What's your opinion on intellectual property?

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I could tell you, but I'm afraid you'd read it whenever you felt like it without having paid for it.
That's a good point.

If we're equating using an "idea" without permission to stealing, then wouldn't it have to be wrong according to natural law as well as just the law on the books.

(For example, people would still consider stealing physical property wrong even if there was no law defining it as such).

On the other hand though, if you heard a guy tell a funny joke, would it be "wrong" for you to repeat the joke to someone without first getting permission for it?

It opens up a huge can of worms when you equate taking something "non-physical" with stealing physical property.



The thing isolated becomes incomprehensible
Poor argument, because you're not focusing on whether the action is actually stealing - you're just arguing that "if everyone did it they'd lose money".

But if a scientist invented a robot which performed surgeries for free, it might be true that "if everyone used it then surgeons would go out of business" - but that doesn't mean that the scientist or the people making use of the robot are "stealing" anything.
When a scientist creates something like that, he gets pais everytime someone buys one so your argument doesn't apply!

I'm not arguing that... I'm saying that someone's time was spent creating an idea and creating a film! I don't get why is that not important to you... The argument "if I can get something for free, why should I pay for it?" it's like saying, if I can steal a car, why should I pay for it. It's the same with people that want to musicians play in their parties in exchange of publicity and no payment... ********!!!

Based on what? Natural law, or simply the law of ink and pen.

I see no natural law basis for ownership of an "idea" - to me the only thing you "own" is the physical DVD or CD with the music or films on it - you can't legally "own" something which isn't a piece of physical property.

Basically you're equating "depriving" someone of potential profits with "depriving" them of something which they actually physically own.

There aren't really any accurate "real life" equivalents to piracy.

The best equivalent however would be if a scientist invented a "cloning machine" which could duplicate anything he wanted ex. meaning instead of buying a new Camaro at a dealership, he could just "zap" it and make a free copy).

However equating this to someone actually stealing a Camaro out of the dealership lot seems absurd to me.


Are you sure your avatar's public domain? lol jk
It's a question of ethics, before everything else.

It's exactly because you can't see why an idea is something you own, that we disagree!



In the case of downloads I don't see any difference in the action above, and in downloading the movie - the only difference is that it's done online, and that it's being lent out to many more people than a person could in "real life".
That's not the only difference: when you lend out a physical movie, you can't watch it any more. And even in cases where copies are legal, the other differences you describe are pretty significant. The only reason lending out things like this is legal is because it has natural limitations; limitations that don't exist with file copying.

The actual "property" however is the physical DVD, CD, etc with the movie or music on it
Would you object to someone erasing them? If so, then the property is more than the physical medium on which it is distributed.

whether or not they need to rationalize it or not is contingent on whether the action is actually "stealing" to begin with, which is what my concern here is.
My concern here is whether the action amounts to stealing or not.

To me the anti-piracy mentality is based too much on the "end result" of the action (ex. causing artists to lose money) than what type of action is actually being done.
You can't divorce an action from its moral consequences and then ask if it's wrong in a vacuum. Nothing about the act of clicking or watching something is wrong in the action itself, the same way nothing about holding a knife in your hand and thrusting it forward is wrong in the action itself. In both cases it becomes wrong when done in a context that produces certain end results.

Anyway, if you want to know if something is stealing, start with a definition (I don't think you've advanced one yet). Here's mine: piracy is stealing because it's taking something that someone else made, without their permission, in a way that may harm them.



Just to mix it up a little. Being of an age pre-www, I can remember people recording songs/films/tv programmes off of the radio or tv onto tape and no one would bat an eye. People would be glad that that film was on tv because it meant they could have a copy. If someone had bought a record or computer game, no one thought twice about asking for a copy. The thought of a company pursuing someone for a copy like that was pretty much unthinkable, though the law is the same now as it was then, I think.

