Are they morally equivilent?
Yes
20% (10)
20% (10)
No
80% (40)
80% (40)
Want to vote? Register now or Sign Up with Facebook
Poll: Illegally Downloading Books vs Going to the Library

I seem to have fallen into a bit of a moral quandary here. I want to believe that downloading a book online without paying for it is illegal and should be illegal(also immoral), but at the same time I can go out and get a copy from the Library for free with the same end result.

If the problem with piracy is that the creator of the content you're consuming isn't reimbursed for their labor, isn't a library morally equivalent to downloading it off the internet?

Now, thinking this through, I can see the difference in only one aspect: the library actually pays for their copy(s). However, my individual renting out or lack thereof is not going to change if the library buys that copy of the book. Even if I never existed, they would have still bought that copy. The author of the book I'm about to steal from doesn't see one brand new red cent either way.

Should I be held liable for skipping over the middle man and just jumping straight to downloading it from the internet?

I have similar problems with Netflix and movies/TV shows as well as buying used copies of video games.

The difference is that every time you (or anyone else) borrows a book from the library it gets slightly damaged, after 100 (random stupid number) people have borrowed that book it's unusable and the library will buy a new one. So the writer might only get 1/100 sales from that, that still a lot more then 0/100.

Series/movies on tv/netflix are paid for by subscription and add revenue. Buying second hand (wether it's games, film or books) is a whole other kettle of fish and I don't have the time to go into that right now.

I agree with what Eleuthera said and in addition to that, library books are limited in that only one person can take out a copy at a time and you can only possess it for a small period of time before having to return it, so there's still scarcity and inconvenience involved which encourages people to actually buy the books if they can afford to. Downloading books illegally has no comparable disadvantages.

Plus, every library copy is a sale to the author. It only takes one purchase for the entire world to be able to access a download.

Eleuthera:
So the writer might only get 1/100 sales from that, that still a lot more then 0/100.

Not only that but in the UK (I don't know about other countries) authors get paid a fee every time someone borrows one of their books from a public library (up to some limit). It's completely tiny like 5p or something which changes depending on circumstances; for instance my dad co-wrote a couple of textbooks back when he was an examiner so he has to share this fee with the other writer. He's sooo rich with all those pennies he gets(!)

EDIT Found an article that mentions the fee - 6.05p and a limit of 6600

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/14/pay-us-for-library-ebook-loans

And THAT was a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

thejarofdirt882:
snip

I just checked and a similar system is in place in the Netherlands (without a maximum though, in 2008 five people recieved more then 50.000 euros in library "royalties")

I also wondered the same thing about how you can borrow CDs and download it to your computer.
But again, we still pay a small fee and also the CD rental stores still have to buy the CD, so I guess it is way better than piracy.

wow tricky one
i guess my argument is the same for all piracy. if everyone does it then the maker receives no money and never makes another book/movie/game again

Wow never thought of it that way. But I guess no because even then the author is still making money from the books libraries buy. They'll make no money off the hundreds of illegal downloads.

DugMachine:
Wow never thought of it that way. But I guess no because even then the author is still making money from the books libraries buy. They'll make no money off the hundreds of illegal downloads.

Actually, it was relatively common for publishers and authors to view the library with the same level of disdain as modern industries view piracy and the used media industry. Yet in spite of that there was never any serious effort to outlaw the library; indeed, much the opposite.

Given, from a business perspective at least, there is so very little difference, it does beg the question why the library is morally acceptable yet used games and piracy are not. In each case, you deny the content creator their due.

Their similar but not identical. If you borrow ( not take/steal) a book from the library then you can only do so for a set amount of time, and if you go over that time you have to pay a fine. Additionally the library has to purchase the book in the first place which the author gets a payment from, and the royalties too which others have mentioned. None of these apply to illegal downloads. No matter how you try to justify illegal downloading you're still doing something morally wrong i.e. taking something that was never yours to begin with.

Not strictly the same, as most library systems have a way to somehow compensate the original author and publisher.

But in terms of goals, public libraries were created as a way to disseminate knowledge more cheaply, for the sake of the public and not the authors/publishers.

I tend to view downloading of books as less problematic than other kinds of illegal downloads. Freely-distributed knowledge has the potential to take people out of poverty and create opportunities. The thing is to achieve a balance between compensation of original authors and the "greater good" for the public. Anyway, authors rarely get much money from books, except in very rare cases. As is the case with music, most of the money goes to the publishers instead of the original artists/creators.

Which is not to say I condone pirating ALL the books. But if someone wants a game and does not the have money for it I'd say "don't play it, play something else, wait until the price drops to a level you can pay, and then play it", whereas if someone really needs a book to learn something important and does not have the money to pay for it I'd definitely say "download it". I'd say this even if I were the author of the book (hell, in this case I'd give him a copy myself).

