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The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Piracy and the end of culture.


Piracy is killing human culture – and it shocks me to observe how little is being done about it. In the last few days, I came across an author’s article on the Internet discussing the impact of piracy and torrent sites on her livelihood. It made for very sad reading. This writer was a very prolific writer. She had to be...for one very real reason: her books were showing very low sales. Now, why was this so? Well, each of her works was being pirated massively. Now, this had a very real impact on her livelihood and career. Despite writing very productively, each day of her life, she found it difficult to make a good living. Yet, the impact of piracy went way beyond that. You see, this author was a writer of series, based on characters she had invented. Now, she revealed that her publisher had CANCELLED three of her series, owing to poor sales, due to piracy. These series had come to an abrupt end, because her publisher was unwilling to invest more money, supporting series that were being stolen wholesale, but sold very little. As a result, neither the author, nor her publisher were able to make enough money from the books, to make it worthwhile continuing to publish them or write them – so the series stopped, in mid-flow, their interrupted stories never to be completed.
This author had recently started publishing a fourth series. She dearly hoped that this wouldn’t be killed by piracy, too. Yet, it seems likely that it will be. Her situation is becoming so dire, that it is quite clear that, in the not too distant future, she might not have a writing career at all – because, even if she is still willing to write (which may not be so), her publisher may be unwilling to publish any more of her books, because it is unable to make a profit from them.

Now, this situation is not hers alone. Most writers are affected, to varying degrees, by piracy. In her article, she commented darkly, that she had seen pirate site members enquiring as to when the next books from particular authors would be released – just so that they could pirate them. Her comments were dark because she knew, for certain, that those authors had had their publishing contracts CANCELLED owing to poor sales of their previous books. In other words, the much awaited books, that these downloaders wanted to pirate, would never be written and never be published. The pirates had killed the very thing they wished to steal – because they stole the earlier works. These pirates are ending the careers and livelihoods of authors and, what is more, they are preventing the creation of human culture – because, in a climate in which authors cannot make a living from their works, because those works are being stolen, writers will be unable to write, because they will be forced to do other things for a living – thus, the world’s supply of interesting new creative works, will dry up. Human culture will be dead – killed by the pirates.

It seems to me that there needs to be much more serious penalties for piracy than presently exist. If we are to have a thriving human culture, then the creators of cultural works – be they books, music, films or the like, must have protection from the predations of pirates. The penalties, therefore, need to be truly draconian – and need to be enforced.

It might seem harsh to suggest it, but since pirates are killing human culture and depriving us all of future works that will never be written, or created – be those works books, music or films etc. – then we should consider whether a mandatory death sentence might be appropriate for some categories of pirate – the most prolific or habitual ones (or perhaps even for all pirates) – and whether mandatory custodial sentences would be appropriate for less active pirates AND DOWNLOADERS. Yes. I am suggesting that anyone who downloads “Free” cultural works, be they books, films or music, should receive a mandatory custodial sentence, on being found out. I would also like to see fines amounting to thousands of times of the value of the stolen goods. Thus, for instance, if someone has downloaded a 10 dollar book, they should be fined 10,000 dollars or even 100,000 dollars  – for each and every such work they have downloaded off torrent sites. Furthermore, the quantum of monies raised from fines should be returned to the individual authors (or other creators) who were pirated. Were such policies instituted and enforced, we would soon see a great reduction in piracy and a return to profitability for creators of cultural works. Were this to be done, the future of human culture would be assured.

Yet, I very much doubt whether the world’s politicians will act. In general, politicians are not creative people. I don’t think they understand what it is to sit alone, in a room, writing a book for five years – only to have it stolen and downloaded a million times, whilst only selling 500 copies. I don’t think they understand the impact on future creative production of such a situation. They never consider unwritten books, uncomposed music and unshot films as something to think about. They don’t see that our culture is dying because of two factors: organized online piracy – and “SHARING” of ebooks, and music and the like. Both are forms of theft and both are killing human culture.

