Copyright Infringement vs Theft

I was on the phone with an elected official the other day. He said "we have to do something about this theft that is occurring." I lost my cool. I told him that if he was going to use that word we could end the call. He was shocked that I got so upset with him. 

It does upset me that lobbyists in Washington are positioning copyright infringement as theft. Cam MacRae left a comment on this blog last weekend that explains it well.

You're talking about copyright infringement, not theft. 

Theft, in plain english, is defined as the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive. Stealing is the act of theft.

Copyright infringement is not theft, although some copyright infringement is criminal. In each case the remedies are different.

Theft, stealing etc. are terms co-opted by a particular lobby for their emotional weight, but have no place in any rational debate.

Well said Cam. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Winer

    Fred why not name the elected official?

    1. jason wright

      He might stop taking Fred’s calls. Better to talk and disagree than not to talk at all. Keep the channel open. You never know when you might need it.

    2. Mark Essel

      It’s kinda fun guessing, Bloomberg?

    3. kidmercury

      the comment thread might then devolve into an attack on that elected official, and those who voted for him/her. perhaps this was not preferred and that the goal was to focus on copyright vs theft. just speculating here. 

      1. Mark Essel

        yeah, no need to escalate the beef.

      2. Dave Pinsen

        Or the access Fred’s money gets him.

        1. LE

          Don’t agree. And sometimes access to the staffers (which is possible by anyone) is more important than the de jure decision maker. Because the staffers are in part the decision makers and the filters. Like Supreme Court law clerks. If you can influence the staffers you can influence the elected officials.This is something that I also learned in another business where it was better to be in with the secretary or admin than the owner. The secretary made the buying decisions with the rubber stamp approval of the owner. Trying to get the owner to buy your product many times works only if the gatekeeper supports the idea. Otherwise the owner doesn’t want to rock the boat and just goes with what the support staff wants to do. De-facto vs. de jure decision makers.

    4. fredwilson

      because relationships matter

      1. dave

        I agree, where private business is concerned. But not in the case of elected officials. Discourse with them should be public. Because of the nature of what they do. They’re supposed to represent all of us, not just people with access.And we all know *why* you have access Fred, because we understand how politics works in the US in 2011.Too much happens behind closed doors.There’s already a lot of backlash against this, and it’s becoming more open and that’s good.

        1. fredwilson

          if everyone were to play the game that way, i’d be happy to as well.but when my opponents don’t play it that way, i can’t either, if i hope to be successful

          1. dave

            I’d like to make a prediction, we can come back here and a year or two and see who is right…The prediction is this.You already have opponents who do play that way. And they’re not as impotent as one might think. You helped create the environment that makes that possible Fred. In fact we’re using it right now. :-)The question is how much do you believe in the subversive power of technology. VCs prefer the word “disruptive” but I think it goes way beyond that.

          2. ShanaC

            agreed: we way underestimate how subversive technology is.  i think it is one of the more disturbing and fascinating parts of technology.

          3. bernardlunn

            I agree. USV has far too much clout to worry about what some elected official thinks. If thats not true then we are all in for a lot worse time than we thought. What chance do the rest of us have. Elected officials are supposed to be our servants, not our masters.

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        3. LE

          “Discourse with them should be public”You’re saying *all discourse*?. I don’t agree. Simpletons can’t handle the truth. Same reasons parents can’t always talk in front of children. And private conversations aren’t always nefarious.”And we all know *why* you have access Fred, because we understand how politics works in the US in 2011.”Access is certainly easier with money but by no means the only way. As I’ve stated before.

          1. dave

            I follow the same rules in tech — I won’t discuss open formats and protocols in private. And when other people do it, I point out that they’re no longer open formats and protocols. Some people get mad at me for this, but so be it. I have to be able to look smart developers in the eye and be telling the truth when I say they have an equal shot at influencing an open format as someone who is an employee of an 800 pound gorilla. With me, they do. I care about how bright you are, not who you know. (But of course I’m not omniscient. If I know your work is excellent I will pay more attention, reputation matters.)

      2. Botham Ian

        If the elected official happens to read this post, the relationship might have got broken anyway,, right Fred ??

        1. fredwilson

          i don’t think so. because i protected them by not mentioning their name. i would love it if the elected official read this post and all of the comments. it would be awesome.

          1. LE

            You should get someone to take the post at the end of the day and summarize all the points that are made. Reduce it to an easy one to two page read complete with attribution.As I said in my comments “make it easy for them”.  While you are at it you can distribute the summary to all the relevant elected officials in printed form delivered by Fedex.Edit: Which might be a business idea for someone that I have thought about in the past: Summarize blog comments in a digest for corporate executives and elected officials that either would be paid for or supported by advertising. I would invest in that idea.

          2. fredwilson

            i should. but that’s a lot of work. disqus should make that easier

          3. fredwilson

            i should. but that’s a lot of work. disqus should make that easier

  2. Mark Essel


  3. testtest

    fair play. getting the language straight is important. otherwise you end up talking about two different things. that’s the antithesis of communication



  4. ShanaC

    we have politicians that don’t understand what what a non-rivalrous* good is.  *head thunk* no wonder we’re screwed up.non-rivalrous good – see here:…

    1. Mark Essel

      I just donated to the wikimedia foundation after reading a few articles this morning.Thanks for that link, great reminder.

      1. ShanaC

        you’re welcome.  though my head still wants to thunk after realizing that we have problems if we can’t explain to our kids the difference between a rivalrous and nonrivalrous good.

      2. William Mougayar

        Ditto. I did that for the first time, realizing that for years I have been taking and not giving to Wikipedia. It’s a shitty guilt feeling.

    2. ShanaC

      So why this is important: you technically can’t steal a nonrivalrous good. if I listen to a song, and you listen to a song, your enjoyment of the song is in no way hampered by me listening.  In fact, information has an interesting quality in that it gets better when more people participate.  (now that we’ve both listened to the song we can enjoy it even more because we can talk to each other about the song.)When we talk about the cost of media, we’re really talking about the cost of time/attention which is highly variable.  It is more closely akin to the housing market ( the reason in the US we don’t sell houses in auctions very often is what is considered suitable housing for one person can be very different from suitable housing for another, making it very hard to create auctions of analogous matches.).  My time right this past  second is a bit cheaper than my time later today (scheduling) adding a further complication.  Meanwhile we’ve set up an almost purely true auction system to subsidize this good (see real time bidding markets for ads)  which in a lot of cases (not all) pushes down prices because each moment I spend is no longer bundled with more expensive moments of mine.What we need to do is figure out a better auction system based on true cost of time that doesn’t depress inventory costs so much.  (problems I’ve been overthinking recently)

      1. Jason

        To build that we’d need technology that invades our privacy and knows us even better! Though I can’t stress the value of time more, I can’t believe media companies would ever be responsible to tax the metric appropriately.The abuse would be too profitable to not force rationalize greed.

        1. ShanaC

          I’m not so sure about this.  Think actuarial information.  There is a large amount of information going in when you buy life insurance, but not as much as you think, because it is all standardized.We’re just figuring out what the standard should be

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Jason


      2. Jack

        It might be true that an mp3 file of a song is non-rival, or the streaming of a song is non-rival, but creation of the song itself is not non-rival. 

        1. ShanaC

          so you’re back to my time argument – it is how much i think my time and your time is worth.

          1. Jack

            I’m not on board with that. The value of my time has no bearing on the cost of creating music, as I am not in the business of creating music. It seems to me that the cost of my time is pretty much irrelevant in all of the examples you are giving.  I go see lots of live music.  Except in a very broad sense (e.g., do I have the time to go to this show, or do I have more pressing obligations), I do not consider the value of my time while considering if it is “worth it” to buy the ticket.  But even if I did consider the cost of time, I’m not sure how this would apply.  If I can bill $250/hr and I go to a show that is 90 minutes, are you suggesting I should be willing to be $375 for the ticket?  At the end of the night, am I to demand $375 less the fair market value of the ticket for spending 90 minutes at the show rather than billing clients?

          2. ShanaC

            there are other aspects going into the “is it valuable” but on a fundamental level, your max you are willing to pay for something that would take time away from work would be $375 as you said.  Which is how your accountant makes money.  And how I decided which tickets to buy for the ballet.

          3. Jack

            That doesn’t make any sense.  If I am giving up the potential to bill $375 why would the max that I should be willing to pay for a concert ticket be 375 more dollars? Now I’m down $750. And my imaginary accountant will have to go find another customer.

          4. ShanaC

            @3da0d12d6d8667963392a446262b1773:disqus no, it is just opportunity cost, so just $375

        2. fredwilson

          exactly. my partner Albert thinks that services like Kickstarter will allow artists to get paid before the content is created and becomes non-rival

          1. LE

            “allow artists to get paid before the content is created”Should be interesting to see how that plays out. After all hunger helps with creativity and provides motivation. So does pain and uncertainty.How about this: If you got or knew your next 5 years earnings *right now* what would that do to you in terms of enjoying your work? (I have to use an extreme example to illustrate the point.)  Many people would find the experience less enjoyable. I know I would.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          3. ShanaC

            what happens when the artist becomes the next lady gaga – how does an artist make up for lost revenue because the future turned out so different?


        WORKING ON IT.

        1. ShanaC


    3. Tom Labus

      Thanks, Shana.You may want to forward that to that congressional committee (along with a check).  Feeling very cynical this morning as I read about our “super committee”.

      1. ShanaC

        i’m feeling a cross between cynical and heartbroken.  geesus, what is wrong with us that we elect people that don’t understand some really basic economic concepts.  further, what is wrong with us that we don’t mandate that we teach this in schools (so no excuses)

        1. Elia Freedman

          I think this becomes much clearer if we realize that they are lawmakers, most of whom are lawyers by training (because lawyers understand laws). They are not producers of value, most of whom have never been in our shoes. The people who pretend to be in our shoes, the lobbyists and big companies who have access to the lawyers who make our laws, aren’t even close.

          1. sujal

            And in many cases, the lobbyists are lawyers themselves. Many are ex-politicians or staffers…

        2. sigmaalgebra

          Now, now, Shana, with your emphasis on time, you have been dipping into utility theory!  There is an axiomatic development, e.g., inGuillermo Owen, ‘Game Theory’, W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA.although I suspect that an earlier source was the von Neumann and Morgenstern ‘Theory of Games and Economic Behavior’.There may be connections with Nash’s (right, as in the movie) result in ‘bimatrix games’ as inT. Parthasarathy and T. E. S. Raghavan, ‘Some Topics in Two-Person Games’, ISBN 0-444-00059-3, American Elsevier, New York.As I recall, without reaching for my copy of the book, there Lemke has a linear programming solution or some such!P&R is a nice book with a nice results on separation, fixed points, and convexity!”heartbroken”.  Geesus, Shana, you’re supposed to have outgrown such sophomoric vulnerabilities!”we elect people that don’t understand some really basic economic concepts”Of COURSE we do.  You expected something else?Or, it’s all ‘relative’!  There’s a distribution!  When enough of ET’s friends arrive, we will elect better informed people, but then ET’s friends will repeat your complaint about even you and me!Geesus, the distribution even applies to kitty cats:  I get to communicate with my little boy about like he was a human child of about 6. But at -15 F last winter, I took in a stray, cold, hungry, afraid, plump, Siamese girl, and she’s dumber than paint, almost as dumb as the people we elect!  I mean, “The Internet is a series of tubes”, right?Or:SOPA Rep.:  We’ve got to block those rogue domain names.Geek:  Then people will just use the dotted decimal versions of the actual IP addresses and not need the DNS system.SOPA Rep.:  They can’t do that.  Can they do that?  What’s a “dotted decimal”?  We need an amendment to outlaw dotted decimal.”what is wrong with us that we don’t mandate that we teach this in schools”?Nothing!  That situation is a special case of the more general situation that we don’t teach much of anything in schools, at least not K-12, and even in college have to look a bit carefully to find some good stuff!Shana, Shana, Shana, where’d you get the idea that the K-12 schools are for teaching anything?  K-12 is to pass out a few weeks of instruction scattered over 13 years or so and otherwise keep the kids supervised and locked up until they are too old for that!  So, we waste their best learning years!Maybe the best ‘comprehensive exam’ in K-12 is to see what kids can figure out that they aren’t supposed to be learning anything! 

          1. ShanaC

            Stop making me guilty for being single :-pAnd K-12 instruction shouldn’t be babysitting!!!

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Shana, I didn’t know you were single!  And since I’m a man, as I eventually discovered, I cannot, and am not supposed to be able to, understand how I make a woman “feel”!  So in particular I didn’t know I was making you “feel guilty”!Besides, as I eventually learned, commonly the default ‘state’ for a woman is to feel guilty even if she cannot identify any reason for feeling guilty!  Or one friend described women’s emotions as like a hot air balloon that had a slow leak and frequently needed ‘pumping up’!But, I would say, Social Security needs more workers for which our country needs more babies with two good parents in a good marriage so that any women who could be a good parent but is single SHOULD “feel guilty” from hurting Social Security!”babysitting”?  I didn’t say that K-12 was just “babysitting”!  Actually when I was in the seventh grade, a lot of the girls were drop dead gorgeous and sometimes did babysitting.  If in K-12 I had been receiving babysitting from such girls, then I would have noticed!  Gotta tell you, the actual situation was nowhere nearly as ‘nice’!  We’re talking drop dead gorgeous, sugar and spice and everything nice, really, Really, REALLY cute and sweet, e.g., sheer, floral pastel print dresses with fitted tops and absurdly full skirts outlined with satin ribbons, tied up with satin bows, bouncing, long, blond ponytails tied up with more ribbons and bows, etc. versus what I got, say, some witch, really a long series of them, out of a Steven King movie!I confess, my high school was special:  Among the students were Cybil Shepard and Stella Stevens, and they were not among the prettiest!The worst of the witches was my plane geometry teacher!  She was about the nastiest person I’ve ever known.  I usually had my head down and slept in class!  I refused to hand in any homework.  But of course I made sure to work every non-trivial problem in the book, including the more difficult ones in the back.  One of the ones in the back took me the weekend!  GOOD weekend!  On Monday, she worked an easy problem with the same figure, so for the first and last time I raised my hand:  “There is a problem with the same figure in the back.”  …  Dramatic tension kept rising as she exhorted “THINK class, THINK.  Look at the GIVEN.”, none of which was doing her much good either!  After about 20 minutes I wanted to help and gave a “hint”, and she exploded:  “You knew how to do it all along”.  Of COURSE I did; she expected something else?  NO WAY would I have mentioned the problem otherwise.  Indeed, no way did I even once miss working a non-trivial problem.  So, yes, I did well on the state exam and, as we might expect, the math SAT!When I was in the ninth grade I met two girls, one in the seventh grade and one in the sixth.  Both were beyond belief, including naturally blond.  Since I had a little loose change, sometimes I walked both to a Howard Johnson’s and got (one of Jacques Pepin’s inventions) Sea Dogs (fried clams in a modified hot dog bun), iced tea, and Swiss Chocolate Almond ice cream.  If I had understood then what I understand now, then I could have done much better!  Beyond belief.Now an example of a really pretty girl is Emma Watson!  However she is mostly pretty, really just exquisite, from the shoulders and up.  For the rest, she would do better keeping her clothes on which apparently recently she’s decided not to do!  Basically she is just a few years past when she needed a good husband and some BABIES!I thought that Princess Di was mostly a good example:  When she was 15 she decided that she would marry Charles, and about two years later she did.  AMAZING!  Then apparently she (1) didn’t go to college and (2) was a “teen mom” — Gloria Steinem was likely screaming “Horrors!”.  I was saying, “Smart girl” in all respects except for both the man(?) she married and his (really dysfunctional) family!  She paid a big price.  Basically her father didn’t guide her well in picking a husband.  Sad situation.  Di was a dream.  Charles and his family are disasters.Yes, K-12 is mostly just babysitting except with witches instead of teenage girls for the babysitters.  Bummer!If my business works, then maybe I’ll take a “pretty woman” to ‘La Traviata’!  I have the Pavarotti recording in a CD player driving my old, high end stereo — the speakers on my computer not up to such music!  It’s GOOD music!The music is good for cooking a pot of carrots!  So, I dice about 12 ounces of yellow globe onion and soften it in about 1/2 cup of olive oil.  Then I add about 6 cloves of minced garlic, a lot of pepper, a cup of red wine, 1 1/2 cups of canned beef stock, and about 2 1/2 quarts of the carrots and simmer covered.  When the carrots are about done, I top with some ‘Haricot Vert’, parsley, and thyme.  Makes a good side dish!  Need some French bread to soak up the liquid!

          3. ShanaC

            @sigmaalgebra:disqus *sigh* My family just complains about the fact that I am not married.  Meh for them

          4. sigmaalgebra

            “And K-12 instruction shouldn’t be babysitting!!!”  Right.  That’s why we have home schooling!For your family, if they don’t mention your being single more than once a minute 24 x 7, then the situation is just normal with nothing to be concerned about!Besides, too large a fraction of women who go for being a wife and mommy, by the time their youngest is in the first grade, get bored, disillusioned, dissatisfied, discontented, unhappy, angry, destructive, etc. Instead, the Internet is one of the best business opportunities so far, and computing will prove to be still better. Also can use computers to write and perform music! Try to make sense of Bell’s inequality in quantum mechanics, dark matter, dark energy, and unified field theory. The future is to be made, and you have a lot of talent to contribute to making it. That can be more fun than being bored, …, angry and single again!

        3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    4. Wesley Verhoeve

      So true Shana. We deserve better politicians.

      1. ShanaC

        *sigh* we got what we voted for.  



  5. TriolithEntertainment

    Well said indeed 🙂

  6. William Mougayar

    This politician has been brainwashed by the school of content providers lobbyists. I’ve heard similar language from a Disney executive 5 years ago. They have been on this crusade to eradicate copyright abuses for a long time. But we know they are going about it the wrong way because they don’t understand the nuances of the Internet and what openness brings.

    1. Elia Freedman

      I don’t think that is true. Why would they understand the other side of this story if no one is explaining it to them?

      1. William Mougayar

        Do u think our side is not lobbying enough?

