Copyright infringement is like walking into a concert without a ticket


In light of Ted's post on copyright, it is clear that we are bogged down by a hostile terminology.

Copyright infringement is not piracy - gunmen on seas killing people, looting ships and holding hostages is piracy.

Copyright infringement is not theft. When my bike was stolen, I no longer had it. Stealing a bicycle is theft.

Copyright infringement is more like sneaking into a concert. You enjoy the show, but did not pay for it. If the concert is held in a small venue then it is easy to spot someone who gets in without paying, but if you hold a concert in an open field, then expecting everyone in the surrounding area to be forced to pay you is rather absurd. If you have a concert in a field with a fence around it and someone makes a hole in that fence (posts a a recording to a P2P site), then the one making the hole might be punishable (property damage), but can any person that enters that hole really be prosecuted for theft, property damage and enabling further theft by not closing the hole (uploading that is inherent in the P2P protocols) ? I do not think so.

A similar analogy is using public transport without a ticket. If there is a bus that goes from A to B and I get on it without buying a ticket from the driver, then in the current copyright enforcement world I would get arrested by the police, prosecuted and get a fine that is tens of thousand times more than the price of the ticket. This has multiple problems - 1. the police has no way of knowing if I have some kind of legal right to use the bus without a ticket (monthly ticket, free ride for seniors, ...) before arresting me and bringing me to court, the police has no business wasting their time and taxpayer money until it is 100% certain that a crime has actually occured; 2. if a hacker disables the ticket composters in the bus and removes all signs about prices how am I to know that the bus is not free (like the park and ride buses in many locations); 3. the fines are excessive - I've not seen a public transport fine that is much more then 10 times the price of the ticket, and it only applies to one ride - you can not be retroactivelly fined for all free rides you took in the last year; 4. it actually is not possible to be 100% certain who is the person doing the act - you can only trace the IP which can be used by any number of computers and additionally the computers might be infected with a botnet acting as an unwilling proxy zombie. There is no way (except a confession) to prove that a particular person does a particular download.

Now we just need a short and simple word or phrase that describes that. Any ideas?

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bekir serifoglu 12 years, 3 months ago

wonderful post!!

I would use the term 'sharing'. and I do it all the time. :)

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aigarius 12 years, 3 months ago

That would not work at all in a lobbying context, Bekir. We need a word that makes downloading a Madonna album sound to be a crime of the same level as riding on a city bus without a ticket or walking trough a hole in the fence behind which a concert is going on. We need something that politicians would be comfortable using. 'Sharing' is too much of a dismissal of any wrongdoing.

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Stuart Ballard 12 years, 3 months ago

Isn't there a term "theft of services" that already applies to those kind of offenses?

It doesn't quite have the implication you want, of being a far lesser offense than "theft" would be, but if you want something analagous to the other petty crimes you're talking about, I'd think that going with the name those other petty crimes already have would be a good start.

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Kapil Hari Paranjape 12 years, 3 months ago

One term that is often used in this context is "free-loader".

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Dr. Kopp E. Wright 12 years, 3 months ago

How about:

"No tickee....we cut off your ears"

That would encourage a copyright infringer
to get a ticket next time he wants to go tune ripping...

--Dr. Kopp E. Wright

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cmot 12 years, 3 months ago

Good post, but the "hole in the fence" analogy doesn't hold very well. Hole or no hole, it's a fence. It's obvious that it was put up to prevent people entering, people entering through the hole know that.

Downloading (P2P or not) is more like a concert venue where the organisation neglected to mark the exit as such and has no staff at the exit: it's a door, and it's not obvious that you were supposed to have a ticket. So you wander in without a ticket through what you thought was the entry. Add to that the fact that the concert venue is a pub or a bar that often has live music where you indeed do not have to pay...

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k3ninho 12 years, 3 months ago

I suggest 'trespass to royalties'. There's a concept in UK law called 'trespass to goods', where throwing someone's book out of a window or taking someone's car wheels denies them access to those items. When infringement of the copyrights of an artist is done by copying the material from the internet, they no longer have the means to gain royalties from the copier and so you could claim a 'trespass to royalties'.

I think that's a bit more honest, at least for music and movie copyright infringement. It would further allow you to develop the terminology and to talk about 'trespass to freedoms' where GPL violation/copyright cases concur.


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Dave Neary 12 years, 3 months ago

In France, riding the bus without a ticket is called "fraud" - that doesn't seem too appropriate here, though. I like "free-loader" or "leech".

The fact of the matter is that people who take shared resources without paying for them are, in some sense, stealing from everyone who *does* pay for them. Local government pays for the public transport system, maintenance, wages of the bus driver, and if there's a shortfall in revenues, it gets made up with higher fares or higher local government taxes. Arguing that the bus is going there anyway, whether you're on it or not, doesn't change the fact that shared services cost, and that cost is spread among the service's users.

When a critical mass of freeloaders is reached, there are two possible outcomes - the public service degrades (only muzak "hits" get made) or the cost goes up (CDs cost *way* more than production costs) or both.

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Simon 12 years, 3 months ago

Analogy is always weak in these things.

Copyright infringement may be unwitting.

Copyright infringement does not prevent others entering the concert, or riding a bus, because the venue/bus is full, or impose other costs on the rights holder (like more cleaning of venue, or more fuel consumed).

So it is fair to say that copyright infringement probably isn't as serious as the other actions you discuss.

Note in this jurisdiction copyright infringement is a civil matter.

That said the law isn't made to be rational, but to protect the law makers and those who influence them.

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Seegras 12 years, 3 months ago

There's a word in german which fits exactly: "Schwarzkopierer" (noun) and what he does is "schwarzzkopieren" (verb).

This is analogous to the term "Schwarzfahrer" (not paying the fare) or "Schwarzfernseher" (not paying the fee for TV-repection).

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Jerome Lacoste 12 years, 3 months ago

A free bus ride has a cost to the bus company (the transported mass increases, the time to open/close the doors, and if the bus is full you might take the room of someone that want to pay.

Making analogy with the real world is difficult as we are in the realm of digital copy. Making analogy with non physical elements, like services might be better. The concert is better, but you could say you don't have a fence, but an official door where you're supposed to pass through to pay.

Another potential analogy: a sport game. You're not able to enter the stadium, but by going on a hill close to it, you can still watch the game (albeit in lower quality). Someone brings in a camera with a big zoom, maybe adds sound from a radio at the same time and you all start watching the game on this copied screen. The guy providing the camera might do something illegal (providing a stream to more than his family), but are you doing something illegal ?

Pirate kill, take hostages, steal and ransom. Look at Somalia these days. It's a shame that the industry has chosen to use that loaded word. It's even more a shame that the media agree to propagate it.

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