Intellectual Property

Don't Copy that DVD-ROM

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If the idea of a nine-minute rap routine about petty intellectual property law violations gets your heart beating like it does mine, then get excited! Via Boing Boing, we learn about the pending release of a 21st century reboot of the 1992 classic "Don't Copy That Floppy."

Apparently the original aural assault wasn't enough, because America's youth only picked up the pace of violations. Now, the hip-hop Cassandra of Copyright is back to update his message for the post-floppy generation. According to Cory Doctorow, "it's a doozy":

Taking a page out of The IT Crowd's playbook, suggesting that copying your friends' music, movies and code will lead to you being imprisoned and then forced into brutal slavery by other cons (seriously)….

I wonder if anyone at the [Business Software Alliance] ever sits down and says, "You know, if we keep making stuff like this, eventually people are going to start thinking that giving us money for software only funds more efforts to imprison their loved ones, and thus they should really pirate stuff, if only to starve us of cash for these batshit excursions into private law."

Check out a preview of the new video in all its cheesy glory here. But first, enjoy the original:

Check out Reason's vast intellectual property coverage archive here.

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  1. Those “petty” violations add up. If one person steals an apple from the grocery store, it’s probably no big deal. If 10,000 shoppers each commit that “petty” crime every week, the grocer is going to go out of business.

  2. The MPAA/RIAA/BSA stuff is, to me, the most perfect example of people squandering the moral high ground.

  3. As the kids would say, “Yo, that shit’s wack!”

    What’s up with the tattoo scene in the trailer? Are criminals really worried that a jailhouse tattoo of an anime character will get them in trouble?

    Perhaps the DVD buying public could – instead of buying DVDs for a year or so – pool their resources and fund an anti-regional coding and anti-DRM PSA. We could even use Star Trek characters:

    Captain Kirk: Scotty, takes us to the Trafalmadorian Quadrant, warp speed.

    Scotty: I can no’ do it, Captain! The crew’s DVDs aren’t playable on Trafalmadorian DVD players!

    Spock: Highly illogical…

  4. Those “petty” violations add up. If one person steals an apple from the grocery store, it’s probably no big deal. If 10,000 shoppers each commit that “petty” crime every week, the grocer is going to go out of business.

    Grocers are just middlemen, expendable.

  5. Movies are simply long commercials for the products shown in them, as well as the actors – therefore they should be funded by corporate sponsors, not the viewing public.
    Likewise, music tracks are commercials for the bands that perform/compose the songs. They should be selling their music to corporate sponsors for use in commercials/events, and alternatively they make money on gigs/concerts.
    It’s time for the movie and music companies to evolve their way of thinking, instead of inciting hatred unto themselves from the masses.

  6. Those “petty” violations add up. If one person steals an apple from the grocery store, it’s probably no big deal. If 10,000 shoppers each commit that “petty” crime every week, the grocer is going to go out of business.

    You’re comparing apples [sic] to oranges. Digital information is infinitely copyable with no damage to the original. If I take an apple from the grocer, he has lost one apple. But if I download an MP3 from the intertoobs, it’s still there on the server. 10,000 people can download it, but the cart is just as full as before.

    Somewhat apropos, here’s a parable I wrote some years back:

    “There once was a fabulous apple tree. No matter how many apples one would take from it, there were just as many as before! When this was heard by the villagers they all rushed to the apple tree and took apples. But no matter how many they took, there were just as many apples as before. But some of them came and took apples and locked them within a chest, so that none could steal them. And they laughed at the other villagers, saying, “Look, they do not protect their apples. Surely a thief will come and steal them.”

  7. Double Def DP

    They went with the name Double Def DP ?

    That sounds like a porno title.

  8. They sure do spend a lot of time convincing people that copyright infringement is bad.

  9. Double Def DP

    They went with the name Double Def DP ?

    That sounds like a porno title.

    Double Def DP is actually a lawyer named M.E. Hart who studied at Georgetown.

