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Why you should (not?) buy an e-book

To me it's the electronic equivalent of a normal paper book, right? So what are the advantages of an e-book over the old kind of books we all know?

- You can download them from the internet,
- they don't take up precious space in your apartment
- and are easier to carry around.

So far so good. Why am I writing this? Because the other day I decided to order an e-book over the internet. I paid 9$, downloaded it happily to my computer. I paged through it using Adobe's eBook Reader and was looking forward to spend the evening reading through it. Nothing's better than reading in bed before sleeping. So I just need to print this out and... wait! There's no way to print this. Not at all. What I learn from Adobe is that the publisher of an e-book can decided if its reader is entitled to print it or not. Oh well, I guess I will have to read it on screen then, hurting my eyes and getting a head ache after 2 hours. Anyway. I downloaded it on my computer at work. I didn't really spend any thought on this matter because hey, we have an electronic version of a book. I will just start my email program and send it to my home computer so I can read it there this evening, after all it's just a simple PDF file. I send it. When I'm closing my browser, ready to leave for home, I see this little paragraph on Adobe's e-book website. Again, I'm learning something new. You can read an e-book only with the e-book reader you downloaded it with. So let me summarize this:
The e-book I just paid 9$ for can not be printed and is stuck on my PC at work.
Above I was trying to describe the advantages of an e-book over a normal paper book. Now, what are the advantages of my paper book?

- I can read it where ever I want to
- I can take it where ever I want to
- I can give it to a friend
- I can copy pages I'm interested in and
keep them separate from my book
- I can sell it again

All these things are not possible with the e-book I just bought. Publishers say they can not allow the same rights for owning an e-book as for paper books. Their argument is that since an electronic version is so much easier to spread they would loose profit from people who would rather grab their books on some internet site then paying for them. It's a copyright issue just the same as with MP3's or movies you could get for free on the internet.
I can see their point, but the current situation is not a solution for the problem. New technologies should make our lives easier, not harder. The advantages e-books have are dissapearing considering the constraints put on the reader.
Is there a solution which can both satisfy the publishing companies and the readers?
Today the main problem is the way we are reading e-books. They are not supposed to be read on a PC screen. They are supposed to be read on small, portable devices using a screen which comes really close to real paper. Something which doesn't hurt your eyes and is comfortable to read on. There have been lots of trade shows and other technology events where companies presented such devices. But, where are they? Where can I buy them for a reasonable(!) price?

anon
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

This is the problem of the copyright law when applied to computers: you cannot (usually) buy a software, it is "licensed" to you.

I'm pretty sure there was a fineprint around when you've bought the e-book that stated something similar (if not, then you should be able to get your money back).

ice
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

You really have to watch the format/restrictions on ebooks. Although non-technical, I really like how Baen Books (a science fiction publisher) does it. THeir books are formatted for some of the 'popular' ebook readers, but they also have HTML & RTF versions - they *don't* have PDF. THey say (and I agree) that PDF's tend to be bad for reading books on-line (esp. fiction).

Their pay site is at http://www.webscription.net/ but hey also have (as of this message) 44 books on-line for free at http://www.baen.com/library/

jeff
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Yep.  Paper books aren't going anywhere -- at least not in your lifetime or mine.

programmer
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

> Is there a solution which can both satisfy the publishing
> companies and the readers?

No.

OK, for a more comprehensive (sp?) answer, make a web search on the following items:
- UCITA
- DMCA
- SSSCA
- CBDTPA

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

First let me start out by saying that I am in NO WAY in favor of the restrictions on eBooks.  I do believe that most of what you are saying is correct. 
The only thing that I would like to point out is how easy an ebook is to copy.  Basically with a real book, only one person can have it, in one place, at one time.  Yes you could copy the book, but who would want to sit in front of a copier that long to copy everything.  You might as well just go buy the book.  Put with an ebook, if they let you print it, you could have everyone in your office reading it at the same time in different places. 
With that in mind you should not be able to print out the book.  You buy an ebook in full knowledge that you will be reading it on your screen.  So basically if they would ammned their liscensing agreement with something to the effect of "Only one copy of this book can be used by the owner at any one time" it would all be ok.

Matt Watson
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I wouldn't mind the restrictions on E-Book if they were much cheaper than the dead tree version.  However they are not.

How are the Publishers able to Justify the extra cost? 

The ease of distribution goes both ways.  The vast majority of a publisher's costs go into printing, distributing the texts.  They also have to allow for wastage.  All those print overruns that end up in the bargain bookshops.

With E-books they are freed of all these costs.  There costs are dramatically reduced.  However, the cost of an ebook does not reflect this.

Personally I hope to see a day when books go through 3 stage cycle.  Now it is a two stage cycle - Hard and Paper back.  I'd like to see a third stage, where book would have gone out of print before they instead go into E-Book form where they can be obtained for a very low cost.

The BBC have set an example here, making their out-of-print Doctor Who novels available for free:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/dyingdays/index.shtml

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

ebooks suck big time and that's all there is to it.

screw me over with draconian IP management system once, shame on you

screw me over with draconian IP management system twice, shame on me

i'll never be burned again buying ebook crapola and i tell everyone who will listen the points you just made plus these:

- you can make notes in the margins of a real book, you can highlight it, you can circle things and underline and you can draw pictures
- you can turn quickly to the page where you left off
- you can start reading at any time
- you can read it at any place - the beach, the airplane, wherever you like
- it doesn't cost $10 in batteries to read it once
- the pages are high contrast
- it can be read during a power failure, on a remote island, and after we run out of oil and return to hunter-gatherers

ebook publishers have made the genre so unpleasant that i have dedicated my life to eliminating their industry

Sarain H.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Can anyone tell me what Adobe's strategy is with its ebook reader and Acrobat reader? I can't fathom why they would market an additional, incompatible e-doc reader when Acrobat has virtually universal presence. They apparently bought this Glassbook company and have made some horrible decisions on where to go with its ebook strategy.

pb
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I think the whole ebook thing comes down to cost. If an ebook costs $1, most people would be happy to pay for it if they want to read it. If the cost goes up to $5 or $10, people are more likely to try to copy it from someone else.