          1. William Mougayar

            Wow- what a chart. thanks for sharing it.



  7. kidmercury

    the elected official may be deceiving him/her self (meaning they honestly believe what they are saying) but while copyright and the entertainment industry are the visible forces we see pushing for SOPA or whatever silly name they are giving it these days, the war people are the ones truly pushing for it. so, if SOPA fails, they can use the cybersecurity issue to get the type of draconian control they want. some of the rethuglican candidates are already calling for cybersecurity to be a major issue and the next big front in the “war on terror.” so, as people want to use the internet as is and dont want govt coming in to break it, understanding this is critical. gotta attack this issue at the source to make meaningful govt change. which is why, if the startup community supports anyone besides ron paul, then they dont really get it and are just setting themselves up for more undesired govt meddling in the internet. all the other candiates who get on tv are a part of the war team. but personally i think alt DNS systems are necessary regardless of what happens with SOPA. in addition to the crooks in congress we have the carriers — basically ATT — which is basically a part of the govt too if one considers its constitution-violating partnership with the NSA. IMHO we’re clinging to a dying ship here; better off thinking about building a new one, which has the potential to be a better foundation for the future. #fs

  8. jason wright

    There’s the technicality of the wording of the law, the dictionary definition of a word, and then there’s the intent of the miscreant. If I author a work and work very hard at creating it and I do so to make commercial gain from it and to keep body and soul together, and someone takes that work without my  permission and uses it to make commercial gain from it for themselves without in any way compensating me I would consider that to be a form of theft. The word infringement implies something happening at the edge, on the periphery, but that kind of behavior is at the very heart of the matter.Everyone is entitled to lobby, and lobbying can be a dirty business. It’s the rough and tumble of the business world.

  9. Robert Thuston

    Just reading some of this… thought it was interestingPROTECT IP ActPROTECT = Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and TheftSupporters include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Directors Guild of America…Yahoo, Ebay, Google, etc. oppose.  A letter of opposition was signed by 130 technology entrepreneurs and executives and sent to Congress to express their concern that the law in its present form would “hurt economic growth and chill innovation in legitimate services that help people create, communicate, and make money online”.

  10. Tom Labus

    Is there any shot at testifying before that committee?Would they listen and react or is this a paid for done deal and the hearing is just political theater?

  11. David Pitkin

    If you would like an even deeper dive into the rhetoric that businesses have imported into the copyright “discussion” check out Bill Patry’s book Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars.”The way we have come to talk about copyright–metaphoric language demonizing everyone involved–has led to bad business and bad policy decisions. Unless we recognize that the debates over copyright are debates over business models, we will never be able to make the correct business and policy decisions.”

    1. fredwilson

      Debates over copyright are business model debatesSo true

    2. testtest

      Unless we recognize that the debates over copyright are debates over business modelsstrongly agree!we live in the attention economy. content produces have all the cards, they just don’t know what they mean.



    4. thinkdisruptive

      I wrote a detailed article on this subject several years ago in the context of DRM and the DCMA and how it was abrogating rights that the copyright consumers had always held, and moreover that the real thieves/pirates were in fact the copyright holders. (…What tends to get forgotten is that copyright is by definition a balancing of the interests of content producers and the common good. The reason copyright privileges were granted in the first place (i.e. it hasn’t always existed, and isn’t an absolute right) was to promote and reward invention by granting a short-term monopoly to profit from it.The actual language giving congress the authority to create IP laws stated the purpose and the principle this way: to “promote the progress of Science and Useful Arts, by Securing for Limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”, which clearly articulates the principle of balancing interests. In the beginning, that period was 14 years, with the possibility of extension for a further 14 years if the original content producer was still alive. To me, that seems like pretty reasonable protection for anything. If you haven’t made enough from your monopoly in 28 years, how long will it take?It’s now almost 100 years longer than that.This “limited period monopoly” concept is extremely important, because if IP rights aren’t in balance, the holder of the copyright/patent essentially loses the incentive to innovate, and gains incentive to litigate, and the thing that is most harmed is the common good because progress can be blocked by those holding the IP.After about 10 extensions of this period since the 1930s, the duration of copyright is now life + 70 years (if held by a person), or 95 years from publication date or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter if held by a company. Most of the extensions to copyright were granted just as Mickey Mouse was about to enter the public domain, which isn’t that much of a coincidence, but it is ironic since almost all the classic Disney animations were “pirated ideas” from works in the public domain – in many cases, works that wouldn’t have been available to use if the current copyright laws were in place at the time Disney was creating his films.The real insight here is not that Disney today would have labeled the Disney of 75 years ago as a “pirate”, but that when copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death, we have to ask how exactly is Walt being incentivized to create new work? And, how does the common good benefit when no new creation that uses this idea is allowed for 120 years?The underpinning idea behind copyright law, and IP protections in general, is that all invention and innovation builds on what has come before. That’s why rights are granted for a short period of time – so that innovation and creativity (mashups) can continue as it has for millennia, with a bit of stimulus to get more by granting a short monopoly. It was never intended to create a perpetual money machine for the IP rights holder, nor should it be.SOPA is just the latest attempt to extend protection to the industry in particular, and lock down innovation, and infringe on the public good so that a few may profit. It’s anti-American, anti-innovation, over regulation, bad law, against the spirit of the constitution, and if passed, another defeat of the idea of balancing interests.As noted in another comment, the key problem is language: we’ve all been brainwashed to accept that if you’re against extending copyright protection anymore than it already has been, or in favor of actually rolling it back to more reasonable terms that actually balance interests, that you are in favor of piracy. The monopolists who want to lock up invention and art virtually forever are the pirates, not the other way around. It’s time we realized how much the words chosen to describe this affect your viewpoint – Hollywood has won the fight before it starts with more effective marketing. Who could possibly argue in favor of pirates?I certainly can’t, and that’s why everyone in Washington who votes for this should be labeled a pirate protector, and the industry themselves as the pirates. They are progressively limiting the rights of the public and violating the principles that copyright protection depends on for its intellectual honesty. Unfortunately, there are very few politicians smart enough to understand any of this – it’s far more complicated than balancing the budget.

  12. LIAD

    Lets reframe this from a discussion centred around legalities to one around ethics.If copyright infringement is not theft, what is it?

    1. ShanaC

      How to pay for non-rivalrous goods.

      1. LIAD

        not sure that answers the question

        1. ShanaC

          I’m not sure either.  However, it is one of those statements that do start bringing up questions like:Espionage is wrong.  Why is espionage wrong (the realpolitik part of me says that’s life, suck it up)?  (espionage is stealing state secrets, which as information, is nonrivalrous)  Should the punishment be harder for espionage versus listening to a song without rights permissions? (probably)  Why?  Is stealing one state secret (one BLS report before they are made public) differently valuable and punishable than stealing a lot of state secretes (all the BLS reports before they are officially published)The moral issue is very closely tied to how much we value something that is hard to pin a value one.  Figure out how to pin a value, you deal with the morality issue a lot easier.

    2. ErikSchwartz

      It is sneaking into the movie theater. 

      1. fredwilson

        That too

      2. LIAD

        Something to be proud of?

        1. ErikSchwartz

          IMO. No

        2. Copywronged

          No, but it sneaking into a movie a felony?  The problem here isn’t just the law, but the unconstitutionally harsh penalties.  But don’t worry, no member of congress will be held to the same standard as the rest of us (

      3. Dale Allyn

        It’s more than “sneaking into the movie theater”. It’s often that plus “recording the film on a handicam and then selling the DVDs or streaming it on line”. We can argue that the quality will be poor, but in reality the copy is not made (any longer) the way I described (with the handicam). I do believe the big players behind these bills are going about it very wrong, but there is a problem with creative materials being used without permission, attribution and compensation. That is not ethical or legal. And to that point there are laws in place to help combat the problems. The unfortunate reality is that this (SOPA, etc) is simply business and lazy business at that, not good legislation. The semantic arguments around “theft” vs “infringement” can get in the way of what is the real “right and wrong”. I’m not in disagreement with Fred’s post or position on the terminology, but just don’t want the discussion to devolve such that the real content creators, the artists, photographers, musicians, etc., find their positions trivialized. edit: dropped word

        1. thinkdisruptive

          Yes, you’re right that the argument is about right and wrong. SOPA is wrong. Copyright is a nuanced area of law, based on a principle that is supposed to balance interests. It is not an absolute in the way that “thou shall not kill” is.That balance was arguably lost a long, long time ago, and every extension of the law or further restriction on what you can and can’t do makes it more wrong.I don’t trivialize the positions of content creators, although I would trivialize what Hollywood is currently pushing for as being anti-content creation, anti-innovation, anti-public interest, bad law, and definitely against the spirit of why IP protection exists in the first place. See note above responding to David Pitkin.

    3. fredwilson

      Many thingsIncluding free marketing for the workIt is a very complex subjectNot simple like theft

      1. ErikSchwartz

        My big problem with this argument is maybe the creator doesn’t want their work marketed in this way.To go Godwin on you first thing in the day but I’m on the way out the door to a turkey shoot… Say I was the guy who created the swastika, should I thank the Germans for the increased exposure?

        1. kidmercury

          you know the swastika in inverted form is used in hindu ceremonies…..accordingly my parents wanted to put an inverted swastika outside their house when they bought their home……my brother and i convinced them not to out of fear it would be misinterpreted as pro-nazi

          1. Rohan

            Haha. 🙂

        2. Biology

          “Say I was the guy who created the swastika”Say I was the species that first created the eye.  Should I now be allowed to go around suing every other creature that arrives at an eye independent of my own evolution?  Gouge our your eyes dude, it’s not fair to amoebas visualis since he thought of it first 😛

    4. Dan Lewis

      It’s “misappropriation.”…Theft requires the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the item.  Misappropriation — which is still illegal and immoral — does not.  And I agree that we want to do something to discourage that.A great analogy is a car thief versus a valet who goes for a joy ride and accidentally totals your car.  In both cases, we’d want the government to set up a framework to prevent these from happening *and* to compensate the victims.  But in the case of the car thief, criminal charges seem to be the more important part; in the case of the valet, civil damages seem to be more important.

      1. thinkdisruptive

        Hollywood misappropriated the spirit of IP protection by continuously pushing (buying Congress) for more and more extension of their copyright protections and limits on how you can use what you’ve paid for to the point where the public’s interests and theirs are not even remotely in balance. Copyright is not an absolute concept, but one that is intended to grant a monopoly to profit from your art or innovation for a “limited time”. Monopolies are anathema to free markets, and would cause capitalism to crash to the ground if allowed free rein. That, and the fact that all innovation builds on what came before is why patents and copyrights are supposed to be limited, before passing into the public domain. Hollywood would have you believe that their rights are absolute and that yours are non-existent. They are the thieves, not the infringers.



    6. thinkdisruptive

      First you have to understand the principle that copyright is not absolute. It is a balancing of interests. See comment above responding to David Pitkin.If IP laws were absolute, then you as an innovator would have nothing to innovate, since all invention builds on the past, and all “prior art” would be locked up or licensed monopolistically.

  13. Miljenko Hatlak

    Andrew Keen post on Techcrunch titled The Death Of The Internet Has Been Greatly Exaggerated an a reaction to Fred’s post”Protecting The Safe Harbors Of The DMCA And Protecting Jobs” says: “The truth is that technology and content are symbiotic; and thus the most valuable tech companies – from Apple and Google/YouTube to Netflix, Spotify and Union Square investments like Turntable and Soundcloud – are also distribution and discovery companies in an increasingly digital-centric entertainment and information economy.I’m not against Fred Wilson being against SOPA. That’s obviously his right and some of his criticisms of the legislation have an element of validity – particularly the need to tighten up the language of SOPA so that it can’t be used as an easy excuse by avaricious lawyers to shut down promising start-ups. But what I’m against is this tired Manichaean version of the world which presents all proposed legislation as an either/or, and that whenever there’s an attempt to legislate the Internet, online libertarians erupt into that tired chorus of “Big Media Is Killing The Internet”.”So, what’s your reaction?

    1. fredwilson

      I prefer to ignore trolls

      1. Miljenko Hatlak

        So do I

  14. Wesley Verhoeve

    Lets remember this has gone on for ages now. When cassette tapes became available we had the Home Taping Is Killing Music lobby.…When VCR’s came out we had the Sony vs Universal legal case where it was determined that making single copies of tv shows for home viewing was fair use:….In 2004 movie studios sued Grokster and other file sharing software creators over the same thing:….And let us not forget the highly effective campaign “Don’t Copy That Floppy” (anyone remember that one?!?)…It’s very frustrating to see my peers in the content business go down the rabbit hole to fight the unfightable fight, rather than focus on improving the service they provide and the business model they pursue.

    1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar

      Well said. Great blog Wesley- love it!

      1. Wesley Verhoeve

        Thank you William! I hope to write something related to this topic next week if I find time! End year hectics! 

    3. iamronen

      Should everything fall under the umbrellas of “service provider” and “business”? Are there not things in this world that should to be treated with a different attitude? 

      1. Wesley Verhoeve

        I’d be curious to see you expand on this question Ronen.Is there a difference between selling cans of beans, and selling music or other arts? Yes, many. The product is different, and the inherent rights issues are different, but in the end there are creators that create and choose to make this a profession, and there are consumers who choose to pay (or not) for these products and services. 

        1. iamronen

          Lets say you have children? (Do you?) You provide (create for) them shelter and food – do they (consumers) pay for those services? Should they?I am sure we all draw different lines and have different values … and that’s an important freedom to cherish and uphold.However when you impose a framework of “service” and “business” (can we call it capitalism?) you lose something. We have been living in a time (hence your thread of examples) where this framework has been dominant (and, ironically, as you indirectly poined out, struggling) and I believe that this comes (will come) with a price. In my mind it’s not about the changing mediators that made money off it and are now struggling to continue to do so, it’s not about artists that do or do not make a living from what they do, it’s not about “consumers” who “pay” or “steal” (which, if you think about it, are both very arbitrary constructs). The greatest injury/challenge is in the reshaping of values in your life when you embrace this framework almost as a … well … religion.It saddens me that you need to ask if there is a difference. Yes there is … there is a realm (to each his/her own) of things that are priceless. But a “service/business” framework cannot accommodate “priceless” – so those things that actually are priceless get either used/abused or trampled … to the point that their very existence is questioned?

          1. Wesley Verhoeve

            I do not have children (though I hope to!).Children are not customers of parents. I wouldn’t have children with the intend to provide services for them that I would charge for. If someone else would, that’s their prerogative of course.If a creator chooses to make something they charge for in order to provide income for the creator, then they choose to participate in a market situation. No one is forcing a musician to sell their music. If they’d rather give it away for free they can do so, and no one is going to be upset about it.

          2. iamronen

            Please excuse my bluntness Wesley but “If a creator chooses to make something they charge for in order to provide income for the creator, then they choose to participate in a market situation.” is pure intellectual masturbation.There are different kinds of creatives. Most creatives create out of some inherent need to do so – it’s a self-serving impulse first and foremost. Then there are all kinds of interactions as others come across their work – the most basic interaction is inspiration.Then somewhere down the line there CAN BE an exchange involved. It is usually out of necessity not out of choice. Creatives create then don’t sell – selling is a (mostly imposed by society) side-effect. But again, if you’ve lived (and you participate) in a capitalist age that last bit is the main part of your perception and you can miss out on a bigger picture. Your life is shaped by the presence (or absence) of that bigger picture. Have you ever considered how many beautifully inspiring (=can change your life) musicians you may never hear because they won’t pass through your capitalist regime?

          3. Wesley Verhoeve

            Ronen, I agree with you that there are different kinds of creatives and that most creatives create out of some inherent need to do so. I work with artists as both a manager, a record label owner and a producer so I can tell you first hand that this is indeed true.All I am saying is that it’s still up to the artist in the end, regardless of her motivation, to make the choice to engage in commerce or not. If the artist willingly makes the choice to engage in commerce, then they will have to do with the consequences (good and bad). Very simple. It’s a choice, not a regime. No one is forcing an artist to make money on their work.And yes, I have actually considered how many undiscovered artists are out there that may be spectacularly good. It’s my job to find them actually. I respect those that choose to not engage in commerce, and those that do I will be able to help get their work out there.



      1. Wesley Verhoeve

        Exactly my point Grim!

  15. scottythebody

    I think that, in the current mode, that the last thing politicians should be worrying about is the freaking media companies. They’re usually so clueless that they’re likely to make our real problems much worse by trying to “fix” this one. 

  16. Robert Thuston

    The last 10 music albums I bought were because people shared a song with me on the web.The last several books I’ve read were because people shared quotes and parts of the books with me on the web.”Sharing” strongly influences where I spend my money, not the opposite.  There’s a difference between “sharing” and “piracy”… and the distinction is not clear in Protect IP.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      You’re making an argument that it’s in the artists’ interests to offer free samples. That’s often true, but that is their decision. A bakery can offer free samples for the same purpose, but if I steal a loaf of their bread and share a slice with you, which then leads to you buying your own loaf, that doesn’t justify my theft.

      1. Robert Thuston

        Yes, you’re right.  I’m speaking for myself rather than the artist.  I’m online to find “valuable” artists, authors, bloggers, directors, actors, etc.  I’m willing to spend time and money once I find them.  In the search process, I want lots information, lots of recommendations, lots of content, and lots of sharing.Sharing makes things more transparent, where as 10 years ago, I would need to buy 5 albums to find 1 I liked.  I like knowing what I’m paying for, and sharing allows me to know an “artists” beforehand.Yes, it’s the artist’s right to make the decision, but I’m all for encouraging open networks where artists are forced to be transparent.

      2. Bookwork

        Invalid analogy. You can’t copy a loaf of bread. You can copy a quote. The original quote hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still right where you found it. Furthermore, you say it is the copyright holder’s decision over whether you should be allowed to quote their work?  Well sir, you’ve just overturned centuries of academia, where quoting and referencing other works isn’t just common practice, it’s all but compulsory. Name one peer reviewed paper that didn’t reference other works since Albert Einstein’s “Relativity: The Special and the General Theory”By that logic, we should start locking up librarians for theft.