    Incidentally, he also is infamous for his many, many, double penetration films with Mos Def.

  10. Luckily, most software companies re-invest a double-digit portion of their revenues in the development of next-generation solutions, which generates jobs and productivity throughout the economy. However, software companies could invest a lot more in new jobs and product innovation if piracy weren’t so rampant around the world.

  11. But if I download an MP3 from the intertoobs, it’s still there on the server. 10,000 people can download it, but the cart is just as full as before.

    And if a barber cuts 10,000 people’s hair and each of them proceed to walk out of his shop without paying, he still has his scissors, chair, and comb. It would still not be correct to say that he hasn’t been cheated or stolen from.

    This obsession with physicality of property leads anti-IP libertarians into some very unlibertarian conclusions.

  12. They sure do spend a lot of time convincing people that copyright infringement is bad.

    There’s been a lot of time spent convincing people that slavery, employment discrimination, and drunk driving are bad too. I’m not sure what your point is.

  13. As long as it isn’t for resale, I don’t have a problem with software piracy. It isn’t stealing, its replicating, which is something totally different. You aren’t entitled to revenue for your ideas, you’re entitled to sell them, if you can.


  14. And if a barber cuts 10,000 people’s hair and each of them proceed to walk out of his shop without paying, he still has his scissors, chair, and comb. It would still not be correct to say that he hasn’t been cheated or stolen from.

    The marginal cost to the barber for 20 minutes of his time is non-zero. The marginal cost of downloading an MP3 torrent from someone else’s servers has a marginal cost to the artist of exactly zero.

    This is reasoning by analogy, and we can do it till we’re blue in the face. Observe:

    There once was a fabulous apple tree. No matter how many apples one would take from it, there were just as many as before! When this was heard by the villagers they all rushed to the apple tree and took apples. But no matter how many they took, there were just as many apples as before. But some of them came and took apples and locked them within a chest, so that none could steal them. And they laughed at the other villagers, saying, “Look, they do not protect their apples. Surely a thief will come and steal them.”

  15. Ideas can’t be copyrighted. Stop obfuscating. It is perfectly legal to copy the idea behind any piece of music or video that’s out there.

    But we’re talking about copying expressions of ideas, which require work to produce. I fail to see why you’re entitled to the fruits of other people’s work for free.

  16. This whole argument is idiotic, because (while I don’t believe in IP), it doesn’t matter. Even if you are a 100% believer in IP, it is utterly impossible to enforce in today’s technology. The only way to even marginally enforce it, as we have seen, are draconian liberty-killing government actions driven by the biggest corporate interests.

    You can’t have IP any more. Deal with it.

  17. The marginal cost of downloading an MP3 torrent from someone else’s servers has a marginal cost to the artist of exactly zero.

    If that download prevents a legal copy of their music from being sold, the marginal cost is certainly not zero.

  18. “There’s been a lot of time spent convincing people that slavery, employment discrimination, and drunk driving are bad too. I’m not sure what your point is.”

    Copyright has been around since the time of slavery, so its interesting that you cite to slavery. Of course, these days everybody knows that slavery is bad. So why is it taking so long for people to start thinking that copyright infringement is bad?

    And since you’re an expert, what did the abolitionists call slavery? The copyright people have to make up fake labels (stealing and piracy) to make it compelling. What words did abolitionists use?

    Maybe I’m too young to remember, but was there a time when employment discrimination was called something else, like employment murder or employment hijacking?

    And which industries started drunk driving campaigns? Who gained money from that? Was there a profit motive? How about slavery and employment discrimination? Were industry and trade groups the big funders?

    My point is that the ads are not convincing anybody, and you know it in your heart.

  19. If libertarians don’t believe song and video piracy is theft, then they aren’t libertarians (if that word still has any meaning). They’re anarchists, pure and simple. All rights begin with property rights.

  20. I take it, Lamar, you concede my point that it sometimes takes effort to convince people that things that really are bad are bad.

  21. “If that download prevents a legal copy of their music from being sold, the marginal cost is certainly not zero.”

