In which the rogue becomes in officer and a gentleman.

David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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53 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    I was wondering what had happened to you!

    Welcome back! It’s good to have you here.Report

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Welcome back.  I’m very pleased you’ll be joining us on a permanent basis.

    I hope you’re still interested in occasionally blogging about obscenity, film regulations, and free expression.  Those were the realms where I first discovered you, and I look forward to your thoughts on any related current events.Report

    • David Ryan in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      A couple of things:

      I had the opportunity for a longish correspondence with someone who had clerked for J. Potter Stewart. I asked him very directly about your and my interpretation of Stewart’s dessent in Jacobelis and he said flatly that he thought you and I were wrong, that the common reading is the correct reading.

      If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend reading Jenkins v Georgia (The case involving Mike Nichols’ “Carnal Knowledge”) and then reflect on your own experience advocating for Tony Comstock.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to David Ryan says:

        Wow.  That is a surprise.  I’d thought that in its full context, Stewart’s quote was hard to understand unless it was a rejection of a judge’s intuition.  I’ll have to read again.Report

      • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

        For the benefit of the assembled:

        It is possible to read the Court’s opinion in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, 354 U.S. 476, in a variety of ways. In saying this, I imply no criticism of the Court, which in those cases was faced with the task of trying to define what may be indefinable. I have reached the conclusion, which I think is confirmed at least by negative implication in the Court’s decisions since Roth and Alberts,1 that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography.2 I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.


  3. RTod says:

    Greetings, and welcome back!Report

  4. Patrick Cahalan says:

    While I second Jason’s thoughts about film/culture posts, I’m also wondering how things are going on the cat.Report

    • David Ryan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      Thanks to you and Jason both for the welcome!

      Just as there’s not that great a distance between my faith-based NGO doc work and my sex docs, there’s not that great distance between my thoughts on film and culture and my thoughts on business, design, and culture. I hope this will become more apparent and that my Grand Unifying Theory of Slack will become more apparent as I make more posts!Report

  5. MFarmer says:

    Do you mean “an” officer and gentlemen?Report

  6. Jonathan says:

    Fantastic! It’s great to see/read you again.Report

  7. Rufus F. says:

    Hey, I was just asking about you a few posts down. Good to see you here. Hopefully, you will post a bit about this:

    “The parameters were simple. Whatever was next had to be something that could not be digitized. Yes, I know, according to the digerati, all those people downloading our films weren’t going to buy them anyway, so that was no money lost. I don’t care. I made those movies with my own two hands. I wrote checks to pay for film-stock and equipment rental and to pay my crew union rates. I didn’t do that so people could watch my films for free. I did it to put a roof over my children’s head and food on our table. And because of that, I get a little upset at the fact that people can decide whether or not they want to pay to see our films.”

    Seeing friends of mine become these wandering minstrels because not enough people think music and art are worth paying for, this subject has been on my mind for a while.


    • David Ryan in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I am cautious about the phrase “because not enough people think music and art are worth paying for”.

      I rarely go to movies or live performances. I don’t buy artwork. I subscribe to two magazines (Fortune and The Atlantic). I buy almost no pre-recorded music, and a relatively small number of DVDs.

      In our house our entertainment is provided almost entirely by what is available via our cable and internet subscription and by our Netflix account. This is because we rarely find “art and music that is worth paying for” outside of what is available to us through these channels.

      Conversely, the “Real People, Real Life, Real Sex” series of documentaries is *only* available (legally) on DVD, but as a result of their widespread availability on movie theft sites we’ve seen a real impact on our sales and livelihood.

      I do not view people who download our films illegally as regarding our efforts as “not worth paying for” anymore than I regard a shop-lifter as not regarding the merchandise they steal as not being worth paying for. In both cases I regard them and their actions as anti-social and cowardly.

      But facts are fact. The state cannot make me secure in my (digitizable) property. That means confining my efforts made in any digitizable arena to those which can be sustained avocationally, or those which will serve my professional and financial interest by being distributed without any direct benefit to me and my family.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to David Ryan says:

        I think you and I are going to have good fun arguing about what constitutes property 🙂Report

        • David Ryan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          No, I don’t think we will. I’ll end up angry and you’ll end up with a fat lip and a black eye.

