Stealing whiskey vs. stealing art

Here is a fascinating history of international copyright law, occasioned by recent attempts to bolster it even more in light of the new techological “sharing” possibilities. Back in the 19th century, copyright used to extend only within a particular country. That meant that America, Canada, and England used to pirate each other’s authors, printing their work and giving them no royalties. That eventually changed, due to the crusading, among others, of Mark Twain, who would travel to these other nations and ask why someone who stole his bottle of whiskey would get imprisoned but nothing happens to someone who steals his writings.

The article alluded to some people who resist these laws even today, maintaining that copyright restricts education, people’s access, and whatnot. I certainly understand why people download music illegally. But I can’t see how that can be justified in any kind of moral argument. Attempts to say that stealing music or other created products are anything but violations of the commandment seem to be just casuistry (in the sense I explained a few days ago in a comment) so as not to think of oneself as a sinner. Isn’t Twain’s analogy valid? Can any of you think of a moral justification for taking an artist’s property without paying for it?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.johndcook.com/blog John

    Here’s a rationalization of music theft I’ve heard several people give. “I don’t like this music enough to buy it, so I’m not denying the musician a sale buy copying it since I wouldn’t have bought it anyway.”

    This rationalization feeds on itself. The more stolen music you have, the less you feel the need to buy any music, the less you’re willing to pay for music, and so the more music you feel justified in copying.

  • http://www.johndcook.com/blog John

    Here’s a rationalization of music theft I’ve heard several people give. “I don’t like this music enough to buy it, so I’m not denying the musician a sale buy copying it since I wouldn’t have bought it anyway.”

    This rationalization feeds on itself. The more stolen music you have, the less you feel the need to buy any music, the less you’re willing to pay for music, and so the more music you feel justified in copying.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    If you wish to see some of the attempts at rationalizing this, look at the comments in any old article involving copyright (be it patents, digital rights management, open source, etc.) over at Slashdot. I read that site for tech news, but the logical gymnastics can be astounding when it comes to ethics and morality.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    If you wish to see some of the attempts at rationalizing this, look at the comments in any old article involving copyright (be it patents, digital rights management, open source, etc.) over at Slashdot. I read that site for tech news, but the logical gymnastics can be astounding when it comes to ethics and morality.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    opps, managed to create a broken link. Could we have a ‘preview’ feature? Here’s a working one (I hope) http://www.slashdot.org.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    opps, managed to create a broken link. Could we have a ‘preview’ feature? Here’s a working one (I hope) http://www.slashdot.org.

  • Trey

    I agree with SimDan we need a preview feature or a 10 minute edit feature. The other day I accidentally typed literal instead of liberal referring to Obama.

    I don’t know how one can justify that stealing music is not morally wrong. They are not helping someone else (like Robin Hood) only satisfying themselves. So no good is coming from it, even if it was it remains sinful.

  • Trey

    I agree with SimDan we need a preview feature or a 10 minute edit feature. The other day I accidentally typed literal instead of liberal referring to Obama.

    I don’t know how one can justify that stealing music is not morally wrong. They are not helping someone else (like Robin Hood) only satisfying themselves. So no good is coming from it, even if it was it remains sinful.

  • orthodachshund

    The sorriest excuse I’ve heard for copyright infringement comes from pastors who print hymns in their bulletins, claiming that because it’s for worship, they shouldn’t have to pay any copyright fees — as if the noble cause of worship trumps any claims of the law!

    The Lutheran Service Builder software, with its annual licensing fees, is a good start toward eliminating this excuse among Missouri Synod pastors.

  • orthodachshund

    The sorriest excuse I’ve heard for copyright infringement comes from pastors who print hymns in their bulletins, claiming that because it’s for worship, they shouldn’t have to pay any copyright fees — as if the noble cause of worship trumps any claims of the law!

    The Lutheran Service Builder software, with its annual licensing fees, is a good start toward eliminating this excuse among Missouri Synod pastors.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    SimDan & Trey, I’ve looked for ways of putting in a preview feature in this WordPress software, but to no avail. If anyone could tell me how to do it, I’d be glad to oblige.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    SimDan & Trey, I’ve looked for ways of putting in a preview feature in this WordPress software, but to no avail. If anyone could tell me how to do it, I’d be glad to oblige.

  • S. Bauer

    I agree that there is no moral justification for stealing another person’s creative work. One has to remember, however, that “stealing” in copyright law is a concept that is supposed to have boundries. So the “creators” are being a bit hypocritical in their criticism, in that they are just as selfish in exploiting the far end of copyright law to keep their works from entering the public domain. Every time Mickey Mouse’s copyright nears its end, the Entertainment Industry, et alia, rolls out its stars, glitz and money into Washington DC and fairydusts Congress into adding another 15 or 20 years to the term of copyright. The upshot of all this is that the number of works entering the public domain for at least the last 20 years has dired up to a trickle. What was intended to be copyright for a limited term in order to spur innovation and creativity has become a perpetual copyright. Needless to say, certain arms of the organized church benefit from this travesty as well while the whole church is impoverished.

  • S. Bauer

    I agree that there is no moral justification for stealing another person’s creative work. One has to remember, however, that “stealing” in copyright law is a concept that is supposed to have boundries. So the “creators” are being a bit hypocritical in their criticism, in that they are just as selfish in exploiting the far end of copyright law to keep their works from entering the public domain. Every time Mickey Mouse’s copyright nears its end, the Entertainment Industry, et alia, rolls out its stars, glitz and money into Washington DC and fairydusts Congress into adding another 15 or 20 years to the term of copyright. The upshot of all this is that the number of works entering the public domain for at least the last 20 years has dired up to a trickle. What was intended to be copyright for a limited term in order to spur innovation and creativity has become a perpetual copyright. Needless to say, certain arms of the organized church benefit from this travesty as well while the whole church is impoverished.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    Veith-
    I don’t know WordPress myself, but this looks promising: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/live-comment-preview/

    orthodachshund -
    You are correct. Sometimes, though, tracing down the copyright holder can be a challenge or the terms to use the hymns are not amicable. My dad, who serves a small parish, has wanted to use some hymns that have not made it into the hymnals. If I recall correctly, more often than not he decides to just not use the hymns.

