"Piracy" Should be Legal
Debate Rounds (3)
I may also refer to "piracy" as sharing, because that is what it is.
Round 1: Main Arguments
Round 2: Rebuttals
Round 3: Responses/Closing Statements
From it's inception, copyright law was intended to be a limited and temporary monopoly over certain works to encourage the creation of more culture and creative works-- that by preventing other publishers from profiting off of a book's re-print without giving a penny to the author, more culture would arise. At this time, in the 1700s, copyright law didn't affect your ordinary citizen. People could copy a book work by word from hand as many times as they wished and not been in legal trouble, and a book could have been adapted into a play without asking the author permission, for example. Copyright law only affected those with the ability to effectively copy-- publishers.
Today, copyright law affects not only publishers, but every single person with a computer. Restrictive copyright law is also is based on a number of shaky claims. The claim that creative works are an abstract existence akin to property. The claim that every shared copy is a "lost sale." The claim that sharing is stealing. The claim that without the restriction of sharing artists won't create more content. I hope you'll find that, by the end of this debate, the restriction of sharing comes down to protectionism, fear, an imbalance of interests, and hypotheticals for which anti-"piracy" laws are a non-sequitur.
For my main argument, I would like to tackle these claims one by one.
-- "Creative works are an abstract existence akin to property."
Even in the 1700s it was seen as beneficial to have a healthy public domain-- making new copies and editions of old books was much a profitable practice, as it is today with Huckleberry Finn and Hamlet, history could be well-preserved, and new culture could arise from the old.
Surely the state shouldn't have the right to take someone's property for the betterment of society without paying them a penny, should it?
The U.S. constitution ensures that this won't happen to any individual's property-- yet the same document also ensures that copyright is to be granted for a limited amount of time.
The constitution's framers didn't see copyright as "property," and the document disagrees with the idea of "intellectual property."
Creative works are not property.
--"Every shared copy is a lost sale."
You'll often hear this argument against sharing media-- "For every song you share with a friend, the artist loses a sale."
This is incorrect even on the surface; the assumption that everyone that gets a copy from a friend (or even someone they don't know) would certainly or most likely purchase it otherwise is shaky, to say the least. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that they would.
According to the RIAA, an estimated 20 billion songs were illegally downloaded in 2005.
That is a lot of music, and by their own logic, that is a lot of lost sales. For comparison, only 915.2 million songs were purchased in 2005.
Despite these numbers, the change in revenue for the industry was only -3%.
"Pirated" copies outdid purchased copies by 21 times, yet there was only a -3% change. Not only that, but if you were to factor in variables other than "piracy--" such as how less music was released 2005 than previous years, CD costs were higher than previous years, etc-- you see that sharing may not have been the culprit for this drop in revenue, or at least not have had such a primary role as we are led to believe.
--"Sharing is stealing."
When you make a copy of a book, the author doesn't have one less book, nor does anyone else. You have one more book when you copy, a copy that would serve your friend well. When you take a book from the author, they have one less book. This is obvious, and isn't (usually) what is argued as "stealing."
In this case, the stealing is considered the stealing of profit; that when you share a book, it is robbing the artist of a pay-check. This is essentially a rehash of the "lost sale" argument, so see the previous excerpt for more information.
--"If sharing isn't illegal, artists won't create culture."
This is often phrased as "if the author can't make money, they won't make books," or a similar variant.
Despite the fact that humans have shown time and time again the need to express themselves transcends the dependence on a paycheck for said expression (see: Wikipedia, DeviantArt, YouTube, countless indie bands, free/libre software projects), this argument also assumes that making a profit is impossible if you allow people to share your work.
Several people have shown that it is possible to allow non-commercial redistribution and still make a profit-- Randall Munroe and Cory Doctorow are two off the top of my head. Perhaps it would be more difficult to make a living with the current popular business model, but does that mean you should change the law, or does that mean you should change your business model to take advantage of new technologies allowing sharing to be easier than it has ever been in history?
Current copyright law also allows the copyright holder an unjust control over the viewer, reader, or listener of their work.
Almost all anti-"piracy" arguments are completely irrelevant when it comes to media that is made free of charge.
