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Should the forums be 'pirate friendly?'

by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 10, 2005 11:20 PM PDT

Recently I was chided for locking or deleting discussions where the member had revealed their 'goods' were not their own.

If the Cnet forums are going to be friendly to pirates, we may find ourselves on the road to many a forum's ruin.

What you you think?


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I can't imagine that CNET,
by Ray Harinec / August 10, 2005 11:56 PM PDT

the corporation, would want to be open to attack and legal action by the RIAA and the Motion Picture groups.

Thos groups would love to go after the deep pockets to set an example.

Can you tell us/me who chided you???

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I couldn't believe.....
by MelH / August 11, 2005 12:15 AM PDT

.....that this type of post was not deleted completely, not only for the 'pirate' content, but clearly that the Feedback forum is not for anything other than Feedback. Unless I'm mistaken.

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I am seeking Forum feedback.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 11, 2005 12:30 AM PDT

It's been my policy to not offer help to pirates. If it's one of the forums I'm listed on, I may go as far to lock or delete the discussion.

I've received some feedback privately that such was not friendly. Which leads me to ask you and others if we really want to go down this road.

-> Today, the MODs exhibit (for the most part) a zero-tolerance stance to this issue. Most know what happens when you allow a pirate to get support in a forum.


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Just delete them.....
by MelH / August 11, 2005 1:38 AM PDT

.....if the rules aren't being followed. Explanations and locks aren't necessary if these people don't care to read the rules. If it applies to everyone there can be no complaint.

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Keep on doing what you do:)
by Glenda / August 11, 2005 3:46 AM PDT

These posts should be deleted on sight! I agree with you.

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Some times you may delete one that is marginal, BUT
by Ray Harinec / August 11, 2005 7:06 AM PDT

I support you deleting them based on your judgement and to protect CNET. You well know that you can't please everyone.

I like these forums.

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by taboma. / August 13, 2005 3:22 PM PDT

?Shiver me timbers, mate!?
Bob, you are right-on!
I called in to Adobe concerning piracy. I receive a thank you. That's it! Nothing more. I sent an email to John Warnock, Chairman and founder of Adobe. Guess what I am still waiting for? A response??None, yet after two months. Your forum by the way (Graphics.) Check it out with mouseroma and myself. Not much interest on the graphics forum for any response. Not even one, except for John! Seems no one cares, or most are Pirates!
Why do I even bother to inform Adobe?

-Kevin Smith

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(NT) (NT) no they shouldn't
by jonah jones / August 11, 2005 12:40 AM PDT
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No - and, FWIW, I support deleting the posts /
by MarciaB / August 11, 2005 4:02 AM PDT

threads as is appropriate.

Keep up the good work, Bob.



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Pirates = unfriendly
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / August 11, 2005 4:14 AM PDT

whatever the source or circumstances.

I have no problems when such discussions are deleted.


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The pirates aren't being friendly, why should we?
by John.Wilkinson / August 11, 2005 7:32 AM PDT

First, let me try to get inside a pirate's head:
Oh, yeah, cool...I just downloaded a few hundred dollars worth of pirated music, videos, and software and all it too was an hour of time...didn't even cost me a cent! Why should I have to pay for something others spent their time and money creating? Performing illegal activities makes so much more sense! Those who actually pay for another's services are just chumps. Wait, my illegally begotten media won't work. Hey, hey chump, how would you like to help me use my pirated media?''

Now, let's see...why exactly should we help pirates? To be ''neighborly,'' like they were to the copyright owners? To have the privilege of saying ''Hey, I helped someone commit an illegal activity today?'' I don't think so!
Piracy is not just the act of illegally downloading copyrighted media. You are performing piracy each and every time you play/use the media. By helping a person play pirated music/videos or use pirated software is only reinforcing the idea that their criminal acts are OK, that they won't be caught, and that the world supports them. By providing assistance, we are, in essence, supporting piracy and ensuring that it will continue. As I've said before, providing help to a pirate is aiding in the commission of a crime, making the responder an accessory to piracy.
Personally, I hate it when I see a pirate asking for help in these forums, as I've seen the effects of those people slowly infiltrating other forums. Knowing what can happen to Cnet if criminals have their way, I am very strict about such, and have no problem hitting the ''report offensive post'' button. If I'm in a good mood, I'll simply post a reply explaining the forum policies, piracy/copyright laws, and provide a list of alternative, legal methods of obtaining such media. But never assume what mood I'm can change quickly at the sight of such disregard for others, the law, and the society we live in.
In my experience, most pirates will back off if you confront them about the law, as they realize that their actions are illegal, immoral, and unethical. In fact, there are a lot of people who don't fully realize that it is piracy and will stop doing such when told about the legal ramifications.

