Beware: Copyrighted Material

“Even the good become pirates in a world where the rules seem absurd”
(Lawrence Lessig, Remix

I think you all know about PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) by now. In case you don’t, Wikipedia’s links will do the job. The acts’ approval has been postponed due to the widespread protests and boycotts, but the issue is far from being over. So… what do I think about online piracy?
First of all, let’s define piracy.

– Someone enters a theatre and starts recording the movie with his/her camera. Than He/she posts it online or makes DVD and sells the copies.
– Someone edits an homemade video of his/her holidays adding a legally bought Prince song (not a random reference, see the Lenz v. Universal Case) as soundtrack. Then he/she posts it online.
Well, these are very different cases. Yet, according to lawmakers and copyright supporters, these two people are both perceived as criminals.
So, firstly: the crime of piracy lacks a real definition. And before acting on penalties and consequences, I think it’s essential to define WHAT really arms society copyright owners. Secondly: I think it’s totally wrong to apply “real world” rules and common beliefs to “virtual world”. And I’m saying this because PIPA and SOPA supporters have made a major case out of it (see here). We live in a digital era that requires new points of view about matters as copyright and intellectual property. We live in a world where technology actually ALLOWS copies. The possibility to copy is now an intrinsic feature of all texts and works of art (just to paraphrase Walter Benjamin). And here we go: the market enters the game.
A few days ago I found this article by Tim O’Reilly that explain what I think better than I’d actually do. Summing it up: piracy is the result of a market failure (“the unwillingness or inability of existing companies to provide their product at a price or in a manner that potential customers want”). Traditional companies were so busy fighting online “pirates” that they retarded  the growth of new business models more suitable for the digital era. Who won? Not pirates. But new services as Amazon, iTunes, Netflix. So “The solution to piracy must be a market solution, not a government intervention, especially not one as ill-targeted as SOPA and PIPA. We already have laws that prohibit unauthorized resale of copyrighted material, and forward-looking content providers are developing products, business models, pricing, and channels that can and will eventually drive pirates out of business by making content readily available at a price consumers want to pay, and that ends up growing the market”

That’s pretty much all, folks.
And now: what do you guys think about it? 


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14 comments on “Beware: Copyrighted Material

  1. Francy says:

    Pagare un libro di carta 25 Euro è una piratata = scarico illegalmente da internet e l’autore non si becca una lira. Pagare un ebook 6,99 euro è una piratata = scarico illegalmente da internet e l’autore non si becca una lira. Pagare un ebook 99 centesimi sul sito dell’autore lo considero il giusto prezzo. Scarico, pago e l’autore si becca 99 centesimi. E’ una legge di mercato, prima riescono a comprenderla, meglio è (per loro).

  2. Well said, Jersey. Personally, I think the success of iTunes shoots a pretty big hole in the “we need SOPA/PIPA” argument. People have shown that they will, in fact, pay money for songs and video — both of which are easily pirate-able, the former of which in some ways they wouldn’t easily detect — if they’re made available at a fair price and a convenient marketplace. Amazon.com also has a digital marketplace which is thriving, CinemaNow is getting off the ground… there are companies that actively rely on the principle that “piracy is a serious threat” is false — and succeed. And when you consider that the most pirated works also tend to be the most profitable (I think someone noted that there didn’t seem to be any pirated copies of Bucky Larsen out there), it’s really hard to be concerned about piracy.

    I support putting a stop to piracy when the situation arises. I support owners of copyrighted work being paid for their work. I don’t support the nuclear-bomb-to-the-fly approach that SOPA and PIPA use. One of my state senators, Ron Wyden, has a proposal of his own, called the OPEN Act that addresses the issue while also addressing some of the issues about the internet needing to remain, well, open. Seems to have support from a lot of the internet-based companies that opposed SOPA/PIPA, and at least on the surface, it looks more reasonable. Making it illegal to send funds the way of organizations that violate U.S. copyright law? Yeah, OK. I’m OK with that. Making it so that any company can shut down a website on the mere perception of copyright infringement? Definitely not.

