The Intellectual [and Real] Dishonesty of the Internet

This past weekend, this site was hijacked by a shady payday loan outfit. It’s the second time this has happened in the last six months, which I suppose, by internet standards, isn’t too bad.

In a related development, Aaron Swartz, who was the co-founder of the information-sharing website Reddit, committed suicide last Friday at age 26. He was considered an Interrnet folk hero for his efforts to make online content “free.” The definitive reason for his suicide is unknown, but he had a history of depression and was facing 13 felony charges, including wire fraud, computer fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, as a result of illegally downloading nearly five million articles from MIT computer archives with intent to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites. His family and friends have issued a statement to the effect that Swartz was trying to make the Internet a better and fairer place.

Also last week, a number of those of us who are science fiction writers received an email invitation to speak at Bexley College in London, offering transport, publicity, and an honorarium. Of course, Bexley is a technical school and unlikely to support a seminar on “The Mystery of Life and Death,” not to mention that the “professor” listed on the invitation doesn’t exist. Needless to say, word spread quickly about this scam.

What I would like to know is exactly how stealing five million articles or hijacking my website for potential gain for a payday loan site has anything to do with making the Internet a better or fairer place. Or for that matter, just how ethical is the cry that “information wants to be free”? How does the epidemic of internet plagiarism do anything to teach students the value of information… or about intellectual honesty?

With the growth of the Internet, the amount of confidence schemes has increased exponentially, and so has the number and breadth of scams, a huge percentage of them targeted at the most vulnerable individuals in society – the less educated [not that some very highly educated people have not fallen for them], the elderly, those in financial trouble, or those who are simply too trusting. While the few big-time information thefts make headlines, even many of those are never resolved, and the perpetrators remain unknown, and it’s just about impossible to make more than the tiniest dent in the volume of successful internet scams and swindles… and, as for piracy… forget it.

No matter what anyone says about pirated and torrent-downloaded books increasing sales… I’m sorry, but the overall figures in the book industry [at least in the field of fiction] give that the lie. Sales are down, and in some areas, such as mass market paperbacks, they’re down at lot, and as I’ve noted previously, ebook sales are far from making up the difference.

Pirated copies of books, movies, and music are theft, pure and simple. Just because someone thinks that the price of a movie, book, or music CD is too high doesn’t justify theft. We don’t justify theft of any other good on the grounds that the price is too high, and we don’t say that other goods that are not essential for physical survival can be stolen because the prices are too high. Moreover, allowing or exalting the theft of information or other intellectual property effectively states that those who create it don’t deserve the same protection as those who produce other goods. Now… some will say that information/entertainment isn’t as vital. Oh… when our society is based on information? And don’t tell me that a Coach handbag, or a Rolex watch or any other counterfeit luxury product knock-off is more important than information or entertainment.

All this brings up the questions: Is the Internet really a force for good? Do its advantages outweigh the drawbacks? And even if it does have a net benefit to society, does it, in its current form, excessively [a matter of judgment, I know] enable dishonest behavior and acts? More important, what, if anything, are we going to do about it?

41 thoughts on “The Intellectual [and Real] Dishonesty of the Internet”

  1. Esquire says:

    My thought – like a staple of ‘hard-SF’ – the waldo, the internet is a force magnifier – both good and evil may be magnified through it.

    We have seen corrupt regimes brought down by activists using internet-based communication tools, micro-lending tools, crowd-sourcing and seen the sexual exploitation of children become a billion-dollar industry. None would have been possible without the internet.

  2. j says:

    There’s another problem with improved technologies for information exchange like the internet: they enable a consolidation of power that was previously impossible for practical reasons. In the past it would have been much more difficult to maintain, e.g., a retail monopoly across the entire country, because smaller competitors would be able to monitor local markets and maintain their inventories more efficiently than large corporations with faraway central offices. Now inventories can be established with maximum efficiency by large computer systems, and the balance of power is reversed. Similarly in the past a wealthy person or corporation might have thought twice about keeping their assets abroad, but with improved computer systems they can now access these funds just as easily as money kept at home. The internet encourages monopolies in other ways as well, and before long all major economic functions will be taken over by monopolies or near monopolies.