    The LSB software will certainly help, but it will not completely remove the problem.

    I would hope that the Church would be more charitable with copyright and licensing than a secular publisher. How much more charitable is another question altogether.

    S. Bauer-
    Yes, both copyright and patents have gotten out of hand. On the patent side of things we have patents being issued for obvious ideas or prior art dating back twenty years! Then you have people who sit on their copyrights or patents for a decade, waiting for it’s use to be widespread, and then launching lawsuits.

    I am 100% for rewarding those who create. The whole situation is out of hand on the sides of both the creator and the consumer.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    Veith-
    I don’t know WordPress myself, but this looks promising: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/live-comment-preview/

    orthodachshund -
    You are correct. Sometimes, though, tracing down the copyright holder can be a challenge or the terms to use the hymns are not amicable. My dad, who serves a small parish, has wanted to use some hymns that have not made it into the hymnals. If I recall correctly, more often than not he decides to just not use the hymns.

    The LSB software will certainly help, but it will not completely remove the problem.

    I would hope that the Church would be more charitable with copyright and licensing than a secular publisher. How much more charitable is another question altogether.

    S. Bauer-
    Yes, both copyright and patents have gotten out of hand. On the patent side of things we have patents being issued for obvious ideas or prior art dating back twenty years! Then you have people who sit on their copyrights or patents for a decade, waiting for it’s use to be widespread, and then launching lawsuits.

    I am 100% for rewarding those who create. The whole situation is out of hand on the sides of both the creator and the consumer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m with S. Bauer (@7). Certainly creators should benefit from their works for a time. But dear Walt is dead, and yet his successors still profit from his ideas. When do we as a society get to?

    And if you can’t imagine why anyone would possibly want to use Mickey’s image royalty-free, ask yourself: do you think Mendelssohn should have paid Luther’s estate a fee to use his tune in the “Reformation Symphony”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m with S. Bauer (@7). Certainly creators should benefit from their works for a time. But dear Walt is dead, and yet his successors still profit from his ideas. When do we as a society get to?

    And if you can’t imagine why anyone would possibly want to use Mickey’s image royalty-free, ask yourself: do you think Mendelssohn should have paid Luther’s estate a fee to use his tune in the “Reformation Symphony”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And while I’m fine with “stealing” works 70 years after they were created, I’m not sure that I’d want 70 year old whiskey. Does it age that long well? Has anybody kept a bottle or barrel of it around long enough without drinking it? (Brownest of the brown liquors …)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And while I’m fine with “stealing” works 70 years after they were created, I’m not sure that I’d want 70 year old whiskey. Does it age that long well? Has anybody kept a bottle or barrel of it around long enough without drinking it? (Brownest of the brown liquors …)

  • Rob

    I would also like to submit for consideration the nature of the medium through which music is “stolen.” I will confess that I am a supporter of the open-source movement and Creative Commons, etc. Part of the open-source logic is that a medium as unregulated, vast, universally accessible, and “organic” as the internet cannot be reasonably subjected to some sort of copyright regime. Is it technically “stealing” music if I download a song that has been “illegally” decrypted by an anonymous “thief” and uploaded to a bit-torrent stream? Possibly, depending upon how copyright rules are interpreted, though the recording industry itself seems to doubt the validity of its own claim in this respect, as evidenced by punitive lawsuits against such those who download even one song “illegally.” Should such acts be illegal? Probably not, simply because it is/would be impossible to enforce such a law.

    In short, for better or worse, the dynamics of the musical market are shifting considerably. A fundamental rule of economics is that consumers will not pay more for a good or service than the value they assign to that item. If the price is set above this equilibrium point by the producer, then a black market inevitably develops. This is obviously one manner of explaining what is currently happening in the music industry, abetted by the explosion of the internet, possibly the most democratizing entity in all of history (again, for better or worse). Quite simply, the majority of music consumers do not feel that a song is worth $.99, or an album of 10 songs $12.99. I am not a believer in the universal efficacy of economics to explain human behavior, but I think it is a useful tool here. Music is not worth what the recording industry desires for its records, according to a vast number of consumers; thus, again, the need for punitive lawsuits, and thus the increasing success of “free” releases of albums by Radiohead, for example. Such ventures might “lose” money (in comparison to the exorbitant but economically unfeasible prices charged by the industry), but they reflect what, ultimately, consumers are willing to expend for music. There is no substantial black market in clothing, for instance, because clothing can be purchased for a price that consumers have deemed reasonable; there is a noticeable black market in cars because cars, in many cases, are too expensive (keep in mind that I am not dismissing the base desire of mankind to own things which he cannot afford; I am speaking of the, at worst, morally neutral economic law of supply and demand).

    Does this broach other moral questions? I think it is safe to say that the majority of people who actually pay for music these days do so out of a) a loyalty to the letter of the law or b) a misplaced desire to “reward” artists for their good work. But do we do that for any other good? I do not buy food or pay more for a piece of clothing because I want to support and encourage those who make it. I will pay more based on quality, not because of a crusade to make sure that “artists” (is any of our modern music really art?) are properly rewarded. “Art” cannot be supported without an aristocratic patronage with refined tastes; the democratic (which also means free-market) mechanisms of the internet ensure that music must be an economic product like any other. Thus, the true moral question is whether it is right for the industry to demand more for music than what consumers are willing to pay. Is that stealing, or tortuously contorting simple theft into a righteous crusade? Copyright, within limits, is of course not wrong; the problem is whether copyright as it is today conceived is possible within the media of modern music and the internet.

