Steal This Blog Entry

August 25th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Do you liberally “borrow” stuff you find on the Internet for your own purposes, reprinting copyrighted material without permission?

According to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, theft of intellectual property causes businesses to lose up to $250 billion in revenue and 750,000 jobs each year.

So when you steal other people’s content, you are helping to put someone out of work.

As a rule of thumb, people will violate copyright when either (a) they think the content is priced too high or (b) technology makes it easy to do so.

Now, thanks to the PC and Internet, it’s easy to steal movies, e-books, music, photos — whatever we want.

Does that make it OK to do so?

Does the imperative “information should be free on the Internet” trump the rights of creators of intellectual property to control distribution of and be paid for their work?

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 25th, 2008 at 4:59 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

20 responses about “Steal This Blog Entry”

  1. John Hewitt said:

    750,000 jobs? I can’t help but laugh. How do you prove such a thing? I want to see the statistical study that rendered that figure. Are they assuming that if people didn’t plagiarize the work that they would buy it, because that is simply not true. I’m no fan of plagiarism, but a figure like that just makes no sense.

  2. Philip McLean said:

    I spent a little time trying to trace the 750,000 job statistic, and it seems to originate with an outfit called the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC). Someone from US Customs quoted them, the US Chamber of Commerce quoted Customs, and the Patent Office quoted the Chamber of Commerce. So we’re talking about fake designer jeans and jewelry, along with pirated DVDs.

  3. Boris Mahovac - Your Ezine Coach said:

    Unfortunately, I am a victim of such technology-facilitated theft, when a blogger set up a blog where the only “posts” where verbatim copies of my award-winning e-newsletter Contacts2Clients. He made money off it with Google AdSense ads.

    Sad thing is, Google–who runs Blogger.com where this blog is still hosted–did nothing about it when I reported it. The blog is still alive, but not kicking anymore.

  4. Bob Bly said:

    Philip: yes, the figure includes all intellectual property — patents, trademarks — not just content.

    John: I agree it’s hard to prove 750,000 jobs, but do you not believe that stealing intellectual property causes business to lose money? If businesses lose money, they make less profit, and have to cut expenses, including jobs.

  5. Sean said:

    I like to think I’m pretty moral when it comes to intellectual property. I kind of have a set of boundaries I’m comfortable with. But I’ll be the first to admit its a loose set and will sometimes vary by circumstance.

    For example, I will not download or burn copyrighted music illegally (unless its for what I feel is a legitimate fair use.)

    But, I have no problem looking online for free guitar tabs (fingerings for how to play songs), which some will say steal from the sheet music industry.

    Basically, a good musician isn’t stealing if he figures out how to play the song himself- but a bad one is stealing if someone else writes it down for him. Can we figure out a way for the government to crack down on untalented writers and marketers too?

    But I do (naively) think that most people want to pay for the value they receive. And without letting the digital pirates totally off the hook, I think this could be a sign of an industries not providing its promised value to the consumer.

  6. Gerold Braun said:

    I didn’t steal this blog entry, Bob. But i stole the idea with that red dotted box in the right column (look here). That is fair?

  7. Bob Bly said:

    Gerold: It is fair for you to use the red line technique. Reason: for written documents, you can copyright the arrangement of the words (sentences and paragraphs) but not the ideas contained in them. For artwork, you can copyright the image, but not the idea or technique used to create it.

  8. John Hewitt said:

    Bob,

    I have no doubt that there are financial losses due to plagiarism, but job losses seem less likely. I’m sure there are some, but to assume 750,000 lost jobs (USA) would assume that if there were no plagiarism, there would be 750,000 more jobs available. Until the recent credit crisis, unemployment was quite low in our country, and many of the unemployed worked (or didn’t work actually) in job sectors that have little to do directly with intellectual property such as construction, education, retail etc. To think that there were 750,000 people who were unemployed due to intellectual property theft would assume there were 750,000 qualified workers who had no jobs due to this one factor.

  9. Bob Bly said:

    John: I don’t find it as farfetched as you do. If the movie industry loses billions in revenues, theaters will close, and ushers and ticket takers are out of a job. Dozens of magazines and newspapers have shut down or gone digital only, which means no work for printers, paper boys, delivery truck drivers, and less work for reporters, editors, and ad salesmen.

  10. Charles Cuninghame said:

    After ghost writing a series of books for a client I suggested he could make some money selling them as e-books on the Web.