So if the ebook seller wants to charge $10 a copy, they need to put lots of restrictions on the ebook to try and stop people from copying it. If they would just charge $1 a copy, they probably wouldn't need all those restrictions.

Of course, the problem then is how to charge someone 50 cents or $1 for an ebook. Nobody wants to put such a small charge on a credit card, and there's no widespread convenient way to make micropayments.

Darren Collins
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Hey Jeff,

Thank you for the Baen Library link. I really like the letter by Eric Flint, the first librarian.....

<quote>Common sense, applied to the practical reality of commercial publishing. Or, if you prefer, the care and feeding of authors and publishers. Or, if you insist on a single word, profit.  ... ... We expect this Baen Free Library to make us money by selling books.</qutoe>

<quote>Losses any author suffers from piracy are almost certainly offset by the additional publicity which, in practice, any kind of free copies of a book usually engender. </quote>

<quote>The only time that mass scale petty thievery becomes a problem is when the perception spreads, among broad layers of the population, that a given product is priced artificially high due to monopolistic practices and/or draconian legislation designed to protect those practices. But so long as the "gap" between the price of a legal product and a stolen one remains both small and, in the eyes of most people, a legitimate cost rather than gouging, 99% of them will prefer the legal product.</quote>

We all know how much tedious it is to read books on the screen. I am yet to meet a single person that does it.

I have also tried books on various handhelds, but will read the dead trees versions whenever I can.

The only people who do not seem to realise  this are book publishers.

If I was a publisher, I would have a free electronic copy (make it non printable if you will), that is freely distributable.

Everyone who enjoys it will go out and buy a dead trees version, and spread the word to their friends.... Like Mr Flint says, no marketing like word of mouth. It is afterall both free and trustworthy.

Go on, read the entire letter http://www.baen.com/library/

tapiwa
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

-----------------------------------------------------------------
If I was a publisher, I would have a free electronic copy (make it non printable if you will), that is freely distributable.
-------------------------------------------------------- tapiwa

The proof of this is the successful books available online that are also available in print.

I have purchased a dead tree version of both Thinking in Java ( www.mindview.net ) and C++ in Action ( www.relisoft.com ).

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

<quote>The only time that mass scale petty thievery becomes a problem is when the perception spreads, among broad layers of the population, that a given product is priced artificially high due to monopolistic practices and/or draconian legislation designed to protect those practices.</quote>

What planet is this guy from?
99,99% of people even pirate postcardware (you know, those things where the autor just  ask you to send him a picture postcard if you keep using the software after the eval period).
Mass scale thievery becomes a problem the moment people do not get punished for stealing.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Just me (Sir to you), what planet are <bold>YOU</bold> from??

Thievery is not a problem unless someone actually loses. The argument here is that all these so called freeloaders would not have been customers in the first place.

I do not think that my behaviour is not particularly wierd, but when I download an anonymous mp3, or ebook, I tend to then look for more cds or dead trees versions by the same author.

One person who sort of got it right (despite the ego) is Greenspun. The entire text is online, the book is available in dead trees format.

I bought the dead trees version after starting to read it online. I still remained online because we could add comments on his site, at the end of every chapter.

No regrets, and I still felt that the dead trees version was worth every penny. I really don't think I am alone on this one.

tapiwa
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

In fact, I read one of the Baen books I downloaded on my notebook (1 hr train ride to/from work) and then went out and bought the paperback for my wife to read on a trip (no computers). 

I've also bought several other books because of reading the 'free' ones - either I wanted to continue with a series or because I liked the author (and hadn't read any of her works before). Giving me a few for free has increased their profits.

David Weber's new hardcover book 'War of Honor' is going to contain a CD with 22 books (in all the formats Baen supports).  This includes all of the previous novels in the Honor Harrington series as well as 12 others.  I assume that several/all of the others already exist in the free library, but being able to read the entire Honor Harrington series is worth the price of not having to go search for hard-copy editions of the books. See http://www.baen.com/orientation.htm for more information.

jeff
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

http://www.elcomsoft.com/aebpr.html  get this; get the crack to disable the "25%" limitation; process your adobe-ebook; if they exist, delete the control pages at the start of the book (often); save "edited" book; do with it what you like.

...don't do this to your master copy of the ebook...

F**k Ad0b3
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

oh.... it might be a good idea to get Adobe Acrobat (not reader) to allow you to edit those pages if necessary..!

F**k Ad0b3
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

"Thievery is not a problem unless someone actually loses. The argument here is that all these so called freeloaders would not have been customers in the first place."

I've heard this one before, but I think the reasoning is flawed. I used to have arguments with my friends about this. They'd say (I paraphrase) "It's okay for us to pirate software because it's so expensive that if we had to pay for it we wouldn't use it". To me it's an attempt to justify stealing "because we can".

I don't believe monopolistic price-fixing by companies is "okay". But neither do I believe that using pirated software/ebooks because they're "too expensive" is okay either. If you're going to do it, at least be honest with yourself and admit that you _are_ stealing. They're offering a product for a price, but you've obtained it without paying.

Having said that, I'm not sure how my argument would fit into a business model that required some people to "steal" your product and then tell their friends how great it is.

Adrian Gilby
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

> I've heard this one before, but I think the reasoning is
> flawed.

Not when applied to books. If the book wasn't free online, there's a high probability the freeloaders wouldn't get into a bookstore to buy it.

> I used to have arguments with my friends about this.
> They'd say (I paraphrase) "It's okay for us to pirate
> software because it's so expensive that if we had to pay
> for it we wouldn't use it".

This is BS, naturally. The most you can say is "Since I'm not using this software to make money, I feel a little less guilty", but not even this justifies it.

> But neither do I believe that using pirated
> software/ebooks because they're "too expensive" is
> okay either.

There is a case to be made for this in certain areas of the world, but nowadays, with open source, there is usually an alternative to bloatware (the "bloat" comes from the price tag, not the feature-set :) )

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, September 26, 2002

This is outrageous! So you think it is OK to steal just because you do not like the pricing? You think it is OK to steal just because you are not physically removing anything, just making a copy?
Yes, it is stealing since society (by law) has declared it so. If you don't like it, lobby for change.

