Technology makes it too easy to break copyright laws

Technology makes it too easy to break copyright laws

Summary: I'm a firm believer that copyright laws are an essential tool in making sure that the creator of any piece of work (whether that work be analog or digital) gets a fair opportunity to make a living from their efforts. I also strongly believe that anyone who thinks that copyright laws are a bad thing has never actually created something and based their livelihood on that piece of work generating an income. However, I am also a firm believer in fair use and the fair application of the law, and the way that I see current copyright laws being used to criminalize minor copyright infringements bothers me a great deal.

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TOPICS: Legal
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I'm a firm believer that copyright laws are an essential tool in making sure that the creator of any piece of work (whether that work be analog or digital) gets a fair opportunity to make a The way that I see current copyright laws being used to criminalize minor copyright infringements bothers me a great dealliving from their efforts.  I also strongly believe that anyone who thinks that copyright laws are a bad thing has never actually created something and based their livelihood on that piece of work generating an income. 

However, I am also a firm believer in fair use and the fair application of the law, and the way that I see current copyright laws being used to criminalize minor copyright infringements bothers me a great deal. 

For example, on Friday, BBC News ran a piece about how selling second hand MP3 players loaded with music is turning innocent users of technology into commercial music pirates. Once again, the recording industry gets it wrong.  This is far removed from "commercial music piracy".  Instead of targeting the real commercial-scale pirates, the ones that make the biggest profits, the attention is once again focused on the customers, who once again have to put up with being under suspicion and the threats of Draconian punishments.

There's also far too much confusion.  A few years ago the recording industry made a big deal about the fact that free music was illegal, while any paid for music would be legit.  It was one of those factually inaccurate statements but it was simplisic enough to get the message across. Now things are far more complicated.  There's masses of perfectly legal free music available on the web, while paying for your downloads doesn't in any way guarantee that they are legitimate.  Even the current advice about deleting the music from any MP3 players before selling them is bogus - it's a trivial job to recover anything that's been deleted using conventional means.  Does that mean that users selling old equipment are responsible for any material that can be recovered from equipment that they sell?

This kind of intolerant behavior isn't helping current copyright laws win any friends.  Yes, while it's technically illegal for someone to sell their MP3 player with music still on it, this ignores the fact that tackling piracy at this kind of low level isn't about protecting the rights of the copyright holders, it's about scaring the public into behaving themselves because "big brother" is watching.  If the recording industry was serious about the rights of the copyright holders it would be targeting the real commercial pirates who make millions from dealing in counterfeit material.  The truth is that it's easier to threaten and intimidate regular members of the public than it is to scare off criminals who know that they are carrying out criminal acts.  In fact, I firmly believe that the new tactic being used to fight piracy is to strike fear into the average user.  It's tough to crack down on the large-scale piracy rings, so instead make individuals worried that they will be held responsible for any illegal material in their possession, in the hope that this will discourage people from buying from shady sources.

It's high time that the recording industry (and the movie industry for that matter) realized that we have moved into different times, times where customers want to be able to make fair use of what they buy.  It's pretty obvious that DRM isn't doing what it was supposed to do (the only people inconvenienced by DRM are regular users wanting to make use of the goods they've purchased).  It's time to rethink restrictive formats and heavy-handed legal threats and treat the customer with respect.  This would free up resources and allow them to go after the real commercial-scale pirates.

However, since I don't expect my opinion to change the current state of play, there's no denying that the recording industry is now keeping an eye on the sale of second-hand music players.  If you're planning on selling an MP3 player then it's a good idea to delete everything off the device before selling it.  If you're paranoid of you've had something on that device that you don't want others to later be able to recover (if, for example, you've used your MP3 player to transport files) then a utility like Eraser will securely wipe the memory (the same goes for USB flash drives, media cards, computers, laptops and items like cell phones and PDAs).  Whatever you do, don't advertise devices as coming loaded with copyrighted material because you never know, you just might get caught out…

Topic: Legal

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  • Where you are confused.

    I agree, there are "professional pirates" but in thruth they accound for a small percentage of piracy compared to the general public doing it.

    Consider that it's estimated 60 million people pirate and share content ILLEGALLY.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Nice sidestep, Valenti.

      But in your rush to shill, you missed, or more likely just glossed over, the fact that he never said "professional pirates" were a larger percentage of piracy in general. He said that they were the ones making huge money off of it. But since you can't come up with an actual rebuttal to anything he wrote, you just ignored it.
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • Silly attempt.

        The entire premis of the blog is that it's not the general public costing money. I say he is wrong. Deal with it.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
      • It's the money-go-round that matters

        ... There's little that can be done about free trade without being too Draconian. The area that needs a serious crackdown is commercial pirates who are in it for the money.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • There a huge difference ...

      ... between people who trade files for nothing (a free exchange is a value-less product) and trades where money changes hands. Free-trades don't represent a lost customer (I mean, seriously, why bother going through the hassle downloading a pirate copy of a song when you can jsut listen to it on the radio and copy it ...) but a trade where someone has been sold a pirate copy is indeed a lost sale.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Court decisions disagree.

