Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold book

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J Thomas
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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby J Thomas » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:06 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
J Thomas wrote:There is a certain truth to that. I think faith-based economics is an awful idea, particularly in a global economy where a lot of people could die if the ideas don't work well enough. We desperately need to throw out our preconceptions and look at economics fresh, starting with evidence.


There's a whole field called behavioural economics.

Believe it or not people do vast numbers of experiments on what influences peoples choices in such things.

they don't just pull it out of their arse and you don't get to an equal footing by doing so.


Good! I agree that things like behavioral economics are better than faith-based reasoning. So, has anybody here actually used behavioral economics to make their arguments? Maybe I missed it. What I've seen has been entirely the bullshit arguments that people believe because they want to.

Do you have some behavioral economics results that would tell us something useful about the Wiley case?
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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby J Thomas » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:49 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:
J Thomas wrote:There is a certain truth to that. I think faith-based economics is an awful idea, particularly in a global economy where a lot of people could die if the ideas don't work well enough. We desperately need to throw out our preconceptions and look at economics fresh, starting with evidence.


There's a whole field called behavioural economics.

Believe it or not people do vast numbers of experiments on what influences peoples choices in such things.

they don't just pull it out of their arse and you don't get to an equal footing by doing so.


The antagonist's argument can be summarized as follows: Wiley is abusing the rules of copyright, and these rules of copyright are creating a market distortion. The market distortion has manifested itself in artificial price bracketing between books sold in America and sold in other countries.

J Thomas's argument is that the emphasis on Free Market economics is junk anyway, and that he can make up economic arguments to fit whatever argument he so desires. (Correct me if I'm wrong J Thomas. I frankly find your reasoning to be unfocused and verbose, but overall sound. Its just very hard to follow.)

IMO, the better argument would be to just point out that the free market creates all sorts of artificial price brackets by itself without the need of government intervention. ....
Indeed, "Price Bracketing" is a free market feature in these cases. Why is price bracketing bad in the case of Wiley vs Student?

</devil's advocate position>


The question is what's good for society, or what's moral, or something like that. If some people are harmed while others benefit, then the question is whether the ones who benefit deserve to benefit at the others' expense.

I say that it is not enough to invoke free markets because first, there is no evidence that free markets would work as advertised if we could create them, and second even if they do work as advertised we don't yet have evidence whether that would be a good thing.

You argue that the markets we have, whatever label they should get, often produce price brackets. I think there is a subtle difference between the examples of price bracketing you describe and the Wiley case. It goes like this:

When a circuit board manufacturer builds the best board he can, and then he notices that there's a big market for lower-price/lower-performance boards, and he sells crippled boards to fit that market, he is doing something that seems immoral to some people. It costs him extra to cripple some of his product so he can sell it at a lower price. The world would be a better place if he sold the better product at a lower price, instead of spending money to cripple it and sell it at a lower price.

Wiley could have done that. They could for example have written a simple computer program to add one random typo to each page, and then sold the worse book for a lower price. If Wiley found that there was too much demand for the book with the typos, they could add more typos until they got a version that was bad enough to sell cheap to people who could not afford the better version. It would cost Wiley just as much or a bit more to create bad books, that they would sell at a lower price, but they could do it and probably make more money doing it.

Instead what Wiley did was to sell the same books for different prices, and try to keep anybody else from arbitrage -- buying low and selling high. They had the problem because they didn't cripple the low-price versions.

It costs more to cripple a good board than to leave it alone. But it costs less than designing an entirely different low-cost low-performance board.

Poor people need cheap stuff. If you give them stuff that they can afford that's too good for them, it will only cause trouble.

That's how the economy works now. Could we do better? If we made the best stuff we could and sold as much as we could at whatever price we could do OK, would that be better? If so, how could we persuade people to do that?

Like, the USA sells grain through New Orleans. We sell a standard quality on the world market. When we find that some of the grain has quality that's too high, we mix it with inferior grain to bring the quality down to standard. Would it be better to try to get a higher price for the superior grain? But then what would we do with the bad grain that we could probably not sell at all unless it was mixed into the good stuff?

Wiley is only an example of a whole way of being. Would something else work better? If so, how could we get there from here?
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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby Princess Marzipan » Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:51 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Poor people need cheap stuff. If you give them stuff that they can afford that's too good for them, it will only cause trouble.


