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Talking Back Lessons: Retorts to “Taking Without Paying”

38

Activism

Activism

In a series of articles here at Falkvinge on Infopolicy, I’ll be giving examples of talking back to the most disturbingly false bullshit repeated by pro-copyright-monopoly pundits. The reason for this is that I see tons of this kind of bullshit in discussion threads, and it stands unchallenged, which is dangerous. As I describe in Swarmwise, it is of immense importance for our long-term liberties that false assertions are countered immediately and in numbers whenever they appear.

Today, we’re going to discuss the assertion that somebody is “taking without paying” when sharing knowledge and culture. Here are three examples how to counter it. Adapt to your own language and use.

Don’t be content with one person already having countered a false assertion, and count on people thinking logically. A false statement must be hammered with opposition for liberties to win; it’s not a logic game but a numbers game. It’s about looking like the winning team, as I describe in Swarmwise – that’s what shapes the reality and the future.

Today, we’ll deal with this “taking without paying” nonsense. There are many variations – “benefiting without paying”, etc. Don’t let it stand unchallenged at any time.

Here are three sample responses you can use. Copy, remix and adapt to your own language.

False statement: “You are taking something without paying.”
False statement: “What gives you the moral right to see a movie for free when I pay for it?”.
False statement: “You are obviously having a benefit without compensating, so what you are doing is wrong.”
There are many variations on the theme. (The sample responses below have a weak mapping to the three variations of the statement given above, so response 2 fits statement 2 the best, etc.)

Sample response 1: Nobody is taking anything. Somebody is manufacturing their own copy of whatever-it-is, possibly in violation of the first action of six in the copyright monopoly, but at no point has any property changed hands – the manufacturing is done entirely using their own property, from blueprints shared online. Since nobody is taking anything, they’re not taking anything without paying, either.

Sample response 2: The statement/question doesn’t make sense. If you are buying a chair, you are paying for it. If I see your chair and don’t want to buy one, but instead decide to borrow blueprints for such a chair from a friend, and manufacture the chair myself instead with my own property, who are you to blame me for not paying anybody for manufacturing my own chair? This is exactly what happens in the sharing of culture and knowledge online.

Sample response 3: It’s excellent that somebody is having a benefit without cost, or with less cost. That’s how capitalism works, when it works. It always strives to improve the benefit-to-cost ratio for humanity as a whole, it strives to get more output out of less input and effort. If somebody is achieving the same benefit at no cost at all, that’s a great leap ahead and anything that stands in the way of such a leap is anti-market and anti-progress.

Take these responses. Use them. More to come next Saturday for the foreseeable future.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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38

  1. 1
    CPT

    Your blog covers some very important issues and offers refreshingly different view points, but your stance on patents and piracy are just wrong given the larger values of openness I believe you are trying to cultivate.

    You are advocating for creating a world that will stifle knowledge and progress, not encourage it. Look at math in the Renaissance and the fight between Tartaglia and Cardano over the solution to the cubic equation. Academics only had job security if they knew something no one (or few) else did. Mathematicians would discover something transformative and tell everyone that they knew how to do it, but not how it could be done. Little progress could be built off that restricted knowledge. Today, patents and IP encourage people to publish what they alone know because they can believe they will be compensated for another person copying their work, even if it is built on and improved. The entire world is better off when knowledge is shared because it gives us a higher starting point to work off from. Despite good-hearted outliers giving knowledge away for free, knowledge is most likely to be shared when the inventor/discoverer is compensated.

    The cost-benefit ratio may improve because of piracy, but only in the short term. Your argument is the same heard from socialists. You are advocating for a system that will either see the absolute levels of benefit drop as “money” sees smaller and riskier returns from media investments and/or an increase in absolute costs, passed on to the consumer, as “money” tries to protect its investment.

    Piracy and patent infringement are anti-capitalist. When you pirate something, you are illegally copying a blueprint that is not for sale separate from the “materials.” A seller is not required to offer to sell you a “blueprint only” version of the media, either, simply because it could be done. Sellers get to set the terms of sale.