    Illegal copies don’t “prevent a legal copy” of music from being sold. At best it would reduce the possibility that somebody would buy a legal copy. In my experience, it increases the change of purchasing a legal copy. Most likely, the effect is a wash with some free publicity.

    Also, let’s not pretend that “artists” are the major players here. These are record companies that pay their talent little to nothing. They do this for a number of reasons (many of them legitimate). But artists rarely see the sheen of a penny from their recordings.

  22. If that download prevents a legal copy of their music from being sold, the marginal cost is certainly not zero.

    I see. So as long as I promise never to buy music, my free downloads cannot be construed as cannibalizing their music sales. Since I wouldn’t buy it anyway, I can download pirated MP3s and the marginal cost is zero.

    In reality, though, marginal cost is a deduction from, not a lack of increase in revenues. So it really doesn’t matter anyway.

  23. Also, let’s not pretend that “artists” are the major players here

    After all, they only created the property. Wow.

  24. If libertarians don’t believe song and video piracy is theft, then they aren’t libertarians (if that word still has any meaning). They’re anarchists, pure and simple. All rights begin with property rights.

    No true Scotsman?

  25. “I take it, Lamar, you concede my point that it sometimes takes effort to convince people that things that really are bad are bad.”

    I agree. But I disagree that this is such a case. You are conflating true causes with industry lobbying.

  26. “After all, they only created the property.”

    Oh really? Do they own the recording? No? Boy, I thought I knew it all….

  27. “If libertarians don’t believe song and video piracy is theft, then they aren’t libertarians (if that word still has any meaning). They’re anarchists, pure and simple. All rights begin with property rights.”

    So if I lobby Congress to pass a law giving me exclusive property rights to viewing the moon, no libertarian will object?

  28. Do they own the recording? No? Boy, I thought I knew it all….

    You don’t know shit, obviously.

  29. Digital information is infinitely copyable with no damage to the original. If I take an apple from the grocer, he has lost one apple.

    Brandybuck, I think your little parable does a nice job of demonstrating that, according the logic of those who believe there should be no property rights in digital copies, there should be no property rights in apples or any other renewable resource.

    I’m not sure that’s really what you intended, though.

    As long as it isn’t for resale, I don’t have a problem with software piracy. It isn’t stealing, its replicating, which is something totally different. You aren’t entitled to revenue for your ideas, you’re entitled to sell them, if you can.

    You can’t sell what you don’t own. If you don’t own the rights to your ideas, you’ve got nothing to sell.

  30. “You don’t know shit, obviously.”

    I’m just a simple country lawyer, I don’t know any fancy stuff like publishing, mechanical royalties and sound recordings. If you record a song, the band owns the song, and that’s that, right? And there’s no separate rights for the sound recording as opposed to the songwriting, right? Oh, please help me with the not knowing shit, please.

  31. “Brandybuck, I think your little parable does a nice job of demonstrating that, according the logic of those who believe there should be no property rights in digital copies, there should be no property rights in apples or any other renewable resource.”

    The problem is that “renewing” a resource costs money, whereas an MP3 doesn’t cost money to “renew” because the owner wasn’t deprived of it in the first place.

  32. Maybe I’m reading this wrong – but I suggest a simple experiment. Everyone please cancel their subscription to Reason Magazine. Starting with the next issue, I will scan the entire thing and post it on a website so all can access it free of charge.

  33. So is it illegal to listen to the radio (free) record the song with a microphone (personal labor) and then sell that labor to others? I’m the one that created that exact copy of the song, I should be able to sell my idea of doing so.

  34. “Maybe I’m reading this wrong – but I suggest a simple experiment. Everyone please cancel their subscription to Reason Magazine. Starting with the next issue, I will scan the entire thing and post it on a website so all can access it free of charge.”

    They already offer it for free online, and I still buy the hard copy.