    • Jersey says:

      When I lived in the States, i subscribed to Netflix. Then I came back to Italy, where Netflix (just like Hulu, Spotify, Pandora… you name it, we don’t have it) doesn’t work. So I’m not ashamed to admit that I now download TV series from p2p sites. Am I a criminal? I was willing to PAY for contents when I had the chance… now I just don’t have that chance anymore. It’s market, baby.

      I’ve heard about the OPEN Act and I’m definitely going to read more about it.

      Thanks for sharing you thoughts, Morgan!

  3. Jaina says:

    Totally and utterly agree. We live in a digital age and yet all the laws that various bodies of government that are trying to apply laws to digital aspect or using traditional copyright law as a basis and it just won’t work.

    It’s also really annoying, like you living in Europe, we don’t get half the shows that are aired in America. They’re not even available through legal digital outlets. What else are we to do? Distribution for TV, music and film needs to be synced up worldwide so that there’s less of an opportunity for piracy. Why can’t it be that easy?

    • Jersey says:

      I think that American producers should just bypass local distributors… For instance, here in Italy Murdoch’s Fox distributes TV series pretty quickly. But it’s also a kind of expensive service, like premium cable in the US. Free networks, instead, tend to air American series month or years after the original release. What if US networks and broadcasters start to sell their products directly to us, through the Web? Would it be so wrong?

      • Jaina says:

        I think it’s going to be the future. What with the likes of brand new Arrested Development being “broadcast” by Netflix.

        I pay for what we call Sky Digital here, which is basically like cable. There are a few UK based channels who are now starting to get US shows a few weeks after they first air in the States. Though the mid-season hiatuses always messes that up. But there’s still loads of US TV that never makes it across the pond. It’s getting better, but distributors and producers need to work more closely together. Sky One (UK TV channel) worked closely with the Battlestar Galactica producers and as a consequence we in the UK got it first. I’m not saying we need things first all the time, but in line with the US and I think it’ll stop people being tempted to get pirate copies.

      • Jersey says:

        Exactly Jaina, synchronization must be the future!

  4. I’m happy to see these bills are looking to be dead (at least for now).

    It could have been the end of my blog, for sure.

    I just wish that congress would address more pressing concerns anyways. People are out of work for years, they do nothing. Hollywood tosses some money around and they RUSH out some hastily designed, poorly thought out bills.

    I hate Congress.

    • Jersey says:

      You made an excellent point Fogs, that could have been the end of all our blogs!
      I think it just takes someone who really knows what the issue is about…

      • Yes, it would have been potentially devastating to movie blogs in particular. I think we all know how difficult it is to review a movie without ever using any image or quote from it. That’s covered under “Fair Use” in current copyright law, but not only is that an affirmative defense (i.e., it’s technically only useful if you get sued, it doesn’t prevent suits), but SOPA & PIPA didn’t allow for any defense at all before action was taken. Then you factor in uncontrollables like other people commenting with infringing quotes or avatars… the only way to be “safe” on that would be to shut down comments entirely, and then there’s little point to a blog.

        In fairness to Congress about “more pressing concerns”, they do tend to tackle more than one issue per session. And jobs aren’t exactly something that they can legislate into existence, unfortunately (I say this as someone who is nearing on 4 years without a job.) What I wish is that the lobbying were more equitable (it’s not right that the corporations have a stronger voice than the little people), and that legislators would bother to know what they’re talking about before writing up legislation. SOPA & PIPA really struck me as examples of legislation written by people who didn’t understand how the internet works, on a fundamental level. As written, it sounded like the only way to make sure your site didn’t violate was to have no outgoing links (because any link might eventually lead to infringing material, and that’s as bad as you hosting it yourself). And outgoing links are essentially what the Internet is; that’s both the “inter” and the “net(work)” in “internet”. Those proposed laws were just insanely bad.

  5. Jersey says:

    Having legislators who really know what they’re talking about, could be a great step forward!

  6. […] I already said what I think about it in here. The problem here is a market failure: society has already understood how digital era works and […]

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