Eleuthera:
The difference is that every time you (or anyone else) borrows a book from the library it gets slightly damaged, after 100 (random stupid number) people have borrowed that book it's unusable and the library will buy a new one.

More and more libraries are allowing greater e-book rentals though. I see e-books as being especially important for libraries going forward. Since public libraries are publicly funded, taxpayers are always looking for ways to save money on them.

For a modern library, ebooks are: cheaper to initially purchase, cheaper to store, and cheaper to administrate.

Also, you are paying for that borrowing in the library. To have a library card means you are a citizen of that jurisdiction. Which means you come from a tax-paying household in that jurisdiction.

Also, in many places you can now borrow digitally from your library.

Renting a book from the library is equivalent to renting a movie for your MP3 device or paying to see a fight/sporting event from your cable/satellite/internet provider. There is a fixed amount of time that you are allowed to have the product/IP until it is no longer available to you and you either forfeit the content or you return it, whether you made use of it or not.

If you need a book, virtually or physically, you pay what its worth, or simply pay to rent it for a brief period of time. If you need the book to reference something, the library might have a copy or allow you to see a virtual copy of the book for your work.

Lazier Than Thou:

If the problem with piracy is that the creator of the content you're consuming isn't reimbursed for their labor, isn't a library morally equivalent to downloading it off the internet?

The copy you borrow from the library is a single copy that can only be loaned to one person at a time. When you take it out, it means it is unavailable to others. This lending is temporary and legal.

Downloading a book is not lending, it is not temporary, and this is part of why it's not legal

The author of the book I'm about to steal from doesn't see one brand new red cent either way.

Nor should they.

I have similar problems with Netflix and movies/TV shows as well as buying used copies of video games.

Rental movies pay a lot through the distro and are still limited in scope of access. Streaming is even more heavily licensed.

Used games (or any other media) sales consist of a legal license transfer under the first sale doctrine. It is also limited in scope of access, since there is only 1:1 availability.

You're telling me that permanent unlimited access to the media is the same as temporary or transferred access?

Eclectic Dreck:

DugMachine:
Wow never thought of it that way. But I guess no because even then the author is still making money from the books libraries buy. They'll make no money off the hundreds of illegal downloads.

Actually, it was relatively common for publishers and authors to view the library with the same level of disdain as modern industries view piracy and the used media industry. Yet in spite of that there was never any serious effort to outlaw the library; indeed, much the opposite.

Given, from a business perspective at least, there is so very little difference, it does beg the question why the library is morally acceptable yet used games and piracy are not. In each case, you deny the content creator their due.

There is no due on a used game or any other medium. Also noteworthy because no other medium is fighting as hard to claim that special privilege of a "due" due for used media.

I'll simply just agree with everyone here saying don't do it, because I'd probably just knee someone in the balls if they admitted to it, because people who download books illegally are hurting libraries just as much as authors. Libraries are still an incredibly important service to people, and, well, it's my job. It's really insulting when people have no idea what benefits a library can give individuals as well as entire communities. Books wouldn't even be digital if not for librarians. So get it from the library. We won't hurt you unless you're a dick.

Look, main question is actually "Would you buy the book in the first place?" Personally I will never buy a book, a game or a movie I didn't like. Especially after pre-ordering Mass Effect 3. Noooo, at first I will become absolutely clear if this stuff worth my money. And - what a funny coincidence! - in most cases the answer is NO. Now, I am currently speaking of fiction books. For encyclopaedic data we have Internet. Special literature in most cases is easier to buy then to download (or, in case of my country, it's easier to borrow it from colleagues and scan due to it was not published for 30 years). So it all comes to fiction books which are purely the form of entertainment. For which I am willing to pay only if I was actually entertainment. In other case I feel like being robbed.

So. let's get back to beginning. If you really liked the book you've downloaded - go buy it. If not - just forget about it. You had nothing from it but disappointment so why its creator should have anything more from you?

PS About libraries. A "wooden" book is always better. If you have access to a library which is updated often - go take a book from there. It's much more pleasure in reading a physical book and you actually break no laws at all. In my country it's impossible.

Isn't scarcity a bad thing that we should want to be rid of? Enforcing artificial scarcity in other fields is generally condemned as monopolistic and can lead to legal action. We almost universally condemn the government when it makes getting access to our deeds or records expensive and/or time consuming.

As far as the OP goes, is there a way to get a digital copy directly from the author? Could you download the book and send the author money (thus negating moral concerns)? Making that red cent happen matters more than whether or not the library is being skipped over.

Illegally downloading books hurts the writers/creators and it helps getting that library shut down.

If we are to live in a society where everything is publically available/free, then there will be less of... everything. Some ideologists might go on as long as their basic needs are covered, but if everything is freely pirated, I would find it exceedingly difficult to imagine writers writing or publishers publishing much.

Especially now that we can get digital 'copies' for generally very little money (which makes sense, since no books have to be printed that way)...

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here