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Pirate Party Leader Fights Illegal Downloads of Her Book

A Pirate Party leader has been policing illegal downloads of her copyrighted book.

Spiegel (“Pirate Party Member Insists on Copyright for Book“):

Politicians within Germany’s Pirate Party have long stated that they advocate the free exchange of information on the Internet — a virtual Wild West in which anyone can copy anything without any regard for copyright or other bothersome concerns. The fact that the free exchange of copyrighted material for “non-commercial” uses is actually an official Pirate platform even triggered a major debate in Germany about government policies on intellectual property earlier this year. The party has stated that free-of-charge downloads should be “explicitly” supported. Julia Schramm, a member of the Pirate Party’s executive committee, once even deemed the idea of intellectual property “disgusting” in a podcast.

Now, however, Schramm appears to be backtracking on her party’s limited interpretation of intellectual property rights — at least when it comes to protecting her own work.

[...]

But on Monday, the book’s official release date, illegal copies could still be found circulating on the Internet. Unidentified parties uploaded a PDF version of the book to an Internet file-sharing service and then spread the link on social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr, along with information about the Pirate Party’s platform — including its proviso that information should be free.

The publisher immediately engaged its legal department and contacted the operator of the file-sharing service. By late Monday evening, the file could no longer be accessed at the original address.

Presumably, she’s seen the light.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I guess irony doesn’t stop at the Atlantic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Console says:

    There does need to be a serious debate about intellectual property laws everywhere. But it probably won’t happen until people start realizing they don’t actually own their steam games or itunes, or digital movie copies etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. michael reynolds says:

    A thief who doesn’t like to be robbed. Hmmm. So not surprising.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. john personna says:

    Can’t get much more “man bites dog” than that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Console: I’m not sure in what practical sense we don’t own our digital files. If they’re on our computers, we have them. If they’re stored on someone else’s cloud, then they’re not ours.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure in what practical sense we don’t own our digital files. If they’re on our computers, we have them. If they’re stored on someone else’s cloud, then they’re not ours.

    Buy a book in a bookstore. Lend it to some friends, then sell it on e-bay.
    Buy an e-book on Amazon, then try to lend it more than the allowed number of times (which can be zero), or sell it.
    Now, you could obviously sell the DRM free music you bought on iTunes, but I doubt it would be legal according to what you agreed to when you bought it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:
    You have an original painting in your home, a master forger makes a perfect copy of it, have you been robbed? Is the master forger a thief?

    (I may have a slight issue with the terminology…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. mattb says:

    To be fair — and Michael, you should know this — Publisher != Author

    I can think of a few open source and creative commons authors who have had problems with either their publisher or a retailer (Amazon) releasing their work with DRM or preventing them from making a copy of their books freely available from their website.

    @James Joyner:

    If they’re on our computers, we have them.

    As PJ points out, the TOS you agreed to doesn’t necessarily support that. Digital books bought through Amazon are one great example of this. Likewise there’s the question of who owns your digital library after you die and whether or not it’s a transferable good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. mattb says:

    @PJ:

    You have an original painting in your home, a master forger makes a perfect copy of it, have you been robbed? Is the master forger a thief?

    That’s not a fair analogy here. The issue is that Michael has created an original painting which he intends to sell. Someone didn’t create a new copy from scratch (which suggests some degree of artistic skill), they duplicated the original and then released it for free. That directly undercuts Michael’s ability to profit from his work.

    Now there are a lot more complexity to this issue (what percentage of people who downloaded the copy would have actually bought the work in question, how many might buy the work after downloading a copy, how might those downloads increase Michael’s fame and open up other possibilities to make money off transformations of the original work). But there is no question that there is an act of stealing involved.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. PJ says:

    @mattb:

    But there is no question that there is an act of stealing involved.

    Stealing requires that something you had has been taken from you, another person now has it, you don’t. (That’s my issue)

    You design clothes, someone copies your designs and make the same clothes and sell them.
    You still have your designs and are still able to make the same clothes.

    Which is why this is copyright infringement and not stealing.

    A number of years after the author/artist/etc has died the copyright will expire. Is that theft committed by the government?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Console says:

    @mattb:

    To me there is zero complexity. IP exists for a reason. But deciding that that reason is to protect against theft leads to absolutely no policy implications. It doesn’t say anything about fair use, how long copyrights should last, what “ownership” means (does buying the painting mean the painting can be resold without paying the creator any royalties?), what licensing means, none of that.