  17. LIAD

    I’m not sure it’s complex morally. It’s either right and something to be proud of or not.Secondary benefits like free marketing are neither here not there. If the means are wrong, the ends can’t justify them.

    1. fredwilson

      I dont agree with you on this oneI think the morality issue is very hazy

      1. LIAD

        Only pushing back because I feel this debate is worth having.If the content owner does not want you to use their content *regardless* of the benefits your usage may accrue them, how can it be right morally to use their content?

        1. fredwilson

          What do you think of a compulsory license? If you make a work available at a price to one person you must mske it available at that price to all?

          1. Dan Lewis

            In some cases, that’s fine; in others, not so much.I’ve sold my writing, for example.  Let’s say I’ve sold an essay to a company for $100.  Should anyone therefore be able to reprint the essay for the same $100?  What if one of those sites outranks my own in Google — should I be paid for?  What if one of them agrees to do some in-kind promotion for me if I give them a 25% discount — do I need to then to reduce my fees 25% across the board? Or come up with a complex pricing scheme?About a year ago, a large blog republished something I wrote changing only about 50% of the words, and they cited to me, but in a buried and honestly not very valuable way.  Should they pay me more than the $100 for their dishonesty?  Lest because they only used part of it and kind of/sort of sent me some click through traffic?And what about HuffPo-style re-writes?  This isn’t even covered by copyright, but to the extent that there’s “theft” involved (and I agree that it isn’t quite theft), is that any different?For music, ASCAP and others manage this stuff, but the nuances are fewer — and it’s much easier to produce written word than commercially-viable music.

          2. LIAD

            First thoughts are it would be akin to legalised extortion.+ either way I don’t think it has any bearing on the underlying ethics.

          3. Dan Lewis

            Yeah, I tend to agree with this.  The only place we have compulsory licensing in the US is in regard to musical compositions (and *not* performances themselves).  The purpose of these licenses is to further the arts.  Basically, a musician who wants to use an existing song and add their take on it now can, because of the compulsory licensing scheme.That’s a very narrow opening and even that is rife with problems.  

        2. Dan Lewis

          I’m not saying whether this is right or wrong, but the US does not recognize “moral rights” when it comes to copyright. 

      2. Dave Pinsen

        It’s not that hazy. People like to get stuff without paying for it.

        1. fredwilson

          I disagreeI think the vast majority of people want to pay the maker

          1. Rohan

            Yes. Agree. I don’t feel bad ripping off a huge hollywood studio. 

          2. Dave Pinsen

            I think you might be surprised, and it extends beyond digital goods. I was at a Skillshare class a few weeks ago where the instructor taught how he got coffee from Starbucks every day without paying for it, and out of 20 people there, I was the only one who took issue with that.

          3. fredwilson

            the success of services like netflix convince me that if you make it easy for people to pay for content, they will

          4. Dave Pinsen

            Apple makes it easy to pay for apps, but in one stretch last week, of 14 downloads of Portfolio Armor, 4 were pirated.

          5. Luke Chamberlin

            Do you mean he outright stole it or he had some trick to get free coffee (i.e. a friend worked there)? I don’t follow.

          6. Dave Pinsen

            You know the free refill policy? He keeps an old Starbucks cup in his backpack gets free ‘refills’ everyday without buying a first cup.

          7. John C. Welch

            that depends on content. I can point you at hundreds of artists who have their artwork stolen constantly, and she makes it real easy to pay her for stuff. In my wife’s case, she regularly finds where people REMOVE her copyright and signature, add their own, then post it as theirs with the tagline: “Don’t steal art”She gets told that by posting it on the internet, she should accept that she is giving up all rights to her work, and to “find a new business model”Which one? the one where, somehow magically, exposure equals money? Who runs THAT ad program? Oh wait, no one. If all art is endlessly reproduced, and cannot be protected at all it is literally, impossible to make any money as an artist (in the painting/designer sense) unless:1) You find a wealthy patron. Alas, that system died out some time ago, and in any event, the patron is not going to let just anyone own their art. Exclusivity is important in the patron model.2) You stop doing any form of internet-amenable art. Of course, idiots with cameras scotch that up. (also, it’s not just ripping off big media. Ask community theaters about how many people they catch PER SHOW recording the plays even when asked, nicely, not to. Because ‘they have a right’ or “my friend wasn’t going to see this play anyway”. )3) You work for a corporation who owns everything you do, and pays you for it. That’s a living, but oddly, corporations like to dictate content. Who knew?None of those are “new”, but that’s what’s left. She and other artists have had their work stolen by everyone from other “artists” to Facebook Games, to actual publishing houses. ironically, the people easiest to deal with? $BIGCORPs. Send them an email with proof, and they are all over apologizing and fixing the problem. In the case of the facebook games, first they creators of the game claimed they had licenses, (lie), then that they didn’t know the work was copyrighted, (lie). In the case of the “remove your copyright and add my own”, it’s a waste of time to talk to them. They just claim internet=public domain, and you have to send the takedowns to the hosting provider.”Piracy” is a nice word for what it is. When you take things from artists that you didn’t create, pay for , or even ASK, when they aren’t CC licensed, (and the whole “use CC or you’re a bad person” thing? Lame), is not some kind of “sharing”. Exposure doesn’t equal money. Someone paying you for your work equals money. Not all creations are the same. It’s a little hard to share “part” of a painting the way you can share a single track from an album, or part of a song, or a quote from a book. Heck, GOOGLE tried that tripe with their Chrome themes a few years back. Contacted professional designers, and told them “Well, we won’t PAY you, but you’ll get EXPOSURE”. For the person who’d done the designs on Target Gift Cards, that was somewhat unimpressive. That’s what gets lost in this. It’s not all Disney and big evil bigcorps. It’s small artists who are desparately trying to make money at the thing they love and finding they can’t, because so many people are copying their work in so many places that it ceases to have any value.oh yeah. she has a paypal account. Care to guess how many people have used that to “help support the arts”? Yeah. Zero is not far off the actual number.Piracy and theft hurt real people who eventually decide, “screw this, i’m done” and stop creating for anyone not paying them ahead of time. That way lies $BIGCORP essentially controlling art. Is that what you really want?

          8. thinkdisruptive

            If your wife created something and registered a copyright, then there are mechanisms to deal with violations of copyright and get paid for it. The existence of bad people is not a justification to lock up all good people, or stop everyone for an unreasonable search and seizure, which is what this law does.Artists have a long history of copying other artists – they practically invented the idea. This and the derivation of copyright law and the principles it depends on are explained here:

          9. John C. Welch

            If your wife created something and registered a copyright, then there are mechanisms to deal with violations of copyright and get paid for it. Ah yes, “mechanisms”. and they all work for free. There’s acres of lawyers who will work for free on copyright issues. Oh, wait, no there are not.But it’s so easy, because if you sue and win, you get a check on the spot. Oh wait, no, you don’t, and sometimes, you never get paid at all. Oops. So again, tell me exactly what the current “mechanisms” do to protect diddly when you’re not a $BIGCORP, you don’t have the money for $BIGLAWYERS  and internet society decided they have a “right” to everyone else’s work for “free” and if you point out that kills people’s ability to make money, they say “Oh, just find a new model”. Funny how even fred’s “new model” tl;dr’s out to “Give it away for free, then hope you’ll get paid for it later. It’s worked for some people, therefore, it will work for everyone”Yeah. Funny, I don’t see Fred giving away money to artists and telling them “Well, if you ever get paid, then you can pay me back. However long it takes, no worry”.The existence of bad people is not a justification to lock up all good people, or stop everyone for an unreasonable search and seizure, which is what this law does.The existence of people who abuse copyright is not a justification to strip it away from all good people, or take away their ability to protect their work so they can pay the bills.Funny how THAT side of things never makes it into these arguments. Funny how it’s always because of a small number of entities abusing copyright, well, just gotta gut the system and hope for the best. Funny that.Artists have a long history of copying other artists – they practically invented the idea. This and the derivation of copyright law and the principles it depends on are explained here:Which has absolutely nothing to do with the problems I listed. Derivation and “I’ll make a copy, strip off the actual artist’s copyright, use it as my own work and probably never get caught, besides, if they didn’t want people to take it, they shouldn’t put it on the internet” are in fact two different things.

          10. fredwilson

            I see things differently. My daughter is not yet out of college and yet she is already selling her artwork online and getting paid a lot more than she ever thought possible. I guess it depends on your frame of reference. The old ways of getting paid for art may be in decline but there are new ways on the rise

          11. John C. Welch

            Fred, the fact that it works for SOME artists, doesn’t make it valid for all.What kind of art does your daughter do? Define “A lot more than she thought possible”etc. 

          12. fredwilson

            PhotographyShe sells stuff on a weekly basisShe had never sold her work before putting it online

          13. thinkdisruptive

            @John C. WelchDerivation and copying are indeed different things. So are the message of this blog post and your rants about people stealing from your wife. You have a simple solution for your problem: Call the police. Call the hosting ISP. Do what you need to and what the law affords, and if it doesn’t offer a solution, fight for that. SOPA has nothing to do with whether your wife gets paid or not. You seem to want a perfect system where no one ever gets away with anything, all scumbags are successfully prosecuted and pay for what you believe they stole.Afraid to say that even if that was the issue, such a system doesn’t exist, and is impossible in real life. I’m not arguing for perfection, just reasonableness — the system today is far, far too strong in favor of corporations who feel that because they paid an artist a fee, or took something from the public domain and repurposed it generations ago, they’re entitled to exclusively profit from it forever. (Jack Valenti, the famous longtime bagman for Hollwood, went on the record in testimony before a congressional committee, stating that Hollywood’s concept of a “limited term” was “forever less a day”. He’s gone, but the sentiment isn’t.)The reality is that creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, which is why copyright is about balancing interests. Your wife had to learn her craft somewhere presumably. The way artists learn is by studying prior art, copying, and adapting until they become skilled and knowledgeable enough to go out on their own. Even then, they continue to borrow ideas and add their own twist – that’s what creativity and innovation is. And, it’s true whether it is fine artists, musicians, or code monkeys, or any other creative types. Sometimes art even involves blatant copying. (There are numerous examples in this article:… which you may also want to read to understand the principles behind copyright better).It strikes me that you buy into the misconception that all art is original. Exactly the opposite is true. All art is borrowed. We all use the inventions, designs and creativity of those who came before us. We all owe a debt to history for everything we have. We each add something to it, which creates value and for which we’d like to be compensated.That is the principle upon which copyright is based. Balancing the interests of artists/creators and the common good. Balancing the interests of the past and the future. As Fred has said a couple of times, the only thing that we are arguing about is the business model. What is fair compensation for your and my and your wife’s added value?But what is absolutely wrong is building more fences that block future innovation. We should never be sacrificing a future to protect the past. We should not be putting the US at a competitive disadvantage to protect pirates in Hollywood.I’m all for your wife getting paid. I’m all for me getting paid. I’m for world peace and happiness and no crime too. The problem is that for any of those things to happen in the real world, we have to work at it. Your wife has to go after those who use her work inappropriately (assuming they are) and stop it.That doesn’t necessarily mean lawyers, but it may if the harm is great enough. We all have personal responsibility in creating and defending a fair system, and your wife, like it or not, has a responsibility to defend her own interests, because wishing infringers didn’t exist is like wishing that weeds never appeared in my grass, or that I’d never get another cold. Creating a police state to protect your wife, or onerous regulations that have the unintended consequence of making legitimate innovation illegal, or costing jobs in America is just stupid.SOPA is the wrong mechanism, and has little to do with ensuring your wife gets paid, even if it passes.

          14. John C. Welch

             PhotographyShe sells stuff on a weekly basisShe had never sold her work before putting it online That’s your explanation of her model. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s about as much detail as you provide for any of your other magical models. “Give it away free to build a following, then sell it in as many ebook formats as exist”. Yep. That’s the usual level of detail. That’s such a help to photographers. “Sell it online”. Thanks Fred. The artists of the world now have the path to riches laid out for them.

          15. fredwilson

            you are trolling me. that’s not helpful or useful. i’ve responded to each and every one of your comments.

          16. John C. Welch

             It strikes me that you buy into the misconception that all art is original. Exactly the opposite is true. All art is borrowed. We all use the inventions, designs and creativity of those who came before us. We all owe a debt to history for everything we have. We each add something to it, which creates value and for which we’d like to be compensated.  It strikes me that you’re completely wrong. I watch her work. I know how art works. However, seem to be confusing using models and the like as starting points with creating derivative works, and deciding that ALL art is naught but derivative work. That’s not true, but as it’s inconvenient for your narrative, I don’t expect you to acknowledge that.SOME art, even a LOT of art is indeed derivative, however, just as much, if not more is not. Being inspired by a rembrandt and creating a derivative work of a rembrandt are not the same thing. As Fred has said a couple of times, the only thing that we are arguing about is the business model. What is fair compensation for your and my and your wife’s added value? When you, fred or anyone talking about magical new models comes up with some details that could function as a plan other than:1) “Sell it online” (thanks, the 90s wave “hello” back)2) Use things like kickstarter in ways kickstarter expressly forbids3) “give it away for free, then sell it”Well, let’s see: she does 1, she’s actually done 3. According to fred and you, at this point, money should roll in. Oh wait, it doesn’t, because neither of you have any actual business PLANS that used these magical models which are both “build it and they will come”. Actually, I imagine her, or any artist in her genre (fantasy art and illustration) could school the heck out of the both of you as to what reality is, but we both know what your answer would be:”Find a new model”It’s your answer to everything. That doesn’t necessarily mean lawyers, but it may if the harm is great enough. We all have personal responsibility in creating and defending a fair system, and your wife, like it or not, has a responsibility to defend her own interests, because wishing infringers didn’t exist is like wishing that weeds never appeared in my grass, or that I’d never get another cold Maybe if you and many others didn’t talk as though it’s the ARTIST’S fault for not doing MORE to protect their work instead of the fault of the people TAKING the art, there’d be less of a problem. But right now, it’s not the mugger’s fault, it’s the fault of the guy who got mugged for not being a karate expert, being out sans bodyguard and not carrying a gun.Funny how on the internet, it’s the VICTIM’S fault.Also, the hours a day she has to spend tracking down copyright violations is hours a day she can’t spend creating more work to be stolen. er. sell. I guess she should stop making art altogether so she can better protect what she’s done. Maybe then it won’t be her fault.

          17. John C. Welch

            Yes Fred, you’ve responded. With bon mots, clever sayings, vague anecdotes and claims unsupported by any form of reliable data.The richest detail you’ve provided is: “give it away for free for awhile, then sell it in every ebook format available to your fanbase”That’s it. The rest:Sell it on the internetUse kickstarter You’ve provided nothing concrete in the way of actual actionable advice. Yet, when pressed for actual details beyond “She sells pictures on the internet and makes more money than she thought she ever would” (how much is that? Ten bucks? a thousand bucks? $20K/year?) suddenly people are trolling you and mocking your awesome new models. When it’s pointed out that kickstarter is (really!) organized begging, not a reliable income stream and only designed for certain kinds of work, namely project-based, (which is a great model for some, but it’s not a universal model for artists, not even close) we’re mocking your model, but we’ll learn, we’ll see.Thus far, you’ve been long on vague, and very, very, short on details. Not even LINKS to details. Yet *I’m* trolling. Awesome, ad hom for the win. in the end, i’d rather have you call me a troll than have to rely on your “advice” to feed my family. I’d be dead in a month.

        2. Macfan

          Yeah, that’s why iTunes failed.  All that music was free on gnutella networks already.  Only suckers would have paid for music online.  Apple was a bunch of chumps for even thinking that venture would pay off.

        3. awaldstein

          True…free is good.But that’s not the same as saying that most people will steal if they can find a way.I don’t believe it.If you build a retail or online environment that focuses on the corner case thieves you will fail completely.Focus on the core of your customers who like the population at large are mostly honest and glad to pay for value and play by the rules.When you have time find the thieves and execute them.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Not most people — but ~36% (4 out of 14) kills the model when you’ve got a ~20% gross margin ($5.70 / $28.99). I have an idea for an additional revenue source that might boost my margin enough to cover the piracy. Probably a long shot, but I’ve got a call planned related to that tomorrow.Agreed about focusing on the core. That’s the web users. That’s why they’re going to be the ones getting the new features.

  18. Jason

    I got a petition reply email from our elected senator that used the phrase “copyright theft”. All I kept thinking….… … I guess it’s easy for a politician to be confused by their own political jargon.

  19. Mordy Kaplinsky

    The first phase of any lobbying campaign is to frame the debate in your favor, by positioning it as the moral high ground and invoking humanity, the american way, freedom, rights, tradition, etc.The first action is to define a word that terms the debate and then use it as the big lie, and once that big lie is accepted as truth the campaign is if in effect won.It is our industries fault for not recognizing this unfortunate truth and mobilizing our own truth.  We are coming late to the game and my hope is that it’s not too late.This is the challenge we now face!

    1. laurie kalmanson

      see also, overton window… At any given moment, the “window” includes a range of policies considered to be politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too “extreme” or outside the mainstream to gain or keep public office. Overton arranged the spectrum on a vertical axis of “more free” and “less free” in regard to government intervention. When the window moves or expands, ideas can accordingly become more or less politically acceptable. The degrees of acceptance[3] of public ideas can be described roughly as:UnthinkableRadicalAcceptableSensiblePopularPolicy”the gay agenda” vs. “gay rights””welfare queens” vs. “social safety net””do you want the terrorists to win” vs. “opposing the war”

      1. Brandon Burns

        yep, it’s all how you sell it.

        1. Mordy Kaplinsky

          I question if the greatest marketers are on Madison Avenue or have they been supplanted by the DC coterie of lobbyists and politicians.

          1. Brandon Burns

            i dunno who’s the better storyteller between Madison Ave and Congress, but they’re both leaps and bounds better than Silicon Alley/Valley. most the articles i read on this topic on the blogs (including this one, sorry fred) fail to propose an argument that adequately addresses these necessary semantics. fred’s post today did a good job of explaining what theft is, but it merely said that copyright infringement “is not theft” without giving a convincing argument for how/why that’s tech terms, you gotta stop and ask yourself: how is the user experiencing this argument?but even in tech land, most people forget to start with this way of thinking. this is why there are so many startups making things people don’t want. but that’s another tangent for another day…

          2. Mordy Kaplinsky

            @Brandon Burns you make a very important point.  This needs to be defined in terms of an Apple ad, where  the current experience is X and with these new laws it will be restricted to Y.  Otherwise these are important issues but for the average consumer there’s no need for any outrage as it is not perceived to affect them.

