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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 04-05-2012   #41
L David Tomei
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When it comes to copyright infringement or improper use of intellectual property in general, it is normally up to the owner of the copyright or intellectual property to defend any legal rights. It is possible that failure to act to defend those rights could result in the loss of those rights.

Regarding the question of theft of a "concept", personally I would consider the legal principle in patent law that refers to "those skilled in the arts". If "those skilled in the arts" would reasonably be expected to create a particular image, or come up with a particular concept or design, then there isn't much protection.
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Old 04-05-2012   #42
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When it comes to copyright infringement or improper use of intellectual property in general, it is normally up to the owner of the copyright or intellectual property to defend any legal rights. It is possible that failure to act to defend those rights could result in the loss of those rights.
No, that only applies to trademarks. Please remember that trademarks, copyright and patents are different things that operate differently.
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Old 04-05-2012   #43
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I agree with you. I was only referring to the fact that the owner of intellectual property can't sit back and expect anyone to step up and defend those rights. In any case, I try to avoid acting like an amateur lawyer.
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Old 04-05-2012   #44
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So no, "stealing" is not stealing. It's really not the same as stealing, say, a car, where the car has a monetary value that it is worth exactly once and where the car is gone after the theft and the damage is exactly the value of the car.
Yes, stealing IS stealing.

This is a moral argument, not one of degree; you are saying that it isn't stealing, because someone is taking something you didn't really use, or that wasn't worth a lot.

But taking something that isn't worth a lot is still stealing. And sometime IP is worth a lot.

Plenty of people like to support your attitude because they make money out of it. In particular, big corporations like Getty are pushing for laxer control of orphan rights so they can make money. But once they've got control of a critical mass of images, do you think they'll be giving them away? No, sir.

Theft of items that [might] have negligible value is theft, however you package it.
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Old 04-05-2012   #45
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Yes, stealing IS stealing.

This is a moral argument, not one of degree; you are saying that it isn't stealing, because someone is taking something you didn't really use, or that wasn't worth a lot.
No, in fact that is not what I am saying. I am saying that there is a conceptual difference between the act where A takes X from B and B then no longer has X (stealing), and the act where A takes X from B and then A and B each have X (copyright infringement). In the first case what matters is the value of X; in the second case X can't even be assigned a single value, because what matters is revenue from some usage rights in some contexts, that can be difficult to calculate and where it can be impossible to actually prove what amount was lost (if at all). The two are logically not the same thing. Really, the only thing they have in common, at all, is that there is some damage involved.

This is neither an argument of degree nor a moral argument; it is a pure argument of logic and terminology. There is no simple analogy here; copyright infringement is a thing all in its own, however wrong, and different from stealing. Calling it "stealing" means using muddy and unclear terminology, and possibly, as often in these cases, unclear terminology also implies unclear ideas.
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Old 04-05-2012   #46
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In the first case what matters is the value of X; in the second case X can't even be assigned a single value,
In second case there's a term "not gained income" which is oxymoron because people who used X would not consider buying it. So X neither has fixed value or there's any income lost.
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Old 04-05-2012   #47
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I think the word "stealing" in normal conversation refers to the act of taking someone else's property without rights or permission. The generally accepted meaning of the word is rather clear although if we were all here to craft a law or prepare a legal brief, the term would require a proper legal definition. In any event, I agree that it can (but not necessarily) be foolish to loosely throw around terms such as "theft" and "stealing".
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Old 04-05-2012   #48
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Elsewhere I posted a link to a British court decision about a picture that was similar, clearly not identical, but also clearly inspired by another picture, and the court found the first to be in infringement of the second on copyright grounds.



(images linked to from the court decision)

I find that highly problematic because I believe that ideas and concepts should not be copyrightable, only their manifestation in the form of concrete things - images, texts and so on. Everybody can have an idea and a concept, but the creative step and the step that involves work it's turning it into an actual, well, work. Otherwise you'll end up with lots of copyright lawsuits about "picture of president Obama, in three-quarter portrait, looking right and down".

I totally agree, this is very troubling. Ask a court of lions to rule on the savoriness of birdseed based on food regulation conceived by the dog food industry.
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Old 04-05-2012   #49
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Don't forget there is also Trespass to Goods if one can't make Theft stick ... and as someone else pointed out Patent, Copyright and Trademark law ... I find it a little odd that people think the law is there to be fair or just, that isn't necessarily the case in fact.
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Old 04-05-2012   #50
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I find it a little odd that people think the law is there to be fair or just, that isn't necessarily the case in fact.
Yeah, and the idea that the law should make sense, totally overrated too.
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Old 04-05-2012   #51
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No, in fact that is not what I am saying. I am saying that there is a conceptual difference between the act where A takes X from B and B then no longer has X (stealing), and the act where A takes X from B and then A and B each have X (copyright infringement).
The notion of theft is not, and never has been, restricted to physical possession. These arguments were played out in the 1700s, when artists like William Hogarth had to fight knockoff merchants who stole his work and used exactly the same arguments.