    In theory–one can imagine, or hope–it should be possible to change the structure of our society and improve the laws so that we can have the obvious advantages of the internet without so many of these less immediately obvious disadvantages. But in reality, it’s very hard to see how we could get there from here. Everyone knows that our government is too corrupt to pass the kind of laws that have a chance of helping. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

    Incidentally, I remember using a card catalog at the library into the 90s and it worked just fine, took a minute to find a book instead of 15 seconds. Sometimes I had to order a book from the desk at Borders and it took a week to arrive. Big deal. New artists are generally terrible because they can no longer afford to quit their day job–but hey, at least I can get their work instantly.

  3. Mage says:

    You really might want to look a little closer at the Aaron Schwartz case. It doesn’t really appear that he stole anything and JSTOR declined being involved in the case.

  4. cremes says:

    The articles that Aron Schwartz stole were in the public domain. JSTOR charges to get access to them. Most (all?) were funded by tax dollars.

  5. They are only in the public domain in the sense that my books are in the public domain. Just because something is public doesn’t mean it’s free.

  6. cremes says:

    Take a peek here.

    An article that is in the public domain may be freely copied.

    As an author who is likely familiar with these things, I would hope that your definition of public domain jives with this.

    So if the definition of public domain includes 1) that it cannot be privately owned, and 2) are available for public use, then how does one steal such a thing? How is copying the article theft?

    (I’ll grant that using someone else’s network without their permission to copy the file is a really bad idea and should be illegal. But a felony? Sheesh.)

    Hard to believe your books are in the public domain. I think your snark failed here.

    Here’s the whole story (from a biased source, but aren’t they all?).

    1. I read the article. It said that “many” [but not all] of the journal articles were in the public domain. That means many were not. That makes it theft. I was being sarcastic. What I meant by what I said was that what he downloaded was as much in the public domain as my books are, i.e., they’re public, but still under copyright. Also, the idea that those who compile material that is not otherwise easily available, whether in public domain or not, should do so for free, over time is likely to erode both scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge. It costs money, often lots of it, to archive and maintain such materials, something that all too many advocates of “free information” seem to ignore.

  7. j says:

    Universities pay a high price for access to academic journals and none of the relevant ones have entered the public domain. University libraries occasionally survey departments to see which journals are being read and which aren’t, so that they can stop subscription to the undesired ones and cut costs. In other words, they aren’t free, they’re in fact very expensive.

    Whether academic research should be made free to the public is another question that shouldn’t be resolved by simply stealing said research. In some ways the journal system is an artifact of the past century, and I would much appreciate it if arts and letters scholars had their own version of PubMed that non-academics could search for free, but for whatever reason that isn’t the case. These days many academics freely distribute their shorter papers on their websites. If they want to give their work away for free it is very easy for them to do so. Naturally scholars still want to be paid for their books, especially in those cases where the books have a chance of interesting the general public.

    The Schwartz affair has triggered too many emotional and unconsidered reactions in the press. Madoff’s son killed himself as well but that doesn’t mean the Madoffs were in the right.

    By the way, I worked as copy editor at an academic journal for two years. I was paid to do it and it was grueling work. I guess Schwartz and Silicon Valley want to eliminate those jobs as well, and since they seem to control the media I guess they’ll get their way. I hope the public enjoys computer edited spelling and grammar.

  8. Mage says:

    Many published academics make their work freely available to anyone that requests it. Most of the time they are violating copyright law in doing so, since they don’t hold the copyright, the publisher does.

    Are they stealing? 🙂

    1. Mike says:

      Yes, they are Mage. When an author publishes a work, they sell some of the rights that accrue to them as an original creator. Depending on the contract, that may be as little as granting a non-exclusive right to publish, or as much as declaring the work “work for hire” and relinquishing all rights to it.

      Mr. Modesitt sells books to a publisher. Assuming his contracts are similar to other authors, he probably sells exclusive publication rights in a particular geographic region (The United States and possibly additional countries) to his primary publisher. Having sold (or at least contracted) those rights, he is no longer free to self-publish or otherwise distribute the book. Just like, when you sell a car, you can’t keep a key and drive it.

  9. j says:

    There are a lot of kids and their tech enablers out there who lack any actual experience with the entertainment and research industries and are ready to make sophistical and facile arguments against copyright because, well, they want free stuff. Fortunately I am no longer involved in publishing and Mr. Modesitt is old and well-established and not likely to be run out of business. Given enough time the freeloaders are going to get what they pay for and wish they had listened when they had the chance. Set aside your desire to get free stuff and think twice.

