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Julian Sanchez

Studying at university and intellectual property

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Hi everyone! First of all, let me tell you guys that my English may not be the best due to it isn't my main language. Having said that, let's get into the topic.

Since I've read objectivist point of view about intellectual property, I started to think of when my teachers gave me something to study via blueprints (PDF archives, among others). My doubts is:

If I took ideas and rights seriously (which I do), wouldn't be the right thing to do to not study via those blueprints and buying the books instead (or figuring out is they're available in a library)?

Thank you

 

 

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I suggest that you explain in some detail why you think you should buy the books or borrow them from the library, and not make use of the course materials (I assume that the materials are lawful – it is entirely possible that the instructor is engaging in piracy). When you answer this, focus on the issue of whether the holder of the copyright has granted you (“one”, generally, not you by name) permission to copy the material. Or, is the rights-holder the victim of force: has force been used to prevent him from asserting his property rights? Since I am assuming that the material is used lawfully, you have to look into what the law says are his rights, and then evaluate whether this is plainly wrong under Objectivist ethics. One distinct possibility is that the author has in fact granted permission to reproduce certain things for certain purposes. As a textbook author, I have done that, and it is clear what I granted permission to copy. Sometimes people simply rely on the law: they feel that they don’t need to explicitly grant permission to do something that is legal to do. That means that you don’t actually know whether your usage is without permission.

If you know that your (legal) use is contrary to the will of the copyright holder, that could mean that the law does not fully recognize the owner’s objectively-justified rights. For example, the law allows one drawing to be reproduced from a book (there must be compensation). The copyright holder might reasonably want a different rate of compensation (which is not negotiable, and is determined by a state monopoly); they might simply want people to buy the whole book. But the law says, this is how we will protect your rights, and we will not use government force to protect further rights that you claim which are not recognized under law. For example, a person might assert that he holds copyright for a period of 400 years, but the law (in the US) says “life plus 70 years”. This is a clear case where there must be explicit laws encoding what that right is.

So the question that you ought to ask and answer is, why would it be immoral for you to make use of a legal provision that allows such copying? Are you initiation force against the property owner; are you advocating expropriation of intellectual property? If you believe that existing copyright law does not properly protect IP, how should the law be changed: and how can you make your actions conform to that ideal, without sacrificing yourself?

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1 hour ago, DavidOdden said:
1 hour ago, DavidOdden said:

I suggest that you explain in some detail why you think you should buy the books or borrow them from the library, and not make use of the course materials (I assume that the materials are lawful – it is entirely possible that the instructor is engaging in piracy).

Sorry for not being specific. When I was writing about the topic I was thinking the case in which neither university nor teachers have been allowed for copying the material.

 

1 hour ago, DavidOdden said:

why would it be immoral for you to make use of a legal provision that allows such copying?

I think that it would be immoral if the author hadn't allowed neither university nor teachers to make such copies, and I made use of them anyway.

Thank you

Edited by Julian Sanchez
I wanted to say thank you :)

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1 hour ago, Julian Sanchez said:

When I was writing about the topic I was thinking the case in which neither university nor teachers have been allowed for copying the material.

I would report it to the copyright holder, if you think his rights are being violated. 

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10 minutes ago, Julian Sanchez said:

And I suppose that the pupil shouldn't make use of the material provided by the teacher, right?

It depends on the pupil's situation. He has his grades and his own life to worry about. If it's not a financial burden, he could purchase his own copy. Or borrow a library copy, if one is available. But if it comes down to using the material or failing an assignment, the pupil should look after his own interests first.

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2 hours ago, Julian Sanchez said:

When I was writing about the topic I was thinking the case in which neither university nor teachers have been allowed for copying the material.

In that case, apart from reporting it to the copyright holder, I would also report it to the university authorities. Every university that I know of aggressively swats instructors who violate copyright law, because otherwise the institution also becomes liable for an infringement suit, and such a suit is much more likely compared to a case against an infringing instructor (deeper pockets).

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13 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

It depends on the pupil's situation. He has his grades and his own life to worry about. If it's not a financial burden, he could purchase his own copy. Or borrow a library copy, if one is available. But if it comes down to using the material or failing an assignment, the pupil should look after his own interests first.

I understand but, don't you think that if a student knew that the material he has received from his teacher have been got illegaly (copying without author permission) must not use it? 

I think that by not using a material that has been copied illegaly, the student acts in a way in which he shows respect for the property rights of others. I believe that respecting property rights is indisputably more important than passing an exam.

Surely passing exams is valuable, but what about infringing others rights?

(If you identify flaws in my understanding of these ideas let me know, maybe I'm wrong in what I've written)

Thank you

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6 hours ago, Julian Sanchez said:

I think that by not using a material that has been copied illegaly, the student acts in a way in which he shows respect for the property rights of others. I believe that respecting property rights is indisputably more important than passing an exam.