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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby elasto » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:27 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:Wiley is only an example of a whole way of being. Would something else work better? If so, how could we get there from here?

What will happen eventually is the Wikipedia model. Experts will give away vast amounts of experience and knowledge for free. The coolest thing about the information age is it only takes one person to make a difference. There might be a thousand experts on a particular topic - but if only one of them is prepared to give away his expertise for free, that knowledge can be relayed to the entire world at almost no cost.

Sure, it may be somewhat out of date (though is Wikipedia often out of date?) and there a potential for error (though analysis shows Wikipedia is at least as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica) but it will be available for free to everyone in the world - perhaps even often in the local language (again, like Wikipedia is).

That will force the textbook manufacturers to up their game - to provide something of real value compared to the excellent free products out there - and simultaneously place huge downward pressure on their prices.

I think over the long term the textbook manufacturers will shrink to a much smaller market than today: They will get squeezed between the Wikipedia model and online courses which walk students through their own bespoke material.

Online courses are going to revolutionize higher education: The course can be written once to a very high standard and then sold to tens of millions of students a year at a very cheap price. In a few decades time I very much doubt we'll be seeing students graduating with six-figure debts. It just isn't sustainable if nothing else.

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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:49 am UTC

I would really love it if Wikipedia ended up forcing textbook manufacturers to drastically up their quality. I often hear people saying that the internet is this wonderful source of information, and it is, but it also tends to be very shallow in the level of information, at least for what is easily accessible.

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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby BattleMoose » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:22 am UTC

The internet cannot yet compete with textbooks. Hopefully it will one day. And then we will possibly see the death of text books and if such knowledge is available freely and legally online, then that would hardly be a loss. But we are not there yet.

And keeping textbooks up to date is a lot of work and people may want to be paid for that, so maybe there will be a space for them.

And even something as old as Calculus, universities still keep updating and modifying the course and the course material, optimising and what not, and not because there's money in it, (most students at the university I am involved with don't buy the text books) but because the course convenors actually care about doing their job well. The material hasn't change but the way we teach it is. The Principia anyone?

Either which way, the money will sort it out in the end. If people are prepared to constantly make and update learning materials for free, then textbooks will most likely die. If not, then we will have to continue to pay people to make quality textbooks.

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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby Tirian » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:49 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:I would really love it if Wikipedia ended up forcing textbook manufacturers to drastically up their quality. I often hear people saying that the internet is this wonderful source of information, and it is, but it also tends to be very shallow in the level of information, at least for what is easily accessible.


College professors don't much like Wikipedia. Even beyond the hassles of trolls and editing wars, the editorial philosophy of Wikipedia squelches emerging understanding.

The tools that are ruining textbook manufacturers are Google Scholar and Acrobat. The majority of my grad school professors (in the education department, at least) don't assign textbooks for courses because they cost $200 and often have at best limited resale value, and the professors are the ones that have to face their students and choose to place this additional burden on us. Instead of textbooks, they assign journal papers that we can read online or they scan single chapters from books and assign us the PDFS. (I gather that you can copy up to 10% of a book for a class and still be within the bounds of fair use.)

I don't hate textbooks, and I think that they have a role to play in education. But I am relieved that the courts are giving consumers the right to compete fairly against them, which should force textbook manufacturers to figure out how their products should be integrated into twenty-first century classrooms.

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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby J Thomas » Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:06 am UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Poor people need cheap stuff. If you give them stuff that they can afford that's too good for them, it will only cause trouble.


Image


It's the Wiley problem. If you sell good stuff to poor people for cheap, some of them will sell it for what they can get, and buy something cheap that meets their minimal needs. They need the money more than they need the good stuff. The result is that your sales to rich people go down. It would be better for you to just give the money to the poor people, it wouldn't hurt you as much.

Why should rich people pay more for good stuff, if poor people aren't deprived of it? When the price curves work that way, you make more money by depriving poor people of your product than you do by selling it to them at a profit.

In theory, one way to avoid that is with free markets. If there was no copyright, and if investors were desperate to open new publishing houses and compete to drive prices down, then prices for everybody would go down to the variable cost. But new publishing companies would start up as fast as old ones failed, because they would compete desperately to see who could sell for the lowest price. Somehow that does not happen much.