  10. Joe says:

    I’m disappointed by your post LEM. You seem to have put usual thoughtfulness to one side, and taken a partisan viewpoint, perhaps because you perceive your livelihood to be at stake. In fact Aaron Swartz’ suicide highlights two different problems.

    First, let me correct your accusation of theft. Aaron Swartz was a fellow at Harvard. He had legal access to JSTOR articles because MIT and Harvard have an agreement to allow their faculty and students to have access to each others’ libraries and network. He was entitled to download as many articles as he wanted. What he did might be inconsiderate (hammering the network) but that’s it. He did not distribute the articles. He might have wanted to, but only actions count since we do not yet have a thought police. No theft was committed. Indeed the “victim” JSTOR, the copyright owner, wanted the prosecution dropped.

    The first real question is whether prosecutors should use plea bargains to coerce people into confessing guilt even if innocent. In medieval times, Europeans used to use torture for the same purpose:

    Plea bargaining is barbaric, violates the right to a trial with a jury guaranteed by the Constitution, and is unnecessary as shown by the German legal system:

    The second point is that there is indeed something rotten in Denmark. Academics must devote their free time to research because their work hours are taken up with teaching or administrivia. They publish in peer reviewed journals, for the recognition but also so that their work might be publicized. Many if not most papers are actually written by grad students who pay to study for a PhD. Academics also volunteer time to peer review (and edit) others’ papers. Yet university libraries have to pay vast sums to private entities for the privilege of accessing this information, for which the private entities paid nothing. The scam is so profitable that entities such as Elsevier have lobbied Congress to prevent free access to academic work:

    1. Mage says:

      Not only did the journals pay nothing for the work, the academics publishing there had to pay to get their work published. Virtually all journals have page charges that are levied against the authors, who must also relinquish their copyright. Add to that that a good bit of most scientific papers are experimental data that isn’t really copyrightable and you have a much more complicated situation than first glance would indicate.

    2. Exactly how have I put thoughtfulness to one side — except by challenging your views? As I’ve noted before, people find me thoughtful when they agree with my points, and not thoughtful when they disagree. You’ve taken the partisanship of the other side. Swartz, according to the stories, actually broke and entered to, as you put it, hammer the system. Admittedly, the academic publishing system is a mess. But, there are all too many professors like my wife, who has never had a grad assistant, or any assistant, in her more than 30 years as an academic and who has researched and written, on her own time, all of her papers and scholarly reviews. The same is true of two of my daughters, both also university professors. For you to justify what amounts, at the least, to unethical behavior, and more probably criminal activity, on the grounds that the system doesn’t work the way it should doesn’t justify theft… and no matter what you call it, it is theft. As for my livelihood… it’s likely been reduced by piracy, but it’s not threatened, at least not yet.

      1. Joe says:

        I don’t get it. No theft occurred. He had legal access to those papers since he was a fellow at Harvard.

        Hammering means to access a database so often that other users accesses are slowed down. It’s not criminal, but it is inconsiderate. He was NEVER charged with theft, only with violation of terms of service.

        Unless your wife and daughters are paid for their work, then, just like me, they are subsidizing Elsevier and co. I doubt they like it.

        1. Joe says:

          Just to be clear, this is what Aaron did:

          The mainstream media has been claiming he committed theft, so I can understand why you might have been misinformed. Unfortunately the mainstream media nowadays seems to consist of the worst and the dumbest when it comes to technology and science.

          Furthermore as I stated, MIT and Harvard allow their fellows, students, and so on to use each others’ resources, so Aaron had totally legal access to these documents.

          In the above post, I should clarify that “by paid for their work” I meant paid for their work by the publisher.

          Since I do not believe Mr Swartz violated any law, I do not see how you can construe my posts as justifying criminal activity. Nor do I even believe his activity was unethical. If JSTOR wanted to prevent mass downloading it would have been trivial to make their servers throttle access. Indeed your ISP probably does that. The tiny ISP that serves me and 100 others figured out how to do it, so it’s not very hard. There are good academic reasons to download many papers: trend analysis, citation analysis, topic clustering by time, semantic analysis and many other automated techniques rely on vast databases of papers.

          Nor do I condone people defacing your website. It’s happened to me, and it’s a pain to fix.

  11. Thomas R. says:

    There is no such thing as free! You pay for everything in one way or another. I hear you say ” the air is free!”, but you have to take everything that is in it, Pollution, airborne viruses{ common cold} and anything else that is in it. The price is what this does to your body. The quality of free Information is your price for free!

