Photo Software

It looks like I have about 8 gigabytes of photos over >6,000 photos.  Like everything else, I’ve tried several software packages for working with the photos.  I don’t use most of the editing features, other than crop and red-eye removal (when I remember.)  I do frequently need to adjust the photo date, as many of my old pictures didn’t capture it correctly (my old camera would lose the date/time everytime the battery got changed, so lots of my photos say 1/1/1998.)

I’ve been using Google’s Picasa for the past few years.  It has the above mentioned features, and a pretty good facial recognition system for tagging.  As I add pictures, it scans them and identifies faces and who they might be, then I confirm or change that.  This has been really good for requests like this one from Bethany:  “I need a baby picture for next year’s yearbook by tomorrow.”  She was able to easily look through all of the photos where her face is tagged and pick one in minutes.

Picasa lets you upload pictures to the web, and has the ability to import from iPhoto, although it doesn’t do a very good job.  It loses the iPhoto events, albums, faces, etc., and shows them in a mostly meaningless folder structure by date.  Plus, most (all?) of the stuff in iPhoto I’ve already brought in to Picasa, so there are lots of apparent duplicates.  I want to get down to one authoritative collection, get it tagged right, post if online and back it up.

Picasa uploads to Google Drive, and you see it through G+ Photos.  15GB of storage space.

I’ve tried Windows Live Photo in the past.  It has most of the same functions, is also free, and works seamlessly with MS Skydrive.  Since they give 25GB of space, that’s pretty appealing. Of course, it’s easy to get multiple accounts in either service, or you can pay for additional storage.  I don’t think this product works on the Mac, which was a plus for Picasa.

I use an Apple MacBook Air as my notebook machine now, so have moved all of my personal photos here.  I’ve tried iPhoto, which is pretty cool, but locks me into the Apple world.  Still, since I also use iPhone and iPad, and have an Apple TV, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Still, I’ve done all of my tagging in Picasa, and would likely need to redo that if I moved the photos over to iPhoto.  I haven’t looked at Aperture yet.

Now Flickr is giving us 1 terabyte of storage, with most of the functional limits removed.  I’ve only started to look at that system and what it can do.

I’m sure you have a system that you use and love – please let me know in a comment here!

-JFS

Becoming more social

Having always been the computer geek in my crowd (albiet a small crowd), I’ve accumulated accounts with nearly every social networking system out there.  I lurk on most of the services, and try to understand what their value is relative to the others.  Truth be told, many times I’m somewhat reluctant to post what I think, because I hate getting flamed by people who disagree with me, don’t want to offend people, and don’t want to create ghosts that come back to haunt me later in my professional life.

I do believe in the value of social media, and am intrigued by the massive pricetags of properties like Instagram and Tumblr as they’ve gotten bought up by the giants of the industry.  I’m going to try to step up my usage of these systems, posting whatever insights I come upon along the way.  To that end, I’ve linked many of my accounts together so that when I post on one, the others get a reference.  This blog is hosted on WordPress; I’ve linked it to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr.  I think that means that a “wall” post of some sort will appear on each.  Since my Twitter is already linked to Facebook (Tweets get posted to Facebook), it will be interesting to see with this post if I get doubles on Facebook. [Follow-up: I got a post via Twitter with a t.co link back to this post, and a post via WordPress with a john.jfschroeder.com link.  The words included were the same – most of the first paragraph here.]

In part I’m doing this out of jealousy.  A close friend from high school, Peter, posts frequently to his LimeGuy50.com blog.  He decided when he turned 50 to write something everyday, did so every day for more than a year, and continues.  He has inspired me to try to share more.  I’ve learned so much about him and his family, and get to participate in his life from several states away.

Here’s what I think so far:

