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Author Topic: PDF Ethics Gray Zone?  (Read 9324 times)

Spinachcat

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PDF Ethics Gray Zone?
« on: December 10, 2008, 04:26:11 pm »
Is it wrong to download a PDF scan of an OOP book if the book will never be published again as either dead tree or PDF?  

Examples include:
Star Wars D6
FASA Star Trek
Dune
Ghostbusters
MERP
...and pretty much all other OOP licensed RPGs.

I doubt anyone would say that buying a used copy of these books from eBay would be wrong.  But the original creator and the licensee get no money from any eBay sale or other used book sale.  Same with a PDF download of the same product.  

So...what say you?

Serious Paul

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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 05:02:15 pm »
Maybe this makes me a bad guy, but I would, and wouldn't care much about the ethics discussion, which would never really be had.

OneTinSoldier

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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 05:08:26 pm »
I don't see an ethics issue; if you can't get a copy of the material, downloading a pdf isn't hurting the publisher, as its not costing them a sale. Its only if the download of a scanned copy circumvents a sale that I think you've crossed the line into a wrong action.

At least, that's how I justified downloading pdfs of the entire MERP line. :o
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Ian Absentia

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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2008, 05:21:02 pm »
I haven't done this with RPG material, but I have done it with music.  Just recently, after spending months in futile search for a boxed set of CDs that has been OOP for at least half a decade, I Googled up a listing for it on a torrent site.  Two hours later, I had the music on my hard drive and was happily listening to it.

The way I figured it, neither the artist nor the publisher would have benefited from the sale had I been able to locate an after-market copy.  Furthermore, the dissemination of a lower-quality recording with no attractive packaging will, at worst, spark the interest of people who never would have heard the music in the first place, and, at best, perhaps inspire a re-issue of the original, high-quality production.

To be clear, if the product had still been in print, or even readily available but used, I wouldn't have bought an unauthorised duplicate.  And, to be to the point, my attitude toward OOP RPG material is essentially the same.

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Mcrow

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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 05:33:04 pm »
I would say the ethics are fine. There are no purchase options availible that would result in the publisher/writer/designer their cut.

Now this would be totally different if someone were to hold the rights to the books.

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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2008, 06:24:29 pm »
The interesting current example would be Dragon Warriors.

OOP for many years and available from a download site (still).  Now it has been re-released, those downloads become illegal.

I did download them from there, but as with several others above, i would not have done that had they been available at the time, and as soon as i can afford DW, i will get the legal copy.
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2008, 06:45:44 pm »
Other:  I'll download a .pdf of a product provided I've

(a) legitimately purchased it in print; and
(b) not sold it or given it away.

The .pdfs of my 1e stuff are handy to have on my USB drive and I'm damned if I'll pay for them, since I've bought them once already.  The free download sites aren't circumventing copyright for me, they're simply saving me the scanning.
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KenHR

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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2008, 06:49:08 pm »
Quote from: P&P;272812
Other:  I'll download a .pdf of a product provided I've

(a) legitimately purchased it in print; and
(b) not sold it or given it away.

The .pdfs of my 1e stuff are handy to have on my USB drive and I'm damned if I'll pay for them, since I've bought them once already.  The free download sites aren't circumventing copyright for me, they're simply saving me the scanning.


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Kyle Aaron

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« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2008, 07:10:53 pm »
Quote from: Spinachcat;272773
I doubt anyone would say that buying a used copy of these books from eBay would be wrong.  But the original creator and the licensee get no money from any eBay sale or other used book sale.  Same with a PDF download of the same product.  
Again, copyright in itself has nothing to do with money. It's the right to control who makes what kind of copies of your work. A copyright violation is a copyright violation, whether the copyrighter gains, loses or breaks even money-wise as a result.

It's a bit like someone setting up a tent and passing out cooked sausages on my front lawn. It's trespass. Whether he's making money from it, or offers me some sausages or cash, doesn't matter - he's making use of my property without my permission.

That said, copyright is not that only thing at stake. The other is that we want to encourage people to keep creating stuff, rather than creating one thing and then sitting on it for decades.

Patents for inventions and processes are things which expire and enter the public domain after several years, this is because we want things protected just enough to encourage people to invent new stuff, but not so much that they can hog the production all to themselves, we want society to progress. It would not benefit the world if Ford's engine of 1908 were still patented and Ford wouldn't let anyone else in the world develop anything derived from that. So patents expire.

I believe copyright should expire, too - and life of authour plus 75 years is too long a period. Something like 15 years, as with patents in many countries, that ought to be enough. This is long enough that the original creator gets to make a profit from it if they want to, but short enough to encourage them to keep creating more stuff.
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Nicephorus

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« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2008, 07:49:22 pm »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;272819
Again, copyright in itself has nothing to do with money. It's the right to control who makes what kind of copies of your work. A copyright violation is a copyright violation, whether the copyrighter gains, loses or breaks even money-wise as a result.

True.  But the discussion was more about ethics than law.  

I agree that copyright terms have gotten too long.  A flat 20-30 years, not tied to author death would be fine.  As it stands, the time limits serve mainly to make sure that the grandkids of famous authors never have to work.

Kyle Aaron

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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2008, 08:05:13 pm »
Quote from: Nicephorus;272831
True.  But the discussion was more about ethics than law.  
And in the case of copyright, what I described was the ethical as well as the legal position. Copyright is about money, it's about control of the reproduction of your creative work. Copyright and its violation have the same relationship to intellectual property that privacy and trespass have to physical property.

Some things are plainly unethical but should not be illegal, like day-to-day lying or adultery; some things are illegal but definitely not unethical, like stealing drugs from your kid to throw them away, or planting trees on disused land, or squatting in disused buildings.

However, copyright in its basic principles of the right to control reproductions of your work, that is both the law and the ethics. It's important to distinguish between copyright and money, otherwise you get muddled and call it "theft" - when it's not. If I take naked pictures of you and your wife having sex without your knowledge, post them online and make money from them, even if I send you the money I've violated your privacy. Calling it "theft" confuses the real issue, which is your privacy.

Likewise with copyright.

Quote from: Nicephorus
I agree that copyright terms have gotten too long.  A flat 20-30 years, not tied to author death would be fine.  As it stands, the time limits serve mainly to make sure that the grandkids of famous authors never have to work.
Yes, but that's not their intention. They didn't extend copyright so that Christpher Robin could live on the French Riviera. It was for the movie companies.

Because film company executives, being stupid and uncreative people, cannot imagine how anyone could create any new content in a mere 30 years.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 08:09:48 pm by Kyle Aaron »
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Pierce Inverarity

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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2008, 08:45:22 pm »
Given the way this is phrased, and the examples, I see no issue.

The salient question for me would be: Is there a chance in hell this game will ever be reprinted? If not, I'm not depriving anyone who matters of their rightful due.
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CavScout

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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2008, 09:53:47 pm »
What if, say, something was printed in a limited quantity, on purpose, and now is out of print. Does that justify grabbing a copy?
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Nicephorus

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« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2008, 06:25:43 am »
Kyle, I don't need a lecture on copyright, I understand the issue.  

The difference between ethics and law applies in this particular case.  It's illegal in the U.S.  But it's essentially an abandoned item, it's better that it doesn't die than to respect the copyright.

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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2008, 10:09:19 am »
Quote from: CavScout;272844
What if, say, something was printed in a limited quantity, on purpose, and now is out of print. Does that justify grabbing a copy?

 
My answer remains unchanged.