I’m sure you’ve all heard. Megaupload has been shut down. I’m not going to lie: I have visited Megaupload to watch a movie or TV show in the past. Yes, that movie was still in the theater. I could begin talking about how dificult it is to get access to content these days, when content seems like it should be available instantly everywhere. I could say this is what made me google search current movies and wind up on Megaupload. I could criticize movie studios for keeping their content so tight in their grasp that it’s nearly impossible for people like me to get access to it in a legal way. I should talk about how movie studios need to get with the digital program and realize the Internet ain’t so bad.
Instead, I’m going to take the side of the MPAA and RIAA… to an extent.
First, an analogy: If you make a chair, it is one of a kind. You sell it and make some money. Then, you make another chair. You could devise a system for making that chair over and over, thus making a lot of chairs and more money. But no matter how hard other people try, they cannot copy your chair precisely. This makes it seemingly obvious when someone tries to copy your chair. Even so, people are stupid. They see your chair and love it, but walk away because of the price tag. Then, they come across a chair which looks like your chair and costs much less. They have, of course, been decieved. You have been robbed of business and income. However, there are ways around this: they just claim you don’t own the rights to “the chair,” nor do you own the rights to colors, chair legs and arms, the “seat,” not to mention they’re not calling their chairs your chairs – consumers are just assuming they might be the same (or same type of) chair. Even so, there still is no way for a consumer to buy the chair, duplicate it, and then make money off of it. Not to mention – who has the time to duplicate chairs!
A chair is a physical object. Computer data, however, is not physical. You could type a story on a computer and then print it out, thus having a physical copy. But you can’t do that with software. Sure, you could print out the code which makes up your software, but that’s going to be a lot of paper and it won’t resemble the actual program. Then there is music and videos. Even though you can hear and see music and videos, they’re not as physical as they used to be. Movies used to be burned onto film reels. Music used to be etched into vinyl records. Now, it’s just 1’s and 0’s on hard drives and streaming across the Internet. It’s much more difficult to keep track of data floating around the web than it is to keep track of a film reel. To copy a film reel, you need a projector, two sided sceen, dark room, transfer film, developing material, and at least 2 hours time plus the amount of time it takes to develop the film. Needless to say, it would take a long time to copy a film reel, and you’d probably know who is making the copies and where they’re going. To copy a DVD, you stick it in your computer, open your DVD copy software, click on the copy button, and voila! You can also rip the video off the DVD as a file which just sits on your computer. That file can be shared with friends, uploaded to websites and file sharing networks. Once this file hits the web it gets indexed, downloaded, re-uploaded, and scattered all over the Internet. Needless to say, it becomes nearly impossible to track down every copy of this file.
Unlike the chair which is difficult to reproduce, a movie file doesn’t have to be reproduced. Simply downloading the file creates a copy. You can then create as many copies as you want without losing quality in the copy or the original. Like the chair, however, if a movie studio sells that DVD or a downloadable video file to you they get money. If you then give that file away, you are essentially robbing the movie studio of income from every copy which results from your initial copying. Those people could have bought movie tickets or purchased the DVD or digital download, but instead (thanks to you) they get it for free.
This is not the same thing as buying a DVD and having friends over for a movie night. Neither the MPAA nor RIAA expect that you will purchase a song or movie and only play it on the computer where you bought it and wear headphones so no one else can “steal” a listen. However, they rightfully expect you to legitimately and legally obtain a copy of the movie or song. A production company makes a movie, they sell the movie, and in many cases they pay all others involved based on how well the movie does. When you hear a gaffer or props master complain about piracy “robbing them” they are partially correct.
Every argument people usually make to support their habit of obtaining free copies of digital content is flawed from the ground up and utterly rediculous.
- “These greedy studio executives who already make millions of dollars just want more money.” – greedy or not, of course they want their money. They are creating a product and selling it. Anyone who works to obtain or spread movies without paying for them is guilty of theft.
- “Music and Movies become popular when people share them.” – Sure, I buy a song, play it for my friends, they like it, and they begin listening to that band. It’s all great until the support of that band begins to lead nowhere. If the band isn’t making money because people are pirating their music they will eventually be dropped by the recording studio. Either that, or they just won’t be making any money off their music.
- “I bought the DVD. I own it. I have every right to rip the movie off of it to play on my computer, Xbox, home network, phone or iPod.” – partially true, but mostly still false. You do not own the movie just because you bought the DVD. Under the DMCA you have the right to produce a backup copy of your digital media in case your original is lost or stolen. But you still don’t have the right to distribute copies of copyrighted material.
- “I’m not making any money.” – well, you don’t have to be making money. If you robbed a bank and gave all the money away, you’re still guilty of robbing the bank. Likewise, even though you don’t sell a copy which is uploaded to the Internet, you are still guilty of giving away content which you don’t own the copyright to – content which the copyright holders are trying to sell.
- “Who is it hurting?” – specifically? I don’t have enough space to write out all the names. Let’s just say you are hurting the people who work on these movies, music, programs, and other digital media. You also end up hurting yourself. Piracy is what makes movie and record studios nervous about streaming across the Internet, supporting DVR’s, using new medium formats (DVD, BluRay…), and striking deals with distribution companies. It’s what makes the studios force DRM into their content, in the hopes their content will be copy-proof. Piracy also forces groups like the RIAA and MPAA to support the drastic and seemingly unconstitutional measures laid out in legislation such as SOPA and PIPA; legislation which could harm legitimate webites and the security of information on the Internet.
- “People don’t want to pay for movies and music.” – Too bad. It’s like saying you’re not going to pay for food but the farmers must continue to grow it, chefs must continue to cook it, and waiters must continue to serve it. That’s just stupid. Songs cost no more than $2, with movies ranging from $3 to $7 in a downloadable format. Loosen the purse strings.
- “Fine, I’ll pay for it when the price goes down.” – well, guess what: the price ain’t going down when the studios believe they are losing money to pirating. Once everyone begins purchasing the content and the studios begin making lots of money, only then will they have the incentive to lower the prices so they can sell more. Then again, they might keep prices high because people are buying the content anyway. That’s just business.
- “I could really use the software, and make good use of it. However, I can’t afford it. So, I can’t buy it to learn it so I can use it to make money to pay for it. What do you expect me to do?” – become affiliated with a school. There are many programs out there like Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and Adobe After Effects which you can get at discounted prices (or even free in some cases) just for being affiliated with an educational institution. Become a faculty member or just take a non-credit class. Then, you’ll at least be able to use the schools computer labs even if you can’t get your own copy of the software. You could also budget your money better…
- “I don’t pay for television or the radio. Why do I have to pay for the music and TV shows?” – maybe you don’t pay for radio stations, but someone does. First, you have a company which purchases the station equipment and pays all the fees associated with broadcasting; including paying for the rights to play the music and TV shows you like. Then, radio and television stations are loaded with advertisements. Those advertisements are what pay the employees of the station. The more popular the station, or current programming, the more advertisers have to pay, and the more money the station brings in. You don’t pay for TV and radio, but someone does.
- “But, it’s out there on the web…” – so what? pedofilia is on the web as well, but it’s still illegal. Just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it’s ok to look at, download, or redistribute. The people who uplaoded it might not understand what they’re really doing. They might understand exactly what they’re and simply don’t are about breaking the law. Make up your own mind. If the cpyright holder didn’t uploaded to the website, it is there illegally.
There are other arguments, but they are all based on the same thing: greed. People want things for free and they take it for free if they can. They also don’t feel like something they can’t hold is real. If it’s not real, you can’t steal it. The bottom line is “if it doesn;t belong to you, you don’t have any rights to it at all.”