  • Facebook – the big dog in the social networking game.  Some days I love it, and other days hate it.  I don’t play any games (like Farmville or whatever the current rage is), although I did try once – I hated having my crops die if I left it alone for a few days!  I have tons of “friends” there, including many people from high school, churches I’ve attended, and singing groups I’ve belonged to; I also have acquantances there, people who found me and connected for one reason or another.  Sometimes I get irritated because my newsfeed has gotten very politically polarized, and I’ve become a little too liberal to let some of the “conservative” stuff roll off my back.  Facebook doesn’t make it easy enough to filter that stuff out, particularly from the mobile versions (I use iPhone and iPad.)  So far this is where I’ll share from first.  I am reluctant to include people I work for here, and don’t currently follow my boss.  I do follow the college CIO, but I don’t think he uses his account much.
  • Twitter – My son Alex loves this, and it’s hard to get him to disengage from his Droid long enough to maintain a conversation.  I find Twitter to be the best place for up-to-the-minute news and reactions.  The web version has gotten much better as a way to read the feed.  I follow lots of computer industry types, as well as a number of local media people.  It’s not my go-to place for sharing, unless I think it might be interesting for anyone (not just my friends.)  The feed moves fast, so it’s a bit hard to follow.
  • LinkedIn – This is designed for professional connections.  It had the best interface for collecting my online resume and sharing.  I find work connections generally are willing to connect here, even if they refuse to use Facebook.  I rarely post here, although with this WordPress publishing connection that may change.  I don’t generally want to put personal stuff on this account.  I did realize early on that it could reflect my singing career in addition to my computer career, so I’ve made connections that way.  They have a group feature which sends me daily summaries of messages posted in the group.
  • Tumblr – With the recent buyout plan by Yahoo, I’m reconsidering what it is about.   It has a very different blogging paradigm: very simple, visually oriented.  I thought it was just a place to post pictures/animated GIFs with comments.  They don’t seem to filter postings as much as the other big services, so allow nudity and NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content – and as something of a dirty-old-man, I can confirm that some of that content is first rate.  However, this is one of the places that really scares me for posting and following.  I’m only human, and my wife prefers that I look at pictures with nudity along with her (as opposed to by myself); I’m really afraid that anything I look at or like there could hurt me professionally or otherwise.  As such, I’ve stopped following any of that (find it yourself) and tried to reform how I look at this product.  Not many of the people I know have accounts here (based on Facebook and Contacts searches for accounts), and few of those actually post anything.  One of those happens to be my beautiful daughter, Bethany.  I’ve read recently that young people are fleeing from Facebook because they don’t like that their elders are all there now.  That’s too bad, but I do see a major difference in the kind of postings each group makes.
  • Google Plus – the latest effort by Google to compete in the social world.  I have an account, follow some people, but don’t really use it yet.  Hangouts are supposed to be a great feature, allowing multi-person video chats.  It’s on most of my devices, and my family email is hosted on Google Apps, so who knows for the future?  The link I provide here may not be very good – it’s not the simple form that I have for most other accounts.  G+ integrates Picasa photo sharing, which I’ve been using for quite a long time, even if I haven’t publicly posted that much.

Photo sharing sites are subject of another post.  Since I’m writing this during a quiet time at work, I should probably wrap up.

Till next time …

-JFS

Thanksgiving

This is the first Thanksgiving in some 30 years that I spent without Laura.  She’s away with Bethany and her Mom at a Rideout family reunion in Phoenix.  We miss her!  My parents took care of me and the boys – God knows we’d probably starve otherwise!  Only five more days to fend for myself.

The day started with the annual Grace Church Thanksgiving Service, this year next door at Mt. Zion AME.  (We’ve been out of our sanctuary since September due to damage from the 8/23 earthquake, which caused the clerestory walls to separate and be judged as potentially unstable.)  We had a small choir today, 15 compared to our normal 30, but sounded good.  It was nice to sing from the front of the church instead of the rear balcony, as we have been over at St. Mary’s the last couple months.  Church politics in the “Episcopal” Diocese of SC have been really irritating lately, so it was good to have a quiet, positive service.

The next few weeks are one of our busy seasons at Grace.  Advent Lessons and Carols are Sunday night at St. Matthew’s Church.  I really look forward to singing with Scott Bennett playing a full-size organ again.

We got to my parent’s house in Mt. Pleasant around noon, armed with Dunkin’ Donuts.  I for one am pleased that some businesses choose to be open this year on Thanksgiving.  Mom prepared a great feast, even appropriately sized for the 6 of us (Mom, Dad, Grandma H, Alex, Ben, me).  Mom usually cooks for 20, even when it’s just the 3 of them!

We watched football, CofC Basketball (lost to UCF in the Bahamas), and then Dirty Harry.  A fine holiday film, you might think!   I needed my boys to understand the reference “You’ve got to be asking yourself, ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, Punk?”