So if you don't like an economy that is designed to deprive the poor, probably some other theory might be better. Free markets don't look promising, and neither does communism. Some third way....

Sorry to interrupt the discussion on future of textbooks, which is probably far more productive.
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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby Arariel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:36 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:As typical of this sort of thing, you argue that there is no such thing as IP because it is a privilege provided by government. As if privileges provided by government do not exist!


Government privileges exist. So did segregation. That no more means the existence of 'intellectual property' than it means the existence of racial superiority.

So, you repeat a lot of sort-of logical stuff that does not describe reality, but that prescribes it. You believe the world works this way because you studied the theory in school and people told you it works this way. Then when you get the chance you parrot it back.


So, you say a lot of not-at-all logical stuff that fails to describe reality in any meaningful way. You believe the world works this way because you like being nonconformist. Then when you get the chance you spout out all the nonsense you can come up with.

If you have any issues with the basis of economic theory, please point out which part. Otherwise, you're just waving a finger and screaming, 'No! Wrong! It's all wrong because I said it's wrong and I don't think reality works that way!' Because I've already given an example of this reflecting reality; a restaurant start-up has little possibility at all of making economic profits, yet it can still receive investment money.

First, I did not say that monopolies are paragons of efficiency. I said that they concentrate wealth, which potentially provides capital for investment in new products or increased production of old products.


The Romanovs concentrated wealth, too. So did the Bourbons. So did the Soviets, ironically. The ruling class in an autocratic society concentrates the wealth, but that in no way 'provides capital for investment' (again, you don't understand the meaning of the word 'capital'). Free-market capitalism is actually a system that allows less concentration of wealth (as a share of the overall economy) when you compare it with every other system. The richest men in a capitalist society have a total wealth of less than a hundredth of the amount of money the country makes in a year, while the richest men in other systems can spend the entire output of the country on a palace.

You can argue that this lack of productivity occurs because they're not spending their concentrated wealth on the 'right' things, but come on, you think monopolists are going to spend money on improving efficiency? Quite the contrary, in fact, as Leibenstein pointed out in a paper on X inefficiency. Around the area where I live, a state-owned (or managed? But definitely monopolistic) utilities company has a building in a particularly expensive part of the city. Not exactly the most efficient use of resources, is it? It is observed that the utility monopolies are highly inefficient with how they spend their money; it really doesn't matter, since there are no competitors to offer a more efficient (and thus cheaper) deal.

And we need to disassemble industries when they become no longer useful. There are traditional chestnuts that people tend to use for examples of this. Buggywhips, which with the decline of the horse became specialty toys for perverts. Canals, which with the rise of the railroads became exercise trails etc. The issue is not whether there are many canals that go to the same place so you get free competition. The issue is that we just don't need them any more.


A free market will deal with those on its own. Let people have what they want.

Code: Select all

What you say makes sense. How would we find out whether it is true? In the days of wildcat banking, did the number of banks decline over time? I think banks tend to consolidate without government, but it does make sense that big companies can lobby better than small companies. Given multiple stories that make sense, how would we find out how much truth there is in any of them? I guess we could argue back and forth, and maybe the one with the more persuasive claims should be judged the winner?  ;)


You 'think'. But you've no proof to back that up. Consolidation of agriculture occurred because of New Deal policies that benefited large farmers at the expense of the small ones. Consolidation of banking occurred with regulations of the banks that have occurred, likely because of policies during the New Deal (again). An Italian-American businessman who was the son of immigrants worked himself up in the banking industry, quit his bank's board when they wouldn't service what he saw as a growing market of immigrants, and founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco in 1904 (later to become Bank of America). Think government would allow that today? How do you even start up a new bank these days with the status quo in bed with the Federal Reserve? Government is the largest cause of monopolization there is.

So we are agreed on that much, and we are agreed that it often happens this way?

This is progress. Now that we both agree on something, we can get a latte for $2.65. I think it's a plausible story we agree on. How would we find out how much truth there is in it?


I agreed that people don't like competition. I did not agree this was a good thing.

You give examples of nations that have improved their living conditions. You claim that these nations have markets that are "freer" than somebody. Or perhaps you claim that US markets are "freer" than british markets.

