger at the movie and music studios, both of which are notorious for ripping artists off. Seriously -- the ripping-off of creative people is a standard part of the film and music industry business models.

And these are also the two industries most concerned with "piracy" of creative works. I wonder why that is....
Robert N. Lee
49. RNLee
I am saying I find them more immoral than piracy because money is exchanging hands but not supporting the original works.

Even though if it weren't for used book sales, anything that went OOP would pretty much be gone forever? And...way more written work goes OOP, and way faster these days than ever before.
nothorse
50. Raisin
'Quite honestly, I have less respect for people who buy from used bookstores than I do those who download from torrent sites. The problem with people how buy from used bookstores is that they are purchasing a "legal" copy of a book, sure... but they are not giving in a PENNY of that money to the original creators of the content. All of the profits from used books go to the owner of the used book store.'

Do you feel the same if I were to remove the book from that scenario, and replace it with, say, a second hand pair of trousers, a necklace, a board game, a cassette tape, or a doll?

It seems silly to decry people buying second hand books. Do you extend your logic to people buying other second hand goods? If not, why not?
nothorse
51. Robotech_Master
Sometimes the shows you "pirate" to check out, you end up buying on DVD. I know that's how it worked for me with Avatar: The Last Airbender. A friend burned me copies of some episodes he'd Tivo'd, then I downloaded the rest, and enjoyed it so much that I immediately shelled out for the DVD sets. If I hadn't seen those burned or downloaded copies, I wouldn't have been able to see the show at all—I don't get Nick, and none of the rental places in town carries Avatar—and shelling out for the DVDs sight unseen would have been out of the question. So if I hadn't seen those "pirated" copies, the DVDs would not have made a sale.

As far as TV shows are concerned, I don't see a whole lot of moral difference between downloading them and having a friend tape them off the air for you. Either way, you're not paying for it or watching the commercials. And how is anyone worse off for me having watched a show without paying for it than me not having watched the show without paying for it?

I don't do movies, though. I'd rather have the better picture quality, 5.1 surround sound, and extra features from the DVDs, and they're usually easy enough to rent.
M R
52. Techslave
frozen-solid:

Your statement on used bookstores is a far reach and I believe you fail to prove any argument. The original author already was paid in most cases. Having lived with and interacted with owners of both new and used or mixed book stores, there is a HUGE difference here between a used book transaction and the copyright violation of downloading an unauthorized e-book.
Once the material is digitized there are only copies being made - the original is, in fact, typically still in the possession of the purchaser.

Try to find an established author's first novel at a store with only new books. Try to find the entirety of ANY author who has written for more than 10 years on those shelves, who is NOT a top-10 author in their genre or field. Try finding small print run books, or books whose rights are held but which are not being re-printed due to profitability concerns, contractual problems, or political concerns. Or do you condemn the community lending groups, and libraries, as no longer providing a needed public service? Remember that many libraries purchase and lend CD and DVD content now. And there have been lawsuits brought over it. Just as there are lawsuits filed over playing a radio station loud enough that customers can hear it at a small business.

Having been too poor to support the authors I love at times, I have bought used or gone to the library. Or heresy of heresy, I borrowed a book from a friend. When there is money, I purchase books. Now, there is money. So every week, I buy hardcovers or softcover. If no author I already enjoy or support has new books available, I find and buy a new author. I may not buy them again, but I buy at least once. Do I regret these choices or purchase? Relatively often I do. I gauge the quality of a purchase by the re-read, and if I never pick a book back up again it is not likely that I enjoyed it. Should I have to pay to re-read a book? Should parents pay to read their books aloud to their children or to their friends in private or at a park as a public performance to person(s) who did not purchase the book?

Thanks to used bookstores, hundreds of authors works are read and appreciated and are given the opportunity to contribute even posthumously to intellectual and cultural discourse. Thanks to used bookstores these texts remain in circulation. The author is exposed to new audiences who would not otherwise have been reached. And you quite possibly far overestimate wildly in thinking that used book stores are much in the way of profitable. More often self-sustaining is a better term. But most frequently the terms is closer to a statement about a desperate clawing struggle above the abyss of bankruptcy and failure.

The gap between that and getting a free pirated digital version of Dean Koontz's latest toilet paper when you have the monetary and physical potential to pay for it is very wide sir. Very wide indeed.