          In any case, whatever glib and facile definition you’d care to deploy, under present conditions it would be foolish for a small operator like me to covert my resources (talent, time, money, capital assets like cameras and other equipment) into something that can so easily be taken from me without the return I need to make a living, let alone to continue to produce this good that you want to have a “fun” argument about whether or not we’re going to call it “property.” It might be fun for you, but it’s not fun for me.Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to David Ryan says:

            David, I have a lot of sympathy for small (or even large) arts producers.

            I have a lot of sympathy for people who invent things for a living.  People who devise new and innovative ways of using existing technology to increase productivity.  People who think up stuff that nobody thought up before, that makes everyone’s lives better – whether it be because they increase crop yield or provide thoughtful commentary on important social issues or because they make people happy.  Those are all good things.

            I think all those people should be rewarded.  I want people to be able to make music for a living.  I want people to be able to do scientific research for a living.

            That doesn’t make the stuff they come up with “property”, though.  That’s not because I’m trying to be glib or facile or denigrate the amount of effort it takes to design something new vs. putting cogs on existing designs and selling physical constructs.  It’s because the things you can create with your mind are different from the things you can create with your hands in practical terms (which you yourself point out).

            But I don’t want to derail your welcome thread 🙂Report

            • “It’s because the things you can create with your mind are different from the things you can create with your hands in practical terms (which you yourself point out).”

              How are they different in terms of property rights?Report

              • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                Also, nothing is created by the hands without the mind except unguided motion.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to MFarmer says:

                Tell me whether or not Coldplay stole from Joe Satriani.

                The main issue is provenance, both in determining who is the rightful owner of the idea, what constitutes “an idea”, and at which point what aspects of ownership of the idea can be said to belong to a particular person.

                Outside of copyright for creative works (which is actually less troublesome), it gets even murkier since basically every patentable idea is based upon tens of thousands of bits of existing technology, and it’s very difficult to pass an equitable judgment about when something qualifies as “new”.

                Geeze, my friend, I would think if anyone would have a problem with the patent/copyright offices it’d be you 🙂Report

              • Dude. They totally stole from Joe Satriani.Report

            • David Ryan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              Next in your line of reasoning, Pat, is that the money in my bank account isn’t really my property because it’s just ones and zeros and not gold, or even backed up by gold.


              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to David Ryan says:

                I can track an exchange with money.  You gave it to the bank, you have a receipt.  The bank has acknowledged that it owes you something.  Even if you lose your receipt, it’s still a bidirectional transaction: both parties acknowledge the transfer.

                The money in the bank is properly *owed* to you, it’s not *yours*, though, David.  If the bank goes bust, and you had $2,000,000 in the bank, you don’t get the whole thing back – just what’s covered under FDIC.

                Also note: if you walk into the bank with your money and someone robs the bank and nabs your cash while you’re waiting in the queue, they’ve robbed *you*, not the bank (the bank will probably give you your money back anyway as a PR move, but IIRC they have no legal obligation to do so).

                I can’t track an exchange of ideas.  I have no way of knowing if Coldplay heard Joe Satriani’s song and stole a chunk of it or if it arose out of their collective parthenogenesis.

                I can’t track actualized content, either; apart from the “parts of your idea” problem, if someone has a copy of your movie, there is no way to know if they acquired it legally, or if they acquired it *believing* it was legal, either.  You don’t keep a record of everyone to whom you sold your movie (although movie houses are trying to accomplish this).  There’s no authentication method there.Report

              • David Ryan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                You are confusing currency (a physical object) with money (a useful socio-economic construct) and in this stage of your argument you are positing a relationship between currency and money that is diametrically opposed to the relationship you’ve posited between a recording and the work recorded.

                This sort of fascicle/sloppy thinking is par for the course for people who think it’s “fun” to debate what property means in the context of intellectual property. They don’t think through the ramifications of what they’re advocating, which is a world in which, on a daily basic, our ability to be secure in our positions is guaranteed only by pure brute force.

                This may indeed be our (near) future, and is another reason I’ve decided to devote my efforts and energies to a physical object that can, if need be, provide sanctuary for me and my family, up to and including crossing oceans if need be.

                Like I said, fun for you. Not for me.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to David Ryan says:

                In this stage of your argument you are positing a relationship between currency and money that is diametrically opposed to the relationship you’ve posited between a recording and the work recorded.