Is it OK for everybody to steal a car from the Ferrari dealership? Hey, it's not as if they would have been paying customers, right? Is it different because the Ferrari is made of "materials" instead of just "information"? So if you just leave a small donation by the till that would cover for the raw materials and the production energy cost your home free? No, wait,  all cars must be free and Ferrari should make their profits out of fuel sales and maintainence?

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, September 26, 2002

You can't compare it to stealing ferraris, it's just not the same. John C. Dvorak has a good piece about these issues here ("It's all about economics"):

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,548513,00.asp

BC
Thursday, September 26, 2002

> So you think it is OK to steal just because you do not like
> the pricing?

No. If I don't like the pricing (meaning, the value I get from the good doesn't justify its price), I won't buy it. If I choose to use an illegal copy, that's my problem, since I'm the one running the risk of being caught.

E.g., take music CDs. My music CD collection numbers approx. 500, and +/- 50 of them were bought because of one song. I stopped doing that. Then, I stopped buying CDs where the number of songs I liked was smaller than the number of songs I disliked.

So, when I look at the CDs I bought in the last 12 months, only 5 are from a major label, the other 52 are from minor labels - e.g., stuff like Solitudes, Higher Octave Music, or Prudence. Maybe it's just coincidence. Then again, maybe the "small guys" are selling more quality for less money. I didn't stop buying CDs, I just stopped throwing money out the window.

And, before you ask, I'm not out hunting for MP3s. It's not worth the time I lose.

> Yes, it is stealing since society (by law) has declared it
> so. If you don't like it, lobby for change.

"Law" != "Justice". One of the aspects of human condition is that we'll try to fight what we perceive as unfair. Whether or not the pricing of content is unfair, I leave to the judgement of each individual. I don't own the truth.

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, September 26, 2002

I do not buy the Dvorak arguments. It is giving in to the "bits are free, charge for atoms". His 1.40$ CD competes with the download solely on the basis of the atoms: a nicer sleeve, a slightly better beer-coaster, ... . This reduces the actual content to being a pure loss-leader. It has no value, except for pushing translucent plastic and glossy paper.

If the students want a different music industry, they should create one. The technology is right there. Recording equipment is dead cheap, and P2P Internet distribution is virtually free. Let those who choose to go this way do so, but give other people the right to disagree. Mass stealing is removing a choice: the choice to put a price on bits that is greater than zero.

I love bits. I value ideas, creativity, insight, knowledge and intellect. I do not believe the expressions of these virtues should be reduced to a sideshow in the peddling of cheap planet choking waste.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, September 26, 2002

Followup to the comments on pricing being an incentive to steal.

Regardless of the morals, it's a fact.  For example, it's easy to steal newspapers.  One person opens the box, and could take 5 copies if they like.  But no one does because (1) there's little benefit to multiple copies and (2) to save a quarter, who'd bother?

Basic economics.  If ebooks were sold for a dollar each, the market would be significantly bigger and the incentive to steal would be much smaller.

The voice of rationality
Thursday, September 26, 2002

While it is easy to steal extra copies of newspapers, you'd still do it in public, possibly under the eyes of several unknown people. That coupeled with the practically zero added value of an extra copy is enough for most to not engage in this.
Ripping CD's in the privacy of your dorm room is a different matter isn't it? The price theory does not hold. As I said before, 99.99% of people "pirate" postcardware. How many cents is a stamp these days?

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, September 26, 2002

Paolo,

leaving justise up to the individual is generally refered to as anarchy or "the law of the jungle". Modern society is sometimes believed to have risen above this barbaric system. Although as a sceptic I am hopefull but doubtfull that this state will last, I do not welcome its demise.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, September 26, 2002

Sir, ideally we understand justice before we enact legislation.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, September 26, 2002

The postcardware thing is idiotic. For me to send a post-card right now, i'd have to drive to the store to get a post-card and then to the post office to get one stamp and mail it. I'd much rather send $5 (not $30, as shareware is commonly priced) via PayPal.

pb
Thursday, September 26, 2002

It may be basic economics that selling ebooks for less would result in a bigger market.  That doesn't mean it is a good course of action.  Basic economics also teaches about such things as supply vs demand, and how the way to optimize profit is to price your product where the two curves cross.  If you charged 1/10 the cost for ebooks, you'd have to sell 10 times as many to make the same amount of money.  Business is about profit, not "market size".  The only way to convice a publisher that they should lower costs, is to prove to them that they will get that many more sales.

I've seen the argument that things should be priced lower as well, and that is just total bunk.  The owner of the property has every right to price the items at whatever level he/she wants.  That is not an excuse to steal.  Do you justify stealing a Lexus by saying "I can't afford to pay that much for a car"?

People who justify pirating by saying the product is too expensive are just deluding themselves.  It doesn't matter how much the product costs, if you are getting it without paying, you're stealing.

While it is true that more expensive products probably tend to get pirated more, that doesn't imply that the publisher should lower prices.

Mike McNertney
Thursday, September 26, 2002

I still can't grasp the fact that people seem to compare physically stealing cars as the same thing as (illegally) downloading a madonna mp3. Let's say I did that and never ever have any plans to buy a madonna cd. Am I still ripping somebody off? On the other hand, if you steal a car, you're ripping somebody off (they no longer have the car they bought). It's not the same thing, so please come up with some better examples...

As Dvorak pointed out, if you could get a physical copy of that car for $1k, why would you buy one for $50k? And if the car manufactor could produce one for $1k, where is the morality in  keeping the price jacked up? If anybody is being ripped off here, it's the consumers who're buying the cds...

BC
Thursday, September 26, 2002

It's not YOURS.

As a moral, law-abiding consumer you have one choice:

Pay what a seller requires for the goods they own or the services they provide, or walk away.

Simple.  Otherwise you're a criminal.

(Cripes, I could understand having this debate if we were talking about a starving man stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family...but a Madonna MP3?  Get real.)