  35. Maybe I’m reading this wrong – but I suggest a simple experiment. Everyone please cancel their subscription to Reason Magazine. Starting with the next issue, I will scan the entire thing and post it on a website so all can access it free of charge.

    Maybe this will cause reason to catch up with the times and post all the articles online with advertising sidebars so that they can still make a profit off of it. Wait…don’t they already do that?

  36. Illegal copies don’t “prevent a legal copy” of music from being sold. At best it would reduce the possibility that somebody would buy a legal copy.

    …which means that fewer legal copies are sold. So, allowing illegal downloads translates to lower sales and lost revenue, just as in the case of the barber getting stiffed.

    In my experience, it increases the change of purchasing a legal copy. Most likely, the effect is a wash with some free publicity.

    No one is preventing the rightsholders from offering free legal downloads if they think this will help sales. The fact that they typically don’t do this, when they stand to profit from it, would indicate that free downloads do not help sales — whatever “experience” you have notwithstanding.

  37. So how do you IP advocates suggest enforcing IP? I await your list of liberty-invading ideas.

  38. If you don’t own the rights to your ideas, you’ve got nothing to sell.

    Nitpick here, but an important one. Ideas are not copyrightable, only the expressions of ideas are. You’re free to make up a book, song, or movie that’s based on the same idea as a copyrighted work so long as you express that idea in a different way.

  39. “I take it, Lamar, you concede my point that it sometimes takes effort to convince people that things that really are bad are bad.”

    I’m curious. Are there other areas where industry or foundation ad campaigns refuse to use the word that actually describes the prohibited conduct?

    Oh, and you can also admit that plenty of advertising dollars are spent trying to convince that certain things are bad when they really aren’t.

  40. Epi, that’s dirty pool. Just because enforcing the enumeration of powers in Article I Section 5 of the Constitution is problematic, doesn’t mean those of us who support limited govt should STFU about it.

  41. “…which means that fewer legal copies are sold.”

    No. There is the potential that fewer copies will be sold, just like there is the potential that more copies will be sold. In my experience, an illegal copy never displaced a legal purchase, but numerous (100s) ‘illegal’ copies led to me buying a legal copy. FWIW.

  42. Lamar, my point was that this comment:

    Lamar | July 7, 2009, 4:13pm | #
    They sure do spend a lot of time convincing people that copyright infringement is bad.

    did not, as intended, offer evidence that there’s nothing wrong with copyright infringement.

  43. “No one is preventing the rightsholders from offering free legal downloads if they think this will help sales. The fact that they typically don’t do this, when they stand to profit from it, would indicate that free downloads do not help sales — whatever “experience” you have notwithstanding.”

    I think you’re making stuff up. Really. You’re taking the RIAA business model and assuming that every record/entertainment company is a similar dinosaur. P2P is a huge marketing tool, as are other freebie sites like Myspace. I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. We are awash in free music.

  44. Lamar,

    If the availability of illegal downloads decreases the probability of a downloader buying a legal copy by 1%, that means that for every 10,000 illegal downloads the rightsholder loses 100 sales. Ergo, lost revenue. (And I’m fairly certain 1% is an extremely low estimate of the probability reduction in most cases)

    Again, if legal copy buying is encouraged by free download availability, then the rightsholder would be foolish not to offer free downloads. But just because Gillette’s strategy of giving away free razors allows them to sell many more razor blades, doesn’t mean you have a right to free razors from any razor company.

  45. “did not, as intended, offer evidence that there’s nothing wrong with copyright infringement.”

    See, this is where we part ways. You are always assuming that you know that is “intended” when people act in a way that is different from how you choose to act. Maybe I got caught up in the weird double-negative.

    Don’t tell me what I intended. In the same vein, don’t pretend like you have any idea what people intend to do when they download a song. You simply don’t know, and I don’t mean that with a wink. You really don’t know.

  46. Just because enforcing the enumeration of powers in Article I Section 5 of the Constitution is problematic, doesn’t mean those of us who support limited govt should STFU about it.

