uan wrote: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.
It is. Legally and from the point of view of buddhist ethics. Using the term "theft" is an attempt to hoodwink the reader by false equivalence.
uan wrote: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 not a question of technicality. It's not theft at all. To produce more of something is not to deprive someone of a scarce resource, hence it is not theft. QED.
I don't personally believe that there is any moral or ethical reason to respect the law, but that's entirely beside the point. I view it is a contractual matter between businesses solely (and by the way, I have made my living off of IP for the last 10 years). Let's take the music business as it's probably the one we are all most familiar with: production costs now in the days of desktop DAWs are an order of magnitude less, distribution costs are pennies on the dollar compared to even five years ago, yet the cost of buying an album has stayed pretty much constant even for download only distribution. The problem is, the mechanism that has enabled the costs to shrink so much also enables easy digital reproduction and file sharing. Some are simply going to copy their friends CD because of the cost. To counter this, record companies have started to put more content in the liner notes, released single tracks at a cheap price, etc. Some artists have instituted pay-what-you-can, some have encouraged copying as a way to gain broader exposure... you name it. This is a business problem, not a moral one. The technology will inevitably lead to new business models. Who'd have thunk that MySQL, a company that makes free database software would be acquired for $7.4B?!
uan wrote: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).
The fact is, there is no way that you can parse this where it DOES constitute theft.
uan wrote: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.
Notice the first thing you said you did in this example was *steal* the computer. No need to parse this, it's one of your starting premises. You deprived an individual of a scarce resource that was in their possession which is the very definition of theft. Now if you went into the house and took a glass of water from the tap and drank it, you could not be charged with theft-- only trespass. Why? Because though it was on the someone else's property, it is not a scarce resource.
uan wrote: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.
No, it's not confusing at all. It is clearly NOT theft.
uan wrote: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.
Here in Canada we pay a "private copying" levy on all blank media that the Canadian Private Copying Collective distributes as royalties to the music industry.
uan wrote: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".
No, you have broken a contract and depending on the country, a law. There is no theft involved, as we have discussed ad nauseum.
uan wrote: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.
The reason it is unclear to some is that the whole idea of owning an idea was a stupid one from the very beginning. Thankfully, we are in a stage now where new models enabled by technology are emerging. Artists are able to get their music directly to their audience without the vampire squid of the recording industry pushing up costs for everyone.
uan wrote: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.