If you want a better analogy talk about 'stripped' books where the author and publisher both were in most cases unpaid. Or a bad black market copy of a book. Or the super-cheap remaindered copies you get at the new book store. I think your original analogy is insupportable in any reasonable argument.
Matt Schraeder
53. frozen-solid
My point isn't about the legality of the matter or that used sales are evil and should be stopped. My point is entirely that if I purchase something, to me, it is a sign that I am supporting the author of the original work and that I appreciate their hard work in putting it together by giving them monetary compensation, even if it's a relatively small amount because the rest is gouged by the publisher, record label, or movie studio. Yes, there are perfectly good uses for used book stores. Yes, sometimes things go out of print and you can only get them used. I am not talking about things being out of print. If something is in fact available new, but you go out of your way to save $2-3 and buy it used, to me that is no better than pirating it.
Matt Schraeder
54. frozen-solid
Do you feel the same if I were to remove the book from that scenario, and replace it with, say, a second hand pair of trousers, a necklace, a board game, a cassette tape, or a doll?

Clothing, board games, music, movies, software, toys? Yes. I will always prefer to buy things new than used. About the ONLY thing I won't argue about buying used is cars. However, there is a difference between books/music/movies, and just about anything else on that list. I feel so strongly about books/music/movies/software, because artists and very talented creative people put a lot of time and effort into their works. I like to support those artists. There isn't an "artist" I can exactly support by buying a pair of generic khaki slacks new from a store.
nothorse
55. Raisin
Yeah, who wants poor people to be able to buy some books, anyway.

And those charity shops, like Oxfam, Help The Aged, Greyhounds In Need and the like! Man, don't get me started on those. They may as well be enabling and encouraging piracy.
Matt Schraeder
56. frozen-solid
Yeah, who wants poor people to be able to buy some books, anyway.

You seem to have missed my point as well. I would rather someone who can't afford or will not pay for a work to pirate it or enjoy it by any means possible than to force them to pay for it. I am all for free and inexpensive access to books, music, and movies. Libraries are great for giving free access to books, and often times music and movies as well.

However, it is my opinion that buying from a used book store is worse, because it is putting money in the hands of someone who did not have a hand in that book being made. I would rather pirate a creative work such as a book and mail the author $10 than I would pay $10 for a used book that costs $15 new. To me, it is about supporting the creators by paying them for their time and effort, and not the physical possession of a work.
nothorse
57. Robotech_Master
Of course, a large number if not the majority of people who are going to be shopping at used book stores are doing so because buying new is not an economic option for them. And if buying a new book isn't an option, how are they going to afford to get a computer and Internet service to "pirate" instead of buying used? Even if they have a computer, how likely are they even to know how to "pirate"? (The computer-literate tend to underestimate the difficulty of doing even the simplest computer-related thing for the computer-illiterate—after all, they can do it, so why can't everybody?)

Used bookstores are the Long Tail of the off-line world. They keep out of print writers' works still circulating so people can find them anew. They prevent works that people don't want anymore, or want money or other books more than they want to keep, from ending up in landfills. They keep more trees from dying needlessly. They promote literacy by making more books available cheaply.

Eric Flint had some great things to say about the benefits of used bookstores to the writers whose works they sell in his Prime Palaver #7.
Matt Schraeder
58. frozen-solid
Once again, I have nothing against used book stores for people who can't afford new books or computers. My point is only that I would rather pirate and donate to the author than purchase a book used. I would rather see money go to the author than to a used book store owner, because it is my appreciation of the work the author did, not the physical object of the book itself that interests me.

It's the same as my point about Dr. Horrible. I bought the episodes on iTunes to support the creators, despite my hatred for the system of iTunes. I didn't even download the videos I purchased. Instead, I downloaded pirated versions that I could watch on my Linux computer and can take to friends' houses to show them. It's not the act of piracy that's bad, it's the fact that I want to see at least a portion of my money go to the creators. Video Game manufacturers do not see a penny from used games sold at GameStop. Writers and publishers do not see a penny from books sold at used book stores. That is why I choose not to support the purchase of used books and software.

It is a personal preference based upon my ability to pay for the works that I enjoy. I cannot fault someone for buying from a used book store if that is their only way to enjoy a work, just as I cannot fault someone for pirating something in order to enjoy a work that they can't afford to pay for.
Arachne Jericho
59. arachnejericho
@Robotech_Master - Thanks for the Prime Palaver #7 link. Eric Flint's arguments are very detailed and very well reasoned, and eminently readable.