    I mean, it’s a semantic argument, IMO, but treating IP law as though it seriously regulates theft is how you get stupid legislation like SOPA. IP law at it’s worst is rent-seeking, at it’s best, it rewards creativity (at the cost of innovation). That’s not to say I’m anti-IP law. Just that there are costs and benefits to the legislation. Calling it stealing shuts that reality down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. CSK says:

    @PJ:

    You don’t get it. If I design the clothing–my talent, persistence, and hard work went into those designs, plus I had to pay for the fabric, cutters, and stitchers to realize those designs–then no, the copier doesn’t deserve to profit from it, on top of undercutting my sales with his knock-offs. If I write a book, no, someone else doesn’t deserve to copy and distribute it and profit from it.

    Do you work for free? Thought not.

    With respect to copyrights: They can, and should, be renewed by your executors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  13. Console says:

    @CSK:

    So if I buy a pair of your jeans… can I sell those jeans to someone else and pocket the money, or do I owe you some sort of royalty?

    If I buy your books digitally, can I leave that collection to my kids when I die? What about if I buy a dead-tree version?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  14. CSK says:

    @Console:

    Yes, you can sell the jeans you bought from a store, since I’ve already been paid for them. And sell the books, provided you bought the copies from a legitimate retailer of one sort or another, since again, I was paid for that work. My point was that you may not copy my designs nor plagiarize, make copies of, or illegally download my book, and sell any of those as if they had originated with you.

    Why is this so hard to understand?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Console says:

    @CSK:

    Because in some of those cases, you’re legally wrong. Buying a digital copy of a book is equivalent to licensing that book. It’s usage falls under the terms of agreement with that publisher. So you may or may not be able to give that copy to someone else. You could also license a design, in which case, you would be owned royalties from someone profiting from your design.

    Yes, we all know it’s illegal to violate copyright law. But that doesn’t really explain the reality of IP law and its use.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  16. Console says:

    And don’t get me started on where libraries are supposed to fit in with this moralistic nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. grumpy realist says:

    Amazing how the “free information” people suddenly switch sides when it’s their own ox being gored….

    The problem is copying has become Too Easy to do. When the only thing you can wave in people’s faces to keep them from doing something very easily is a law, people are going to end up not obeying the law.

    I’d change copyright law considerably. Go back to two terms of 28 years, that’s it, finito. And insist that a maintenance fee has to be paid every year. If your copyright isn’t worth enough for you to pay maintenance fees, it lapses and you let it go into the public domain. I’d also insist on a far narrower version of copyright infringement interpretation. There are too many cases of people trying to use copyright to protect IP that really should be protected under design patents or utility patents. Reason for doing so? Because of the absolute novelty requirement….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  18. PJ says:

    @CSK:

    You don’t get it. If I design the clothing–my talent, persistence, and hard work went into those designs, plus I had to pay for the fabric, cutters, and stitchers to realize those designs–then no, the copier doesn’t deserve to profit from it, on top of undercutting my sales with his knock-offs. If I write a book, no, someone else doesn’t deserve to copy and distribute it and profit from it.

    Do you work for free? Thought not.

    With respect to copyrights: They can, and should, be renewed by your executors.

    Actually, you don’t get it. I’m not arguing that it should be free for people to copy things that are copyrighted. I’m arguing that copyright infringement isn’t stealing, it’s ….copyright infringement.

    Here’s another example:
    If a commit a bank robbery, I would be stealing.
    If I hack into your bank account and transfer your money to me, I would be stealing.
    If I copy money, I’m not stealing, I’m counterfeiting.
    Do you see the difference?

    But I could also, while I haven’t, argue about the length of copyright.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. mattb says:

    @PJ:

    Actually, you don’t get it. I’m not arguing that it should be free for people to copy things that are copyrighted. I’m arguing that copyright infringement isn’t stealing, it’s ….copyright infringement.

    Fair point. Though what this typically doesn’t address is the issue of lost revenue do to the copyright infringement.

    Much of this has to do with the problem of moving from a physical good to a digital good — and in doing so moving from a realm with a natural tendency towards scarcity (physical) to one in which there’s a natural tendency towards abundance.

    We should note that in the case of the Pirate Party book, either stealing or a breach of contract was to some degree involved in the early release of the book.

    BTW, I’m anything but a defender of copyright as it currently stands.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Muggie2 says:

    I agree that stealing is different from copyright infringement. But revenue lost due to said copyright infringement – that’s an interesting point.
    If someone copies something of mine then sells it, they are *profiting* from copyright infringement, and I think that should be punished harshly. They have taken away an actual sale.
    If they give away something that they copied from me, they are taking away a *potential* sale, not an actual sale, and while it should be penalized to some degree, it should not be anywhere near as harshly as where they profit from it. This is, I believe, where the anti-piracy groups are going wrong – they do not see the difference between an actual sale and a potential sale.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0