However, there are those rare few who actually believe that they are superior to others and are exempt from the law. I had one just two weeks ago who challenged my authority to state what is right and wrong, the law itself, and my intelligence. (It was the first time I experienced such in the Cnet forums, though it is quite common in other forums I frequent.) Mark took care of it (thanks Mark, in case I didn't mention it before), but it is times like those when I wish Cnet could/would hand their IP addresses over to the proper authorities. People like that truly deserve to be nailed for piracy.
I have absolutely no problem with deleting a person's post for piracy, and favor it over the locking of threads. When a thread is locked, the question remains visible to the rest of the community. Others who support piracy can still respond by personal message, or, if the poster included his/her e-mail address, send them instructions directly. (''Just go to Cnet and post your piracy question. They'll block someone else from posting, but you'll still get your question answered. Cool...lets turn Cnet into our new piracy hub! The best part is it won't be shut down because they have a no piracy policy!)
In response to the phrase ''Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'' (which I've heard many times, usually from those who disregard every other lesson of the Bible), find me the largest stone you can, and let me cast it.


Disclaimer: The above statements are my own thoughts and views, and do not necessarily represent those of Cnet. In addition, I have not meant to offend anyone except those who have a blatant disregard for the law and lack common morality.

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(NT) (NT) A good response John.
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / August 12, 2005 8:56 PM PDT
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you should try shades of gray
by jonah jones / August 12, 2005 9:59 PM PDT

so much more interesting than plain old "B&W"


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by taboma. / August 15, 2005 3:00 PM PDT

WOW!!!, John, really good post.

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by Steven Haninger / August 11, 2005 8:06 AM PDT

If the piracy i glaringly obvious, I would say some sort of action is imperative. If it's only suspected, I would be a bit careful about it and find a tactful way to inquire as to the legitimacy of the software in question...perhaps a temporary lock with some sort of requirement by the poster to respond and clarify. Responses to posts suggesting use of unauthorized software to resolve an issue are another sticky wicket. These posts could just be deleted.
I do think the way an accusation of piracy is stated can affect the responses to it. Believe it or not, some folks still exist that just don't realize the importance of not sharing software. No one likes to be "talked down" to either. That's a sure way to get bad feedback. It might be helpful to include an anti-piracy message in that used to guide in requests for help. Yes, it seems no one reads this anyway but at least you're covered.

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I created a pat post that gets bumped
by TONI H / August 11, 2005 8:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Suggestion

to the head of the Applications Forum by all mods occasionally......assigned or a reminder to members about this issue.

It's easier to lock a posted thread than flat out delete it right away because otherwise the member doesn't know why the post isn't there, assumes it is a glitch in the forum software, and then reposts it. Once a thread is locked, the post I created gets bumped to the top again right away so the members can then understand why it's been locked but will also know why it will also disappear fairly quickly.


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Perhaps if more moderators posted
by Steven Haninger / August 11, 2005 10:51 AM PDT

openly stating that no support for pirated software/music/etc. would be given, the message might be more clear. I could have missed some but, so far, I only see you and R. Profitt generating much noise about this. Such might give the impression that you are the heavy handed ones so you would take all the flack. Maybe a message ''signed'' by a larger # of moderators, posted in the forums where offenses are most common and bumped as you do yours would let folks know there's more than two ''grinches'' among them.;)

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by John.Wilkinson / August 11, 2005 12:15 PM PDT

Most of the forums don't have ''anti-piracy'' threads, and since few people even read the forum policies/terms of service before creating an account, they don't know what the policies are, or the consequences, until after their posts are locked or deleted.
As far as who gets the most ''fan mail'' is concerned, I think it is in relation to how much time each moderator spend in the forums, and more specifically, which forums he/she visits. For instance, I doubt Marianna Schmudlach or David Evans receive many complaints, as they don't supervise the forums that receive a lot of posts concerning illegal activities. Same goes for moderators like Dave Vlas and Jeff Ng, who are rarely on.

