I have an 11 year old son. Tonight we were talking about Bit Torrent with some friends at dinner table and then somebody asked him, I guess as a representative of a new generation, how he felt about downloading files over the internet and whether it was theft of not. This was his answer.

When you steal from somebody you deprive this person of something, you take it, they lose it. You have a hot dog you are about to eat, I run away with it, I eat it, you don´t. But with music and movie files theft does not take place. You have a file, I copy it with your permission, you still have it. No stealing, and we both have it.

To this I said. Yes but when you have a DVD or a CD you are not really buying a product but you are getting a personal license to enjoy this product. And this was his reply.

Why is this true with DVDs and not with books? How come the books in my school library are there for all the kids to read? Do libraries pay writers per book or per child who reads them? If my friends allow me to make copies of their music, how is that different to what the school library is doing with me? Why can´t I copy their music or films in my hard drive and I can read their books? Why can´t all the kids of a school make a digital library and share the content?

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Francisco on May 27, 2006  · 

Messagge to your son: If the guys of the Spanish Authors Society listen to you saying that, they are going top apply a tax over every breath of oxygen you take! Watch out!


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Proud father on May 27, 2006  · 

I suppouse that you are a proud father, you only need to read your last post, to see that.
But I think that the answer of your son show that still being a kid and that he doesn’t understand thet when he do a copy, he is stealing, because he is taking to the rigth owner the profit of his investment…
Gun’s and roses have spent more than 10 millions of euros in his new disco, and isn’t ready… So could your son explain me how this company is going to recover the investment if everybody take a copy free… And the worst is that every body who wants other disc, won’t have it.
So you should explain to your children what is an investment, what is a return and what he is stealing…. Because he thing that he is stealing the music and isn’t it, he is stealing the rigth of the investors to recover the money…

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Umar Akram on May 27, 2006  · 

Martin is he really 11 ? What have you done to him 🙂

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Martin Varsavsky on May 27, 2006  · 


I am not saying my son is right, but I do think that the record companies have not done a good job making their case.


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Matthaus on May 27, 2006  · 

Proud father,

Guns ´N Roses is not a good example, since members of the band were involved in a legal dispute for song rights for 9 of the 10 years you mention. It is not customers fault that it took them so many years to try finish a cd.

There are other ways of recovering that money. For example, bands need to redefine their marketing strategy. They can make money by doing concerts and gigs. In this sense, new CDs should be part of a strategy to make fans go to concerts and pay for a ticket. A concert should not be part of the strategy to sell more Cds.

Time for making a CD should be considered as an investment. Then they have to work (making concerts) to earn their money. If it takes 10 years to make a cd for a band, pity. It is an investment, therefore a risk. You can not have victory for granted. Otherwise, everyone starting a new business would be rich.

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Proud father on May 28, 2006  · 

#4 Martin

Yes I know you aren’t agree with the opinion of your children, you told in the past.
And is a good idea that you explain the opinion of your son who could be a good representant of a new generation (but I think that more clever than the average)
And I’m agree with you that the record companies aren’t doing a good job, because they aren’t sending a clear message to the new generation.

My conclussion is that the music business is going to change, like a lot of different industries in the world (Art is an example if you see the project of Saatchi gallery…)

But I said that is important that you as a father not just said is a very good idea to your son. It’s important that you teach what he did wrong, so that’s will help to understand the problem and will help him to understand that he is a kid and need to learn a lot of thinks… If not you will breacke his progress…

Also I congratulate you because with eleven years I never was int he dinners of my parents with his friends, I just went with the nanny to said good nigth beafore go to sleep… So I think you are a modern father…

#5 Matthaus
I don’t said that is customer fault, I’m saying that if customers want to have other disc of GUN’S N ROSES they should buy, if not probably they will not have a second cd. But I’m completly agree that was not a good example, but as they were playing in Madrid two days ago, I read the story of his new CD.
But I raccomand you to watch the documental that Metallica did about the procces of creation a new CD, because is fantastic… Also it was a long proccess and was very problematic…
Honestly I didn’t like too much any of this groups I grow on 90’s so I was more fan of Bad Religion and epitaph records… and now I preffer hip hop… But for my the best allways will be Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky!!!

