Re: When is an MP3 file like a lighthouse?

From: Brian D Williams (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 13:21:32 MDT

>From: "Smigrodzki, Rafal" <SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU>

>>Brian wrote:

>>Theft of copyrighted material is theft no matter what those who
>>do it say to try and justify it.

>You seem to perceive "theft", and perhaps "law", as something
>similar to an absolute, objective description of physical reality
>(such as the laws of thermodynamics). Yet, the term "theft", with
>all its emotional connotations ("bad","despicable"), is an
>expression of human attitudes toward certain physical actions, an
>ethical term, and not an objective characterization of the actions
>themselves ("at the speed of sound").

"Copyright" is a social convention and "theft" a term for violation
of that convention. A convention I agree with.

I tend to argue formally as if from absolutes.

>While there are certain biologically grounded rules regarding
>property, epecially the simple forms of personal property, (the
>orange held in hand is property among chimps, orange on the ground
>is not), the more esoteric forms of property (stock, mineral
>right, patents) are conventions developed by societies to enable
>socially useful activities. Such conventions should not be too
>easily abandoned, as the communist example shows but sometimes new
>technical developments can both offer an opportunity and force

In this case the only ones arguing for abandonment of the
convention are those who hope to gain from it.

I side with those who have actually produced something, and agree
with the convention.

In this case the technical innovation is something which makes
theft easier and I see no reason to abandon the convention to
permit this.

>As Eliezer pointed out, downloading is here to stay. Stuffing the
>genie back into the bottle is possible but very difficult. If the
>state stops trying to turn the tide and instead abandons the
>convention allowing for punishment of persons copying copyrighted
>material, then this action will no longer be "theft" in the legal
>sense. If there is wide acceptance of the idea that music and art
>should be copy-able for free, then this will be no longer felt
>to be morally reprehensible.

I agree that downloading is here to stay but still define a
difference between legal and illegal downloads.

If the vast majority of artists are among those who feel art/music
should be copy-able for free then it will not likely be seen as
morally reprehensible.

>In a wider social context, one of the main criteria for calling an
>action "theft" should be the long-term economic results. If it
>turns out that it's possible to develop a new convention for
>offering free or very cheap music downloads, meaning more wealth
>for us all, more better and cheaper music for everybody (as I
>believe it will happen), then this is the morally right convention
>that should be adopted by us all.

The main criteria for calling an action "theft" is whether or not
it is illegal/immoral.
A new convention that includes artists will have long term
benefits, I do not believe one that excludes them will.

>Which still doesn't answer what should be done about the
>non-government funded scientific and technical documents, which
>need much more work to be produced than some crooner's output.
>Such content might still require substantial legal protection.

Whats the difference? Isn't information information?

>>Each download that is paid for increases wealth, each download
>>that is stolen decreases both wealth and value.

> A paid download transfers wealth and creates incentives to
>provide content but does not increase wealth. If there is enough
>of an incentive to produce content without the large middlemen who
>charge you 16$ per CD, then abolition of such middlemen will
>increase wealth and make the word "stolen" meaningless in this

A paid download increases the wealth of the provider, and increases
incentive. An unpaid download decreases the wealth of the provider
and decreases incentive. (if wealth is the primary or a substantial

Middleman will obviously try and maintain their value.


Extropy Institute,
National Rifle Association,, 1.800.672.3888
SBC/Ameritech Data Center Chicago, IL, Local 134 I.B.E.W

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