However, Bob, Toni, Grif, Mark, and a few others each moderate multiple forums, including those which are most trafficked. Then, if you count how often they're on and reply/lock/delete (Bob, for instance, has over 42,000 posts and never appears to sleep ;)), it's understandable why they are so ''loved'' by spammers, pirates, and other joyous folks. Hopefully this doesn't discourage our most valuable assets from helping out their fellow ''neighbors'' in this online community.
Finally, there's the issue of how many moderators we have in the Digital Music and Multimedia forums. Jeff Ng is the sole moderator of the Multimedia forum, but I rarely see him submit or lock posts, and there is no one listed as a moderator of the Digital Music forum, which has more requests for piracy (and understandably so) than most of the other forums combined. Luckily, Bob and Mark fill in admirably, but it would be nice to have a ''resident moderator'' for a forum that receives so much unwanted attention. Plus, a notice about piracy from a moderator that's frequently bumped to the top might help lower the number of requests from people having trouble with downloading the latest songs from Limewire.

Just my two cents,

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by taboma. / August 12, 2005 5:15 PM PDT
In reply to: Agreed...

Nice Post. As Usual!!!

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It was me...
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 11, 2005 11:52 AM PDT

The post below is what brought up this discussion between me and Bob:


I just got a 4G 20gb Ipod photo as a gift. I have a pretty large collection (25 gb or so) of mp3's from p2p networks, friends, CD's and vinyl, etc. and some of it is pretty jumbled in terms of the tags or duplicates. I've played around with iTunes, but it doesn't really supply tags or check for duplicates. Before I load up my iPod, I was hoping to find an easier way to clean up the files and was looking at MMJB 10+ for the supertagging and duplicate sort features. However, Musicmatch's site basically tells you that it doesn't support the iPod (it's not on the compatible devices lists). Is there any way to use MMJB 10+ as my default for the music manager for iPod? Alternatively, is there some software where I could just clean up the mp3 files on my hard drive before importing to iTunes?

Thanks in advance.''

Let me just first start off by saying to you Bob, that if in anyway you took my email the wrong way then I apologize. My whole point of objection was only for this particular post only. I have watched you moderate these forums day in and day out and I have always and still trust your judgment. All I can do is offer you a note of thanks and appreciation of how much you have contributed to our community to this day. So if the email to you offended or upset you in any manner, it was never my intention. So I'm hoping we can work through this.

Now for the reason of my objection to locking down this particular post.

Moderating sometimes can be tricky job and my belief is to be as objective as possible when reading these posts. And many times I personally tend to give the community members the benefit of the doubt even when their posts do fall under that fuzzy gray area--such as this post above.

Let me state that I absolutely do not condone copyright violations or any sort of illegal behavior in the forums. And if any posts exhibit violations of any copyright laws by all means I will delete it or lock it down.

Given the circumstances of the post above, while I can easily automatically assume all of this member's music is pirated material (given that it does mention P2P and friend's stuff), I took one step back and re-read it again objectively and decided that it should remain untainted until more information was revealed that can conclude on solid grounds that this person indeed possess copyrighted materials and is asking for help with that material.

I know it is our duty as moderators to protect the forums by disallowing illegal activities and I am completely on board for discouraging and preventing these types of behaviors. But given the wording of this person's post, in my eyes P2P usage doesn't necessary reflect that this person possess copyrighted material, nor does ''Friend's'' stuff mean that this person was given copyrighted material to pirate. I'm not being ignorant or na

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If I might, as just a reader/poster
by Steven Haninger / August 11, 2005 12:16 PM PDT
In reply to: It was me...

say that I do not envy any of the moderators here who have to make decisions about what is and is not fitting for forum discussion. As for myself, I don't even like some of the names people use as "handles" or some of the abbreviations or words substitutions that are commonly used as vulgar expressions. Just my ageing ungracefully, I guess. But, as you said, I agree with giving benefit of the doubt and keeping a bit of a vague line to walk on. One of the common questions in the help forums has to do with lost software CDs or key codes. Surely this happens but who here is to know if the folks seeking help with these issues ever legally acquired a license to install or use this software? I think the moderators have done well when approching this tough one. It's got to be done without automatically making false accusations even when the poster's intensions are quite suspicious. These forums are just too helpful to decent folks and I'd hate to see them corrupted by abusers. Thank you.

