Angie Raymond

Indiana University Business Law and Ethics

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When you download something online- are you the 'owner' of the item- or are you renting it for a period of time?

The law is currently set to protect the online community via license agreements and terms of use - to allow consumers only licenses to play and watch video, books, music etc. However, I believe most people don’t know this- most people think when you download something it is yours- to have forever, for as long as you want ....... Am I wrong, and do you know you often don’t own the item?

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    Oct 14 2011: libertarian point of view, fyi:

    you can not own information, because information is not scarce in economic sense. but your use of any information can be limited by your contracts. in that case, the place where you are downloading from, can limit your use of the information as it pleases. it is not, however, legally binding to any 3rd person who gets that information without violating his/her contracts, and without unauthorized access to your stuff (for example if you carelessly share it in some way).
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    Oct 15 2011: Intellectual property rights are still evolving. I think maybe I can draw a parallel between internet data and CD/DVD. The courts have ruled that you could make a back up copy of a CD/DVD in the last several years. You still cannot charge to see it, you cannot show it to large public groups for donations, and you cannot change it a bit and sell it as your own. I think as an attorney that I would argue that information on the internet stays the property of the original creator of that information unless it would be deemed information that is truly part of the public domain. I am thinking of things like public holidays, ( I would love to own the rights to Christmas !!!), the dictionaries, encyclopedias etc. These are really part of the public domain of knowledge. I agree with Gerald producers are owners assuming they are the original creators of the information.
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      Oct 16 2011: Doesen't selling of a product assume that the seller is compensated for loosing the physical object? Since a seller of IP doesen't loose anything why would that person be compensated for?

      Also please alow me to coppy my thinking on IP from the other thread:
      A comment on Conversation: To whom does an idea, a poem or design really belong to?
      10 minutes ago: Once an idea is spread publicly there is no way to control its spreading. It is like trying to own a flue virus that was bread in your body. I do agree that creating "intellectual property" is hard work, but enforcing the bad practices will hurt the society and even the creator of the work in a long term. Also note that no "intellectual property" is created in vacuum - it is always a derived work of something else.

      Check out for explanation.

      Another point against the "intellectual property" is malfunctioning patent offices which do not have the resources nor expertise to check for validity of the patents.
      One of many examples:

      We should find a new and better way of rewarding creators of "intellectual property" instead of a system that creates more problems then value.

      "Intellectual property" is also more valuable if it reaches many people so by limiting it's availability the authors are shooting themselves in the foot.

      OPEN SOURCE and CREATIVE COMMONS is the way to go in my opinion.
  • Oct 14 2011: Seeing as this is a sensitive topic i will try my best to tread lightly. I find simply that one ( and myself for that matter) does not own a product by purchasing it, whilst one can own a copy, which can be used for personal use, one does not legally retain the right to reproduce, re-sell, or upload said software and/or ideas(paintings ,designs ,etc.). This is a rather oddly stated question since it doesn't give much room for discussion as it (to my understanding) asks if you are wrong in assuming that most people don't know this. The question posed does not ask for any moral or ethical pondering nor does it ask whether or not the law is correct in doing so, i am questioning whether this truly is a debate question or more so a poll of sorts.
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    Oct 19 2011: (my point with the short story is to take common intellectual property deals and disputes as they occur in corporate business and apply them to individuals)

    this is an edit, add on:

    Simply put, whenever intellectual property laws are discussed, proponents of IP usually like to divert attention to creative individuals and paint them as a victim. And I'm not denying that artists in some ways benefit from IP laws. But the hottest issues dealing with IP today aren't about individuals at all, but deals and disputes in the corporate world. Now forgive me if this goes beyond the scope of your question, but you did post it under the debate section. I can only assume you're waiting to hear the stance of someone who's anti-IP. In my short story about Mark and his dinosaur book, I brought up the following practices that are hot in IP today:

    The practice of buying and selling IP.
    The practice of acquiring companies, and in turn acquiring their intellectual property.
    The practice of patenting processes.
    The practice of patenting genetically modified organisms.
    The ability of a (supposedly) democratic government to claim IP.
    (and a funny little reference to the Napster panic)

    As you can see, IP laws today are hardly designed to give credit to artists, or even secure them a living. Most of our practices with regard to IP today just seem bizarre when applied to individuals. Now the interesting debate of our time is whether or not IP laws accelerate progress or throttle it, and there's been solid points made on both sides. It's hot because it strikes the foundations of the way we think about creativity as it relates to competition and capitalism. In no way can I say I'm for complete abolishment of IP rights. But as long as we play this game of cat and mouse, with the former lobbying politicians and disguising bizarre, questionably ethical practices with manipulative terminology, I have to say, I feel like the mouse.
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    Oct 19 2011: (continued)

    Mark let it slip that he first thought to write his book on a sunny Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm while eating a banana. So this gave Andrew another incredible idea. He decided to patent the process. From that point on, anyone who thought about writing a dinosaur book on a sunny Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm while eating a banana would have to pay a licensing fee of $5,000,000. And the authors of the world loved Andrew for his incredible process.