    It is at least worth considering.

  • Rob

    I would also like to submit for consideration the nature of the medium through which music is “stolen.” I will confess that I am a supporter of the open-source movement and Creative Commons, etc. Part of the open-source logic is that a medium as unregulated, vast, universally accessible, and “organic” as the internet cannot be reasonably subjected to some sort of copyright regime. Is it technically “stealing” music if I download a song that has been “illegally” decrypted by an anonymous “thief” and uploaded to a bit-torrent stream? Possibly, depending upon how copyright rules are interpreted, though the recording industry itself seems to doubt the validity of its own claim in this respect, as evidenced by punitive lawsuits against such those who download even one song “illegally.” Should such acts be illegal? Probably not, simply because it is/would be impossible to enforce such a law.

    In short, for better or worse, the dynamics of the musical market are shifting considerably. A fundamental rule of economics is that consumers will not pay more for a good or service than the value they assign to that item. If the price is set above this equilibrium point by the producer, then a black market inevitably develops. This is obviously one manner of explaining what is currently happening in the music industry, abetted by the explosion of the internet, possibly the most democratizing entity in all of history (again, for better or worse). Quite simply, the majority of music consumers do not feel that a song is worth $.99, or an album of 10 songs $12.99. I am not a believer in the universal efficacy of economics to explain human behavior, but I think it is a useful tool here. Music is not worth what the recording industry desires for its records, according to a vast number of consumers; thus, again, the need for punitive lawsuits, and thus the increasing success of “free” releases of albums by Radiohead, for example. Such ventures might “lose” money (in comparison to the exorbitant but economically unfeasible prices charged by the industry), but they reflect what, ultimately, consumers are willing to expend for music. There is no substantial black market in clothing, for instance, because clothing can be purchased for a price that consumers have deemed reasonable; there is a noticeable black market in cars because cars, in many cases, are too expensive (keep in mind that I am not dismissing the base desire of mankind to own things which he cannot afford; I am speaking of the, at worst, morally neutral economic law of supply and demand).

    Does this broach other moral questions? I think it is safe to say that the majority of people who actually pay for music these days do so out of a) a loyalty to the letter of the law or b) a misplaced desire to “reward” artists for their good work. But do we do that for any other good? I do not buy food or pay more for a piece of clothing because I want to support and encourage those who make it. I will pay more based on quality, not because of a crusade to make sure that “artists” (is any of our modern music really art?) are properly rewarded. “Art” cannot be supported without an aristocratic patronage with refined tastes; the democratic (which also means free-market) mechanisms of the internet ensure that music must be an economic product like any other. Thus, the true moral question is whether it is right for the industry to demand more for music than what consumers are willing to pay. Is that stealing, or tortuously contorting simple theft into a righteous crusade? Copyright, within limits, is of course not wrong; the problem is whether copyright as it is today conceived is possible within the media of modern music and the internet.

    It is at least worth considering.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Copyrights used to expire after 50 years, and do, I believe, unless they are renewed by the heirs. So you probably aren’t stealing, tODD, a 70 year old work.

    Rob, my friend, I’m not convinced. What you say could apply if the musicians or other creators agreed to give their works to such an arrangement, as some do. But how can this be just for those who do NOT want their work taken in this way. Those are usually the ones whose works DO have market value that this means of distribution undermines. And just because a law is unenforceable does not mean it should not exist as an affirmation of justice.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Copyrights used to expire after 50 years, and do, I believe, unless they are renewed by the heirs. So you probably aren’t stealing, tODD, a 70 year old work.

    Rob, my friend, I’m not convinced. What you say could apply if the musicians or other creators agreed to give their works to such an arrangement, as some do. But how can this be just for those who do NOT want their work taken in this way. Those are usually the ones whose works DO have market value that this means of distribution undermines. And just because a law is unenforceable does not mean it should not exist as an affirmation of justice.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Furthermore, Rob, if the value to the downloader is zero, why would he download it at all?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Furthermore, Rob, if the value to the downloader is zero, why would he download it at all?

  • LAJ

    For choir music, I believe printed music is considered public domain after 70 years. Please let me know if it is only 50!

  • LAJ

    For choir music, I believe printed music is considered public domain after 70 years. Please let me know if it is only 50!

  • Rob

    Disclaimer: I’m not necessarily advocating the illegal downloading of music, though I think the arguments of those who actually consider and justify such actions bear more thoughtful consideration than they have been given thus far in this thread.

    First of all, it is doubtful that a law which cannot be enforced is law at all. While I am not certain of what Aquinas says on the subject, I know most modern definitions of law stipulate that it cannot exist without an effective enforcement mechanism (thus, the existence of international law is doubtful). Moral statements and imperatives and social mores are something as potentially powerful as law, but are not law themselves; neither are necessarily enforceable in the formal sense.

    My primary point is that the relatively new medium of the internet creates conditions in which protection of media–written, visual, or musical–is nearly impossible; indeed, is essentially laughable. The only other alternative is extremely substantial (and intrusive) monitoring and regulation of the internet. The Chinese have chosen this route (for other reasons), and even they find the burden too heavy.

    Copyright, and intellectual property generally, is an extremely amorphous and subjective topic. While it is simple to cry theft if someone steals my car, or slap a legal seal on a work of literature, it is far more difficult to do the same for a collection of sounds that, in fact, have no material form and are more easily shared and transferred than email. In reality, the line drawn between music theft and enjoyment of music is arbitrary: why is it legal for me to rip a cd to my computer and burn as many copies for myself as I want, in as many formats as I want, but not share that music with others? It is a) impossible to enforce such a line and b) is probably absurd to try.