I want a mug that says "Zero from zero is zero".
Kyle Raines
60. FlameStrike
"FlameStrike: I do commend you on your discipline regarding your list of previously pirated stuff to buy, but don’t you think you’re pulling a fast one as well, by circumventing/breaking DRM schemes? Once you break those, your purchases are hardly ‘legal’, and in the eyes of entities like the MPAA/RIAA, you’re still stealing.... "

No, I'm not stealing. I've paid for the works, I'm just looking for a way to utilize my fair use rights. I'm not making the shows available for anyone else to download, I'm not trying to copy and sell the shows, I'm just trying to make it possible to copy them to DVD and watch them on my TV.

It's perfectly legal to make bakcup copies of things you purchase. It's perfectly legal to record your own CD of songs you've legally purchased on another CD. It's perfectly legal to record iTunes songs to audio CD or copy songs from your CD collection into MP3 format. All of those fall under fair use, and by that logic so does copying a legally purchased and downloaded video to a video DVD.

The restrictions these DRM videos have on them violate fair use. I'm just trying to even those scales for things I've legitimately purchased.
Eleanor Lawson
61. eklawson
Of course, a large number if not the majority of people who are going to be shopping at used book stores are doing so because buying new is not an economic option for them. And if buying a new book isn't an option, how are they going to afford to get a computer and Internet service to "pirate" instead of buying used? Even if they have a computer, how likely are they even to know how to "pirate"? (The computer-literate tend to underestimate the difficulty of doing even the simplest computer-related thing for the computer-illiterate—after all, they can do it, so why can't everybody?)

Erm, not all 20 somethings have great paying IT jobs. We're highly computer literate and we're prolific readers, and while we may spend our money on a good connection and a decent machine, excessive consumer spending is not in the budget; because we don't all have mommies and daddies to kick us down some scratch when we spent the rent money on overpriced books and DVD's.

And yea, we also like that we can pick up literature we missed the first time around by not being born yet.
Kyle Raines
62. FlameStrike
"go for it. I steal Sci-Fi books. All of them that I can. It is just too difficult to buy them from web sites or stores. You keep writing them, I'll keep stealing them."

As an SF writer, I have to say that this is the reason I will not sell e-book rights to publishers. People like you. I really hope you get sued for everything you own one of these days.

Incidentally, suing a pirate for everything he owns is exactly what I will do to anyone who pirates anything I've written. If I can file criminal charges as well, all the better.
Torie Atkinson
63. Torie
Let's drop the used bookstore strawman argument.

It sounds to me like everyone will unanimously agree that artists and creators deserve money for their work, but to what extent should that be one's exclusive concern?

If you're paying for your books or media with the sole intention of supporting the artists/creators, then how do you justify all of the other (legal) ways in which media is traded & consumed that does not directly support the creator? This throws into doubt everything from used bookstores to libraries to fair use.

@avram

You're right, the real enemies are the studios that set up this business model. Musical artists often make less than a $1/album. They make almost nothing from their actual creative work and most of their revenue comes from concerts, merchandising, and licensing. It's the branding that reels in the profits, not the music itself. If you're buying music just because you think that it's going into the hands of the artists, reconsider. Pirating the music and then going to the concert and buying a T-shirt nets them a lot more money. In terms of numbers, the choice is easy.

This business model is just plain unfair. It's broken. And I think that a lot of people view piracy as a way to fight back against it, or at least abstain from participating in it.

As far as Pablo's original post is concerned, all of the legal ways to obtain media are woefully inadequate for both the available present technology and meeting the demand of sophisticated consumers.
Avram Grumer
64. avram
FlameStrike, are you sure you're not cutting off your nose to spite your face?

I mean, if potential readers are already pirating your books, then you have nothing to lose by selling ebook rights.

You might want to talk to authors who've participated in the Baen Free Library. Scroll down to the bottom of that Wikipedia page and you'll find links to letter written by authors who've participated. Many of them report increased sales of their physical books after giving away free ebooks.
nothorse
65. Robotech_Master
What's more, almost no "pirated" ebooks actually come from commercial ebooks.

