Karma Dorje wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
This is not the sort of usage anyone here has been talking about, it's not even close, and I have no idea why you would think it was. We have been talking about FILE SHARING of stuff with others through torrenting and such, not personal use of copied material, which is sort of a non-issue in context. Nor has anyone remotely suggested copyright law is a basis for moral decision making.
It's most certainly *not* a non-issue. If I have copied the book for my own use, the act in question has been done-- I have made a copy of the book. So are we all agreed that the actual act of copying is not itself theft?
How about if I lend my hardcover copy of said book to a friend? Is that theft? Does a library steal something when it lends out the same book repeatedly?
Lastly, what if I give a copy of a pdf of that book to a friend instead of the hard copy? At what point exactly does this act metamorphose into "taking what is not given"?
There may be all kinds of legal and economic reasons to respect copyright law. My point has simply been that we should drop this whole "copying is theft" ruse, because it is completely incoherent.
You are correct that file sharing isn't "theft" in the legal definition of the term and it falls under the umbrella of infringement of copyright. While they may not be exactly the same, it's not completely incoherent to consider them to be equivalent. The disturbing part of your argument "there may be all kinds of legal and economic reasons to respect copyright law" is that you don't import any ethical or moral reasons to respect the law. Infringement of copyright may not technically be considered theft, but it is as egregious, if not more so, and is tantamount to stealing. In effect, a person who uses file sharing to come in possession of something that was not intended to be freely distributed by anyone, is benefitting in a tangible way from the fruits of someone else's labor and their property.
It's easy to parse anything into an infinite number of combinations to show how any given action doesn't constitute theft (as a relevant example). Let's say I steal a computer and later the police come and see me using the computer (in a coffee shop). They want to arrest me for stealing the computer. But I say I didn't. They might say, you broke into the owner's house and took the computer. But I'd say, I only borrowed the computer and intended to give it back. Also I did not break into his house, because the door was open and the computer was sitting right there inside the door. And since I only reached into and grabbed the computer I didn't even trespass. They might ask, if I was borrowing the computer, why didn't I ask the owner? He wasn't there I'd say. How do you know the owner would have said yes? They would ask, what expectation did you have the owner would allow you to borrow their computer. I'd say, because he's into file sharing and unrestricted access to modern culture.
I remember walking with a couple of friends who were in law school and had just returned to school after a summer of working as interns in law firms (after their first year of law school). And one of them said "you know, practicing (law) isn't about right or wrong, it's about points of law."
You ask at what point does the act metamorphose into "taking what is not given"? It's almost like you are essentially saying, since it's too confusing to really know, it's better to just say it never does metamorphoses. Compare it to traffic laws. How do I know how fast I can drive? Well the speed limits are posted. Well, why do I have to drive slower on this road that seems wide open in the middle of nowhere, but I can drive faster on this parkway with 100s of other cars? What if there are no signs posted? In the latter case, most cities have a law that states what the normed speed limit for the city "unless otherwise posted." In the US we have school zones where the speed limit is 20mph. There are some zones where the school isn't visible and people will complain why they have to slow down when there aren't any children present. You can drive a car at 40 mph and in some places you are okay, some places you are breaking the law, but not in a significant way (40 in a 30 mph zone), but in others, you are going 2x the speed limit and that is considered dangerous driving. Same action, but we know the circumstances where it is okay and where it is not okay.
With regards to copyright, when you purchase a book or dvd, you know what you are allowed to do with it. You asked about libraries. I don't know book publishing, but libraries have customarily bought their films (vhs, dvds) through special distribution channels where they pay a whole lot more ($600-1000 for a film title, not $20). This is also similar to how sales work with schools. It's not that the dvd costs more, but because it is expected that 10, 20, 100 or more people will watch that film.
The most important thing to understand, when you buy a dvd, you are actually only buying the physical dvd, the disc. You are not buying the material on the disc. That material comes with very specific limitations. You buy a DVD of the Life of Pi, rip a copy and give it to your friend, you have just "taken what was not given".
The only reason this seems confusing morally or ethically is that so many people don't understand or care about copyright or, more fundamentally, intellectual property. They think that since you can't touch it or hold it, it's not real. But since we're on a Buddhist forum, how many lamas or masters (of other schools) have effectively tapped on a table and asked "is this table real? is there a table?" You could argue, that's only true in an ultimate sense, that the table doesn't inherently exist. But conventionally, there is a table. Except that there are some enlightened masters (and I have only heard anecdotal stories), that have demonstrated that, indeed, even conditionally, the table doesn't exist.
I know many people who have had their work used without permission or misused. While some of these instances don't rise to the level of criminal, or even civil, violations, they were ethically questionable to say the least.