    He wasn’t interested as he believed people would simply email them to all their friends, thus depriving him of income.

    I told him I thought the risk of that was small compared to the potential upside, but he wasn’t convinced.

    I buy tons of e-books, but I never pass on the PDFs. Being a writer myself it goes against the grain. But I wonder how many other people do.

  11. Fiona Fell - The Profit Maximising Web Geek said:

    I do not ‘copy’ the content of antohers blog article or entry.

    I may link back to it in the content of my entry and comment about it, take quotes from it.

    Both are acceptable within the academic realm for further studies, investigation and discussion. I am simply transfering this into the digital world.

    I take the quotes and acknowledge the author also, in case the site comes down and the link no longer works.

  12. John Hewitt said:

    Bob,

    The newspapers aren’t going out of business because of content theft. They are going out of business because their content stinks. Most of them recycle the same AP or Reuters wire articles. That may have worked when people only had the newspaper and the TV for news, but frankly it just makes them look dated now. Newspapers are only going to survive by becoming hyper-local. They need to concentrate on the city they are in. Local news is the ONLY reason left to buy a local newspaper, but the newspapers respond to declining revenue by cutting reporting and supporting staff and running more useless wire junk. I for one won’t miss newspapers when they are gone because they stopped being of any value years ago.

  13. Bob Bly said:

    John, we will have to agree to disagree: I read the newspaper every day at lunch, and on the weekends as one of my favorite leisure activities. The role of newspapers IS changing, however. It used to be to deliver the news. Now it is to analyze and explain the news.

  14. Stuart said:

    As mentioned, there is a major flaw in these sums in that they assume if someone downloads an mp3 of a song from say Limewire, then the artist and label is poorer because that is a ‘lost sale’. I contend that not only was that person not in the market for the album when they downloaded it that it actually encourages them to buy stuff further down the track. Noone promotes how many cds are sold as a result of illegal downloads, but it will be some. I own hundreds of cds and I have bought many after listening to mp3s.. but I wanted them all in one place, with the art etc (ah, how I loved vinyl). A similar argument is… the guy that buys a fake rolex was not in the market for a rolex and decided to spend $100 instead of $10000. The guy that buys a fake rolex was never a contender for a real one. They are not robbing Rolex. I remember about a decade ago when a Honda car came out that looked like a Ferrari (I forget the model names…) and there was a court case. The judge decided people didn’t mistake the Honda for the Ferrari and buy it by mistake.. there was no infringement. Yes.. stealing is bad. I just think the blanket “he downloaded a movie so the studio is poorer by $29.95 from a lost DVD sale”. I’ve downloaded movies simply to check them out… (and of course you get an awful handycam version) then as soon as they were on DVD have bought them because I wanted a decent copy.
    (and once, I spent $300 in excess download charges because of leeching uploads… wow.. there was a false saving!). I still but oodles of movies because I have kids and we love watching stuff
    Stuart Gordon
    Sydney, Australia

  15. Poewar said:

    Bob,

    I’m glad you enjoy your paper. I hope it is a good one. I can safely say though, that you are part of a shrinking market. The statistics bear that out. Young readers get their news through the Internet. At the ripe old age of 41, I am between the two movements. Readers older than me still like newspapers but most readers younger than me get their news through other sources.

    I enjoyed my local (Tucson) newspaper when I was in my teens, but today the newspaper is mostly advertisements and short news stories that have little to offer me that I don’t already pick up from the radio on the way to work. I don’t recall seeing an article in my local paper that ran over 1500 words in years. The only section with solid local reporting, sadly, is the sports section.

    If I want financial analysis I read one of my many financial newsfeeds on my reader. There are some excellent financial bloggers. If I want political analysis (I rarely do) there are about ten million political blogs to read. If I want news (not even analysis) on science or technology, I pretty much HAVE to turn to the Internet because my local newspapers run a total of two pages a week on the topic.

    In short, newspapers don’t provide what I need. I think it is that way for a lot of people.

  16. Bob Bly said:

    Poewar: I find the opposite: if I subscribe to either the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times daily, they both have so much more content than I can read in the limited time available to me that I let the subscription lapse as renewal time. I only have time for the NY Times on Sunday, and even then can only look at a few parts of it. Daily news I get online from MSN and on the radio. Specialized information I get from a variety of sources including trade journals and Google searches.

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  19. Mirian Shivel said:

    When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a way you are able to remove me from that service? Kudos!

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