Best Digital Piracy Analogy

So I’m just sitting on the toi- couch. And I’m taking this survey asking about technology and media. One question asks what I think of digital piracy.

“Do you consider digital piracy to be as bad as shoplifting?”

Negating my past actions (being from the age of Napster), I “Strongly Agreed.” For some reason this question made me ponder the actual thought of what shoplifting entails and how digital piracy compares to it. I thought back to every argument I’ve ever had with stupid teenagers (and some stupid adults) on this topic. I could never really make my argument stick, though.

I once came up with an argument which involved a never ending supply of chairs. You’d take one and it would duplicate. Just like downloading a song or movie. But the reality of such a situation makes the whole analogy fall apart quickly.

I’ve tried taking the “morals” route, but most people don’t care about what’s right and wrong in this case. After all, who cares about paying a few bucks to a multibillion dollar Hollywood studio who seems to be out to get all of your money for their trivial attempts at entertaining you?

Alas, I finally figured it out! Here’s the best analogy that shows digital piracy is in fact wrong, if not the same as stealing.

First off, lets take a look at what digital piracy entails: a studio makes a movie. They put the movie in digital download form, or on one of those disc thingy’s. You take this video and put it in a format which you can place on all of your devices, stream across your home network, and share with your friends, or strangers on the internet. Technically, you paid for that copy of the movie (or a viewing license to watch that copy of the movie in its intended portal). You may not own the movie itself, but that copy is yours. If you want to back it up in case you lose the original you should be able to, right? If you feel you already paid $20+ for the DVD and shouldn’t have to pay again just to watch it on your iPod, Xbox, or computer you’re not alone. Should you be able to make copies and hand them out to your friends (when they had the opportunity to purchase the DVD just like you did)?

Lets look at WalMart now. Pretend WalMart began making products beyond their special off-brand toilet papers. Lets say they make their own media player: the WalPod. And it only costs $30! Of course, everyone will want a WalPod. Now, being WalMart they have a ton of money to make crap like this. But you decide you’re not paying $30 for something made by WalMart. So you, and most of your friends manage to find a way to circumvent the security protocols at WalMart and begin walking out with one everytime you visit. In fact, since you’re all doing it, other people start doing it as well. Pretty soon, it becomes all the rave to steal WalPods. Like I said earlier, WalMart has lots of money. However, even thought you might not think you’re going to hurt them, the reality is they are moving product (losing product?) and not making any money. They still have to pay people to work on the WalPod: designers, marketing teams, programmers, and such. As time goes on, they begin to pay these people more than they are making off the WalPod.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “That is obviously wrong, because you are taking something from them without paying for it. Now they can never sell it and lose out on the money it would have brought in if someone would have paid for it. Digital media is not the same thing.”

Well, you’re only half right. It is true that downloading a song leaves the original in tact and still available to sell. But that’s not the similarity between the WalPod and an MP3. The similarity lies in the end result, not the existentialism of the original product.

When you download a song, movie, tv show, video game, or other digital media you have just robbed that content creator of the money you would have paid to access/own that specific digital item. They might still be able to sell the original master file, but not to you. Nor to the other people who pirated that file.

The people who worked (and possibly continue to work) on those digital items will soon be out of a job if the parent company sees that they are paying the workforce more than they are making on that item. What’s worse, people will still have access to that digital media content and neither the parent company nor the content creators will be compensated for producing it.

If that doesn’t make sense you, then you’re probably a teenager… Or just stupid. Sorry.

Diggs out.

    Is it Okay to Download a Pirated Copy of a Game Youve Already Purchased?

    Is it Okay to Download a Pirated Copy of a Game Youve Already Purchased?.

    Once again I come across an article discussing the legality of downloading software from various sources on the Internet. As I read the article above I already had my own view on downloading content through “other” channels. As I read through the comments, I came across very few arguments I have never heard before. All-in-all, my personal thoughts about the matter didn’t change. I always get frustrated with people who take the supporting side, for many reasons; which I will bring up here. But first, let’s go over a few things.

    Thing 1: the Evil Studios just want more Money

    The MPAA, RIAA, and everyone else with billion dollar content¬†claims piracy is ruining their business and destroying them financially. This is simply not true. Sure, if all those pirates out there bought their copies instead of downloading free copies the studios would have more money. Since those people aren’t, however, it would seem the studios are losing the money those persons would have given them. The key word here is IF – if those people would have bought copies, the studios would have that much more money. However, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have spent any money for that content. The “free is free” mentality usually gets the better of us and leaves us with junk we would never, in a million years, have paid for. So, just because someone downloaded it off the Internet for free¬†doesn’t mean they would have bought it in the first place. These free screenings do promote future releases, regardless of what studios claim. A person who watched Iron Man on some crazy, free movie website and liked it might have¬†decided to see Iron Man 2 in theaters; expecting it to be as good or better than the first. While it’s true the studios want money, it’s not necessarily true they are greedy; at least not more so than any other profitable company. Sometimes it’s about the art, and sometimes it about the business.

