Should books and/or their translations cost money?

I’ve read statistics that in Europe, about 70% of all ebooks are pirated. What would you think the rate were in Taiwan? Actually, as a publisher, I wouldn’t want to start ebook publishing, either.
Look for example at the DVD market in Taiwan. It seems to be almost nonexistant, even though Taiwan is not so small. I guess this is really because no one buys DVDs, but instead pirates everything.

Good points. I wonder how they arrive at such precise figures for piracy in the first place, though. I also wonder what the piracy rates are in the US, where Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Google run the show and take steps to prevent at least the most opportunistic of pirates.

As for movie piracy in TW, I think the reason it’s so prevalent is ironically because companies try to push DVDs, a medium which requires you to give up sloth and go outside, register for a rental card, and then make a return trip. Why should people pay to deal with such a hassle? Netflix has the right idea – charge customers for convenience and quality. If Taiwan’s publishers can get on that bandwagon, both the customer and the service providers stand to profit.

Completely anecdotal on piracy: I’m in a graduate studies program in Taiwan, and my Taiwanese classmates are often shocked that I’m willing to buy books from the Kindle store. Their first reaction is to search and search online for free PDFs, and if that fails, they’ll take the book out of the library and get it photocopied. They keep asking me if I can give them the Kindle files somehow (which is possible, but fortunately just complicated enough that I’ve got plausible deniability when I say no.) Buy? Only as an absolute last resort. Mind you, I make more money than most of them do, but I still find it interesting that it seems - very roughly - like people under age 30 here find it bizarre to pay anything for an online file.

Of course, this could be the same in North America - I’m not exactly tuned in with the twentysomethings there anymore! - but I get the feeling that Amazon in particular did a good and fast job at making it more convenient to buy legitimate books online than to pirate. Whereas on the other hand, for film in Taiwan, piracy is still far easier and more convenient than any legitimate way to purchase.

Anyway, judging by both my students and classmates in Taiwanese universities, I’d be mildly surprised if Chinese-language e-books ever work: there’s far too much piracy for any business model to be sustainable.

I’m in the twenty-something cusp, and the idea of paying for information is morally problematic for me. If something valuable can be available at little to no cost, then it should be available at little to no cost.

I could rant forever about how oppressive and directly harmful copyright and patent laws are, or how ineffective it is to push to maintain an economic system which attempts to bar people from products, when we could very well shift our whole paradigm of purchase and instead pay to sponsor people who produce things that we like.

I guess that I could summarize that philosophical position with an analogy. Imagine that furniture companies had to compete for people to buy their furniture:
[ul][li]Company A sells furniture, and customers sponsor a company’s growth through the direct purchase of the furniture.[/li]
[li]Company B gives away furniture, and customers sponsor a company directly if they like their furniture enough and want the company to thrive.[/li][/ul]
What you’re buying in these two situations is totally different. You’re buying the pieces from Company A, but you have little ability to make your demands heard until a competitor enters the market, or the company spends more money to research furniture preferences, thus driving up the costs of the Company A furniture. You’re buying the direction of production for future products from Company B, because your willingness to pay improves your bargaining ability to inject your personal preferences into the free products.

So, for instance, here’s a free transcribed and translated copy of “The Giver.” As soon as someone can give me one good reason to believe that a proprietary translation, wherein people are barred from providing active input and contributions, would be better than one from a non-profit-seeking enthusiast where no such barriers exist, I’ll give an iota of respect for copyright law. Until then, intellectual property can suck it.

And then Individual X spends hours writing a book, but you think it should be free? Come back after you have actually written a book and let me know what you feel then.

I am 100% behind ironlady here. Yes, many people abuse copyright laws (Apple, RIAA, etc.), but they are also guarantees that protect small-time authors/musicians/whatever from theft. Basically what you’re saying is if a book is available for free – let’s say it is put out on the display rack on the outside of a store and nobody will stop you or even notice you’ve taken it – then why go through the trouble of ringing it up at the cash register? Just because it’s easy to get away with a crime doesn’t make it morally justifiable.

I spend x hours per day making databases, and I think they should be free. (Arguments from hypocrisy are not legitimate counterarguments; but I’m not one, in case anyone was wondering.)

The translator in my above post spent x hours translating a book, and he thinks it should be free, or at least his behavior would indicate as much. And there are people who give away their books, music, videos, etc., and much of that stuff is very good.

Ironlady hasn’t really presented an argument yet, so let’s stick with your point.

Theft of ideas presupposes that you own ideas. How do you own an idea?