It needs to be universally understood and appreciated that, each and every time a cultural work is consumed, without having paid the creator for it, that a blow has been struck against all future creative production of that individual or company. Should there be too many such blows and too many people consuming the works for “free”, then there will be no more future books, music, or films. Quite simply, the downloaders and pirates will have killed the creator, as assuredly as if they had shot them. The reason this is so is because, if the creator cannot make a living for themselves and their families, from creating future works, they will be forced into another line of work – and will have NO TIME OR ENERGY LEFT TO CREATE ANYTHING ANYMORE – even if they had the heart to do so, knowing they would not be paid.

My thoughts turn again, to those pirate site members wondering when their “favourite author” was going to publish their next book – yet being completely oblivious to the fact that they had actually killed his career through their piracy of earlier works. There is something very sad and very dumb about that. Clearly the downloaders like the author’s work enough to be motivated to steal it (but not enough to pay for it) – yet in stealing it, they have destroyed him and prevented all future works from ever being published. How shortsighted is that?

The lesson here is simple: if you want a world in which new books are written, new music is composed and new films are shot – then don’t steal them, for “free”, off torrent sites – pay for them, each and every time. Every time anyone steals from a torrent site, they are taking a big step towards ending an author’s, a musician’s or a film-maker’s career. Do you really want a future without books, music or films? Do you really want a future without human culture? Then do what you can, to make sure people don't steal. Get them to pay for the works they enjoy and save human culture from the pirates.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:29 AM 

8 Comments:

OpenID safireau said...

*sigh* You misunderstood me.


My previous post was not an endorsement of piracy. It was not my intention to come across as so, and if it did, I apologize. (I also do not illegally download myself)

Rather, it was meant to highlight the problems of current procedures of combating the problem. I have heard/seen many abuses of copyright law as it is currently enforced. There are also many intricacies to defining what the boundaries of intellectual property are in this digital age.

Additionally, I spoke about certain concepts in the computing industry although this was probably a digression from the original post as software =/= creative works. I spoke about 'free software' and Richard Stallman but this was only tangentially related and I don't even agree with everything he proposes. I just wanted to introduce you to 'the other side', as it were.

(Even if you believe in nothing else he mentions, at least pay attention to what he has to say about certain software abusing user's rights. I know you use Facebook and Google, so be careful. Back when I still used Facebook, I remember there were legal agreements that stated that Facebook legally owns the rights to anything any user posts, be it written words, photographs, whatever. They have the right to redistribute, change it, etc. Also Facebook is full of facial-recognition software, so who knows? They might even 'own' your face as well. Google is full of webtrawlers that trawl through your information and I am extremely skeptical as to any privacy rights that they 'promise' you. They have been sued multiple times over many of their 'accidental' invasive practices. I live near Silicon Valley so I hear about these things. I just wanted to be sure you were aware of them.)

I also still have issues with textbooks that are charged at extremely high prices that are 9th or 10th editions but that change little of their content.


Back on topic...I completely agree that something needs to be done to protect creativity. It is not this that I disagree with you about. What I disagree with is the method. If you can think of a way in which you can protect it without having people sentenced to, um,...death, then I'm probably okay.

You are older, wiser, and smarter than I am. If I didn't respect your opinion, I wouldn't read your blog. But I would like to let you know that to many people in their 20's and younger, a lot of illegal downloading isn't considered a crime. It is considered to be normal. If you were to sentence illegal downloaders to death, then I believe almost all the people that I have met in college would be dead. So, rather than killing us all off, I think that perhaps lawmakers and companies should come up with some more reasonable methods to stop this that doesn't invade users' privacy. Punishment by death would be deterrment by fear...which doesn't really change the mentality. I would rather people be deterred because they respect creators, not because they fear punishment (the whole 'Clockwork Orange' argument) Perhaps the older generation needs to better instill the importance of this since it really doesn't seem to be as prevalent in my age bracket.