In that case, they were trying to argue that new technology, ie engraving, rendered old concepts of ownership - what we'd all IP - redundant. That argument was invalid then, and it's invalid today.

I should also say I've heard all these arguments dozens of times from people trying to steal from me. People will use any argument to make money or avoid paying out - but so far, they've always caved in and either paid me money or removed the offending work, because they ultimately have to recognise that lifting copyrighted material is theft.

(Incidentally, I'm not talking about photos lifted from websites, I wouldn't put anything crucial on there without it being watermarked up the jaxsie).
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Old 04-05-2012   #52
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Yeah, and the idea that the law should make sense, totally overrated too.
Not to mention the cost of brining an action, geez ... £219 an hour for my solicitor, and god alone knows what the brief costs these days
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Old 04-05-2012   #53
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It is understandable that people want to see support for their own position in the definitions of intellectual property and theft - thus the attempts to distinguish between "stealing" and "copyright infringement". People are free to make those arguments for their personal reasons.

But, and I speak only from the perspective of a non-lawyer in the US, the matter of whether "creations of the mind" are property in the eyes of the law is clearly settled - intellectual property does exist. And, the concept and definition of theft of intellectual property exists and is accepted legally. That is simply the way it is; it can be changed if enough people pressure their representatives (or vote in new ones) to support their position. Yes, they would be up against mega-corporations, but it can be done, just look at the SOPA/PIPA protests.

The same goes for the moral argument, everyone has to follow their own morals but one can't discount the moral argument out of hand. If you review the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights you will see that the concept is in Article 27:

"(1) Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author."

So, it is clear that, based on common and practical definitions, intellectual property exists and can be stolen, and doing so can be considered immoral. Yes arguments an be made that the situation can and should be changed, but trying the redefine reality just doesn't hold water.
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Old 04-05-2012   #54
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The notion of theft is not, and never has been, restricted to physical possession. These arguments were played out in the 1700s, when artists like William Hogarth had to fight knockoff merchants who stole his work and used exactly the same arguments.

In that case, they were trying to argue that new technology, ie engraving, rendered old concepts of ownership - what we'd all IP - redundant. That argument was invalid then, and it's invalid today.
I don't think I have to defend the notion of "physical possession" at all, since you just introduced yourself right there; a classic straw man argument.

Theft is usually pretty well defined. It usually means to permanently deprive someone else of property. Go look it up. Copyright infringement does not deprive you of property, after all the original of whatever gets copied it remains with you. Instead, it deprives you of some reasonable hope of future income. This is a conceptually different thing.

With theft, A takes X from B. B is left without X. The damage is X.
With copyright infringement, A takes a copy of X from B. Because it's a copy, B remains in possession of X as if nothing had happened. The damage incurred does not result from B being left without X, but from B being deprived of some possible income.
Note how the damage is not identical to the thing being taken.

It would probably be theft if I copied the image, then broke into your house and deleted all copies of it on your hard drives and took the negative.

I don't care who what how in the 18th century. It's the 21st century now and we have a legal concept of copyright infringement that is different from the legal concept of theft, for a reason. You are just being unclear in your terms.

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I should also say I've heard all these arguments dozens of times from people trying to steal from me.
Well now you are hearing this argument from me, and I'm not trying to steal from you. Consequently, you should probably stop considering the argument merely on grounds of your own assumptions about the evil intent of whoever brings it forth.
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Old 04-05-2012   #55
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So, it is clear that, based on common and practical definitions, intellectual property exists and can be stolen, and doing so can be considered immoral. Yes arguments an be made that the situation can and should be changed, but trying the redefine reality just doesn't hold water.
Intellectual property being stolen implies that you then don't have it anymore, which is obviously not the case, hence the need for a distinction in terms. This is all the argument is about, not whether intellectual property exists or not or whoever makes which laws.
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Old 04-05-2012   #56
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It's no wonder really. There aren't that many forms of property that you can take and the owner keeps them anyway. There aren't many forms of "stealing" where the damage calculations are similarly hypothetical, as in based on the assumption that the "thief" would actually have bought the work, where this assumption itself is taken for granted in a completely unsubstantiated fashion.

Copyright infringement is convenience-driven - it occurs because it is so convenient to take things for free. If the only way to get your work was to pay for it, many "thieves" wouldn't take them to begin with, there would be no income, and hence there is no loss of income either, because zero minus zero is zero.

So no, "stealing" is not stealing. It's really not the same as stealing, say, a car, where the car has a monetary value that it is worth exactly once and where the car is gone after the theft and the damage is exactly the value of the car.

Claiming it's the same thing and claiming enormous damages for allegedly lost income is really sour grapes and the stomping of John's dinosaur horde. Nobody denies its a problem and there is a real need for a solution, but the solution has to be adequate to the problem of copying, not to the completely problem of physical theft. Mixing up the words is not going to help.

How would you feel if someone decided that it would be okay to use your car without your permission, but only while you were sleeping, so you would still have full use of it when you need it? They would replace the gas they used, so there would be no cost to you.

