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Copyright… a discussion


Ser Scot A Ellison
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@One-Winged Balrog

The author is entitled to compensation… when a new copy is created of a work they have a copyright for.  Not merely because someone has read their work.  Hence lending a book reselling a physical copy of a book takes nothing from the author.  

However, making a new copy of a book.  That is piracy and where an author is denied compensation they are legally due.

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'm not morally opposed to libraries. Or people borrowing books from other people. Then again, I'm also not opposed to pirating.

I mean, clearly the prevailing ethical consensus in our society (imperfectly encoded by laws) is that the author should get some financial award, but also that not absolutely every book-related transaction should benefit them.

But still, if you go out of your way to legally onlyconsume books in ways that don't benefit the author (such as using libraries or used books), then morally your behavior is equivalent to illegally using pirated ebooks. In both cases the author gets nothing material. The only difference is that one is a crime (however petty) and the other is not.

 

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison
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Scott, you have accurately summarized the law, at least in the US. But you didn’t engage with the text you quoted, which is concerned with morality not legality. 
 

The quoted poster has a point. If we all used libraries, the author would receive very little compensation. 
 

The policy rationale behind IP (copyright or patent) is to encourage the creation of IP. Whether our current copyright system does so for books is a question that can be debated. 

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25 minutes ago, unJon said:

Scott, you have accurately summarized the law, at least in the US. But you didn’t engage with the text you quoted, which is concerned with morality not legality. 
 

The quoted poster has a point. If we all used libraries, the author would receive very little compensation. 
 

The policy rationale behind IP (copyright or patent) is to encourage the creation of IP. Whether our current copyright system does so for books is a question that can be debated. 

Which would necessitate a change to the law.  I’m happy to engage in a discussion of such a proposition.  

What I will not do is pretend like rampant copying of pirated works doesn’t harm content creators.

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59 minutes ago, unJon said:


The quoted poster has a point. If we all used libraries, the author would receive very little compensation. 
 

There is a big difference between receiving very little compensation (librairies pay for those physical books and need to pay a lot more for ebook nowadays) and no compensation at all.

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Funny story about copyright.

Back in the '90s, Yugoslavia was under sanctions from the UN which severed commercial ties of the country to the outside world that, among other things, included books, music, movies etc. It lasted for 4-5 years, and took some time to reestablish those connections. During that period, the only way to get music or movies was through pretty serious copyright violations. :D It's literally what kept us even remotely in touch with what was going on outside of our borders, outside of our TV and radio programmes which were heavily controlled by the government.

The dark side is that's left its mark on our mindset where pirating something is considered normal.

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5 hours ago, Lord Patrek said:

There is a big difference between receiving very little compensation (librairies pay for those physical books and need to pay a lot more for ebook nowadays) and no compensation at all.

Authors also receive no compensation at all if you buy a used copy or borrow a copy from a friend. Are those immoral activities?

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4 hours ago, felice said:

Authors also receive no compensation at all if you buy a used copy or borrow a copy from a friend. Are those immoral activities?

That point of view is interesting as it seems to imply that an author or creator of content should receive compensation, not for copies made… but for time read or viewed…

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11 hours ago, felice said:

Authors also receive no compensation at all if you buy a used copy or borrow a copy from a friend. Are those immoral activities?

Unless you are someone who has received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a review or for consideration in terms of possibly assigning the book as a text, someone has initially paid for the book just like the library did. So copies bought in used book stores and copies borrowed from friends should be considered no more "immoral" than copies borrowed from libraries.

Now as a retired college professor I can tell you that we got many free copies of textbooks (which occasionally included things that would also have some general readership use) every year. Many people do think there is an ethical issue if instructors sell their copies of such free texts to a used book store or other venue. I sent some of my free textbooks to colleges in Africa who would never have been able to afford to buy them, which seemed to be ethical to me. But I would feel queasy about selling a free publisher's sample to someone. 

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6 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

That point of view is interesting as it seems to imply that an author or creator of content should receive compensation, not for copies made… but for time read or viewed…

That is what gives the books value; copies made is merely the best available proxy. Copies made but never read by anyone may as well not exist, and I'm pretty sure authors don't get paid for physical copies made but not sold. And I'm not sure "compensation" is the right term here - authors don't give up anything when a copy is made, though they should certainly be rewarded for the work they put in creating the original.

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23 hours ago, Lord Patrek said:

There is a big difference between receiving very little compensation (librairies pay for those physical books and need to pay a lot more for ebook nowadays) and no compensation at all.

Whether or not it’s a big difference depends entirely on whether the amount of very little compensation is big or not. 
 

The difference between nothing and a dollar is not big. The difference between nothing and an amount larger than a dollar may or may not be big, depending on your point of view. 
 