Imagine that we have a savant (like a Kim Peek or a Daniel Tammet) and we tie him down and read him copyrighted research on X. Then we let him go, and he goes out and independently produces a product based on that X research, but attributes it to nobody. Did the savant steal people’s ideas?

Imagine that two people in two different parts of the world simultaneously release coincidentally identical songs that become million-dollar hits. Who owns the song?

Let’s say that I have an idea which could solve a small problem, but someone invents something that uses that idea. Could I sue him because I thought of it first, assuming that I could prove that I thought of it first?

This sentence, “Just because it’s easy to get away with a crime doesn’t make it morally justifiable,” suffers something called a poisoning the well fallacy. Calling something a crime assumes that the consensus is that it’s morally unjustifiable, but you have to show that it is not morally justifiable, and then support its standing as a crime.

Databases are different from books because (I assume) you are either compiling it voluntarily or are being paid a wage or salary to do so; regardless, your compensation does not rely on how many people obtain a copy of the database. As a translator, I know that any book – be it fiction or education or anything else – takes an extraordinary amount of effort and time to compile, and during this time many authors (and to a lesser extent, translators) are forced to forgo any other source of income so that they can devote themselves fully to the task. If you’re advocating getting rid of the part where they make any profit from the endeavor, you can say goodbye to the majority of quality work.

As an aside, I think that translation of The Giver is not of great quality. The Chinese writing is stilted and a good example of what’s often called “translationese,” and looking through it for less than 5 minutes I’ve already found a couple of mistranslations. There is a good chance (although no guarantee) that this translator or another translator would do a better job if there was reasonable pay to be expected from the enterprise.

If two people make identical songs in different parts of the world at identical times… Good for them, they have the protection of their home countries’ copyright laws. Look at Apple, which patented the name iPad but has had trouble with it in China (and I think Brazil?) because another company patented an unrelated product with the same name. The universe did not implode on itself. Instead, Apple was told it can’t use the name in the Chinese market without permission, and eventually they settled out of court probably for a very large amount of money. The same would happen with a song: a court would determine whether there was any infringement if and when it were relevant, i.e. stepping into each others’ markets.

These problems are solved thanks to patents. If you have a good idea, and someone steals it, copies it, or comes up with independently, then walks down to the copyright and registers it before you do, sorry, you’re out of luck. If you patent it first, your hard work is protected. It’s simple as that.

As for my book example, there IS a consensus that stealing is wrong – hence the innumerable heaps of national and international laws that prohibit stealing – so I don’t see how this is a case of poisoning the well at all.

My motivation for making a database is not profit-centered, but possible compensation (in the form of donation) does rely on how many people obtain a copy of the database, even when it’s free.

More highly skilled translators who find this work and suggest a few edits, piece by piece, can improve it, at practically no cost. If I recall correctly, the translator is a student who did it for a school assignment.

So you don’t own your idea outside of your own country? Odd, I thought that my ideas were in my head, and went wherever I went.
Or do I not own the ideas if I leave the country and use those ideas somewhere else? Then someone else owns them, and even though I thought the idea first, I have to pay royalties or am barred from labeled trade because I had an identical idea?
This line of reasoning doesn’t hold up to any account of what ideas are.

Assume that the song per my example is an international sensation, and does cross those borders. What then?

“A court would decide” doesn’t settle the matter on how they would decide (e.g. on what moral principles they would decide), which is the real challenge here.
What are the well-founded principles upon which to decide such cases? If there aren’t any, and courts are just arbitrary selectors, then how do they have any legitimate authority?

Brazil doesn’t honor copyright or patent laws, and is just using whatever research it finds to make whatever it wants. It’s been a great boost to their AIDS research, but beyond that, I don’t know its effects.

Unfortunately, I disagree here, and think that the inconsistencies above are exacerbated with more laws, but that would really get tangential.

However, your description of the current process is exactly where the problem lies. If I patented round corners before Apple did, does that mean I really should file a billion-dollar lawsuit over it? How do you claim to own the idea of rounding a corner? If any electronic device with rounded corners is made after Apple files its patent for it, does that mean that they actually own the idea?

I’m not a professional translator, but I am a well-trained logician, and I think that you’re missing something: You’re just describing the inanity (well-poisoning, too, I’ll admit), when my challenge is for you to justify it.

That’s not the contention. You’re claiming that because something is illegal, it’s wrong, when I’m challenging that it’s not wrong. You can’t argue that it’s wrong because it’s a crime. That begs the question. Then, using that premise to label something “idea theft” before you establish that it’s theft poisons the well. I don’t know how to make it any clearer without a logic textbook or intro to logic website.