    • 1.1
      Taart

      I agree. The focus seems overly on (the classic definition of) ‘property’ here, the tangible stuff that can change hands. But the world is less and less about ‘cultural property’, because the blueprints are a hundredfold more important than for example the CD. The CD is just a shiny disc able to play music. But people don’t buy CDs because they want that shiny disc to do anything. The point is to be able to play music, and the CD is a medium for it. To say you ‘borrow the blueprint for the CD’ doesn’t seem fair to me. You don’t borrow blueprints to create the shiny discs, nor do you get the sheet music to recreate the works by the artist. It’s not property in the traditional sense (so to really benefit the debate we need to overthink what property is nowadays, without instantly chiseling out a Pirate-friendly version). What ‘we’ essentially pirate is the *exact version the artist made*. This has not much to do with ‘blueprints’, that analogy is not in place I think. Of course people *manufacture* a new copy, but manufacturing a copy of music (ripping) is very, very different from recreating a chair.

      Dear pirates, I think we are making a mistake by replying within the same narrow frame of thought. We defend against ‘false statements’ coming from the discourse of the ‘enemy’, but instead of showing a beneficial alternative world, we try to hold our own *in their game*. So who are we trying to be: the pirate who wants to justify his GiBs of ‘manufactured movies and music’, or a pirate who believes in a world of shared ideas to make benefit for all of humanity (with a solution to make livings for people who contribute to the non-tangible world of ideas).

      Come to think of it: it’s crazy to think you can ‘win’ this debate by using arguments built on ‘yep, but if you don’t sell it, poor you’ (reducing the meaning of anything to the number of $€ you can put on it) and a very outdated definition of property (the one ‘old people’ use from a forgotten pre-Internet age). Frankly, I would be very disappointed if the Pirates settle for this.

      • 1.1.1
        next_ghost

        > What ‘we’ essentially pirate is the *exact version the artist made*.

        So if I understand it correctly, manufacturing an imperfect copy with lots of effort is OK for you but manufacturing a perfect copy with very little effort is not? Would you care to elaborate on your reasoning behind that?

        > Of course people *manufacture* a new copy, but manufacturing a copy of music (ripping) is very, very different from recreating a chair.

        Not anymore, now that we have 3D printers.

        • Buglord

          that highly matters what kind of chair it is, it would be way too much to ask, for any one of today’s 3d printers to print an exact molecular copy of something made out of possibly hundreds of different materials.

          when we get the kind of replicators such as in startrek your argument will have more on it.

        • next_ghost

          @Buglord: Why? Are chairs made out of single homogenous material somehow less worthy of copying monopoly than chairs made out of complicated mixture of many different materials?

      • 1.1.2
        highks

        The analogy to making your own chair from blueprints would be copying a piece of music by playing and recording it by yourself.

        Digital goods cannot be compared to old fashioned, non-digital goods. But both sides of the argument always cling to that comparison. In my opinion we have to find a new way to look at digital goods. Not every copy hurts the creator because no physical stealing is involved. But on the other hand nobody will make a recording with lots of studio musicians and expensive mastering when nobody pays for it. We will just lose that kind of music production when we can’t find a way to be fair about it.

        The first kind of music recordings that will be thrown under the bus will be stuff like Shpongle. These guys are making extraordinarily good psychedelic ambient music, and now and then they release an album recorded with real studio musicians and a lot of production value.
        When nobody buys these albums, they don’t have the money to make these expensive productions and they will resort to making all electronic music, which is a lot cheaper to record.
        That’s okay, but it won’t be as extraordinary as their more sophisticated recordings – and I don’t buy the argument that nobody wanted to listen to these albums. When they announce a concert one year ahead, thousands of tickets are sold out in a matter of weeks, but nobody wants to spend a dime on the albums? Come on!
        It’s more like, if you gave people a chance to just copy the tickets to the concert, 90% would not pay for these tickets either!

    • 1.2
      Death&Taxes

      It is a fight between greed of the individual and progress the whole mankind. The point of copyright and other artificial intellectual property regulations was originally to support progress, to make it worth while to pay the development costs. Then the capitalists took it, extended the terms and perverted it to serve their divine right to profit near indefinitely. This in turn defeats the original purpose of these artificial monopolies – to foster progress for all of mankind – to produce culture and technology. Look at patents. What are they used these days but to just stifle innovation? Patents have been issued to bloody obvious, development cost devoid ideas and used to kill any new startups. Technology has become a patent minefield where only actual development is happening either in giant corps or China, that does not give a flying f*ck about US patents.