    In the end, I do think true artists are entitled to their just recompense, but the problem is whether that is possible when they choose the internet, for instance, as their medium of distribution. It is somewhat like claiming a spot on the surface of the ocean as one’s private property: all the legal boundaries in the world cannot prevent someone from drinking your water eventually, for eventually it ends up on the other side of the world anyway. Artists cannot “not want” their music “stolen” all they want, but in the end, they are trying to seal off musical notes, which have absolutely no corporeal existence–unlike, say, a book. The internet and its contents are as easily contained as air. Musical copyrights didn’t even exist until fairly recently, and for fairly good reason, I think.

    Also, no one ever said the value to the downloader is zero; in the case of most illegal downloaders, it’s simply the fact that it is, believe it or not, easier to obtain music for free than it is to purchase it through “legitimate” channels (i.e., Apple). Final word: I think we speak too easily and too soon when we denounce free music downloads as “illegal”; at worst, they are quasi-legal in this nation. At some point, law, however well-intentioned (though, I begin to wonder how well-intentioned is the desperate protection of mere profit; the recording industry is not exactly striving to safeguard artistic value), comes into question if it borders on absurdity.

  • Rob

    Disclaimer: I’m not necessarily advocating the illegal downloading of music, though I think the arguments of those who actually consider and justify such actions bear more thoughtful consideration than they have been given thus far in this thread.

    First of all, it is doubtful that a law which cannot be enforced is law at all. While I am not certain of what Aquinas says on the subject, I know most modern definitions of law stipulate that it cannot exist without an effective enforcement mechanism (thus, the existence of international law is doubtful). Moral statements and imperatives and social mores are something as potentially powerful as law, but are not law themselves; neither are necessarily enforceable in the formal sense.

    My primary point is that the relatively new medium of the internet creates conditions in which protection of media–written, visual, or musical–is nearly impossible; indeed, is essentially laughable. The only other alternative is extremely substantial (and intrusive) monitoring and regulation of the internet. The Chinese have chosen this route (for other reasons), and even they find the burden too heavy.

    Copyright, and intellectual property generally, is an extremely amorphous and subjective topic. While it is simple to cry theft if someone steals my car, or slap a legal seal on a work of literature, it is far more difficult to do the same for a collection of sounds that, in fact, have no material form and are more easily shared and transferred than email. In reality, the line drawn between music theft and enjoyment of music is arbitrary: why is it legal for me to rip a cd to my computer and burn as many copies for myself as I want, in as many formats as I want, but not share that music with others? It is a) impossible to enforce such a line and b) is probably absurd to try.

    In the end, I do think true artists are entitled to their just recompense, but the problem is whether that is possible when they choose the internet, for instance, as their medium of distribution. It is somewhat like claiming a spot on the surface of the ocean as one’s private property: all the legal boundaries in the world cannot prevent someone from drinking your water eventually, for eventually it ends up on the other side of the world anyway. Artists cannot “not want” their music “stolen” all they want, but in the end, they are trying to seal off musical notes, which have absolutely no corporeal existence–unlike, say, a book. The internet and its contents are as easily contained as air. Musical copyrights didn’t even exist until fairly recently, and for fairly good reason, I think.

    Also, no one ever said the value to the downloader is zero; in the case of most illegal downloaders, it’s simply the fact that it is, believe it or not, easier to obtain music for free than it is to purchase it through “legitimate” channels (i.e., Apple). Final word: I think we speak too easily and too soon when we denounce free music downloads as “illegal”; at worst, they are quasi-legal in this nation. At some point, law, however well-intentioned (though, I begin to wonder how well-intentioned is the desperate protection of mere profit; the recording industry is not exactly striving to safeguard artistic value), comes into question if it borders on absurdity.

  • Joe

    Rob – there is nothing qusi-illegal about it. Downloading copyrighted music without the permission of the owner of the copyright (unless you fall into one of several exceptions) is just plain old fashioned theft. This makes is both illegal and actionable but the holder of the copyright.

    Enforcement is not laughable just expensive. And when the amount of music lost to thieves constitutes a financial loss greater than the cost of a civil lawsuit the music industry will (and has) bring suits and shut down websites or take monetary judgments against people who downloaded the websites.

    As for the views of the people stealing the music, let them argue to congress for a change in the copyright laws – until then it is just self-justification for an illegal act. All it comes down to is one person deciding that their desire to have the song is more important than the wishes of the owner of the song.

    As for patents, you cannot get a patent for anything if there is prior art in the public domain unless you lie to the patent and trademark office. And if you do you will be sued by someone who will allege that you have lied and you will lose your patent and have to reimburse anyone you charged for using the “patented” item (or process) and will even have to pay the attorneys’ fees of the guy who sued you.

  • Joe

    Rob – there is nothing qusi-illegal about it. Downloading copyrighted music without the permission of the owner of the copyright (unless you fall into one of several exceptions) is just plain old fashioned theft. This makes is both illegal and actionable but the holder of the copyright.

    Enforcement is not laughable just expensive. And when the amount of music lost to thieves constitutes a financial loss greater than the cost of a civil lawsuit the music industry will (and has) bring suits and shut down websites or take monetary judgments against people who downloaded the websites.

    As for the views of the people stealing the music, let them argue to congress for a change in the copyright laws – until then it is just self-justification for an illegal act. All it comes down to is one person deciding that their desire to have the song is more important than the wishes of the owner of the song.

    As for patents, you cannot get a patent for anything if there is prior art in the public domain unless you lie to the patent and trademark office. And if you do you will be sued by someone who will allege that you have lied and you will lose your patent and have to reimburse anyone you charged for using the “patented” item (or process) and will even have to pay the attorneys’ fees of the guy who sued you.