The fact that J.K. Rowling has notoriously refused to release Harry Potter ebooks citing piracy concerns did nothing to stop illicit ebook copies of the Harry Potter novels showing up on the Internet within hours of their release. You can't DRM ink on paper, and the state of optical character recognition technology has gotten really good.

So hold onto those ebook rights as tightly as you can. It won't keep your books from circulating illicitly if people feel like scanning them and throw them out there.

(Not that piracy of books is necessarily harmful, anyway. Again, Eric Flint on how he disagreed with the idea, and put his money where his mouth was.)
Kyle Raines
66. FlameStrike
"You can't DRM ink on paper, and the state of optical character recognition technology has gotten really good."

Maybe so, but it still makes more work for those who wish to engage in such piracy. I find a strange sense of satisfaction in knowing that people will have to do some work to get me to sue them.
Arachne Jericho
67. arachnejericho
The fact that J.K. Rowling has notoriously refused to release Harry Potter ebooks citing piracy concerns did nothing to stop illicit ebook copies of the Harry Potter novels showing up on the Internet within hours of their release.


Ah, so that's why I can't find the Harry Potter books in the Kindle bookstore. I'd forgotten that. I feel sad now.

Curiously, with the Kindle I really don't want to buy paper books anymore---but I don't pirate stuff for the Kindle. Heck, I wanted to pay for an official MobiPocket format for Little Brother but am unlikely to get one.

So if SomeAuthor's work never shows up in some Kindle-readable format, pay or no pay (I prefer the first, since pretty formatting makes my eyes hurt less), and said work doesn't get nominated for big awards so that I'd buy the paper version anyways... I suppose I shall have to leave SomeAuthor's work unread.

Then again, I am not even a mote in SomeAuthor's eye. But one day I may be part of many motes; I think we're approaching a time when e-books actually will grow and become a progressively bigger part of the market. And with not just a little help from Kindle, eReader, and PDAs with the right software.
Dave Miller
68. Borogove
@frozen-solid: I think you're overlooking a fundamental economic aspect of "used" goods. Used book stores don't pull money out of thin air. By providing an aftermarket for books that people no longer want, a used book dealer increases the value of new books, so more people will buy them, at higher prices. Hence, increasing revenue to the original creator.

@FlameStrike: If you'd care to provide a list of your works, I'll make sure I never read any of it without paying for it. Understand, of course, that this means that I, like almost anyone else in the same situation, will never read any of your work.
nothorse
69. bgalbrecht
One of the places where I buy science fiction is a bookstore that sells both new and used works. Since their profit margin is greater for used books than it is for new books, people who buy used books there are helping ensure there's a local non-chain specialty SF bookstore in town.

A healthy used book market, even that of books still in print, does support authors, in that people who buy new books often do so knowing that if they don't care for a book, they can always resell it and recoup some of the initial cost. Since used works don't create a new copy of the work, it doesn't devalue the work like a pirated copy does.

I can understand taking the view that buying new is better than buying used, but I think there's no excuse for claiming downloading pirated works is better than buying used.
Matt Schraeder
70. frozen-solid
how do you justify all of the other (legal) ways in which media is traded & consumed that does not directly support the creator? This throws into doubt everything from used bookstores to libraries to fair use.

I justify all of those legal ways the same way handle things such as Dr. Horrible and NIN's Ghosts I-IV. If someone hands me a book to read, and I enjoy it, I will purchase it for myself because I want to support the writer. One of my friends introduced me to the book JPod by Douglas Goupland. I read the first two chapters and seriously enjoyed it, so I went to Branes and Noble, bought it, and gave my friend his copy of the book back. A band called Stabilizer releases their CDs on Something Awful's forums (also Captain Dan and Echo Slightly, done by the same group of people) for free as well as on places like last.fm. Regardless of having free MP3s, I have still bought every one of their albums because I want to support artists that I like.

By providing an aftermarket for books that people no longer want, a used book dealer increases the value of new books, so more people will buy them, at higher prices.

I understand that, and I understand the excellent article on the matter that was linked. My opinion on this has nothing to do with legalities, fair use, and the like. As a personal, moral standard, I would rather see money go to the author than into the hands of a used book dealer. I will go out of my way to attempt to purchase a book in such a way that the artist gets compensation. Even the books I received free from this site I will likely purchase a hardcopy of the book in order to support the authors in some small way.
Kyle Raines
71. FlameStrike
"Since used works don't create a new copy of the work, it doesn't devalue the work like a pirated copy does."