Yes, there is the added mileage on the car, but I'm just using this as an analogy, imperfect as it is, where someone uses your property but you are still in possession of it.

Edit: this example is meant to illustrate the idea of someone taking something from you but you still have it.
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Old 04-05-2012   #57
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How would you feel if someone decided that it would be okay to use your car without your permission, but only while you were sleeping, so you would still have full use of it when you need it? They would replace the gas they used, so there would be no cost to you.

Yes, there is the added mileage on the car, but I'm just using this as an analogy, imperfect as it is, where someone uses your property but you are still in possession of it.
I guess I would be pissed. If someone copied my car the car maker would probably be pissed. The copied car wouldn't affect me much as I haven't made my income dependent of being the only guy in town with a car. I wonder, though, why it is relevant how I feel in this case.

I think, however, that the analogy is flawed because the problem of copyright infringement revolves around loss of income.
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Old 04-05-2012   #58
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How would you feel if someone decided that it would be okay to use your car without your permission, but only while you were sleeping, so you would still have full use of it when you need it? They would replace the gas they used, so there would be no cost to you.

Yes, there is the added mileage on the car, but I'm just using this as an analogy, imperfect as it is, where someone uses your property but you are still in possession of it.
Wrong analogy. The car was not copied. Using a car depreciates a physical asset and adds risk to the consequences of a crash or insurance claims.

Digital files of any type are designed to be copied with no fidelity loss to the original, therefore no depreciation and no risk of compromise of the content's initial production fidelity.

What depreciation there is a loss of market power as every copy makes the one before it less valuable.

The law has attempted to make copying an act of theft. It is not working because the technical structure of digital data is to enable copying. So they've gone after sharing copied files, but the cost of remedy and enforcement vastly exceeds the economic losses. They've tried digital locks on content, but all have so far been broken and this looks unlikely to change. They've made it illegal to break such a lock, but all it takes in a world of infinite copy capability is a single, anonymous transgression to make that attempt useless.

Copyright protection is different than theft by legal definition. It's a question of deprivation (theft) versus authorization (copy rights). Merging the two has complicated the economics. There may be a theft of economic opportunity, but if that is the case, then why make a product that can be infinitely copied anonymously? A large part of the blame has to go to producers of content who want all the economic benefits of digital and then want to be free riders on the state to enforce what are civil, private property rights. This socializes the loss and creates monopolies of content, such as the numerous extensions of copyright.

So then content suppliers turn to moral arguments. But the whole point of commercial law is to take the morality out of contract so adjudication is done on the terms and not the emotion or subjective perspective.

Then people start threads about theft of content which turn into society-bashing morality arguments. And here we are.
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Old 04-05-2012   #59
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How would you feel if someone decided that it would be okay to use your car without your permission, but only while you were sleeping, so you would still have full use of it when you need it? They would replace the gas they used, so there would be no cost to you.
I think copy of image of my car is closer analogy. Besides that, copy of image created by me. I still can use and sell my picture. I still can use my car (artists and software developers).

There's difference between those who copy music, movies or software for their OWN USE and those who copy to SELL. I know your argument (theft is theft) but those who use for own will NEVER buy same product for money. Well, almost NEVER. So owners can not count this as lost income. EVER.
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Old 04-05-2012   #60
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I think, however, that the analogy is flawed because the problem of copyright infringement revolves around loss of income.
No, it's not about loss of income.

It's a fundamental right, enshrined in international law as stated above, that one's creations are recognised as one's own. That's what copyright is.

Taking my creations without my permisssion is unethical, in my view. It's also illegal, in the view of international law.

Not taking your views personally, because this is a discussion forum, and I'm not equating you with some of the sharks who've tried it on for me but... what is the public interest in taking people's creations? Who benefits?

If you want to overturn centuries of copyright law, you have to come up with a better justification than "just because someone's taken your property doesn't mean you've lost anything."
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Old 04-05-2012   #61
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Okay, folks. If "stealing is stealing," was this "stealing?"

http://freedomforip.org/2011/09/15/m...le-settlement/

http://www.pdnonline.com/news/Photog...42.shtml?imw=Y

And if so, who was "stealing" from whom?
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Old 04-05-2012   #62
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No, it's not about loss of income.

It's a fundamental right, enshrined in international law as stated above, that one's creations are recognised as one's own. That's what copyright is.

Taking my creations without my permisssion is unethical, in my view. It's also illegal, in the view of international law.

Not taking your views personally, because this is a discussion forum, and I'm not equating you with some of the sharks who've tried it on for me but... what is the public interest in taking people's creations? Who benefits?

If you want to overturn centuries of copyright law, you have to come up with a better justification than "just because someone's taken your property doesn't mean you've lost anything."
1) You are assuming your creations are entirely original. This is highly debatable. Centuries of copyright law still argue this point with no clear consensus and enormous variation between Western nations' common law.