"Lost sales" doesn't made a single byte of sense when the artist isn't even selling the work. "Without profit, no culture" doesn't compute when the artist doesn't even try to profit from their work. "Stealing" doesn't make sense, because again, they aren't selling it.
For these works, the only argument is that these works are the artist's property, and people shouldn't be able to copy and share someone else's property.
The question remains, however: Why shouldn't they be able to copy and share the "property?" It literately cannot hurt the artist in this case, so what justification is there? Sharing should be illegal for these non-commercial arts because the author doesn't like sharing? In these cases, the difference between prison time, outrageous fines, and ruined lives is merely the author's opinion, mood, or even personal like or dislike of the "pirates" in question.
This is such an unethical power that these artists can hold and wield-- and with no justification at all, other than the weak claim of "property."
Don't think of this as purely an issue for artists. Think of the people that want to share and improve culture, and how copyright law affects them.
We need to consider both sides if we are to achieve the equal balance that the United State's framers wanted for copyright, and today we are leaning much too far toward the copyright holders.
I shall begin by answering Pro's contentions and then I will present some contentions of my own.
I agree that the situation of copyright is very different now than in the 1700's. Back then, copying a creative work took a considerable amount of effort, even for publishers. But now, it is very easy to copy something electronically - it just takes a few clicks of a mouse. Copyright has changed from something that encourages the development of creative works into a practical necessity for many people's economic livelihood, since copying is so much easier now.
On their first contention "Creative works are an abstract existence akin to property":
They say that the government takes away people's intellectual property in violation of the Constitution because copyright exists for a limited time and the work goes into the public domain. That is not true. Copyright in the United States lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years (1), so if copyright protects the right of authors to the intellectual property they create, authors retain ownership of the property they create for their entire lifetimes, without the government taking it away.
They say that the Constitution disagrees with the idea of intellectual property, but it does not. There is nothing in the Constitution that contradicts the belief that someone can own the right to profit off an idea.
On their second contention "Every shared copy is a lost sale":
They admit that piracy could have had a role in the 3% decrease in lost revenue. yet they are incorrect when they imply that a 3% decrease in revenue is insignificant. It actually is significant. Industries usually increase their revenue rather than decreasing it, and 2005 was a good year for the economy. Total US GDP grew by 3.3% in 2005, according to data from the World Bank. Since the music industry should have grown by 3.3%, this is actually a 6.3% decrease in revenue that could have been caused by piracy. The music industry operates under a low profit margin, where only 11% of their revenue actually becomes profit(2), so 6% of their revenue could be an amount equal to up to half of their profit.
Since Pro cites the RIAA as a source of information about statistics regarding music piracy, I shall do the same. According to the RIAA, global music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, a loss of $2.7 billion in workers' earnings, and a loss of $422 million in tax revenues, $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes (3). These statistics can also be applied as an answer to their third contention, "Sharing is Stealing".
On their fourth contention "If sharing isn't illegal, artists won't create culture":
It is true that artists would still create culture if copyright was abolished, but they would create less culture. Pro cites examples of free intellectual property that exist, but that does not cover all creative works. Most authors of books do not start out wealthy, and cannot put in the time that is necessary to write books of the quality necessary to be bestsellers if they do not expect a financial reward. In a world without copyright, piracy would become so common that a lot fewer people could expect to earn a living as writers, resulting in a significant reduction in the amount and quality of new literary fiction being published. Some people who are willing to spend eight dollars for a book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble would be stuck reading free work of inferior quality that is made as a hobby rather than a profession. Writing a high-quality novel is a full-time job, and most authors can't be expected to do it for free.
On their fifth contention, "Current copyright law also allows the copyright holder an unjust control over the viewer, reader, or listener of their work":
Their claim that copying the artist's non-commercial property cannot harm the artist is impossible to prove, because what is harmful to the artist depends on the artist's situation, intentions, and feelings. For instance, a Jewish writer may feel harmed if his work is copied and used by Neo-Nazis. In most cases when an artist is creating art for non-commercial purposes they would not object to it being shared or copied, so this is a very minor issue. I have created works of fiction for free and I usually am fine with them being copied, except for one time when I showed a story I wrote to a friend before I was going to submit it to a creative writing contest. Had my friend shared it, the people he shared it with could have plagiarized it and submitted it in the creative writing contest before I did, which would have caused me harm.
