Richard White: Copyright: An Impassioned Response


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NOTE: The subject of copyright comes up regularly in newsgroups and mailing lists. While the following is in response to a particular post (*** name omitted) from a particular mailing list to which I subscribe, it is actually in response to a number of similar posts from various sources. However, it is an indictment of the general and various positions I've read (including those found in this posting) that condone what I consider lax and irresponsible views on copyright law as well as the consequent loss of income to those whose work is pilfered with the abandon of a brigand, with virtual impunity. Yes, the views expressed are but a 'spit in the ocean," but if reading what comes causes even one person to at least reconsider his or her views on the subject, my efforts here will not have been in vain.


Richard White Wrote:

For those of us whose income is dependent upon our work - i.e. intellectual property - each and every _hard copy_ and each and every _sound recording_ is (not represents, IS), by default, a tiny bit of our paycheck. And, by circumstance, it is a paycheck available to anyone, and from which anyone may snip a portion with impunity and in virtual anonymity. And to add insult to injury, such thieves (for that is what they are) when confronted by others or even their own conscience, can turn around and rationalize their actions from selfish expediency.

In Response (both here and below) *** Wrote:

>Sorry, but once the music has been purchased there is no way that you can
>expect the client to regard his copy as your property (intellectual or
>otherwise). He is free to use it himself, show it to others, loan it to
>others (you probably lose a great deal of revenue from library loans, but I
>don't hear you whining about that) and make copies for his personal use.

Richard White Wrote:

Well, ***, I initially promised myself I was going to make my point, leave it at that, and quietly close the door behind me on the way out, trusting that my post would suffice in pointing out a serious issue that affects us all, whether or not we are _directly_ affected by it. (Not the first time I've posted out of naivete, and probably not the last.) I've been through, around, and under this issue with so many people and in so many places over the years, that pounding the same rock has lost a bit of its glamor for me. On the other hand, your post has stirred my zeal for the issue of illegal photocopying of copyrighted material - as well as my utter disdain for the dozens of rationalization(s) for thievery I've heard to date, including yours. As you will see, my zeal remains undiminished...

Your unfortunate lack of understanding of what I said in my post is glaring as well as dismaying:

If by "it" you are referring to legally purchased copies of music, then I have no objections to using, loaning and showing them about to whomever you wish. How could I? What an offensive notion to think that I might! Whether you want to use what you've purchased legally to paper your wall, line your birdcage, or blow your nose is of no concern to me. As for libraries who lend their legally obtained materials to either the public or to their private subscribers, I have no objection to this either. I've been the fortunate recipient of libraries, both public and private for many years and still am. (Inter-library activity, it seems to me, goes too far. But that is another matter.)

Making copies for "personal use," on the other hand, while it sounds reasonable (after all, who's gonna know? eh?) is a Pandora's Box fraught with avenues of potential abuse, and is not supported by law if it is done with the intent of avoiding paying the rightful copyright holder his due.

Your disingenuous rejoinder about being "sorry," facetiously characterizing my post as "whining," and the list of red herrings you've presented do nothing whatsoever to support your position either; nor do they address the real problem I am raising: Making unauthorized copies of copyrighted material - which I have called "intellectual property" because that is how it is referred to in the law - is illegal in the United States and in those countries that signed onto the Berne Convention of 1989. This is not my opinion: It's the law where _you_ now live.

And why is this so? I repeat myself: This onerous practice takes income from the pockets of those who have _earned_ the right to it. Aside from certain limited "fair use" provisions in the copyright law agreed upon and subscribed to by nations worldwide (as referred to above), nothing - that's N-O-T-H-I-N-G - provides _anyone_ with the _right_ to make _unauthorized_ copies of copyrighted material, whatever reason(s) are concocted. And I can assure you, _convenience_ ranks very near the bottom of the list of the countless cockamamie excuses for thievery. Exactly what part of this is unclear? And why is this so hard to accept by so many? And please: Your agreement, disagreement, like or dislike of what you've read thus far is of no import; I respectfully submit that opinions or positions on the issue that contravene the laws as they now stand are as irrelevant as ignorance of the law is.

Let me also point out that I do not "regard" legally purchased copies of my own work as _my_ "property" as you so gratuitously stated that I "expect." That is not only patently untrue, it intentionally trivializes and demeans my message. Is that what you meant to say? Whatever gave you that idea in the first place? You see, as I previously stated, I couldn't care less what a "client" does with the _paper_ he purchases from me; what he does with the _contents_ of that paper (not to mention and how he acts upon the _specific and limited_ set of licenses granted to him by such a purchase) ... well that's another matter entirely. The content _does_ belong to me, by law, and my ownership of that content is supported by law for many, many years to come. What is so difficult about this distinction? Have you considered this possibility?

The way I see it my options are twofold: I can _sell_ you my music or I can _give_ it to you. You, on the other hand, have _three_ options: You can _buy_ my music, accept it as a _gift_, or you can _steal_ it. You see, I'm at a distinct disadvantage here. Is it any wonder I'm zealous?