Nicely summarized, bgalbrecht. This is the heart of the issue. The right to create copies for distribution lies with the copyright holder. No one else has that right, and pirates don't seem to understand or care about this. They are depriving the artists, or their authorized representatives, of their right to control the distribution of, and thereby profit from, their work.

Piracy creates new copies with the intent of distribution. For every copy made with that intent, the creator of the original work deserves fair compensation. Creating those new distribution copies by piracy takes money from the creator of the work by not compensating him/her. That's why I have such a problem with it, and that's why I am willing to go to the extremes I mentioned earlier to protect my work from piracy.

As for used book stores, libraries, rental shops and the like: they do not create new copies. They simply keep existing copies in circulation. The creator has already been compensated for that copy, so no infringement has occurred. This is not the same as creating a new copy and distributing it, whether it's for profit or not.

As for Borogove, no big loss. I haven't published anything outside of small magazines, so far, so I'm not yet concerned that I'm actually losing income from piracy. That's the magazine's issue to deal with, and I've already been paid for my work. Then it does become my concern, you know where I stand. I'd rather have someone not reading my work than creating a new, unauthorized copy for their own consumption, thereby creating new distribution copies which I receive no compensation for.
Dave Miller
72. Borogove
@frozen-solid: My opinion on this has nothing to do with legalities, fair use, and the like. As a personal, moral standard, I would rather see money go to the author than into the hands of a used book dealer.

And it is exactly that short-sighted belief that only direct compensation for a copy of a work grants value to a creator, that creates this entire "Pirates vs. Creators" conflict in the first place. Until people understand the point made much more eloquently by others in this thread, that content will, ultimately, be freely traded, and compensation must become more indirect, or there will be none at all, everyone will lose out.

This is, of course, FlameStrike's problem as well, and is one of the reasons why he will likely remain forever unknown.
will shetterly
73. willshetterly
FlameStrike, I was wondering about your track record given how strongly you state your position. In my experience, the people who worry about having their work stolen are oldtimers whose web skills aren't much better than John McCain's and ambitious writers who would love to be in a position where someone might want to "steal" from them. Don't sweat this issue until it matters to you. Focus now on improving your chops. The business may be completely different by the time you sell to a major market.
Arachne Jericho
74. arachnejericho
@FlameStrike - You should probably read about zero from zero is zero with respects to income versus getting read.

I mean, do you actually care that other people know about your work? Because obscurity really is the writer's worst enemy---piracy doesn't come anywhere close. If no one reads your work, what are you writing for? It's okay to write for pleasure, but if you're trying to write to be read (for profit or not) then getting the word out is more important than anything else.

Stealing without a byline---that's the real danger if we're talking about copies. Piracy tends to leave bylines intact.

If people like you, they will buy your stuff anyways. If people don't like you, they won't---and trying to restrict copies against that possibility is... well... I think self-limiting.

And moves like Amazon's and Sony's stores will give you peace of mind if you don't want DRM-free. To not give out electronic book rights in those cases is... well... kind of trying to prove a point while punishing people who'd like to read you legally on Kindle.

And there are many writers who will bear witness to "free offers of some of my works results in increased buying of my other works, or even of the same works". You seem to ignore all of that in your... well... anger is what it's coming across as.

My perspective on all this, as meager as it may seem to you: I come from the world of blogging to be read, where obscurity really is death, where I face the same problems that any other writer does---including the how-do-I-make-money-for-reals bits. It's been my focus for over 9 months now, and will be my focus for many more. Keeping Spontaneous Derivation alive in terms of audience and subscribers is an uphill battle that just never f'in ends.

For no matter how good my content is, if no one knows about it, I don't get the rolling word of mouth that means an article earns itself out via ads (if I had any).

(One of my articles would have done so spectacularly---something like 20,000 unique hits by now. I've got an article that hit 1200+ hits over two days. Two of my Hugo articles reached over 1500 unique hits---thank you, io9. A quarter of my blog posts reach 400 unique hits. Anything that doesn't bring in over 100 unique hits on the first couple days is a failure.

My site is tiny potatoes for all that; those are small site, barely sustainable levels.)

