Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is downloading a song "stealing"?

The answer, of course, is "no". The copyright owner still owns every piece of property he ever had. Every bit of data he ever had on his hard drive is still there. Every bit of money he had in his wallet is still there. Stealing is, fundamentally, the removal of property from someone's possession. In the case of the songwriter, he still owns the copyright to his song. He still has all his property, thus nothing was stolen.

Contrast this with, say, taking a child's bicycle. The child no longer has a bicycle. Contrast this with, say, taking someone's wallet. You've then removed property from that person's possession. But the copyright owner victimized by violation of the copyright law still has the copyright to his song. That is the difference between stealing (depriving someone of property) and copyright violation (violating the copyright law). Stealing actually takes something. Copyright law violation doesn't. Copyright lawviolation may hurt the person's ability to make income from his property, but that's not stealing. Otherwise city zoning codes, environmental regulations, etc. would be illegal because they hurt people's ability to make income from their property too. Hurting someone's ability to make income from their property is infringement, not theft.

Use of the term "stealing" to describe copyright infringement is thus just a dishonest attempt to tar one violation of the law as being worse than it already was. Copyright infringement is illegal, and it is illegal for a reason. But it isn't stealing, and anybody who says it is, is just being a dishonest prick spreading propaganda rather than fact. Words have meaning. Use of inappropriate words is just an attempt to deceive.

-- Badtux the Legal Penguin


  1. it's a sad commentary that the record labels who in their heyday boasted the power to literally break artists to their will have now been reduced to lawsuits against individual housewives and college kids in the dorms.

    i take no small comfort in being in an area of the business that is, at least for now, completely safe from innovations like the internet. about the only impact the net could have on the jingle game is to provide us with another arena to heckle you into buying things that if they were really that good you would buy them anyway without the heckling.

    the labels, even the studio/press/retail giants like virgin, are all pretty much dead. they might be able to do a little damage flailing around on their deathbeds but for all practical purposes the genie is out of the bottle and ain't likely to return. the most noticiable and immediate result has been more and more bands reuniting and heading out on the road. for bog simple reasons, the royalty train has been derailed, and there ain't no FEMA action about to happen.

    when i talk to kids who are thinking about careers in music i tell them that if i were closer to 25 than 65 i would get myself a webpage up, post my own home made music for free download, and while the downloads are happening i would make sure to have my performance dates posted. at those dates i'd be selling my home made CD's off the bandstand for not a whole bunch of money but enough to way more than cover the 75 cents i spent on blanks and packaging.

    but most important of all, when the folks showed up, i'd make sure to play my ass off.

  2. What bothered me about this ruling is that the RIAA only proved that a particular IP number and modem downloaded copyrighted material, not a person. As we both know, IP numbers and modems can and are hijacked all the time. RIAA didn't prove that she did it, but then the defendant didn't prove that her machine had been hacked with spyware/malware. RIAA also didn't prove that the songs were on *her* hard drive at the time of the violation, yet she was held liable.

    RIAA is out to line their pockets while they can. They didn't keep up with technology, nor listen to customer wishes. For years, since the fall of vinyl, one couldn't get singles, you had to get the entire cd/dvd and that's not what the customer wanted.


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