I finally gave in to Ben’s frequent calls to return home (which started on the steps before we entered the house at 12!)  I’ve been catching up with a much more prolific friend (see Limeguy’s blog), and realized what a slacker I’ve been here.  I usually rely on Facebook and an occasional Foursquare post to communicate, and haven’t had much to say.  Sorry.

There have been lots of things going on here in beautiful Charleston.  You should come and visit sometime.  Before we kick out those cruise ships ruining the view near the waterfront on the peninsula.  (I really like seeing them.)

I’ve been taking my second course at the College of Charleston, Object-Oriented Programming with Java.  The last time I programmed full-time was nearly 20 years ago, back before most of this technology existed. I’m finally getting to a place where I don’t feel like a complete idiot with the language – just a rank amateur.  Hopefully I’ll feel a touch more accomplished after I finish coding the windows for my semester project by Tuesday night, and pass the final on Thursday.

Fortunately, my load at the College is starting to lighten a little.  We hired on a new supervisor for me, and a new account administrator as well.  Both are working out well, allowing me to breathe a bit.  They even pledged to take the inevitable support calls this weekend – first time in years!

I have plenty swirling around my little head thanks to work, school, the kids, figuring out how to get through the next few days, church politics, continuing inner conflict about internet piracy, etc.  Since I probably lost you in the first paragraph or so, I’ll save that for another time.

What am I up to lately?

Just a quick update:
– Finished the CSO Chorus year with a big concert last night with Westminster and the Spoleto Orchestra – went really well
– Been trying out FourSquare. Sorry to my Facebook friends who get annoyed by too many updates – I’m trying to find the balance
– Got ahold of a collection of Rolling Stone Top 500 songs of all time – cool stuff

Should I be mad / life

As I took a quick breakfast break this morning, I pondered:
– I got angry last night thanks to a misunderstanding with my daughter. She attended a school function (30 minutes away from home). When I got home at 7:15, my wife told me Bethany would need a pickup at 8:00 at school, but that she (Laura) would get up and go. At 7:50, I learned that the pickup would now be from a friend’s house (at least 20 minutes away) at 8:30. When we got to the friend’s house at 8:25, we learned that Bethany hadn’t even left school yet (20 minutes from that spot.) We told her to call when she left, and started driving. Her call came 5 minutes before we arrived at the school, and we told her to stay put. By this point, Laura and I were both unhappy. Bethany’s first words “is everyone happy?” did not get the response she wanted. She felt I was unreasonable for not calling her before we left for the friend’s house.
– The young girls are in full bloom here in Charleston. If you like attractive young women, this can be a real job benefit or curse here. I just remember, “I’m old; I’m married; I love my wife!” I feel like there’s practically nothing appealing about this nearly 50 year-old, pudgy gray-haired guy, but Laura says she finds me appealing. I try, unsuccessfully more often than I’d like, to avoid oggling. Damn, why couldn’t I be gay for a few moments? (CofC is 66% female, and I think most of the guys look like slobs.) Anyway, most of these young women are not fully cooked yet – most would run away upon viewing a drum corps show, a church choral performance, or my empty bank account! My wife wouldn’t, except maybe from the empty checkbook …
– Services for the disabled and poor. As I walked over to church Wednesday, I passed a person with a severely disabled child in a motorized wheelchair. The child (I think it was a young person) was grunting or yelping. I wanted to stop, but felt it would be an intrusion. I realized a couple minutes later that they were here to protest our governor’s town hall meeting, since she is strongly in favor of balancing our budget by cutting medicaid and services for the disabled, not to mention education at all levels. I couldn’t help but feel sad – if you have a disabled child, you understand the continuous challenge of life and advocacy for your child. But it seems like if you don’t, and/or you are a Republican, that challenge is too bad, but not your problem. (We know many caring people who don’t hold that view.) This whole budget cutting madness brings out the worst in people. “Hard choices”, “spending beyond our means”, “just because we started this program doesn’t mean it should stay forever” are all just some of the refrains. The cutting always seems to be driven by people who want to protect their money. I could go on a rant here, but am on the losing side. Ultimately it’s people like that child and my son that get hurt.

That’s enough for now. Anyone care?

