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The Individual

Property rights on the Internet

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Here is a scenario: I search for a picture of a dog under Google Images. I found a picture of a dog I like. Is it ethical if I saved and stored the picture into my computer since it is not my property?

Edited by The Individual

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Interesting. 2 quick points,

1) Every site has a different TOS, a site designed to give images for free and a commercial site would differ in what they allow you to do.

2) Every user has a cache, presumably there is nothing wrong with revisiting a site offline and viewing an image from it even though the data is stored on your hard drive.

3) What you plan on doing with the picture also enters into it probably.

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The question you should ask is, does the owner of the intellectual property give permission to copy the picture? If the picture appears on a page with some kind of assertion of property right such a statement "all material protected by copyright" or "look only", then you may not ethically or legally copy the picture, and if it appears with a download button or phrases like "more pictures for your collection here", then you may copy. Look especially for a "Terms of Service" link. Google makes it easy to thwart and ignore such statements, so you might encounter this pic which says nothing, and you'd miss this TOS.

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David - technologically speaking, the very act of viewing the picture makes a copy and that copy is stored on your hard drive automatically. (It goes in the temporary files area but it's still a copy their web server serves up to your computer)

A TOS which allows you to view a picture but not to download it is inherently contradictory to the medium and thus meaningless.

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David - technologically speaking, the very act of viewing the picture makes a copy and that copy is stored on your hard drive automatically. (It goes in the temporary files area but it's still a copy their web server serves up to your computer)

A TOS which allows you to view a picture but not to download it is inherently contradictory to the medium and thus meaningless.

It is perfectly meaningful and non-contradictory. There's a clear difference between the entirely passive receipt of pictures and text that is pushed by a server and copied to a temporary file, and the active taking and copying to user-controllable space of the same material.

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It is perfectly meaningful and non-contradictory. There's a clear difference between the entirely passive receipt of pictures and text that is pushed by a server and copied to a temporary file, and the active taking and copying to user-controllable space of the same material.

So viewing a commercial site through offline browsing would be theft?

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So viewing a commercial site through offline browsing would be theft?
Well, the question is not whether the site is commercial, but whether the owner of the intellectual property gives permission to make a copy of the materials. It's totally analogous to physical property like a lawn mower. It would not matter if the mower-owner rents mowers, does something else with mowers for profit, or doesn't try to make a profit at all -- because the mower is his property, he gets to say what you can and cannot do with his property.

Regardless of the commercial / non-commercial status of a web site, the IP owner has the right to require you to view the materials "live". Taking property without the owner's permission is theft. So, yes.

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It is perfectly meaningful and non-contradictory. There's a clear difference between the entirely passive receipt of pictures and text that is pushed by a server and copied to a temporary file, and the active taking and copying to user-controllable space of the same material.

No, not really. Temporary file space is user controllable. Actively clicking a link to request a page initiates the "passive receipt" of said pictures.

The fact is that the simple transmission of the image or document creates a copy. Cache servers do the same. So do internet browsers (although in the latter two there are conventions which, if followed, prevent caching).

Its rather like fair use - if you TiVo a TV show that's intended to be viewed live, you're perfectly within your rights. They can license the content so you cannot transfer it - but they can't stop you from making a personal use copy by recording the show on the TiVo and flagging it not to be deleted.

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No, not really. Temporary file space is user controllable. Actively clicking a link to request a page initiates the "passive receipt" of said pictures.
Does this mean that you can't grasp the distinction between clicking a link and letting what happens happen, versus deliberately right-clicking and selecting "Save Image/Link" or selecting File-SavePageAs?
The fact is that the simple transmission of the image or document creates a copy. Cache servers do the same. So do internet browsers (although in the latter two there are conventions which, if followed, prevent caching).
Nevertheless, the distinction is between you making the copy, and your computer making a copy.
Its rather like fair use - if you TiVo a TV show that's intended to be viewed live, you're perfectly within your rights.
Which is because there is permission to copy. It's clear that the concept of "fair use" does not mean "You can make copies of anything that you can get your hands on from the web". It is self-evident that when a person makes a web page publicly available that the owner intends the material to be seen in the ordinary way. It is also obvious that when an IP owner further asserts his rights to the IP that the "permission to copy" implicit in making a page visible is limited, and does not include the content.