          3. awaldstein

            I wrote this early today. It touches on your point. “The social web is about people and culture, not technology and tools” @

          4. thinkdisruptive

            Yes. The technologists’ argument is far too difficult for the average joe on the street to understand. There’s nothing catchy that they can latch on to and quickly grasp why this is important and why they should take more than 5 seconds to understand that this isn’t about “piracy”, but about “loss of freedom”, “greedy Hollywood scumbags” and “protecting American jobs”. You can be technically right, but if you ignore marketing, and why it matters to people, you will lose the argument 9 times out of 10.

          5. JLM

            It all depends on whether one categorizes lying as just marketing.Apple is the best in the world at making you buy “into” a culture rather than just buying a set of products.  When you buy into a culture you buy EVERYTHING that culture offers and become a brand evangelist for the culture itself.That is not to say that there is anything even remotely wrong about buying into a culture when that particular culture delivers exceptional performance.A culture requires a strong leadership figure to make it work just right.  It will be interesting to see who becomes the face of Apple in the future.

          6. Mordy Kaplinsky

            Talking about culture:  The tech community needs to create a unified culture where those that use our products are or become active followers of our culture of  creativity and freedom from limitations.If we can create that we can overcome the established political players with our users as our most active advocates.

    2. JLM

      Mordy, you cynical brilliant SOB, you!  Well played!Of course, the guy who aptly names the fight defines the fight.

      1. Mordy Kaplinsky

        Thanks but the sad truth is that the reason we hold our politicians in such low regard is that “public service” is now “self service” and our policies reflect this, hence the OWS movement, tea party and the general lack of faith in the political environment.

        1. JLM

          Something has gone so fundamentally wrong with our political system that we are into what I like to call “absinthe politics” — a system which will kill us if not changed but one that provides a generally pleasant hallucination in the meantime.We are literally going broke and pretending that what we are doing is going to even remotely change the outcomes.We have devolved to a Miss America beauty pageant with a huge amount of money being wasted in the meantime.It make me puke.

          1. Mordy Kaplinsky

            @JLM:disqus The positive side of it is that people have finally woken up to it and are in the early stages of clamoring for change.Love the “Absinthe Politics” term 🙂

          2. JLM

            The only clamor that will change things is at the ballot box.The ballot box has become like an Internet and TV beauty contest.  I think the Kardashians could be elected President except for the fact that maybe Kim’s butt is too big.There is a total disconnect between a politician’s record and his campaign rhetoric.  Some politicians have become so adept at campaigning that they can avoid any connection with their record.We really are that dumb.

          3. Mordy Kaplinsky

            @jlm The greatest threat is that the tech community creates a platform that creates transparency and mobilizes votes in greater strength then the existing special interests. @jimihendrixlive:twitter talked about this in a recent @techcrunch:twitter interview.If we pull this off we got the true revenge of the geeks 🙂

          4. Cam MacRae

            Absinthe politics. Brilliant.

    3. Tom Labus

      Imagination and PR please.

    4. Tom Labus

      Were you in congress?

      1. Mordy Kaplinsky

        i’m assuming that you mean did I work there, to which the answer is NO

    5. thinkdisruptive

      Yes, you are absolutely right. This is about positioning, not about fact. Accepting this as “anti-piracy” is the problem. It isn’t about piracy, but about moving the line of fair use and the rights of buyers of content further and further out of balance with those of copyright holders.Copyright is about balancing interests. Let’s ask Washington to first understand that simple principle, and then define what interests need to be in balance. I would reject the “piracy” label out of hand. And, if we need to inject our own labels, then SOPA is “job killing”, “anti-innovation”, “anti-American”, “protecting entrenched interests at the expense of the little guy”, and “harmful to consumers”.The good guys have lost before they start if they allow negative words like piracy to define the debate.

      1. Mordy Kaplinsky

        @thinkdisruptive you don’t want words of dogma which create debate but positive words that are already settled and cannot be debated; think “innovation, creativity, growth, etc. where nobody can argue and say I don’t want innovation or creativity….

        1. thinkdisruptive

          Actually, you need both. SOPA will kill jobs. It will force American companies to move offshore. It will deny access to consumers to content for no good reason. It will do the same immoral things that China and Iran have done to “protect” their citizens from the truth. People need to be made aware of the negative and tangible truths in order to appreciate the more uncertain positives. I can’t prove innovation will result, or more creativity or growth — although I believe it, those are all in the future. I can easily demonstrate unfair and unreasonable impact on other dimensions, such as jobs, pretty much right away.As politicians well know, you can’t frame a debate and win solely on promised future positives. The opposing side’s argument needs to be exposed for what it is: a lie.And, we also need to drill deeper. There are many misconceptions here on this page, between intelligent people, about what copyright is and why it exists. If we agree on the principle behind copyright, then it’s much easier to agree on reasonable contraints to satisfy competing interests.

          1. Mordy Kaplinsky

            You may be right and if you are i would still argue that the debate needs be framed in the more colloquial manner while the added arguments can take on some of the more strident tones you’ve described.

          2. thinkdisruptive

            Yes. It needs to understandable. It also needs to be visceral, because describing your opponents as pirates, or as supporting pirates is certainly visceral.That means lots of short powerful emotional words. And short sentences. Then, even my feeble mind will understand.

  20. Brandon Burns

    the problem with this debate is that it’s not technical — it’s cultural.people who create things (music, film, technology, etc.) most likely grew up with this version of the american dream instilled in them: “i’ll grow up and create something awesome that’ll i’ll be known for and get rich off of.”even people who don’t create things have been trained to respect the creative class and their outputs, for there’s a hope that one day they’ll maybe do a knock-off version, get their 15 minutes of fame and their smaller piece of the pie, too.i sympathize greatly with this american dream. it pushed me and many others to where we are today. the law supports protecting that, the tech community wants to take that away. now, i agree with the anti-Protect IP movement’s concerns, but the arguments are centered around a different american dream: freedom from censorship. unfortunately, in our current society where everyone’s opinion on everything is available 24/7 via the media, sometimes to our annoyance, fear of being censored is a distant concern.   in this economy, which american dream do you think most folks are going to fight for? the one that’ll protect the right to free speech? or the right to strike it rich one day?if the anti-Protect IP side wants to win, they’re going to need to provide an answer to how we’re going to keep the dream of striking it rich alive before instilling the fear of losing the right of free speech and expression. when you take the technical details out of it, through the lens of today’s culture and economy, one dream is in more urgent need of preserving than the other.

      1. Brandon Burns

        good story. the music industry gets a lot wrong, but the hip hop set has always gotten a lot right.but here’s the concept hip hop got right that could help the anti-Protect IP side win: “sample” is not to steal, it is to borrow with respect, so that both you and the original creator can get credit/profit off the original idea. kanye west, jay-z, etc., they are top selling artists — and most of their albums are laid on reworked tracks “sampled” from songs of the past. however, the original artists get credit, royalties, and a slew of people downloading the original track the new one was based on. everyone ends up happy.i’d put the argument there. the anti-ProtectIP movement isn’t about stealing, it’s about “sampling” ideas/content already out there, building upon them and getting them in the hands of more people, helping everyone to profit. you say this is a business model debate. “sampling” showed us how to execute a business debate with acute attention to the details of cultural sensitivity. in the court of public opinion, using an argument of numbers and facts doesn’t exempt you from considering the emotional aspects. .the thing to watch: can the tech community “sample” with the same respect that the hip hop industry does, giving credit (and royalty fees to the original artist) where credit is due. that’s the only way to preserve the american right to the possibility of striking it rich.

        1. Aaron Klein

          If the original artist is getting royalties, that means they consented to the sampling. Which means that we’re not talking about piracy at any level any more.There is no such thing as a pirate with a license.It’s going to be interesting when the “Record Company 2.0” gets invented, built from the ground up around the social web. Because I think such a company will by definition understand that you’ve got to turn pirates into licensed marketers in a million different creative ways.

      2. William Mougayar

        Good example of deriving benefits from openness. But why did Coldplay decide not to release online?

        1. Aaron Klein

          They figure they’ve got the leverage to force people into their preferred distribution model.That’s their right, but in the mean time, they are pissing off a lot of their fan base.So they’ll suffer the consequences of a bad choice, as they should.

          1. William Mougayar

            Not a good example from a smart group.

  21. Rohan

    Supporter: “You’re sure to get the vote of every thinking man!”Adlai Stevenson: “Thank you, but I need a majority to win”Happy Sunday folks 😉

    1. Tom Labus

      Good one!!

  22. Kim Pallister

    Someone beat me too it, so I’ll just second the recommendation of William Patry’s book. It’s superb.

  23. ShanaC

    Last freestanding thought:  If we are going to talk about stealing what is effectively information, we need to talk about espionage, since it is the closest analogous crime I can think of.

  24. Tom Labus

    “14 year old kids without allowances from their parents taking files from the pirate bay doesn’t really seem to be reducing the market since they have no way to pay”But isn’t that starting them down the wrong road in life.  Grab if you have no cash.   My father would have told me to earn some cash first.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, totallyand it happens less and less because all the music is now free on youtube… which is very revealing because it points out that this is a business model debate not a moral or legal debate

      1. iamronen

        does that mean that “business” and “moral” are two different things? or is that a separation you are making because you can and because it serves you?

        1. Tom Labus

          and how do you separate?

          1. iamronen

            I don’t separate – I am living under an assumption that there is nothing but morals:…You should forward your question to Fred 🙂

        2. fredwilson

          i was talking in shorthand. sorry about that. my point is there are better ways for content creators to make money than the old ways. they need new business models and the “theft” will cease to be the issue it is right now, thus making the morality and legality issues fade away

        3. fredwilson

          i was talking in shorthand. sorry about that. my point is there are better ways for content creators to make money than the old ways. they need new business models and the “theft” will cease to be the issue it is right now, thus making the morality and legality issues fade away

      2. iamronen

        oh and look out for a logic trap – YES: there is (lots) of free music on youtube … but NO: not “all the music is new free on youtube” … there is loads of music out there nowhere near youtube.

  25. laurie kalmanson

    FramingName the debate, own the debate

  26. Sig

    Beside the point made in the post, which I agree to, I have to admin to using a kind of “civil disobedience” if I feel treated unfairly, when somebody messes up with my life, like this:I live in France, but as French is my fourth language I’d rather see movies or read books in original or other languages. I happily pay using what distribution channels there are out there – iTunes store for example – but no such luck, only a few non-French books seep through, Norwegian films are never to be seen in any distribution channel I’m deemed worthy to use. And we know why that is – the quarrels between the distributors (mis)using the IP rights in their own interest, and certainly not in the interest of the artist nor mine. That’s when I after careful consideration choose to break the rules.Not quite defendable of course, legally wrong but if I’m unethical I’m not so sure any more.

  27. Luke Chamberlin

    I thought this was a fantastic comment when I read it and I’m happy to see it featured in this way.Language is so important to the framing of debates. If you look at most contentious issues long enough you’ll realize the real disagreement is not over values but over the simple definition of a word.

  28. John Ball

    At the baseline, we continue to disrupt existing business models with new models.  Not every model is better for every situation.Amazon was/is clearly better and it evolved to achieve this valuable differentiation and broad acceptance.Etsy appears to be clearly better for certain producers and buyers.  Walmart still exists for other producers and buyers.It’s unclear that a better model has arrived for easily digitized products.  The traditional music distribution industry worked “well” for many, but never worked well for all.  New models are necessary, but to suggest that content should be free because it wants to be free seems remarkably naive.Every artist may not fit comfortably within the model “you” think is best.  Not very artist can tour and sell t-shirts to make a living.  There were distinct boundaries to our abilities to support artists under the old distribution models.  It’s painfully clear that the same problem exists with emerging distribution and payment models.I’m opposed to the efforts behind #SOPA and #PIPA, and yet I sympathize with legislatures trying to sort the issue out in a manner that is fair to ARTISTS (I don’t care about the distributors).  Clearly, we who work in the tech sector understand this issue better than most, and we don’t have a clear answer. 

  29. Merovex

    @Fred, the legal definition of theft is “A criminal act in which property belonging to another is taken without that person’s consent.”Intellectual property is “property,” the same as a house, car or pencil. Because of the ethereal nature of intellectual property, the founders codified the right. The Constitution vests a right in the creator of a work to use it for a term of years (we’ll ignore the current term which is life of Micky Mouse + 20 years). That right has the same effect of property.Infringement is “a violation of a right” or “improper use without permission.” Therefore, an infringement is a kind of theft, just as a soccer ball is a kind of ball. Sexual assault is a legal euphamism for rape. Calling a rape an ‘assault’ does not mean it’s not still a rape. It does not matter what you call it, depriving somebody of the use or value of their property (intellectual or physical) is a kind of theft.In a purely physical context: if an author wants everybody to pay royalties for a book, then a photocopy of that book is a theft (there are legal acceptions for Fair Use, but still). If a software author wants you to buy a license to use it, then using the software without paying for the license is theft. If somebody violates the GPL, then that’s a theft. If a musician wants you to pay for a CD, and does not allow any digital dissemination and you disseminate, then that’s a theft.I believe that non-tangible patents should be invalidated and the term of copyrights limited to the terms of the Statute of Queen Anne (14 years). The actions of RIAA are heinous, and only serve to underscore the abuse of the overlong copyright terms. But, I don’t think you’re right to not call infringement a theft.

    1. JLM

      You have to like any post which refers to the Statute of Queen Anne.  Well played!

  30. JamesHRH

    Art is a tough gig. The best artist’s always control or have trusted teams running the biz, from Leonardo to JK Rowling.I agree w most of Fred’s comments here.But, if the word theft gets you (I mean anyone w this pronoun) hot on this issue, I wouldn’t use the word censorship to rebut the word theft. The acts are misguided regulation, not censorship.

    1. fredwilson

      good point. i guess censorship is a reaction to theft.

    2. fredwilson

      good point. i guess censorship is a reaction to theft.

  31. howardlindzon

    Next thing you know, the lobbyists will be selling what Goldman execs and Fannie Mae as doing was infringing on our wallets and financial future…great post but you just gave your elected official an idea 

  32. howardlindzon

    The web turned consumers into producers and producers into consumers…and the consumer git stronger, bigger, smarter, faster and more creative than ever.  if our elected officials used the web and read a few leaders in the space, they would figure this out and we could all accelerate in prosperity from this.

    1. William Mougayar

      Nail on the head is that policy makers & lawyers that are fighting thus aren’t users & aren’t understanding the change that has already happened.

  33. Dave

    So the money that would have been paid but was not due to the copyright infringement is not “property” does not “belong to another” and has not been “permanently deprived”??Don’t think you’re on real strong footing here. 

  34. Aaron Klein

    If we don’t want to call piracy “theft” I’m okay with that. And keep in mind, Prokofy is still over attacking me as a collectivist on another post, and claiming the entire technology industry is built on piracy. Both claims are ludicrous. :)But let’s get real – piracy is still WRONG.You cannot take someone’s creation – whether it’s a song, a book, an essay or an app – and copy it for your own use under your own terms. It’s owned by the person who did the work. They have the freedom to set the terms and the price for THEIR work.Part of that freedom is the freedom to be stupid. To ignore the opportunity that an indirect business model, or a freemium model can offer.I’m in no way calling @daveinhackensack:disqus stupid, but I’d venture to guess that he’s leaving some money on the table by not figuring out a way to get people hooked on what he’s selling first. On the other hand, his app is pretty cool and pretty successful as it is. His work, his choice.We DO need to do something about copyright infringement, but technology is the solution, not the problem. Imagine when digital fingerprinting combined with awesome ad + commerce models drive significant revenue streams back to content creators when their stuff is mashed up or shared?Some day we’re going to look back and laugh at the big media companies constantly sending takedown notices, as they shift to having their PR guys frantically send out “put up” notices that are completely ignored.But let’s just remember that infringement can hurt us in the technology industry too. We need a balanced and fair system that protects the rights of all kinds of creatives.

    1. Dale Allyn

      Aaron, I agree with you, as I mentioned elsewhere in this thread that semantics can dilute the value of such discussions. Technically, “theft” is the wrong word to use in the context of copyright infringement discussions, but all-too-often such debates over terminology risk throwing the baby out with the bath water. Intellectual property or creative output usage is not up to whomever can get their hands  on it. It must be up to the creator thereof or their assigns. We further agree that piracy is definitely WRONG. And one must still evaluate the entire landscape and divine the best way to navigate toward the desired destination – monetization, uniqueness, or whatever is the goal. Well stated. 

      1. Cam MacRae

        Far from semantics diminishing the value of this debate, they are utterly vital to countering the rhetorical flourishes and weasel words of lobbyists manifesting in statute. If we really must have more law (and hence more X-lateral IP treaties), we ought insist upon quality. This is entirely distinct from opposing particular legislation. As you rightly point out elsewhere, those battles cannot be won over this ground.

        1. Dale Allyn

          Cam: we definitely agree on this (in case my comments were not clear). Words mean things and we should endeavor to use them correctly as we express our position. I have been directly affected by copyright infringement on numerous occasions, and while it feels like “theft” we must communicate accurately and articulately as we state our case. Hyperbole and rhetoric are leveraged all-too-often in such discussions, especially when there is a political angle as there is with SOPA and PROTECT IP.

        2. Dave W Baldwin

          Agree with you Cam, though @daleallyn:disqus makes the understandable point in this discussion regarding @aaronklein:disqus ‘s comment.One step further requires the writing of the correct statement, stating fact and be very blunt.  Then repeat it over and over.Aaron(?), re Pofo whatever, he is in the ‘Protect at all costs’ boring papers written by overpaid faculty.  The ‘IP’ and/or ‘Copyright’ thing isn’t about protecting the artist, but the big money company. If that same big money company found out their ‘next big’ artist had stole the tune they just recorded…. they’d call their legal team to put fear and intimidation into the artist who was just robbed.