Dunno Wair
Thursday, September 26, 2002

All right, so then I'm an immoral (well, according to your morals anyway) criminal. Now, tell me how I hurt the industry again? Then consider if I downloaded that silly mp3 and actually bought the Madonna CD because of it. Hmmm, maybe the world isn't so black-and-white as you think it is? Or maybe it is as simple as you make it to be?

For the record, I agree in parts with you. Consumers should walk away if they don't want to pay for goods or services (as do I). But I have no problems understanding many choose to be so-called "immoral" criminals instead... True, they are probably making the lives of the merchants worse, but on the other hand they're maybe making the lives of us consumers better (as in cheaper goods and better services).  Am I really that wrong? Then again, I didn't grow up in a black-and-white world...

BC
Thursday, September 26, 2002

Dunno Wair,

I think you should read Courtney Love's article where she called the music industry pirates, Janis Ian's recent Slashdot interview about the lawbreaking music industry, and find out why Prince changed his name to something unspeakable.

I hope I'm not falling for a troll.  Even Slashdot's arguments are more sophisticated on this subject.

blues is dead
Thursday, September 26, 2002

The reason there is no difference between stealing a loaf of bread and stealing software is you are NEVER PAYING FOR ANYTHING PHYSICAL.  You are paying for LABOR!

Every PHYSICAL thing is FREE.  The water, the wheat, the yeast were all created by nature for free.  You pay for bread for the all the labor to make that bread.  Growing the wheat, grinding into flour, mixing it into bread, putting it in a bag, getting it to your store, etc. etc.

Software/music/bits are the SAME.  You pay for the LABOR.  When you steal a copy you are stealing the LABOR.  It would be like not paying your doctor.  What physical thing does he give you?

And you don't have to pay $$$$$$$$ for all the intial costs involved in making bread (trucks to carry the flour, the bread factory, ovens, trucks to deliver the bread), instead each person pays $ for bread and all those big costs are covered a little by each person.

The same is true for software.  You pay $500 for my software that costs $8,000,000 in labor (40 people, 8-12 hours a day, 2.5 years) and I hope that I sell enough to cover the costs.  If you can't sell individual copies because of piracy the one person/party would have to put up $8,000,000 for the labor in order for that software to be created in which case much less software will exist because very few people have $8,000,000 burning a hole in their pocket.

Gregg Tavares
Thursday, September 26, 2002

Thank you Gregg.
That's the best argument I've heard and I plan to borrow it.
Simple, true, and unassailable.

X. J. Scott
Thursday, September 26, 2002

> leaving justise up to the individual is generally refered to
> as anarchy or "the law of the jungle".

I completely agree. But that still doesn't equate "law" with "justice". The fact that laws have loopholes, and are being constantly "patched" is evidence enough that it's not the "black & white" scenario we (myself included) would like it to be. I'm not implying that "justice" is "black & white", either. It's quite a mess, ain't it? ;)

I think Cristopher summed it all quite well with just one word - ideally. We have a rather mediocre score at creating anything that's embodies this concept.

> Modern society is sometimes believed to have risen
> above this barbaric system. Although as a sceptic I am
> hopefull but doubtfull that this state will last, I do not
> welcome its demise.

I wouldn't say we have "risen above". It seems to me we've replaced the previous barbaric systems with other - different - barbaric systems.

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Friday, September 27, 2002

1) It doesn't matter whether you planned to buy the CD or not.  You are still stealing.  If I steal a Lexus, that I would never have bought because I think they are too expensive, does that make me less of a thief?
2) it DOESN'T MATTER whether you are impacting the industry or not.  It doesn't matter whether providing mp3s for free would actually net them more profits.  IT DOESN'T MATTER.  The fact is they have every right to choose the distribution methods for their properties, and they have chosen not to allow you to get music for free in the form of mp3s.  Now, you can argue that it is bad business, but that doesn't make it right for you to rip them off
3)  You are getting something for free that the owner requires you to pay for... how is that not stealing?
4)  Producers have every right to put any price they want on their goods.  There is no "morality" involved.  They price their goods however they want.  That's how capitalism works.  There are many factors that go into it other than how much something costs to make.  A) any intrinsic value it has to the producer.  B) How much labor went into it before it could be produced (ie, writing the songs, designing the car).  C) Making enough profit per unit to fund growth.

The bottom line is, it is their right to charge whatever the heck they want for their products, just as it is yours to choose not to buy them.  That doesn't give you the right to steal from them.

Mike McNertney
Friday, September 27, 2002

> There is no "morality" involved.

You have to decide whether or not you actually believe this.  If you do, then you can't make any moral judgements on filetraders.

I agree with your view that morality is not involved.  All that matters is culture, and the customer.  If there was not such an enormous amount of filetrading, the record labels would simply not satisfy that demand.  With the politicians they've bought, they'd settle into a very favorable position for them.

I'm sorry.  When we can replicate food, I'm not going to pay a tax to some Farmer's association.

blues is dead
Friday, September 27, 2002

"Producers have every right to put any price they want on their goods. "

Really, so price fixing is legal?

http://news.com.com/2100-1023-244195.html?tag=mainstry

BC
Saturday, September 28, 2002

Gregg, you fail to note one big difference. The amount of water, yeast, etc that I need to make bread is (mostly) proportional to the amount of bread I produce and I need more machines and people to produce more bread. If someone steals a bread, I will always lose money on the base materials and work that were spend in it's production. If one copies a piece of my software I won't lose anything (note that this is different from stealing a box of software in a store). I might not get a sale that I would have otherwise made, but I won't have to spend one dime to create that copy. I'm not going to be drawn into an argument about the likelihood and severity of lost sales, but I do hope to get you to understand that this is indeed an important distinction. Important enough in any case, that some programmers give away their bread^H^H^H^H^Hsoftware for free. This is clearly possible because reproducing software is costless (production costs per unit are zero, there are only fixed costs). Once the software has been coded (for a paying gig or as a hobby), you can simply unleash it on the world and make many people happy. Sharing bread (and fishes) is considerably more difficult for mere mortals.

