Sunday, October 31, 2010

Picture This

This is an extended metaphor.

Picture me standing outside Office Minimal. The shop window is broken.
(The shop window is DRM.)

"Free zip drives!" I yell. "Come and get your free zip drive. Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah! Freely available zip drives for everybody. Step right up and get your free zip drives. It's easy to collect all you want. For free!"

As eager zip drive lovers rush through the gaping hole in the window --which I swear I didn't make, I just found it, and am sharing my findings-- I murmur another message.

"Plastic bags! Buy your easy-to-use plastic bag here. For the easy, on-the-spot price of $2.00 you can have the convenience of being able to carry away far more free zip drives than you could manage in your own two hands!"

A police car cruises by.

"Not to worry, Officer," I reassure the patrolman. "I didn't break the window. The freely available zip drives aren't in my hands. I'm just exerting my First Amendment Right of free speech to tell people where to find free zip drives...

"Roll up! Roll up!" I interject to the world. "Get your freely available zip drives. All you can carry. They're in the public domain!" Then turning back to the officer, I tell him, "Zip drives want to be free. $14.99 is too expensive. $14.99 is a ridiculous price, charged by greedy, money-grub...."

The officer has lost interest. The patrol car is already edging past Better Buy, several paces down the street, where one of my associates is distributing wire shopping carts on a profitable basis to Better Buy lovers who are collecting free CDs. All he asks in exchange for the loan of a wire shopping cart is that they look for five seconds at what he has on display when he opens his raincoat.

"Free zip drives! Get your $2.00 plastic bag here!!" I do a little business. Pointing other people at freely available zip drives (hosted elsewhere) is amazingly profitable, and the Law can't touch me.

I hear some of what my associate is telling the officer.

"... only $14.99," he wheedles. "The fat cat CD producers aren't going to miss $14.99. For goodness sake, it's only the price of a fancy coffee."

The law enforcement officer moves on.

A woman in a pink hat flags him down. She appears to be indignant. She points at me. "But, it's stealing!" I hear her say.

"Madam, are you the actual owner of the zip drives?" The yahoo in the patrol car asks her. "You can't go around making unsubstantiated accusations unless you are the person being allegedly ripped off. In which case, I'll need your full real name, your phone number, your email address, proof that you are who you say you are, proof that you actually own those freely available zip discs, a formal statement that you have a good faith belief that you are being ripped off, and...."

More raised voices. I lose interest in the pink hatted protester. Someone who must be the Better Buy manager appears to remonstrate with my friend.

"Yes, I can. I can and I will," my friend blusters as CD-carrying members of the public gather around to back him up. "You'll never stop me. CD-liberation needs to exist."

"You greedy piggy! How dare you complain!" the shoppers exclaim. "We'll never shop in your store again!"


Folks, if someone tells you that a tune, game, image, e-book is "free" or "freely available", do your due diligence. See if the artist has a web site. If he or she does, they are probably alive, the work has probably been created in the last 70 years, and may be under copyright protection.

If it's for sale on Amazon, that is a very good indication that maybe that work isn't supposed to be free.

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