2:08 AM  
OpenID safireau said...


Also, there are a lot of confusing questions about software distribution due to the nature of technology (at least, confusing to me, anyways). Such as, if your friend wants to borrow your CD to listen to for a brief period, is that piracy? You can give books back and forth, but with a CD, your computer makes an extra copy. There is a penalty for the music sharing, but not the book sharing. Or do you think it's also a crime to let friends borrow a book? Both practices lead to a decreased incentive for the other party to buy the work.

And finally, I'm Asian and my parents are immigrants. Just as you have provided a Western insight on Southeast Asia, I have noticed things about the U.S. The U.S. has lots and lots of rules and regulations on things that are not as strict in Asia. I know this has upset you previously, but I would like to tell you that we simply do not know better. Certain Western concepts that have been around for a long time are simply not even concepts in our society. I have often attempted to change my parents behavior over certain matters, and they try hard, but it is difficult. There are so many things, they don't know what they are doing wrong.In fact, if it wasn't for certain circumstances, I would be in the dark about many things. There were so many things that I encountered in college that I had no idea about that I would obsessively Google and read Wikipedia over and over again, 'training' myself to understand the Western mentality. Most people have neither the patience nor the time.

In deciding punishment for wrongdoing I believe that INTENT is important. Illegal downloaders may be selfish and short-sighted, yes. The damage that they inflict is very deep. But I do not believe that most of them seek to intentionally, maliciously harm the individual writers and artists that produce their works. This is in direct contrast to murderers and rapists.

Therefore, I believe punishment by death for illegal downloaders is too harsh and instead, another method should be found. (Ban them from using computers, fine them, etc)




2:09 AM  
OpenID safireau said...


Also, there are a lot of confusing questions about software distribution due to the nature of technology (at least, confusing to me, anyways). Such as, if your friend wants to borrow your CD to listen to for a brief period, is that piracy? You can give books back and forth, but with a CD, your computer makes an extra copy. There is a penalty for the music sharing, but not the book sharing. Or do you think it's also a crime to let friends borrow a book? Both practices lead to a decreased incentive for the other party to buy the work.

And finally, I'm Asian and my parents are immigrants. Just as you have provided a Western insight on Southeast Asia, I have noticed things about the U.S. The U.S. has lots and lots of rules and regulations on things that are not as strict in Asia. I know this has upset you previously, but I would like to tell you that we simply do not know better. Certain Western concepts that have been around for a long time are simply not even concepts in our society. I have often attempted to change my parents behavior over certain matters, and they try hard, but it is difficult. There are so many things, they don't know what they are doing wrong.In fact, if it wasn't for certain circumstances, I would be in the dark about many things. There were so many things that I encountered in college that I had no idea about that I would obsessively Google and read Wikipedia over and over again, 'training' myself to understand the Western mentality. Most people have neither the patience nor the time.

In deciding punishment for wrongdoing I believe that INTENT is important. Illegal downloaders may be selfish and short-sighted, yes. The damage that they inflict is very deep. But I do not believe that most of them seek to intentionally, maliciously harm the individual writers and artists that produce their works. This is in direct contrast to murderers and rapists.

Therefore, I believe punishment by death for illegal downloaders is too harsh and instead, another method should be found. (Ban them from using computers, fine them, etc)




2:10 AM  
OpenID safireau said...

Perhaps you think I'm a soft-hearted fool or some sort of apologist. But I feel that a death penalty is not the solution. While it would certainly lead to an immediate decrease in downloads if adequately enforced, it wouldn't be towards a kinder society.

I wouldn't be REAL change. Sure, the results are immediate and perhaps you would be satisfied with that. But you need to change mentalities not just behavior. Your solution would be a half change, not TRUE change. Plus, some people still wouldn't change, they'd just be more careful not to get caught. I don't support this sort of Us vs Them, Creatives vs Non-creatives animosity. Though maybe I just haven't been jaded by years of having other people steal my things.