If you don't believe me, you might want to consult a lawyer and ask him the difference between stealing and copyright infringement. He will surely tell you that the two are far different from a legal perspective (and have been for hundreds of years in different legal systems). If you still want to argue that copyright is stealing, I suggest that you explain to me why copying documents was legal in England before 1710, while stealing was not. Note that printing using movable type begun in 1455, so there was a considerable period in which ones words of wisdom could be and where freely published.

Wouter Zelle
Monday, September 30, 2002

So you walk into the bakery, step behind the counter, grab a fistfull of cookies, go over to the till and instead of paying the demand price of 2$ for you cakes you plunk down two quarters anouncing proudly "that should just about cover it for the raw materials. Since I am not the first guy to buy cookies out of this batch, i can assume all other expenses are already paid for. It's not stealing old boy! I would never have bought the cookies at 2$ anyway."

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 30, 2002

Sir, you are still missing the difference between physical and intellectual property. If you acquire the former without the owner's permission, it's called stealing. If you acquire the latter without the owner's permission, it's called copyright infringement. It's a huge difference. All the comparisons to cars and bread and cookies are false analogies.

Martha
Monday, September 30, 2002

Dear Martha,

I do not dispute that there is a legal difference between theft and copyright infringement. However, this is not the difference that is made when people try to justify there wrongdoings by stating that no harm is done as long as nothing "physical" has been removed.
I do believe that people are allowed to make a profit from non physical objects, in the same way as people are allowed to make a profit on physical objects.

The fact that cheap duplication of the results is easily achieved are IMHO irrelevant. One costructs a pricing scheme in relation to the total projected sales volume, not the marginal reproduction cost. This also holds for physical goods. e.g. It is not the first person to buy a car that pays for the whole design and test process, the construction of the assembly plant etc., whereafter the next few million only pay for the marginal costs of producing one extra car.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Just me (Sir to you), you can surely see that the baker has lost property in your example. It is his right to decide what to do with his own property. Things are different when you make a copy of say a book. That copy is not made by the author/publisher and he does not own it (illegal copies of copyrighted material that are confiscated won't be transferred to the copyright owner, but are destroyed). He does have the right to prevent you from selling that copy, but that is clearly not based on property rights.

Another difference is that by invoking fair use I may copy a copyrighted work for certain purposes and in certain ways without approval from the artist. There is no lawful ground for ever taking a handful of cookies from the bakery (unless there is a contract he previously signed). It is always the baker's choice whether to offer his property for sale and at what price (just like an author will always have the choice to offer his original manuscript for sale at a price conceived by him or to keep it to himself). Perhaps you'd like to argue about the rights I have to reproduce the cookie devised and created by the baker, but I assure you that the argument would not favor you. So if you want to continue to debate I suggest you forgo analogies that don't apply. Refer to law and tell me where you (dis)agree with this much-debated set of rules, or tell us simply what rights and obligations an artist should have according to you.

Wouter Zelle
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Wouter,

I think an artist should have the right to do with the distribution of his original work as he pleases. If he chooses to distribute through a P2P network for free, that's fine. If he sells the distribution rights to Sony, that is fine as well. If Sony decides to distribute that artists work by pressing it onto CD's and witholds the right from you as a client to further distribute it, al fine by me.
If you purchase the CD from Sony, and start distributing copies to your friends or upload it to a P2P network, when you have not aquired the distribution rights to do so, that to me does not seem OK.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

"The fact that cheap duplication of the results is easily achieved are IMHO irrelevant."

Copyright law came into existance only after books could be reproduced easily. Cheap and easy duplication is clearly an issue. If you study economics, you will see that there are various ways to recuperate your investments in R&D even without using patents or copyright.

"I do believe that people are allowed to make a profit from non physical objects, in the same way as people are allowed to make a profit on physical objects."

Again you completely ignore the difference between information and objects. An idea is not a cookie. A sign is far different from a physical object. A book and the story it contains are two different things. The differences between physical objects and non physical things (I wouldn't call an idea, story or sign an object) are big enough that you cannot make a profit from non physical things in _the same_ way (unless you want to compare selling the copyright to selling an object).

"...the next few million only pay for the marginal costs of producing one extra car."

Of course, but you ignore all the interesting questions:
1. What do you actually want to protect (design, engineering, logo's/trademarks)?
2. What are the obligations the inventor has to the society which allows him to protect his idea's/expressions? E.g. fair use, limited period, full disclosure.
3. What rules are optimal for society as a whole?

You shouldn't forget that nearly every innovation is built upon a previous one. If we restrict/protect intellectual property to a big extent, you can no longer create new things because you will infringe on someone's work. Overprotection creates the risk of stifling progress and prohibiting competition. I don't want to live in a world where my creations are worthless, while the big companies dictate what we should like. That is already happening with patents that are usually used as bargaining material between big companies (so they can use each others technology). How could a newcomer with just one or two great ideas ever compete with that? A few notes of music can be copyrighted. How long before new music gets sued by the record companies who bought these copyrights, so you cannot produce music without their consent? What about fair use? Do you mind living in a society where you can no longer quote? How do you like paying again for the music you 'licensed' when you want to play it in your car as well as at home. Do you mind paying again when your kid breaks that $50 PS2 game? How do you like a society in which people with bad eye sight cannot read e-books because they cannot move the book to the reader adapted for their condition? Do you mind that some books aren't in print, but aren't in the free domain either?

Don't let anyone fool you into believing that there is an easy answer or you can simply be morally superior by voting for the artists/innovators. Fact is that a lot of the artists/innovators don't like the laws that are supposed to protect them. It's a small group of powerful companies that is pushing things like the DMCA, 'unlimited' copyrights and DRM and people like you are accepting it because you don't understand what it means. You believe that it will simply allow compensation for artists/inventors, while it is a power struggle by the distributors. New technologies are making it possible to circumvent their old fashioned channels and they don't know how to cope. Instead of improving their offering, they just blame their problems on illegal copying and jack up the prices. Reality is that most people will gladly pay for a decent product, even when they can get it for free illegally. They will refuse to be screwed however.

I wonder what your views are on this matter?