2) The law of copyright is a civil law that you must enforce personally at your expense. Copyright is seen as a limited, private protection. In the greater scheme, all ideas and their representation belong to society as original creators die. Copyright was invented to protect commerce, not as an ethical standard. Whether it is "right" or "wrong" ignores the commercial motive upon which the concept of copyright was built.

3) Copyright is not a "fundamental right" in many societies, nor is it legally enshrined as such. It is an invention of Western law. Different societies have signed on to international conventions, and then ignore them as they are incompatible with their cultural regimes of expression.

4) Before one gets to the issue of permission, one must express protection. If you post a digital file, you are, by definition, not protecting it. Copyright is not passive; you must actively enforce it in your own interest. You cannot and should not rely on the ethics of someone else to protect your private property. Once you get to that point...epic fail.
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Old 04-05-2012   #63
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"Western travellers and explorers also photographed in East Africa. Joseph Thomson (1858-95), for example, used the camera not only to record and classify Africans but also, fusing photography and local magic, as ‘medicine’, a ‘soul-stealing machine’, and a ‘magic gun’. Such behaviour provoked considerable indigenous resistance to being photographed. Despite initial opposition, however, photography was widely accepted in coastal towns by c. 1900, in the urban hinterland by the 1920s, and in rural areas by the 1950s-1960s."
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Old 04-05-2012   #64
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1) You are assuming your creations are entirely original. This is highly debatable. Centuries of copyright law still argue this point with no clear consensus and enormous variation between Western nations' common law.
No.

I have worked, and still work, in the field of copyright. I make my entire living with copyrighted work. Your assertion is... bizarre in the context of a photography site - I think you're confusing the difference between plagiarism and infringement of copyright.

Agreed, in China there's less consensus about copyright, but once the nation's amassed enough IP I'll imagine they'll change their approach. In the West, however, the consensus on copyright is unchallenged - and i haven\t heard any convincing arguments against it here.
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Old 04-05-2012   #65
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No, it's not about loss of income.
Of course it is. This is in fact all it's about. If someone copies some creation of yours, nothing happens to your intellectual property itself. The work is still yours as it was before. The only thing that happens is that your possibility of extracting revenue from it are somewhat diminished. Coincidentally, practically all intellectual property lawsuits tend to revolve around revenue somehow.

I also disagree about the "fundamental right" and the "centuries of international law" bit. It's only 121 years that the US, for example, started to make it even possible for foreign authors to exercise copyrights, and 60 years since the US acceded to an international treaty on intellectual property. Neither the US Bill of Rights, nor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor the European Convention of Human Rights of 1950 mention intellectual property. The European Charter of Human Rights of 2000 does, but only in a weak wording that is different from practically all other rights in the text (not a right that every person has, but something abstract that merely "shall be protected"). It's a fairly recent thing, and in particular, one that countries tend to ignore as long as it benefit them and that, unlike actual fundamental rights, only gets enforced where it benefits the enforcer economically.

Finally, I also dislike the term "intellectual property" itself, because it invokes the illusion that the two are conceptually the same. They are not. The two are conceptually different. Both should be protected, but they need different mechanisms for protecting them, simply because of the particular nature that an author's rights do not diminish if his works are copied.

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Not taking your views personally, because this is a discussion forum, and I'm not equating you with some of the sharks who've tried it on for me but... what is the public interest in taking people's creations? Who benefits?
In a discussion about whether stealing a car and downloading a picture are conceptually the same, that is a bit of an off-topic argument. To answer your question, I direct you to Project Gutenberg as an example. The site is full of the people's creations, and don't you agree the world is better off with having free access to all that?

Eventually a lot of human cultural production revolves around being able to make creative use of things produced by others. I think that at the moment we are not very good at using this potential fully for the best of society. You now have the choice of sitting in the dinosaur trench together with Disney and Sony and worry about protecting your income stream, or to consider the benefits of society as opposed to your own. I see that it is important that creating something must pay off, and I agree with that, but I think we've allowed this to go over the top.
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Old 04-05-2012   #66
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Finally, I also dislike the term "intellectual property" itself, because it invokes the illusion that the two are conceptually the same. They are not. The two are conceptually different. Both should be protected, but they need different mechanisms for protecting them, simply because of the particular nature that an author's rights do not diminish if his works are copied.
Your argument is curiously old-fashioned. You treat a creation as a physical artefact. It is not. A book is a book, whether printed or distributed electronically. Because it is easier to copy an eBook does not make it more morally right.

You keep using the analogy about the car, or whatever, but it is just that, an analogy. I could use the analogy that, if I happen to have the correct skeleton key, I can come and live in your house. You have lost no income stream, but nonetheless I am taking and using something that is yours. I could argue that this benefits society and is a better use of resources. But nonetheless I am taking something of yours, without your consent, and that is wrong.



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I direct you to Project Gutenberg as an example. The site is full of the people's creations, and don't you agree the world is better off with having free access to all that?
This is an entirely different argument - reproduction of books written a century ago or which are out of copyright is entirely different from the notion of abandoning copyright altogether.

If you're arguing for a simple reduction of copyright terms, then do so.