I personally think we should disentangle the idea of morality from this issue. The idea, to me, is to better the public by finding a system that encourages the creation of work by rewarding the author. To me there is no intrinsic morality to it beyond trying to make more and better books. 
 

Is it a moral question that I can loan out a DVD I purchased, but can’t show the DVD in a public viewing that I charge for? I don’t think so, but I can easily see how the latter is more likely to reduce compensation for the movie creators so disincentivize movie making. 

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3 hours ago, unJon said:

The difference between nothing and a dollar is not big. The difference between nothing and an amount larger than a dollar may or may not be big, depending on your point of view. 

unJon -- the difference between a penny and a dollar isn't big. The difference between nothing and a dollar, however, is decisive. For example, if I received $1 USD in royalties in exchange for a single copy of a new book sold, I'd consider it a gain of $1. If I received $0, I wouldn't consider it only the loss of $1. In other words, $1 in exchange for labor is $1; $0 in exchange for labor is criminal, immoral, and exploitative.

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5 hours ago, Wade1865 said:

 

unJon -- the difference between a penny and a dollar isn't big. The difference between nothing and a dollar, however, is decisive. For example, if I received $1 USD in royalties in exchange for a single copy of a new book sold, I'd consider it a gain of $1. If I received $0, I wouldn't consider it only the loss of $1. In other words, $1 in exchange for labor is $1; $0 in exchange for labor is criminal, immoral, and exploitative.

It’s criminal, immoral and exploitive if an author gets less than the agreed compensation. If an author agrees to get $0 comp for his or her work, then there’s nothing criminal, immoral or exploitive. If the author agrees to $10 and only gets $1, then that’s criminal (assuming there’s a relevant law), immoral and exploitive. 
 

And presumably more authors choose to write at $10 than $1, and more choose to write at $1 than $0. And society should figure out its policy for incentivizing authors. 

Edited by unJon
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17 hours ago, Ormond said:

Unless you are someone who has received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a review or for consideration in terms of possibly assigning the book as a text, someone has initially paid for the book just like the library did. So copies bought in used book stores and copies borrowed from friends should be considered no more "immoral" than copies borrowed from libraries.

Consider two scenarios.

A: I have legally bought a $10 book, and I lent it to 100 friends one after the other. The author lost $1000 dollars. This is legal.

B: I have legally bought a $10 book, I made 100 copies and and I lent it to 100 friends in parallel. The author lost $1000 dollars. This is illegal.

Why is it legal to deprive the author of a $1000 in scenario A, but illegal in scenario B?

Edited by One-Winged Balrog
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2 minutes ago, One-Winged Balrog said:

Consider two scenarios.

A: I have legally bought a $10 book, and I lent it to 100 friends one after the other. The author lost $1000 dollars. This is legal.

B: I have legally bought a $10 book, I made 100 copies and and I lend it to 100 friends in parallel. The author lost $1000 dollars. This is illegal.

Why is it legal to deprive the author of a $1000 in scenario A, but illegal in scenario B?

Because the question of legality is not tied to the depravation of money(as you characterize it), but the making of copies.  

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2 minutes ago, One-Winged Balrog said:

Sure, but what is the underlying ethical consideration behind the law?

I'm not sure there is one. 

For me, it's fairly simple. The author maintains the right to produce copies of the IP. The reader, when purchasing the IP has the right to do with it what they wish, save the right of making copies which is maintained by the author. 

I just don't see the thorny moral dilemma here. 

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17 minutes ago, Ninefingers said:

I'm not sure there is one. 

For me, it's fairly simple. The author maintains the right to produce copies of the IP. The reader, when purchasing the IP has the right to do with it what they wish, save the right of making copies which is maintained by the author. 

I just don't see the thorny moral dilemma here. 

Seriously? You don't see a problem about the existence of a law without an underlying ethical consideration?

What do you think laws even are for?

Edited by One-Winged Balrog
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I appreciate the attempt to move the goalposts to the existence of laws in society, but you'll have to find someone else. 

Perhaps the copyright issue is confusing because of the ease of making copies. 

If I buy a car, I have the right to use it, lend it, rent it, sell it. What I do not have the right to do is produce additional copies of the car. There are no essays on why this is, or the underlying morality of this arrangement. 

Purchasing a book is the same legal and ethical arrangement. The only difference is that making a copy of a book (particularly an e-book) is easy, so people attempt to obfuscate the very clear situation with appeals to morality and the impact to the IP creator. 

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I do think our copyright laws are way to restrictive. I think it should be something like life of the author or 50 years whichever is longer. Or perhaps even more radical 25 years from publication. I think we'd be much better off of we loosened the screws binding our culture. In the past people were free to use and re-use stories as they liked, but or modern IP laws are very restrictive and often as not benefit faceless corporations rather than authors/creators. 

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