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Well, the question is not whether the site is commercial, but whether the owner of the intellectual property gives permission to make a copy of the materials. It's totally analogous to physical property like a lawn mower. It would not matter if the mower-owner rents mowers, does something else with mowers for profit, or doesn't try to make a profit at all -- because the mower is his property, he gets to say what you can and cannot do with his property.

I'm going backwards in the discussion here but...

Totally analogous to physical property? Not hardly. If I borrow your mower, I have the only physical instance of that mower in existence. If I download a picture from your website, you still have the picture. If I photo copy 10 pages of your book for a school paper, you still own the content of the book.

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Does this mean that you can't grasp the distinction between clicking a link and letting what happens happen, versus deliberately right-clicking and selecting "Save Image/Link" or selecting File-SavePageAs?

If you're going to make an analogous comparison between physical ownership of physical property to intellectual ownership of intellectual material on the level that suggests owning a mower is like owning an image, I'd be careful about getting insulting.

I understand perfectly well the distinctions involved here, as I work in the IT field as a programmer and deal with this sort of thing all the time. Further, I ALSO have owned and operated numerous websites over the years and have dealt with fair use and copyright matters more often than I care to recall - often on the defending side of some over-reaching website owner attempting to make claims that were wholly unjustified and indefensible.

Which is because there is permission to copy.

On the contrary - the networks fought this - but the courts ruled that recording a program to time-shift it was fair use.

It's clear that the concept of "fair use" does not mean "You can make copies of anything that you can get your hands on from the web". It is self-evident that when a person makes a web page publicly available that the owner intends the material to be seen in the ordinary way. It is also obvious that when an IP owner further asserts his rights to the IP that the "permission to copy" implicit in making a page visible is limited, and does not include the content.

I don't think it's that clear. It's clear that you cannot RE USE it - yes. However, if you pubish a work online, and I save the page for offline viewing later, that is analogous to time shifting - in that I'm saving something for use later when I may not otherwise be able to see it (no internet access) just like TiVoing a program lets me watch it when I otherwise could not (no TV broadcast).

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On the contrary - the networks fought this - but the courts ruled that recording a program to time-shift it was fair use.

Fair use is the magic word that makes the need to justify actions in terms of principles go away?

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Its rather like fair use - if you TiVo a TV show that's intended to be viewed live, you're perfectly within your rights. They can license the content so you cannot transfer it - but they can't stop you from making a personal use copy by recording the show on the TiVo and flagging it not to be deleted.

I could be wrong, but I believe that (in the UK at least), despite the ubiquity of VCRs and Tivo etc, it is still actually illegal to keep a copy of live recorded television to watch over and over.

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Totally analogous to physical property?
"Analogous" does not mean "totally identical". Two things are analogous when they are the same in the relevant respect. The relevant respect here is the fact of being property. Movable property, real estate, "interests" (a share of stock for example) and intellectual property are all instances of "property". As such, they are analogous in terms of ethics.

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I understand perfectly well the distinctions involved here, as I work in the IT field as a programmer and deal with this sort of thing all the time.
The distinction is not a technical, IT one -- it is a philosophical one. It is the difference between receiving what is offered, and taking more than is offered. The fact that there is something in common -- a form of "grabbing ahold" -- does not negate the important distinction, namely "that for which permission is granted" versus "that for which permission is not granted".
Further, I ALSO have owned and operated numerous websites over the years and have dealt with fair use and copyright matters more often than I care to recall - often on the defending side of some over-reaching website owner attempting to make claims that were wholly unjustified and indefensible.
What does that demonstrate?
However, if you pubish a work online, and I save the page for offline viewing later, that is analogous to time shifting.
If you were to argue that in court, it is possible (IMO unlikely) that a majority of the court would accept that argument, but until that actually happens, that is just an arbitrary legal conjecture. Morally speaking (and that is really the root question -- read the OP, which poses an ethical question, not a legal one), that would simply be further evidence that the courts do not have particularly strong respect for intellectual property.

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