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.
Eventually a lot of human cultural production revolves around being able to make creative use of things produced by others. I think that at the moment we are not very good at using this potential fully for the best of society. You now have the choice of sitting in the dinosaur trench together with Disney and Sony and worry about protecting your income stream, or to consider the benefits of society as opposed to your own. I see that it is important that creating something must pay off, and I agree with that, but I think we've allowed this to go over the top.
I went out with my son today and bought four books, round 45 bucks. They're cheap entertainment. Are they worth less than a burger and fries? No, I don't think society would particularly benefit from giving them away for free, when it means that the authors would then likely not be able to write any other books.

I note in all of this, you are extremely casual about the definable loss suffered by authors and photographers by the abuse of their copyright. While you are extremely vague about the benefits to society that lead on from this.

Most fundamentally of all, I'd like to disagree with your implication that undermining copyright, or IP, somehow benefits "the people" or "society".

I presume this is why you align me with Disney and other large corporations, in what is an old propaganda technique to try and align those defending copyright with international corporations, when in the main it's individual artists, photographers, writers, directors, who create important work, not corporations. Demolishing copyright will ultimately prevent people from creating - and in the consequent digital rights grab, it is the big corporations like Google who will benefit, not "society".
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Old 04-05-2012   #67
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Well, the creator also loses control of the work. Not if its merely copied, but if the copier decides to do something w/it or take credit for it. True, it may be all about money for "evil" Disney & Sony, but that's not true for every creator of a copyrighted work.

Also, while the U.S. Bill of Rights doesn't mention intellectual property (though the 1st Amendment arguably protects those forms that may be characterized by "free speech"), Article I, section 8, of the U.S. Constitution explicitly provides Congress with the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." And, as I have posted in this & the other "theft" thread, the recognition of intangible economic interests (since you don't like the term "intellectual property") is very old w/respect to trademarks & patents & still pretty darn old re: copyrights; the fact that they haven't been universally applied across nations & cultures doesn't negate the fact that these are not exactly new ideas. To repeat myself, IMHO, the difference between digital copying & mechanical analog copying is a matter of degree, not kind.

As you have recognized, I think your scientific background accounts for the difference between your perspective & others, like Mr. Hicks. However, I don't think the science model necessarily applies to the world of creative endeavors. E.g., I'm not sure the loss to society from copyright enforcement (even overzealous enforcement by Disney, et al.) is the same as restrictions on the exchange of scientific & technical information. I can see a lot of tangible harm from scientific discoveries not being shared (artemisinin comes to mind: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/he...the-prize.html), whereas the harm from not seeing another work by Richard Prince, hearing another sample of "Funky Drummer" in a hip hop song, or even those poor Girl Scouts not being able to sing "Happy Birthday" doesn't seem to be as bad.

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Of course it is. This is in fact all it's about. If someone copies some creation of yours, nothing happens to your intellectual property itself. The work is still yours as it was before. The only thing that happens is that your possibility of extracting revenue from it are somewhat diminished. Coincidentally, practically all intellectual property lawsuits tend to revolve around revenue somehow.

I also disagree about the "fundamental right" and the "centuries of international law" bit. It's only 121 years that the US, for example, started to make it even possible for foreign authors to exercise copyrights, and 60 years since the US acceded to an international treaty on intellectual property. Neither the US Bill of Rights, nor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor the European Convention of Human Rights of 1950 mention intellectual property. The European Charter of Human Rights of 2000 does, but only in a weak wording that is different from practically all other rights in the text (not a right that every person has, but something abstract that merely "shall be protected"). It's a fairly recent thing, and in particular, one that countries tend to ignore as long as it benefit them and that, unlike actual fundamental rights, only gets enforced where it benefits the enforcer economically.
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Old 04-05-2012   #68
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No.

I have worked, and still work, in the field of copyright. I make my entire living with copyrighted work. Your assertion is... bizarre in the context of a photography site - I think you're confusing the difference between plagiarism and infringement of copyright.

Agreed, in China there's less consensus about copyright, but once the nation's amassed enough IP I'll imagine they'll change their approach. In the West, however, the consensus on copyright is unchallenged - and i haven\t heard any convincing arguments against it here.
You are missing the point.

From where you sit copyright is settled law.

Not only does China ignore most IP issues, they actively pursue breaking down the very signatories encourage and engage in active braking down of what are perceived as "Western" walls:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/op...q=China&st=cse

I have extensively worked in many developing nations and there are deep cultural divides about the ownership of content. There are economic reasons why a a person earning under $1/day does not concern themselves with a Disney copyright and national trends usually make that person more important in the eyes of politicians than some Western lawyer. Ultimately most of the world's IP laws are lip service which is precisely why private enforcement in the digital, internet-linked domain is mostly futile.

