Randomizer wrote:I wouldn't want someone gathering up every forum post I ever made and publishing a book full of them, either. Or schoolteachers publishing their students' work without permission. Or the photo developer thinking they can sell calendars with the pictures I've taken just because they temporarily had access to my film. And so on.
First off, you have no expectation that your forum posts are your own. They are publicly available on the internet. In fact, they've been "published" by Google's internet scrapebots, such that I can google "Randomizer" and find everything you've ever written on this forum all in a row. Although I can understand annoyance if somebody bound these in a book and handed them out on the street corner, I view it as being no different than somebody, say, publishing a book of George W. Bush quotes without his permission. By making them publicly available and open to copying by the processes of the internet, you've relinquished all right to stop other people from distributing (or, I'd argue, even profiting from) your words.
Your other two examples involve non-public situations which have an implied privacy (your teacher takes your work in order to grade it before returning it to you, your photo developer takes your pictures only to develop them), and fall under the situation where you show your friend a short story you wrote and he puts it in a book without permission, something which is (and should be) illegal.
Regardless, copyright does not exist to make authors feel comfortable
; it exists to promote a full and open culture, where "full" requires that artists get paid for their work, and "open" requires that after a certain point they do not. Traditionally "a certain point" is x number of years after publication, mandated by law; pirates propose that "a certain point" is x number of people paying willingly, a number allowed to shift based on the quality and popularity of the work (not to mention the price point, distribution system, etc.).
If one person distributes ten thousand copies of a book through the pirate bay, and their exist five thousand legitimate customers who lend it to at least one friend, what's the appreciable difference in terms of how this affects the success of any given creative work? If, in the end, it's about making sure the artist get's paid then both forms of distribution will have affected the artist's profits (this is assuming no one goes out and buys a copy for themselves after downloading/borrowing one). Why then, is the former considered morally dubious, while the later is considered being a proper friend?
Because in the former, 1 copy has been purchased, but 10,000 copies exist, while in the latter, 5,000 copies have been purchased and 5,000 copies exist. If you think one Harry Potter book set will satisfy the needs of everyone who wants to read it, feel free to set up an exchange to pass the books around as efficiently as you can so that everyone has a turn. However, the writer is banking on that that one copy will be insufficient to satisfy everyone, and that a good number of people will want their own copies and she can hence sell a good number of them. But if someone else is making illegal copies, the writer can't sell those, can she?
Assume that 1 person distributes ten thousand copies of a book through Pirate Bay; of the ten thousand downloaders, half of them proceed to buy the book. There are also five thousand people who buy the book sight unseen, read it, and lend it each to one friend. Through the former process, the author has earned 5000 * (cover price); through the latter process, the author has earned 5000 * (cover price). In both cases, 10,000 people have read the book. Is there a moral difference between these two scenarios? Should the author care about which process happens? Should we listen to the author's preference?
As far as making illegal copies as a "try before you buy" - if you think that a product doesn't provide enough information to make a purchasing decision, you are not obligated to buy it. It would behoove companies to try to provide that information, but if they don't know how to market their products, it's their loss. Anecdotally, the other day I saw a video in the store who's cover looked interesting, but because they didn't even put one sentence describing what the film was about on the back (just that it supposedly had good reviews), I did not have enough information to purchase it and so I did not. If someone were to tell me what the movie was about, I still would not get it because I'm irritated at the company for being too idiotic to describe their product.
That's not just their loss, that's your
loss, in the event that you would have really enjoyed that movie. Why the hell should the competence or incompetence of the marketing department be the end-all, be-all in terms of your enjoyment of entertainment?
Regarding library ebooks - I would presume the libraries would do that in such a way as to not breach copyright. They are run by the government, which made the copyright laws in the first place, after all. Also, deferring to what paulisa said.
The absurdity of copyright law has actually led to proposals that library ebooks "expire" (and delete themselves) after x number of reads, which is ridiculous, and only goes to show the stupidity of forcing artificial scarcity onto unlimited goods.