177: Grey Noon

Grey Noon

Most people are raised to know right from wrong, but a visit to the grey expanse of the internet can change everything. Russ Pitts tells us of his time in that no-man's land, where morals are for people who could afford them and all the music is free.

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I always love the internet being reffered to something similar to the Wild West

"It's the Wild West," we'd say, as if that made it alright. A couple of lowlifes, sitting on an empty railroad platform, taking potshots with their six irons at the locals saying "There's no law, this is the Wild West!"

It's interesting, your feelings about napster. I never got into downloading music...I just felt like the quality was largely poor, it was often encoded at lower bitrates, probably to make downloading faster. But it has always been illegal to make recordings of any media you buy, however, it was unenforceable...making someone a mix tape was technically a crime, but because it was easy to execute (In fact enabled by makers of sound equipment, by putting a recording cassette and a playing one, that could receive a line from that source...or any other media for that matter...) and impossible to get evidence. Privacy laws made it impossible to go look in people's homes for the stuff, and it was small potatoes...It was only after napster and the other p2p programs gained a foothold that the music business did anything. Or rather, it had been the first time in a while. Because the numbers of downloads was astronomical, they were "forced" into action.

I think, for the most part people didn't know it was illegal. I did only because my father had some dealings with the music business (indirectly). It is a simple leap from making a mix tape/CD to downloading music, I'm not even sure I'd call it a rationalization, more of a lack of knowledge of the law, an unenforced law that went unprosecuted for decades. It's simply a medium by which acquiring these albums was made easier. The habituation that existed previously, was often simply to get a copy of whatever from someone...I think often, people assumed it was legal. It was never legal, just unenforceable.

Now, Napster having gone to the supreme court, everyone knows. Before that however, I think a lot, upon a lot of the people who participated...didn't know, and thought it was fine.

...At this point...I'm a little miffed about the narrowness of the law with regards to purchased media. Frankly, I think at this point, the law needs to be changed. If you buy a CD and want to listen to it on your ipod, theoretically, you can't do it legally. That doesn't stop tons of companies from making ripping software (Including microsoft) that allow you to transfer the music to another medium. There needs to be, protection for consumers now, really, when you purchase a piece of music (Or movie, or whatever really) You should get personal usage rights, what they should include (imho) the ability to download it again an infinite number of times, the ability to purchase new media for the cost of manufacture and shipping. (A couple of dollars for a new copy of the CD you purchased, perhaps it was scratched...or some such) The recording industry needs to allow the use of the music/movie/whatever, in whatever medium you choose...the technology is there, people just need consumer advocate groups to file a class action suit.

Anyway, I'm surprised you felt guilty at all. I know that most of the people I knew who engaged in p2p use for acquiring music weren't dreadful criminals...just people trying to get stuff they wanted for cheap. I don't even think of these people as criminals...In fact, I think penalties and prosecution should largely be thrown out (of court). There is a precedent of these laws going unenforced...Until the laws are well established...I think the prosecution of some...is ludicrous. And feelings of guilt similarly ludicrous.

And I wouldn't worry about the cyber-hooker either...

just my two cents.

Well written, Russ. I really enjoyed the article. It's so easy to say it's not a crime if there isn't anything physical, or that they 'aren't really losing a customer' (Which is my personal favorite terrible excuse).

Plus I feel for you. I used to rent and burn movies in droves...well, in droves that my pay-cheque allowed for. I had under ten legally owned movies, and over 200 illegal ones. I couldn't stand it any more, since I knew it was wrong, and I bought all the DVDs I had burned.

But, in any case: well written article. 'Virtual' theft is theft, and I wish more people realized that.

Good article. I'm pretty sure that soon there'll be mechanisms in place to make it very difficult to steal music, games and movies. When it becomes inconvenient, people will go back to supporting the companies that produce it, which will mean they can invest more in new talent and make more risks. A lot of the reason why there's virtually no independent music industry any more is because there is so much piracy - people literally cannot afford to start labels because everyone is stealing and nobody is buying.

Mechanisms in place? You don't mean DRM, which has been there for decades, do you?

If it can be played it can be stolen, end of. Always been that way, always will be.