I worked in consumer protection in Vancouver, Canada and had a woman, a potter, whose work was quite well known and striking, walk into our office and ask for assistance. Her most popular line of products, extensively handcrafted in her workshops by a dozen employees, were being copied and imported into consumer retail outlets in very similar formats only months after being released into high-end crafts shops locally. We referred her to legal counsel, but did track down (on the premise of safety concerns vis-a-vis potential lead content in the pottery) some information for her and found out that the originating factory in Southern China was owned by the largest property development owner in Vancouver!

Yet there was little this woman could do except pay a staggering amount for legal remedy, and then only locally in enforcement. Most of the copied product was going to the US. She even saw copies of her work in Hawaii not months after she'd released a new line. Effectively, she was without remedy despite every lawyer and government official understanding her property rights had been violated. It was an issue of pure commercial muscle running over her rights. An ethical stance will not win that contest. This is a moral every photographer on this website should know.

A law is only settled once its enforcement provisions are consistently applied. They are not with regards to copyright, especially for small producers. If they were, we would not be having this discussion. In the field, copyright is less respected than enforced by a vast margin. This was so in the days of photocopies and even more the norm in the digital age.
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Old 04-05-2012   #69
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The patent prosecutions in which I have been involved, and the over 30 patents that I have had issued, I learned one important thing: Don't play amateur lawyer. Now when it comes to my images being used by others for commercial purposes, I am faced with a lot of questions that still need to be addressed. The purposes of this forum is to share opinions and experiences, and clearly not to resolve legal issues that many photographers face today.
My best wishes to all. David
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Old 04-05-2012   #70
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No, I understand and agree with your point, that there are plenty of people who wish to make money by stealing other people's ideas - and as I pointed out, in China there's a very cavalier approach to IP and copyright.

Copyright is never settled law, it's a constant battle. But again, I contend that in this battle, don't fall for the canard that it's the big corporations for copyright, vs the little guy.

Rather, it's the photographers, artists, writers all, who need copyright, to fight off rapacious corporations like Google, Getty, Amazon and others in a new digital landgrab every bit as egregious of those of the American robber barons.

And on a forum devoted to photography, we should stand up for those who've had their work stolen, like the OP on this thread.
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Old 04-05-2012   #71
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No, I understand and agree with your point, that there are plenty of people who wish to make money by stealing other people's ideas - and as I pointed out, in China there's a very cavalier approach to IP and copyright.

Copyright is never settled law, it's a constant battle. But again, I contend that in this battle, don't fall for the canard that it's the big corporations for copyright, vs the little guy.

Rather, it's the photographers, artists, writers all, who need copyright, to fight off rapacious corporations like Google, Getty, Amazon and others in a new digital landgrab every bit as egregious of those of the American robber barons.

And on a forum devoted to photography, we should stand up for those who've had their work stolen, like the OP on this thread.
Copyright was never a legal evolution to protect works based on ethical or moral grounds. There is a different principle of moral rights to art, some of which intersects with with copyright depending on jurisdiction. But they are distinct legal concepts.

Copyright is a legal protection granting a limited monopoly over the expression of an idea. That sounds nicely moral, but the history of the law was to promote that monopoly as a means to leverage commercial interest in the value of the product. That is why copyright and patent are siblings; one was literary and the other mechanical.

I find it ironic that photographers who post their work online are morally upset by copyright violations. The whole process of posting online is to share, which is only accommodated by copying. In a world of pure copyright, whenever we posted an image and someone looked at it, we'd be able to charge a fraction of a penny, even here on RFF. The sheer amount of free material posted online undermines the concept that all photographs have some inherent commercial value and shold benefit from copyright. They are protected by copyright in theory, but in practise, good luck. It's a tragedy of the commons because it is extremely difficult for one person to assert their copyright in a sea of free alternatives. The cases we read about, (re buses, dance steps in Seattle) are the exceptions, not the rule.

I have no problem with the moral assertion that someone should be able to charge for their work if there is a counterparty to purchase said work. They should be free to bargain fairly. Where it breaks down is when someone turns that work into an infinitely and freely copied digital format. The digital format breaks down the copyright wall so effectively as to render its enforcement assumption nearly useless. The only ones who have the $$$ to pursue are usually larger corporate entities, so I fail to see how that is a canard. It is a market dynamic all individual photographers must be aware of.

When I look at the Luminous Landscape article, what leaps out at me is the $250 minimum, no bargaining price the author sets. To me, that's an ignorant market failure as to the value of the photograph in relation to its intended use. Chasing down payment on a photograph is a very poor market substitute to intended use bound by contract. Demanding money based on a moral argument is highly dubious when it is clear the author did too little to protect their work in the first place. Then he blasts away at the Everyman "they" who are stealing. He's blaming society for the loss of revenue from his private property because he did not protect his private property adequately in the first place. And instead of requesting a more appropriate price for the image, he spends more productive time writing about the issue. This approach limits my sympathy. YMMV.

The big corporations then try and deal with this problem by having the laws written passing the cost of enforcement over to the taxpayer by semi-criminalizing the matter. This is socialiazing the risk, but only for those in the US who have the ear of key government prosecutors. Their argument is moral but their objective is the bottom line at taxpayer expense.
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Old 04-05-2012   #72
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You imply copyright legislation was primarily enacted by large commercial interests - in the UK, notions like image copyright were introduced by creators like William Hogarth. Who self-published, backed by no-one.

