Or really, the question is this: What is the difference between a public library and internet piracy?

1. The internet reaches many more people, much faster.

2. With a library, you have to give the item back.

3. The government, at least in part, supports public libraries.

Now, the object here is not to rankle librarians or those who love libraries, but to raise what i think is a legitimate question.

Books might be a bad example, because not many people go around scanning every page of a book and posting it online. Yes, it does happen (Harry Potter for example), but it's not nearly as widespread (at least in the U.S.) as film and music piracy.

So let's take movies as an example. Many public libraries now let patrons check out DVDs. So let's say I check out Major Payne, a movie which name implies the level of enjoyment I got out of it when I did check it out a month or so ago.

Say I watch MP and like it. Will I buy it? Maybe, maybe not. Say I watch it and don't like it. Will I buy it then? Probably not.

If I don't buy MP, the film company loses $20 (I know, this one is probably in the $5 bin by now, but the amount isn't important anyway).

If I take the DVD and rip it to my computer and post it on the internet, maybe 1,000 people a day will download it, watch it, and conclude the same as I did that it is not worth buying. That would be $20,000 the film company won't get.

So the film company loses way more money through internet piracy than through the library, but from an ethical standpoint, isn't it the same thing? I still got to watch the movie without paying for it. If I downloaded MP from the internet, watched it, and then deleted it off my computer, would it be okay then? What if those 1,000 people did jut that? The film company would still lose $20,000, just much more quickly.

So is it the same? Are libraries as unethical as internet piracy? Or am I missing something?

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I'm afraid that this will soon get bogged down in sophistry (and I helped!), but I don't find the two analogous at all.

You did pay for the library book -- with your taxes. You and your neighbors all gave a chunk of money to the librarian, who then bought books with it. So a better analogy would be: You buy a novel at B&N or Ye Olde Independente Bookshoppe, then hand it off to a couple of friends when you're done with it.

Well, then, is that piracy? No. Had you Xeroxed the whole thing, well, then, yes. There'd be more than one physical copy floating around.

That's why Internet piracy is so different - if an old fart like me can figure out how to get a copy of the Bill Maher show or the Ramones back catalog without paying for it*, you can only imagine what a clever (or even dimwitted) 16-year-old could do, given a laptop and a high-speed connection.

So you're saying that ownership of the physical thing is what determines if something is pirated, or if the transaction was unethical? It's interesting, because what are we buying when we buy a book or a DVD? Are we buying the physical thing, or are we also buying the right to experience it? The latter would be saying that it is wrong to watch the movie without the creator being compensated for it, so ownership wouldn't matter.
The library buys the book and then loans it out. If I buy a copy of your book and then let my wife read it, am I being unethical?
That's a good question. Like I said to Kevin, I think it depends on whether or not you judge it based on ownership or the mere experience of the work.
I don't think anyone will deny the value of libraries; I assumed that went without saying.

Also, I never said or implied that libraries break the law. I am not talking about legal issues at all. I'm talking about ethics. And just because something is a law doesn't make it ethical.

Please stick to the discussion topic instead of trying to make it seem like I'm out to ruin children's lives.
This is a disingenuous argument. By your definition, anyone who buys a book (OK, or a movie) must then keep it secure from use by anyone else, lest it cross the line into unethical piracy. Given your responses to some of the previous comments, I'm inclined to agree with Jon: you're looking to create a specious argument justifying internet piracy.
When have I ever said that internet piracy was justified? The question was if libraries are justified. And Sandra has given the good response so far, bringing up the issue of royalties, which is the only difference I see so far. We all agree that internet piracy is unethical, right? My question was about how similar it was to the way libraries work.
That qualification was meant to dissuade people from getting offended because I was saying that perhaps, maybe, libraries aren't so different that internet piracy. And I knew people would get up in arms about it because the library is such a cherished institution, and with good cause. I like libraries. And so I wanted people to stick to the comparison, to explore that and refute it or support it with good logical arguments/examples, etc. Yes, I knew people would get upset, but I wanted those people to look past the shock and focus on what I believe is a legitimate question. Everyone may disagree with me, but it is still a valid argument, which I did back up with an example.

And saying how children and people without money benefit from libraries is true, but beside the point. so no, you did not stick to the issue.
Oh and by the way, Margot, calling my question stupid was real big of you.
Then why didn't you say obtuse to begin with? You never indicated that you didn't understand the question, like Donna did below. Nice try.
I know. It was an attempt to show that your comment wasn't a personal attack, which I believe it was.
That doesn't even make sense, because I answered the latter question, giving three points that make them different. The bigger question is legitimate because I gave reasons how libraries could be unethical. I was asking if people agreed or not with my assessment.

If my question was so bewildering, how come there was no mention of that until now when I called you out on attacking me and you started backtracking? Why not start off with, Are you serious? Isn't the answer obvious?

I don't expect you to own up to it, but from now on, if you're not going to contribute to the actual discussion topic, please don't contribute at all. Thanks.


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