    "Yes, while it's technically illegal for someone to sell their MP3 player with music still on it, this ignores the fact that tackling piracy at this kind of low level isn't about protecting the rights of the copyright holders, it's about scaring the public into behaving themselves because "big brother" is watching."

    Untrue, at least in the court district that tried the Adobe v. Softman, copyright infringement case. In that case Adobe lost because the court held that copyright covered only the "First Sale" of copyrighted material and only prohibited selling copies of the original purchase. Resale of the purchased product, in whole or in part, was upheld by the court as completely legal. If you purchased something legally, you and only you, have the right to decide how you will dispose of it. The inclusion of "after the purchase" conditions was specifically refuted by the court. The court specifically held that, "If it looks like a sale, and is transacted like a sale, it IS a sale"


    "If the recording industry was serious about the rights of the copyright holders it would be targeting the real commercial pirates who make millions from dealing in counterfeit material. The truth is that it's easier to threaten and intimidate regular members of the public than it is to scare off criminals who know that they are carrying out criminal acts."

    Absolutely correct. Just like the school bully, beat up on the little guy. Don't take on someone who might be able to resist.


    No-Ax... Your source of this set of statistics is required. Without a reliable source, your comment is just FUD. The RIAA considers your loan of your MP3 player to be a copyright infringement. It is in reality FAIR USE.
    Update victim
    • No, not really

      First, you are assuming the device in question has the 'originals' loaded onto it. Most likely, this is not the case. I can sell the Cd's(assuming I have deleted any digital or analog copies), but to sell the copied MP3's while holding onto the original CD is illegal and in no way covered by Fair Use.
      Second, if the songs are purchased on line, they are likely tied to a DRM that prohibits transfer. Under iTunes, I would need to leave the device authorized, which is unacceptable.

      Face it, most people that sell an MP3 player with music on it still have a copy of that music on their computer, as well as the original CD. That is illegal, regardless of how you spin it.

      I also agree that the RIAA has been way to 'enthusiastic' in prosecuting such casual copying, while ignoring the bigger, harder to catch fish.
      mdemuth
      • True ... but ...

        "Face it, most people that sell an MP3 player with music on it still have a copy of that music on their computer, as well as the original CD. That is illegal, regardless of how you spin it."

        True, but it's small-scale stuff. If I had someone protecting my copyright interests, I know who I'd want targetting ...
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • Yes, hands down

          your right. Not a realistic argument in sight against that. But...
          In the digital age, even the small fry can have a huge impact. File sharing with millions of others? Millions of others file sharing with you? How many folks didn't have to pay for that song? That video? that movie? It adds up quick. Very quick.

          And once they (you and I) sell copies for cash, how long before they are back at it? Sell the CD's on EBay, because they have a copy that is 'good enough'? The 'I'm just a small fish' argument.

          For 'Fair Use' to work, there is a balancing act that needs to happen. The user (you and me) need to have some respect for it; so do the copyright holders. If we (you and I) are willing to simply piss on it (graphic but realistic), why do we expect more from the copyright holders?
          mdemuth
          • It's too easy to sell stuff ...

            I think that wat you are saying is that it's too easy for people to sell stuff that they shouldn't be selling ...

            I agree, fair use has to be a two-way thing if it's going to work.

            Tkae a quick scan through eBay ... the amount of blatent piracy is scary ... thing is, it's not hard to monitor, and not hard to crack down on.
            Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Copywright laws shoot the customer

    There are 2 issues here. The creator should be paid for using his work. But I thought that was the purpose of surtaxes on blank Cassettes, Cds and Dvd's.
    But for most creators,it is also important that their works be commercially available to the general public. If your past work is no longer read or listened by past fans and new fans,then that erodes future income through concerts, new opportunities to write new works. And the Publishers are the ones who delete your work from the catalogue.You earn zero if the work is not available for sale.
    jack@...
  • Copyright law is based on old ideas that used to work, not now

    The problem with both copyright and patent law (studied both) is that the basic premise was that it would promote production of artistic and inventive works through allotting temporary monopolies to the profitability of the work without pinning down why a work, either inventive or artistic might have a profit worthy of protection.

    Back when the two regimes were originally implemented we lived in a far simpler world where it was quite apparent why a work of any kind had a value worth protecting. The most obvious component of value the law was trying to protect was the ?creative? or ?inventive? element of the work. While that is certainly a valuable component of a product to be sure there are also other essentials that give value to a work. The two other primary elements are the actual material size or mass of a work, and the second being the difficulty to reproduce the work in question. These are incredibly important concepts when considering the value of any work where one wants to work within a supply and demand capitalist system.

    For example, a Ferrari is quite valuable for every reason, it has a very sizable mass, and it is so difficult to reproduce one would need at least a very high tech machine shop and the knowledge and skill to use the tools, and lastly it embodies a great deal of ?inventive? and ?creative? skill in its design. The cost of a Ferrari is difficult to argue with based on such an analysis.

    A 10 ton boulder of granite dynamited out of a rock quarry embodies different qualities. It is certainly sizable in mass and the cost of the minerals within certainly has some value, and while the creation of such a rock is not as difficult to achieve as perhaps a Ferrari, it still is not something within everyone?s capacity, so there is some difficulty of reproduction value there as well. On the other hand, a 10 ton rock simply aimlessly blown out of a quarry has no real creative or inventive value so despite the huge mass its value goes way down compared to that of a Ferrari.