    Technology has fundamentally changed the way this works. A new way of dealing with it has to be created, instead of trying to force the new paradigm into an old box.

  47. “Again, if legal copy buying is encouraged by free download availability, then the rightsholder would be foolish not to offer free downloads.”

    Not only can I download about a bajillion free songs right now, but I get more free CDs than I can possibly listen to.

    And really, this isn’t about my business model vs. your business model. This is about an industry attempting to ban a business model by claiming huge losses in sales. Is there something about RIAA accounting that gives you faith in their numbers?

  48. You’re taking the RIAA business model and assuming that every record/entertainment company is a similar dinosaur. P2P is a huge marketing tool, as are other freebie sites like Myspace. I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. We are awash in free music.

    Then what the frick is with all the bitching about copyright laws? Content yourself with all the free and legal downloads out there.

  49. “Then what the frick is with all the bitching about copyright laws?”

    Because I am a net producer of music. The laws are a function of RIAA companies writing the copyright code to suit themselves and block out competition. Simple as that. Since people don’t always see infringement where RIAA companies always do, and since people don’t think infringement is that terrible, they have to go on and on about piracy and stealing.

    You’ve done it again, assuming my intentions. I don’t care about free music. I care about open avenues of distribution.

  50. Don’t tell me what I intended.

    Then what was your intent with that comment?

    See, this is where we part ways. You are always assuming that you know that is “intended” when people act in a way that is different from how you choose to act.

    Hey, we’re guilty of the same crime I guess. You presume that because you usually go on to buy songs that you download for free, everyone else must do it too.

    In the same vein, don’t pretend like you have any idea what people intend to do when they download a song.

    As a functioning member of human society, a status which requires one to be able to guess other people’s motivations fairly accurately, I’d say they want to be able to listen to it without paying for it. Now perhaps they’re intending to buy it if it sounds good…but it’s also quite likely they have no intention of paying for it, ever. Given how much people like saving money, I’d bet on the latter most of the time.

  51. The laws are a function of RIAA companies writing the copyright code to suit themselves and block out competition.

    How are they blocking out competition via copyright laws? I would think that, with the RIAA being assholes and producing awful music (this much I agree with) that would give you a competititive advantage. Especially if allowing free downloads — which they don’t and you do — translates into increased sales?

  52. Tulpa, I’m not arguing for getting rid of copyright. I think it is useful. But seriously, you are assuming that you know the intentions of millions of people. You couldn’t even guess my intentions.

    “You presume that because you usually go on to buy songs that you download for free, everyone else must do it too.”

    Oh nevermind. If you’re not going to take this seriously, or if you’re more interested in bullshit than a real discussion, than I’m out.

    My whole point is that we can’t know the motivations of individual downloaders, which means that I can’t know either. That’s the point. The rest of your post is just more of you making shit up with 10 cent words. Don’t bother….I’ll take a hike.

  53. “How are they blocking out competition via copyright laws?”

    You shut down P2P, you’ve shut down an avenue that could compete with you. Over and out.

  54. Ideas can’t be copyrighted…But we’re talking about copying expressions of ideas

    Expressions of ideas are also ideas. So ideas can’t be copyrighted, but ideas of ideas can be.

    I’d let you go ahead and copyright your stupidity, but even that was copped from someone else.

  55. Expressions of ideas are also ideas.

    Unless you’re an Idealist (as opposed to a Materialist), no. The code to your web browser is not an idea, for instance, though many ideas were used in the process of writing it.

  56. This is about an industry attempting to ban a business model

    Organized crime is now a “business model”?

  57. Copying intellectual property without permission is stealing. However, the marginal cost of each new copy is so small that people willingly producing and distributing creative works for free will soon take over most of the market. I’ll buy professional perioticals and CDs in the niches I like to support, because I know they aren’t mainstream enough to survive without loyal supporters. Creative products outside these niches aren’t worth my time, so I have no reason to steal them or pay for them.

  58. “If the availability of illegal downloads decreases the probability of a downloader buying a legal copy by 1%, that means that for every 10,000 illegal downloads the rightsholder loses 100 sales.”

