Ethics on downloading magic book pdf

Nov 3, 2018
546
428
Hi all -- long time no see. I'll make it short:
What are the ethics of downloading a free pdf of a book I've already bought? I'm currently living out of a backpack, so taking the physical book is out of the question, but at the same time it irks me to pay the full price for the official Kindle version when I own a copy already.

I'm asking specifically because in the past my intuition on the ethics concerning magic and intellectual property has as often as not proved to be pretty flawed, and I know of several people here (specifically @RealityOne and @WitchDocIsIn) who have far more refined thoughts on these issues.

I appreciate your input!
 

RealityOne

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
3,690
4,022
New Jersey
That is a tough one. There would be no problem with you taking photographs or photocopying pages of the book. I've done that for an effect I'm working on when I'm going on vacation and don't want to take the book along. So, as much as I don't like encouraging piracy by downloading from illegitimate sites, I really don't see a problem here. The creator and publisher got their money on your purchase and I don't see this as any different than you copying your book for your own use.

Also, would love to hear an update on how things are going.
 
Jan 2, 2016
1,076
875
23
California
The ethics of piracy are kinda tricky. Generally it's a bad thing and you should pay for the product. Especially in a small community like the magic community. We gotta support each other! But lately it's also been kind of invaluable for media preservation in some cases like where streaming services remove original content that never got a physical release.

Magic piracy is also especially weird because there are sites where you can pay for pirated material, albeit at a huge discount, so some people may not even realize it's an illegitimate copy, which I've seen happen.

That being said, I've actually done the same thing with magic books when I was at college.

I have a decently sized magic library and couldn't practically bring my books with me. So, I downloaded PDFs of only books that I already owned so that I could read them. I personally didn't have an issue with it because I had already paid for the books and supported the creators/distributors and as RealityOne said, it doesn't really seem any different than photocopying my book for my own purposes. I'm not sure how creators would feel about this but I know personally, I wouldn't really mind if someone downloaded a copy of my book that they already owned.

Having brought up the media preservation thing, I'm kinda wondering about the ethics of downloading an out of print magic book. Never done it personally but there are some cases where books don't get reprints. And even if you could buy the book, you wouldn't really be supporting the original creator. So, I'm not sure. Personally, I like having the physical book so I'd either wait for a reprint if possible (as it has happened) or try to get a second hand copy.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,840
2,923
I agree with RealityOne. Personally I don't understand why physical books and eBooks are the same price - eBooks don't require the cost of printing, shipping, and storing so they should be cheaper.

You can try to contact the writer of the book and explain your situation, they may be willing to provide a PDF or whatever. I know if someone reached out to me that had purchased one of my books, could prove it, and needed an electronic copy I would probably hook them up no charge. After all, it costs me nothing and they've already supported me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Antonio Diavolo
Nov 3, 2018
546
428
Thanks to all of you for your input, that eases my conscience.

Also, would love to hear an update on how things are going.
Not much to tell magic-wise. I had a couple effects prepared for a street-show but failed to practice those that would've tied it all together, so I left all the props at home. Busking remains on my bucket list, though.
Other than that, I've been in Spain since late September (spending most of my time in Dani DaOrtiz's birthplace Málaga) and will leave for Zambia in two weeks.
 
Oct 4, 2022
37
9
Short answer: it’s both ethical IMO and fair use under copyright law (US and AUS) because the OP owns a purchased copy, and it meets the additional US requirement that the duplication involve displacement to another medium for personal consumption, which has been ruled ‘fair use’.

I don't think it's correct to automatically refer to copying copyrighted work as ‘illegal,’ ‘theft’ or ‘piracy’. There are many instances of permissible fair use of copies. I don’t believe it’s governed by criminal law either. It is, rather, ‘potential violation of copyright’, which is a commercial matter. It is also potentially completely ethical and legal ‘fair use’ depending on the circumstances, principles for which have been clearly ennumerated.

Copyright exists to encourage creativity by rewarding creators with exclusive rights to proceeds of sales, including sale of that copyright, just as patents exist to encourage innovation. Considerations of ethics are implicit in the creation of copyright and patent law, but they are overtly framed in notions of encouragement of creativity, which fosters development of things for the good of society overall.

So, there are actually two issues involved, ethics and legality. There are various criteria for judging the latter, but the crux for this instance is that noncommercial use is often fair, particularly because it does not damage the work’s potential market value or commercial value, because the individual has already remunerated the creator (or owner of the copyright if they purchased the rights from the creator) for the work. Furthermore, it is fair use because the copying is in the form of ‘displacement’ (for instance, if you scanned it into electronic form so you could read it on your tablet while traveling; or if you recorded a show to watch it at a later time slot; or made a cassette compilation or backup copy in case of damage), and such copying has been ruled fair use in the US. Under Australian law I don’t believe displacement is even a requirement. If you own it, you may make a single copy of it if you also keep the original. If you go on to sell the original you're required to destroy your copy.

Functionally, downloading a copy isn’t different from making a copy, and I don’t know how US judges would rule, but under the principle of not displacing sales, the OP’s downloading of a pdf is probably legally defensible in the US if he owns and does not dispose of, gift, trade or sell the original, and the download was free. I’ve not yet actually seen case law on this particular type of ‘copying’. I’m not a lawyer but have edited material on topics like this for a couple decades.

Ethically, I judge it as fully ethical. It’s also ethical and legal to lend someone an owned copy of e.g. a book or magazine. It’s not considered fair use under US law if you give them a photocopy or scan of the entire thing, and I think it would be in a gray area were it a partial copy and *not* technically fair use if it displaced sales, but that doesn’t make it criminal and does not necessarily make it unethical, because it is a question of copyright violation, not criminal law. Ethically I have no problem with sending someone a photocopied article out of a magazine because it’s equivalent to lending them your magazine (both displace sales but are minor acts), but I'm under the impression that the US Copyright Act and case law fail to recognize this equivalence.

As an aside, relevant to a later post above, IMO it cannot possibly displace sales if back issues are not available for purchase or a still-under-copyright book were out of print (so that *might* fly, legally, in the US). Also, seeing how good the articles from that magazine are may encourage you to get a subscription. As to the latter, I don’t think it’s technically included in fair use in the US, but if back issues were unavailable AND you went on to actually get a subscription, I think you might even be able to make a decent legal defense in the US, as the lending actually did the opposite of displacing market value.

But I don’t see it as unethical. To the extent that the creator or owner is small in scale and relies on every sale, the ethical defensibility crumbles IMO, and certainly so for secrets and inventions of magic, which cannot be ‘partially copied’, but I don’t think the US allows differentiation based on scale, because it judges it as unfair use if, hypothetically, it would displace sales were the practice to become widespread.
 
Sep 1, 2007
424
233
38
Calgary
www.hermitmagic.com
It all depends on where you're downloading your free copy from. Ask the creator if there's a source that they recommend. Any support in website traffic, downloads, or cash that you give to pirates is not ideal, even if you've previously paid the creator for their work.

Scott.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JoshL8
Dec 9, 2022
1
0
What about really old books?
I remember downloading for free a pdf version of Herrmann's Wizards' Manual(I think it was on the Archive site).

A 1916 book.
 
Jan 2, 2016
1,076
875
23
California
What about really old books?
I remember downloading for free a pdf version of Herrmann's Wizards' Manual(I think it was on the Archive site).

A 1916 book.
A lot of old magic books are in the public domain. If that's the case, I don't think it counts as piracy but I could be wrong.
 
Searching...
{[{ searchResultsCount }]} Results