I could make people pay for all my content, of course. But I don't have the brand to do that---I must build it. And that is the real battle. None of those articles would have reached those hits if they were not, ah, both free and good (for some definition of good). One day if I'm lucky and work hard I'll have an audience and, depending on what I eventually settle upon, I can sell something well.

Honestly, I'd like to take a chance with your work, but you're so hostile on this thread that I wonder if you'd want me to read it at all, even if I paid you for it. I mean, getting sued, even if I'm innocent, is clearly not worth reading you. Lawyers and time are not cheap.

To put it bluntly, you scare me even if I don't pirate your work. Dunno if other people feel that way. And lawyers and time are not cheap for you either; they would be willing to call your bluff, but I will just ignore your stuff.

On the other hand, you probably think I'm just stupid. Admittedly, sometimes I am. But I like to think that after 9 months of slog and watching carefully what works and what doesn't, and planning out 3.25 more years of this and continual maintenance afterword, I do know something about the relationship of word-of-mouth to being read and thence to... ha... profit.

And of course, you can just ignore me. That's cool.

Just be careful out there. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. We're both not very experienced when these things are counted up.

(Random thought: I also act as my own publisher. And now I have loooots of respect for publishers.)

- a
Jay Doyle
75. weateallthepies
I'd rather have someone not reading my work than creating a new, unauthorized copy for their own consumption, thereby creating new distribution copies which I receive no compensation for."

Really?

I'd rather be like Rowling where people are prepared to induce migraines by reading fuzzy photos of my latest book.
Kyle Raines
76. FlameStrike
"This is, of course, FlameStrike's problem as well, and is one of the reasons why he will likely remain forever unknown."

Whether I'm unable to make a living because I'm unable to make a sale, or unable to make a living because people aren't compensating me for my work, the effect is the same: I end up being unable to make a living, so I have to find another way to do so, and that means I have to stop writing.

If you can find some other way to pay me for my work, some way that will make it possible for me to make a living, I'm willing to listen. Somehow, though, I don't see the patronage system coming back anytime soon, and I'm not seeing any other way of making things work for me as a writer.

"Don't sweat this issue until it matters to you."

It does matter to me. Maybe not in a practical way, yet, but seeing as I am on the verge of having to give up on writing, even without piracy as a contributing factor, I don't expect that it will actually be a practical concern anytime before I die. So, I may as well concern myself with it now when I can still delude myself with the fact that it will be an issue that will affect me.
Alison Scott
77. AlisonScott
@frozensolid and others who don't buy used goods and disapprove of the selling of used goods in general: you need to watch The Story of Stuff. You've been seduced by a Grand Evil Plan. I believe that we all need to hugely reduce the amount we consume; using second hand goods, and ensuring that our unwanted goods get to people who need them and can make use of them are key elements of that. And when I started getting rid of stuff, I noticed something interesting. When you give stuff away, the people who get it often don't want or need it. By comparison, when you sell things, you invariably get them to someone who wants them.

Someone else has spoken about the economics of secondary markets, but it's very complicated. Obviously in some areas (houses, cars) there's always been a strong expectation that items will be sold on, and in others (clothes, nowadays) most people buy new and don't sell on. eBay has strengthened secondary markets in loads of areas (such as the musical instruments I play), and hence enhanced the new value of those items.

For entertainment products we're seeing some shake-out; there used to be a limited secondhand market, and now it's much stronger. But even here, I've bought things with the specific intention of re-selling; clearly the possibility of re-sale affected my purchase decision.

@FlameStrike: I'm rapidly moving past the point where I buy paper books. Unlike Paolo, I'm not much of a pirate; I don't pirate stuff unless it's incredibly difficult to get it legitimately. So if you're an author I love, I might, might, be prepared to buy your paper books. But for all the rest? I've got far too many books in my to be read pile to go buying paper books from people who don't have ebooks available. So, mmm, security by obscurity.
Kyle Raines
78. FlameStrike
arachnejericho, you make some valid points, and I can, to some extent, agree with them. There's a reason I'm not using my real name or pen name on here. I'm actually something of a misanthrope, and so I can tend to be rather abrasive. I am distrustful and suspicious of other by nature, and that's only gotten worse as I've after being robbed and ripped-off more than once.