  12. j says:

    Joe, your points are beside the point. Whether plea bargaining is legitimate has nothing to do with the issues Mr. Modesitt is raising here.

    Where there is a scam going on, anarchy is not the right answer, law enforcement and law improvement is the answer. Who is going to pay the copy editor if you give everything away for free, or for that matter the sound engineer, the cameraman, the cover artist, all the other millions of people working behind the scenes helping to create ideas and art who the general public never hears about? Who is going to cover the losses to publishers from the authors that fail if the authors that succeed have their profits robbed from them? Who is going to front money to promising authors that can’t afford time to write if the publishers all disappear? I am no longer a copy editor, so financially I could care less what happens to publishing, but trust me, no one would be a copy editor unless they were being paid. It’s a hideous job. No engineer would design the sound equipment at Abbey Road unless the studio could pay big money for it. Look at all of these businesses that deal in ideas and do the math. They can’t give their work away for free and survive without completely eliminating the midlist authors and their equivalent in other industries, and focusing all of their efforts on the most conservative and broadly appealing artists who can sell a vast amount of advertising.

    Oh well, at least I haven’t finished reading all the good books from the 20th century.

    1. Joe says:

      I was speaking about academic papers whose authors are not paid by the journal publishers. I did not mention books, or songs, or movies. And as I pointed out no theft occurred.

  13. Wine Guy says:

    @ Cremes: please don’t cite Wikipedia as a creditable source. It’s the equivalent of using Cliff Notes to write your 11th grade theme paper.

    @ joe: I can’t speak for humanities professors, but my Biochem/Micro/Cell professors routinely received time to do their research and write their papers. Most only taught classes every other semester (or only 1 class per semester) and used the rest of the time to work their research. As their grad students’ research had to fit into the overall schema of their own research, yes, the grad students did a lot of the work. As did the PhDs. Most of them were deliriously happy to be at the bench “doing real work” as they put it.

    And academic work is not free. It is not public domain. It belongs to the producer – or the financer, depending on how the contracts are written.

    And the whole internet piracy issue is settled according to the courts: it’s illegal and prosecutable. If there are groups that choose not to defend their trademarks and copyrights, that’s on them. The sad part is that they need defending in the first place. However you want to gussy it up, theft remains theft.

    Try going to a place where a nation’s laws are not enforced: Somalia, parts of Malaysia, northern Mali lately. Might makes right there. I have higher expectations that call themselves civilized.

    1. Joe says:

      That’s not true at all universities and in all fields. Your profs are lucky. I chose to leave academia, but a number of those who graduated with me from our PhD programs did, and now either have no life or have quit to have a life and children: they have to work full time teaching + other duties. Research is done in their “spare” time.

      When studying for my PhD I know I was not “deliriously happy” to publish — it interfered with real work (research). It’s hard to summarize one’s work in the few pages one gets and the deadlines always seem to be last minute. One waits forever to hear back, and then getting it past the peer reviewers can be hit and miss unrelated to the paper.

      You are correct the research belongs to whomever funds it, which is not the publisher of the Journal… as Mage said, they sometimes even expect payment. It’s ridiculous.

      Copyright is one way to pay authors and publishers. I agree they need to be paid. I am not convinced that copyright is the best solution long term, because it is a lot less simple than people think. Copyright does not protect facts, only expression (hence Mage’s comment above). Thus Reuters can write a story, a journalist from say the BBC can read that story and then use what he learnt in a story of his own. The journalist has discarded the irrelevant information (expression) and kept the data (the facts). Yet people have sued for copyright infringement and won for copying a few bars of music (which I would argue is a key to a certain kind of brain activity or emotion), or the layout of a photograph. So where is the boundary? This question will become more critical as intelligent machines such as Watson or Google read our books — will the knowledge they derive from books be considered copyrighted, and if so why aren’t the neurones in my head that form when I read a book also copyrighted? Where is the boundary?

      1. j says:

        Joe, I agree with you that academia is corrupt in ways that most people can’t imagine, the top problems I’ve seen being the replacement of professors with adjuncts, the overproduction of graduate students for a shrinking market of available jobs, and the increasingly excessive workloads pressed on professors, especially those who don’t have tenure. Among the problems academia faces I would put the journal system relatively low on the list. It’s more a very large annoyance than a disaster. The looming disaster is online courses which will probably collapse most universities in the not too distant future.

