File Trading As Stealing

Interviewed about file trading on campus, Rich said that, “one benchmark is whether you can explain why what you are doing is morally right without legalistic obfuscation. I’m afraid Danny is starting to fail that test.”

Here is an interesting Slashdot post with a pretty insightful analysis:

no blood, no foul – by fermion (Score: 4, Insightful)
U.S. Downloaders Do So To Sample Music, And Believe Their Activities Are Benign

I think that is they key statement. In the U.S., most of the time the things we think are wrong are the things that harm the innocent. We have no problem breaking all sorts of laws when we drive, because we do not think it is likely we will do harm to innocent victims. Industry and government knows this which is why they try to show, for example, the damage that drunk driving causes, or link illegal drugs to terrorism. Of course, some of these links are more valid than others, and such ads do backfire when the assertions are bogus.

Which is of course what is going on with the music industry. The industry wants us to believe we are stealing from artist, even though the artists I talk to say most of the money is made off t-shirts and sometimes concerts. They want us to believe we are harming the local retailer, even though the local retailer is harmed more by Wal-Mart and online sales than by copying. They have thus far resisted the urge to tell us that the high level executes are going to forced to sell their Escalades and give up their trophy spouses if we continue to trade music. They might have a better chance by citing the number of people the industry employs, but in a time when unemployment continues to rise with no end in sight, and no leadership to control it, I do not see that even that will get much sympathy.

I legally “obfuscate” because I have been worried about the legal arguments, not the moral ones. I am comfortable running a service that allows people to download “illegal” music if they so choose. I know that what I am doing is not wrong.

Here is what I told the Justice: “Boogle is just a means to an end, everyone has to decide what they consider to be moral and just behavior. I don’t advocate that people steal files, but there is a very broad and fuzzy line between what is fair use, what is good and productive use, and what is potentially harmful or illegal use.”

The story will be published on Tuesday, and if its any good, I’ll link to it.

4 replies on “File Trading As Stealing”

  1. A cousin of mine has a small Latin Jazz (or something) band, and is very incensed about online music trading. He believes that it does cut into his profits. Not the faceless corporation’s profits, but his little band’s, who is trying just to stay alive. In any case, I don’t think it’s feasible to argue that we have a god-given right to swipe whatever we want. Open-source is all fine and good, but you have no right to dictate how *other* people choose to distribute their works.

  2. (Dammit, wish you could edit posts on this thing!) Simply wish to add that I doubt my cousin’s obscure (but acclaimed) band makes its money selling T-shirts. Why do you think they sell CD’s at concerts?

  3. If you pay for concerts, that does help free the artists from the tyrannical corporations. You could argue the government doesn’t have the god given right to stop you… the concept of copyright and ownership of ideas is relatively recent. I like the idea of people having to work to make money as opposed to working once and then living off that for years.

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