But consider the example of Mali. Mali markets are far freer than US markets because the Mali government is mostly incapable of enforcing much. The Mali economy has much improved since the government allowed foreigners to bring in hi-tech gold mining. The foreigners export large amounts of gold from Mali and pay the government a little for the privilege. And so the average income PPP is around $1,100 per year, but around half of the population spends less than $1.25/day. These figures are all rough approximations because the Mali government does not have the resources to collect precise data.
https://www.google.com/publicdata/explo ... &ind=false

Perhaps there are other important factors to consider, and not just "freer" markets.


Nice misleading graph, there. I can put up a graph of North Korea, and that'd be just as helpful (probably not, though, since there's likely no data available on that). You do realise Mali was under a dictatorial regime until the 90s, right? The comparison is supposed to be that of growth, not the current state. It's clear that the freer countries have grew, while the more socialistic countries have done so less. Mali, rather than proving your point, works quite against it as it's GDP per capita has grown 109% from 1994-2011, compared to UK's 90% and France's 81%.

This always comes up. I ask how well a system works, and they answer "It's the *fairest* way, never mind whether it actually works." Communists, capitalists, single-taxers, you name it. They always think their idea is the fairest.


Nope. Nowhere did I say it's the fairest way. I happen to believe that free-market capitalism is the fairest way, one that will lead to an equitable distribution of wealth (more so than socialism, where all the wealth goes to the commissars and other assorted bureaucrats, that is). But whether or not it's fair, it's most certainly the freest system. But you're not challenging that, are you?

This one is more than about fairness. Concentration of capital leads to concentration of power, which leads to bad government. It sounds reasonable. If we were all equal and poor, we could not have a very intrusive government because we would be too poor to support one. So you are arguing that we are better off if capital does not get concentrated.


No, I'm arguing it's better if wealth does not have the ability to rent-seek from the government. But this will occur so long as the government is able to provide favours; therefore, the only solution is to prevent the government from having the ability to provide favours. Favours can be subsidies and regulations (tax cuts that don't apply to everyone are also subsidies in a way), and both must be done away with. After all, corporations actually favour many regulations because it keeps their competition out.

Is there anything in your idea of how things work that would keep capital from getting concentrated, beyond the natural tendency of free markets to keep anybody from getting rich relative to the norm?


Is there anything in alternative systems that keep capital from getting concentrated? Again, capitalism results in the least concentration of relative wealth.

This is an argument that we have gotten concentration of capital which led to concentration of power and so we have some utterly unproductive industries. I tend to agree with you. To my way of thinking, then, we need to find a way to concentrate capital for investment that does not lead to this bad result. Undoing the bad result we already have will also be a big challenge.


Concentration of wealth isn't necessary for investment, why do you think it is? In unfree markets, that may be so, but in a free market, even the working class can invest.

[*]Let's look at two ways free markets are easily more efficient: lobbying and governmental costs. Monopolies must rent seek, they need the government to preserve their power. Those in a free market? They can't force the government to do a damn thing. How many lawyers and politicians and administrators could you switch to useful work (they're most likely only suitable for flipping burgers, though) by making all markets free? There is an easy, visible efficiency boost right there.


You have not explained how this increase efficiency in your theory. It sounds like you are saying to eliminate the government including the courts, and that would increase the labor supply. But we don't have a labor shortage at the moment.


The presence or lack of of a labour shortage is irrelevant.The number of jobs is not a fixed quantity.

You have made another argument from theory. You have not shown that free markets would actually behave as your theory describes. We have seen that communist systems did not behave the way their theorists predicted they would. Is there any reason to think that if we ever actually tried free markets that they would behave in practice like your theories?


Point out what is wrong, then. What specifically. It's easy to see where communism goes wrong; it results in concentrated power of a few because increased government power causes that.

Further, you have not said why "efficiency" as you define it would be valuable. You seem to assume that it would be valuable, but you have not provided any evidence why it would be.


Because of the fundamental economic assumption of scarcity. You can find issue with that as you have with all sensible economics and rationality in general, but that doesn't change the fact it exists. Efficiency allows us to get more for less. Which results in fewer people starving to death or dying of easily curable diseases.

Agreed! Not that I fail to realize it, but I gave no proof it would work out that way. I argue that in the long run we need concentration of wealth for investment, and profits are one way to achieve that. But I have given no evidence for those claims.