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Lee (and the mods)
by jonah jones / August 11, 2005 1:44 PM PDT
In reply to: It was me...

i know you people are between the rock and the hard place on some posts, but i think that you should also remember that these "pirates" are also computer users, and the fact that a p2p program was the cause of a trashed HD shouldn't automatically mean that the user is "beyond the pale" and therefore not worthy of Cnet forum help....

i agree that telling someone how to "find the password for the server at work cos i lost mine" is an obviously blatant request for help in a hacking attempt, or, "i borrowed my friends XP CD, how do i get it to work?" is 'cheating M'soft....

but helping someone to backup/recover his 15,369 mp3s and 2,181G of brand new DVDs is not, IMO, "aiding and abetting" as long as the user asks his question in a way that allows the the Mods to 'to turn a blind eye' to the fact that such a HUGE amount could only be the result of countless hours of P2P and weeks of ripping CDs....

jonah "has been known to taste of the forbidden fruit" jones


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by Stan Chambers / August 14, 2005 4:07 PM PDT
In reply to: Lee (and the mods)

That's the funniest thing I've read in these forums.

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I have often turned a blind eye
by TONI H / August 14, 2005 10:56 PM PDT
In reply to: Lee (and the mods)

in order to help somebody recover files, no matter what the source of the original files was. I don't give them sources of where to get them from or where to get crack codes for pirated software. If somebody comes and asks how to get a legitimately purchased program that was at one time legally purchased in stores and on the net re-activated, while it is now an illegal program, I also give them as much help as possible rather than telling him to toss the program into the trash and that he's wasted his money months ago.

The fine line is in the wording of the poster asking for the help, and realizing that many of those movies may well have been legitimately purchased and he made, at that time, legal copies to his harddrive from vcr movies to burn to cd at his leisure. I've done this it is much less storage for cd's than it is for a couple of thousand vcr tapes....and tapes don't have a long shelf life like a cd does.

The source of the files doesn't matter when somebody is only asking for help to recover them. The source of the PROGRAMS/SOFTWARE in my opinion is the fine line that needs to be drawn.

There are some programs that were written years ago and were freely distributed over the net at various sources, including ZDNET and CNET....but newer versions are now being charged for. Does that make it illegal for the original version to still be distributed at various sites when you know that the original still does the job you need it to do and is still readily available from various sources via a google search? Sometimes, the original free program, the author's website, and sources to get it are no longer around with any type of search. Does that make it illegal for me, personally, to share that old but still functional program if I managed to save it in the original format over the years? I have quite a few old W95 type programs that still work fine with XP, but the program was never updated, the author is nowhere to be found, and a search for the program on google turns up nothing. Should a perfectly good program be tossed away when there is nothing else even comparable to it available today?

Moderators and volunteer posters who come to our forums go out of their way and bend over backwards to help people in trouble or in need, and always have. We just have to figure out from asking questions regarding some topics where our fine line is without automatically assuming the worst right off the bat, and when we have all the information we need, then we can make the decision about whether we are able to help. Sometimes it's blatantly clear and the decision is easy to make...sometimes it's vague enough that we have to step back a notch and realize that we aren't the internet police with the right to interrogate under bright lights...sometimes it really sucks being a Moderator because whether we morally agree with a decision or not, we have to follow the CNET rules because they pertain to us just as equally as the other members.


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Is it illegal...
by Edward ODaniel / September 23, 2005 1:06 AM PDT
There are some programs that were written years ago and were freely distributed over the net at various sources, including ZDNET and CNET....but newer versions are now being charged for. Does that make it illegal for the original version to still be distributed at various sites when you know that the original still does the job you need it to do and is still readily available from various sources via a google search?

Legality or illegality depends on the license originally probided Toni.

I have some software utilities I downloaded long ago from ZD Net (such as COA32) that were free for the downloading. The conditions for the download however did specify that it was for my use and NOT to be passed around. Those conditions have not changed simply because PC Mag now charges a fee--I can still use the old COA32 but still don't have permission to make it available to others because it is not actually my property. The same actually applies to "Abandon Ware" where you can't seem to locate the author. It may not have been abandoned, it may have been sold and the name changed (look at Symantec's GHOST as an example of that very thing).
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Hi Jonah...
by Edward ODaniel / September 23, 2005 12:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Lee (and the mods)

got here a bit late but was certainly glad to find this post of yours because I have a problem.