      And creative arts… Copyright as such should be much shorter to avoid loss of culture. There is so much culture produced that becomes simply lost due to insane copyright terms. It’s not good for the world. I belive 5 years automatic copyright + extensions by 10 years with registration would provide enough incentive to produce culture and opportunity to benefit from it. Hollywood films make most of their profits within 5 yeras of release. 75+ years after authors death is insane in a world where films recoreded and filmed on 8mm tape mere 40 years ago are becoming lost, because even if you have the means to medium convert it, you may not be able to get creators premission and in a few more decades the tape has simply decayed out of existense…

      Fair use is another topic, but criminalizing activities that people do naturally, sharing, watching together, remixing etc is repressive and pointless. It may be frowned up on but repressing people and violating their basic rights for the sake of creators profits is not proportional and not acceptable. Commercial scale copyright violators are fair game, but convicting a single mom into bankruptcy for immaginay lost profits is not OK.

    • 1.3
      Paul

      CPT, your arguments make some sense from a theoretical viewpoint, but in practice, there is little evidence that intellectual monopolies are in any way necessary for the greater spread of knowledge.

    • 1.4
      TG

      A few points:

      1. Secrecy and obfuscation are legitimate ways of excluding others from one’s intellectual effort. Disclosure followed by state-backed suppression is not.

      2. Copyright and patent are socialist because they seek to redistribute property to workers on the grounds that they are being “exploited”.

      3. As has been explained on this blog before, copyright is NOT a contract where the seller sets terms of sale, because all third-parties, who never agreed to the terms, are bound by them as well.

    • 1.5
      next_ghost

      Perhaps you didn’t notice, but things have changed considerably since Renaissance. Today, academics get job security only from publishing results, publishing more results and publishing EVEN MORE results. If your published results don’t get endorsed by other academics, you don’t get any job security out of it. And surprise, results which miss some important step get ignored by other academics to the point that scientific journals will even refuse to publish them in the first place.

      When you narrow down “academics” to mathematicians, they don’t get anything out of those monopolies. Physicists can at least get patent on some new cool manufacturing technique etc. but mathematicians can’t get anything like that. Mathematical formulas, proofs and algorithms are explicitly excluded from copyright monopoly and algorithms only qualify for software patents (which don’t even exist in Europe) in combination with some device, not on their own.

      Yet academics don’t lobby for those kinds monopolies on their work. On the contrary, they protest against publishers of scientific journals who abuse those monopolies to suck more and more money out of research, because the most important resource for every academic is unrestricted access to the latest research results from all over the world. When academics have only limited access or no access at all to others’ results, they’re stuck reinventing the wheel over and over again.

      We already live in a world where knowledge and progress get stifled by the very monopolies you claim make it happen.

      • 1.5.1
        arrghus

        Having read all of “taking back lessons” so far and agreeing with it, I would be intellectually dishonest to not apply those lessons in the very discussion at hand. However, I lack the understanding of the social sciences to properly construct and judge an argument of my own, so I’ll simply stand by the post above this one, on the basis that it seems very level-headed and is grounded in things I know to be true (the incredible utility the academic world gets from public domain papers).

    • 1.6
      steelneck

      @CTC: Patents are basically a social contract: The state give you a commercial monopoly if you publish the blueprints so anyone can copy them and make use of the new knowledge they may contain.

      So your argument about copying blueprints do not apply to patents. It is perfectly OK to copy blueprints of patented stuff, even to build the darn thing for private use. (but not making it for profit, that infringes the monopoly)

    • 1.7
      scandinavianpirate

      Show a company you can do something they need and they will want to employ you. This with or without copyrights or patents.

      “Piracy and patent infringement are anti-capitalist. ”

      Nope. Piracy is very capitalist. The business of distribution of culture and knowledge has with technological help arrived at the point of being possible to do free of charge. In a functioning capitalist economy with competition, each copy should then cost $0 and what may still have any value is the creation of new originals, a business which free distribution of copies can boost by creating a demand for new labor – given that it is still illegal to claim credit of other peoples previous works ( plagiarism ).

      “Sellers get to set the terms of sale.”

      Truth with modification. Once a transaction has occurred ownership is switched and the new owner has right to do what he wants with whatever he as bought.

      • 1.7.1
        CPT

        “Show a company you can do something they need and they will want to employ you. This with or without copyrights or patents.”

        Which is great for all the people who live to work for others. How does the little guy protect his idea? No startup can otherwise survive unless he keeps his entire idea secret until a point that bigger corporations cannot catch up.