        More to the point, I can’t agree that mass copying of protected academic databases is the proper solution. There are better ways to reform the system that aren’t illegal, and that target the specific problem areas rather than indiscriminately releasing everything because some portion of journals are harmful.

        Thirdly, these tech people are not Robin Hoods. Google funds most of the anti-copyright lobby of supposed ‘non-profits.’ They can make a fortune indirectly by controlling the channels that ‘freely’ distribute information, using these to sell advertising or gadgets. Yes, this could include academic works. See for instance this article:,0,2960606.story

        1. j says:

          By the way, I recently tried to use Google Books to access a 19th century academic work that is well out of copyright, and that had been digitized by Google in collaboration with a university library. I was told, for the first time, that I had to sign up for Google Play in order to have access to the book. Did the university library know that Google was going to indirectly profit from this endeavor, presumably leaving the university with nothing? Google and similar companies are just as happy to profit off of academics as off of anyone else who uses their services.

  14. R. Hamilton says:

    Hmm. I want producers of content to survive according to the quality of their content. I would really like the editors, publicists, and all the other non-producers to be subordinated to the producers and consumers. That means in the end, I want authors to get paid more, and consumers to pay less. I want the investors in every non-digital distribution channel for something that can also be distributed digitally to go away and invest in something that increases productivity and value rather than retarding it. If they’re not versatile enough to do that, they should be flipping burgers or starving in a dumpster somewhere. They’re parasites: they need to either stop being parasites, or stop being anything.

    Sure, piracy is a huge problem. So is the low quality of much that attempts to bypass the old and obsolete distribution channels. And the new channels like Amazon or Apple (iTunes) take a pretty darn big cut. But the other part of the problem is that the traditional channels are inefficient and never moved fast enough to improve their efficiency.

    Maybe we need the equivalent of an “Angie’s List” (subscriber-supported reviews – a crowd-sourced approximation of “Consumer Reports”) for digital media – reviewers that have to display some competence to get paid. That would let the high-overhead distribution channels get flushed down the toilet where they belong, without diluting the market with amateur garbage.

    Or if that wouldn’t work – if crowd-sourcing the reviews (even with feedback and reward mechanisms) wouldn’t be enough to ensure quality, maybe there would be less of a bottleneck for decent editors if the editors were self-employed, could accumulate verifiable references, etc.

    We simply don’t need to be paying for facilities maintenance for big buildings, janitors, secretaries, and various other infrastructure for a process that needn’t exist at all anymore in its traditional form. Authors, editors, the equivalent of typesetters (someone still has to have high-end skill in formatting, layout, and presentation), the folks that do whatever would replace cover art: all those could be working from home.

    While I think it’s a spurious concern, imagine how much that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions! Almost as much as applying duct tape to politicians mouths. 🙂

    @joe: don’t know about copyright, haven’t thought much about it. But I can think of a couple of other examples, on opposing sides of parallel issues:

    * software patents: a minefield, makes it increasingly harder to write a program without getting sued

    * sensitive information: as far as the controlling authority is concerned, THAT’s not just the form but the facts, and needs to be protected even when residing in the brain of someone authorized to access it.

    Ok, the second of those is a special case, and a reach. But in different contexts, different elements are essential. In factual content, nominally the facts are paramount although the presentation certainly will influence how they’re understood. In fiction, it’s plot, characters, execution, and background knowledge and/or research (I for one wouldn’t know enough to incorporate woodcrafting, logistics, or various other color and context into a story). But in either case, whether it’s ink on a page, bits in a computer, or neural network configurations, if one supposes that there is some privilege to make it possible to compensate (or justify the trust of) the information producer, then the producer’s interest remains, even if the information is in your brain. If you’ve memorized a play (let’s say one with at most a handful of roles, any of which you could play), and you perform it publically, that’s no less a violation of whatever applies than it would be to print and distribute copies.

    To go back to the basics, in article 1, section 8 of the Constitution:

    The Congress shall have Power…
    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    There’s a balance there. Piracy does not serve that balance. Neither (notwithstanding the Supreme Court) does the constant extension of the duration of copyright (as some say, so that Mickey Mouse never goes out of copyright) or the whole idea of patenting something that is not realized as a physical object and is arguably reducible to non-patentable mathematics.

    It’s not about serving the MegaCorp: it’s about mutual benefit for creators and inventors, and for the general public. Anything else that doesn’t add value is superfluous.