  • The Jones

    Rob, Rob, Rob. In your post, you say that people who pay for music have “a misplaced desire to “reward” artists for their good work.” And by “reward,” we mean, “pay for.” So….do we do that for any other good? Yes, we do it for just about all of them.

    And in regards to this question, “Thus, the true moral question is whether it is right for the industry to demand more for music than what consumers are willing to pay.”
    Sure it’s right! They can charge whatever they want for it! It’s THEIR music!

    And next, your main point: “My primary point is that the relatively new medium of the internet creates conditions in which protection of media–written, visual, or musical–is nearly impossible; indeed, is essentially laughable.”
    Well, whenever I search for Chapelle show clips on Youtube, I am denied. Apparently, there is some copyright mumbo-jumbo keeping me from my Clayton Bigsby. The internet is WAY more regulated than it ever was, and I really don’t feel the sting of stolen liberties.

    And wait, wait! Did you just equate China’s policing and censoring of information traveling through the internet through a government staff of almost 300,000 people with keeping copyright law relevant to new circumstances? Isn’t China one of the BIGGEST violators of internet copyright law? Aren’t they the source of virtually every pirated video on the planet? Hasn’t the respect for copyright law been a focal point of almost any treaty with China for the past 8 years?

    It seems that you’re saying that if you CAN’T regulate the sharing of music, then you SHOULDN’T regulate the sharing of music. That reasoning is a little shaky. First off, sure you can, and they’re getting better at it all the time. Second, just because they can’t catch you all the time, that doesn’t mean that you’re not doing anything. I’m sorry, but I don’t but a lick of your argument.

  • The Jones

    Rob, Rob, Rob. In your post, you say that people who pay for music have “a misplaced desire to “reward” artists for their good work.” And by “reward,” we mean, “pay for.” So….do we do that for any other good? Yes, we do it for just about all of them.

    And in regards to this question, “Thus, the true moral question is whether it is right for the industry to demand more for music than what consumers are willing to pay.”
    Sure it’s right! They can charge whatever they want for it! It’s THEIR music!

    And next, your main point: “My primary point is that the relatively new medium of the internet creates conditions in which protection of media–written, visual, or musical–is nearly impossible; indeed, is essentially laughable.”
    Well, whenever I search for Chapelle show clips on Youtube, I am denied. Apparently, there is some copyright mumbo-jumbo keeping me from my Clayton Bigsby. The internet is WAY more regulated than it ever was, and I really don’t feel the sting of stolen liberties.

    And wait, wait! Did you just equate China’s policing and censoring of information traveling through the internet through a government staff of almost 300,000 people with keeping copyright law relevant to new circumstances? Isn’t China one of the BIGGEST violators of internet copyright law? Aren’t they the source of virtually every pirated video on the planet? Hasn’t the respect for copyright law been a focal point of almost any treaty with China for the past 8 years?

    It seems that you’re saying that if you CAN’T regulate the sharing of music, then you SHOULDN’T regulate the sharing of music. That reasoning is a little shaky. First off, sure you can, and they’re getting better at it all the time. Second, just because they can’t catch you all the time, that doesn’t mean that you’re not doing anything. I’m sorry, but I don’t but a lick of your argument.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Dr. Veith, you said, “Copyrights used to expire after 50 years, and do, I believe, unless they are renewed by the heirs. So you probably aren’t stealing, tODD, a 70 year old work.”

    Not so, I’m afraid. From Wikipedia:

    The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 – alternatively known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Act, or pejoratively as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act – extended copyright terms in the United States by 20 years. Before the Act (under the Copyright Act of 1976), copyright would last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship; the Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier.[1] The Act also affected copyright terms for copyrighted works published prior to January 1, 1978, also increasing their term of protection by 20 years, to a total of 95 years from publication.

    May Mickey Mouse (PBUH) never enter the public domain.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Dr. Veith, you said, “Copyrights used to expire after 50 years, and do, I believe, unless they are renewed by the heirs. So you probably aren’t stealing, tODD, a 70 year old work.”

    Not so, I’m afraid. From Wikipedia:

    The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 – alternatively known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Act, or pejoratively as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act – extended copyright terms in the United States by 20 years. Before the Act (under the Copyright Act of 1976), copyright would last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship; the Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier.[1] The Act also affected copyright terms for copyrighted works published prior to January 1, 1978, also increasing their term of protection by 20 years, to a total of 95 years from publication.

    May Mickey Mouse (PBUH) never enter the public domain.

  • Rob

    You make good, but still invalid, points, Jones. I am not looking at what the letter of the law says (that music downloading is illegal except from licensed outlets [i.e., Apple]), but how the law should be. I’m going to have to insist that the idea that the internet can be regulated efficiently and constitutionally is, indeed, absurd; the only reason Chine’s 300,000 cannot control copyright violations is because their focus is on political dissidence, not whether the RCIA makes a few more dollars.

    Here is another point worth considering: the point of copyright protection is that an inventor (and now a music “artist”) can be justly recompensed for his work. Thus, Edison could spend thousands of hours perfecting the incandescent bulb and not be troubled with fears that someone else would make the money from his work. Music copyrighting functions differently: no one can “steal” a recording from U2, for instance, and pass it off as their own work (bootlegging aside, which is actually a minor issue). In fact, artists almost never make a profit from record sales; hence, concert tours. My point is that the manner in which musical copyrighting is managed is somewhat unworkable. And again, the internet cannot be regulated. Dave Chappelle cannot be found on YouTube because YouTube self-regulates itself; but self-regulation is a laughable expectation for every media outlet on the web. Also, read this article for the perspective of various artists; some of it may surprise you:

    http://www.canada.com/topics/entertainment/story.html?id=5e3db5f8-9308-437a-82fd-2dd80bc5f65d&k=28296

    I think the idea of a black market as a natural function of over-pricing is also something that needs to be considered. The article points out that most people are simply not willing to pay twenty dollars for an album they want to hear, but are not sure of its quality; in other words, I am not willing to buy a song unless I have first heard it (something that could make the sale of music increasingly impossible; actually, the black market in music is explained by this very fact–a fact which cannot be changed).