Obviously social values/morals change, but I think this has more to do with an increased media and the scale of the 'problem' than it does the actual crime itself. If that's the case, then is there even an argument to be had about the morality of file sharing? Surely the problem is purely financial?
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This is a false choice, and not a choice you're actually giving them, anyway.
Suffice to say I will pay for what is good and that applies in many industries, the bloated Hollywood machine included. If I eat a meal in a restaurant and it has one of the chef's hairs in it, then I'm not going to pay for it. Are you suggesting (and your tone suggests that you are) that I should cough up the dough for the meal anyway, just because someone made it, regardless of it's quality or food/hair ratio? If an Independent film studio makes a movie whose success of failure would mean the difference between survival and closure of said studio, then the cinephile in me would pay for it even if it sucked (I have also done this, as well as donating to passion projects on the likes of Kickstarter etc, simply because I admire their determination to get their creativity to the screen, which often doesn't even happen)

Arguing that creativity deserves reward, regardless of its worth, however, is a dangerous path to take and despite littered with good intentions, it really doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.



And while I think about it. In my day-to-day brushes with the film industry, I am sent copies of movies by independent movie makers, small independent studios etc, even my editor throws the odd 'a' list screener in my direction from time to time. Judging by some of the examples given, I would therefore have to think twice about giving a movie a bad review, having not paid for the right to do so (albeit they have asked me for my opinion and have given me a copy). Additionally, does the purchase of a film that I then subsequently rip to bits in a review give me the right to do so, as arguably, that is also causing harm (a definition used that I feel requires a little more girth) to the creator of said movie, even if I have paid for it, as my review may (but probably not, we all know nobody listens to movie reviewers anyway) have a negative impact on its sales, or viewing audience numbers?

Furthermore, as a Premium Unlimited member at Cineworld in the UK, I am fortunate enough to be allowed to watch as many films as I like as often as I want. If I download the film that I have already inadvertently paid for with my Unlimited subscription but have yet to actually visit the cinema to see (I may not actually bother, or may watch something else), what is my conscience supposed to make of that moral conundrum? Should I be wringing my hands with guilt because I didn't sit in the allotted seat, but in my comfy armchair instead?



Suffice to say I will pay for what is good and that applies in many industries, the bloated Hollywood machine included.
Every time you download a movie and then enjoy it, you go out and buy a copy later?

If I eat a meal in a restaurant and it has one of the chef's hairs in it, then I'm not going to pay for it. Are you suggesting (and your tone suggests that you are) that I should cough up the dough for the meal anyway, just because someone made it, regardless of it's quality or food/hair ratio?
No, but the two situations aren't remotely analogous, for several reasons.

First, you can return a meal. You can't unwatch a movie. So a better analogy would be that you ate the meal anyway and then decided not to pay. Which I think you'll agree is fairly ridiculous.

Second, the presence of something like a hair is a health issue, and you clearly order from restaurants with the expectation that the meals will be free of such things. Movie tickets come with no such expectation or guarantee. One is more like a breach of contract, and the other is more like wishing you hadn't agreed to it. That's a big difference.

Third, whether or not food has a hair on it is at least somewhat objectively verifiable. Whether or not you liked a movie isn't.

If an Independent film studio makes a movie whose success of failure would mean the difference between survival and closure of said studio, then the cinephile in me would pay for it even if it sucked
Leaving aside that this is unknowable (which means it has the effect of absolving you of ever having to pay), I don't see how this alters the moral calculus. If 999 people pirate a film and the studio stays afloat, the 1,000th person to do so (that bankrupts them) is not actually behaving worse than the others.

Also, there are countless gradations between staying open and having to close up shop. Studios make millions of individual choices as a product of profit. A studio that makes a sizable profit is taking more risks, making more films, making films with larger budgets, and hiring more people. A studio that barely gets by isn't, even though both satisfy the binary "are they still operating?" test you're describing. Revenue does not cease to be irrelevant before the point at which it leads to a studio closing.

Arguing that creativity deserves reward
This isn't the argument, though. The argument is that people are entitled to the products of their labor, even if those products are transient, like a film.

On the other hand, you do seem to be arguing the converse: that you're inherently entitled to the product of people's labors, even if they don't consent.



And while I think about it. In my day-to-day brushes with the film industry, I am sent copies of movies by independent movie makers, small independent studios etc, even my editor throws the odd 'a' list screener in my direction from time to time. Judging by some of the examples given, I would therefore have to think twice about giving a movie a bad review, having not paid for the right to do so (albeit they have asked me for my opinion and have given me a copy). Additionally, does the purchase of a film that I then subsequently rip to bits in a review give me the right to do so, as arguably, that is also causing harm (a definition used that I feel requires a little more girth) to the creator of said movie, even if I have paid for it, as my review may (but probably not, we all know nobody listens to movie reviewers anyway) have a negative impact on its sales, or viewing audience numbers?
No, because letting people view a film means giving consent to the possibility of them criticizing it.