    Thing 2: Just because the Studio is Evil, does that make them Wrong?

    I’ll bet there are millions of people out there who have pictures and videos from a concert they attended. There’s likely to be many of those videos on YouTube. When a person or group performs live in a public venue, it’s hard to say, “NO PICTURES!” I want memories I can share with others. So I snap a picture. Even if you had to pay to get into the concert I don’t think anyone will argue with your grainy, distorted, personal copy of a live performance of “Dude looks like a Lady.” And I’m almost positive Aerosmith just don’t care. The big thing¬†studios are against, and rightfully so, is when you make money off of their hard work. And yes, playing music is work; or rather a lot of time spent practicing. Even more work goes into producing an album, a movie or TV show, and even video games. When these studios whine about compensation they are a little justified. They hold the Copy Right on that content. This means they are the ones who decide who gets access, who can make copies, who can hold showings, and who can sell the merchandise. I wish it was as simple as this: if you made a chair and someone else made a chair which looked exactly like yours and people bought it because of that fact, you would be mad and try to stop them… simple. However, this debate is not so simple. While the studios are correct when they say, “stealing is illegal,” most people don’t view digital media as a thing which can be stolen. When you download a copy of a movie off the Internet, the original is still there. Did you really steal it? The same thoughts apply to TV shows, music, e-books, photographs, software/programs, and video games (also software, but different enough to name separately). You’re not taking a copy off of store shelves, robbing them of a product they could have sold. Neither are you compensating the studios for their hard work, however. They put all the hard work, time, and effort into making the movie and you’re essentially saying, “I don’t have to pay you for your hard work. I’m watching the movie for free!” Nevermind the greediness of the studio, taking something without permission is wrong; even if¬†it exists¬†infinitum.

    Thing 3: LIEcenses, Copy Right, and Fairy Dust

    There are tons of people who talk about Copy Right and licensing. None of them ever bother to explain what those are or how they work. This is one reason people feel no shame in watching movies online from places like (not a real site btw). People think that they own the DVD when they buy it. It’s quite natural a thought when you think about it. You go to the store, pickup an item off the shelf, pay the cashier, and it’s yours. But it’s never yours in the sense that the design, name, function, or content now belongs to you. You can’t buy a TV and claim all rights to every TV. You can’t buy a spatula and claim all rights to flat cookware. You can’t buy a car and claim all rights to the motor vehicle. You can’t purchase something and claim it was your idea. Now, I haven’t really heard anyone make this argument, “I bought Lord of the Flies. I wrote Lord of the Flies. I now own the rights¬†to the kids-get-stranded-on-a-deserted-island-and-create-their-own-government¬†storyline.” Nor have I heard someone take credit for the spatula. So, on the surface these analogies do seem out of place. Until we go back to the chair. If I bought a chair, and then made my own chair (for my own use; not to profit from it) I would have made a copy of that chair. I did not deplete the number of items on store shelves. I did, however, rob the company of money. How, you ask? Instead of paying them for another chair I just made a copy. This¬†loss is¬†negligible until everyone starts doing it. Still, the question remains: it is right? Do I have the right to make copies of that chair? Remember, I’m not just making any ol’ chair. I’m precisely copying that specific chair, because that’s the chair I want. The studios tell us they are not selling us a movie; they are selling us a DVD disk which contains the movie and giving us a limited license to have our own private screenings. In essence, we are paying for the right to watch the movie on the disk (along with materials)¬†– we are not paying for the movie¬†on the disk. The DVD even has a disclaimer at the beginning saying it is a federal offense to copy and redistribute the contents of the DVD. The DMCA (Digital Millenium Copy Right Act) does allow you to make a copy of DVDs, but only as a replacement, should something happen to your originals. It does not say you can obtain a copy made from someone else’s DVD over the Internet because you scratched yours up. This license also only allows you to watch that movie on a DVD player. If you are buying DVD disks expecting to play them on an iPod you are buying the wrong item. Do I want to pay $15 for a DVD and then another¬†$5 for a copy I can watch on my mobile device? No, I do not. This is why many studios put out DVDs or Blu-Rays which come with a digital copy, or a license to view a streaming copy. Again, though, it’s always a license to view, not to copy nor distribute. They’re not trying to trick you or get more money out of you. Quite frankly, I don’t think the studios understand what is right or wrong any more than the digital peanut gallery fighting about it in blogs and article comments.