And this comment page is full of RIAA grassrooters, apparently. "Feelings of guilt" for downloading movies, executives in music companies taking risks if piracy is gone, "virtually no independent music industry" and the reason independent music is dying is because of... piracy?

Eh, let the assholes burn. Which assholes? RIAA assholes, and their bosses, the Big Four. And Hollywood - and with them, MPAA.

Though, I don't even care to pirate big business movies/music. I like independent stuff anyway, and I can buy high-quality DRM-free files online, no hassle. And somehow, whenever anyone there joins the RIAA/MPAA crusade, I somehow instantly stop being a customer. Hmm.

Russ Pitts:
Tracking down people who steal content

How often do you guys search Youtube. I have seen some ZP vids on there (okay. I have messaged you about them before but they are still there)

You do realize that the Escapist picked Yahtzee up from Youtube right?

insanelich:
You do realize that the Escapist picked Yahtzee up from Youtube right?

That's as may be, but The Escapist owns all rights to content that Yahtzee (and his producer, Our Hero Russ Pitts) produces. By moving that content over to YouTube it may seem like "big deal, a vid's a vid", but consider the advertising that runs on the page Zero Punctuation is on every week (q.v. the Mirror's Edge adverts framing this message board). Every view of ZP outside of its Escapist home is money lost to Themis Media because that's one less ad impression for which they can charge.

One pirate does minimal harm. Hundreds or thousands acting in concert do real damage.

He just said "some ZP vids".

Also, Escapist owning all rights to content that Yahtzee produces? That sounds like a rather draconian contract.

Personally, since more and more corporations are labelling me a pirate simply because I want to own the games I buy and don't want DRM stopping me from selling them second-hand, I'm getting a bit tired of all the whining about copyright, digital rights and software piracy. If corporations want to treat me as if I'm a pirate even though I've never stolen a game or music in my life, then all I can say is "Arrr matey, splice the mainbrace and shiver me timbers, it's a pirate's life fer me!" Until this DRM lunacy ends I'm never going to say a negative thing about pirates. As far as I'm concerned they're no worse than the corporate pirates who want to twist the law in order to milk me and other gamers and music fans for every penny they can get.

I have to say, to me the internet is filesharing. I've been brought up knowing right and wrong, but I've also been brought up using p2p. Right from Napters, IRC, and Suprnova (BT) 10 years ago; to today's Limewire and VeryCD (E-mule). There are a million reasons why downloading something from p2p is better than buying it, I won't go into it here.

The important point I guess, is I wouldn't have bought any of the stuff I downloaded, I physically didn't have the money; it's either download it or not having it. I have spent a significant amount of money buying these since I began earning money a couple of years ago; but I'm still download stuff as well. My friend has the same experience, in school, he downloaded more than me, we even calculated tables with pencil on paper of how best to utilise our bandwidth; but since he started working a few years ago, he has stopped downloading completely. It's all about money, you have it, you would buy it; you don't have it, you would download it; simple.

There is DRM and all this complicated copyrights protection mechanisms, but filesharing was, is, and always will be un-stoppable. Because if there is a way to access something, then there will always be a way to access it bypassing all gatekeepers and locks, even CounterStrike has pirated servers, very big ones. All they are doing with DRM is turning people who would normally buy the game to downloading it instead; I bought Bioshock, then discovered the crappy DRM scheme on it, then I downloaded it playing CoD4 while I waited, then played the downloaded version instead, because it's less hassle! For this christmas holiday, of the thing I want, if it has DRM I'll download it; if it doesn't have DRM, I will buy it. It's not a protest, there's no politics, it's all about user friendliness.

I think it is the greatest injustice to prosecute filesharers. Simply because everyone's doing it, so why should we prosecute the randomly choosen 0.00001%? If the law says it is illegal, then everyone who do it should be prosecuted (ISPs has a lot of information on your network usage, if we want to prosecute everyone, we have the evidence available). Filesharing is the classic case of an unenforcible law, even more so than the alcohol prohibition. In our attempt to enforce such a law all we are doing is causing suffering to ordinary people.