And in the other corner, building a new business based on a copyright landgrab, is Google.

I know who I side with.
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Old 04-05-2012   #73
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How would you feel if someone decided that it would be okay to use your car without your permission, but only while you were sleeping, so you would still have full use of it when you need it? They would replace the gas they used, so there would be no cost to you.

Law-making and law-enforcement (or any kind of basis of power) based on feelings has not had a good track record in all of recorded history.

I may feel good that some girl I like take my shirts in the middle of the night while I was sleeping, clean up anything that may have been soiled and bring it back before I woke up. I would feel really awful that some weird-looking **** do the same. Making a law based on these feelings may not have any justification under a normal democracy.

However, any resulting damages that arise during these acts may be illegal, regardless of feelings. Unless, of course, one can demonstrate these feelings deprive you of any income.


If issues were easy, laws wouldn't be so complicated. And laws are as flawed as the men who write them.
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Old 04-05-2012   #74
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But again, I contend that in this battle, don't fall for the canard that it's the big corporations for copyright, vs the little guy.
The "little guy" does not write the law. (A subset of) big corporations effectively do. The RIAA and MPAA have had particularly large roles here, and they assuredly are not interested in "the little guy" -- or, for that matter, in the progress of Science or (most of) the Useful Arts.

Many others have pointed out the deep irony of copyright extension being driven largely by the threat of Mickey Mouse passing into the public domain, while the Disney fortune was amassed largely on the basis of retellings of stories that Walt found in the public domain literature.
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Old 04-05-2012   #75
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We are not talking about proposed US legislation - we are discussing the principle of copyright and whether someone else can use your photo without permission and without paying.
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Old 04-05-2012   #76
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I love this thread... one of the best in months. Some arguments I like more than others. I've had my photographic images appropriated, taken, borrowed, stolen and I've confronted the borrower, appropriator etc and the response was ".. so what"

I don't think "people who take" give a flip. These are the people we're talking about. And when the corporations do have a massive image DB they will pursue borrowers and appropriators. Just wait. These predators pick individuals not Getty Images they choose their targets carefully. So the argument is distilled to "individuals are prey" and corporations like Getty are "appropriation proof" due to their size. Gotta love "free enterprise"
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Old 04-05-2012   #77
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Intellectual property being stolen implies that you then don't have it anymore, which is obviously not the case, hence the need for a distinction in terms. This is all the argument is about, not whether intellectual property exists or not or whoever makes which laws.
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Neither the US Bill of Rights, nor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor the European Convention of Human Rights of 1950 mention intellectual property. T
This is a great thread - I've learned a lot.

I had not given much thought to arguments against copyright in the past, so I found the way you and others are parsing the discussion rather strange. But after conducting research, I have learned a little about the debate techniques of each side - like trying to limit the definition of theft as depriving someone of property - thereby eliminating the possibility of unauthorized copying being theft, though there is abundant evidence that a general definition of theft are not that narrow. That is the definition that the anti-copyright crowd wants to force on everyone; while the pro-copyright crowd wants to force everyone to consider it theft due to the moral connotations of the word.

Same for the desire to eliminate the use of the term "intellectual property"; you don't want to acknowledge the term even though it has common usage in the public, commercial, and legal realms. So you specifically state that there is no mention of "intellectual property" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though the intent would be clear to most people that the words "Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author" represent the concept of intellectual property. But I have to agree that the term intellectual property isn't specifically in it.

I saw an interesting term for the approach of trying to pigeon-hole definitions to support your side of an argument (both sides of this argument do this) - "linguistic peeving" - or adopting one usage of a term you believe is right and claiming any other usage is wrong.

I found that term, and an excellent and seemingly unbiased analysis of this argument in a two part article on a copyright related legal blog. It really was fascinating to read and provides good evidence as to how each side makes their arguments. The first part of the article is here:

http://www.copyhype.com/2010/09/is-c...ngement-theft/

Unfortunately, the article never really concludes on the "philosophical" question of whether infringement is theft, but it really helps put the argument in perspective.

A quote in the article that I found very interesting is by copyright "guru" Ben Sheffner regarding the labels used by both sides:

"I just have a hard time getting too worked up about what label we attach to copyright. And I suspect most non-philosophers agree. Consider this thought experiment: Go to a studio head and say, “I’ve got a deal for you. I’ll give you your copyright wish list: repeal first sale, make Justice Ginsburg’s concurrence in Grokster the controlling opinion, delete Cablevision, Perfect 10 v. Amazon (and a few other Perfect 10 cases while we’re at it) from the law books, and codify a “making available” right. But here’s the catch: From now on, you are forever forbidden from referring to copyright as ‘property,’ and must instead call it a ‘set of social relationships.’” Or go to a copyright skeptic, and say, “I’ve got a deal for you. I’ll give you your copyright wish list: reduce the term of copyright back to 14 years, expand fair use, eliminate the derivative works right, and repeal the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. But there’s the catch: From now on, you must refer to copyright as property; no more of this ‘set of social relationships’ mumbo-jumbo.” I’m confident both the studio head and the copyright skeptic would take those deals in a heartbeat. Ultimately, it’s the substance, not the label, that matters."