        No, piracy is not capitalist. It is no different than walking into a movie theater without paying and watching a movie of your choice. It is just theft of services.

        • scandinavianpirate

          Under a patent system, the little guy can’t protect his “Idea” ( in practice more like implementation ) unless he is willing to spend considerable amount of both time and money fighting for his rights in courts in an uphill battle against established companies with bigger legal resources.

          If you’re an inventor you want to invent. You don’t want to waste precious time in court rooms.

          “No, piracy is not capitalist. It is no different than walking into a movie theater without paying and watching a movie of your choice. It is just theft of services.”

          Piracy is hobby competition to distribution / publication services. Mcdonalds don’t sue you for making your own burgers at home. Beer companies won’t sue you for brewing and drinking your own beer. Bakeries won’t sue someones grandma for baking cookies and therefore causing them lost revenues.

          It is copyright that is a totally unacceptable restriction of the freedom of home-copying.

        • TG

          Strange… how copyright and patent are statist, protectionist, monopolistic, arbitrary in scope, breadth and duration, in direct contravention of property and its use as productive capital, based on misguided utilitarian notions of “incentive” and the flawed Marxist idea of “the labour theory of value”…

          …and yet it’s those of us who oppose them who are the commies!?!

        • Anyone

          patents don’t protect “the little guy”

          assuming the little guy invented something and patented it, the big guy simply comes in, claims that this new patent violates dozens of his patents, drags little guy to court till he is bankrupt, then buys his patent for a pittance. It doesn’t matter if the big guy was right about the patents, he has the money for a lengthy court battle, the little guy does not

          that’s how the patent system currently works, it favors the big guys, the little guys are not protected in any way by it

        • next_ghost

          Allow me to quote the first paragraph of Wikipedia’s article on capitalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism):

          “Capitalism is an economic system in which capital assets are privately owned and items are brought to market for profit. In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.[1][2][3] Central elements of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets and wage labor.[4]”

          Copyright and patent monopolies are anti-capitalist because they hinder competition in markets. Capitalism doesn’t benefit from forced privatization of natural public goods.

    • 1.8
      scandinavianpirate

      The main drivers for creativity has never been money. Creativity starts when you’re a kid and is driven by curiosity and the happiness when a representation of an idea in your head works out as you hope in reality. Then copyright rather restricts what sources of inspiration you can afford.

      • 1.8.1
        CPT

        The driver for creativity has not been money, but the motive for moving from an idea to a product/service is money. If nothing else, the creative person has to earn enough to support themselves. Wouldn’t we rather have creative people be rewarded enough for their efforts to devote themselves full time to something rather than have to work a menial desk job and work on life altering technology only in their free time?

        • scandinavianpirate

          Yes. Absolutely it has a value that creative people can use much of their time to their creative work. But I don’t see where copyright comes into that picture? Copyright is a right to charge for copies of work after it has been done. There is no extra security in that. Just a right to get payments in retrospect in case there will be a large demand at some point in the future.

          If security and income evenly distributed over time is what you want creators to have, then some kind of a subscription / investment system is better. And those can be had also without copyright legislation.

        • next_ghost

          @scandinavianpirate: That’s incorrect. Copyright is a global ban on unauthorized production of copies. The ability to charge money for copies or authorizing others to produce copies is completely ancillary.

    • 1.9
      Anyone

      you have it the wrong way around, copyright and patents stifle progress (as designed), they don’t promote it.

      just think of this simple example, let’s say you invented the wheel and patented it.
      now for 20 years nobody else can improve on the wheel, only after 20 years people can start to innovate again.

      tell me again how stopping everyone from working on an invention promotes innovation?

      • 1.9.1
        CPT

        You could still improve the wheel. You just have to pay royalties to guy who invented it. You only get to capture the monetary gain from the improvements you are responsible for.

        • Anyone

          assuming he allows you to do that
          if he just wants to keep his monopoly he simply denies everyone getting a license, so noone can offer a competing (and even improved) product

          that’s why copyright and patents are bad, they create monopolies that are bad for society

        • next_ghost

          Patent holder has no obligation to take your money.

  2. 2
    CPT

    Your blog covers some very important issues and offers some very different view points, but your stance on patents and piracy are just wrong given the larger values of openness I believe you are trying to cultivate.