I felt the same as Russ described for a long time, but seeing how Real World Inc. started blaming the tub es for everything and how I simply got bored with monstrous prices and lackluster content, I decided simply not to care anymore, and buy usually used, when I buy.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I reckon the ARPANET should have stayed in the hands of scientists, computer scientists and the military for a few more years at least. The technology of world networking was thrust on the public almost too quickly, and obviously, the record companies were as behind the times as they ever were, never ready to embrace the new technology when it came.

Now, because of their ill-prepared attitude, we have to put up with increasing restrictions on our technology through the means of DRM, only countered by a few angry open-source developers who develop the likes of Ogg Vorbis and other formats which cannot be DRM-restricted by law - usually through the GNU General Public Licence.

Delta4845:
I always love the internet being reffered to something similar to the Wild West

"It's the Wild West," we'd say, as if that made it alright. A couple of lowlifes, sitting on an empty railroad platform, taking potshots with their six irons at the locals saying "There's no law, this is the Wild West!"

Fascinating that this came up, considering that the authors of Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness after the Digital Explosion also liken the current state of quasi-lawlessness of the internet to the Wild West. It's a book that anyone even moderately interested in how the advent of the internet has affected every aspect of our unplugged lives, along with altering our privacy and the very way we legislate our lives.

Anyway, I feel that the key to this article is the conclusion, specifically the quote "...the only authority with the power to hold you accountable for your crimes is you." I thank Russ Pitts for acknowledging that the absolute power of agency resides within the individual, no matter how dearly we might cling to the belief we are affected by others or that we can affect others. This belief fuels partisans on both sides of the piracy debate, not to mention innumerable other points of contention--digital and otherwise. Pirates and their sympathizers commonly cite many externalities as the motivation for their actions, while their detractors attempt to wield a sense of morality and justice to rein in these "wild children" of the internet.

But this is simply unique to the human condition, not to any particular situation. People everywhere dodge responsibility for one thing while trying to force a sense of responsibility on others. It is as much an integral aspect of our nature as it is necessary for the increasingly intense social lives that we lead, and the inevitabilities that come with it are something that we implicitly tolerate, while railing against them in everything we consciously do. I am glad to see that Russ Pitts has chosen to bring this reality out of the black, rainy night we commonly lock it out in like a misbehaving dog.

In conclusion, welcome to the world. It is morally depraved, though we like to think it otherwise. We have the internet, though. There we can safely showcase our depravity. There is no hope for morals, but there is hope for reconciliation.

I don't think it is at as cut and dry as all that, Competition is the express factor of any industry or community, in other words conflict. Mainly because it stops any one person/company from abusing another.

The market of Music or any other for that matter became/has become not about what the value on that piece was but about what the consumer is willing to pull out their pocket when the hype is up and the frenzy is on. I can only speak for the UK in this but an album here was topping 18/20 for an album.

the fight for the IP can be seen as them stealing 300% profits from people with more debit than their income will cover. Or the public stealing IP from creatives which in turn will put a whole cycle of people out of work and hurt the public again.

Our silent revolution has effects but for the good as well as bad. CDs are now 10/8 and dvds about 12 which i think is bit more reasonable considering the artist and label will milk that 3 months work for 20+ years.

We had to hurt them to make them stop abusing the consumer but we have hurt the independent that ready gave us a fair deal. In britain we've lost our Fopp Stores and Music zones, but is that not down to on line stores like Play.com rather than downloads? who knows.

Point is - it depends how you use it. Myspace is a pioneer for independents and getting our music to the mass far beyond their personal Sphere of influence. NIN, Radiohead and Coldplay to name a few had all used downloads or leaked music to benefit them rather than hurt them.

And again it's about evolution of rules. What if say the music industry said ok we will play it your way, Download free, BUT from our site, they make money of Advertising and user data and the consumers get a free song from a virus free download. Amazon make 10% of their money from selling books - the rest is from data sales on profiling consumers and web traffic, They could give the books away at cost or free - their site traffic would shoot up 500%+ - is the traffic worth more than the 10% turnover in book sales? ONe thing is for sure the fallout would be hell as every book shop would go under as they couldn't compete and then they would have a monopoly.

The biggest problem is that the concept of selling a cd is now broken, and was ever since the companies started pushing us to pay more for less. They got comfortable with it and now are being burned for it. An era dies and like any good revolt some innocent do suffer but when it settles we will be all better off for it. We will get better deal and the companies will find new revenue streams.