In choosing the third option, you are only proving my contention that for some folks, expediency is more important than doing the right thing. Nice try, though. I'm puzzled, though, that you haven't addressed the issue of lost income to copyright holders as a result of copyright theft. Why was that?

So, to even the playing field, I ask of you the following, "Can I have a piece of _your_ paycheck whenever it suits me?" And to really set things straight, why not extend this option to everyone? (See, I'm even nice enough to ask first!) Get it?
>
*** Wrote:

>The practice of creating "surrogate" parts for ensemble members while
>preserving the originals in a file cabinet may be a gray area, and MO made
>some valid observations (though I'm still not sure if I agree or not). If I
>have invested in 8 parts, I see little reason why I shouldn't be able to
>protect my investment by making a copy of each whenever I intend to perform
>it. To make extra parts because of a larger ensemble would be a clear
>violation, but are additional parts available?

_You_ may "see little reason why you shouldn't be able to protect your investment" because you are not considering the larger picture and the role you play in it as well as not accepting the _only_ reason _not_ to do it in the manner you advocate: It's illegal. Why? It's an attempt to preempt - read avoid - paying for another copy of something in the event that what you legally own may or may not become lost or damaged through use over time. But is there anything you have paid for and legally own that is not subject to these two conditions and that one day may very well need replacement? I'll wager you'll bite the bullet and go out and buy another of whatever it is you need or want when the old one bites the dust without blinking an eye. Why should it be any different for music still under copyright? Or is it solely because it is easy, convenient, and protective of your own financial interests to photocopy other people's "intellectual property" virtually undetected, should you choose to? Is this why you deem it okay to steal?

And in your expedient desire to protect yourself, why do you seem to give no thought or exhibit even the slightest concern for those whose pockets you are picking by default? Your plausible little scenario is a classic case of the "insult to injury" comment I referred to in my original post. Out and out theft is far preferable to me. No explanations; no fuss; no muss. Clean and dirty does it.

Protecting your investment is all well and good. In fact, it sounds so reasonable that it makes me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge for protesting unseen hands in my pocket. Perhaps I should be embarrassed and chastened by my lack of feeling and unconcern for your welfare? But since I'm not the bad guy here, I'll sleep okay tonight knowing that not being concerned about you, only your activities at the copy machine, is the right thing to do.

It occurs to me to ask just now why you think that photocopies are _banned_ from major music competitions, worldwide? Or are you aware of this? I can say unequivocally that it's _not_ because they look chintzy or tend to blow around and litter the stage at inopportune moments.

*** Wrote:

>And please correct me if I am
>mistaken, but I believe that universities pay fees to BMI and ASCAP, thereby,
>at least in theory, remunerating the copyright owner for each performance.

Glad to oblige. I wasn't aware that performing rights associations collected fees from universities on behalf of copyright holders. But that's neither here nor there. In any event, you're mixing things here: _Performance fees_ and royalties on _sales of copyrighted material_ are two entirely different and unrelated sources of revenue for the copyright holder.

Now that that's cleared up, tell me: Just how does the collection of performances fees by performing rights organizations _support_ the practice of unauthorized photocopying of copyrighted material and, further, how would such practices exonerate you from obeying the law if they did occur? Am I to assume that if I get remunerated in one way, you may then take it upon yourself to withhold another avenue of income from me because in _your_ view being paid once was enough? That's _not_ your choice to make. Would _you_ work under such conditions without protest? Remember my suggestion of "role reversal" in my original post? It's the old saying: Walk a mile in the other guy's shoes...

>I might point out that my own surrogate parts are not made by the university
>printing office, but cost me my own time and a little inconvenience, which is
>why I would welcome low cost extra or replacement parts.

Here we go again! If you are copying entire "surrogate parts" (such a harmless-sounding term, that) consisting of copyrighted material without the express permission of the copyright holder, you're engaging in an illegal act. No, you're not listening to a broken record and it's not something I'm concocting to make a point, it's a fact. (By the way: I don't think it's a particularly wise move on your part to admit in a public forum as you have that you are breaking the law or that you condone such activities, especially if you're affiliated with a university. But it's your neck. By the way, which university do you work for? I'd like to CC this post to its administration. Would that be okay with you? Do you suppose your administration would take kindly to the example you are setting for your students?)

And assuming making such illegal copies - wherever you make them - also costs money (something you conveniently left out of your equation above) - money that goes into the pockets of _non-copyright holders_ I might add! - why not invest your resources, including your money, in getting what you need from the proper, legal source by contributing to the nourishment and nurturing of an industry that is hurting very badly and needs all the help it can get before it dries up entirely? Do you not see that we need each other?

You see, it's not the guy who successfully pulls off a multi-million dollar bank heist who concerns me - that takes moxie far beyond anything most of us could muster. It's all the little guys who put their hands in the till when backs are turned and then straighfacedly justify it by saying, "It's only a few pennies every once in a while; no one will miss them. Besides, I've spent enough at this guy's store and I'm gonna protect my investment no matter who doesn't like it."

The latter makes the former look like chickenfeed and is far more scary and destructive.

Nothing personal; it's an issue about which I'm passionate even though I sometimes think I'm just spitting in the ocean in the hopes of creating a wave.

Richard White


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