    You are advocating for creating a world that will stifle knowledge and progress, not encourage it. Look at math in the Renaissance and the fight between Tartaglia and Cardano over the solution to the cubic equation. Academics only had job security if they knew something no one (or few) else did. Mathematicians would discover something transformative and tell everyone that they knew how to do it, but not how it could be done. Little progress could be built off that restricted knowledge. Today, patents and IP encourage people to publish what they alone know because they can believe they will be compensated for another person copying their work, even if it is built on and improved. The entire world is better off when knowledge is shared because it gives us a higher starting point to work off from. Despite good-hearted outliers giving knowledge away for free, knowledge is most likely to be shared when the inventor/discoverer is compensated.

    The cost-benefit ratio may improve because of piracy, but only in the short term. Your argument is the same heard from socialists. You are advocating for a system that will either see the absolute levels of benefit drop as “money” sees smaller and riskier returns from media investments and/or an increase in absolute costs, passed on to the consumer, as “money” tries to protect its investment.

    Piracy and patent infringement are anti-capitalist. Even staying with your very strained analogy of using your own materials, when you pirate something, you are illegally copying a blueprint that is not for sale separate from the “materials.” A seller is not required to offer to sell you a “blueprint only” version of the media, either, simply because it could be done. Sellers get to set the terms of sale.

  3. 3
    next_ghost

    You can move the whole discussion from “taking without paying” to discussing irrelevance of sunk costs with just two sentences: “You are taking oxygen without paying anyone all the time. I demand you that you stop immediately!”

  4. 4
    Zirgs

    It’s excellent that somebody is having a benefit without cost, or with less cost. That’s how capitalism works, when it works.
    ———————–
    So is it ok to shoplift then?
    I get benefits without any costs to me that way.

    • 4.1
      scandinavianpirate

      Someone loses something when you shoplift. Something which has cost time, natural resources, production in some factory, transport, logistics and storage (rent).

      When copying a file the only costs are usually storage and bandwidth, both of which have become so cheap that anyone can have their own “file transportation system”, “file factory” and “file storage”.

      I would not object if you went to a shop and manufactured an identical copy of something found there. Or made a copy of your neighbors sports car. I would be the first one to say that should be legal, once the advances of technology has taken us there.

    • 4.2

      Unlike shoplifting, manufacturing _new_ objects is not a zero-sum game. If I see something and manufacture my own copy of it, that is obviously not shoplifting and I shouldn’t have to point out such an obvious observation.

    • 4.3
      Zirgs

      I don’t care how much my actions cost the shop – as you said – their sunk costs are irrelevant.

      The same as pirates simply don’t care about artists – their sunk costs are irrelevant (but are more than happy to consume their work).

      Distribution costs of course are zero, but that does not mean that you are entitled to get that service for free.

      Do you think that it’s OK to earn money with pirated software too?

      • 4.3.1
        Anyone

        if you make a profit, you should of course compensate those who help you make a profit, so if you use software commercially, pay for it, it’s only fair

        but if you just share information for free with your friends you don’t owe anyone anything

        • Zirgs

          But Falkvinge in this post says that you should not.
          After all you manufactured that copy of 3ds max or photoshop using your parts and labor, and therefore you should be able to use them commercially without paying anything to Adobe or Autodesk,

          As Falkvinge said previously – Adobe’s and Autodesk’s sunk costs are irrelevant.

          Therefore I can happily earn money using tools that they created and give them nothing according to his ideology.

        • Anonymous

          Zirgs,

          Yes, you manufactured your copy of 3DS Max or Photoshop using your own parts and labour. Since it is yours, you should be able to use it without paying Adobe or Autodesk. Whether Adobe or Autodesk tries to charge money to allow you to manufacture that copy is beside the point, although I posit that their ability to do so is necessarily constrained by the nature of technology.

          But the real problem here is that you then claim, in contradiction, that Adobe or Autodesk created that copy, in order to paint Rick’s position as reductio ad absurdum (“Therefore I can happily earn money using tools that they created and give them nothing”). This is transparent nonsense. Either you created the copy, or Adobe/Autodesk did; it was not nebulously both depending on which fits your argument better at the time.

      • 4.3.2
        next_ghost

        Shoplifting is a zero-sum game. Copying is a positive-sum game. That’s why copying is OK and shoplifting is not. (By “game” I mean what it means in Game theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory)

  5. 5
    Jennizer

    Someday 3D printing is going to make this whole terminology tangible and dead obvious. I can’t wait. :)

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Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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