    But Andrew had another great idea. He could clone Mark but with a modified genome, patent it, and own every organism to descend from that clone (and all of their great ideas). And he did. The people who knew were slightly disturbed, but it was never covered in the media, nor were there any laws regulating it. One person spoke up an said "Um... I guess that's cool..." and everyone shrugged their shoulders and paid for more licenses so they could read Andrew's incredible book about dinosaurs.

    But one day Andrew discovered his book on piratebay, and flipped. He couldn't believe it. How dare they steal his incredible book about dinosaurs? He picked a random IP address from the list of seeders and filed a police report. It turned out to be a sixteen year old girl who loved dinosaurs. Andrew sued her family for $60,000 and made sure it was all over the media.

    Meanwhile Mark was busy writing another book about dinosaurs. He believed he discovered what led to their extinction. Andrew couldn't keep his excitement contained and spilled to their neighbors. Through the 6-point connection, word got to the United States government, and soon they were knocking on his door. He sold them the rights to the knowledge of how dinosaurs became extinct. Anyone who attempted to discover what led to the extinction on their own would be in violation of federal law. Anyone who leaked this information on the internet would be considered a terrorist and held in custody indefinitely without charge.


    Just trying to keep it in context
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    Oct 19 2011: Honestly, I'm usually stealing it. I know this is a touchy subject, so forgive me as I drop a rack of dishes in the corner of the room. This whole thing has gotten out of hand.

    Can information, let alone an idea, be owned? This is a legitimate philosophical discussion. Yet it's not a very lively one, given how hot the topic is today. We hear a lot about new legislation seeking to protect intellectual property, but the verdict seems to be cast. Ideas, designs, music, literature and discoveries are all things to be protected.

    So at this point I'm usually told to imagine a poor starving musician struggling to feed his family, current intellectual property laws are kindly explained to me and I'm walked to the door. Now I'm not going to go into some "I'm a musician and I support piracy" rant and point out that most successful musicians don't own their own music. But since we all seem to be fans of the classic poor-artist seeking credit vision, let's create one and explore some hypothetical scenarios. Let's call him Mark. Mark just wrote a book about dinosaurs.

    Mark was very successful distributing his book via temporary licenses on the internet. All of his readers were honest. No one uploaded his book as a torrent or printed off illegal copies. But one of his fans, Andrew, really, really liked his book, and saw it as a business opportunity. Andrew offered Mark an incredible amount of money and in exchange was allowed to claim himself as the author.

    And everyone loved Andrew for his incredible book. So Andrew saw another opportunity. He offered Mark another large sum of money, and in exchange claimed him as an asset. From that point on, all of Mark's ideas would be credited to Andrew. The people loved Andrew and his incredible ideas.

    (continued in next comment)
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    Oct 14 2011: I don't own the hundreds of movies that I've been downloading illegally over the years. I own the hardware on which they lay. Even if I did pay for a DVD, which mark my words will never happen, then I still wouldn't be acquiring property of the movies.
    Producers are the owners.
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    Oct 14 2011: First of all, let's think over what does it mean by 'own the item'. In the pre-internet era, for example, we have to buy cd and cd player to listen to a Michael Jackson. Even at that time, however, we don't consider that song as one of my 'own' items. We are just happy to enjoy the music, where there is no necessity to think about the license.

    In this blooming era of internet, we can access to any content we want, and download it regardless of where and when we are. One main reason we download it is not to store it at our own space, but to use and enjoy it. I don't think that there are many people, especially tech-savvy youths, who think 'the downloaded content is mine', like they buy a painting.

    In other words, to use it means to consume it whether we download it for pay or free. Without such a consumption, all sorts of content could lose its ground. Consumption-including good-will and acceptable redistribution with feedbacks accompanied- promotes creative production.

    In conclusion, in views of content consumers, or users, the issues like copyright or licenses are not taking their eyes. More important is how all content communicates with the consumers.

    It's all my opinion. I am afraid that my comment would be off the point or your topic.

    Looking forward to your reply.