Furthermore, as a Premium Unlimited member at Cineworld in the UK, I am fortunate enough to be allowed to watch as many films as I like as often as I want. If I download the film that I have already inadvertently paid for with my Unlimited subscription but have yet to actually visit the cinema to see (I may not actually bother, or may watch something else), what is my conscience supposed to make of that moral conundrum? Should I be wringing my hands with guilt because I didn't sit in the allotted seat, but in my comfy armchair instead?
Do you only download films that you have access to this way? Do you refuse to seed them afterwards so that only you, the person who has this access, gets to watch them?



Every time you download a movie and then enjoy it, you go out and buy a copy later? - Yes (I don't want you to overestimate my illicitness, and the need and desire for me to download movies illegally shouldn't be overstated, as my need to do so is probably less than others for reasons I have already mentioned. Over time, I think it is probably fair to say that I have paid for as many movies that I didn't end up seeing (for one reason or another) at least as much as I would equate in value compared to when committing what you would probably describe as 'theft'.

No, but the two situations aren't remotely analogous, for several reasons. First, you can return a meal. You can't unwatch a movie. So a better analogy would be that you ate the meal anyway and then decided not to pay. Which I think you'll agree is fairly ridiculous.
On the contrary, if I watch the first twenty minutes of a movie and discover that it's rubbish, upon leaving the theatre early, I have been known to demand my money back, which I have yet to be refused. So in essence, I would argue that they are analogous.

Leaving aside that this is unknowable (which means it has the effect of absolving you of ever having to pay), I don't see how this alters the moral calculus. If 999 people pirate a film and the studio stays afloat, the 1,000th person to do so (that bankrupts them) is not actually behaving worse than the others.
Also, there are countless gradations between staying open and having to close up shop. Studios make millions of individual choices as a product of profit. A studio that makes a sizable profit is taking more risks, making more films, making films with larger budgets, and hiring more people. A studio that barely gets by isn't, even though both satisfy the binary "are they still operating?" test you're describing. Revenue does not cease to be irrelevant before the point at which it leads to a studio closing.

Honestly, this is just garbled noise-making. I need to read more books, clearly I'm referring to the fact that I pay for as many bad pieces of art because of my love of the artform, so feel justified as a consumer to stamp my feet in the form of keeping my wallet in my pants. If I wanted a degree in Economics & Business Management, I would have taken (and swiftly dropped out of) one.

No, because letting people view a film means giving consent to the possibility of them criticizing it.
So causing harm is okay, as long as the person harmed asks for it? Sadist.

Do you only download films that you have access to this way? Do you refuse to seed them afterwards so that only you, the person who has this access, gets to watch them?
As a general rule, most of the things I need/want to watch are readily available for me in my current legally righteous methods of consumption. This is not usually a shared experience, but if it is, it is usually an entertainment 'event', so half a dozen people squatting over a laptop watching some crappy cam of the latest flick isn't something I would either say I'm used to, or recommend. If that's your only avenue, I'm not going to chastise you for it, finding it as I do petty, na´ve and unrealistic. If I want something I can't see at the cinema where I live, then chances are I won't find it on the internet either. Us Brits are a quite cultural, cosmopolitan bunch all told, even if we do have bad teeth and questionable spelling.

Good points, well made, btw



Registered User
That's not the only difference: when you lend out a physical movie, you can't watch it any more. And even in cases where copies are legal, the other differences you describe are pretty significant. The only reason lending out things like this is legal is because it has natural limitations; limitations that don't exist with file copying.
Again though, if it's stealing according to natural law as opposed to just pen and paper then it would need real life equivalents.

The analogy that i used is repeating a joke to your friends which someone else used first (without obtaining the other's permission).

Even if no law is preventing you from doing so, if the action is wrong according to natural law then it would still be wrong to do on a personal basis - in the same way pickpocketing would be wrong even if there was no law enforcing it.