    Again, I’m not urging everyone to go steal music; I don’t even do it myself, but I do think the arguments in favor of copyrighting musical recordings (lyrics and ensuring that music is not attributed to someone else is another issue) are becoming increasingly outdated, if not impossible.

  • Rob

    You make good, but still invalid, points, Jones. I am not looking at what the letter of the law says (that music downloading is illegal except from licensed outlets [i.e., Apple]), but how the law should be. I’m going to have to insist that the idea that the internet can be regulated efficiently and constitutionally is, indeed, absurd; the only reason Chine’s 300,000 cannot control copyright violations is because their focus is on political dissidence, not whether the RCIA makes a few more dollars.

    Here is another point worth considering: the point of copyright protection is that an inventor (and now a music “artist”) can be justly recompensed for his work. Thus, Edison could spend thousands of hours perfecting the incandescent bulb and not be troubled with fears that someone else would make the money from his work. Music copyrighting functions differently: no one can “steal” a recording from U2, for instance, and pass it off as their own work (bootlegging aside, which is actually a minor issue). In fact, artists almost never make a profit from record sales; hence, concert tours. My point is that the manner in which musical copyrighting is managed is somewhat unworkable. And again, the internet cannot be regulated. Dave Chappelle cannot be found on YouTube because YouTube self-regulates itself; but self-regulation is a laughable expectation for every media outlet on the web. Also, read this article for the perspective of various artists; some of it may surprise you:

    http://www.canada.com/topics/entertainment/story.html?id=5e3db5f8-9308-437a-82fd-2dd80bc5f65d&k=28296

    I think the idea of a black market as a natural function of over-pricing is also something that needs to be considered. The article points out that most people are simply not willing to pay twenty dollars for an album they want to hear, but are not sure of its quality; in other words, I am not willing to buy a song unless I have first heard it (something that could make the sale of music increasingly impossible; actually, the black market in music is explained by this very fact–a fact which cannot be changed).

    Again, I’m not urging everyone to go steal music; I don’t even do it myself, but I do think the arguments in favor of copyrighting musical recordings (lyrics and ensuring that music is not attributed to someone else is another issue) are becoming increasingly outdated, if not impossible.

  • Rob

    Also, I think artistic copyrighting is, in fact, deadening to the cultivation and proliferation of art.

    Artists should be patronized, and their work should be available to everyone (that, of course, does not necessarily preclude selling the work, but it does disqualify the idea that any work of art, theater, music, etc., is off-limits for general public consumption until the law permits it).

    You can see my dissatisfaction with America’s application of the free market to every realm of human endeavor.

  • Rob

    Also, I think artistic copyrighting is, in fact, deadening to the cultivation and proliferation of art.

    Artists should be patronized, and their work should be available to everyone (that, of course, does not necessarily preclude selling the work, but it does disqualify the idea that any work of art, theater, music, etc., is off-limits for general public consumption until the law permits it).

    You can see my dissatisfaction with America’s application of the free market to every realm of human endeavor.

  • Joe

    “A fundamental rule of economics is that consumers will not pay more for a good or service than the value they assign to that item.”

    You seem to use this as argument for either evading or changing (depending on which of your posts one reads) our copyright laws. But the point you seem to be missing is that the music black market was not created because consumers were refusing to pay retail. The music black market was created once someone figured out how to steal someone else’s labor and make a profit by charging less. Thus, it was not price dissatisfaction that created the black market – it was the black market that created (or at the least amplified) the price dissatisfaction. The availability of free or really cheap stolen music devalued the music – not the other way ‘round. In essence, stolen music has taken art and turned it into a commodity – like rice or corn.

  • Joe

    “A fundamental rule of economics is that consumers will not pay more for a good or service than the value they assign to that item.”

    You seem to use this as argument for either evading or changing (depending on which of your posts one reads) our copyright laws. But the point you seem to be missing is that the music black market was not created because consumers were refusing to pay retail. The music black market was created once someone figured out how to steal someone else’s labor and make a profit by charging less. Thus, it was not price dissatisfaction that created the black market – it was the black market that created (or at the least amplified) the price dissatisfaction. The availability of free or really cheap stolen music devalued the music – not the other way ‘round. In essence, stolen music has taken art and turned it into a commodity – like rice or corn.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks, tODD for the facts. It was 50 years after the death of the author, giving heirs the benefit of royalties, though not forever. It’s interesting now that “corporate” authors now get protection for 120 years, more than for individual artists!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks, tODD for the facts. It was 50 years after the death of the author, giving heirs the benefit of royalties, though not forever. It’s interesting now that “corporate” authors now get protection for 120 years, more than for individual artists!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Rob, as far as I can tell, most of your argument hinges on the idea that copyright laws are not enforceable on the internet. This is, of course, just not true. Are they perfectly enforceable? No, some people will always get away with the illegal distribution of copyrighted works, at least for a time. But are such laws enforceable in part? Of course. And this is the case for most laws: are all speeders caught? All tax evaders? No, but enough are to warn those who might otherwise think they could get away with it. And no one argues seriously that there is no tax law or motor vehicle law.

    Indeed, the ease with which copyrighted music files are shared on the internet is often the ease with which copyright violators are found — if a music fan can find MP3s of his favorite artist, so can the copyright holder. And its team of lawyers.