I’d love to help out that translation of The Giver, but I’m busy with my primary activities which help me earn a living. If there were 36 hours in the day, sure, I’d lend a hand.

A lot of people agree with your notion of free ideas. Libraries allow you to borrow books for free; a lot of software gives you a 30-day free trial period. But when you want to own something, there is a price for it. I think that’s a very fair system.

Let’s put it this way: If I write or translate something or take a nice photo and I see it reprinted somewhere for profit without my permission, shouldn’t I have the right to demand compensation? Without copyright and patent laws, on what would that demand be based?

ehopi is a hobbyist with regard to the activities being discussed in this thread. That is a person who does that which he is not obliged to do, out of pure interest. His payment is the pleasure he derives from the activity. He can stop anytime he likes, and will still have something to eat.

Hokwongwei and I are professionals. We derive our living from doing the tasks that are being discussed in this thread. We are not free to stop whenever we please, unless we can figure out a way to live without eating. We may take pleasure from the activity, or we may not, but that is completely tangental. What matters is that we are producing a product AND standing behind it with our professional reputations, which are the key to our obtaining further work and continuing to eat.

Eating is a good thing.

There are lots of hobbyists in the world. They share lots of things for free. And, as always, you get what you pay for. In the case of the “Giver” example, a flawed translation. You need only pop over to the reverse-auction translation sales site “” to see the “power” of crowdsourcing at work in the terminology questions section, which is filled with wrong answers that have been “accepted” as the correct answer.

To do a proper job at writing or translating a book, it takes hundreds of hours of effort. If one of my book translations is published (as with Shih Ming-te’s “Political Will”), my name is on it. It reads smoothly and it’s accurate. That result reflects not only the hundreds of hours of effort that go directly into that particular manuscript, but the thousands of hours of training and experience I have in my professional field. The person who brings that sort of intellectual capital to the table deserves compensation, just as any more experienced professional can demand a higher rate of compensation in any capitalist society.

You can have your product or service fast, cheap or well done, but you can only pick two. And in the case of professionals, many will decline to accept conditions that require two of these factors. A hobbyist will jump on any opportunity and accept any (or no) rate of pay, simply out of love of what he’s doing or sometimes the knowledge that either there is no market, he doesn’t have to build or defend a professional reputation that determines his continued survival, or the product he is producing cannot be sold legally in the first place (fanfiction, etc.)

I know, as someone who works in textbook publishing that because of piracy in certain territories, books are not created for those markets. EFL teachers, ever complained that Brit EFL books are Eurocentric and irrelevant to your students? One of the reasons is that there’s absolutely no financial reward for doing research with Chinese L1 learners.

If you aren’t a customer, you aren’t part of the market and so just get others’ leftovers. Never pay the piper because you are too cheap to recompense people for their art / research / labour, and you never pick the tune. No auteurs, only sponsorship deals for half-assed internet-amateurs, nowadays.

[quote=“Hokwongwei”]I’d love to help out that translation of The Giver, but I’m busy with my primary activities which help me earn a living. If there were 36 hours in the day, sure, I’d lend a hand.

A lot of people agree with your notion of free ideas. Libraries allow you to borrow books for free; a lot of software gives you a 30-day free trial period. But when you want to own something, there is a price for it. I think that’s a very fair system.

Let’s put it this way: If I write or translate something or take a nice photo and I see it reprinted somewhere for profit without my permission, shouldn’t I have the right to demand compensation? Without copyright and patent laws, on what would that demand be based?[/quote]

I don’t want to preach to the converted. It’s more valuable to change people’s minds through argument, I feel.

You wouldn’t need to enforce such demands. You’d only have to inform the public that you give it away. Increasing consumers’ awareness of free access decreases a pirate resellers’ profitability. The same is true with databases. Someone could definitely try to claim that they own the databases that I create, but since they don’t know enough about the formulas that I used to organize and filter the information, and they don’t know the steps of improving it as well as I do (for instance, improving translations little by little), they’re going to have a hard time keeping customers assuming little imperfection in the dispersal of information. If, however, someone could replicate and upkeep my databases faster and more cheaply, then I would gladly leave it to them.

I could illustrate this issue with physical products. Imagine if I let my neighbor take ten oranges per day from a tree that grows in my yard, but he doesn’t eat them. Instead, he sells them on the highway to buy something else. Why should I feel compelled to demand compensation? Why would my thinking suddenly change from one which gave something away to one which demanded recompense and claimed ownership? Now, if I spread via word of mouth that I’ll give away the oranges to whoever wants them, then the orange reseller would soon lose all of his business, because people would just shortcut him and get the oranges from me directly, and there wouldn’t be enough oranges for him to sell them. Then, facing orange scarcity, people would barter with me for first dibs on the oranges as they grow, or they’d have to barter among other orange takers for them.

