Join 3,562 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Technically it's piracy, but it doesn't feel that way...
September 1, 2007 8:54 PM   Subscribe

What's a good name for the kind of "piracy" that doesn't feel like piracy to a reasonable person?

The rise of "bacn" inspired me to try to invent a new term describing acts of digital copying which are technically against the law, but just plain shouldn't be.

The kind of "piracy" that Cory Doctorow talks about in his classic DRM Talk.
"given the generally jam-smeared character of everything the kids get their paws on, she decided to tape the DVD off to VHS and give that to the kids -- that way she could make a fresh VHS copy when the first one went south"
That kind of activity, and these other kinds:
  • backing up a DVD to another disk for the same reason (kids destroy stuff)
  • reauthoring a DVD so when you put it in, it skips all menus and promos and just plays (easier for kids, handicapped users, people with difficulty reading the menus etc.)
  • putting a film and its sequel onto one DVD for convenience
  • format-shifting your CD to MP3 and putting it onto your iPod (still illegal in some jurisdictions)
  • removing DRM from your purchased iTunes files so you can listen to them on a non-iPod player
  • ripping a DVD to play on your video iPod or PDA
  • ripping the audio only from a DVD to listen to without watching the video track
  • de-regioning your DVD player so that you can watch DVDs from other countries
There are some things that (all other factors aside) I feel really are "piracy": downloading copyrighted material for free and so on. But in the above examples I feel that I own the product, I've signed no licence or contract about how I'm going to use it, and those activities shouldn't be illegal.

Lame suggestion to get you started: "My-racy".
posted by AmbroseChapel to Computers & Internet (47 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's called Fair Use.
posted by IronLizard at 9:03 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


By and large, these activities are not piracy and are not illegal in most US jurisdictions. Just because the content-provider companies try to stop you from doing something doesn't mean it's illegal. I have no clue about Australian law, which is where you appear to be, so those things may be illegal there. However, in a US context I would consider most of these things to be the products of intimidation/misinformation by content providers, and not even technical piracy.
posted by katemonster at 9:09 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's called Fair Use.

Yup.
posted by sindark at 9:14 PM on September 1, 2007


If the OP is intending to ask about things which actually are illegal - ie, not covered under Fair Use, even if they should be (and even if not all of the examples are) I don't think that would be an accurate description. Although I don't have a suggestion at the moment, sorry.
posted by frobozz at 9:18 PM on September 1, 2007


All of the things described fall under fair use in the U.S.. Every one of them. Even the DMCA only prohibits you from breaking the copy protection (if that applies), not from doing any of those things if they're possible without 'circumventing' CP.
posted by IronLizard at 9:27 PM on September 1, 2007


removing DRM from your purchased iTunes files so you can listen to them on a non-iPod player

I spoke too soon. This is illegal. This is called 'circumventing' or 'circumvention of copy protection'.
posted by IronLizard at 9:35 PM on September 1, 2007


IronLizard forgets that "backing up a DVD" is considered piracy.
posted by sanka at 9:39 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Copying a DVD to VHS would involve circumventing Macrovision. The other DVD examples would involve circumventing CSS. I think all the examples except for ripping CDs to MP3s are technically illegal under the DMCA.
posted by zixyer at 9:39 PM on September 1, 2007


Fair use.
posted by flabdablet at 9:45 PM on September 1, 2007


And I mean that as in plain English, not as in whatever bizarre contorted meaning the lawyers have attached to that simple phrase over the years. I think that every single one of the things you describe is something you ought to be able to do without penalty.

But then, I'm also the guy that can't see any essential difference between downloading 10000 tracks onto your iPod for random play, and listening to the radio.
posted by flabdablet at 9:48 PM on September 1, 2007


All I can come up with is 'rational use' which steers clear of the legal ramifications of 'fair use' and implies the absurdity of the illegality of the actions.
posted by frobozz at 9:54 PM on September 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Reasonable use?
posted by flabdablet at 10:01 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let me put it this way. This type of copying is not illegal. Getting around the measures used to prevent you from doing the copying are illegal. It's a technicality, but a very important technicality, especially now that some major players are testing the waters of DRM free media. There's a great deal of FUD surrounding this topic and it's difficult to answer this question because it's phrased in an ambiguous manner with consideration to the DRM issue. So, with that in mind here are the terms I know of currently in use:

Copying for backup/convenience/ect: Fair use
Breaking DRM for any reason (including possessing tools used for this purpose): Circumventing, Circumvention, ect.
posted by IronLizard at 10:01 PM on September 1, 2007


The DMCA is widely understood to be unreasonable.
posted by flabdablet at 10:02 PM on September 1, 2007


copying are illegal

Err, IS illegal
posted by IronLizard at 10:03 PM on September 1, 2007


warez
posted by furtive at 10:32 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Gray Market".... or something similar. This is how I rationalize downloading fan-subbed copies of TV shows from foreign countries within weeks or so of broadcast.