    I think the question for the recording industry now is not whether lawsuits and prosecution are a feasible option, but rather whether they are a wise option.

    There are many other issues at work here, of course. (The tradeoff between exposing potential fans to enough music to create desire vs. giving too much away; the viability now and in the future of making a living solely as a recording artist vs. the longer tradition of being an actual performer; and more.) But they do not, of themselves, negate the idea of copyrighting music.

    Remember that every argument you’re making here for music applies just as much to movies, TV shows, books, and software programs, all of which can be copied and distributed electronically with ease these days. You may argue that those who create such works should share them freely with the world, expecting nothing in return — and many of the creators do just that, either having a “day job” or recouping money via ancillary methods — but it’s ridiculous to announce that the internet has changed everything and therefore creators who do not want to give their works away for free, well, have to anyway. The internet hasn’t changed anything — works were stolen and distributed illegally well before it came around — it has only made that process easier and less “lossy”. (That said, it was a lot harder to find bootleggers back before the internet, as well.)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Rob, as far as I can tell, most of your argument hinges on the idea that copyright laws are not enforceable on the internet. This is, of course, just not true. Are they perfectly enforceable? No, some people will always get away with the illegal distribution of copyrighted works, at least for a time. But are such laws enforceable in part? Of course. And this is the case for most laws: are all speeders caught? All tax evaders? No, but enough are to warn those who might otherwise think they could get away with it. And no one argues seriously that there is no tax law or motor vehicle law.

    Indeed, the ease with which copyrighted music files are shared on the internet is often the ease with which copyright violators are found — if a music fan can find MP3s of his favorite artist, so can the copyright holder. And its team of lawyers.

    I think the question for the recording industry now is not whether lawsuits and prosecution are a feasible option, but rather whether they are a wise option.

    There are many other issues at work here, of course. (The tradeoff between exposing potential fans to enough music to create desire vs. giving too much away; the viability now and in the future of making a living solely as a recording artist vs. the longer tradition of being an actual performer; and more.) But they do not, of themselves, negate the idea of copyrighting music.

    Remember that every argument you’re making here for music applies just as much to movies, TV shows, books, and software programs, all of which can be copied and distributed electronically with ease these days. You may argue that those who create such works should share them freely with the world, expecting nothing in return — and many of the creators do just that, either having a “day job” or recouping money via ancillary methods — but it’s ridiculous to announce that the internet has changed everything and therefore creators who do not want to give their works away for free, well, have to anyway. The internet hasn’t changed anything — works were stolen and distributed illegally well before it came around — it has only made that process easier and less “lossy”. (That said, it was a lot harder to find bootleggers back before the internet, as well.)

  • Rob

    Here’s a more workable scheme, which I referenced earlier: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_commons

  • Rob

    Here’s a more workable scheme, which I referenced earlier: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_commons

  • Schasse

    As a pastor, I do take copyright seriously. However, as I understand the law currently, liturgical services cannot be broadcast on television without violating copyright. This does not seem right to me, even as I do obey it.
    The liturgy at least, should belong to the congregation, not to an artist or publishing house.

  • Schasse

    As a pastor, I do take copyright seriously. However, as I understand the law currently, liturgical services cannot be broadcast on television without violating copyright. This does not seem right to me, even as I do obey it.
    The liturgy at least, should belong to the congregation, not to an artist or publishing house.

  • WebMonk

    Schasse – it depends on the liturgy. But in more broad terms, why should the liturgy belong to the congregation instead of the artist/publisher?

    As far as legal matters are concerned, a church liturgy is like the public performance of a play. If an acting troupe wants to perform a play, then it needs to have the permission of the artist/publisher. If it wants to go further and distribute a recording of the play, that needs to be allowed by the publisher too. Ditto for a church’s liturgy.

    As far as I understand though, as long as the text of the liturgy being read is not under copyright, then a video of the liturgy would indeed belong to the congregation. Want to distribute videos of the liturgy without copyright complications? Then use an old liturgy that isn’t still protected.

  • WebMonk

    Schasse – it depends on the liturgy. But in more broad terms, why should the liturgy belong to the congregation instead of the artist/publisher?

    As far as legal matters are concerned, a church liturgy is like the public performance of a play. If an acting troupe wants to perform a play, then it needs to have the permission of the artist/publisher. If it wants to go further and distribute a recording of the play, that needs to be allowed by the publisher too. Ditto for a church’s liturgy.

    As far as I understand though, as long as the text of the liturgy being read is not under copyright, then a video of the liturgy would indeed belong to the congregation. Want to distribute videos of the liturgy without copyright complications? Then use an old liturgy that isn’t still protected.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    The Biblical words of the liturgy are public domain, are they not?
    Then, a congregation could compose its own music and distribute it as they liked.
    It would also, however, be subject to distribution–and abuse!–beyond what the congregation might desire… unless it were protected.
    The liturgy does indeed belong to the congregation, once they’ve bought the hymnals. (It ‘belongs’ to them even more,when they can sing it without aid of a book!)Or do you think, Pastor Schasse, that those hymnals should be given away for free as well?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    The Biblical words of the liturgy are public domain, are they not?
    Then, a congregation could compose its own music and distribute it as they liked.
    It would also, however, be subject to distribution–and abuse!–beyond what the congregation might desire… unless it were protected.
    The liturgy does indeed belong to the congregation, once they’ve bought the hymnals. (It ‘belongs’ to them even more,when they can sing it without aid of a book!)Or do you think, Pastor Schasse, that those hymnals should be given away for free as well?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    To believe that liturgy should belong to the people and not to an artist or a publishing house, you have to have forgotten or overlooked the fact that it’s the artists and the publishing houses who own the stuff to begin with!
    So, Christians should be allowed to just take things because they’re Christian and essential?
    And why stop at liturgy?
    Why not the wine, the wafers, the candles, the vestments: all the essentials of our worship should just belong ‘to the people’?
    I work for a store whose wares have absolutely nothing to do with church or religion. But it’s astounding how many churches and churchgroups plan programs that require something from the lines of things we sell, and who think they should be discounted generously because they’re churches. It’s sad and annoying at the same time.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    To believe that liturgy should belong to the people and not to an artist or a publishing house, you have to have forgotten or overlooked the fact that it’s the artists and the publishing houses who own the stuff to begin with!
    So, Christians should be allowed to just take things because they’re Christian and essential?
    And why stop at liturgy?
    Why not the wine, the wafers, the candles, the vestments: all the essentials of our worship should just belong ‘to the people’?
    I work for a store whose wares have absolutely nothing to do with church or religion. But it’s astounding how many churches and churchgroups plan programs that require something from the lines of things we sell, and who think they should be discounted generously because they’re churches. It’s sad and annoying at the same time.