I’m afraid that claiming rights like the ones you describe have slippery consequences, ones which I think lead to justifying GEMA in Germany or SOPA in the US.

You see this a lot with Chinese apps. People try to sell access to minor variations on the CC-Edict, but don’t really add any value to the data, itself.

As I said, it’s fine if you don’t grow oranges for a living, or sell databases for a living, or do whatever it is for a living. Unfortunately, socialism doesn’t seem to work so well in the real world. Your ideas are typical of a young person who hasn’t worked for very long, hasn’t had financial responsibilities for very long, and thinks that things should be free because he doesn’t understand the costs that lurk behind everything.

Look at your own signature line: no moneyback guarantee because it’s free.

Be careful what you wish for. These days, “free” is becoming an excuse for “whatever”.

Actually, I fit under anarcho-capitalist or individualist anarchism headings (think Walter Block, Hans Herman Hoppe, Murray Rothbard, Lysander Spooner, etc.), so you couldn’t be any further off of the mark on that one. People on the far right, from libertarians to my end, don’t believe in the existence of intellectual property. We believe in privately institutionalizing enforcement of contracts, so if you sign a contract to finish a project, and they pick you over a free alternative, that’s also fine. However, we only accept that and a harm principle as the basis for any society, which means that we don’t believe that there is any legitimate state involvement, much less a legitimacy for government ownership (hint: That’s what socialism argues, to correct your misuse of the term).

And it would be nice to argue the points, instead of arguing the person.

And what, pray tell, are these hidden costs that I haven’t considered?

Or should we consider the hidden costs of enforcing intellectual property laws?

And what, pray tell, are these hidden costs that I haven’t considered?[/quote]

I suppose that like most people, you assume that someone sits down at their computer and writes a book, and then it’s published.

Not quite. Even if you are publishing under your own imprint:
You need to write a draft, have the draft edited by someone, have illustrations done by someone if applicable, have the book designed by someone, check the book again after it’s laid out because errors will have been introduced, re-check after the book is provided to you in proof form. Oh, and promote the book, answer well-meaning people who write to inform you about the errors you failed to catch in the book, fix said errors you failed to catch, pay all the people listed above, take care of the tax implications of paying all the people listed above, and find some time to write the next book. If you’re not drop-shipping, you have to handle inventory, order copies, ship to people, and handle billing and collections.

If you are going through a traditional publishing house, there is the cycle of queries and trying to get an agent interested in the book so they will sell it to the publishing house, who will then promote it for you, though most of them now want authors to have a “considerable” social media presence as an author first, before their work will be considered.

If you’re e-publishing, you need to have the appropriate software to format, learn to use it, format your book, check it on multiple platforms, fix problems, submit, deal with corrections or objections from the publisher, and all the other things above that happen after publication.

Even if there were no money involved – how’s about I just take your databases and put my name on them, and promote myself that way? (oh, the horror…but just for an example…) You surely wouldn’t mind about that, because after all, they have no worth other than the utility to the end user. Right?

Really, everything can be available at little to no cost, just round up a bunch of people, enslave them, and torture them into working. When they starve, round up some more. Presto! Free chairs, oranges, books, whatever. I guess I just find that a little more morally problematic than paying people for the work they do.

Can I just ask how you support yourself?

You said:

The responses were:

I expect that iota will be forthcoming (perhaps two iotas, considering there were two good reasons)? :slight_smile:

As to your chair factory, I challenge you to walk the walk. Put all of your time into your database, risk everything on it and take no money outside of what is given to you freely for it for the next 5 years. Prove your theory holds true. There’s an old saying: “In a ham and eggs breakfast the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.” It’s easy to argue against IP when your dinner doesn’t rely on them, try to be the pig sometime and see if you’re still as sure when you’re committed.

That, in a nutshell, is the Chinese boss’s credo. Labor should be available at little or no cost and anyone who says otherwise is merely spewing logical fallacies. That’s why I love Taiwan: buy low and sell high and get rich in the process.

In case the above infographic has hotlink protection and I’m just seeing the cached copy, here’s the link:

And it’s pretty much dead on. For a while, I was making copies of my favorite DVDs, and it was ridiculous how much crap the studios insisted that people go through before seeing the movie that they had PAID FOR. Yeah, I really want to be forced to watch three trailers for crap movies, plus the FBI warnings, an advertorial about how evil movie piracy is, and the vanity clips for THX and the studio, all to eventually get to see the movie.