You haven't argued that. You've stated that.

Whew! That one is a strain. It is another argument about fairness. I don't want to spend much time on it, but consider this analogous argument.

During evolution, the selected genes tend to spread through the population. There will be winners and losers. On average, most individuals will be losers because mostly their genes are not the best and will not win out over time. So it would be better for every population not to have natural selection and evolution. Better to stop all that because it is not fair. And in the economic metaphor, the best way to prevent evolution is with a free market that punishes inefficiency....


The economy is not a zero-sum game. This a wrong-headed, mercantilist argument.

nitePhyyre wrote:
Arariel wrote:There's no such thing as 'intellectual property'. End of story. Copyrights and patents are government-granted monopoly rights. Property is excludable. You cannot stop people from copying without a government.
There is no difference between "physical property" and "intellectual property". They are both concepts created by society and enforced by society's favorite enforcer - the government. If society decides that property is excludable and I decide to walk into your house and live there with you, what do you do? You call the police and they kick me out. If society decides the IP is excludable and I decide to rip off a publishing company be copying their work and reselling it, what do they do? They call the police and I get fined, or they sue me.

If society decides that property isn't excludable and I decide to walk into your house and live there with you, what do you do? You beat me up until I leave. If society decides the IP isn't excludable and I decide to rip off a publishing company be copying their work and reselling it, what do they do? They beat me up until I stop. And then depending on how this society views assault both you and the enforcers of the publishing company go to jail.

The only difference is that the concept of physical property is a couple of hundred years older than the concept of IP. It is therefore more deeply ingrained into our memetic code.


You can enforce property without government. You can't enforce 'intellectual property' without government. If I make a copy of a film onto a disc and hand it to a friend, they cannot prove it's been 'stolen' without searching my friend. If I steal an object, they can prove it's been stolen when they see it's not there. No one is made poorer when a copy is made. Someone is made poorer when something is stolen.

KnightExemplar wrote:
There's no such thing as 'intellectual property'. End of story. Copyrights and patents are government-granted monopoly rights. Property is excludable. You cannot stop people from copying without a government.


You cannot stop people from interfering with each other's radio waves without a government either. That doesn't change the fact that radio spectrum licensing is extremely useful (and necessary) in today's society.

Copyright, Patents, and so forth should be argued from a merit point of view. Every piece of society today is an illusion upheld by the government, some illusions are more useful than others.


I'm sure even if it were meritorious to enslave blacks and have them pick cotton, that would not be acceptable.

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Re: Wiley sues student for infringing copyright on resold bo

Postby J Thomas » Sat Apr 06, 2013 3:07 am UTC

Arariel wrote:
J Thomas wrote:As typical of this sort of thing, you argue that there is no such thing as IP because it is a privilege provided by government. As if privileges provided by government do not exist!


Government privileges exist. So did segregation. That no more means the existence of 'intellectual property' than it means the existence of racial superiority.


You have consistently talked like a Platonist. To me, "intellectual property" is something that the government grants people, for whatever reason the government decides to do that. Sometimes the government gives people a limited-time monopoly because they file some papers in just the way the government wants them to file those papers. That's what the words mean.

But I have the idea that to you those words stand for something that has intrinsic validity, like God gives you property and your property is yours to do whatever you want with because God said so. And since IP is just something the government gives you with no validity beyond the government's power to do stuff and get away with it, then you feel like IP does not exist!

But to me it's all pretty much the same. If you own land, you own it because the government lets you have title to it. The government lets you keep it because you put up with their various laws and you pay your property taxes repeatedly each time period the government insists you do, and the government doesn't think you owe debts that give them the excuse to take your land and sell it at auction. If you think you own land that the government thinks you do not own, they will send their police to evict you and if you don't agree to leave they will arrest you for trespass etc.

The government does stuff. It has the consent of most of the governed most of the time. In practice all of your rights come from the agreement of your society plus the government that your society allows to govern. Whatever innate rights you might have are mostly irrelevant to that consensus and that government.

All of your talk of economics has been tinged with your ideas about right and wrong. You have been so sure that it's morally right that you suppose it must also be true.

It was creepily fascinating talking with you, but I think I'm ready to stop now.
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