In their conclusion, the claim that "We need to consider both sides if we are to achieve the equal balance that the United State's framers wanted for copyright, and today we are leaning much too far toward the copyright holders" actually weakens their case, because they are arguing that piracy ought to be completely legal, which would be an extreme step in the other direction, and would not consider both sides. They contradict themselves here.
In order to evaluate this issue, we should consider the potential effects of a world where there are no intellectual property laws. In such a world, there would be much more piracy. It would be easier to do and people would be more willing to do it since they do not face the risk of legal consequences, and they are more likely to feel morally justified. According to the RIAA's analysis, piracy already costs 71,060 US jobs, and even more jobs would be lost if it became more common. When we pick up a book or listen to a song, we are just engaging in a leisurely activity. To the people in the entertainment industry, being able to make money from their work is not leisure, it is their livelihood.
Whether or not capitalism is good, it is an undeniable fact that we live in a capitalist system, and in capitalism, goods and services are only produced if there is a financial reward for doing so. Without the financial incentive associated with copyright, the amount of culture produced would significantly decline. This would be particularly bad for books, video games, and other computer software. At least movies and music can be played in theaters or concert halls which cannot be pirated, but even those industries would be harmed.
To conclude, based on the reasons I have given above, complete legalization of piracy would be bad for the world.
On Con's response to "Creative works are an abstract existence akin to property":
The U.S. government cannot take away an individual's property while they are alive, nor can they take the property fom the individual's descendents or inheritors. Copyright is often passed down from the author to their relatives, or to an organization after the author's death. If we are to consider creative works property, then there is no justification for the revoking of copyrights after the author's death, especially when another individual has the copyright. However, the U.S. consitution states the copyright shall only last a limited time.
Let's say Donald writes a fantastic book called "Foo." He lives a fine life, dies, and as per his will, his son, Gregory, becomes the copyright holder of "Foo." Seventy years later, when Gregory is an old man himself, the state suddenly revokes him of the copyright of "Foo--" as per the constitution-- and places it under the public domain. If we are to consider creative works "property," then the state has just stolen Gregory's property. However, the constitution says that the state cannot do so to property. Herein lies the contradiction. Either the state can take property without compensation, or "intellectual property" isn't really property at all.
On Con's response to "Every shared copy is a lost sale":
I did not say that a 3% was not a large decrease in revenue. It is certainly a large decrease-- I said, verbatim,
"Despite these numbers, the change in revenue for the industry was only -3%. 'Pirated' copies outdid purchased copies by 21 times, yet there was only a -3% change."
I was not implying that -3% was small, I was implying that the decrease should have been much, much larger if every copy was indeed a lost sale. Since the decrease wasn't as significant, the obvious conclusion is that a large amount of "pirated" copies are not the primary method the "pirate" used to receive a copy of the song. It's possible that they purchased a CD after liking the songs, it is possible that they downloaded copies after they lost a CD, it is possible that they wanted a digital copy along with their CD.
Another issue with the "every copy is a lost sale" argument is the assumption that every unauthorized copy of a cultural work is so that the copier can avoid purchasing an actual copy of the cultural work. There is no evidence that every copy wasn't followed by or preceded by a purchase of the media by the "pirater," yet the RIAA considers every "pirated" copy a lost sale. RIAA's data for "economic losses" are founded on pure imagination, because of the critical assumptions made. Because of this, the RIAA's data for "losses to piracy" and "jobs lost to piracy" are based on an inaccurate structure without nuance.
On Con's response to "If sharing isn't illegal, artists won't create culture":
I agree-- financial reward certainly does help the quality of culture, and it certainly does help make sure that it continues to be made.
Now, to address Con's less agreeable statement:
"In a world without copyright, piracy would become so common that a lot fewer people could expect to earn a living as writers, resulting in a significant reduction in the amount and quality of new literary fiction being published. "
A world without copyright? That is not what I am arguing for at all. Copyright is obviously beneficial to authors and the public-- I am only arguing that non-commercial redistribution of copyrighted works be legal. That is greatly different than no copyright at all.
