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Old 06-10-2007, 04:24 PM   #1
stairwayoflight
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Is this "cracking" (ie. unethical/illegal)? (freely downloading for-pay content)


Hello,

I have a legality / ethics question. Lets say hypothetically a friend of mine found a media website. It provides video courses for paid subscribers. Presumably they are given web pages providing links to the video sessions once they have subscribed, or possibly just pages with WMP embedded.

This friend of mine found the mms:// links within web pages, and used other web content to guess further mms stream urls. These could then be downloaded using mplayer to dump the streams.

I thought this is the equivalent of inviting someone in the front door (the mms server doesn't require authentication, so no "password cracking" etc). Another friend claimed it was stealing.

Opinions?
 
Old 06-10-2007, 04:44 PM   #2
acid_kewpie
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what opinions are there to have? of course it's illegal, assuming that the conventional processes do require terms of usage agreements etc... just because it's easy, doesn't mean it's legitimate.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 04:53 PM   #3
stairwayoflight
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I am curious. I have heard about scripts to chew web pages to extract and manipulate data, eg. stock prices. Most web sites don't want their content reverse engineered, is this illegal as well?

I understand to redistribute the data would be illegal in most cases. But even for personal use?

I am just trying to understand what we are bound to do legally.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 04:53 PM   #4
jtshaw
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If a jewelry store leaves a pair of diamond earrings on top of the counter and the employees are busy helping other customers is it legal to take them without paying because they weren't locked up in the case?

Not exactly the same situation, but close. Just because somebody isn't properly protecting property doesn't give anyone a pass for taking advantage of them.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 05:06 PM   #5
stairwayoflight
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I guess there is a consensus that this would be illegal then.

Thanks for the help, if this is a black area or even a dark shade of grey, I am not interested.

But I would still like to know about extracting data from web pages, its ok if not redistributed?
 
Old 06-10-2007, 05:34 PM   #6
Kizzume
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It's illegal, but I don't think it would be YOU or your friend that would get prosecuted, it would be the ones who left it out for anyone to get.

The jewelery analogy doesn't work because we're talking about intellectual property, not physical property--the rules and specifics between those are vastly different. There is no "exact cloning" of physical items, but there is with intellectual property. It's more like going to different shopping places with a "replicator", pointing it at that piece of jewelry, making an exact duplicate of it, and leaving the store with the duplicate of that piece of jewelry. Unethical? Maybe. Illegal? Maybe. Wrong? I don't know.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 05:46 PM   #7
jtshaw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kizzume
It's illegal, but I don't think it would be YOU or your friend that would get prosecuted, it would be the ones who left it out for anyone to get.

The jewelery analogy doesn't work because we're talking about intellectual property, not physical property--the rules and specifics between those are vastly different. There is no "exact cloning" of physical items, but there is with intellectual property. It's more like going to different shopping places with a "replicator", pointing it at that piece of jewelry, making an exact duplicate of it, and leaving the store with the duplicate of that piece of jewelry. Unethical? Maybe. Illegal? Maybe. Wrong? I don't know.
I agree the analogy isn't perfect, but I believe your first point to be incorrect (about who could be prosecuted). But then again, I'm not a lawyer.

Again.. if I'm dumb and accidently leave an open door to my intellectual property you taking it and using it is still illegal.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 05:52 PM   #8
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This is not illegal. You request a response with a link through a media player and you get media. That is the same as ringing your nabour's doorbell after wich your nabour invites you for coffee.

Cracking is breaking security. That would have been the same as breaking into your nabours house and steeling the coffee. Whether this is done by forcing the door or going through a open window (wich means not breaking but bypassing the security).

Saving the content is legal if you live in the European Union as long as you don't redistribute it unauthorized to people you don't know and/or don't redistribute it on a commercial basis if the content is copyrighted. Saving in the USA is illegal in any case if the content is copyrighted (digital millennium copyright act).

Cracking is always gaining unauthorized acces to software protected content by breaking or bypassing security. In this case there was no security so it was not cracking. Beware of copyright law though...

Last edited by V!NCENT; 06-10-2007 at 05:54 PM.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 06:13 PM   #9
michaelk
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True, your view depends on the country of origin. I agree with everyone else that using this material is unethical as well as illegal. IMO there is no difference between using this material and downloading copyrighted music or computer programs via P2P.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 06:29 PM   #10
Crito
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Depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 06:57 PM   #11
V!NCENT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crito
Depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.
Ok look, in this case the the provider of the media was putting it on the internet somewhere for you to access. They did not ask for anything they just let you watch and download it. They only did not tell anybody where it was and in exchange for money they redirect you to that place. If they just set up some appache webserver or something and just put a password on it it would have been illegal to access it. Just don't put it on the internet yourself and nobody dies.

PS: oh and by the way, you did not gain acces to the server so you didn't cracked anything.

Last edited by V!NCENT; 06-10-2007 at 06:59 PM.
 
Old 06-10-2007, 09:51 PM   #12
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Illegal, AND unethical.

In the following, I use the word "you" in a general tense, not specifically the OP.

They want payment for the service they provide. You are going against the wishes of the company, and the use of their product. If you want their service, legally, you must pay for it.

My personal opinion is that if you have downloaded and stored the data on your drive, you are legally responsible, and should be culpable to the law.

To me, philosophically speaking, there is no difference between physical and intellectual property. To copy something from my site that doesn't belong to you, is just the same as stealing my physical computer. If I write software, and choose to use it to make money, and you steal it, my ability to make income from that product is diminished.
 
Old 06-11-2007, 08:32 PM   #13
stairwayoflight
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Admittedly, I have downloaded something from somewhere, but secured permission from a representative of the company to do so. However in retrospect I was thinking about the conversation and perhaps that person did not represent the company's interests. (I believe she does administrative work and the like.)

As far as the course content goes, in order to obtain it I have not run into any "terms of use" info, either on the main website or course content. It is probably safe to assume it is delivered to subscribers though. For the sake of ethics here, I am deleting the content.

Before all this, I was considering a script to download this and some other things and batch convert them to ipod video format, maybe a linux livecd or vm. I have reconsidered and am doing no such thing.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their $0.02.
 
Old 06-11-2007, 09:59 PM   #14
pixellany
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The fact that this stuff is on the Internet--regardless of how it is protected--is not really relevant.

Also, when you start splitting hairs about the law, it too loses relevance.

What is true is that you are not supposed to be taking things that are not yours--this includes copying things that are someone else's intellectual property.

Laws are like power tools---you want to have them, but you should not be using them every day. I think personal ethics and morality should always take precedence.
 
Old 06-11-2007, 10:31 PM   #15
jiml8
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Quote:
Cracking is breaking security. That would have been the same as breaking into your nabours house and steeling the coffee. Whether this is done by forcing the door or going through a open window (wich means not breaking but bypassing the security).
Cracking is entering improperly where it is clear you aren't freely permitted.

In the case given, the security on the website is defective. It is entirely possible that the site owners don't know it, and it is equally possible that they went with the cheapest bidder for site development, and got someone clueless.

However, the attempt to secure the site and charge money for the content makes the intent clear. Bypassing the security to obtain the content is exactly analogous to entering someone's house when they've left and improperly latched/locked the door.

It is theft of service. Period.
 
  


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