Young people are young. We are still growing, changing, and developing our moral rules. We should be taught not criminalized. Additionally the combination of the development of technology and generational change leads to a change in normal standards. These should be understood before you impose your older generational view on it. Things are more complicated now and the answers to these questions are no longer as unambiguous as before.

All of the issues I have raised are common opinions and concerns among those working within the tech industry. Additionally, the technological trend is toward more and easier data sharing not less. A popular song will eventually make its way onto Youtube and unless the music company decides to put it on Vevo, young people will listen to the other uploaded version, which won't be brought down unless flagged. Many young people don't even know what they are doing is wrong since Youtube is so mainstream. You may feel that the ideal, just punishment is the death penalty because of the impact of such behavior but that is not a realistic solution if you really want to help creators since the trend of sharing is in the opposite direction. And again, mostly younger people are perpetrators so you would kill of almost all of the younger generation, many of them teenagers.
(Also, how would you enforce it? It's too hard to detect and monitor all communication channels)

Basically, any solution to combat the piracy problem should have an element of compassion in it, not just more laws because I believe that most people would change their behavior if they were more truly aware of the negative impact that they were having.

I am afraid however that you may again misinterpret what I have to say. It may make you think harsher and harsher punishments are mandatory because of the level of magnitude of illegal downloading. You may think I am promoting sympathy for thieves. I'm not, I just would like a more realistic solution with no death sentences.

But I'm not interested in having a Te vs Fe battle with you.



I want to contribute positively towards your blog, not argue with you. If you disagree with me on this topic, that's fine. I can talk about other things.

(Are you still interested in knowing more about engineering for your son? Perhaps you guys are already way past my level, but I'm still happy to tell you about the various engineering disciplines that I have had experience with and how it differs from pure science, etc)


2:12 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Safireau,

I could sigh at this point, but I won't, for you, too, have misunderstood some of my intention.

I meant for the pirate site owners to be put to death - NOT the illegal downloaders - for them I advised custodial sentences (which means put them in prison) and heavy life ruining fines. Were both steps to be implemented, piracy would vanish very quickly.

Yes. There is a problem of piratical culture among the young. In a way, many young people are either a) too stupid and short-sighted to see the consequences of their actions b) don't care. What the young fail to understand is that if they enjoy culture in ANY way, they should pay for it, not steal it - because if they don't stop stealing it, there SIMPLY WON'T BE ANY CULTURE LEFT ONE DAY. They will have killed off the creators humanity by the simple expedient of starving them to death, or forcing them to get a "proper job" which is much the same thing, creatively speaking. That would be a great loss for us all - and it would have been directly caused by this attitude to piracy, that it is "normal". It may be normal, but it is still theft. It is just that these days a lot of thieves don't realize that they are thieves - or talk themselves into thinking can't be, because "everyone else" does it too.

I do hope this culture of piracy goes away...because either it has to go, or culture will go. I know which I prefer to keep.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

If 1% of illegal downloaders were imprisoned and fined, illegal downloading would decrease by a huge order. That would be a success. If ONE pirate was executed for owning a pirate site, the number of pirate sites would probably decrease by a factor of 100 overnight. These would be good steps to take. A pirate site owner DOES NOT contribute to humanity and indeed does the creative health of humanity great harm. I see no value to humanity, in keeping such people alive: as long as they live, they will harm the future of man...so death seems appropriate for them and may be the only deterrent they listen to.

I know, however, that the rather soft developed nations we have will never take this step. Instead, they will watch their entire culture be destroyed instead. That is not rational.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. We would be interested in learning more about Engineering. For instance, what is an Engineering Problem Solving course all about - would it be interesting and is it worth taking?

Cheers.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Safireau, I wasn't suggesting that the individual illegal downloader be executed...I was suggesting that owners of PIRATE SITES be executed. They are the facilitators of all this theft and destruction of the market for intellectual property. They should go.

3:10 PM  

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