Let's cast aside that misunderstanding, and continue on. Now, if "piracy would become so common" that authors wouldn't be able to make a living, then surely authors that explicitly allow sharing would fall into economic ruin, and would fail to make a living from their books.
However, contrary to this statement, Cory Doctorow is a fine example of the contrary being true. Mr. Doctorow made a living off of the books he has written-- notably, "Little Brother" and "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom." Both of these books are released under CC-BY-NC-SA licenses, meaning that non-commercial redistribution of these books is legal, which means than anyone may legally "pirate" these books. In fact, Mr. Doctorow thinks that people being able to share his books has positively effected purchases.
On Con's response to "Current copyright law also allows the copyright holder an unjust control over the viewer, reader, or listener of their work":
I would like to focus on two quotes from Con's response. The first being:
"For instance, a Jewish writer may feel harmed if his work is copied and used by Neo-Nazis."
OK, in this hypothetical world where "piracy" is legal (as described in the start of the debate as "non-commercial and unauthorized redistribution of creative works"), let's say a Neo-Nazi copies something written by a Jewish writer. Now, what can the Neo-Nazi do, other than criticize the work? I am not arguing for anything except for sharing being legal-- the only thing the Neo-Nazi could do is share the work with other Neo-Nazis. That's it. This was a very bad and nonsensical example of the "potential harm" of sharing.
I would now like to focus on the second quote of interest:
"I usually am fine with them being copied, except for one time when I showed a story I wrote to a friend before I was going to submit it to a creative writing contest. Had my friend shared it, the people he shared it with could have plagiarized it and submitted it in the creative writing contest before I did, which would have caused me harm."
I whole-heartedly agree with Con for this scenario. If their friend claimed to be the author of the story, that would have caused them harm. I do not advocate for plagarism at all. I only advocate for non-commercial redistribution. An appropriate license for your story would have been the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND-SA, which would have made it illegal for your friend to claim to have been the original author.
Now, on to Con's conclusion:
"To the people in the entertainment industry, being able to make money from their work is not leisure, it is their livelihood."
It is very possible to make money while "piracy" is allowed. Again, Cory Doctorow and Randall Monroe are fine examples.
"According to the RIAA's analysis, piracy already costs 71,060 US jobs, and even more jobs would be lost if it became more common. "
The RIAA's estimates are fundamentally flawed, due to the inherent bias and baseless assumptions on the RIAA's behalf. I address this earlier my Round 2.
"In order to evaluate this issue, we should consider the potential effects of a world where there are no intellectual property laws."
Con does not seem to understand what the core of this debate is. Several times now I have stressed that this is about weaking copyright law to make non-commercial redistribution of cultural works legal. This debate is not about ridding of copyright law. Despite me stressing this, it seems Con is still under this misunderstanding.
My arguments about job loss created by piracy were not just provided by the RIAA. It comes from a professional scientific study conducted by the Institute for Policy Innovation that was cited by the RIAA (1). This study acknowledges that only a fraction of pirated downloads are actually lost sales, but it still concludes that piracy costs tens of thousands of jobs. The study only assumes that 20% of pirated songs would have been purchased legitimately if piracy did not exist, so Pro's claim that the data is founded on pure imagination is inaccurate. Pro concedes that piracy is a contributing factor to the decrease in revenue.
Since Pro and I are both agreed that financial reward increases the quality of culture produced, and Pro has conceded that piracy reduced revenues in the music industry, even if the publishing industry doesn't totally collapse, there will be some instances of authors who will be less financially motivated and create less high-quality work. Even if copyright still exists but piracy is legal (which I now acknowledge is what Pro is arguing for), there will still be more piracy because some people are dissuaded from it by piracy laws.