So, I tend to believe that the vast majority people will not pay me for my work unless they have no other choice. I don't really believe the people on here who say they want to compensate people like me, yet defend their piracy while doing so. Therefore, I will do everything I can to retain as much control as I can over my work for as long as I'm able to keep writing. This is especially true for projects that I've devoted more than 10 years of my life to.

So, yeah, I will resort to scare tactics to keep people from stealing from me. I will also keep my work in a medium I can trust, once that makes it as hard as possible for piracy to occur, one that will also confirm that ANY copy available for downloading is an unauthorized copy. Ironically, I don't trust DRM. People will find ways to crack it. The fact that I'm looking for a way to do so on one video format so I can indulge in my fair use rights only demonstrates my faith in that rule.

I'm all for fair use of my work by others. I'm just not going to make it possible for me to be cut out of the loop of rewards that I should get for my work, whether or not I've put over a decade of work into it.
M R
79. Techslave
Abandoning the used books versus piracy line, I have to agree with what has been said by others here in a few posts. Being unknown is worse than being pirated.

Even worse, the number of people who gleefully admit they do not read. The ones who with all evidence of good cheer and pride mention they have not finished a book since grade school. As much as I dislike certain genre, or certain authors whose predigested pap offends my sense of literature, I find myself glad that people read. But notice there are very, very few books important enough to make physical or even typically digital piracy of their content a significant factor. I hate to say it, but the bigger fish is authors and publication being marginalized in a world with decreasing attention spans and a focus on easily accessible digital media.

I am sympathetic to those who pirate. Because other means of effective change are blocked. And to so many industries, their profits protected by the weight of law. A little one-finger salute to their profit margin is the least they can expect from us, which is what most piracy I see is. The matter of morality as weighed against legality is something I leave to the individual. You have your beliefs, I have mine. And mine likely define morality and duty far differently than you would.
Del C
80. del
I hate it when the workers and the consumers growl at each other because the worker thinks the consumer is paying him too little for his labor, and the consumer thinks the worker is asking too much for the goods.

The real villain of this story is the player who, by seeking to expand copyright as far as possible--far more than is appropriate--is trying to pay the worker too little for his labor *and* charge the consumer too much for the goods.

here, as elsewhere, often the same people
nothorse
81. Robotech_Master
Here's another good article on why "piracy" may not be so bad: tech book publisher Tim O'Reilly explains that "piracy" is progressive taxation. And here's Janis Ian explaining how peer to peer "piracy" of her music helped her.

For all of that, I still think that FlameStrike is within his rights not to release electronic rights to his work if he does not want to. It is arguable whether he is especially wise to do so, but that is his choice. An author should be able to control the way in which his work is distributed; even if piracy may not deprive a writer of profits, it does deprive him of that control. That, I feel, is their worst crime.

Eric Flint has found that by allowing, even encouraging "piracy" through the Baen Free Library has without exception enabled those writers who were so "pirated" to sell more of their books than they otherwise would have. In some of his Prime Palavers, he gives figures showing that his own backlist titles that he released that way, such as Mother of Demons, sold far more copies than other books at the same point in their publishing life cycle. That level of success as a whole allowed Baen to start doing more hardcover releases.

It seems counterintuitive, but to listen to multiple Baen writers and publishers, it works.
Arachne Jericho
82. arachnejericho
@FlameStrike,

Heh. I understand not trusting the world. Believe me, I do. But sometimes equations just work out in ways you wouldn't believe, and while it is really hard to overcome some kinds of attitudes, when it comes to economics you kind of have to.

I think your fear that people will crack DRM is a bit off-center---I know it happens, but people are too lazy generally. The folks who would do it for fun would do it anyways; the folks who wouldn't are in the majority (lazy, like me) and usually don't have the technical knowledge, the time, or---more importantly---the will. And a desire for quality does drive many people who will actually pay for a hardcover.

The equation is pretty well explained in Eric Flint's Palavers.

Here's another parable from the World of Blogging for Money to be Read: bloggers are worse off than writers when it comes to our stuff being stolen. I have indeed had my content stolen many times, usually by automatic RSS scrapers---who don't actually care much about quality as much as about quantity---and bloggers who put out full RSS feeds are most vulnerable of all. I'm one of them.

Thing is, though, with certain plugins I can preserve byline (in hyperlink form!) in spite of my content being stolen. But there's still, of course, the problem of content being stolen (and used for ads on other sites, which is beyond irony).