Wouter Zelle
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Just me (Sir to you), that sounds nice in theory, but an artist without a label will not be played on the radio, will rarely/never get into the top 100, etc. The level playing field you suggest just isn't there. Consequently, artists are often locked into awful contracts. I agree that the noble thing in such a situation would be to simply abstain from buying CD's by RIAA-labels, but I can agree with civil disobedience. Not because it is right, but because one wishes to enlarge his mind, but not fund the mafia (RIAA is organized crime, using price-fixing and payola).

On a whole different note, I also feel that it should be legal to share songs for the purpose of experiencing music before you decide to buy the album. I'm convinced that this will help (good) artists and users, the first will have more exposure, while the latter will only buy albums they really like. I've heard many a story about people who stopped buying albums because they rarely contained more than a few good songs, started buying again when Napster became popular (so they could listen to the entire CD in advance) and stopped again afterwards. There is a lot of room for an official Napster in this market. A collection of high quality MP3's that you can download after you paid a fair subscription fee and order on CD if you like them. Many people would prefer it to P2P just because the quality is high and the files they want are easy to find. Let alone the other incentives they could provide (info about the artists, interviews, CD booklets, autographs, cheap concert tickets, etc). The same goes for books, BTW. Amazon's previews are extremely helpful and a good portion of the authors that have provided their book for free on the Internet are doing very well (usually those who write good books). After all, if you like the book you will probably buy a hardcopy.

Wouter Zelle
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Dear Wouter,

Artists are locked into these "awfull" contracts because of one thing only: Greed. They all want to be te next big thing, fly on Concord and private jets, have poolfulls of money behind the 30 bedroom mansion ...
If they do not like it, why sign on? There are plenty of alternatives to the big labels. Release your music on the net for free! Oh silly me, I forgot. That way it doesn't get stuffed down peoples ears 20 times a day and of course you will not get rich quick ...

As for the "I know a guy who now buys more CD's since he discovered Napster": for each of these I know 10 that stopped buying CD's since they discovered Kazaa. If you want to invoke "civil disobedience", I am sure there are many more praisworthy rally cries than "I want free goodies, and I am going to take them".

I do agree with you on the upportunity for a good online service for digital music downloads, but I think we will need a technological service infrastructure that will be trusted by the parties involved before it happens.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

" Reality is that most people will gladly pay for a decent product, even when they can get it for free illegally."

I think that this is where our believes do part ways.

My reality is that most people will steal, infringe and do "bad things" as long as they are conviced there will be no consequences.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

> My reality is that most people will steal, infringe and
> do "bad things" as long as they are conviced there will
> be no consequences.

We can safely assume that content (music, film, etc) publishers are people :)

So, we have two options:
1) All "people" are equal, but some "people" are more equal than others, i.e., your reality doesn't apply to content publishers, who are actually law-abiding, non-greedy people.
2) There's greed and dishonesty on both sides. The "customers" have the publishers they deserve, and the
the publishers the "customers" they deserve.

Actually, I would have an easier time understanding the publishers' position, if only they'd give up their pretense of moral superiority. They steal, infringe, and do "bad things" as much as anyone else. It just happens that, this time, they're getting the receiving end of it, and they don't like it.

But then, we do love to impose on others the principles we often don't follow ourselves, don't we? :)

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

"Actually, I would have an easier time understanding the publishers' position, if only they'd give up their pretense of moral superiority. "

Ah, on that we can all agree :-).

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

I wonder exactly how high a correlation coefficient we'd achieve comparing those who believe digital theft isn't immoral (despite being illegal) and those who are the most "creative" with their tax returns.

"All, all is theft, all is unceasing and rigorous competition in nature; the desire to make off with the substance of others is the foremost—the most legitimate—passion nature has bred into us ... and, without doubt, the most agreeable one. "

  - Marquis de Sade (1740–1814), 

Dunno Wair
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

> I wonder exactly how high a correlation coefficient we'd
> achieve comparing those who believe digital theft isn't
> immoral (despite being illegal) and those who are the
> most "creative" with their tax returns.

It's true that digital theft is immoral. It is also true that the most common victims of digital theft are guilty of a number of immoral acts, both against their customer base and against the creative people they employ. Like I said, I find it hard to feel sorry for them. Stealing (or copying, if you prefer) is not the solution, but neither is removing fair-use from the picture, nor law-endorsed hacking.

You want a solution? For music, how about a low-quality format of the songs (full length) made available by the label, and free to download? Let me listen to the whole album for free, before I decide whether or not I'll buy it. In case I don't buy it, make sure I don't keep content with enough quality to replace the album. We're talking about a trivial process. There are DSP effects to add noise to a song (e.g., "vynil"-like noise). You could add an audible "watermark" to the song every minute, a sentence like "this song is for evaluation purposes only", or some other nonsense, at enough volume to disturb the listening, but keeping the song itself present. This would get rid of the "download-to-listen-before-buy" argument.

But I guess it's more profitable to enact laws that will give you full control not only of content, but also of content creation. Wich just shows that morality probably has the #1 spot as a subject for lip service.

Some people do find ways to keep ownership of their material. E.g., the team around of Iron Maiden did a great job at it. As early as 1987 (maybe earlier, I don't know for sure), they created Iron Maiden Holdings, and renegotiated their position with EMI. The copyright on their albums belongs to Iron Maiden Holdings, not EMI. I'm sure there must be other cases. What caught my attention with Iron Maiden was the time at which it occurred.

Which goes to show that even the real content creators find the need to defend themselves from the labels.

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

"Artists are locked into these "awful" contracts because of one thing only: Greed. They all want to be te next big thing, fly on Concorde and private jets, have poolfulls of money behind the 30 bedroom mansion ..."

An artist wants his music to be heard, an author wants his books to be read. I don't consider that greed. It is a fact that distributors try to control the market. They try to control the music stores and they try to control the radio stations (quite succesfully, BTW). In a free market everyone has the same chances for success, but that is not true for music. The result is that a select few artists are very rich (those who sell many millions of records), while the majority of artists make very little. They might even have to pay the lables for selling their CD's (even though the lables make a profit), while they have to make do with the meager income from concerts. The artists that advocate change know that it will reduce their chances to become incredibly rich, but there will be far more artists that can make a living.