The argument whether or not the "natural limitations" verses no limitations makes a difference here is definitely worth considering however

Would you object to someone erasing them? If so, then the property is more than the physical medium on which it is distributed.
If I sold someone a DVD then I wouldn't object to them erasing what's on it, no.

I agree that the data on it is part of the property, but I still don't see a claim to ownership of the "mere existence of the data" - but rather the physical property (including the internal code which holds the data).

So yes, if someone took my DVD and erased it without my permission they would be damaging my property - but that's still not the same as saying a person owns "the ideas" themselves, even after having parted with the physical copy of the data.

You can't divorce an action from its moral consequences and then ask if it's wrong in a vacuum.
You can if the action doesn't meet a definition, such as that of aggression.

For example, even if the "action" or ultimate consequence of people driving cars lead to global warming causing damage to the environment, that wouldn't mean an individual's decision to drive a car was an act of aggression.

Or on the flip side if you're just using the "end results" to define what the action actually is, then wouldn't it be "less of a crime" to steal from Warren Buffet than from an average person, since stealing $1,000 from a billionaire would produce "less of a bad end result" than doing so to a person making a modest income?

Nothing about the act of clicking or watching something is wrong in the action itself, the same way nothing about holding a knife in your hand and thrusting it forward is wrong in the action itself. In both cases it becomes wrong when done in a context that produces certain end results.
In the knife scenario the end results are aggression and force used on another party.

If we didn't distinguish between the action itself and the results there would be no difference between accidental homicide and murder, for example.

So no I was talking about the action within actual context; swinging a knife in the air wouldn't be an act of aggression, however swinging it at an innocent person would.

My argument was that uploading or downloading media via the internet (which was purchased legally) isn't an act of aggression.

Anyway, if you want to know if something is stealing, start with a definition (I don't think you've advanced one yet). Here's mine: piracy is stealing because it's taking something that someone else made, without their permission, in a way that may harm them.
My definition is that if the person is less something which they actually had, then it's stealing.

However this would have to be something which they actually possessed at the time, not just "future potential profits".



The analogy that i used is repeating a joke to your friends which someone else used first (without obtaining the other's permission).
It's more like taking a recording of their entire act and handing it out for free even though they're trying to sell it. Wait, no, it's not like that: it's exactly that.

Even if no law is preventing you from doing so, if the action is wrong according to natural law then it would still be wrong to do on a personal basis - in the same way pickpocketing would be wrong even if there was no law enforcing it.
Yes, it's wrong even on that limited basis. It's just a very small wrong with very little potential to do measurable harm.

If I sold someone a DVD then I wouldn't object to them erasing what's on it, no.
No, I'm asking if you would object to someone else erasing a DVD you own. If you would, then you've acknowledged the intellectual property has value independent of the physical media it's distributed on. The rest of the argument flows pretty obviously from there.

You can if the action doesn't meet a definition, such as that of aggression.

For example, even if the "action" or ultimate consequence of people driving cars lead to global warming causing damage to the environment, that wouldn't mean an individual's decision to drive a car was an act of aggression.
Something doesn't have to be an "act of aggression" to be wrong. And that was the question: is it wrong?

Or on the flip side if you're just using the "end results" to define what the action actually is, then wouldn't it be "less of a crime" to steal from Warren Buffet than from an average person, since stealing $1,000 from a billionaire would produce "less of a bad end result" than doing so to a person making a modest income?
No, because being wrong because it causes harm is not the same thing as saying the level of immortality is correlated with the degree of harm.

Also, you're drifting in and out between talking about morality and legality. You say it wouldn't be "less of a crime," but that's because crime is binary.

In the knife scenario the end results are aggression and force used on another party.
That's neither here nor there: the point of the analogy is to establish that acts are not inherently right or wrong, they become right or wrong only in context. Even accepting your premise here that something has to involve force to be wrong, you'd still have this:

1) Stabbing the air, not wrong.
2) Stabbing someone's stomach, wrong.
3) Stabbing someone's stomach to stop them from shooting someone else, not wrong.

Actions do not have moral properties outside of contexts.

My definition is that if the person is less something which they actually had, then it's stealing.

However this would have to be something which they actually possessed at the time, not just "future potential profits".
So people don't actually own stock?



My concern here is whether the action amounts to stealing or not.