As for Cory Doctorow, his increased sales due to free sharing of his books happen because he has differentiated his product by making it legal to share. By doing this, he appeals to people who believe in freedom of information, and to people who want to share the work freely with others. If everyone had to release their work under the same license, there would be no competitive advantage gained by sharing your book. If all authors would make more money by allowing their books to be shared, they would be doing so already because we live in a market economy that rewards and encourages economically efficient decisions. Cory Doctorow is a special case that would not apply to all writers if they had to allow sharing. In the status quo writers have the option to allow their works to be shared and if it is truly is advantageous economically we will be seeing more and more exercise that option voluntarily.
Also, Pro is saying that authors who explicitly allow sharing would fall into economic ruin if my statement was true. I am not just talking about established authors. I am also talking about lawyers, professors, accountants, and other people who consider quitting their stable jobs to become full-time writers. In order for the transition to a career in writing to be worth the risk for them, they must have a high expectation of reward in order to justify it. If piracy is legal, there will be fewer sales of novels, particularly e-book sales which are a growing part of the book industry. This means that new authors will make less money, and as aspiring writers become aware of this, they will be less motivated to write new novels, and the potential author of the next Harry Potter or Game of Thrones will keep his ideas to himself and work in an office instead. Even if my arguments about how legal piracy would hurt book sales do not turn out to be true, authors will believe it to be true and will be less motivated to work hard on their potential novels.
On the last contention, Pro conceded that most copyright holders would not wish to abusively exercise their rights to prevent piracy that does not cause them any harm. Because such an abuse of copyright is highly improbable, it is not significant or enough to outweigh the loss of jobs and money that would be caused by additional piracy. They also concede that "harm" is subjective and dependent on the situation of the copyright holder, so there could very well be situations in which the copyright holder is justified in exercising copyright to prevent non-financial harm to him/herself.
On the conclusion, I acknowledge that I should have been talking about a world where non-commercial reproduction and distribution is legal, not a world with no intellectual property laws. But my contentions were based on the negative impacts of increased non-commercial reproduction, and my arguments still stand under the criteria initially proposed by Pro. Because there will be more piracy in a world where Pro's advocacy is accepted, the exclusion of intellectual property laws other than non-commercial sharing does not substantially weaken my argument.
As for claiming that the RIAA's methodology is fundamentally flawed, I have shown that it does not rely on the faulty premise that every pirated case is a lost sale. Saying that the data is wrong just because it comes from the RIAA is an example of the Genetic Fallacy - claiming that a conclusion is wrong only because of some attribute of the source cited. The RIAA claiming something is true does not make it false.
Indeed, whether or not creative works are property is irrelevant by itself-- however, the claim that these works are property is central to several arguments that "piracy" is "stealing," which led me to consider it in the debate.
I am ashamed that I didn't look further into the RIAA's cited study, but I am hesitant to call the IPI's study (cited by the RIAA) scientific-- the number, 20%, is arbitrarily chosen. Considering numbers pulled from thin air can hardly be considered scientific.
Cory Doctorow is indeed a special case-- you may hear, for example, "have you read this great free book..."
Randall Munroe very well could also be a special case-- but you'll probably hear something akin to "have you read this great comic strip..."
The fanbase generated around Mr. Doctorow's books are greatly interesting in his advocacy for free culture, while the fanbase generated around Mr. Munroe's comic-strip "XKCD" doesn't seem as infatuated with this.
A subjective "harm" from sharing is the difference between one person sharing a creative work with a friend and getting massive fines for doing so, even with non-commercial works. This is exactly the power I was speaking of. There doesn't need to be any actual harm to the copyright holder for the copyright holder to be able to charge the "pirate," and this is percisely the problem. The Nazi analogy Con brings up doesn't make sense, and their personal experience via writing contest wasn't applicable. I'd be interested in hearing a relevant analogy or example of harm from the non-transformative sharing of gratis creative work. (Non-transformative meaning that they do not alter the artist's name in the creative work, nor do they take credit for the work.)
Con argues that non-commercial redistribution being legal would lead to less creation of culture-- however, as copyright law stands, the banning of derivative creative works also leads to the creation of less culture (and harm to those that attempt to create it.) This, however, is for another debate, as this one is focused on sharing.