  15. cremes says:

    Looks like @Joe has demolished Mr. Modesitt and the usual cadre of sycophants. As Joe pointed out several times, *no theft* occurred yet theft is at the center of the other poster’s arguments. Miss the point much?

    I agree that Mr. Modesitt’s thinking is usually a bit clearer and defensible than this post. He should consider the commenters here as a layer of “editors” who are making improvements to his work by pointing out its flaws. He needs it for his books and now we have clear evidence he needs the assistance for the blog (which is by no means a criticism, merely an observation).

    I look forward to helping “edit” future posts here.

  16. Your comments are welcome, but your judgment is suspect, to say the least. Theft did occur. Downloading millions of articles, many of which were copyright protected, off a proprietary net is theft. You may not like the law; you and Joe may think it’s wrong; but it’s still theft. Did the government “overprosecute”? Most likely, but that’s a very separate question from the issue of theft… which is something that seems literally beyond your comprehension.

    1. Joe says:

      I believe in assumed innocent until proven guilty. It seems you (LEM) believe the prosecutor’s claims, which are far from proven according to people skilled in the art.

      But since we do not agree on the basic facts, it is unsurprising that our conclusions differ.

      From your previous writing it seems to me you have a particular view (blind spot?) about copyright and select the facts to fit it. This violates my definition of thoughtful which requires conclusions to follow from facts, and conclusions not to select facts. Perhaps I am mistaken, in which case I apologize.

      I believe the law is a human made tool to regulate society, not something “good” or handed down from Heaven. The goal is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” as stated by R. Hamilton. If a tool is no longer useful, we use another. I believe intellectual property laws are failing us, including patents of which I hold a number, and we need to develop new legal tools or progress will be hindered.

      I enjoyed your link about Jason Lanier @j, and I believe this is an important matter to debate.

      1. We don’t disagree on the facts; we disagree on the meaning of the facts. There is a significant difference between accessing the system and downloading 4.8 million articles. There is a significant difference between logging on as Aaron Swartz and under various pseudonyms to avoid censure or denial of service by MIT.

        I also agree that laws that don’t work should be changed, but there is a real question about whether the “information must be free” model advocated by Swartz, and apparently by you, will work to society’s benefit. In current practice, those who act that way have certainly decimated the ranks of mid-list writers and singers, with the result that the range of easily available books and music has narrowed considerably.

        1. Joe says:

          There are more than 2 positions on the question of how to fund information. You seem to be claiming either one supports the current laws or one believes “all information has to be free”. Such narrow-mindedness is reminiscent of the age before the enlightenment when scientists were persecuted by the Church for heresy.

          What I said, was that “content creators” have to be paid but that intellectual property laws are no longer working and that we need a new solution. This is a 3rd and different position. I am sure there are others.

          While it is true that there are differences between downloading 1 or 4.8 million articles and doing so anonymously or not, the definition of theft does not mention any of these differences, so they cannot be ascribed as theft.

          1. I’ll discuss that in tomorrow’s blog.

  17. j says:

    When people, including very smart people, think they can argue their way into getting something for nothing, their normally good judgment goes out the window to a remarkable degree. When people have already stolen something, they will believe almost anything in order to justify themselves, and if they are smart they will simply think smarter self-justifying thoughts.

    On the intellectual property question they always bring up the same array of points that are beside the point, much like the following: “cutting off thieves’ hands is immoral, therefore we shouldn’t prosecute theft,” or “the speed limit on this road is too low, therefore we should eliminate speed limits and it’s okay to drive faster,” or “everyone needs food, therefore grocery stores should be free,” etc.

    Guys, take a step back and try to set aside your natural biases and set aside whatever argument you are about to make by reflex.

    The production of ideas has costs. Many of these costs are not apparent to the consumer. To understand them you need to look at how the businesses operate and do the math, including the hidden costs. As soon as you do this math you will discover that the vast majority of intellectual property creators can’t stay in the black if their work is disseminated for free. Please set your utopian arguments aside for a few minutes and look at the numbers objectively.

    Please also consider this recent article in Smithsonian Mag, written by a former Silicon Valley utopian, which goes into more detail:

    That said, I have come to believe that the anti-copyright crusaders are going to win in the short term, and as I said before, will get the future they deserve.