                Not precisely.

                Currency is a physical representation of the social construct, sure.  And yes, you’re correct in the sense that you can construct an argument that the “physical representation of a social construct” framework can apply as well to anything that isn’t real property.  A patent idea.  A work of art.  Whatever.

                This all comes with costs and advantages.  We put up with it for money, largely because we need a medium of exchange.

                But it’s not facile nor is it sloppy to say that even though they are similar (in the relation between the thing and the good), that doesn’t imply that we should treat intellectual works (of any kind, creative or practical) the same way that we treat money.

                Look, I get both your point and Jaybird’s point, below:

                “Sure, maybe there’s no Fundamental Human Right to have the state protect ones data from distribution… but the privilege of watching a David Ryan 2012 film is one that you will never, ever have.

                And that’s a damn shame.”

                That *is* a damn shame.  But the way to facilitate this is to make it so that people are paid for the act of creation.  That’s the part that the artist (or the researcher, or the innovator) is actually contributing.  The act of putting the thing together, not making copies of it.  The distribution isn’t value-add, any more; except where the distribution changes the art itself (mashups, remix, change of media, whatever).

                I absolutely agree that people should receive just and fair compensation for their work.  I absolutely agree that creation of what we currently call intellectual property is a societal good.  I totally am down with the idea that we should have a society that encourages this sort of thing.  I’d rather we pay you to make movies, if making movies is your gig… than to sail a ship, unless you like sailing a ship, too.  We are at a time and place where we need to figure out how to do that; I’m all on board with that, too.Report

              • David Ryan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Stop. You’re making it worse. Really. For your own sake I’m going to try one more time to get you to shut up. If you want to go on making a fool of yourself after that, it’s on you.

                You have this strange idea that “value” is something that can (always) be determined at the moment of creation. That’s ridiculous.

                Value, like money, is a socio-economic construct. Sometimes (rarely) I do work for hire. I agree to do a job for a set fee, or for time and materials, with no further claim on the work.

                Sometimes I do work on commission, and convey the right to first, circumscribed usage to the commissioner in exchange for an agreed upon price.

                And (most often) I do work which I offer limited licensing to (home video usage) after the work is created.

                By what method would you ensure that I get paid the roughly $150,000 that it costs me to make a movie, plus the roughly $150,000 dollars that I need as a return (“Buy for a dollar, sell for two.” — Proposition Joe). And how would you ensure, under such a system that I actually *made* a film that the world wanted to the tune of $300K?

                Really please, stop. I’m sure you know a lot about math. You know nothing about business


              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                You have this strange idea that “value” is something that can (always) be determined at the moment of creation.

                I didn’t say that, you’re inferring it.  My God, man, this is the lynchpin of my entire (significant) problem with the idea of using markets to assign value.  I agree, this is a stupid premise.

                But that doesn’t apply to physical property, either.  The value (to the creator) is assigned at the transaction time, when the buyer buys it.  Until somebody buys it, it’s has no positive value to me because I had to spend time and money and resources making the thing.  After somebody buys it, it’s not yours any more and you have no claim on it (although as you rightly point out elsewhere there is a difference between a product and a contract).  Hey, I don’t much like this system, either, but it’s the one we’ve got and everybody in these parts tells me it’s the best one (or the least worst one) we’re going to have, and I certainly haven’t come up with a better idea myself.

                By what method would you ensure that I get paid the roughly $150,000 that it costs me to make a movie, plus the roughly $150,000 dollars that I need as a return

                I don’t think this is a feature of the current system.Report

              • Part of the fundamental problem here, Patrick, is that the societal acceptance of the idea of intellectual property isn’t really being real property is that, at the margins, creators of said intellectual property stop creating.

                At that point, everything becomes a big counterfactual. Who knows what movies David would have made in 2012 had he been inclined to do so? My God… we could have had a Jaybird/Maribou movie! Sadly, he’s no longer inclined to make such films.

                How many movies have we not seen because of this? How many songs have we not heard? How many books not read? (Probably a lot more movies/songs than books, now that I think about it.)

                Now, of course, it’s easy to live without something you’ve never seen or heard or otherwise experienced. (We’ve all done it our whole lives, after all.) Insofar as David’s movies are positive goods, these are goods that we will never be bettered by.