    Now look at a live concert performance of a popular rock band. This is an entirely different product situation again. There is no mass to such a thing as after one leaves such a concert all you have are the memories, so on the issue of mass there is no real value on that element. On the other hand there is a great deal of creativity that goes into such a performance, so that is worth some value. Where the real cost kicks in, in a case such as this is in the difficulty of reproduction. Reproduction is not only difficult in such a product, it is virtually impossible. The best one could do is hire look-alike musicians and hope they play as close to possible as the real McCoy, but in the end, you still have not seen the real band live, and that?s the exact product we are talking about here. So despite the complete lack of mass to the product, its impossibility to reproduce the product still brings it value. That inability to reproduce an original famous painting or first edition book is what gives it through the roof value as that there is only one original, and while you might be able to make a copy, you cannot make another original. Difficulty to reproduce a product of any kind is such an incredibly significant quality to any product that even in the case of a live concert where there is zero ?mass? to the purchased product the performance still has great value in many instances because it can not be duplicated.
    ?True value? of any product is all that deserves protection through law, of any product, be it creative or inventive, and that true value fluctuates greatly depending on the three elements in question. Its all fine and nice to create a product that no one ever thought of, does anyone recall the ?Pet Rock?? But its insane to give protection to a product that can be reproduced with ease, almost at will, claiming it has value to be protected. Any inventiveness or creativity that may have been instilled in the original is diminished to a true value of virtual zero if that same product can be reproduced with ease.

    On the other hand!!!! Where a product is reproduced and then sold, that is quite different isn?t it! The fact the reproduction is being sold shows it has inherent value or there would be no price on the sale would there? So this sets up two different realities in the world of property rights.

    First; where a product is reproduced and no price is asked, it has no value, unless it is being reproduced and distributed through commercial outlets for free in order to destroy competitors who created the original product, and ?Unfair Competition? laws handle that already. If its reproduced and given for free between individuals, not from commercial enterprise to the public, lets bet strictly logical; how much true monitary value does it have between such individuals?
    Secondly, where a product is reproduced and sold,by or through anyone to anyone, the price of the product duly belongs to the creator of the original product as it reflects a real value attainable for the product.

    Its not the way things work, but it should be. If you want your product to have true value worthy of commercial protection, MAKE IT VALUABLE.
    Cayble
  • Time for freeware music?

    Clearly the problem is huge and there are no easy answers. The next generation of blue ray disks will allow people to hold a pretty sizable music collection on a single disk and distribute it without the internet which will make detection impossible. The internet itself will get faster. It's already pretty well at the point where you can download a mp3 album in seconds.

    As is pointed out where is the value in the music? If nobody listens to your music nobody goes to your concerts and buys other hard goods like t-shirts. Clearly there is value there. For the bigger brands there is also clearly a value in being associated with the band from an advertising point of view. Are they selling a piece of music or a piece of plastic with a piece of music on it? Before the answer did not matter as you had to buy the plasic to get the music. Now that barrier has been broken the industry hasn't got a clear answer. You can resell your plastic version but you can't resell your electronic version. A CD and an electronic version cost virtually the same. Something has to give.
    PeterGermany
    • music without media: the divorce you should not pay for

      Here's the nut: "If nobody listens to your music nobody goes to your concerts and buys other hard goods like t-shirts."

      Of course this is the new bottom line and it trumps all the other mumbojumbo posted here about copyrights, DRM, fair use, bootlegs, and the associated web of stupefying legal theories. The fact is that electronic music files can be now be duplicated and distributed to anyone, by anyone, at no cost to anyone.

      The music industry will simply need to write off the studio time for making recordings as an unrecoverable expense of doing business and promoting their artists to the general public. It is just not possible anymore to make the music fan pay for recordings that do not involve physical media without violating everyone's civil rights on a massive scale.

      Unfortunately this fact is not going down well. Those who cling to the vinyl and CD era now use the courts, the RIAA, moral posturing, and any political IOUs they can still muster to prop up an irrelevant business model. This must stop, the sooner the better.
      dmennie
      • Hitting the nail on the head

        There comes a time where simply being creative or inventive on its own has little value where the product created or invented can be duplicated with both perfection and ease.

        Any product is a product "as a whole" not simply one aspect, such as the sheer mass of the product or simply the creative element. If the product is missing the key element, which is 'difficulty of reproducing' the product, then its true value crashes.

        When you say "The music industry will simply need to write off the studio time for making recordings as an unrecoverable expense of doing business and promoting their artists to the general public.", you are correct so long as they continue to use a format that can be copied so easily as a CD or DVD. They chose the format back in the 80's and charged a fortune when no one could repoduce a CD in their own home, and it made them a massive pile of money as CD's were so cheap to produce. Now their money makeing cheap CD's are problematic, and they are looking for another cheap fix, a software based fix. There is really no such thing as a true software fix, if it can be software engineered, it can be reverse engineered.
        Cayble