    2. fredwilson

      i agree with this comment aaronwhat do you think of fair use?

      1. Aaron Klein

        I totally agree with fair use and frankly, I think even DMCA goes way too far in places. The idea that you can sue someone for buying and using your product in a way you didn’t intend – like loading “unapproved” software on an iPhone – is ridiculous.Copyright shouldn’t control anything more than making copies for profit.

      2. William Mougayar

        In the content world (which I know a lot about), fair use copyright implies that you have the rights to partially re-publish something as long as you’re giving explicit attributions via visible links to the source and author, and that the part that you disclosing is very small compared to the complete work. So, there’s a relative factor that comes in play. For e.g. it’s generally OK to disclose about 40-50 words as fair use for articles that are 500+ words in length.   

    3. Dave W Baldwin

      Well put Aaron.

    4. thinkdisruptive

      It isn’t piracy. That’s simply a label that has been accepted because the opposing side didn’t fight against it with more appropriate labels. i.e. they were out-marketed.All of your argument is based on a premise that accepts piracy (which is about killing sailors and raping and ravaging to plunder the goods of another ship — all pretty evil stuff) as what this is about, rather than copyright, which is a concept of balancing interests.This distinction is important, because it goes to the core of the creative process. No artist, living or dead, since Adam and Eve, has not borrowed ideas and copied others. Is every creator and innovator then a pirate? The argument breaks down very quickly.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Chinese company selling a counterfeit iPhone in a counterfeit Apple store? Piracy. Ripping a CD of songs, making 100 copies and selling them on a street corner? Piracy. Ripping a CD of songs, putting them on your different devices and making a copy for your other car? Not piracy. Facebook makes a mobile app that looks like Twitter? Not even close to piracy. Google makes a mobile phone that also uses your finger to navigate? Same thing. There is a distinct difference between creating something of your own that is derivative of someone else’s work, and actually making an exact copy of someone else’s work, to benefit or profit from it.

  35. LE

    “Theft, stealing etc. are terms co-opted by a particular lobby for their emotional weight, but have no place in any rational debate”The money shot. Emotional words are important to get sound bites and in order to frame a problem in a zesty way that the media will want to talk about.Having a divisive word also allows reporters to get people on different sides of an argument and create interest like: “but Cam MacRae blasted that characterization in a….”(We have the same situation in the domain business with use of the word “cybersquatting” which has practically come to de-facto mean any case where someone has a domain name that someone else feels that they should be able to use. Of course that’s not the legal definition. )The proper words are important to achieve what you want (so if you get the ear of a politician you have to have the right words to stick in her head that she can repeat.) The use of “end of the internet” with the SOPA issue is an example. Unfortunately it might have been to strong of a claim that gave the other side an opportunity to distract from the balance of the problem. (For example in a trial if you have three witnesses one credible and two not credible the non-credible witnesses can damage the credibility of your entire argument).@fakegrimlock:disqus has a knack for sound bites obviously.  If you are speaking with any elected official or reporter you need to have your sound bites ready in advance in order to get a good seat at the argument. This makes their job easy for them. Read that again because that the key to getting want you want out of anyone and why lobbyists write the first draft of legislation apparently. Here is a book by one of our customers (Al Tompkins… who I can intro to anyone who wants an intro for any reason) which I have not read but addresses some these ideas I believe:…Here is a video regarding story telling:…Of course all of this is obvious right?But how many technology companies employ liberal arts majors that know how to manipulate the media and people with words?

  36. Avi Deitcher

    While I agree with you wholeheartedly on stopping the bills, it is because the *methodology* is wrong, not the *terminology*. Theft is the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another. But it is a *legal* term. If I own property, physical or intellectual, and you take it without my permission, however that permission comes about (payment, gift, relinquishing of rights, whatever), that is the legal definition of theft. If the law grants a creator of content IP rights over his/her work, similar to the property rights you have over your NYC coop (I assume), then any appropriation of that work without permission, as granted under the law, is theft.SOPA/PIPA are about creating new enforcement mechanisms and areas of liability where none existed before. United Airlines shouldn’t be liable for a passenger carrying a knockoff iPad in his baggage, nor should FedEx for shipping it; a content site or ISP should not be liable for linking to knockoff videos. If you fight on the theft argument, you will lose. It *is* theft, and most people feel like it is, whether we like it or not. The question is how you enforce theft and who is responsible. There you might win.I could see a powerful YouTube ad here: “I used to have a steady UPS delivery job. Every day, delivering packages, meeting great people, helping businesses and the economy. Then, one day, the government said it was *my* fault someone had sent their friend copied DVDs. How was I to know? Now, I have no job, my kids have no health care, and the RIAA is suing me for $1MM! Please help me keep my job, my kids their health care, and Americans their freedom. Stop the recording and movie industries.”Any ad execs here want to do it?

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Think the “Harry and Louise” ads from Clinton health care. They really did work.

    2. Luke Chamberlin

      Theft is not a legal term in most places. If you steal property, you will not be charged with theft. You will be charged with larceny.We don’t call it “IP larceny” because that word doesn’t have the punch of “theft”. That’s the whole point of this post, that the word theft is used for emotion and not for accuracy.

      1. Avi Deitcher

        OK, I am willing to give on that. Theft is not technically a legal term, but it is a concept. And, yes, Fred’s point is that the pro-PIPA (porpoises?) are using emotional populism to get bad law passed.But my point still holds. It is only theft (or larceny) because the law defines rights, and someone appropriates without permission. We will never win on saying, “well, that isn’t really theft.” Face them head on like that, we will lose.Our winning point is, “Sure, that is theft, we want to stop it, too. But by punishing everyone? Would you shut down our airspace just to stop some bootleg iPads? Go after the thieves, don’t punish those in the way!”

  37. JLM

    The legal issue is likely more akin to “conversion” rather than “theft”.Theft implies an instant in time which can be supported by evidence.  The bad guy did it on this date and in this manner.Conversion implies a state of being — hey, that guy has my artistic work and he damn sure did not pay for it.  The simple state of unlawful possession is enough to prevail.The notion that anyone “touching” a purloined product is liable for a crime is nonsense — like saying someone who proffers a counterfeit $100 bill he received from a bank is liable for counterfeiting.  Nonsense and unenforceable.Absent any evidence of intent.Having said all of the above, I come down squarely on the side of the artist and his entitlement to security in the public square for his work product.Like gun control, we really have enough laws on this subject, we just need to enforce the ones we already have.This is a artistic, copyright, legal and business model debate indeed but one person who has done nothing “wrong” is the artist and he should be protected.  His rights are enshrined in the Constitution for goodness sake.

    1. Cam MacRae

      The U.S. Supreme Court considers infringement distinct from conversion too:The infringer invades a statutorily defined province guaranteed to the copyright holder alone. But he does not assume physical control over the copyright; nor does he wholly deprive its owner of its use. While one may colloquially link infringement with some general notion of wrongful appropriation, infringement plainly implicates a more complex set of property interests than does run-of-the-mill theft, conversion, or fraud. – DOWLING v. UNITED STATES, 473 U.S. 207 (1985)In all other things we agree.

      1. JLM

        The SCOTUS has spoken.And, yet, the problem persists.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Has done since 1557, likely will do in 2557.

    2. fredwilson

      we just need to enforce the ones we have!

  38. Shaan Rafiq

    I completely agree! People would expect those in Washington to understand at least a little law and appreciate that old and ‘classic’ crimes should not be extended to affect situations which differ in every way, shape and form. – by the way this is my first post though i have been following the blog for a few years – You’re a legend Fred even over here in the UK.

    1. fredwilson

      first comment? welcome!

    2. fredwilson

      first comment? welcome!

  39. Dad

    Thank you for speaking with elected officials on this topic.  Clearly more education of them is needed on this topic.  SOPA is bad news.

  40. testtest

    @rrohan189:disqus if it were my first book and i wanted to do it as a career i’d focus on building audience/ a fan base. if can help you do that in a way that you can keep in regular contact with an audience i’d definitely get on there. and even if it didn’t the feedback may be up a blog in the area of interest, you want the subject to be a good match for your product (in this case your book).with free-based-business-models i’ve seen various methods, from people giving away entire books (idea virus — seth godin) to individual chapters…that stuff above is just to tick the boxes. if you want something to spread it has to be a purple cow — since we were talking about seth:) a free audio version (could use SoundCloud so it’s got viral built in) or a video based book — something, anything —  to get it spreading. imo you’re more likely to fail because you fall short of purple cow than be too purple, so i’d get creative……i’m not big on quotes, but here goes:’The smaller the budget, the bigger the ideas’ – Francis Ford Coppola

    1. Rohan

      Hi Chris,Awesome! Thanks a lot for your thoughts. Will keep it in mind.And no, book writing is just something on the side. 🙂 I do have a small community on my existing blog ( and this an exercise for myself in many ways – I’m learning a heck of a lot from the experience..Thanks again! And I love the quote.. This one will hopefully have many BIG ideas.. haha 😀

  41. jason wright

    An entrepreneur needs to have the creativity to conceive of an offering that satisfies the needs of all parties, a compelling reason for all of them to abandon old ways and embrace the new. Pointing the finger at one party for not changing is churlish. The finger should be pointed at the startup for not conceiving a strategy that works for all and because that flaw is wasting the investors money and the entrepreneurs time and energy.



  43. Donna Brewington White

    It seems that the real questions are “What harm is being done?” and “To whom is this harm being done?” rather than whether we call it “theft” or “copyright infringement” or anything else for that matter.

    1. Aaron Klein

      Well put, Donna.

  44. Ciaran

    If you’re talking about downloading then I’m afraid your anger is very strange and utterly pedantic. The only difference in my eyes between illegal downloading and walking into a record store and sticking a cd in your bag is that you don’t have to bother walking into the store. I’m sorry, but it’s theft, and all the semantics in the world won’t change that – we keep hearing that downloading is only a problem because we make it too hard to buy something. So, with that logic, if someone holds up a jewellery store we should blame the shopkeeper.I’m not sure if this is the correct definition, but this sounds like bullshit to me

  45. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    In the world of art, design, and screenprinting we have had this debate for years and “art” lost.I remember in the early to mid 90’s a piece of copywrited art would cost a minimum of $2,500.  We had three lines where the main artist for each line were earning upwords of $100,000 a year.Those days are long gone.  Now, as long as you do not incorporate a company name or logo and as long as you “modify” the art by 30% knocking off art is perfectly legal.Here is a company that makes a mint flaunting the law:  The NCAA, NBA, NFL, and quite a few individuals are constantly going after this firm and they continue to grow by leaps and bounds.If this is “theft” then it has been sanctioned by our legal system and I have the bills from seven lawsuits to prove it.If you threaten a cease and desist, and nothing happens, then you have made two legal firms very wealthy at a minimum.  That’s all…..  

  46. vruz

    It’s quite astonishing those people seem to live in an alternate reality that doesn’t overlap with ours.They even seem to believe their own BS.   Just crass and obscene.

  47. Andy

    Hmm. So using a song that I may have written, passing it off as your own, and profiting from it is not theft? Of course it is. There are different forms of theft. Burglary, shoplifting and fraud are all theft. It is just a matter of semantics.

  48. Andy

    On the subject of illegal downloads. That is also theft. You are stealing someone’s income and depriving them of their right to survive on the proceeds of their labour. No question of it. Theft is what it is.

  49. Sean Saulsbury

    The definition you cite is pretty suspect.  If I steal a car but return it two weeks later, by your definition it’s not theft because I haven’t “PERMANENTLY” deprived them of their property.Copyright infringement is a FORM of theft, so it *is* theft.  Taking someone’s property, whether physical or intellectual, without their permission or consent is theft.  It is stealing.  Why do you feel so strongly there is a distinction?  And what exactly is that distinction?

    1. fredwilson

      it is important to me because people like you don’t understand why it is differentdigital content is a non-rival good

  50. Mgav

    Respectfully, I do think copyright infringement is simply another form of theft – taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission or payment.There is an enormous range of theft (e.g.: stealing an image for a personal blog or paper clips from work versus stealing a car or selling illegal copies of an expensive software suite), so one punishment certainly doesn’t fit all. That said, I agree with content owners that copyright infringement is a legitimate problem, but I also agree with you, Fred, that the proposed solution is not a good one. 

  51. Anthony Cerminaro

    “There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that? When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?”— from The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

  52. Cam MacRae

    @fredwilson:disqus thanks for giving this issue a proper airing. some brilliant and insightful comments here – puts our legislators to shame really.

    1. fredwilson

      Education is the key

    2. Tom Labus

      Ship the thread to congress.

  53. Mdrich

    I respectfully disagree with this post. I would say using “copyright infringement” to describe the taking art or music illegally is just semantics to make the theft of someone’s property sound better. It seems an entire generation of young people believe that sharing recorded music or movies is perfectly legal, when in fact they are taking someone else’s property without consent. The fact that they didn’t break in to a locked house to get it doesn’t change the fact that they took it without permission. I am not saying that I agree with any politicians who master word-manipulation for their own ends, but I do think people should call copyright infringement theft because that is truly what it is. Without the protection of property rights, what is the incentive for creating and holding property? Again, I read and enjoy your posts, so I intend no disrespect…

  54. Ben Tober

    Although I feel confident that some (maybe even most) forms of copyright infringement are not theft, I think some forms may be – particularly copyright infringement concerning an unpublished work.  For example, if an architect is hired by a party to produce plans for a bespoke house and then a clerical employee of the architect takes a copy of the plans and uses them to build a substantively identical house, I feel that that may constitute theft.  Also, in situations where a person who is not the rights-holder of a published work attempts to or does profit directly from that work, I feel that that may be theft as well.  When a person commits copyright infringement with respect to a published work and with no profit motive (I suspect this is really what Fred and Cam were thinking about) – although I believe that’s ethically problematic – I don’t think it is theft.

  55. Andy Lee Graham

    I have decided the only way to stop copyright — I was about to type the word theft – well, whatever you call it, I do believe the artist, writer, etc has a right to own their work and sell. However, I think I am in a minority, so as a protest I recommend that all people download as much copyrighted material as possible, and for sure hack the DRM of Kindle books. In way, the bigger the problem becomes, the more likely a solution evolves.I would estimate that ony 1 in 500 people of the general public can even understand the concept of copyright, they believe, if it is available then it is OK. On other hand, I have never understood why software does not have viruses embedded, I think they figure the coping is a form of advertising.In the battle for copyright, the honest person is punished for obeying the copyright laws.I am about to finish writing a book, and thinking serious about just giving away a PDF version on Torrents, and stop the charade, then sell to the silly on Amazon.

  56. Earbits

    Fred – Let’s say you invest in a company.  You own 20%, it’s roughly 100,000 shares.  Through a new “discovery” (a legal loophole, as opposed to a change in technology in this case) the company is able to authorize so many shares that your ownership is diluted to 0.00001%.As you’ve said, and according to Webster, no theft has occurred here.  They haven’t taken your shares.  They’ve just made them worthless, which is basically what happens to the albums of artists when they’re made available for free without their permission – they’re diluted.Now let’s say investing is all you know, and all you ever wanted to do.  You want to keep investing, but through this legal loophole, no investment you ever make is safe from this non-theft.  The questions to ask, I think, are:1. Do you go out of your way to sugar-coat what you call the actions taken by these criminals?2. Do you lobby for the strictest regulations you can to protect your investments?3. How do you feel when people tell you that you should just learn to adapt to the new model?

    1. fredwilson

      I am working very hard to adapt to a new model. In fact we financed a company, kickstarter, that could put me out of business if it acheives its mission.Adapt or die. I believe in darwinism in all forms

  57. Prokofy

    Fred, you’re like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, thinking that if you mean something no one else means by a word, why, that’s it’s meaning and that’s it.But it’s absurd not to call copyright infringement THEFT. Because it deprives the content creator of PAYMENT FOR HIS WORK. Each time you snag a picture and use it without payment, each time you snag a song and listen to it without payment, you deprive that artist of income. It doesn’t matter if he “still possesses his original copy” — that’s the worst sort of literalist geeky sophistry.@John C. Welch is absolutely right — it’s a shakedown model. Fred keeps waving jazz hands and says “you have to adapt” and “you have to find other models”. But…there aren’t any models.The only model is this: get paid to give a lecture about how if you give stuff away for free, you will sell more books or stuff lol. It’s really hilarious.Seth Godin sells books to scared people. Business people in airports who want to succeed and keep up with the latest fad. I even bought one of his ridiculously overpriced books simply in order to write a long exigesis as to why he is a totalitarian thinker. Then I sold his book on Amazon for a bit less than what I paid at top airport prices.Seth Godin: not a business model for the rest of us.When you keep grabbing and liberating and collectivizing property, you deprive the creator of having commerce integrally linked to the commodity of his creation. You are de-commodifying and de-commercializing it (that’s what Creative Commons deliberately does, by peer pressure, it’s awful). Indeed you are depriving him of the ability to make a sale and make a living with his work. Of course it’s theft because it’s depriving him of something he could have had if you didn’t have this awful technocommunist regime.If you steal a copy and keep distributing it and links to it, of course that creator has suffered a loss. He can’t get paid by the copy. And it’s ok to be paid by the copy. The Internet could have been set up this way and it still could be. It’s only made the way it is because of the collectivist views of Tim Berners-Lee, etc.He is deprived of his ability to MAKE A LIVING with content as a commodity.

    1. thinkdisruptive

      The underlying assumption in your position is that everything you create is absolutely original, and can be defined as ordinary property. In fact, nothing that is created by people is free from dependency on prior creative works. So, for any innovation or creativity to happen in the future, it must leverage the past, which means we must balance the interests of creators and consumers.That’s why copyright is a fundamentally different concept than theft.Your argument is all about absolutes. I own it, therefore you stole it. IP isn’t like that. It is almost entirely painted in shades of grey, and about establishing a fair business model to compensate innovators for their added value on prior art.