To me the anti-piracy mentality is based too much on the "end result" of the action (ex. causing artists to lose money) than what type of action is actually being done.

For example, let's say an talented artist bought a painting and painted a nearly identical copy, which he gave to a friend for free. Should the painting's original artist be able to sue the friend and claiming he "stole" his work because he didn't pay for it?

This is different; that's plagiarism. What he's making is new (I can't imagine that it could ever be completely identical) but he has stolen the idea. Of course art is largely derivative anyway but it wouldn't be a question of him stealing the artist's work but rather stealing the idea, as the friend created something 'new'.
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It's more like taking a recording of their entire act and handing it out for free even though they're trying to sell it. Wait, no, it's not like that: it's exactly that.


Yes, it's wrong even on that limited basis. It's just a very small wrong with very little potential to do measurable harm.
That opens quite a can of worms.

No, I'm asking if you would object to someone else erasing a DVD you own. If you would, then you've acknowledged the intellectual property has value independent of the physical media it's distributed on. The rest of the argument flows pretty obviously from there.
I'd still say the property is the data within the physical object, not simply the "ideas".

Something doesn't have to be an "act of aggression" to be wrong. And that was the question: is it wrong?
In some cases, yes - however the argument is equating downloading/uploading to "stealing", which is an act of aggression.

Things which are wrong but are non-aggressive wrongs are typically handled differently.

I think the argument that "if everyone did it it would produce a bad result" is a poor argument, since that also opens up a large can of worms - for example "if everyone" ate at McDonald's instead of Burger King, then Burger King would go out of business and people would lose jobs, but that doesn't mean people are "obligated" to do it.

No, because being wrong because it causes harm is not the same thing as saying the level of immortality is correlated with the degree of harm.

Also, you're drifting in and out between talking about morality and legality. You say it wouldn't be "less of a crime," but that's because crime is binary.

That's neither here nor there: the point of the analogy is to establish that acts are not inherently right or wrong, they become right or wrong only in context. Even accepting your premise here that something has to involve force to be wrong, you'd still have this:

1) Stabbing the air, not wrong.
2) Stabbing someone's stomach, wrong.
3) Stabbing someone's stomach to stop them from shooting someone else, not wrong.

Actions do not have moral properties outside of contexts.
The contexts you're defining above are aggression against an innocent person Which is the same context I was using.

So people don't actually own stock?
Stock is a binding agreement (ex. one person has agreed to pay back a portion of profits in exchange for money invested up-front), so that's a different argument altogether.



That opens quite a can of worms.
Hmm, does it? I think it was against the law for awhile, without much incident. It's not worth enforcing. That's the nice thing about common sense exceptions: they can self-balance, at least sometimes.

I'd still say the property is the data within the physical object, not simply the "ideas".
Okay, then the data that makes up the digital copy being pirated is the property, too. Either way, the point is made.

In some cases, yes - however the argument is equating downloading/uploading to "stealing", which is an act of aggression.
It can be, but I don't see anything about the word or the concept that says it's necessarily so. Either way, this is a conversation about what should be considered stealing, so it doesn't get us anywhere to say it's not stealing simply because you've defined stealing as only including acts of aggression.

Things which are wrong but are non-aggressive wrongs are typically handled differently.
Sure, but is anyone proposing we handle movie piracy the same way we handle aggravated assault?

I think the argument that "if everyone did it it would produce a bad result" is a poor argument
Aye. But so is "it's only bad in aggregate, therefore no individual is to blame."

since that also opens up a large can of worms - for example "if everyone" ate at McDonald's instead of Burger King, then Burger King would go out of business and people would lose jobs, but that doesn't mean people are "obligated" to do it.
You have no idea how hard it is for me not to launch into talking about why this makes no sense, economically. Like, so hard. But that'd be a digression too far.

The contexts you're defining above are aggression against an innocent person Which is the same context I was using.
I'm not sure why that would change the point. I'm merely establishing the principle that acts do not have inherent morality. They only become moral or immoral in a given context. What about this principle is supposed to be limited only to acts of aggression, and why?

Stock is a binding agreement (ex. one person has agreed to pay back a portion of profits in exchange for money invested up-front), so that's a different argument altogether.
Stocks prove that you can have abstract ownership over profits that don't exist yet.