Reading “The Declaration of Independence”

I just read “The Declaration of Independence”, probably for the first time all the way through.  At age 47, I feel like I should be ashamed that I haven’t done so before now.  Thank you to the Charleston Post & Courier for a most excellent presentation.  Usually I’ve seen the declaration shown in its parchment form – impressive, but very difficult to read.  This breaks it down into sections, and includes some extra insight into it.  For example, did you know that John Hancock, the President of the Congress, was the only signer when it was presented, and that the other signers did so on or after July 19?  Or that the document originally indicted England for its practice of slavery, but that the continental congress deleted that indictment?  Also, it is very clear that they believed in rights given by their “creator”, although they don’t specifically mention the Christian God or some other denomination.

More thoughts about “illegal”

To further illustrate my point about "illegal", please read the following NY Times Op-ed piece:
By LAWRENCE DOWNES
Published: October 28, 2007
 
The gist?  The word "illegal" poisons the discussion, making it a black and white matter when it’s really grey.  We all do things that are "illegal" – like driving too fast, crossing streets against lights or in the middle of blocks, etc.  "Illegal" stops the conversation, and that’s bad if maybe it shouldn’t be "illegal".
 
This particular article is about illegal immigrants.  I’ve tried to stay neutral on this issue – I generally think that people that don’t legally enter the country should be fined and forced to pursue legal immigration, or be deported, but …
 
The fact is that it is far more difficult today to immigrate to the U.S. than it was for my great-great-grandparents.  The U.S. is a country founded by immigrants (they called them colonists back then.)  Now you have to jump through all kinds of hoops to come here, and even more to stay.  We’ve become very protectionist.  Meanwhile, there are scads of menial jobs that most citizens don’t want to do – things like picking crops, landscaping, and repairing roofs in hot climates.  Guess who does those jobs now?  Like it or not, we participate in a global economy that is forcing wages down, and many people depend on those "illegal’ immigrants.  Should we build an infrastructure to accomodate them, like making Spanish a second language here?  I don’t generally think so.  I think we should give them a way to be here legally.  If they want the benefits citizens enjoy, they can pay taxes like the rest of us.  If they want to vote, they need to become citizens.
 
Regarding my previous post about illegal downloading:
I listened to a media summit podcast, and was a little surprised to hear Shelly Palmer, whom I’ve developed quite a bit of respect for, come out quite strongly against a student who inquired about government control of "free" downloading.  His points are well taken:
  • The current laws of the land, via copyright legislation and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, make it illegal for someone to acquire a copy of a work (music, movie, etc.) without permission of the copyright holder.
  • A download may actually be free, but that is up to the copyright holder.
  • It is disingenuous for college students and other educated people to hold that most music and movies are free for the taking
  • Artists, studios, publishers and networks deserve to be paid.  They invest their capital, ideas, blood, sweat and tears to create things that we want to consume for information and entertainment.

There is no mechanism in a peer-to-peer download to verify copyright, and generally no mechanism to provide payment.  File sharing, whether via newsgroups, Kazaa, BitTorrent, or even Windows File Shares, creates an easy way for people to get a digital copy of a published work.  Some people will do this instead of paying for the work, which deprives at least the publishers revenue.  Hurting a company is easy – they’re all evil anyway, aren’t they?  (It doesn’t matter that they provide most of us with jobs.)  No, I don’t think that’s reasonable.

I strongly believe that publishers should lead the technology and marginalize free file sharing.  Make it easy to get high quality files for rent (with all the DRM you want) or to own (DRM free) at reasonable prices.  Provide an ad-free network subscription to download TV programs – iTunes does that pretty well.  Find a way to sell lossless digital files.  But always preserve my rights to resell or give away what I’ve purchased, or discount the purchase over the price of a physical copy.  In other words, I can buy a book, DVD or CD, and can keep it till it crumbles, or I can sell it or give it away.  If I buy a digital version for about the same price, I expect to be able to do the same things with it; if I can’t, don’t charge me the same or more for the digital copy!

I understand better than most about the temptation to download music and movies for free.  I’ve seen people with stacks of burned movie discs, and can easily download lossless music from Knology’s usenet servers.  There are very active newsgroups for sharing all sorts of mostly copyrighted material – pictures, books, movies, music, software.  I can’t help but wonder why the posters of that stuff aren’t being sued?  It’s kind of like the drug problem – do you arrest the users, filling up the jails and ruining lives, or the dealers?  The real solution is to eliminate demand.  In the case of downloading, free is a tough price to beat.