"There are plenty of alternatives to the big labels. Release your music on the net for free! Oh silly me, I forgot. That way it doesn't get stuffed down peoples ears 20 times a day and of course you will not get rich quick ..."

That is only a very recent development and little experience has been gained. How does one go about getting noticed 'on the Internet'? You musn't forget that most people still listen to the radio which only plays mainstream music. Internet radio is being killed by enormous fees. P2P is being prosecuted and doesn't help much unless people explicitly look for your music.

Tell me, how would I get to know bands that would fancy me? As of yet I find it very hard to just find the relatively more popular bands that I like.

"If you want to invoke "civil disobedience", I am sure there are many more praisworthy rally cries than "I want free goodies, and I am going to take them"."

I can't remember saying that. What is so despicable about wanting to grow as a person?

"I do agree with you on the upportunity for a good online service for digital music downloads, but I think we will need a technological service infrastructure that will be trusted by the parties involved before it happens."

Are you talking about a P2P system with severe Digital Restrictions Management? Because I don't see users preferring that over something that doesn't treat users as criminals.

Wouter Zelle
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

"My reality is that most people will steal, infringe and do "bad things" as long as they are conviced there will be no consequences."

Some have said that you can divide people into groups based on morals and honesty. 10-20% of the users are just immoral. 60-80% are fairly moral, but can be tempted. Another 10-20% will be moral unless the temptation is extremely strong. Now, temptation is not just about the consequences to the person itself, but also to the other people who are involved. For instance, 80-90% of the people will not steal the last pennies from a widow, but a lot more people will steal from a thief if they get the chance. One of the reasons why so many people no longer have scruples about dl'ing music is that they consider the music companies to be crooks. If the music companies change that perception _and_ offer good value, most people will buy music again.

The alternative is to try and force people (DRM), which won't work since people will become very angry when they can't use the music they paid for in ways that seem self-evident (upgrade to a new computer and you have to pay again? Yeah right.).

Wouter Zelle
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I don't see how DRM implies treating users as criminals. Would you buy a car that has no locks on the doors and does not require a key to start?
Do you honestly think of the doorlock as a device that treats all people as criminals?

DRM gives everyone the right to lock their door. You can still leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition if you choose. You can still distribute your stuff with all the rights available to anyone if you prefer this.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

> I don't see how DRM implies treating users as criminals.
> Would you buy a car that has no locks on the doors
> and does not require a key to start?

However, when you buy the car, you're the one who controls the locks. But when you buy the DRM-enabled song, you probably (my guess) won't get the keys.

So, to get back to your car analogy, you get the car, but the salesman keeps the keys. Whenever you want to take a ride, you give him a call, and, if he feels you're entitled to your ride, he'll deactivate the lock, and off you go :)

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

1.) Digital works, by virtue of being digital (read - digits) are simply numbers (albiet long ones).  In fact, a digital work is usually considered a range of numbers, given different bitrates, compression algorithms, et. al.
2.) You can't copyright a number.  Intel tried this with the 586, and failed.  If you could copyright a number, we would not have Pentiums.

Given premise 1 and 2, the atoms vs. bits argument is over.  Atoms have won.  If not, I can copyright an image that is white with a little black dot in the bottom right corner, and then charge all of you with copyright infringement every time you use the number 1.  And the number 2400 is illegal since it can represent a very pixelated and low quality, but still discernable, version of Mickey Mouse ears.

Logical Anomaly
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

"I don't see how DRM implies treating users as criminals. Would you buy a car that has no locks on the doors and does not require a key to start?"

How would you feel about owning a car that can only use to drive the roads in your state, can only be adapted and serviced by the garages the motor company selects and can't be used by your wife (or anyone else). You can't sell it to anyone else since you licensed it (buy a new one if you move to a different state). That is a far better comparison if you know what DRM entails.

Oh yes, don't forget that you won't be able to buy cars without these restrictions, they are outlawed.

PS. I now expect you to say: "But it will stop crime!". And it might*. But do you accept the tradeoff? I don't and I think that few people who truly understand the tradeoff will accept it.

*What did we learn from the prohibition?: if enough people want something, banning it will not put an end to it's use. Instead, more and more people will become criminals. They will organize, they might even branch out in other crimes. Of course, the US isn't a very fast learner in this respect (war on drugs).

Wouter Zelle
Thursday, October 03, 2002

Logical Anomaly, I don't think you understand copyright law. The courts strictness depends on the thing you copyright and the way in which something is copied. The number 2400 is not infringing since it isn't used in any way similar and/or confusing with Micky Mouse. On the other hand, if you create a big poster with the Micky Mouse representation of 2400, you might be infringing. You certainly will if you put the name beneath it.

Your error is that you consider the inherent fuzzyness in copyright law to be invalidating. It isn't because we have human judges who are allowed to determine the exact meaning of law in a certain case.

Wouter Zelle
Thursday, October 03, 2002

Wouter,

The customer in this analogy was of course the owner of the publishing rights (put yourself in his shoes just as an experiment). The DRM system gives him more options. He can lock various things, and differentiate what he sells you. He does not have to rely on blind trust, which so obviously is abused on a massive scale.

Now I can sell you a license to listen to music for your personal enjoyment, but I have no product that matches this offer. Instead, I have to give you the full unlimited copiable, distributable master, and just trust whomever that gets their hands on it that they will abide by the license. A DRM system gives me the possibility to deliver a product that matches what I want to sell you.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, October 03, 2002

Just me (Sir to you), "Now I can sell you a license to listen to music for your personal enjoyment, but I have no product that matches this offer. "

In most parts of the world, this is known as a live concert!

This is a model that has been proposed before, that CDs become a way of getting the artist known, and the money would be made with live concerts. I think it's silly but I still think CDs cost way too much more than they should!

tapiwa
Thursday, October 03, 2002

"In most parts of the world, this is known as a live concert!"

The band would have a hell of a time rushing from living room to living room to do a quick live act woudn't they :-).

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, October 04, 2002

Walter, you raised one interesting question that got lost in the DRM discussions: How do I find the music I might like?