I applaud your respect for property rights. There is, however, the possibility of sacrificing your own interests for a lesser value. Take a look at the part I bolded. You have framed the situation as passing your exam versus respecting property rights. When the situation is actually passing your exam versus respecting the property rights of the particular author in this one instance. It is important to keep the context, so that you don't blow the situation out of proportion or start evaluating every problem from an idealist morality. In the end, it's not your responsibility to enforce the law or sacrifice for others. I think it's probably enough to report the issue in this case and let the author deal with it.

Now, it might be the case that not using the material is still more important to you than a passing grade. But your justification should be self-centered. Why is it so important for you to show respect to this author? Who is the author? Is it someone who deserves this much respect? Maybe it's a socialist who doesn't believe in property rights. Would that affect your decision? Take in all the relevant or related facts before trying to apply a general idea to a specific case.

Edited by MisterSwig

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10 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I applaud your respect for property rights. There is, however, the possibility of sacrificing your own interests for a lesser value. Take a look at the part I bolded. You have framed the situation as passing your exam versus respecting property rights. When the situation is actually passing your exam versus respecting the property rights of the particular author in this one instance. It is important to keep the context, so that you don't blow the situation out of proportion or start evaluating every problem from an idealist morality. In the end, it's not your responsibility to enforce the law or sacrifice for others. I think it's probably enough to report the issue in this case and let the author deal with it.

Now, it might be the case that not using the material is still more important to you than a passing grade. But your justification should be self-centered. Why is it so important for you to show respect to this author? Who is the author? Is it someone who deserves this much respect? Maybe it's a socialist who doesn't believe in property rights. Would that affect your decision? Take in all the relevant or related facts before trying to apply a general idea to a specific case.

Really good answer! Your comments have helped me a lot in order to thinking clearly of this topic.

Thank you very much

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In my opinion, the problem of living a rational existence in an irrational social context is the most challenging ethical problem that an Objectivist will face. There is no question that you should not steal another person’s property. Should you receive stolen property? Is it okay if you associate with a thug who breaks into houses and distributes stolen goods to you, if you yourself don’t go into the house? Are you morally cleansed if you denounce (but still accept) the proceeds of such theft? Clearly not. And suppose you really need that stolen stuff to survive (for example, you have no job skills and there are no unskilled job opening in the town), does that make it okay to accept stolen goods? I gave you two options here: gain job skills, or move elsewhere. There is always a choice, and you should always frame your decisions in terms of alternative actions and their consequences.

One option would be for you to refuse to do the assignment, which b.t.w. would be the worst choice given the alternatives. Assuming that you need a copy of the blueprint to do the assignment, why would you not instead acquire a legal copy? Possible answer: it costs money. Say it costs $1, is that an impossible burden for you to bear? Or $1,000 (and any point in between)? This is a way of quantifying your ethical values. Why should you be concerned with the losses suffered by another, when you are not directly the thief: isn’t that just self-sacrifice? What harm are you doing yourself by silently accepting stolen goods. Again, what else could you do? Privately compensate the rights-holder?

Incidentally, I don’t entirely accept your claim that the material is being illegally distributed, though for rhetorical purposes here I do. How do you know that the material is being illegally distributed? Is this based on the instructor’s confession? I’m just saying, check your assumptions.

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4 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

In my opinion, the problem of living a rational existence in an irrational social context is the most challenging ethical problem that an Objectivist will face. There is no question that you should not steal another person’s property. Should you receive stolen property? Is it okay if you associate with a thug who breaks into houses and distributes stolen goods to you, if you yourself don’t go into the house? Are you morally cleansed if you denounce (but still accept) the proceeds of such theft? Clearly not. And suppose you really need that stolen stuff to survive (for example, you have no job skills and there are no unskilled job opening in the town), does that make it okay to accept stolen goods? I gave you two options here: gain job skills, or move elsewhere. There is always a choice, and you should always frame your decisions in terms of alternative actions and their consequences.

One option would be for you to refuse to do the assignment, which b.t.w. would be the worst choice given the alternatives. Assuming that you need a copy of the blueprint to do the assignment, why would you not instead acquire a legal copy? Possible answer: it costs money. Say it costs $1, is that an impossible burden for you to bear? Or $1,000 (and any point in between)? This is a way of quantifying your ethical values. Why should you be concerned with the losses suffered by another, when you are not directly the thief: isn’t that just self-sacrifice? What harm are you doing yourself by silently accepting stolen goods. Again, what else could you do? Privately compensate the rights-holder?

Incidentally, I don’t entirely accept your claim that the material is being illegally distributed, though for rhetorical purposes here I do. How do you know that the material is being illegally distributed? Is this based on the instructor’s confession? I’m just saying, check your assumptions.

Understood. Thank you for your response! It has really helped me for thinking more about the topic as well :)

Edited by Julian Sanchez

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