It is indeed possible to make a profit without the current restrictions on sharing, and as such we need to consider two potential futures:
One in which sharing is illegal, a world in which 70% of citizens are criminals, and in which merely sharing a copy of a book with a friend can lead to massive and impossible fines, in which media companies and new artists focus on a dated business model for a new technological age of information.
Another in which sharing is legal, a world in which people aren't charged for merely sharing a book, and as a consequence, media companies as well as new artists have to focus on a new business model for an equally new technological age of information.
The Institute for Policy Innovation does use scientific and statistical methods to calculate their figures, and Pro has not provided any scientific studies that show piracy has no negative effect on the economy. All that Pro has done is attempt to cast doubt on the credibility and methodology of the source, and has provided no evidence that piracy has no effect on job loss. Therefore, we can conclude that the study is likely to be true, and that an increase in piracy would result in more job loss.
In Round 3, Pro agrees with my statement that Cory Doctorow is a special case, and that his increased profits from allowing his books to be freely shared are in fact a result of how being one of the few free-sharing authors enables him to differentiate his product. Extend my argumentation about how Doctorow's success is not applicable to authors in general. The example of Doctorow does not disprove any of my claims about how most authors would make less money if piracy was legal. Their analogy about XKCD is not relevant or comparable to the topic of how Doctorow is a special case.
Pro conceded all of my reasons why there would be less creation of culture for commercial reasons and fewer new artists in a world where piracy is legal, and countered with a claim that there would be less creation of derivative works, AKA "fanfiction". So on the issue of culture, this debate will come down to weighing my claims of lost commercially produced culture and Pro's claims of less fanfiction.
Pro claims that derivative works are banned, but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of intellectual property holders allow fanfiction to be published based on their works. Also fanfiction usually tends to be of far lower quality than professionally produced work, as anyone who has read fanfiction would agree. Because we live in a world saturated with far more media than we will ever consume, we should value quality over quantity. However, Pro's claims about derivative works are not relevant to this debate, as Pro admitted herself. Yet my claims that sharing would reduce the financial motivation of authors still stand uncontested. A world where piracy is legal is a world with less culture.
On the issue of non-commercial works:
Just because a work was created without the purpose of commercial gain does not mean it was created without a purpose. Something that thwarts that purpose may very well be real harm to the author. An example would be loss of reputation. If a creative work is shared on a controversial website or one that has dubious reputability, it could hurt the author's reputation, since many people do hold others guilty by association. Friedrich Nietzsche has had his reputation greatly harmed just because his ideas were associated with the Nazis, and many others have also suffered from guilt by association. If someone is trying to improve his reputation by creating works of high quality, having those works appropriated and republished by extremists and conspiracy theorists may very well counteract any improvements to the author's reputation gained by writing them.
Pro claims that we live in a world "in which sharing is illegal, a world in which 70% of citizens are criminals, and in which merely sharing a copy of a book with a friend can lead to massive and impossible fines." However the vast majority of people who commit piracy do not get punished for it. Most people punished for piracy are those who engage in very large amounts of piracy, such as the founders of the Pirate Bay. Many of Pro's arguments ignore the fact that piracy laws are not enforced against most people who commit piracy.
Let us compare the real world as it right now against Pro's world where "sharing is legal, a world in which people aren't charged for merely sharing a book, and as a consequence, media companies as well as new artists have to focus on a new business model for an equally new technological age of information", as Pro said. In such a world, businesses would have to take on the costs and risks of investing in a new business model. Because business would be less predictable risks would go up, and they would invest less money into intellectual property, because that is what businesses do when risk is higher than reward. This links to my arguments about job loss and loss of culture.
The 71,000 jobs lost are only in the sound recording industry. The actual job loss from piracy in all industries would be much higher, and since piracy would drastically increase in Pro's world (which they conceded), this would result in the loss of tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of jobs that would still exist in a world with piracy laws. This loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars, along with a large amount of creative works that will not exist without the financial motivation to create them, outweighs Pro's claims of injustice. This is why you should vote Con in this debate.
No votes have been placed for this debate.
You are not eligible to vote on this debate
This debate has been configured to only allow voters who meet the requirements set by the debaters. This debate either has an Elo score requirement or is to be voted on by a select panel of judges.