It's survival of the fittest and in the words of NOFX 'kick back and watch it crumble'

insanelich:
He just said "some ZP vids".

Also, Escapist owning all rights to content that Yahtzee produces? That sounds like a rather draconian contract.

Well, keep in mind they hand him a fairly large bucket of cash for those rights, so it's not like they aren't compensating him.

to tell the truth, i am dreadful for such crimes, but is it a crime to keep us up to date, we arent making profit from it, no-one else is; hopefully, and there is the dilemma.

Are we furthering someone elses profit off someone elses work? i doubt it, since people do it for the sense of community, and thus, allows us to find friends, share life, what we know, and how we know it. sharing our knowledge, although we may be called crooks, we also may be called the virtuous, what we cant afford, we wont physically take things, we just throw different variety's of lightning at each other, as different quality's and mediums that they could be interpretted.

and there is the difference, material.

we do what we can, because we can do it, not because it feels right or wrong, but we dont take things that would incur the rath of someone, affect anyone else, or damage anything at all. So what would you rather do, take, or recieve from a virtuous, generous giver.

ive downloaded films, that ive already seen, to watch them again. Ive downloaded albums, that i've once owned, and ive downloaded games that my computer couldnt read the disc for any more, so is it so wrong, to restore what was lost.

i dont think so.

and besides, someone has to buy it in the first place.

I'm a moral relativist myself; both in the sense that I don't think there are any absolute rights and wrongs, but also in that I find my own interests relatively more important than others (call it an instinct for survival). Really though, I do good things for people every day while asking nothing in return, and though the world doesn't agree with me, I often think that I should receive the same. In the end, as long as everybody is taken care of (roof overhead, food on plate) and everybody is giving back to society, then where's the problem?

And that's why I tend to take an active stance against copyright. I don't agree that copyright infringement is theft, and not only because of the argument that copying something still leaves the original intact (which is strong argument against a strawman), but because copyrights demand so much while giving so little.

Take music as an example. Music is oft considered a luxury and an entertainment, but I would argue that art and entertainment are necessities and not luxuries. Music relaxes us, energizes us, helps us relieve stress, express our feelings, and even communicate big issues. Is this really a luxury?

Now consider that most music you find is of poor quality and expensive. $30 for an album with 10 songs, two of which (amounting to no more than 6 minutes) is even worth listening to? Sorry, but my "luxurious" paycheque can't afford that. The argument goes that I can do without, but I don't agree that I can -- a life without music would be a terrible life. Music has a lot to add to society, but with such ridiculous pricing, society can't afford any reasonable amount of it.

And so I copy it. I copied LPs, I copied cassette tapes, and now that technology has made copying easier, I find copies all over the great cloud. I copy it because I can and because I want to. Most times I feel no pity for the $30 that didn't get turned over to a recording studio, but every now and then I find something I actually feel thankful for, and will pitch 5 or 10 to the artist directly (incidentally, the artists I care for most often have online distribution channels that allow me to donate or purchase the stuff I like at reasonable costs). I don't pay what HMV or Warner Music might want, but then again, they don't give me the music I'd be willing to pay for. In the end, the artists still live happy lives, and so do I because I was able to listen to music without blowing my limited budget.

None of this is logical or even moral argument. In the world of cold, hard facts, it's impossible to argue that copyright infringement is a good thing. But when you look at the outcome of the world, it's hard to argue that it has caused any damage. Studios are still raking in record profits, there are still artists selling out all over the world, and everybody is happily listening to their favorite music. Sure, millions of people are perpetrating millions of crimes every day in the process, but that doesn't make the world a terrible place, it just means that the law wasn't protecting anybody from anything, and that's a pretty good reason for that law not to exist.

Just because a law exists doesn't mean it's fair. It may not be right to break a law, but if the law itself is immoral (or even just pointless), does it make sense to abide by it?

There is no clear right or wrong, so I do what makes sense to me. To me, it makes sense to pay for something worthwhile, but it also makes sense to share for the good of society, even if it means less for the creators (or more appropriately, their masters). That means I share everything and pay for the stuff I find worthwhile, and I've yet to find a compelling reason to do it any other way.