                Sure, maybe there’s no Fundamental Human Right to have the state protect ones data from distribution… but the privilege of watching a David Ryan 2012 film is one that you will never, ever have.

                And that’s a damn shame.Report

              • David Ryan in reply to Jaybird says:

                What I’ve noticed about marginal effects arguments is people only seem to believe in them when they support positions they already agree with. Example:

                Clearly I am moving from filmmaking to boat-building/operating because of the marginal effects of theft, search-supresion, NSFW culture, etc. But the marginal effects of Corporate Income tax or Capital Gains tax? Suddenly I’ll get all squishing on you.

                Two facts:

                1) We have unfinished films in our vault. One of them “Ben and Desire” has some of the most profound footage and testimony about the importance of orgasms in pair-bonding I have ever produced. As things stand, I doubt we will spend the money to finish and distribute the film. Finishing it isn’t just something I “do with my mind”; it takes time, money, and other resources I can deploy in other ways if that’s what I choose to do.

                2) In fact, that’s just what I’ve chosen to do. Instead of finishing a film this Winter, I’m building a boat; in fact, it’s very near an equal exchange of money, time and less tangible resource.

                The difference is when I’m done with the boat, if someone takes it for a sail without my permission, I can have them arrested, even if they return it in *exactly* the same condition as they found it, and even if I wasn’t using it anyway.  And the clock won’t start ticking on when my ownership expires.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to David Ryan says:

                One man’s margin is another man’s middle, of course.

                It seems to me (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that one of the undercurrent things that bugs you is the sense of entitlement on the part not only of people who steal your stuff but of people who aren’t stealing it on behalf of the people who are.

                Am I projecting myself into what you’ve written or was that actually there?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to David Ryan says:

                There’s another difference, though. If someone looks at your boat and says, “hey, that’s a cool design” and builds a boat that looks like your boat… using their own materials and labor… you can’t say, “You stole my boat”.  Right?

                You may have paid for the plans to build your boat.  If you’re done with them, and you throw them away, and someone digs them out of your trash and builds a boat, the guy who did the original design can’t say, “Hey, you stole *my* boat!”  Right?

                The guy who made the design also can’t say, four years from now, “Hey, Coast Guard regulations have changed, which means that you need to make changes to your boat… but you can’t make unauthorized changes to that boat, because the design is mine.  If you want to make the necessary changes to your boat, you’re going to have to buy a new set of plans from me that costs 5% more than the original and tells you that you need to increase the depth of each step by 1.75″ before you actually do the work.”

                In all of these ways, the intellectual property differs from the non-intellectual property.  They’re all kind of substantive differences, at least in my opinion.

                For the record, I don’t download music or movies and I pay for the content I consume, using whatever payment methods artists currently demand.

                This is because I think they ought to be compensated for their work, though, not because I support the current incarnation of our IP laws.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to David Ryan says:

                Normally we wait a week or two before driving the new guy crazy.Report

              • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

                See? This is what I mean about you popping off about things you simply have no idea about.

                In fact, I paid $2500 to our design for the right to build his design. If I want to build another boat to his design I am legally obliged to pay him another $2500.

                On top of that I paid our project engineer $4,000 to make modification to the scantlings so that the boat confirms to the USCG requirements for an Inspected Passenger Vessel. The engineer and I specifically entered into a Work for Hire agreement, which means the modified scantlings work belongs to me, and he can’t resell that work to another person asking for the same scantlings modification work on that design.

                So yeah, if someone builds a Tiki 38 look-alike, then James Wharram design can say “Hey! You stole our boat!”

                If I build another Tiki 38 without paying another licensing fee, James Wharram Design can say “Hey! You stole our boat.”

                And if our project engineer does scantling mods for a Tiki 38 for a new client and even if he does all the calculatoins again and comes up with a slightly different answer, we can say “Hey, you stole our mods.”

                What stops all of this from happening is that we (The Montauk Catamaran Company, JWD, and our engineer) are all able to see that we are part of an interconnected economy that will collapse without our all agreeing to follow a set of well-established, pro-social, pro-commerce rules. There’s no Great Committee in the sky making sure JWD gets paid the “right amount” the day they set their lines to paper. The “right amount” is determined by how many people learn about the design, decide it’s the right design for them, and then pay JWD $2,500 for the right to build the boat.