So why the hell offer full feeds? Why not try to lock down my content and force people to visit my site?

Because people will still come to my site in the end if they like me, whether I do anything else or not, as the "pirates" are not well-known for their indexing, search, or content-producing prowess. And I'm the one who can produce more of the content my visitors and subscribers like so much. (Or at least I should be able to; if I can't, then as a blogger I'm a failure. Constant battle.)

So in the end, it's not worth my efforts to worry about all that; I'm the original source. People would rather bookmark me or subscribe to my feed (which I provide in full to those who don't want to be annoyed with truncated feeds) than try to rely on the pirates ("content scrapers" or just "scrapers" is how they're usually called in the blogging world). It's just easier for them.

And I don't even have the "luxury" of DRM.

One last thing, which applies to most anything. When other people are about to do something to your stuff, it's better for yourself to be the first one to do it. Because then you're a) first to "market", b) making it easier to just go to you because you're the original source anyways, and c) the first to ping all search engines and thus winning a large part of the search ranking battle.

Some businesses work on these terms. And they haven't yet sunk for years and years.
will shetterly
83. willshetterly
FlameStrike, a second thing to consider: the more you rant about piracy, the more you piss off readers who sometimes "pirate" and then buy what they like. If you're concerned about becoming a commercial writer, you only want to piss readers off with your work.

Uh, I should rework that sentence, but it kind of amuses me, and I trust it's clear enough.
Matt Schraeder
84. frozen-solid
And it is exactly that short-sighted belief that only direct compensation for a copy of a work grants value to a creator, that creates this entire "Pirates vs. Creators" conflict in the first place.

I don't believe that only direct compensation for a work grants value to a creator. I am pro piracy and pro used books stores/libraries and the like. I do honestly believe that the spreading of a work, by legal means or not, increases the value of that work for it's creator by spreading the name around, and thus possibly turning more people onto the works and creator more sales who would not have ordinarily learned of it. As I have already mentioned, I am a dirrrrry pirate just like the poster of this blog entry.

However, when I pirate something and like it I will go out of my way to purchase it in such a way that the creator gets compensation. To me, the money I spend on a new copy is a symbol to the creator that I enjoyed their works and thought it was worth the cover price. It is a whole hearted "thank you" for the hard work and time spent on that work. If purchasing a used book gives value to the creator indirectly, then purchasing a new book gives the same value as a used book, plus the extra little minuscule bit of cash that the author might get from that sale.

No, money is not the only value to the creator, but it is, to me, a way to support the work directly, rather than indirectly.

I believe that we all need to hugely reduce the amount we consume; using second hand goods, and ensuring that our unwanted goods get to people who need them and can make use of them are key elements of that.

Except that most books are made with *gasp* recycled materials. So whether or not I buy used or new, I am helping the environment. Maybe not directly in the same way that you are talking about, but the point is still there. Plus your point is moot when it comes to electronic copies. Buying a new electronic copy or a buddy of mine sending me a DRM free copy makes no difference one way or another about the environment, and is actually more environmentally sound than a physical copy.
nothorse
85. spooky
Flamestrike-

You might find Cory Doctorow's opinions on DRM interesting as well. Not only is Cory reasonably successful and well-known as an SF author, he is equally well-known computer-geek advocate for the Creative Commons, FOSS, and pretty-much every other supporter of freedom (as in speech, not as in beer)in existence. He has taken the really cool step of integrating his strong feelings on the subject of electronic freedom and used it as a subject of his work. Read "Little Brother."

My feelings on DRM mirrors his, which he states more eloquently than I could. "Unless I can open it, I don't own it. And once I CAN open it, I really DO own it." I will not pirate IP, but I will expect to OPEN what I pay for. If I pay for content that turns out to have DRM, I WILL remove it. BTW, I consider the fact that it is ON PAPER to be DRM.

Don't start checking your legal options yet, though. Judging by your posts, I'm sure I won't be reading your fiction. Selling one story to a magazine DOES make you a professional author. I'm one. To pass my freshman lit class in college the prof REQUIRED that one story you write during the semester actually be sold! And everyone in his class generally sold a story because the motivation was retaking this required course! My point is, it doesn't make you Isaac Asimov. Or Cory Doctorow, for that matter. Stop with the "my stories" already! We get it, you sold one!

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