    2. fredwilson

      We disagree on thisAlways have abd always will

  58. Prokofy

    Actually, what’s especially scary about your corruption of the common and ordinary meaning of language here — as the Bolsheviks did — is that you throw a rage fit and refuse to have a conversation until this *ELECTED* official goes along with your Red Queen stuff. That’s really scary.You don’t get to change the basic meaning of words just because you want to lobby your sectarian cause for copyleftism and liberation of content for your business interests. Be honest about what you are doing.Copyright violation is a loss, no matter how you slice it.

  59. thinkdisruptive

    What about a pharmaceutical company in India making copies of American AIDS drugs for $1/pill, and selling them to Africans whose alternative is spend one year’s income to buy one week of supplies from the US, or get the knockoff version?What about the American publishers who rejected the English assertion of copyrights in the 1700s because they were so expensive and unreasonable that Americans wouldn’t be able to afford books to read and learn?All copyright law is about balancing rights, because all creation is a based on what came before, and if we make the licensing or use of innovation too expensive or too unfair to one side or the other, we either fail to provide an incentive to innovate, or block innovation and its consumption. As Fred has noted in a few places, this is about a fair business model, not about erecting higher blockades.If the producer tries to extract too high a fare, the market will find a way around it. The reason this is attracting such an uproar is that Hollywood has already erected too high a barrier and destroyed the balance between the copyright holder and the consumer and fair use. And now, they will extract a penalty from and block innovation in the tech industry. That is indefensible.

    1. LE

      “What about a pharmaceutical company in India making copies of American AIDS drugs for $1/pill, and selling them to Africans whose alternative is spend one year’s income to buy one week of supplies from the US, or get the knockoff version?”If the drug was never developed then they wouldn’t even have to worry about spending one years income (I’m going with your figures here I haven’t verified this) to buy the drug. In a free market system it’s the responsibility of the government of India to deal with this. It’s not our governments problem (although they might decide to get involved) and it’s certainly not the problem of the pharmaceutical company owned by stockholders to make this situation right (although they might choose to do so for any number of reasons.) By the way part of my tax dollars goes to support people who don’t take care of their health in various ways in this country some of which are able to work but choose not to (forgetting now the unemployment situation it wasn’t always like that.) and I’ve learned to accept that as necessary for the benefit of our country.

      1. thinkdisruptive

        a) India has a different conception of the market.b) Monopolies are anathema to free markets. The theory that society benefits when business people do the right thing out of enlightened self-interest breaks down when competition is limited in any way. That’s why we have anti-trust and restraint of trade and anti-cartel rules. Which is why the granting of even a temporary monopoly in the form of copyright needs to considered as a special privilege, not an absolute right. In fact, the example of people dying in Africa for lack of affordable drugs is an example of harm to society done by granting that monopoly status. The actual cost to make those drugs, even in North America, is much closer to the Indian figure than it is to cost to buy them here. In other words, because there is inelastic demand for live-saving drugs, a company with an exclusive right to make them can extort whatever profits it likes from the market. At least artists and musicians have to charge a fair price, because it’s much easier to choose to do without.c) If we’re going to talk about the ethics of copyright violation, then my point was that we also need to talk about the ethics of a monopoly holder denying life-saving treatment to someone who is dying for lack of it. It’s a bogus argument to say “what if the drug didn’t exist” — the drug does exist, and a real living person will die if they don’t get it. And, it isn’t because we can’t make the treatment at an affordable price, or because there is a limited supply that needs to be rationed, it’s to protect a monopoly’s profit making rights.d) The American companies in many cases have stepped up in recent years, but only because they were embarrassed into doing so, lobbied heavily by Bono, and because their position against the Indian companies was indefensible and they stood to lose large markets if they didn’t respond. Viva la competition.e) Copyright is not an absolute right. That’s because all innovation relies on prior art, whether in the arts, sciences or business. So, there is a need to balance the rights of the creator to make a fair profit with the rights of consumers and future innovators. If we didn’t have that principle of balancing interests, innovation wouldn’t exist, and this would all be a moot argument.

  60. PhilipSugar

    I’m really late to the party here, but whenever somebody uses a pure morality play centered on the other party I think their argument is crap.  I was talking to an entrepreneur about that today.Don’t get me wrong, you can say it about yourself, but not about others.Every time I’ve heard you have a fiduciary responsibility, that’s not professional, etc, its because the other side really just wants their way and doesn’t really have a good rational basis for it.

  61. Roham

    I just spent the  better part of an hour reading through the comments and it shocks me to what degree people run out to defend the “poor starving artists”. That’s crazy. The fact is the top artists and record labels get paid obnoxiously high amounts (far beyond what the efficient market rate is) precisely because of this ridiculous thing we call copyright, and their overzealous enforcement of and lobbying for it. The poor starving artists are typically the ones who *choose* to give their content away for free to amass name recognition. To me, if Madonna made 1/10 of the money she did, she would have produced the same music at the same quality, and saved 9/10 of that extra income for more productive sectors of society. What *else* would she do, join a software startup? Anyone who thinks the record/movie industry is lean, efficient, and driven by market dynamics should pay a visit to LA, hang out at a Starbucks, and just look at it. Go ahead, look at it. Just look at it!!!…

    1. Roham

      Also another point that is not touched on is that the act of copying, sharing, re-editing, mixing, and sure, plagiarizing is NOT a zero sum game. When I steal from you, you don’t have what you used to have. When I copy you, change some bits, and re-release, we both have what we used to have, and the world as a whole has changed for the better. I do agree with most people here that a balance is needed, but defending current practices because they protect starving artists is disingenuous. Current practices benefit the mainstream, the well-connected, and the wealthy. The “new models” Fred speaks of have the potential to eliminate the long-standing ‘gatekeeper’ between artists and consumers (as well as blur the line between the two), which in the long run should be advantageous for all. 

    2. Dale Allyn

      It’s intellectually “dangerous” to lump all creative content producers into a group such as where Madonna or other elite artists reside. An enormous number of artists, musicians, writers, photographers, etc. who are not in that group are protected by copyright law. Most people who are concerned with what’s happening here are not arguing in defense of big record labels or movie studios who prefer to lobby Washington instead of innovate new business models. But there is objection among many who are concerned about poorly written legislation, which may get pushed through by means of aggressive lobbyists without regard for the entire creative ecosystem.

      1. Roham

        Fred Destin put it better than I could ever do:…

  62. whatisall

    The copyright in any work or other subject-matter is also infringed when any act which the copyright owner has the exclusive right to do is authorised to be done by a person in Australia who is not the copyright owner.

  63. Jason Hanley

    I’m with you. It makes me mad too 🙂 Wrote up a storm about this a while back:…

  64. testtest

    if the early browsers had payment gateways built in to them it would be a very different story for digital goods.making money with hearts and minds would be the default. 

  65. ShanaC

    but what is being stolen, precisely?

  66. fredwilson

    Of course they have a right to get paid. We have a bunch of investments focused on enabling just that. But the way to get paid changes and you have to adapt to new models

  67. Dave Pinsen

    I’d call it theft. They are interfering with your friends’ livelihoods. Same as the pirates who (as I mentioned yesterday) illegally downloaded my app were interfering with mine.

  68. David Semeria

    Clearly, the sculptor gets paid because you can’t digitialize his work.It’s now a fact of life that anything that can be digitalized is hard to protect. Making perfect digital copies is something computers are very good at. Legislation won’t change that.It’s no surprise that the music business is now focused on live performances (you can’t digitialize an experience) or that the movie industry has embraced 3D. Your friends must use the digital form of their work as a form of publicity / marketing – and monetize something else.It may not be right, or fair, but that’s the way things work now.

  69. Brad Dickason

    I wonder what will happen to the sculptor as 3D printing becomes chepaer, faster, and more accessible? Will the same scenario take place? (some people still buy for name recognition, others buy a knock-off because they want the art but can’t spend $6,000?)

  70. TriolithEntertainment

    We are @google-789fcc52dfd3b3531404d88fe74c4efc:disqus are smartphone game devs. We like the pirates, a pirated copy is not a theft or lost sale. Most often pirates download stuff cause they cant get it any other way. An example could be a song that is not available on itunes or spotify, and might not be able to buy it in the country. So they download it. In todays society this should not be a problem, ie it should be globaly available due to the internet.Another example could be from Valve who also make games, almost every game dev company thinks Russia is one of the biggest pirates nests when it comes to games. But for Valve it’s the second best market. Because they translate their game into russian before release, not 6 months later that all other companies do. No wonder russians pirate so much.For us at Triolith we see the pirates as free marketing, as they would probably not buy our game anyway, but tell their friend about it. 🙂

  71. Cam MacRae

    We agree more than we disagree, Charlie.The definition of theft you’re taking issue with is the plain english definition under a Westminster system of law. Much water has passed under the bridge since you blokes invited the English to leave, so you’d be better served in looking at the Wikipedia entry for larceny: Under the common law, larceny is the trespassory taking (caption) and carrying away (asportation, removal) of the tangible personal property of another with the intent to deprive him or her of its possession permanently. Sounds familiar.Copyright infringement is not theft, and the case for creators to be compensated is actually made stronger by precision in language.

  72. LE

    “I met with a manager of recording artists; some are very well known, some are not. All are figuring out how to pay their bills”Separate from the issue that you are talking about I have to comment on  this.It is unfortunate that there is an oversupply of creative people relative to the demand. These creatives don’t take the marketplace reality into consideration when choosing (what they think) will be a career or a way to earn a decent living.  They either are not guided by counselors (or parents) properly or do not listen to their advice  and consequently they fail to understand how difficult it is to earn a living in an artistic endeavor.

  73. awaldstein

    Re: your comments on monetizing your book.Let’s talk when you are back in town about this.

  74. DavyDev

    Find sponsor Start-ups/Small Businesses. Ask$5 per downloaden/hardcopy with a maximum of $100.

  75. Robert D

    I think you’re confused.Theft would be stealing the sculpture, or the picture.Copyright infringement would be taking a picture of the sculpture and posting it online, or producing a replica of the sculpture. Either act deprives the author the right to enjoy the benefits of his/her work, but they are totally different concepts.



  77. aslevin

    If a content publisher charges for content and a consumer uses it without paying that is a violation of the terms of service.But the SOPA/ Protect IP bills go far beyond defending that content publisher’s right to be paid list price.   They give the publisher the right to accuse someone of piracy, and to have the accusee’s site taken off the internet without due process.The bad bills aren’t about protecting the contract, they are about enabling vigilantism.

  78. EGreg

    The term “intellectual property” is what gives the idea of “copyright as theft” any meaning. But that term is loaded with quite a few assumptions, many of which rest on laws enacted by a government many years ago — a government which debated them and made compromises.Here are the proper descriptions, akin to what a scientist might use to describe exactly the phenomenon as it appears:COPYRIGHT: A monopoly right conferred by the government to exclude anyone else from copying a (copy of) a work, subject to certain exceptions depending on the laws under that government and the interpretation of the courts.PATENT: A monopoly right conferred by the government to exclude anyone else from manufacturing, producing, selling, or using a class of products covered by a disclosure by the inventor — again, subject to certain exceptions depending on the laws under that government and the interpretation of the courts.These are “rights” granted by the government. The property in question isn’t a natural right — if it was, there would be no arbitrary numbers like 20 years for a patent, or the ever-extending length of a copyright. Therefore they are a convention that can be amended just like anything else.My own personal view is that patents were designed to promote innovation. In slow-moving industries, such as was the case in the 17th century, patents are a great thing and spur innovation — one may say they greatly contributed to the industrial revolution. But fast-moving industries such as software today, the legislators need to get out of the way and the innovation will happen faster. The cost of patents in fast-moving industries just increases and compounds, exceeding the benefit to society. Here are my complete thoughts on the subject:…for copyright, it’s all about lobbying. You would really have to be biased to dismiss the similarity the RIAA’s actions bear to extortion (as well as other copyright enforcement groups). Sometimes companies use copyright to sue for works they don’t even own, just so they can intimidate and settle out of court. Under the DMCA, they weren’t able to pressure large websites because of the “safe harbor provisions”. They want to do away with them now, so they can extort even more money from the internet industry’s big players. If this happens, I say there will be quite a fight over youtube and facebook, where copyrighted material is posted every day. Imagine having facebook and youtube disabled because I can tell you a great case can be made under this new law to completely take them down.In a free market, the internet businesses would still work, but the content industry’s business models would start failing. The monopoly is what allows arbitrary and legal price-gouging, the killing of bands by preventing them from ever performing their own songs, and extortion often based on frivolous threats to sue. Is this what passes for “benefit to the public” these days? The industry in question needs the government to help them out if they are to survive. The internet industry just needs the government to step out of the way.Finally, there is a category error here somewhere: treating licenses to copy a work as products is as bad as treating corporations as people. For my full thoughts on this, see here:

  79. testtest

    you could also say that a percentage are helping you. the percentage that wouldn’t have been willing to pay for the app but tell their friends about it — free marketing!

  80. fredwilson

    True. But when the old model stops working you have to adapt

  81. thinkdisruptive

    Immoral laws deserve civil disobedience. The current copyright regime is immoral, and violates the foundational principles that IP protection is based on.

  82. pfreet

    A right to get paid? We don’t want to confuse the words “theft” and “copyright violation”. So, let’s not confuse “rights” with “business model obstruction” (or something).

  83. Jerry Coen

    Huh?So, I can start a business and share the Twitter code, logo, name, etc.?Come on, your argument that stealing copywritten material is absurd.

  84. John C. Welch

    what “new model” keeps people from endlessly copying artwork? What “new model” means that the artist has any ability to have primary control over their work?Why should anyone pay for art? Eventually, it will show up on some site, you use it for free, and take the (favorable) gamble that the artist will never find out. When they do, you use (standard pirate excuse) or know that the chance of them having the money to actually stop you are slim and none.There’s a reason people rob small independent artists blind but not Disney and Lucasarts so much. The pain in the former is essentially nil.

  85. Scott Dunn

    The point is that copyright infringement feels like theft when you’re the copyright holder. There are plenty of ways to infringe and many easily fit the definition of theft.But debating pros & cons of copyright law in general does little to advance our understanding of what’s wrong with the bill, namely: Censorship violates 1st amendment rights. Also: social media, networking, and hosting companies are not accessories.

  86. pfreet

    Assuming one was never going to pay for it in the first place – how is making a copy of something stealing the record company’s profits, oops, I mean the creators livelihood?

  87. ShanaC

    no the thing being stolen is causing a drop in income.  that’s the thing i’m trying to figure out.  It is really clear with the sculptor, I steal sculpture, s/he can’t make money on it.  I steal song, s/he still can make money on it, because there are effectively infinite copies.

  88. gorbachev

    By that definition of theft every disruptive technology creator is a thief, too.Google stole Astalavista’s livelihood. Brin and Page are thieves.Henry Ford is a thief, because all the buggy manufacturers lost their livelihood.And on and on.

  89. Dave Pinsen

    Nope. I spent money integrating my app with a pay-per-install distribution network. I get charged for pirated downloads which means I effectively can’t use it now without spending more than I make. That interferes with my livelihood in a material way.

  90. testtest

    it can still be net positive for the artist even if it is infringement, and even if they don’t like it.information has a knack for freeing itself — it wants to be free on the network (free as freedom). it’s like complaining about gravity imho

  91. testtest

    then give the pirates a way to get hold of your app that doesn’t cannibalize the rest of the market.or change networks.or integrate advertising — they can’t avoid paying with their attention if they use the app. 

  92. testtest

    read the blog post. liked it. and it reminded me why i hate freetards so much!post url:

  93. fredwilson

    i don’t see less creativity out there these daysi see more

  94. TriolithEntertainment

    I remember a comic book author about a year ago who released all his comic books for free on the piratebay. The result was a few hundred percent increase in sales of the hard copy ones.

  95. Robert D

    The artists aren’t being deprived of an outlet to maket their works or to have a voice.  The revenue stream being impacted is the corporations whose business model requires limited access.Artists like musicians benefit from more audience exposure to their works, not less, so the new model benefits those artists.

  96. Dave Pinsen

    But not infinite customers. What Charlie said.

  97. LE

    The local synagogue wants $250 per person for a high holiday seat. Let’s assume that there are plenty of seats and by “sneaking in” you don’t rob the shul of income from a potential worshipper.Theft?

  98. fredwilson

    only if that consumer was going to pay and had the means to pay14 year old kids without allowances from their parents taking files from the pirate bay doesn’t really seem to be reducing the market since they have no way to pay

  99. ShanaC

    what if 10 out of 10 are listening to atomized radio stations of one that are not covered by royalty fees?  that seems to be the closest analogous situation that I am thinking about, because there is no physical paper or record or cd or something to steal.

  100. Brad Dickason

    The issue at hand is not piracy, but rather the pricing of services like Pandora/Spotify/Netflix/Hulu and the payouts for creators (not distributors). The real reasons for piracy are much more complex:1) Yes, some portion of consumers will not EVER pay for a copy. They do not believe that paying $6.99 to rent Melancholia off iTunes, for example, is worth the cost.2) Many shows are simply not available online or in a region due to licensing. Fox, for example, doesn’t make its shows available until 7 days after they air on TV. Most HBO shows are not available at the same time as they air on TV, and you can find them on itunes only if you have a subscription to cable (I do not) and their channel.3) The content is just hard to get to! Ever tried downloading an ebook with Adobe ACS drm software (most non kindle/nook ebooks)? It takes at least 5 minutes to sign up with Adobe’s clunky service, then you have to authenticate, then figure out a way to get it on your device/laptop. Ugh!!The reason the above is important, is that I would argue (though I unfortunately have absolutely no facts to back this up, only anecdotal evidence in my own lives) that people are not fundamentally against paying for content online. Most people do not WANT to pirate. However, the effort and cost are completely prohibitive when accessing the content legally.You see huge consumer pickup from services like Spotify and Netflix. The reason is that it takes the hassle out of buying, downloading, syncing, etc. Could I download a Manu Chao album from Torrents? yes. Could I google and find the record? yes. However, I’d rather pay my $10/month and get the album legally and have it available everywhere. That’s awesome!The issues you’re seeing with Spotify/Netflix are not that people don’t want to pay for them. The issues are that content creators (again, forget the distributors like record labels, let them die) are not seeing substantial revenue.It is now the responsibility of the services (Spotify/Netflix) to work with both sides of the equation to:1) Reduce friction to download (invest in making it easier to subscribe, sync, view offline, etc) which increases value for the consumer2) Experiment with pricing and payout so the indie band or the Bruce Springsteens or the summer blockbusters get paid enough. Not necessarily the same as in the traditional buy/own model, but enough to allow them to make a living.iTunes started this on the purchase side (with per-song pricing and individual rental fees for movies) and subscription services are doing the same. Amazon prime is a really interesting version of this.The creators have the power to say ‘no’ to the new distribution services and go their own route (just like certain bands skipped the record labels back in the day).These issues are naturally sorting themselves out today. Introducing legislation only places power in the hands of the distributors, and leaves the creators as helpless as beforehand.(jeez this turned into a novel)

  101. fltron

    Successful artists, programmers, etc.. will always have the volumes to make money. 