Also you should made a distinction of who is who in Music industry:
Record company is who do the disc and promote the disc, waiting to recover his money with the sells of CD.
Shows promotion is in the hands of local companies that didn’t invest in the promotion of the disc, or in the creation, the only take care of prepare the concert and promove the concert, but the proffits of the concert doesn’t go to the record company…
Normally and artist wins from 1 to 3 dollars for each CD sold so a big succes that sells 1.000.000 of cds just give between 1 to 3 millions to the group, so not to much… but thanks to the promotion of the cd that the record company do, they can earn a lot of money with the tours, and there is where is the money for musicians, the problem is that really who spent the money id the record company…

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Anonymous on May 28, 2006  · 

Libraries are offering a public service by providing the limited use of books to readers. But these books are also protected, just like all written content by copyrights and by the rules of plagiarism. When you check out a book from a library, you are given the limited use of that book and must return it. You are not permitted to keep that book and to freely use the content as if it were your own. Work centers are now prohibited by law from permitting customers to photocopy or scan more than X number of pages. People cannot freely use the words and thoughts of others without either properly citing to the author or being expressly granted the rights to those thoughts.

The problem is how to protect and promote creativity without stagnating innovation, and how to allow people to have reasonable access to such creativity. Once ebooks become the norm, we will see a similar problem in the publishing industry. From this post, I see a couple of very interesting insights. First, whether producers of intellectual property (movie makers, musicians, and writers) are able to adapt their business model to technology. Next, in general, how technology advances at such a rapid pace that our traditional notions of property, ethics, and economics become outdated. And finally, how society values different forms of creativity. The question that Martin’s son raises is key: why CDs and DVDs are not treated like books, and why books are treated differently from CDs and DVDs.

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Jack on May 29, 2006  · 

I can understand how your son would have difficulty in grasping the concept of copyright, and I (who am much closer to your age) have my doubts about whether or not the copyright concept is completely appropriate today.

The idea of copyright was born, at least in part, to “encourage” creativity and innovation — at least this is what we are told. Sometimes, however, the public justification for certain laws, or the slant we get from historians is distorted to show us only what is convenient or popular to believe at the given time.

One question I think we need to give deep though to is: If copyright laws didn’t exist today, and new legislation were being planned taking into account the variety of intellectual property which exist today and the technology we have available, would the new laws be the same as what we currently have?

Somehow I think they would not. I am totally in favor with encouraging creativity, but we also have to have laws that are in touch with reality and are enforcable with practical measures. That is what is currently missing from these laws.

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Marcus Tettmar on May 30, 2006  · 

Yes, in the UK, Authors DO get paid every time a child reads a book from the library. It is called Public Lending Rights. It is a shame kids don’t know that. It may help them understand that reading a book from the library is NOT the same as copying a friend’s DVD or CD.

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Dr Paul on May 31, 2006  · 

1) Public Lending Rights do not apply to school
2) Record producers have robbed both the authors and
the buyers for years, the only problem they are
having is in how to make you pay for what is in your
own memory!
3) Making copies is imitation, and imitation is the
highest form of flattery!
The controversy concerning copying for personal use
is strictly driven by greed.

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Joao Moreira on June 12, 2006  · 

The problem with the music (movie too?) industry is their business model… doesn’t work anymore.

It used to be a monopoly. The labels set the price they wanted. But hey, it’s not like that anymore, you got to evolve… that’s just business.

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Dr Paul on June 15, 2006  · 

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
– Dr. Hunter S. Thompson ( 1937 – 2005 )

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none on December 7, 2006  · 

i like the way your son is thinking…!

and the guy who said that in the UK, the author gets paid..who knows this and why is a shame that a lot of people do not know it?

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