Russ Pitts:
Grey Noon

Most people are raised to know right from wrong, but a visit to the grey expanse of the internet can change everything. Russ Pitts tells us of his time in that no-man's land, where morals are for people who could afford them and all the music is free.

Read Full Article

I'm not sure there's a real argument behind this article, it just seem like a recount of past events in your life. You don't really address the morality behind digital copyright theft. Of course in a lawless world people's actions are largely based on their own conscience or believe in accountability to a higher being. This is pretty much why we have law enforcers, not everyone agrees on the same rules that we should live our lives by, the majority dictate and if you don't abide you are punished.

You didn't have enough money to purchase a game so you downloaded it, this is theft. However, if you have no money is it not society who has stolen from you?

In a world where some people live in extreme poverty while others in material luxury, are the rich not stealing from the poor? Consider the games companies, they have massive profits, generate income that feeds greedy investors who will likely plunge that money back into some kind of arms or chemical company.

Petty morality of digital theft that would not affect a companies' profits directly pales in comparison to the evils of the free market capitalised economies of the world. You should be more concerned about buying another coca cola product or pair of Nike shoes, these companies turn a blind eye to the suffering they cause. If you want to look into your sins why not consider the true wider implications of your actions than the minor issue of digital ownership rights?

Of course in a lawless world people's actions are largely based on their own conscience or believe in accountability to a higher being. This is pretty much why we have law enforcers, not everyone agrees on the same rules that we should live our lives by, the majority dictate and if you don't abide you are punished.

beddo:

You didn't have enough money to purchase a game so you downloaded it, this is theft. However, if you have no money is it not society who has stolen from you?

Are we saying that stealing is ok if you have no money? if i blow all my money then i'm allowed yours too?

Well, intelligent discussion on piracy without screaming and brimstones... now I've seen everything...

Usually, I'm the one to make a stand against copyright laws, but it seems it has all been said. Awesome.

Someday, a time will come when there will be no copyright, and people can freely distribute stuff among themselves. When no big company will reap the rewards of your work and condemn everyone else to servitude. Where the notions of right and wrong won't really have a meaning because there will be equality.

But that time is far in the future, sadly. Until then, I steal stuff from the internet.

12th_milkshake:

beddo:

You didn't have enough money to purchase a game so you downloaded it, this is theft. However, if you have no money is it not society who has stolen from you?

Are we saying that stealing is ok if you have no money? if i blow all my money then i'm allowed yours too?

I think that really depends on the circumstances.

Though personal morality is hugely important we all need to step back and look at the bigger picture; the small things we do that collectively have a serious negative impact.

You could argue that numerous jobs would not exist without these companies but that is inaccurate and has no moral standing.

It is not morally acceptable to earn money from harm to other people, this is why modern societies have banned many horrific activities, though many remain in practice illegally.

There is no reason companies can't operate ethically, in fact doing so would lessen the risk of corporations offering bribes to corrupt governments which would create more competition and more jobs.

insanelich:
You do realize that the Escapist picked Yahtzee up from Youtube right?

I'm talking about all the ones featured on the site now. All there. I have told Russ but noting appears to have been done

beddo:

Though personal morality is hugely important we all need to step back and look at the bigger picture; the small things we do that collectively have a serious negative impact.

You could argue that numerous jobs would not exist without these companies but that is inaccurate and has no moral standing.

And you can go on about why are you concerned about X when Y is happening till them cows come home. And if you read my original post i wasn't concerned. i think it had to happen. And 'shock horror' this thread was about DLs not Cola that is why we are talking about it?

but ok lets talk about the 'Bigger Picture' people by nature are lazy and will take short cuts when they can. For example every time you use a tesco bag you do harm. Use a bus you cause CO2. Turn on the tap you are doing harm. Every second you use that monitor you are looking at you are cause harm to this planet. We could take a canvas bag to tesco, we could walk instead of use transport, we could not wash, we could not use Computers. We know all this but we still do it. There are no 'moral standings' that anyone can stand on. every one is guilty of something.

So your morale stance seems a little pointless. Nothing will change even if nike didn't exist and cola was ran by friendly pygmy hippos.

smallharmlesskitten:

insanelich:
You do realize that the Escapist picked Yahtzee up from Youtube right?