That seems to makes sense to me - in the end, the labels (and the associated parsing) just don't matter that much....
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Old 04-05-2012   #78
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This discussion has sent me back to my books and the evolution of copyright is a fascinating story in and of itself.

Copyright was never considered of importance for most of the history of the English speaking world. For example, the earliest applicable law seems to be the English Licensing of the Press Act of 1662, which, far from protecting the rights of authors, was concerned with suppressing them or, at least, the rights of those authors with whom the government disagreed. Before the invention of the printing press, of course, the dissemination of knowledge was a non-issue. It was something that a few weird clergymen got up to, when not otherwise employed, and let's hope they washed their hands afterwards.

Incidentally, the English law seems positively benign, next to legislation on mainland Europe. There, the Church (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church) was obsessed with stuffing back into the bottle the genie that nasty Johannes Gutenberg had so inconveniently released.

Nearly fifty years more passed, before the parliament of Queen Anne decided to provide some, very limited, protection to authors. It took another one hundred and thirty years before the first copyright act, which looks at all modern, was introduced by the author, parliamentarian and judge, Thomas Noon Talfour.

It's quite as entertaining as any bodice ripper and well worth looking into.
Thanks for bringing up the religious issue. The US resisted copyright in part because who could proselytize if publishers were copyrighting Bibles!

And we are NOT talking Roman Catholic bibles here.

Religious freedom was very much tied to the concept that words be 'free"...and with words went ideas...and with ideas went concepts like slavery.

The vast majority of copyright is based on economic self-interest. The vast publishing and media empires of mid-20th century America turned copyright into a force of enterprise, not individual morality.

I don't align myself with the technogeek "all information is free" mumbo jumbo. But I do take the Luminous Landscape article author to task for his overpriced work and self-important rant about the morals of the ubiquitous "they" supposedly being inferior to his artistic celebrity. Gimme a break.

It's a decent photo but $250 for a brochure or poster art from an obscure university? If you start talking price you need to talk value and methinks this guy overvalues his works by a few factors and then got caught having to bargain in retrospect. That's just bad business, not a comment on general social mores. Violent crime is down all over the Western world yet somehow our moral compass is horrendously adrift. Get some perspective. Maybe people are so busy with BitTorrent they haven't the time to mug strangers anymore.
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Old 04-05-2012   #79
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Stealing is stealing, copyright infringement is copyright infringement.

At least in Sweden
Stateside they can be exactly the same...
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Old 04-05-2012   #80
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Yet sometimes "stealing" really isn't stealing, at least not to my mind. I was thinking of this when somebody e-mailed me a link to a reprise of Alan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind and thought about how I acquired my copy of it.

When that book was first published in the late eighties, the way things worked here in Oz was that when a British publishing house acquired the UK rights to a (non-Australian) work, they automatically acquired the Australian rights. The UK publishing house could then decide whether the ideas in the book were suitable for "colonial" types to read, and if considered too dangerous they simply would not allow publication in Australia or shipping of the work to Australia. (Oh, they might also not allow it if they figured it was "too intellectual" for low-brow colonial types, and so might not have a market, or any other reason they might decide to not allow it here.)

I had read reviews of the book but felt myself unable to comment on a book I hadn't actually read. So I asked a friend of mine to buy a copy while she was in the US and bring it back for me. This was illegal, because a bunch of pommy publishers had deemed the book unsuitable for the (former) colonies. My friend was at some (albeit small) risk of arrest when clearing customs here in Oz. (In practice, nobody in Customs would have noticed - and on those rare occasions when they did they merely confiscated the book rather than bringing charges. But still...)

OK: so the author made a sale he otherwise would not have made. How did I steal from him? Please let me know.

The law changed, a little bit, after that. Yet I can recall a conversation I had with an American author who had been invited to Oz to give a series of lectures on his most recent book. He was bemused to discover that the book he would be talking about could not be legally sold in the country he would be speaking in. He had wondered why his sales figures were non-existent here - and why, under those circumstances, he was being invited to speak. He would have liked the revenue from the sales. He would have liked it even more if his ideas had been allowed to circulate freely. He asked me why Australia allowed this crazy control over our intellectual life to be granted to British publishers. I had to point out to him that all attempts to change this or any other arrangement were strongly opposed by the music industry who felt that any alteration of Australian copyright law risked them losing their ability to charge $35 in Australia for a CD which sold for $12 in the US or ten quid in the UK.

The laws around this have changed further still in the intervening decades but the interests of record and movie companies (which must always be pandered to) have still prevented our spinless politicians from properly fixing this circumstance.

And I still don't think I stole that book. I think I bought it. Tell me why I'm wrong.

...Mike
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