Thoughts about “illegal” downloading

Jerry Pournelle made an interesting comment on the 10/22/07 episode (118) of This Week in Tech (TWIT): The RIAA in their recent copyright infringement battles is acting like the authorities in Selma, AL Civil Rights Marches in the 1960s – acting in complete accord of the law, but at the same time stirring up public sentiment against them.  Most recently, the RIAA prevailed for $220,000 against a woman in Minnesota.  She was apparently using KaZaa to download and share music; the RIAA agents observed her sharing some 1700 songs, and ultimately convinced the jury that she should pay $9250 for each of 24 selected songs that she shared.  She claims she never used KaZaa, which doesn’t seem terribly credible given the evidence; assuming she actually was, she might not even have known that the default setup shares everything that is downloaded.  I think the jury award is outrageous, and I doubt the RIAA will ever collect even a small fraction of it.  It will, however, inspire the public to reconsider copyright, and that may not work out well for the publishers.
 
I’ve had customers using KaZaa, which I strongly advise against because so many of the downloads are polluted with viruses, not to mention likely copyright infringement.  Some of these people even thought they were getting music "legally" by buying the premium version of KaZaa.  These people are not criminals – they want to obtain and listen to music using their computers and digital media players.  If you don’t have an extensive music collection or a lot of time, this leaves a simple choice – pay for downloads (if they exists for pay), or use what other people share through a Peer-to-Peer software system (P2P).  Technology makes this possible, but it does run afoul of the civil law of copyright.  Many people disregard the copyright law, either because they don’t care, or because they don’t understand.  Does this make them criminals?  I don’t think so.
 
Should it be okay for a well-funded coalition of corporations (like the RIAA) to use the legal system to extract huge judgements from individuals for violating copyright law?  If the individuals are getting actual money through this violation, sure, but within reasonable limits.  The punishment should fit the violation. Should it be okay for this same group of corporations to force somewhat less huge settlements from people who don’t want to roll the dice with a jury?  I vehemently oppose that.  The RIAA and MPAA in particular want you to believe that they are losing billions of dollars, and that hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs because of media piracy.  They give you the big picture, which includes copying globally, in all kinds of forms, and over long periods of time.  Much of the losses are due to physical pirated copies by organized criminals of CDs and videos in foreign countries like China.  To counteract their theoretical losses, they employ firms that spy and entrap individuals, then use the legal system to force money from them, frequently using circumstantial evidence.  They have appointed themselves as private motorcycle cops on the public digital highway.  I don’t think that should be allowed; at the minimum it invades individual privacy.
 
Almost every discussion I’ve seen talks about "illegal" downloading.  For me, the word "illegal" seems too strong.  By downloading a copyrighted work (music, movie, TV clip, book, whatever) without permission, you are infringing on the legal right of the copyright holder.  That right gives them the option to simply grant permission to do the download, or to charge you for it, or to refuse it.  In many cases, there is no mechanism in place for you to satisfy the right of the copyright holder.  You still (as of today, anyway) cannot download any of The Beatles albums or songs.  If I want to download Abbey Road, I won’t find it in any "legal" site.  I won’t use Napster, Rhapsody, or one of the other DRM’d sites – any music I download must be playable on both my iPod and any PC I choose to use, which eliminates virtually all DRM systems for me.  I can, however, easily find and download it through BitTorrent, KaZaa, or similar.  And at that point, I will have crossed into "illegal" activity.
 
Downloading a copyrighted work without the copyright holders permission is not like stealing a CD, DVD, or book, at least in the material sense.  Even if the act were witnessed by police, they likely couldn’t arrest or ticket you.  It would be difficult for them to say for sure that you didn’t actually have "permission", since each digital copy of a work potentially has different rights attached to it.  Usually, no money changes hands, and the original copy of the work is still intact with the person who purchased it.  The only "loss" is theoretical – the publisher might have lost a sale – but that sale might not have ever occured in any case.  It’s really not much different from borrowing the work from the library, except that the library doesn’t have a virtually unlimited supply of copies of the work, and you never return it. 
 