I'm talking about all the ones featured on the site now. All there. I have told Russ but noting appears to have been done

It's a continuing process. Don't worry about it, we're on top of it ;)

[quote="beddo" post="6.78150.970987]You didn't have enough money to purchase a game so you downloaded it, this is theft. However, if you have no money is it not society who has stolen from you?[/quote]

It'd be easier to accept that kind of socio-comunist philosphy if I actually lived in a socio-coimmunist state, but I don't. I didn't have enough money to buy a game because I'd decided to take a year off from working to write a few plays. After I went back to work HOLY CRAP! I suddenly had money again. Strange how that works.

[quote]Of course in a lawless world people's actions are largely based on their own conscience ...[/quote]

Don't look now, but I think you discovered the point of my article ;)

Downloading Content is NOT stealing. It is the loss of a potential dollar or two, but it is not actually stealing the money from these people. I ain't saying it's right, but it sure ain't stealing.
Thanks Escapist Forums :D

Take music as an example. Music is oft considered a luxury and an entertainment, but I would argue that art and entertainment are necessities and not luxuries. Music relaxes us, energizes us, helps us relieve stress, express our feelings, and even communicate big issues. Is this really a luxury?

Ya' know, i wrote a speech less then two weeks ago on this very topic. Would you like to see it?

Russ Pitts:

Of course in a lawless world people's actions are largely based on their own conscience ...

Don't look now, but I think you discovered the point of my article ;)

Actually, what the article made me think of is spank banks. Yup--imagine just how many images of women the average male has filled his head with which are not from porn, let alone porn someone has bought, and used that as fuel for masturbation.

I wonder if a person would consider it a greater transgression to download their music for free and listen to it, or to take a mental snapshot of them while they are bending over to use as erotic fodder.

In both cases, you're enjoying someone for nothing. Only when it comes to sex, we actually *do* live in a "socio-coimmunist state," in the form of a market without currency or capital, only consent. At least, outside of a few counties in Nevada.

I wonder if in the future, will it be illegal to recall in our head a tune we once heard, if that future includes brain augmentation that allows for perfect auditory recall and replay.

It's interesting that we act as if the technology of recorded music is synonymous with the history OF music, even though people were making music since someone stretched a goatskin over a pair of split coconut husks, and have been listening to music since, well, since the first human heard the first birdsong. As if the morality of recorded music should be forever defined by an historical period where was music capable of being recorded and reproduced, BUT only at an industrial level--how long exactly was that period? Less than a hundred years?

I think we have to think good and hard about whether we want such a transitory period of human history to form the source material on which to draw in constructing our moral consciences, and if we do, why exactly?

Cheeze_Pavilion:
I wonder if in the future, will it be illegal to recall in our head a tune we once heard, if that future includes brain augmentation that allows for perfect auditory recall and replay.

Now there's a scary thought. DRM for your cybernetic implants!

Once upon a time, I was LimeWiring like there was no tommorow-Until I caught a bug.
I try to stay away from "Free" stuff nowadays :I

All I got to say is, if the talent that one "steals" from could put more than one song on a album that isn't otherwise completely trash then there would be more people buying the music and not stealing. I've not bought anything new in the music world since 99 when I was in college, why? There was one good song on the CD's that were demanding $15+ for a single disk album. To hades with that, time to start buying the single songs online at places like ITunes, big business, stop your whining and your chains and shackles control over a music group's music rights and let them start producing music they WANT to, not what YOU want them to.

Otherwise, you as the music industry will die.

Pantherman

Hmmm, every DVD i fire up has this big fingerpointing exercise in it. About stealing is a CRIME.
How it makes you a CRIMINAL.
etc.

Funny how conveniently that all the music sellers forget about the numerous price fixing CRIMES they have been CONVICTED of. Doesn't that make them CRIMINAL organisations?
http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2002-09-30-cd-settlement_x.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2289224.stm
No, it doesn't mean i would be out there doing GTA stuff just cos others do, but I do believe the above campaign is the pot calling the kettle black.

NB: I download what I consider "samples" or "demos". The good stuff I buy. Mostly so that I can encourage more good stuff! And it's also the most effective arguement against all my buddies in HK!

 

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