  102. fredwilson

    make it broadly available as an ebook on as many platforms as there are out thereand also make it available for free for a brief period before you do that to generate word of mouth and buzz

  103. Luke Chamberlin

    Not for everyone, but I like the 37signals model here:http://gettingreal.37signal…The entire book is free to read online or you can download or you can purchase a physical copy. Much of the content is adapted from blog posts (also free).Free to read online and they’ve sold over 30,000 .pdfs at $19 each.

  104. awaldstein

    CharlieI’m with you in spirit but this example takes a circular path.Just because your book is hanging around for free on blogs, doesn’t mean you can’t sell  the book. I’ll buy it.Just because you give it all away, doesn’t mean you won’t make more money on the speaking circuit.Enforced scarcity will have little to do with payback and value I bet.If you are writing a book on start-ups, it had best address this issue of biz models and actually, be best if you marketed and sold it in a different way which illustrated your approach.You are an out-of-the-box thinker so honestly, I’m expecting not hoping for a new approach.

  105. Rohan

    Nice question Charlie.I am going to be self publishing my book around June next year (a novel about a Swedish guy and a British American girl of indian descent who take a 21 day trip to India for those who are interested.. :)) And I do have a question here – when you guys talk about making it available online as an ebook? Does that mean ‘free’?And does that model mean the money comes from hard copy sales?I was thinking of making it a ‘Pay as much as you want’ model online.. since the ebook will be available in anyway.. @twitter-41899343:disqus  @fredwilson:disqus @awaldstein:disqus @chrishuntis:disqus- would be good to hear your advice..

  106. DavyDev

    Find sponsor Start-ups/Small Businesses. Ask$5 per downloaden/hardcopy with a maximum of $100.

  107. Dave Pinsen

    If you charge what I suggested, you can print it like they do secret film scripts, with the buyer’s name watermarked on the page.

  108. Donna Brewington White

    “but my goal is to help startups more than make a buck…”That’s noble of you, Charlie, and I believe you mean it.  But you’d better make some money off this.  Startups can afford a book.Some of us actually might want to buy several of them and give them to startups as gifts.  It’s bound to be quite a book!  And a gift that keeps on giving.

  109. LE

    Send copies of the book for review to various people who will give you a quotes that you can publicize and leverage. Also create a short summary 5 pages that someone who is busy can read instead of the entire book if needed. (Readers digest length.) Also remember to include something outrageous that will attract media attention (think tiger mom).  See attached image circa 1989 (an idea a book agent rejected at the time.)

  110. MikeAlbert

    Charlie – take a look at how James Altucher publicizes his books. Certainly a lot of work as his whole job is publicizing himself, but his book was the 2nd best selling self-help book on Amazon for many weeks.

  111. John C. Welch

    Charlie, it’s a shakedown model. If you don’t release it for free, people will take it anyway. If you do, then you later charge for it, you MIGHT get paid. But only if you can seriously limit access to the free version. Or, if you become well known enough. Maybe. The problem with freemium is that people act like it’s:1) do an ton of work for free, because you’re not getting paid to write.2) Release it as free for a limited time3) start charging for it4) huge profit.that, as stated, and as fred pushes it, is complete BS. Here’s how it really works, if you want to make any damned money:1) Write it for free. (Or if you’re lucky, get a pub company. I recommend trying the latter, some money to write is better than none. Nonfiction/tech books are much easier) As you write it, find good friends to edit it. Release some chapters to people you know and TELL them to talk about it. (Marketing and PR is not this fluffy “build it and they will come” nonsense fred et al make it out to be. It’s a lot of work, and you’d better plan on it.) Once you get a decent bit into good shape, start sending parts of it to the apprpriate book blogs, and sites run by peopel in that field. Ask for their feedback, public and private.2.) Release it for free in a variety of forms, but keep in mind that Amazon is only good for reach. They screw over writers at will and like to take huge chunks of the take. But, they do have reach so you have to deal with them. Send copies to book blogs, and publishers. The publishers may help you somewhat with the first book, but that may interest them in paying you actual money. Again, make sure the appropriate sites in your field get copies. Promote. Promote. Promote. Spend a lot of time promoting. Get. A. Lawyer. Register your work with the copyright office. Make sure you’re clear the free version is a time-limited deal.3) Start charging. ignore the complaints you’re charging too much. Those will always be there, and should be treated like the flies they are. Make sure the lawyer you hired is good with DMCA letters. they’ll be your friend. Do be active in protecting your work, no one else will.4) If you are lucky, you’ll make some dosh, but you’ll be busting your hump every step of the way.also, expect to be told you’re greedy and stupid for charging, and you should “find a new model”. No one will ever tell you what that model is.

  112. thinkdisruptive

    Seth Godin has published books that do nothing but collect hundreds of previously published blog posts into a form that you can more easily read on a plane or without your computer. They have become massive bestsellers, often bought by people who have already read most of the blog articles online. He actually built a much larger audience to sell the books to by publishing it all for free. You can still read those articles for free if you have the patience to page through them online.I suggest you adapt to the new way of thinking. You’ll sell far more books that way.

  113. John C. Welch

    Fred, you point to a few, VERY few mind you, examples of a model that has worked for SOME writers, and say “THere, that will work for all”. That’s nonsense, and you know it. One size does not fit all. It’s like saying “put google ads on your site, you’ll make money”. No, you won’t. You have to get people to click on the ads, without telling, or even encouraging them to. Which means, you have to start writing in a way that gets the kinds of ads people will click on.Congratulations, you’re not writing about what you want, you’re writing about what Google wants. You can try to join PPV networks, but you have to be able to prove you have the site views, which means you have to cultivate a rather large audience. That means you kind of have to do a specific kind of writing that will attract the most readers. So much for creativity.You go on about these models, but they aren’t “models”. they aren’t reliable, they don’t work reliably for all, and they certainly don’t work in that “Field of dreams” method you and others like Godin make it sound like. That one author Godin uses as his “self-publishing is a magical path to money”? When you actually read HER story, it wasn’t magical. It was a huge amount of work. *Years* of work to get where she is now. Years of not making money, promotion, all the actual hard work that you, and all the other “OOOOOOH! MAGICAL NEW MODEL! MONEY FROM THE SKIES” crowd ignores, and, when a major publishing house reached out to her? And she could get paid JUST for writing? She jumped on it.I’m not hostile to something that is reliable and works, but you provide only the barest details on any of this. Like your daughter “making more money than she dreamed possible” in art. WHat kind of art? Where is she selling it? How is she promoting it. What’s her audience. On and on.You have no details, nothing below the surface. You have a gloss of bon mots and pithiness that ultimately is of little practical use to anyone trying to sell books, art, music or movies.

  114. John C. Welch

     This is blog discussion not a phd dissertation. Im just telling you how i see it. I am putting a lot of money where my mouth is. And i am confident these new models will create even more value for artists than the old models did. Rome was not built in a day. No, it took the better part of a millennia to build rome. Great, that’s a comfort. “just wait a few hundred years”.  Pithy sayings are awesome, yet at no point do you even provide LINKS to details on all these magical models you push as “TEH FYUTURE” Come on Fred, if someone wanted money from you and as their business plan used:1) I make art2) I sell it online3) Give me moneyyou’d laugh them out of the room, and correctly so. You’d want actual details, the same kind of details I’m asking from you. You don’t have to list them here, links to them would be perfectly cool. Yet all you seem to have are bon mots about “new models will one day be huge generators of money”.

  115. Dave Pinsen

    Letting pirates get it free cannibalizes the market.Piracy would cause the same issue on another network.Ads require huge scale to supplant paid downloads, but it’s possible that they could offset enough piracy to make my ROI on the network positive. That’s something I am looking into, though an issue there is that paid users often resent seeing ads.One thing I am not going to do as a result of this is offer new capabilities we are developing as a mobile app. Instead, they’ll be added to the subscription website.

  116. testtest

    the subscription website sounds like an interesting idea. another may be to test freemium on a network where your marginal cost is zero. i got this email from a software vendor yesterday: “This is a follow up to my last email regarding the [software name]maintenance plan. I noticed your plan has expired about a month agoand wanted to see if you were still interested in renewing it.Without a maintenance plan, you can still use the currently installedversion but you will no longer receive the search engine updates or anyapplication upgrades that may be released in the future.If you are not sure why you should renew your maintenance plan thenplease visit:[url]To help with your decision, I am offering you a 15% discount for therenewal of your maintenance plan. To get the discount all you need todo is enter the following coupon code when completing the online form[…]”

  117. Sahara

    Who’s livelihood is stolen when a kid dies in Africa from aids because his parents couldn’t afford the intellectual property tied to the legal aids drugs?

  118. Aaron Klein

    It’s a red letter day on AVC. I have never agreed this much with you on a comment thread before. We’re running about 80% today. 😉

  119. Sahara

    So african kids can die for one year then? It also seems a bit hipocritical to allow copyright holders to enjoy a “temporary” monopoly greater than one century, but to throw the drug manufacturers under a bus because their particular creation is just too darned important. By your own argument, won’t that remove their incentive to create life saving medicines?

  120. thinkdisruptive

    It’s communist logic. Is that the same as faulty?

  121. David Semeria

    Sometimes life isn’t fair Charlie.As far as I can tell there’s very little correlation between raw talent and being able to make a living – if anything there might be a pretty strong negative correlation between the two.But it’s no use doing a King Canute – we’re evolutionary creatures, when the rules of the game change we adapt…



  123. testtest

    saw this model the other day from Avdi Grimm; loved it:…free to read online but paid early access, with (quote edited):’- Input into the final product.- When they are ready, you’ll get PDF, Mobi, and Epub versions for your offline reading pleasure. These versions will not be made available for free.- Once it is ready, a copy of the full source code including revision history of the working demo project the book is based on. Again, this will not be made available for free.- A warm, fuzzy feeling because you’re supporting me in writing this and future books, like my upcoming “Confident Ruby”.’

  124. Dave Pinsen

    I’m already running a subscription site now. One of my earliest customers has been paying $24 per month for 15 months. Beats having someone pay $28.99 (of which I get $20.30 — or $5.70, if I used the distribution network).

  125. Dave Pinsen

    Accidentally sent that last response before finishing it. I can’t include a link here, since I am replying via email, but to see why I am not a fan of freemium, search for the post, “Lessons from instapaper on app pricing” on my blog (which my name links to).

  126. JamesHRH

    Except for people with a raw talent for making money 😉

  127. LE

    “very little correlation between raw talent and being able to make a living”I think that with the exception of the top tier of talent this is correct. Someone at the very very top will generally succeed. After that it takes another shtick (Madonna and Lada Gaga come to mind) to differentiate yourself or exceptional motivation and perseverance to climb on top of other creatives.

  128. JLM

    Where you been?Life is not fair and that is a great lament.But people can bend over backwards to make their own little slice of life a bit fairer sometimes with something as little as common courtesy.I frankly like to confound people with small kindnesses because in a cruel and entertaining way I just like to see their reactions.Also, it pays huge dividends in the long run.  People always remember small kindnesses.Individually, we can all be the best in life.  Still life is unfair.

  129. Dave Pinsen

    Life may not be fair, but that’s no excuse for us as individuals not to do our small parts to make it a little fairer.

  130. testtest

    why can’t you sell more subs via the site? difficult to get traffic, hard to convert etc?

  131. LIAD

    That’s just the thing, people don’t *have* to adapt, they don’t have to do anything.It’s totally their prerogative.The rules of business may have changed but the rules of morality haven’t.

  132. JLM

    In some ways this is just the latest manifestation of the “entitlement” generation’s desire to have it their way.  At no cost penalty.The old model required respect — from a monetary perspective — for the creative equity of an artist’s creations.Of course, that was “inconvenient” if one just wanted it and desired not to pay for it.  And could find a way to do it.One cannot pick and choose what laws they want to respect and ones they do not desire to respect.  Or can they?I find it more convenient for me to drive 100 MPH when going to Dallas early in the morning — no traffic, roads empty.  Shucks, I’m not doing anyone any harm.BTW, in the 1970s there used to be no speed limit on this particular IH and it was perfectly legal to drive 100 MPH.  And then the Feds intervened and made it all initially 55 MPH.I am not sure I am swayed by a changing model which is changed by the pirates themselves.

  133. Donna Brewington White

    Why did the old model stop working? What are the flaws of the old model that need to be addressed in “adapting” … or even in creating a new model?

  134. Ciaran

    Yep; when people keep nicking your stuff you should invest in a better alarm. Unless that’s not what you’re saying

  135. Aaron Klein

    No way, man. Property is property. Piracy is piracy. The artist has to choose if they want to make something available for free or not.I love the free economy and the idea of indirect business models. But it’s nowhere close to gravity.You can’t force artists into a business model of your liking. If you’re right that it won’t work any other way, then their products should sit on the shelf and fail with the old-school price tag attached.

  136. Kay

    Actually piracy involves ships and weapons and usually people being marooned, killed or taken hostage. Another example of an emotive term being applied to the act of, say, burning a spare copy of a Lion King dvd you bought from the store, cos your kids keep scratching discs by not putting them away properly.

  137. Ciaran

    Yeah, especially it none of their friends pay for it either. Oh

  138. testtest

    with us straddling across the old and new — business models and technologies — i don’t see it as black and white.If you’re right that it won’t work any other way, then their products should sit on the shelf and fail with the old-school price tag attachedif i’m right, that can’t logically happen. the network is here. it’s all pervasive. it’s changed physics, it’s changed psyches, and it is (to my mind) synonymous with culture.

  139. Aaron Klein

    That doesn’t make it right and we can’t turn a blind eye to piracy by calling it “gravity.”

  140. Aaron Klein

    I hate to break this to you, but those aren’t pirates if they have your approval.

  141. Bill Phelan

    Stating Charlie’s and Aaron’s point in a slightly different way, you have chosen to make your APP freely available for marketing purposes.  However, you did NOT choose to make your source code for the APP as well as any other product source codes available.  You have also not chosen to make the email addresses to your user list available.  You consider your source code and your user list to be YOUR property.  If someone came and took it, just because the tools are available to take it, would that be OK with you?  Your source code and your user list are YOUR unique property that you protect so you can make a living, even though there are tools available to steal both. Do you believe others have the same right to protect their property?Now your source code might be easily “infringed” based upon the level of tools, or the skill set of the hacker. The emails of your user list might take a bit more work. The “infringer” could, of course, just break into your office and bring a thumb drive, but that might be considered “theft”. However, since there is a whole industry out there making tools to break into your servers, then it must be OK to do so? After all, infringement is OK if it part of a new business model? The digital infringement business model?

  142. fltron

    Rules of morality is a touch dramatic. What we’re talking about is advancing our society and not letting dinosaur industries regulate art and expression. People don’t have to adapt, but business fail when they do not adapt. It’s not the artists that are losing out on money, it’s the labels. The artists make a ton of money on tours and merchandize. The labels, archaic structures that they are, keep holding back the industry. As a consumer I don’t care about the labels, I care about supporting the artist. 

  143. CJ

    Maybe not, but the law also doesn’t have to adopt draconian measures to protect those who refuse to adapt their business models.  

  144. Donna Brewington White

    When we separate morality from business, we’re sunk.

  145. Ciaran

    @fltronIt’s not the artists that are losing out on money, it’s the labels. The artists make a ton of money on tours and merchandize.Except, of course, that lots of them aren’t. Lots of them are struggling, as people stay at home (not your Madonnas or Paul McCartneys, but then they’re not exactly being kep hungry due to downloading either). The myth of tours replacing the revenue of, y’know, actually getting paid for their content wouldn’t be an excuse for theft/larceny/call it what you will, even if it were true. Which it’s not.…

  146. thinkdisruptive

    Everything has to adapt to change. That’s the story of life. Unless you’re a Luddite, of course. Then just go around smashing up everything that’s new.If you want to make more money, then adapt. If you want to make less money, keep doing things the old way.That’s definitely your choice.

  147. Dave Pinsen

    The biggest limiting factor seems to be traffic. Had a surge of new subscriptions a few months ago, from some articles I wrote on a particular investing site. Working on some new ways to get the word out. Also looking to convert some iOS app users to website subscribers, by adding a couple of major new capabilities exclusively to the website.

  148. Dave Pinsen

    Thanks. The other platform I alluded to there, incidentally, was Seeking Alpha’s Investing Tools Store, which they just shut down, after disappointing results, due in part, probably, to their freemium model.

  149. testtest

    not turn a blind eye, the opposite, focus on it more: – why is there piracy? – is it price or convenience? – how can creatives/business benefit from this rampant desire to share?- how can price discrimination be used?- can we give before it’s taken? does that lead to reciprocation or loyalty?then there’s questions of what happens when others in the market give away product for free? does that reduce the value of full price products? e.g. commoditizing the compliment.this is about the whole system, and the system that interacts with that system, and the system that interacts with that system, and so on.piracy is more than some people getting a copy of content. it’s an expression of desire, it’s the consumer using technology, the technology that’s available — living in the it wrong? not to a generation! we built a giant copier machine (thanks xerox) and now we cry foul when it does what it was built to do. we built it. and we build it, and unless we want to pivot the internet and start again we have to learn to live with it. its tremendous unifying power and it’s cornucopia of knowledge educating countless people. at the price of piracy? that’s cheap. and it doesn’t even have to be a cost!or we could throw spanners in the works, and smash parts of the great creation. let those who seem to understand it the least have free rein on trying to “fix” it. like chimpanzees “playing” scrabble, the best they can do is throw pieces around: they think the aim is one thing, it’s really summarize: the problem isn’t with the copier, it’s how we use the copier. 