It seems to me that what you are commiting is a moral or ethical violation.  I am no expert on either morality or ethics, but feel that I have a reasonable grasp of what is right and wrong.  On some level, I can understand that someone has been "harmed" if I download and enjoy their work repeatedly and over a long period of time, without ever buying the work and therefore rewarding them for the enjoyment I received.  Of course, many downloadable things are used once and set aside.  I’m a collector (even though I really can’t afford it) – I have hundreds of books, magazines, CDs, DVD’s, etc. cluttering my home, most of which have little or no resale value, and most of which I could have borrowed or rented.  Many were purchased used or were free to me, meaning that their publisher got no money from me.  I could theoretically pass each work on to thousands of people, and even get some back!  I beliieve that new CDs, DVDs and (hardcover, business and academic) books are generally overpriced, but they do have some value since I can use them repeatedly and over a long period of time.  However, I also beleive that I should be able to preserve and use those works in digital form, perhaps without keeping the original media.
 
In the publisher’s perfect world, you would pay each time you used a work that they held copyright on.  What a wonderful scam for them – the artist creates a work, gets paid once, or maybe gets paid a small fraction of each use payment received (if the artist had a good lawyer when the contract was written.), and the publisher continues to get paid for years.  How do I convince people to let me pimp them like that?  At least the artist only expends effort once for the work.  And the publisher, after some limited promotion, expends only small incremental effort for each end use, or even expends no effort.  Don’t get me wrong – publishers do a wonderful service to the world by funding the creation of art, and particularly in the case of studios actually pull together many of the resources needed to create the art.  Artists deserve to be paid for their efforts, and maybe even deserve to be enriched by it.  Apparently, only a very few artists actually do get enriched.  Corporations generally enrich only their stockholders and executives.
 
The public has shown willingness for pay-per-use works in limited situations.  Mostly, they pay to consume new works that are released through limited channels, and it is a function of discretionary income.  In today’s two-class society, most people don’t have much of that.  People will pay for physical recording or books, but again only if they have the money, and if its more convenient than borrowing a copy.  Most audio and video media is available through advertiser supported distribution like network and cable TV, radio and internet sites.  Somehow, even after a publisher has essentially given away their product through an advertiser supported medium, they want you to pay to consume it again, or to consume it if you missed the first offering.  If you dare to try to get around that, they want to sue you – even if they don’t make available a way to consume it again.
 
Publishers can mass produce art.  But here’s where it breaks down in today’s digital world.  Once the work is created, publishing a work in digital form has nearly no incremental cost.  Distributers and retailers are not essential, but do help for marketing, locating and providing a way to obtain the product.  Reasonably, the money provided should be covering the publisher’s investment plus some profit, since profit motivates the creation of other product.  In our capitalist system, when a large number of people buy something, the seller reaps the reward.  People will pay a reasonable price for a product, even if a "free" alternative is available, so long as they believe that it’s right.  Now almost everyone has the means to create a digital library with their computer.  Computers are fast, disk space is cheap and plentiful, and high speed internet connections make obtaining material trivial.  Once the material is in your library, you can consume it on your time, rather than on the schedule set by a corporation. There’s plenty of money to be made, just not the way it used to be made.  The digital world moves fast, and the sellers have not caught up with the buyers.
 
For example, I have come to believe that lossless digital music files are necessary for any music I listen to through decent headphones or my home stereo.  Anything less is like listening to a recording from the radio – the music is there, but with greatly reduced quality.  Even 320kbps MP3 files are not "CD quality" – close, but no cigar.  Sure, if all you listen with are earbuds through your iPod or whatever, or in your car, or on your PC speakers, then you won’t hear the difference.  And that’s unfortunate, because there is more there to be heard, and it does affect the overall experience.  However, there are nearly no lossless music downloads available commercially, just downloads with varying lossy encodings, and many with unreasonable "rights management" mechanisms.  The only way to get lossless music "legally" is to buy the CD and rip it to your computer.  Don’t even think about sharing the music, even though you may have a fair-use right to do so.  Lawyers are expensive.
 
I believe that the failure of publishers to lead with high-quality, reasonably priced digital goods has cost them dearly.  They’ve hoarded their rights like kings with so much gold, and are now discovering that those rights aren’t worth anything if nobody will pay for them.  After all, intellectual property is only a legal concept, and at least in theory the people ultimately control the law – I think corporations actually control the law, but that’s another rant.  The people wanted a product, and the publisher’s response has been too little, too late, for too much, all the while waving their intellectual property rights as protection for their inaction.  Meanwhile, the people figured out how to get what they wanted without employing a payment transfer system, effectively creating a barter economy.   I don’t think there is much "illegal" about that.