    If store A uses its economy of scale to cut prices 20%, it might decrease the probability of people shopping at store B by 90%. I assume the government should step in at then at that point and apportion the market share that people are by right entitled to.

    “The code to your web browser is not an idea, for instance, though many ideas were used in the process of writing it.”

    If you’re a materialist who uses that logic, nothing is an idea, as even thoughts are physical manifestations of chemical processes, arrangements of electrons and atoms (like the electrons and atoms that exist in computers and CDs).

    But for those who think in fuzzier terms, “idea” applies to anything for which the pattern is more important than the physical realization of the pattern. Otherwise it would be ridiculous for songwriters to expect payment when someone else is creating the actual sound.

    Ultimately, copyright is not a question of fundamental natural rights as described in US law; it’s a government program undertaken for utilitarian reasons. What gets protected and what doesn’t (to the extent the system works as intended) has less to do with high-minded philosophical questions like “what is an idea?” and more to do with “what worthwhile inventions and works of art would be economically infeasible to produce if the creator could not temporarily induce artificial scarcity to drive up prices?” Thus, knock-knock jokes fail on both accounts — people will still make jokes for free, and they aren’t all that critical to human progress. Finnegan’s Wake, unfortunately, would make the cut.

    “Organized crime is now a “business model”?”

    Yes. It isn’t a legal one, obviously. But given that you’re on a site that is strongly critical of past and current prohibition efforts, saying that illegal business and immoral business are equivalent won’t get you very far.

  59. Traditional criminals are far more honest than IP pirates in that they don’t attempt to justify their thieving with hair-splitting what-ifs and broad generalizations about the industry they’re stealing from. It’s simple: they want the property; they take the property. They don’t pretend the property has no value, because that would make them look like retards.

  60. “Traditional criminals are far more honest than IP pirates.”

    The vast majority of IP infringement is no criminal. More importantly, piracy is what happens off the coast of Somalia. I know that the RIAA and MPAA have spent millions and millions to conflate the two, or to characterize infringement as “stealing” “thievery” and other crimes. But copyright infringement is not any of those things. Perhaps when you take stock in your position, you’ll ask why they can’t just call it what it is!

    The copyright industry’s absurd hyperbole aside, you are faulting people who may or may not be infringers with using the law as it exists. As it exists, there is fair use, which is a “whatif” enshrined in the law. If you fall within one of the legally (and constitutionally) protected “whatifs”, then the property has no value for that purpose.

    Here’s the issue: You think “it’s simple” when it really isn’t. It is one of the most complicated areas of law there is. It doesn’t help that you conflate people who sell bootlegs with people who download a song (perhaps illegally), people who create derivative works and networks that connect people who may or may not infringe. Oh, but you said it was so simple!

    You think it’s “simple”. Tulpa assumes he/she knows the intent of everybody downloading anything. The truth is that copyright law is very complicated, and we have no idea what drives individuals to do things. So get over your heavy-handed hyperbole. See how well your arguments go over if you self-police yourself from using inapplicable words like “stealing”, “thievery” and “piracy”.

    But you won’t. Because you think that the industry should have even more copyright protection. You see it as “property” separate and apart from the statute that created that property out of thin air.

    Face it: Copyright is the 18th century version of cap and trade.

  61. You think “it’s simple” when it really isn’t.

    But it is, Lamar. You tend to overthink things. Please try again next time. H&R is scheduled to run another IP piece in seven days, after which the usual crackpots will spout their usual theories, to no avail. Rinse, repeat, forever…

  62. Face it: Copyright is the 18th century version of cap and trade.

    Brilliant.

    I am going to reproduce this idea, without paying anyone, and distribute it over the internet.

  63. 18th century version of cap and trade

    Worst…analogy…ever.

  64. “Worst…analogy…ever.”

    How many other acts of Congress create property rights out of thin air in order to create a market to further some utilitarian purpose?

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