              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to David Ryan says:

                Normally we wait a week or two before driving the new guy crazy.

                True ‘dat.  Obviously I ought to shut the hell up just on that premise.

                I’ll let it go, but as an aside: do me a favor, David… don’t assume in the future that just because I disagree with you that (a) I’m an idiot or (b) I haven’t thought about the things that you think I haven’t thought about.

                Although I’ll gladly grant that I don’t know everything about *anything*, or anything about *everything*, either.Report

              • David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

                I tried to tell you it wasn’t going to be “fun”.  😉Report

              • wardsmith in reply to David Ryan says:

                Not really much different than a custom software or semiconductor design. You’d be amazed how many core IP cell licenses there are in a given commercial chip, much like the one under whatever hood you’re using to view this.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to David Ryan says:

        David, following the discussion as it’s unfolded, I think we’re in agreement, although maybe my “worth paying for” wasn’t the right way to put it. I was thinking about it this way because my tech-nerd relative offered recently to burn me all of the David Bowie albums I don’t have for free. I told her I’d rather pay for them and trying to figure out and articulate why I don’t agree with downloading movies and music, my best answer was that I think art has value and get uncomfortable with the implication that we the consumers will decide if we’d rather have it for free or pay for it. But maybe it’s just that I don’t steal. I don’t know.Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

          In 1997, David Bowie sold $55 million [!] in “Bowie Bonds” backed by his music royalties and started an next-gen electronic business.

          ”The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing.”

          ”Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity,” he added. ”So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.”—NYT, 2002


          • Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Oh, trust me, I know all about the Bowie online presence. He’s probably made more than enough money from me off of various special editions offered via said internet to justify stealing everything after Hunky Dory if I chose to. I still feel uncomfortable with the idea of getting new copies of his albums and not giving Mr. Jones a few quid. Now, imagine if you’re not someone who has not been a rock star since the late 60s and you’re trying to support yourself as a musician in a time in which music has become like running water.Report

          • wardsmith in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            The market for music changed in the 40’s because of this. That led to bands having lower precedence than singers. Only purists and fans know the bands behind the names like Bowie.Report

        • David Ryan in reply to Rufus F. says:

          This is something I hope to explore in further depth.

          As outlined above, we paid a non-trivial licensing fee to James Wharram design for the right to build a Tiki 38. But practically speaking, in giving us the information to build one boat, JWD will give us all the information we need to build an unlimited number of boats.

          Conversely, our project engineer agreed to a buy-out of the engineering work he did for us. But practically speaking, if another Tiki 38 builder came to him and asked for the same work, he could simply put a new cover page on the same sketches and calculations.

          But neither of these things is going to happen. It’s not going to happen because this (hopefully) is not a one-off transaction. If things go well for us, there’s a 63′ JWD we’re interested in, and they’re not going to sell us the rights to build that one if we’ve fucked them over on the rights to the Tiki 38 (either by building our own unlicensed copy, or passing the plans along to somebody else)

          Similarly, if things go well, we’re going to need more engineering consulting, and it would be short-sighted of our engineer to sell the work he did for us to somebody else.

          Once you start looking at the world this way, once you see just how much of our world hinges on mere decency (and enlightened self-interest) you can’t help but see music piracy corrosive to civil society. It’s not really the state that makes us secure in our person and possessions, it’s our good manners. Once those go, you’d better have an ocean crossing boat, because there will be no where else to hide.Report

  8. JG New says:


    And a nice wing-and-wing in your first photo, as much as I dislike sailing that way.Report

    • David Ryan in reply to JG New says:

      Wing and wing is rarely the right choice, especially not on an IOR sloop with a big lapper. Usually I tack downwind.

      But in this case I was threading a tight channel and this stretch (about 1/4 mile) was dead down wind, and the boat just *wanted* to go wing and wing. The first rule of Fight Club is do what the boat tells you she wants to do.Report

  9. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Per the OP, since I was mebbe 10, I wanted to become a musician and transition later in life into being a pundit. I’ve gotten decent at both and although I’m OK with it, the joke is certainly on me in this digital age, selling coals to Newcastle.Report

  10. Murali says:

    Welcome (back?) to the league!Report