Sure, they are copyrighted... But there's a slim chance in hell that any US distributor will purchase the rights to translate and distribute/sell the show to US markets. It's either 'pirate' the fan-subs or *nothing at all*.

Yes, I'm talking about Japanese Anime.... For the most part, the subbing groups will stop as soon as the program license is purchased by some US distributor, or as soon as the copyright owners ask them to stop. Otherwise, there are a bunch of shows that will never ever be available in the US, there's just not a market for some sorts of TV in foreign countries. I download these TV shows (translated and subtitled by fans) without any guilt.

Probably totally illegal by the letter of the law, but totally guilt free. I "pirate" these fan-subbed shows because I can *never* can obtain them (legitimately dubbed or subbed for US market) in a legal manner.

Same applies for other stuff... If you're "pirating" a fan-subbed copy of an Italian sitcom... or "pirating" a German documentary.... This is what I call "Gray Market", not legal, maybe illegal, but totally within "Fair Use".

Sometimes it's "pirate" vs. "nothing"...
posted by zengargoyle at 10:40 PM on September 1, 2007


Be aware that "fair use" is something else entirely (as is verified through a quick search engine lookup) though here it has been redefined to "it doesn't feel like piracy".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 PM on September 1, 2007


Common sense?
Obvious?
Technical violation?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:35 PM on September 1, 2007


TIMIBI (This Is Mine, I Bought It)
posted by vacapinta at 12:00 AM on September 2, 2007 [8 favorites]


komoncence
posted by zouhair at 12:04 AM on September 2, 2007


Be aware that "fair use" is something else entirely (as is verified through a quick search engine lookup) though here it has been redefined to "it doesn't feel like piracy".

A quick search engine lookup verifies only that no one can agree on exactly what Fair Use means.
posted by IronLizard at 12:08 AM on September 2, 2007


But then, I'm also the guy that can't see any essential difference between downloading 10000 tracks onto your iPod for random play, and listening to the radio.
For starters, the radio station pays the copyright holders of songs that they play.
posted by Flunkie at 12:16 AM on September 2, 2007


A quick search engine lookup verifies only that no one can agree on exactly what Fair Use means.

Fair use as a legal and descriptive term has nothing to do with making personal backups or time-shifting. Within the scope of those areas where it does apply, there is varied interpretation, however.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:06 AM on September 2, 2007


Whats the point? Any term you come up with, whether its "fair use" or paraded around as some type of consumer based "common sense use" is pointless when the corporate copy right holders are intellectually and legally 20 years behind the reality of the situation as it exists today: consumers continue to find new ways to use, exploit, customize, and share digital media.

What you're looking for is a term which expresses both the anarchistic business models of the copy right holders and the convenience seeking methods of the end consumer.

The disconnect between these two realities is too vast to bridge with a single word or phrase... it requires a generational shift (or die-off) among the stuffy (read: greedy) record execs (their own self-applied name, anarchistic), Hollywood, and media consumers.
posted by wfrgms at 1:12 AM on September 2, 2007


Seconding 'technical violation'.
posted by pompomtom at 1:22 AM on September 2, 2007


Regarding the title of this question, it technically is never "piracy." If you are actually illegally exercising the copyright holders exclusive rights, then it is copyright infringement. Perhaps part of the reason that publishers prefer the term "piracy" is that they can define it however they wish, even to include legal uses.

It would be better if people would stop muddying the waters, and reserve "fair use" for the legal term. The more people use it in a non-legal sense, the more likely people are to discount claims of fair use by seeing that people use it to mean whatever they feel like.

I think "reasonable use" is a good phrase for acts which a reasonable person would not think should be illegal, but which are nonetheless. It has positive connotations while I think "technical violation" has negative connotations.

Blazecock Pileon: While I agree with your point generally, the Supreme Court ruled in the Betamax case that time-shifting of broadcast television programs is fair use.
posted by grouse at 3:51 AM on September 2, 2007


Stickin' it to da man.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:53 AM on September 2, 2007


Similar to piracy, but legal? Easy.

Privateering.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:33 AM on September 2, 2007


No, it's called "piracy." "Fair use" means it is not piracy.

Intellectual property laws have only a few seriously gray areas, though their enforcement may be a very gray area. You can't "slightly" steal something. Either you are using it fairly, or you are stealing it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:38 AM on September 2, 2007


That said, many of the actions you describe are perfectly legitimate (making personal backups of copyrighted material) and covered under the terms of the license you agree to when you buy or rent copyrighted material. They aren't "fair use" either. They are licensed uses.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:40 AM on September 2, 2007


Try a variant of "spirit" (spiriting, spiriting away, spiritualism, spirit-writing, etc.), because you're following the spirit of the law (if not always the letter), because "spirit" and "pirate" are similar words, and because "spirit" is a generally positive thing.