  150. Aaron Klein

    No, no, no. Not at all.Copying Encyclopedia Britannica and posting it on the web = piracy, almost tantamount to theftPutting Encyclopedia Britannica out of business because the web makes it possible to create and share original work for free = brilliant, amazing, wonderfulEmbrace what technology can do to replace old models, not what technology can do by misappropriating their property.

  151. LE

    “latest manifestation of the “entitlement” generation’s desire”Agree. And I assume you mean young people.But there is also the poor and middle class entitlement. Such as the midwest woman that I saw on the news stating “well, if they are going to be taking fluoride out the water for budget reasons I hope they are going to cover all the dental care my kids need.”This woman of course isn’t smart enough (notice I say smart I don’t say educated) to figure out that you can buy fluoride tablets at a cost of 500 tablets for about $70. About the cost of 10 packs of cigarettes. So you see getting somewhere in life requires sacrifice.http://www.fluoridedebate.c“drive 100 MPH when going to Dallas early in the morning”Speed isn’t something you’re given. Speed is something you take. (Thank Jock for that quote.)

  152. Dale Allyn

    I also believe that it’s a manifestation of “moral decay” – and, no, not going religious here, just fundamental right and wrong. Ethics matter.I’m amazed when someone states with pride that they (or worse, their child) have X,000 songs on their iPod… and when queried as to whether they downloaded all from iTunes or ripped them themselves from CDs they purchased [as I naively think of the time and money spent to amass such a collection] the answer is “oh, no, I got them from friends or torrent X”. I want to say “you must be so proud…  your little Johnny is a criminal”. Of course, this is a tangential conversation to the bigger problem, but it disturbs me that this sort of behavior is becoming “acceptable” to many. My daughter grew up with the strict rule that she may collect no music that she did not purchase herself (or that we as a family owned). And she was not allowed to share with the friends the same way. She got some push-back from friends at times, but she simply found ways to EARN MONEY and BUY the music herself. Now I observe friends, neighbors, and otherwise responsible business people, ignoring the agreements they sign-off to (EULAs, etc.) when installing software or music, or grabbing images off the internet for their projects, etc. I’d love to see more social pressure to conduct ourselves correctly, but that’s surely asking too much.

  153. sigmaalgebra

    Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, quit complaining!  We’ve definitely got the very best Congress money can buy!

  154. LE

    So I had this theory that it had to do (like so many other things) with puberty. And “wahla”, a simple google search turns this up:http://onlinelibrary.wiley….”Some reasons why childhood creativity often fails to make it past puberty into the real world”

  155. andyidsinga

    i dont think there can ever be an oversupply of creativity or creative people because it/they happen at the margins.just thinking out loud here — if there appears to be an oversupply of ‘creatives’ in a certain space they probably aren’ to think about.Kids are so amazing when they are just doing ..and not paying any attention to others around them 🙂

  156. JLM

    Kids act naturally because they have not had the crap beat out of them by life.We are all held hostage to our experiences good and bad.My wife says that I have no filter between my brain and my mouth while I like to think I speak “naturally”.  Childlike.I do know it makes me feel better about myself and I never have to think about what I believe in.  Of course, it does result in making lots of enemies at cocktail parties.

  157. JLM

    Voila!, mon cher.There is nothing like watching the transformation of brilliant young women in their sophomore year of high school into complete idiots because the captain of the basketball team paid them some attention.I forced my Perfect Daughter to play sports and she was a monster starting on the girls basketball team as a freshman and playing field hockey like a fiend.I particularly liked field hockey because there is not a boy’s equivalent.Puberty makes kids do really stupid things.

  158. andyidsinga

    gotta be careful not to confuse the artist, their art and the tools that are use to A) make the original and B) replicate it.Tool selection for A is always expanding – and the artist can select tools from 5000 years ago to today.Tools for B are always changing and getting faster, cheaper, seems the sticky issues arise when the artists loose control/compensation/attribution when B happens.

  159. LE

    Cubic zirconia and posters come to mind. Part of the lure of buying something expensive is knowing that it is expensive. 

  160. LE

    “complete idiots”I’ve seen that happen to many times. It’s the curse of being an attractive girl and having to much attention from men. It becomes an addiction and it feels good and who can fight that? I don’t even need any studies supporting this. I just know that it is.Truth is you are scared shitless that your daughter will end up with the wrong guy. I know that because I am with my daughters. Hopefully the quest to win your approval will get your opinion heard in the matter.

  161. andyidsinga

    It seems that when something is easily digitized ‘protection’ becomes an issue of proper attribution rather than preventing copies and use.

  162. Dave Pinsen

    Give Fred’s portfolio co. Shapeways some time.

  163. thinkdisruptive

    Actually, the sculptor’s work can be digitized and replicated with 3D printing. It will be interesting to see how things evolve when everyone has their own 3D printer at home. Everything will be about licensing designs, like sewing patterns, that you replicate on your own at home. Especially things like replacement parts and artwork.

  164. David Semeria

    Bang on Andy!The horse may have bolted, but it’s still the owner’s horse…

  165. andyidsinga

    My wife says the same thing to me about filtering 🙂

  166. LE

    “Kids act naturally because they have not had the crap beat out of them by life.”As the saying goes “A liberal is simply a conservative who hasn’t been mugged yet””Of course, it does result in making lots of enemies at cocktail parties. “I’m bored by non-opinionated people who want to talk about where they traveled or where they ate the night before.

  167. Aaron Klein

    Or lots of friends… 😉

  168. JLM

    @andyidsinga:disqus Of course as fellow wood butchers that does not surprise me at all.

  169. fredwilson

    or blog comment threads. and yet you haven’t done that.

  170. David Semeria

    Hi JLM,I’ve been very busy, but still find/make time to read AVC every day.I also do the small kindness thing. I don’t know what the people are like in Texas, but here in Italy people don’t do kindness (of any form) to strangers.It’s one of the great paradoxes of this remarkable country.And yes, the stunned look when you hold a door open for someone, or buy a stranger a beer, is indeed priceless.

  171. JLM

    @hymanroth:disqus Glad to hear your voice again.  Funny thing you say about our collective attitudes to strangers.My wife thinks I am totally nuts because I can strike up a conversation with anyone about anything.  I love to go into a bar and strike up a conversation with someone just sitting there.I was just in NYC for a week and often meet my wife — who is usually out stimulating the economy — for dinner at a restaurant and she is invariably late.I will be at the bar w/ three new found friends discussing the ramifications of who knows what.  I think people are naturally talkative if you can just get them talking.The challenge is the first step.  In some ways, Fred’s blog provides that first step for this audience.I am going trout fishing in N California next year w/ a guy I met at a bar.  I think I like to “collect” people.The funny thing is that I often think of myself as naturally reclusive.

  172. Aaron Klein

    @JLM:disqus , when you’re in Northern California fly fishing, feel free to give me a buzz – it’s a good bet you’re close and if so, I’m buying dinner. 🙂

  173. William Mougayar

    Charlie, Kudos for spurring such a debate on your moving day (102 replies, 10 Likes & counting). I can’t imagine what it could have been if it was a normal day.

  174. Cam MacRae

    They do, but today moving matters more!





  177. aslevin

    Not really.  You pay for High Holiday tickets to pay for the Rabbi and Cantor and teachers and social action and other synagogue activities.  If you have more money you may want to pay more than $250 to support these good things.  If you are unemployed or disabled or elderly you may not be able to pay $250 and the synagogue hopefully enables you to come without hassling you.  If you have the money it’s not theft but it is abuse of the community’s services and charitable policy.   There  are various kinds of dishonest, unethical behavior that aren’t theft.

  178. ShanaC

    the gabbai in me says: worry about making a minyan first.the former profession jew in me says: wtf is wrong with the establishment, don’t you know that you tend to turn off the greater jewish community thinks you all are nuts because of the prices you chargethe economist in me says: free rider problem, not theft per say

  179. ShanaC

    @FakeGrimlock:disqus actually that happens in some synagogues.  It is generally not a smart idea.

  180. thinkdisruptive

    If there’s a price on a seat to attend a religious service, that is theft. It’s immoral, unethical, and abusive. If this is a real example, it would be sufficient to cause me to change religion.

  181. ShanaC

    @thinkdisruptive:disqus The forward has written about this.  Synagogues tend to charge membership fees and not do the “take donation during prayer thing” that churches do.  Each approach ends up with equivalent amounts of money to cover all “church” activities.

  182. thinkdisruptive

    @ShanaC:disqus I’m obviously not from this culture. I don’t know what you mean by “the forward has written about this”. Is that a person? Membership fees don’t seem to allow for visitors or new recruits, and would certainly dissuade someone who wasn’t already committed or accepting of it as a price of entry to the country club.I get that I’m missing cultural context, but as an outsider looking in, it definitely feels punitive and anti-religious.In any case, I don’t think we should be applying the rules of commerce to religion.



  184. Prokofy

    Da, Mikhail Sergeyich! Vot imenno!Zhizn’ sama pokazala nam!



  186. JLM

    @FakeGrimlock:disqus You are absolutely correct.  We all have talent but only a few unlock it.

  187. JLM

    You’re doing fine, Champ.  Not to worry.

  188. William Mougayar

    You have been. Don’t forget any boxes out there. I once threw in the garbage some jewelry during a move. That was 25 years ago. What a dumb thing it was.

  189. ShanaC

    no worries, just enjoy moving day

  190. Magnus Söderberg

    Well they don’t have our approval per see, but instead of trying to work against them like most companies are we instead try to convert them into paying customers. There is no benefit to work against the pirates as piracy is here to stay. What one has to do is think about how you can convert those pirates either into paying customers or free advertising of your product.One way could be to have a check in the product to see if it’s legally downloaded, and if it’s not then you turn on ad’s. Another one could be to actually ask them to pay or to at least tell their friends about your game if they like it.MagnusCEO – Triolith Entertainment

  191. fredwilson

    we buy music in our house too. i let my kids use my itunes account. they are pretty good about it. but what about when one of their favorite artist’s new record leaks and all their friends have it? i tell them to get the tracks from their friends but to buy it when it is available to buy. there’s only so far that you can ask kids to go.

  192. fredwilson

    yes it is

  193. Bill Phelan

    I think you have raised an interesting question.  Sadly, it depends on the form of the content created.  If you are a writer, and your publisher prints books (think Carlota Perez’s publisher in the UK and Northampton, MA) and you choose not to digitize, Carlota and her publisher just do not participate in the digital commerce opportunities.  Carlota and her publisher do not get ripped off because it is just too much work to go from print to digital for an “infringer.”  If you have digitized, or your work is easily digitized, then you will be “violated” because it is easier to do it. However, the notion that if you are easily digitized, and you are easily “infringed” means you have no rights and must adopt your business model to living on the road touring because the new economy has a right to just take…is pretty bazaar.

  194. fredwilson

    i really like to hold doors for people. it drives my wife a bit crazy at times. but it is an act of kindness that costs almost nothing.

  195. fredwilson

    we are cut out of the same cloth then JLM. i have a reclusive tendency but i also love to meet and collect people. these traits seem at odds with each other

  196. Donna Brewington White

    Sorry, Fred, I now realize that you see the initial rather than edited comment. I think the initial comment to which you responded was: “Isn’t it a good idea to determine what was wrong with the old model?” (or something like that)

  197. fredwilson

    it is not an argument. it is simply fact. theft and copyright infringement are different things.

  198. fredwilson

    it is not an argument. it is simply fact. theft and copyright infringement are different things.

  199. thinkdisruptive

    You might be, but that wouldn’t be very moral or ethical either. You can’t have one standard for one IP owner and another one for a different one for another. The record companies employ people, so by your logic, you would be stealing those employees’ livelihoods.All of this presumes that copyright is absolute. It isn’t. It is a law that is supposed to balance the right of artists to make a living with the common good. That’s why is is supposed to be granted for a limited term. The law today is not in balance, and SOPA makes it worse.

  200. thinkdisruptive

    Two similar alternatives to check out:- Unleashing the Ideavirus was released as a free ebook to download. It has been downloaded for free over 3 million times. As a printed book, it has sold over 1 million copies in 41 countries.- Small is the New Big:…. is composed entirely of republished blog articles, articles originally published in Fast Company, and a few of his free short ebooks – at least a few hundred thousand sold — don’t know total figures, but all 12 of his books have been bestsellers

  201. fredwilson

    There is plenty of evidence that these models work. You seem so hostile to them

  202. fredwilson

    There are many new models emerging. The one to use depends on what kind of art you do. Kickstater works great for film and music projects. Soundcloud is developing some great monetization services for musicians and podcasters. Shapeways allows designers to become manufacturers. Those are just three of our portfolio companies. I could go on and on but i like to keep my replies short

  203. Prokofy

    Well, *do* go on and on, Fred because these all sound pretty bogus. It’s great you put your money where your mouth is, and we have to take that seriously, but truly, Kickstarters is just buskin’ on the street.  I don’t get equity. The start-up might fail, and I don’t get a refund, even. All I get is a t-shirt. It’s a fad, Kickstarters. It’s “market” depends on the novelty of giving directly to cool ideas. That will wear off. People will come full circle to realizing that the corporation and the book publisher and the record company were in fact actually pretty good institutions for attracting value.I don’t know what the magic unicorn dust is about Soundcloud. It’s a great thing, but people just copy it. There isn’t any monetization except ad-clicking. Um, subscriptions? To podcasting? Really, Fred?The third one I’ll look up, but…not buying it.Because you always become your most vague when justifying this particular facet of your technocommunism.

  204. John C. Welch

    Numbers fred. Show me the numbers and percentages that reveal these to be reliable, followable, implementable models for a *majority* of users.Not the “well THAT guy made money” stuff. Pet Rock made a guy millions. Pet Stone, not so much. Show us details on the people actually making enough money to fund shelter, food, and clothing, and the total story of the work involved. Show us the failure rates, where no, you didn’t get a bunch of money.Also, kickstarter is a bad example, because kickstarter’s rules make it bad as a way to make money as an artist. Lets’ look at some of the guidelines:1) Kickstarter is project based. That means you can’t say “Hey, help fund my art”. It has to fund a SPECIFIC project. Start a new project, that’s a separate kickstarter. 2) KIckstarter is ONLY to fund the project. It’s not a “fund my life so i can create art” project. No really, from the guidelines page: No “fund my life” projects. Examples include projects to pay tuition or bills, go on vacation, or buy a new camera. So if you need new equipment for the project, yeah. no. Unless of course you lie. Pssht. Ethics.You can’t “spam” about your project. Who defines that? Kickstarter. You can’t cross-promote your project on someone else’s project, (they don’t appear to make allowances for the other person being okay with it), if you do, they suspend your account.No “obscene, hateful, or objectionable content”. Oh look, bunnies, kittens and songs about friendship. Doing something edgier? Sucks to be you.You see fred, that’s what happens when you look at the details of your magical new models. You realize they aren’t and you realize that Fred Wilson can afford to push all these “new models” with random success rates, and limitations up the wazoo, and be vague about how “lots” of people are making money with these new models, even being vague about “lots”, because a) Fred doesn’t actually have squat for numbers or success rates on this. It’s just a big bunch of anecdotes, and magical thinking. Remember, the plural of anecdotes is still not “data” even when it’s Fred.b) Fred doesn’t have to care, because he’s already made his dosh. It’s easy to believe in magical new models when you already have a bunch of money and YOU aren’t reliant on these models.Funny how Fred never has any actual data for any of this. That should be your first warning.

  205. John C. Welch

    Details? From Fred? Dude, what’s next, details from Godin?This is just pied piperism from a guy who will never have to actually rely on any of this. Never trust a chef who doesn’t eat what he makes.

  206. fredwilson

    You are short kickstarter and i am long kickstarterWe will see if its a fadTwitter seemingly is not even though it has been called one daily for the past five yearsI love it when critics dismiss our most disruptive investments as fads Makes me want to double down on our investment

  207. John C. Welch

     Are you kidding me? Ive bet our funds, my career, and my reputation on these ideas. I am not just talking shit. You on the other hand …… “you’re talking shit and i am not” are not details. But i’m glad you so fully back these “new models” for artists. So, where are the links to your funding for artists? I’m sure they’d all appreciate being able to get a leg up from someone so heavily invested in that community. It would be a huge boon to them.

  208. John C. Welch

     You are short kickstarter and i am long kickstarterWe will see if its a fad Nice strawman, but that’s not exactly a rebuttal of prokofy’s point about kickstarter, your implication that it’s some kind of guaranteed funding stream, (it’s not, not even close) or your implication that artists can use kickstarter as some kind of general funding mechanism, (they can’t, kickstarter is VERY clear about that.)So, you’ve pushed a model that actually doesn’t work the way you say it does, and cannot be used the way you tell people to use it. It’s a way for people ask other people for money, (aka, panhandling/begging/busking) to fund a specific project.Not all art is project oriented. Not all artists need to fund giant murals or sculptures. You’re supposed to be the financial genius here, and yet, you have yet to come up with any useful details on how these “new models” can be applied and integrated into a viable business plan that will provide any form of reliable income stream.”hope people give you money” seems to be what most of your suggestions boil down to.

  209. fredwilson

    This is blog discussion not a phd dissertation. Im just telling you how i see it. I am putting a lot of money where my mouth is. And i am confident these new models will create even more value for artists than the old models did. Rome was not built in a day.

  210. fredwilson

    In the next twelve months Kickstarter will put more money in artists pockets than the national endowment for the arts. Maybe 2x. Hows that for a number???????????

  211. John C. Welch

     In the next twelve months Kickstarter will put more money in artists pockets than the national endowment for the arts. Maybe 2x. Hows that for a number??????????? Links to supporting data?

  212. fredwilson

    Are you kidding me? Ive bet our funds, my career, and my reputation on these ideas. I am not just talking shit. You on the other hand ……

  213. fredwilson

    near the end of this post…

  214. Scott Dunn

    If the person infringing on copyright is blocked from infringing, what have they lost? How is their loss valued?