  18. Delusions Demise says:

    I definitely see where you are coming from, but I do not have any moral qualms about sharing information. Everyone thinks life is about money and the gain. Well what if it wasn’t? What if life were about sharing and kindness? I know this sounds ridiculous, because quite frankly, it is; however, I will continue to share media with like minded individuals and refuse to charge them even a cent. I have no problem entertaining others through my youtube channel, short stories, or even my book (which is 1,347 pages long) and charging them absolutely nothing; therefore, I do not feel hypocritical in my efforts in sharing media with others. I think the best solution would be to officially display media online for free with the use of media sponsors, every so often. If someone would desire a full immersal, s/he could possibly pay a fee to remove all adverts. It would probably be a good idea to add a donation box as well. I make plenty of tips for a lot of my hobbies :p

    1. j says:

      Delusions, the first coming of the hippies was bad enough, better not to try for a second time.

      At a minimum, a quality product requires professional level work. Professional level work requires professional level time commitment. Professional level time commitment requires a salary or at least an inheritance. Anyone can ‘play’ the violin in a symphony with a few years part time practice, and then give away their performance for free, but to be worth listening to the performer has to put in a lifetime of labor and dedication, after which they would rightfully expect compensation. If you want to give your labor away for free it’s a good sign you’re not working hard enough to be worth hearing. Finally, no one expects a copy editor or instrument maker or camera manufacturer to put in their time for free, because they are very simply doing unglamorous labor that happens to be a prerequisite for achieving professional results.

      In response to Joe, it makes a lot more sense to tweak the existing laws so that they work better (the DMCA in particular needs to be improved), and to vigorously enforce those laws, than it does to throw out the whole system, which has developed over hundreds of years, and expect that we can create a better one from scratch.

  19. Tom says:

    There is no idea, tool, or construct that has not been used for good and for evil. The internet is a tool used by humans and thus good and evil results are to be expected. “Free” information on the internet should not be shoved aside by business because all users of the internet are not able to afford business based/priced information. My plea concerns education level information and the need for at least some of this to be “free”; although nothing on the internet is free because it costs everyone something to simply access the internet. The educational information hopefully will inform and thus decrease misunderstanding between peoples. Misuse of the internet or its content should be punished in the same way as any other immoral and unlawful activity in society.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      There is at least one site dedicated to free educational information:

      That’s the way to do it: not to steal it or to force anyone to give it away, but to participate in creating it, and, if you wish, thereby CHOOSE to give it away.

      Confiscatory taxes supporting abused entitlements and benefits are theft by government. Private charity is not.

  20. Delusions Demise says:

    j; too put this clearly and simply: too bad. Anonymous has near absolute control over internet policy. Call it a faucet of pluralism. As long as the people want free media, they will recieve free media. You can point your finger at me and say I’m the worst thing since Hitler, but it is not my fault. The world works this way right now and I am merely participating in pop culture. Anyways, how else am I going to watch terrible Rob Schneider movies that I otherwise would never pay for, yet my university buddies insist I must see?

    I could take the time to address every logical fallacy I’ve observed in your post, but I will not. Anyone who replies with such prejudice as to whimsically delegitimicize a social construct is scarcely worth acknowledging. It is clear that you are a mighty backwards individual. I do not need to point any of your flaws as you have already sufficiently embarassed yourself.

    Please keep in mind 😉 you have no clue what type of work anyone is capable of until you actually experience it. Your petty judgments are worth nothing. You may as well point your finger at someone and say “you’re wrong you @$&!@ [use your imagination].”

    So… someone has a prejudice towards hippies, do I care? No. I am a Social Libertarian. Your intolerance is scarcely even scoff worthy, yet scoff worthy it still remains.

    I have illustrated my scoff, now it is time for you to come down from your high horse and decide weather you will merit your arguments with More stereotypes and petty judgements.

    1. j says:

      Delusions, your spelling, grammar, and capitalization, not to mention your decision to write nonsensical prose about Hitler while ignoring everything I wrote, both exemplifies and “delegitimicizes” your position.

      Anyone who looks at my previous comment will see that you haven’t responded to a single sentence. However I am glad a young university student took the time to write in, because it taught me that my expectations for the Millenial generation were not low enough. Thank you for that.

    2. Ryan Jackson says:

      Not even going into the rest, but your first paragraph has serious issues, Delusions.

      On the simple side, you ask how you see a movie you won’t pay for. You don’t. You either pay for it (Buy or rent) Or you don’t see it. If you really need to know the plotline take a look at or some such. But if you want to see the actual film you pay for it like any other law abiding citizen.