But "spiracy" might be better because it contains "piracy" (but isn't piracy), is a root of "conspiracy" (a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act), and still hints at "spirit." Then you'd be a "spirate" (pronouced like "spirit") if you backed up your stuff to protect it from jammy fingers.
posted by pracowity at 4:42 AM on September 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


(I think some of our confusion would be avoided if we didn't use the passive voice.

"x is considered piracy."

By whom? US Law? The RIAA/MPAA? The two aren't the same, and I think we should really ignore what the latter thinks.)
posted by cmiller at 4:54 AM on September 2, 2007


Freedom backups.
posted by sien at 5:08 AM on September 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


sanka writes "IronLizard forgets that 'backing up a DVD' is considered piracy."

If you work for the MPAA maybe.
posted by Mitheral at 5:14 AM on September 2, 2007


Digital disobedience?

I like "reasonable use" and TIMIBI, too.
posted by cmyk at 5:34 AM on September 2, 2007


[a few comments removed -- if this is going to turn into a larger licensing/fairness/DCMA discussion it should go to metatalk]
posted by jessamyn at 6:31 AM on September 2, 2007


MetaTalk
posted by grouse at 6:46 AM on September 2, 2007


There is already a term for those things, it's called "Fair use"
posted by delmoi at 12:07 PM on September 2, 2007


AmbroseChapel is in Australia. Australia doesn't have a Fair Use policy legally. There's Fair Dealing (I think that's the term), which is much more restrictive. For instance, a TV company got sued - and lost - for taking clips off another TV company's show for a parody show of their own. That sort of thing.

So yeah, there is a chance that what AmbroseChapel is describing is illegal, at least in Australia.
posted by divabat at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2007


As a longtime fan of Patrick O'Brian, I must insist that 'fair use' be rebranded as 'privateering' or even 'execution of a letter of marque.' I don't think I could bear another copyright argument without this change. This extends to all of you here in this thread and in the MeTa thread, too. Failure to comply will be met with a warning gun across the bows, and further non-compliance will garner a full broadside.

I've nailed my colours to the mast on this, boys. I've got the weather gage and I'll burn you to the waterline if I must. You'll be flogged 'round the Fleet and then hung if you don't surrender, but if you do, it'll be a double-ration of grog and Sunday duff for a week. I think I've been more than fair, and I'd hate to have to bring the cat out of its bag for such a trifle.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:09 PM on September 2, 2007


All of the things described fall under fair use in the U.S.. Every one of them. Even the DMCA ...

And this is relevant to a question asked by a poster in Australi, how?
Last time I checked, U.S. law applied mostly to the U.S. Maybe its conquered territories, but not Australia, yet.
posted by signal at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2007


Copying a DVD to VHS would involve circumventing Macrovision.

Not if you use a pre-Macrovision VCR, of which there are still a lot around.

Anyway, to the OP's question, I don't think there is an accepted term for these sort of tasks, but I think "reasonable use" would be a great one. That sums up exactly both the nature of the tasks and the reasons people want to be able to do them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:19 PM on September 2, 2007


Thank you all for your time and your contributions. I was busy with another project or I would have replied before now.

I'm unable to reconcile these two statements from IronLizard:

>Copying for backup/convenience/ect: Fair use

>Breaking DRM for any reason (including possessing tools used for this purpose): Circumventing, Circumvention, ect.


Or rather, I'm unable to reconcile the fact that it's not possible to do the first (back up etc.) without doing the second (circumventing DRM).

What am I missing? That I have the right to purchase industrial-grade DVD-copying machinery?

Because no commercial copying device can simply "copy the bits" (cf kindall on MetaTalk).
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:29 PM on September 2, 2007


I agree that "fair use" already has an established meaning which doesn't quite fit. I would call this either "personal use" or "reasonable use."
posted by malocchio at 8:31 AM on September 3, 2007


Or rather, I'm unable to reconcile the fact that it's not possible to do the first (back up etc.) without doing the second (circumventing DRM).

You mean you've never ripped a CD and converted it to MP3 for play on your computer? Then put the original away in a nice safe place for backup? We're not just talking about DVD's here man. I understand completely where you're coming from but you're looking at it from a common sense point of view that's just not compatible withe the actual laws at this point. You'll note in the original post, there is zero mention of DRM. Contrary to popular belief, not everything contains DRM.
posted by IronLizard at 11:52 AM on September 3, 2007


What you seem to be complaining about is that Copyright law was not updated for the digital age. Whilst books, photographs, works of art, music and song, motion pictures, radio and television broadcast, have merged into one another, applicable laws have not.

At the same time, it is a bad argument to say that just because I can do something, then I have a right to do it. We have plenty of law about what you are not allowed to do, even though you can technically do it. See driving laws if you don’t believe me.

Maybe the answer is to try and define what you think you should logically be able to do so industry can try to figure out how to make that happen as well as them getting what they want?
posted by stevem2 at 5:16 AM on September 14, 2007


« Older Can I improve my brain with dr...   |  I'm thinking about incorporati... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.