    Thing 4: Wherefore art thou, Avengers Blu-Ray

    The article which set me off today has a very specific question. The OP (original poster –¬†for those of you new to the century) paid for the video game and then downloaded it from an illegitimate source – meaning he did not download it from the studio who made it nor the distributor in charge of releasing it. It would seem that any arguments about his actions¬†might be moot. What does it matter? It would be similar to a situation where I give Amazon $500 and then take my neighbors iPad. Amazon got their money, why should they care if I don’t get the iPad from them? Now, this isn’t exactly the same, because my neighbor lost an iPad and I’m probably in jail.¬† But I haven’t told you the whole story yet. [SPOILER ALERT as if you were going to read that article] The OP pre-ordered and paid for the game, but then downloaded the game from the illegitimate source a few days early – before the game was released. It would probably be more similar to say I pre-ordered and paid for the iPad 4, but then got one from a guy at the docks a week early. Now I have the iPad 4 before the intended release date Apple had initially setup. So what if I get a few extra days to play with mine before you get yours? I still paid for it and you will get yours eventually. The bigger issue here is the license. Where did that copy come from? How did you obtain it? Remember, the studio gave you a license to play that DVD, not any copy of that movie where ever you can get it from. The same goes for video games. You actually cannot go to your friend’s house and take his disk media, install it on your computer, but use your key code. When the company sold you the game you had a license for that copy, not any copy you can get your hands on. Disk rentals work (at the disdain of the studios) because only that one copy exists. When you return it you no longer have it and¬†can no longer play it. That license also restricts you from making copies of the disk or software. You cannot copy a DVD to your computer and redistribute it. Neither can you take downloaded software and redistribute it (unless, of course, it is freeware or shareware; two terms I don’t hear too often anymore). That means the person who ripped the DVD and placed it on the Internet violated the terms of the license they bought into when they purchased the DVD. But does that mean you did anything wrong by downloading it? Yes, it does. There are official channels and illegitimate channels. Some of the official channels are free. Likewise,¬†just because it costs money doesn’t mean it’s legit. No matter how you feel about the copy you own or how much money you paid for it, if you aren’t getting it from official channels it’s just not right. The other issue here is this nasty operation known as hacking. The game our OP downloaded early was modified to make it playable. Many video games come with DRM (digital rights management) software embedded into their core. Even though it was originally a legitimate copy of the game, someone had changed the code to remove or bypass the DRM, making an otherwise useless piece of software a working game. This is most likely definitely¬†a no-no according to the terms and conditions of the game’s EULA (end-user license agreement); many of which typically say “you don’t own our code,” and “don’t mess with our code,” and even, “don’t use software which bypasses, restricts, or modifies our code.” So, even though the OP had paid for the game (negating the fact he obtained the game before the official release date) the copy he obtained was an illegal copy because it’s code¬†had been modified. Once again, when you purchase a video, song, e-book, or game you are really only buying the license to view/listen to that specific form of the media through that specific outlet (e.g. If you purchase a movie in iTunes, you can only watch it in iTunes or on your iDevice. You cannot do anything to it to make it playable on your Xbox.)

    Thing 5: Last thing, I promise

    Who do you think you are? Nevermind, I don’t want to get into a philosophical “who am I” debate. (and yes, we are really puny compared to the universe…) The question I want answered does remain, though. We just have to step back to see it all clearly. A person creates a chair. You buy that chair, paying him for the materials he used to construct said chair as well as his time spent working on the chair. Likewise, you pay the plumber for his time working on your throne, even though you’re not purchasing a product from him. It just seems like these people who work on movies, TV shows, books, music, and software deserve to be compensated for their time and effort. These people spend their days and nights filming scenes, acting, writing scripts and books, building props and sets, practicing their art, recording their art, and finalizing their art so the rest of us may enjoy it. Saying things like this is stupid: “art is meant to be done for yourself, not others – do your art for the joy of the art.”¬†That’s like saying, “don’t make iPads¬†for others, people starving in China, make them because you like making iPads.” These people want to make a good movie for you in a similar way that your real estate agent wants to find you a house you love. They’re not gonna do it for free. I’m going to say this and then explain it: just because that lot is full of cars nobody is using doesn’t mean you can just go take one. Now, as I said before, software and digital copies of movies and music exist¬†infinitum. You download a copy and the original is still there; you did not take away from the stock. Neither did you pay for an item which the creators or Copy Right owners do charge for. Right now there are copies of Heroes, Season 2 on a store shelf somewhere. It will cost you money to take that DVD set home. Why would anyone think it’s OK to download that collection off the Internet for free (through Torrents or P2P software and websites)? Ford sells Mustangs: why should they be OK with you obtaining one for free?

    Conclude Already!

    Draw your own conclusions. I believe it’s wrong. It’s hard to argue with people who bring up the fact that it’s out there. If it’s out there, why not download it? However, they don’t realize it’s out there illegally, which is what makes it illegal to download. Even still many people agree that if they own a purchased copy, that entitles them to have other copies of the same content however and where ever. Again, this is a license issue; another thing most people don’t understand. Then there’s the people who understand everything I’ve said, but continue to download stuff for free simply because free beats expensive. Some of them even do it just because they feel the system is so messed up and this is a form of vigilante justice. And finally, there are those out there who are just as greedy as the studios they slander. All they want is the content, whether or not they make any money off it. They just do it because they do. No matter what you say or do, the studios won’t agree with you. And no matter what the studios say or do (unless they start giving stuff away for free as policy) chances are people will always want more for less and play the greed card every time.

    Megaupload Goes Down – Pirates Weep

    Megaupload Shutdown: Should RapidShare and Dropbox Worry? – Slashdot.

    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.”