anart, I considered responding to you, but I've decided that would be a waste of both our time as nothing productive would come of it. I've evidently gotten on your bad side for some reason - that or you just like to play 'pick on the newb' - and I say that, not because of what
you say, precisely, but because of the tone you take, like you're looking for a fight. Criticism is fine, but keep it civil.
The idea that the person/group one receives from must be the same that is given back to I actually find to be very STS; in sharp contrast to the gift circle, whereby what one receives from one direction, one gives back with interest in another.
Interesting. You feel you have the right to "take" property that does not belong to you, and not directly compensate the person/group that produces that property, as long as you "give back with interest in another [direction]." Could you provide some examples of the "giving back with interest" that you have done "in another direction" that you feel is adequate compensation for "taking" a copyrighted book from the internet free of charge?
I'd also be interested in knowing how often you "take" books from bookstore shelves without directly paying the bookstore, as per this "alternative" compensation scheme of yours? And how about food? Do you financially compensate the man who sells cheese in your local farmer's market, or do you just take his cheese and promise to "give it back with interest in another direction"?
Of course, I already know the answer to that question. You only "take" products that you can get away with "taking", not those products whose producers who would call the police and have you arrested for such "taking". And therein lies your hypocrisy and dishonesty: You do not risk any kind of negative consequences to yourself in your practice of this "alternative" payment method you so strongly believe in. No, you're just like any other run-of-the-mill petty thief -- you "take" what you can get away with "taking", and otherwise obediently follow the rules of society.
There is nothing even remotely "STO" about your "alternative compensation" practice. It is just a lofty-sounding after-the-fact" justification for STS behaviour. One of the many lies you tell yourself on a daily basis.
Pepperfritz, given your background I can see how you'd feel this way.
It's difficult for me to limit this discussion to books, as I've read very few books online (and those that I have, all freely available on the authors' own website. Well, until scribd, but it's new and I haven't used it very much at all, to tell the truth.) But the discussion is essentially the same for music, movies, computer games, no? It's all media. So, regarding other media, I'll emphasize what another commenter said: a download does not equal a sale. A lot of people have a lot of music on their hard-drives that they never listen to, because they downloaded it on a whim and quickly discovered they didn't care for it. They also have a collection of CDs, ticket stubs, and band shirts that they bought to support the artists that they really do
like. I don't see this as any different from thirty years ago, when you'd hear a song on the radio, and either think 'meh, not for me' (in which case the artist would never get a cent of your money no matter how often you heard the song), or you thought, 'wow, these guys are amazing!' In which case you bought their LP, went to see their show, etc.
Of course, it's an artist's choice whether or not to allow their works to be freely traded on the networks. It's their choice whether to allow it on the radio, too. For that matter, it's their free will choice whether or not to perform in the first place. Of course, if it's exposure you're after, there's good choices and there's bad choices....
In my view, connecting file-sharing with theft has been one of the great deceptions of the 21st century. It has not been undertaken out of any concern for the rights of artists, but is an equation repeated by those who seek to extend their control of culture. Napster's rise came on the heels of Clear Channel's consolidation of the American radio market; that's not an accident, and Napster's subsequent dismemberment was an example of damage control for reasons that had nothing to do with Britney Spears losing money.
Arguing that file-sharing has been bad for artists just doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Well, it does, if you're talking about the major-label megastars, whose market share is far less than it used to be (and whose current offerings I don't listen to at all). Independent artists, however, have leveraged the free distribution available on the internet so that a much larger fraction of them are able to support themselves - comfortably, not extravagantly - by cultivating a local and online fan base and touring. That's the kind of music I generally listen to, these days.
Regarding all the comments about money=energy in our society, the need for balance ... I agree, wholeheartedly. But, well, society is changing, no? Everything else is, and it's heading in an STO direction. The transition won't be an entirely discrete one, even if sharp in places, but continuous, and until that transition is complete there's going to be a lot of friction between the new ways and the old. So, while the STO networks are getting set up in an STS world, used almost overwhelmingly by people that operate out of an STS mindset, it's to be expected that you'd see something as contradictory as a file-sharing network (which is fundamentally a gift economy that breaks down if every participant doesn't contribute at least as much as he takes, a very STO architecture) for STS purposes (sharing the media of artists who don't want their stuff shared for free.) Of course, as time goes on, the number of artists who object to this decreases, while those who encourage it correspondingly increase, because they realize that - ultimately - free media benefits not just the whole world, but them, too.
Where do authors fit into this? I don't know, yet. Bit of a headscratcher, to tell the truth, and I say that as an aspiring science fiction writer myself (though the muse hasn't called much, of late, and perhaps this has to do with the fact that, using filesharing networks in the way I used them throughout university and after, I had an energy imbalance? It's certainly an interesting hypothesis.) On the one hand, what's saved musicians is performance, but writers don't perform; on the other hand, reading a whole book on a computer screen just sucks (and scribd doesn't change that in any way), which so far has meant that most readers prefer to get a paper copy.
I'd like to just make one last comment: this seems to have been a very polarizing topic, and while it wasn't my intention to do that, I do accept the responsibility for it. People seem to be very passionate about it, with some pretty highly charged emotional terms being thrown around and even a bit of name-calling going on. To me, that looks like an opportunity for a bit of self-observation: why are you reacting that way? Is it even really you? Where is it really coming from? You know the drill (and yes, I'm asking myself the same questions.)