Registered User
Okay, then the data that makes up the digital copy being pirated is the property, too. Either way, the point is made.
Again this opens up a can of worms - since if you allow a family member to drive your car the same argument could be made - that even though you "own the car", that the designer of the car still abstractly "owns" the design, and therefore the family member using the car without buying one themselves is stealing profits from the car manufacturer.

If you want to argue that the standards are different when there's no physical or natural limitation on it, then that's a different ballpark.

It can be, but I don't see anything about the word or the concept that says it's necessarily so. Either way, this is a conversation about what should be considered stealing, so it doesn't get us anywhere to say it's not stealing simply because you've defined stealing as only including acts of aggression.
It's a consistent definition.

Aye. But so is "it's only bad in aggregate, therefore no individual is to blame."

You have no idea how hard it is for me not to launch into talking about why this makes no sense, economically. Like, so hard. But that'd be a digression too far.
It illustrates that judging the validity of an action solely by the 'end result' doesn't make any sense.

I'd say that no individual is to blame unless something about the actual action itself is wrong in and of itself (and yes "in and of itself" is context dependent, but it's dependent on the method in which the behavior is being done rather than simply "the end result" regardless of anything else - this doesn't only include aggression, but includes things like carelessness or negligence for example).

So the debate should hinge on whether or not sharing media is stealing or otherwise harmful behavior, rather than simply the "end result" with no other factors considered.

Stocks prove that you can have abstract ownership over profits that don't exist yet.
I thought stocks was more comparable to an agreement (ex. paying a pest control company money up-front in exchange for a later favor).



Again this opens up a can of worms
And the opposing stance doesn't? If you can't "own" the data, then why can't someone erase an entire DVD collection? Heck, why not a whole hard drive?

since if you allow a family member to drive your car the same argument could be made - that even though you "own the car", that the designer of the car still abstractly "owns" the design, and therefore the family member using the car without buying one themselves is stealing profits from the car manufacturer.
No, you can't make that argument, because in selling you the car they relinquish rights to it. Pretty much all the alleged cans of worms you keep referring to are easily fixed by simply requiring consent from the owner of the intellectual property.

It's a consistent definition.
Yes, circular definitions do have a way of not contradicting themselves. But that's not really saying much for them.

It illustrates that judging the validity of an action solely by the 'end result' doesn't make any sense.
I don't think anyone's judging the act solely by the outcome, nor do you have to do this to condemn piracy.

I'd say that no individual is to blame unless something about the actual action itself is wrong in and of itself (and yes "in and of itself" is context dependent, but it's dependent on the method in which the behavior is being done rather than simply "the end result" regardless of anything else).
I don't think this is a meaningful distinction. To use your example, if you posit that global warming is a serious threat, and that driving cars contributes to it, then yes, the act of driving is itself "wrong," it's just a very small wrong that adds up as many people commit it, like everyone taking a single penny from a bank.

Let's be clear that we're talking about what's merely right or wrong, not what you would feel comfortable blaming someone for, or prosecuting someone for. It's fine to say that we can't overly criticize (or prosecute) someone for an action which has to happen millions of times to have a negative effect. But that's different than asking the philosophical question of whether or not the action is wrong.

So the debate should hinge on whether or not sharing media is stealing or otherwise harmful behavior, rather than simply the "end result" with no other factors considered.
What is the distinction between whether or not something is "harmful behavior" and the "end result"?

I thought stocks was more comparable to an agreement (ex. paying a pest control company money up-front in exchange for a later favor).
It is. It's an agreement that the holder has abstract ownership over future profits. It's abstract because they don't actually own a piece of the company, like a part of its headquarters, or machinery, or its office supplies. They just own the right to X percentage of profits in the future.



Registered User
What is the distinction between whether or not something is "harmful behavior" and the "end result"?
I'd say intent and method by which the act is committed.

If someone is driving a car, has a blowout, and hits and kills a bystander, they wouldn't be charged with homicide because the act of driving itself was not malicious.

If a drunk diver however hits a pedestrian they would be charged because by choosing to drive drunk they acted in negligence.



Well, sure, but I'm not sure how that explains the terms in use. What does "harmful behavior" mean if not "behavior that causes harm?" And if you're judging a behavior as causing harm, then you are, by definition, looking at the "end result," no?