Extra Copies

A little while ago I got slagged pretty well by our esteemed commenters for the practice of watching copyrighted material on websites that were not authorized to show it.  It was a pretty good discussion that I learned a lot from.  I thought about these conversations last week while I was cleaning up my basement.

I came upon a pile of old music CD’s and video tapes in the VHS format.  I really have no use for CD’s anymore since all the audio I listen to is XM radio.  The $13 per month has saved me tons of money since I really don’t have to buy CD’s anymore. 

In the past I always took my old CD’s to the used CD store and got .50 or $1 for each and was happy.  I never thought anything about it.  But isn’t this contributing to an industry that is literally taking money out of the pockets of artists and record companies? 

I am famous for scouring garage sales for used books that I can get for .25 or .50 each.  But this way, no royalty is paid to the author or a publisher.  This practice to me is identical to my thought pattern of watching the content on unauthorized websites.  To review, my original thinking was that even though the content was copyrighted it was OK for me to watch it since the content (Muay Thai kickboxing) was more than likely not to be ever available here in the US since MT is not a popular sport here (I have since discontinued this practice).  Along these lines, is it OK for me to pick up a .25 book at a garage sale?  The chances are literally zero that I would ever find or read most of these books that I find at garage sales or discover the authors – but I am in essence doing the same exact thing by finding a secondhand copy of a book for basically free. 

To be honest, I will not be discontinuing my practice of purchasing secnondhand books, this is merely a thought exercise.

9 thoughts on “Extra Copies”

  1. If it says the license is non-transferrable you are technically in trouble. But I have never seen the words non-transferrable in a book or CD.

    The way I look at it, the artists got paid in full for the single use license when the copy was first purchased. There are limits about using it for profit or for public use, especially on music. But for private use, you can resell the license to another private user without any additional compensation to the creator.

    The artists were protected by the fact that the cost of reproducing the work was greater than the cost of buying a legitimate license. The problem arose with the introduction of the xerographic copier. Then teachers started copying worksheets out of books instead of buying 30 workbooks. When digital came to audio, the generation of students taught to steal by their teacher’s example of piracy saw no reason to obey a law for whaich there was no respect so the problem exploded.

  2. You own them and can sell them. IIRC the recording industry attempted, unsuccessfully, a few years ago to get the courts to prevent trading in used CDs. It’s no different than selling a used book. Making multiple copies and selling them is a different matter.

  3. § 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

  4. Don,

    Can you explain the relevance of fair use to Dan’s original post? Since you quoted the regulations w/o comment, I assume you thought it was completely obvious, but alas in my case this is not so.

  5. The buying of physical media works i.e. books, cds etc does not contribute to the creators and might even hurt them a bit (unless it is offset by original sales increased by exposure and word of mouth)

    Legally one can resell books and music media because when you purchase a book you own free and clear the actual physical media the information is encoded on. You can do whatever you wish with the physical media including destroying it.

    However, that does not alway apply to software. Many software license prohibit resale and software vendors enforce that license. I know from people who work in the used media trade (half-priced hand book type stores etc) that they can often not resell perfectly good software packages due to the risk of violating a license.

    Digital media created the modern intellectual property rights problem precisely because it separates the valuable information from any physical media. Traditional copyright worked because people had to have a physical media to carry the information and the physical media was zero-sum and could be easily managed. Creators never tried to undermine the resell market because the cost of doing so would outweigh the benefits.

    Personally, if I really like a creators work, especially if they’re new and starting out, I will go out of my way to make an original purchase just to insure that the creator gets rewarded for their work.

  6. Your copyrights have been stolen. The length of copyright used to be the same as the length of a patent. Now it’s years after the author’s death. To see how badly you have been ripped off go read Free Culture by Larry Lessig. It’s a dilemma and I not sure that turning every kid that downloads a song into a criminal will work.

  7. Kirk,

    Mrs Davis “..Then teachers started copying worksheets out of books instead of buying 30 workbooks..”


    “..teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use),”

  8. I have no great involvement in copyright management/violation, but there is the reality that copyright as now defined IS NOT ENFORCIBLE in a digital world, any more than speed limits are enforcible on superhighways (sure law men can make a few examples, but the vast majority will go at a perceived-risk-limited rate). Does this mean the law should be flexible or that ENFORCEMENT should be flexible? The real answer is anathema to conservative thought: the behavior could be “taxed” or “burdened” in a way that cannot leak much, as is done with consumption taxes. This would require that some material or service necessary for “violating” or “infringing” (storage media, internet access, broadband) be levied and the revenue be distributed to those entitled. (A whole new business could result from selling tickets to watch the “entitled” eviscerate each other over dividing the levy.) However THAT played out, the consumer/user/audience is indemnified by paying the levy. (I know, everybody shouldn’t have to pay for the minority to play, but that’s the school tax argument all over again – already settled I would say.) Alternatively, the legacy music companies can try to re-invent their business or be left out either completely or subrogated to a new venture (see Jobs, Steve). Lots of luck, legacies.

    In any event, the individual audience ethics involved are no more crucial than the decision to go 72 on a 65-limit freeway or keep the occasional soda that drops out of the machine before you finish putting the money in… I think we all know how that works, even if we don’t agonize over it in public.

  9. Good Comment Don. I agree with you 100% that the cat is out of the bag WRT the copyright issue. But as you will note in my previous posts on the subject that doesn’t mean that I need to participate in it. The chances were practically 100% that I would never get caught watching unauthorized digital copies of copyrighted shows on the ‘net, but I discontinued the practice because it was wrong.

    The practice of buying and selling used CD’s and books is perfectly legal from everything I have read, so I will continue that.

    Frankly, if other people want to participate in getting songs or videos and not paying attention to copyrights, it doesn’t bother me in the least. I agree with you 100% that the legacy companies using the ostrich head in the sand approach will be very bad for them in the long run. I was astounded to find out what percentage of internet traffic (almost 25%!) was dedicated to people downloading and watching unauthorized copies of shows and movies all over the world.

    I have come to the conclusion that the media companies make so much money off of the first release of the program on the networks that they simply don’t care about leakage after that. They could start to enforce things and get torrents or sites shut down, but the next day 50 more will be started up.

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