Pic of the day: Pirate or angel? You decide.
I download intellectual property. Admittedly I have paid for some of it: E-books, for instance, and software. Some others are free: Game demos, some songs that are released to the public by their creators, books where the copyright has expired. But there are still a couple gray zones. Anime that is based off TV series rather than DVD, for instance ... in most cases they are not even available in English. And even if they were, they are TV series, how am I supposed to buy a TV series when I don't live in a country where it is sent? In some cases there are made DVDs later. I have Smallville seasons 1-4 on DVD, the first bought in a local store and the others (cheaper) from amazon.co.uk. In fact, now that season 5 is over, I have ordered it too. This brings us to the next point.
Let's say I order a movie on DVD or a song on CD and gets it shipped from overseas. But physical objects take their sweet time in the mail (especially from Japan, but also from the USA, somewhat less from the UK to Norway). What if I download them from the Pirate Bay or some such in the meantime? I have already bought the intellectual property. The download is just a different form. In fact, I may need to do that anyway, if I buy music online and it has DRM which makes it impossible to play on my (Sony) MP3 player. Most of them do. In that case I can download the song or try to find a program that will crack the DRM. I don't know which one the seller would prefer, but given that they break Norwegian law by restricting my access to my rightful property, I am probably not doing anything too bad... And even in the case that it was unlawful, it would still be morally right.
There is one more side to this, though. If I download over BitTorrent (my tool of choice) I automatically upload at the same time, at a somewhat random ratio that depends on how many "seeders" and how many "leechers" are online at any time, and what kind of connection they have. It is not something you have full control over. Still, it is a rare day that you don't upload something as well as download. Certainly this must be illegal and evil, since I'm giving away other people's property?
Record companies at least have some pretty wild ideas about this. I understand that in the United States at least, they sue people to the tune of thousands of dollars for file sharing. But wait a minute, how do they come up with these numbers? I have never seen a good explanation of it, but I have a suspicion. Let us give this a look.
First off, the other people could also have bought the songs / movies already and just download them to the computer where they are for convenience. In that case, you have actually not given them something they have not already bought. Is it really my job to ascertain that people are not stealing when I use file sharing? If the neighbor comes over to borrow some sugar, should I also assume that he will put it in someone's gas tank to destroy their carburetor? In other words, should we assume criminal intent in our neighbor if the opposite is not stated? If we don't assume that others are criminals, does this make us accomplices in their crimes, if any?
Second, let us assume that there are 100 file sharers and neither I nor the 99 others have bought the DVD. The Hollywood lawyers will no go "OMG you've stolen 1 and given away 99 copies of the movies and must pay for all 100." Now if they bust the whole gang of us, they will suddenly want payment for 10 000 DVDs while the actual loss of sales could under no circumstance exceed 100 DVDs, one for each of us. (In practice, an unknown number of them would never have bought it in the first place if they could not download it, of course, so the real number would be substantially lower.) In any case, it follows from simple logic that the maximum damage is limited to 1 copy per person, since it is limited to 100 copies for 100 persons. This shouldn't be too difficult to understand: Even if you are paid to not understand, as seems to be the case with some lawyers, you should simply not be able to avoid it. Whether or not they actually find all of the file sharers is of course not relevant; it is not as if we are organized in some kind of company and underwritten for each other. In each case, each person is at most responsible for 1 copy, since this is the maximal damage. And in any case, the others may be revealed (or reveal themselves) later.
So in short: If the copyright holders come knocking on my door (or sending police to do the same) saying "OMG u dl'd Smallville Season 5 off the Pirate Bay", I'm like "so what? It's mine. I live all alone here, so there's not like more than 1 person at a time could see it no matter how many machines I download it to." And if they go "OMG u upl'd while dl'ing" then I'm like "so what? If they don't own it too, which they should, let them pay for it. Or if I do, you need to first find the people and make sure to tell them that it's a gift from me so they'll never have to pay. Can you do that for me?" - which I sincerely doubt they will.
In a way, it would been kinda cool to defend myself in court. It shouldn't be too hard against mental pygmies like the RIAA or the Motion Pictures Something Something. This isn't the USA, where the best paid lawyer automatically wins. The judges may be old and have little idea about file sharing, but I can explain it pretty clearly. Don't you think so?
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.