This is where I believe the music industry has failed miserably and it will spell the end of them in their current form at least.

I never listen to radio or look at MTV et al. Why? Because they never play anything remotely interesting for me.

In the end I have managed to find one really good source for finding "my special" music: The All Music Guide http://www.allmusic.com

At this site I can really find reasonably objective reviews of albums, discographies, etc. But where it really shines is the relationships between artists, i.e. similar artists, roots and influences, followers, formal connections, etc. Add to this the best Genre / Styles classification system I have found so far.

If you're a music enthusiast you can spend hours browsing and finding artists you have never heard about before. Artists who you instantly do want to hear!

This is unfortunately where it currently breaks down. What I would like is to hear samples, to decide for myself whether "The Porch Ghouls" are really that similar to, or anywhere near as good, as "Jon Spencer Blues Explosion".

Yet during 2001 I bought more than 140 CDs based on my findings from AMG (told you it's a dangerous place!) and, most importantly, listening to downloaded samples. Where did I find these samples / songs? I downloaded them from Audio Galaxy. Do I have a bad conscience because of this? Not really. The downloaded songs I didn't like went out the window, the ones I did like I ended up buying the CD(s).

In virtually every industry you do have the possibility to try before you buy, why not with music?

After Audio Galaxy was forced to close I basically stopped buying music. The only things I buy now are the safe bets. Am I having fun? Not really, but the sad (?) thing is that neither are the, for me, unknown artists similar to the ones I bought last year.

Of course Napster, AG, Kazaa or whatever the flavour of the month may be, are facilitating theft, but they are also providing the one service that the record companies have missed out on: Try before you buy.

And as for the comment about people buying no more CDs since P2P, I just don't see it. Unless you're content with whatever is currently on the Top 20 list that is. For any music enthusiast who may have acquired a more specific taste, P2P is rather useless, even for just getting a sample of an artist. (AG was the exception.)

So for me what would the "killer app" be? All Music Guide with low quality samples of every artist and direct buy and download possibility of high quality files. Price of an album should of course be cheaper than a pressed & packaged CD. (Should also be available for purchase.)

Unfortunately I very much doubt that this will ever happen. Currently they are all running around creating their own proprietary solutions with very strange usability terms and again it is geared towards providing mainstream music. (Why do the record companies believe that I as a customer actually care about which label an artist is on??)

And no, "The Porch Ghouls" were not really in the same league as JSBE. No CD for me there. ;-)

Johan Borg
Saturday, October 05, 2002

And yes, I am really bad with names. I meant Wouter of course, not Walter. I thought it was bad when I didn't remember half of the names of the people at the last party I went to, but now my (in)ability seems to have reached a new low.

Sorry Wouter!

Johan Borg
Saturday, October 05, 2002

"The customer in this analogy was of course the owner of the publishing rights (put yourself in his shoes just as an experiment)."

I don't understand why you see the IP owner as the consumer. We are talking about the book/music/program as the item to be sold.

BTW, it's not necessary to take a jab at me, I'm a developer myself and could very well be a publisher myself someday. That doesn't mean that I should favor publishers at the (enormous) expense of consumers. Besides, I already told you that DRM, the DMCA, etc is not favored by all publishers. It's mostly the big established firms with outdated business models that push it, other companies seem to be able to innovate to keep their customers buying their products. What do you prefer? Laws that hinder innovation or laws that stimulate new developments? Please do not treat me as simply a spoiled college kid. I understand that it may reduce your cognitive dissonance to ridicule your opponent, but it's quite unhealthy behaviour for one who deems himself a rational person.

"The DRM system gives him more options. He can lock various things, and differentiate what he sells you. He does not have to rely on blind trust, which so obviously is abused on a massive scale."

I don't think those options are fair. They will be abused in many, many ways (as is already evident). As it is, publishers have a fairly good chance to make money with a good product. It is doubtful whether extra 'protections' will really increase their sales (their are many effects which actually reduce sales when you 'protect' a product), but it will surely hinder many in their ordinary lives. I also don't understand why various governments are so keen to criminalize behaviour which their citizens see as legal and fair. Is that a democracy?

"Now I can sell you a license to listen to music for your personal enjoyment"

A license? Will that mean that I can get a free replacement for defect media? I cannot, so what am I paying for exactly? A license to listen to the music or a physical product? The RIAA doesn't want me to resell the CD, so it can't be a product either. I'm confused. Where did my consumer rights go suddenly? What will happen when DRM allows the publishers to enforce their 'laws'.

"Instead, I have to give you the full unlimited copiable, distributable master, and just trust whomever that gets their hands on it that they will abide by the license."

Geez, you don't understand the marketplace at all. You don't have to trust people not to illegally copy your product if you provide a far better experience for paying customers. The Internet has only increased the potential to do so. Most people will gladly pay for an extensive online repository of MP3's. Make it well-organized, complete, high quality. Add interviews, fora, a chat with an artist, collectors items, cheap concert tickets, playlists, streams, etc, etc. If you don't make it too pricy, people will flock to it.

"A DRM system gives me the possibility to deliver a product that matches what I want to sell you."

Does it match what I want to buy? Will I have any power left as a consumer to force you to deliver a decent product?

Wouter Zelle
Monday, October 07, 2002

Johan, that was exactly what I meant in my previous post. I have heard dozens and dozens of stories that mimic yours. It's clear that the music industry is just not delivering what people want and they waste their time prosecuting the innovations that they should embrace. It's incredible how stubborn and stupid to the bone the content industry is. When the video recorder was introduced they were using the exact same arguments. Copying would cost them gazillions, nobody would go to the movie theatre, etc. Of course, VHS turned out to be extremely profitable. Casettes were going to destroy the music industry. Instead, profits kept rising after it's introduction. The difference now is that the US government is on the side of the content industry and they are helping the content industry to stifle innovations and preserve the status quo. I really hope that doesn't happen.

PS.  Thanks alot for the link! I've been looking for a good music guide for quite a while.
PS2. Walter is the English translation of Wouter. You were far smarter than you realized ;)

Wouter Zelle
Monday, October 07, 2002

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