See, I have this boat (given me by a friend) and I have it pretty much filled up with furs and jewelry and appliances, drugs and money that I have accumulated by trading with peers in back alleys and "borrowing" from friends and aquaintances.

The boat was sunk in a recent storm and I just need help recovering it.

Can we count on your assistance and therefore involvement?


I'm firmly with Bob on this because an ACCOMPLICE doesn't have to have full knowledge, reasonable belief that something isn't right is enough.

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(NT) (NT) PS - just reinforcing your last paragraph. :-)
by Edward ODaniel / September 23, 2005 12:54 AM PDT
In reply to: Hi Jonah...
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i rejoice that you have such considerate friends
by jonah jones / September 23, 2005 5:26 PM PDT
In reply to: Hi Jonah...

and i also mourn your loss of means of transport...

it is with great regret that that we (my lawyer brother and myself ;-)) must turn down your plea for assistance as a previous request left us with a nasty virus (some trips lead to murky, shark infested waters) and an impending law suit...

i have no hesitation in endorsing a friend who runs a P2P (Props 2 Punts} site who will aid you in your efforts to reach a safe haven with your "merchandise"....



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by taboma / September 24, 2005 3:56 PM PDT

Jonah, Nice post!


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My thoughts...
by John.Wilkinson / August 11, 2005 3:36 PM PDT
In reply to: It was me...

This is one of those cases that falls in the grey area, where the existence of piracy is probable, but not definitive, and legitimate questions are also asked. Thus, a tough judgment call must be made.

I base all of my decisions on probability and statistics, which has worked out quite well. With around ninety percent of all files on P2P networking being pirated, my natural assumption when I see "P2P" is that I'm speaking with someone who is dealing in copyrighted material. This is one case where "innocent until proven guilty" isn't the first thought that comes to mind. I hate to say it, but I think the worst of P2P users unless that can convince me that there are using such services for only legitimate purposes. And, unfortunately, my assumptions are almost always justified. In fact, Bob is the only person I know of that uses a P2P service for legal purposes (download Linux ISOs).

In this case, I have little doubt that the songs from P2P networks and friends is copyrighted music, and thus pirated. While he/she hasn't admitted to piracy, few people do. Most of the threads I've seen locked/deleted did not come out and say "my pirated music" or even something like "the new Kenny Rogers CD," which we would know could only be pirated if obtained through P2P networks. Pirates leave their requests vague on purpose, hoping that their post may not be flagged and thus "fall through the cracks." Since "evidence" of piracy is rarely given, the only option is to base your judgments on the level of suspicion and the odds against the individual.
In order to help shine some light on this "grey area," I believe that there should be a notation in the forum policies which explains that most people are naturally suspicious of those who use P2P networks, and why this is so. Then, ask those dealing with such networks to reasonably explain what files they are dealing essence, explaining why we should not immediately consider him/her a pirate and lock/delete the thread. I'm sure that those few who are using P2P networks for legal purposes would be more than happy to oblige and avoid having undue suspicion cast upon them.

It would also make it much easy for the moderators to determine what is "safe" to lock/delete, and which should be left along, for the time being. If the post does not specifically state/explain the solely legal purpose for the network's use, then the moderators would simply be following forum policies by deleting it...there would be no question about his/her decision to leave, lock, or delete the post, as a judgment call would not be needed.
Had the user not requested help for indexing music that we know is legally obtained, my decision to cite forum policies or lock/delete the thread would probably have depended on my mood and "gut instinct." However, since only some of his/her music is in question, I would try to walk that fine line between helping the user and helping the user commit piracy. First, I'd provide a step-by-step on how to properly import CDs into iTunes and make sure that the track information is included. Next, I'd state how to record the songs onto the computer with the least amount of quality loss, but explain that it would be nearly impossible to get any program to automatically recognize that identify the songs, as all of the identifying characteristics would not be present. (Included tags not present, song length would be variable, etc). However, when coming to the part concerning music acquired from P2P networks and friends, I'd cite the forum policies about piracy and offer the person the opportunity to "prove his case" and give us reason to believe that it is not copyrighted music prior to giving any help with indexing such.

At the same time, I understand where others are coming from, and that it is each person's individual experiences that influence their decisions. No matter what his/her decision is, I trust in the person to use their knowledge to make a decision which is fair to all parties. That goes for all of our moderators, current and future.


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