      On the more complex is the first portion of that paragraph. That Anon controls the net, that you’re just following pop culture. So what you’re saying is not that you are a hippy or what haver you, you are saying that you are a sheep, that you will not stand up for anything because someone else already has power. That you will just follow the flow because it’s easier.

      At the risk of actual offense, you have no place in any form of discussion until you change those attitudes. It is one thing to argue in defense of something because you believe in it. It is another to argue in defense of it because you’re too weak or lazy to fight it yourself and so think everyone else should just roll over too.

  21. sarf says:

    I would like to say that acquiring intellectual property (IP) without permission is not and should not be considered theft.

    This is not to condone the behaviour, but to simply point out that it is not the same to steal a can of Coca-Cola and to acquire the secret recipe of Coca-Cola – and, from most points of view, the recipe “theft” *ought* to have a higher monetary punishment associated with it.
    There is also the problem with theft depriving someone of an asset, whereas someone acquiring a pirated e-book does not deprive someone else of that e-book. The IP pirate can (and in many cases, do) deprive the publisher and author (and others) of the revenue they might have provided them.
    My reason for the weasel-wording with regards to the pirating of content is that most people who download content does not actually consume all of it. This is more pertinent in the case of music and ebooks, I would say, compared to movies or audiobooks, because music and ebooks are so small that they are often bundled together (in albums for music and in series or “every book ever written by the author” for ebooks).

    It is important to keep in mind the difference *and* remembering that simply spouting slogans (whether they are “information wants to be free” or “any unauthorized access will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”) is not going to cut it to convince reasonable people to your point of view.

    From what I have observed, most people who “steal” IP do follow one moral rule – that is, to not pay or charge for the IP when/if they pass it along.
    A worthwhile endeavour for those who want to reduce the IP infringements would be to argue that public aggregator sites (responsible for a vast majority of IP infringements) ALWAYS get something for hosting the content – in some cases, it is donations from users, but most often it is ad revenue/kickbacks from file hosting services.

    Unfortunately, I am of a similar opinion of j – the forces currently in dominance on the web are in favour of free content, even if it means freeloading and “theft.”
    I would have to say that having MPAA/RIAA as the most visible proponents of copying IP equals theft (and “Scary Lawsuit!!! (may) Leave Grandma Destitute!” headlines in tech news) is not convincing people, and in some cases motivate people in the reverse direction.

  22. Delusions Demise says:

    Ahh j; what you do not seem to get is that I am not advocating against, as much as antagonizing your agenda. My message: Your agenda will fail. We have you outnumbered. Call it a faucet of pluralism. Your ideology must be whacked if you believe the minority should have power over the majority 😉

    Sheep? Not so much. If I didn’t like receiving free media I would definitely advocate against it. The fact is that I am happy with the way society is and so are a lot, if not the majority of people. I may have met approximately 1 out of 5 people who refuse to use torrents because of a moral or religious reason.

    Even if a legistlation like SOPA were passed, I would spend a lot of my free time teaching script kiddies and potential new hackers how to bipass it.

    Still I am not bad as some other people; I typically only share content that is no longer accessible in retail stores.

    As for spelling or the like? I don’t care. After all, I’m posting this on a mobile device and do not feel the motivation to edit my posts (it takes too long :o)Fun fact, my iphone is rooted so I don’t have to buy into Apples monopoly. :p

    Basically, I’m the bad guy who has the know how to continue this speculative theft, despite what our lawmakers have to say about it. I probably will never be caught either. I even have a large mace I keep near my pc in the event the feds bust in with a warrant. Just a few wacks
    and hopefully they would not be able to prove me guilty of anything.

    Ps: I already have a degree silly. I’m just not so happy with the way my career is headed, so I decided to go back to university.

    Also, I haven’t torrented any of L E Modesitt jr’s books. Meh, I always prefer to hold the things in my hand. Can’t say I could ever jump onto the ebook bandwagon.

    Hehehe, free speech and free information weather you like it or not. Anyways, somebody has to play the bad guy 🙂 though only the media would see me as that. For every aggrivated response you guys give me their is 5 Thanks man!

  23. Ryan Jackson says:

    So instead of being a sheep, you claim you’re a petty crook, going along with something not because you think it’s right but because of your own selfish whims. You’re not the bad guy, you’re just another sheep.

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