  • Schasse

    Actually, after buying the new hymnal, we gave away all the old ones as an evangelism tool *FREE* (they were generally in too poor of a shape to send to be used by other churches.)
    To my knowledge, no one is ever *charged* for attending worship. Doesn’t the liturgy perform a proclaiming function? A Gospel function? I do not charge anyone for baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Confession and Absolution (or for that matter, marriages or funerals). Should I do so? What about the concept of pro bono-pro ecclesia? Are there times that an artist should give up right to profit for the good of all? (or at least be given the option to do so?)
    BTW, to my understanding, this ruling also applies to older liturgies as well…unless we are willing to go to the German, not the best option for the LCMS.
    I would love to give away hymnals (or catechisms) at cost or less, just like Bibles. After all, it works for the Book of Mormon.

  • Schasse

    Actually, after buying the new hymnal, we gave away all the old ones as an evangelism tool *FREE* (they were generally in too poor of a shape to send to be used by other churches.)
    To my knowledge, no one is ever *charged* for attending worship. Doesn’t the liturgy perform a proclaiming function? A Gospel function? I do not charge anyone for baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Confession and Absolution (or for that matter, marriages or funerals). Should I do so? What about the concept of pro bono-pro ecclesia? Are there times that an artist should give up right to profit for the good of all? (or at least be given the option to do so?)
    BTW, to my understanding, this ruling also applies to older liturgies as well…unless we are willing to go to the German, not the best option for the LCMS.
    I would love to give away hymnals (or catechisms) at cost or less, just like Bibles. After all, it works for the Book of Mormon.

  • WebMonk

    Schasse, you can do whatever you want with all the hymnals or catechisms you want – at cost, below cost, or free. You just need to pay for the use of them first.

    Copyrighted liturgies are sold with the intention of being used in a service, not for being recorded and used for promotional purposes. If you want to use them for an additional purpose then you need to pay for that additional use. (at least that’s my understanding of copyright law) There are exceptions to this, and to really start delving into all of them requires a LOT of legal study.

    Suffice it to say that you need to pay if you use recordings for advertising or promotional purposes that have copyrighted content. Distributing within the congregation is fine AFAIK. Distributing to public is not _generally_ not. (but like I said, there are exceptions)

    If you want to record and distribute a liturgy, just make sure it’s one that’s more than 120 years old. Giving away hymnals and catechisms is just fine too – may God bless the endeavor!

  • WebMonk

    Schasse, you can do whatever you want with all the hymnals or catechisms you want – at cost, below cost, or free. You just need to pay for the use of them first.

    Copyrighted liturgies are sold with the intention of being used in a service, not for being recorded and used for promotional purposes. If you want to use them for an additional purpose then you need to pay for that additional use. (at least that’s my understanding of copyright law) There are exceptions to this, and to really start delving into all of them requires a LOT of legal study.

    Suffice it to say that you need to pay if you use recordings for advertising or promotional purposes that have copyrighted content. Distributing within the congregation is fine AFAIK. Distributing to public is not _generally_ not. (but like I said, there are exceptions)

    If you want to record and distribute a liturgy, just make sure it’s one that’s more than 120 years old. Giving away hymnals and catechisms is just fine too – may God bless the endeavor!

  • Schasse

    Yes, webmonk, exactly. If I wanted to have a tv station broadcast a service, I must write the liturgy myself (something I am loath to do) or else just leave this particular field to the Catholics… because otherwise, funding just isn’t there.
    I think the church should pay for what it uses. But I do question this application of copyright law, especially as it is something new to churches.

  • Schasse

    Yes, webmonk, exactly. If I wanted to have a tv station broadcast a service, I must write the liturgy myself (something I am loath to do) or else just leave this particular field to the Catholics… because otherwise, funding just isn’t there.
    I think the church should pay for what it uses. But I do question this application of copyright law, especially as it is something new to churches.

  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    Rob -
    I have to disagree with your point that music is currently being sold above market levels. This argument, in my opinion, was pretty true before the iTunes Music Store was created. CDs were sold at $20 for one good song, and people (literally) weren’t buying it. But when iTMS has sold well over 4 BILLION songs, I think we can say that there is still a lot of music people will buy. In fact, I think this is the market correcting – the adversarial and confrontational approach to digital music of the record companies created a niche that Apple filled and for which they were handsomely rewarded.

  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    Rob -
    I have to disagree with your point that music is currently being sold above market levels. This argument, in my opinion, was pretty true before the iTunes Music Store was created. CDs were sold at $20 for one good song, and people (literally) weren’t buying it. But when iTMS has sold well over 4 BILLION songs, I think we can say that there is still a lot of music people will buy. In fact, I think this is the market correcting – the adversarial and confrontational approach to digital music of the record companies created a niche that Apple filled and for which they were handsomely rewarded.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X