RE: Thoughts on piracy

A commentary and response to Russell Glasser at the Castles Of Air blog from May 21, 2012

I’m an artist, a designer to be more precise. However, I’m going to write this post from a perspective of a consumer, because nobody is exclusively one or the other nowadays. Today, content creators and content consumers are blending together, and often this fact gets overlooked in the discussion.

Piracy is a service problem.

Torrents, cyberlockers and indexing sites etc. provide a better, easier to use and faster service than the rights-holding companies.

The second fact is, that piracy (in its modern internet-form) has been around for a good 20 years now, yet nobody could actually document “damages” in this timespan.

Once it was said that piracy would kill the PC-software market, yet from all we are seeing, the software market is stronger than ever.

People buy more software, people buy more games and entertainment than ever before.

If piracy would really hamper sales, or lead to those “losses” the industry supposedly suffers, we would necessarily need to see a decline in purchases.

If you are right in your assertion that most pirates don’t pay for entertainment, and the amount of active pirates/downloads increases every year, we would have to necessarily see -some- kind of measurable negative impact on the industry.

But we just simply don’t, we actually see the -reverse- (http://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-piracy-boosts-music-sales-study-finds-120517/)

The fact is that most pirates buy entertainment, and lots of it.

“Pirating” is a discovery process, most people I know that regularly pirate agree with this (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/apr/21/study-finds-pirates-buy-more-music).

I wouldn’t have heard of Game Of Thrones here in Sweden were it not for torrents, and I wouldn’t have bought the first-season complete collection on DVD.

Most “pirates” use downloads to gauge a product before purchase. In a time where game-demos for example went woefully out of style, its the only way to make an informed decision.

People don’t like to buy/pay for a “cat in a bag”. They want to make informed purchase decisions.

You don’t buy a car without a test-drive or at least sitting in it and touching the wheel, why should you treat a purchase/payment for entertainment any other way?

Adding to that the that the buyer essentially has zero rights from his purchase and people have a right to feel ripped off and try to find a different way to acquire a product.

The DRM issue already is creeping into our “physical” reality, iPhones, PS3s and other pieces of hardware have proprietary technology that can’t be re-purposed or modified by the user (the whole debacle of the military using PS3s as cheap clusters).

Consumers are losing control over the technology and products they legitimately purchased.

At the heart of this lie the old and useless IP and copyright laws that need a complete rework.

Its bad for the artists too (this is from the perspective of an artist).

Its bad that I get my videos flagged and removed from youtube because I used a 10 second clip of Game Of Thrones in a review (just to get it reinstated later, after i battle the DMCA for two weeks).

Its bad that i cant freely remix and re-purpose original commercial content. Video-collages are completely impossible to make and publish without getting DMCA’d to all hell nowadays.

Current IP-laws and their watchdog-laws like DMCA are stifling creativity and preventing free exchange of ideas.

Furthermore the more invasive laws lobbied for by the content-right holders (publishers) are gnawing on information-freedom and net-neutrality every day.

Take for example postal mail privacy. There is no law that requires you to identify yourself on an mail-envelope. You can send mail anonymously, and you are protected by the postal privacy laws that nobody will open your mail.

Why is data-transfer online treated differently? Why can corporations (ISPs) inspect my packets in a transfer and decide if they are “legitimate” or not.

You can’t have both.

Piracy is a spectre hung over the populace, the scare-tactic used to lobby for -more- privacy-invading laws and more control over content by the rights holders, even though they already have -all- the control over the content anyways.

This is why piracy exists, these are the issues that drive people to pirate.

I remember getting my entertainment over sneaker-net in the past, the same debate and outrage was here before when VCRs were introduced into households.

The movie/tv-companies screamed like little children that nobody would go to the cinema anymore, everyone would just get free entertainment from their TV and then infinitely copy it for their friends, cutting out the advertisement.

Yet the sky did not fall, the industry did not crumble.

Not to mention that the whole industry of Hollywood is -based- on piracy and patent-infringement.

Hollywood was created as a safe haven from the Motion Pictures Patents Company that held a copyright monopoly on film on the eastcoast.

Sure, a time later the supreme court ruled the MPPC was unlawfully creating a copyright monopoly but the point still stands, the first Hollywood movies were infringing the current MPPC copyright.

And I agree, they were infringing it for a -good reason-, and I see several very good reasons for todays piracy as well.

—-

I want to keep this section separate because I think its important.

Please Russell, don’t call it “theft” its copyright infringement. There is a reason why its not legally considered theft, because it isn’t.

If it was considered theft, then the legal system would treat it as theft, and the law would also use penalties like in theft.

I.e. nobody would pay upwards of 100.000$ for 10 pirated songs on their PC (ex.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_v._Tenenbaum).

If you want to call it theft, then please lobby to make the legal system see it as theft and follow legal procedures according to theft.

At least following the strict legal proceedings for theft would guarantee a fair trial, instead of being faced with a civil lawsuit from a company that can crush you with resources you can’t defend against.

It would also stop copyright-trolls that accuse 70 year old women of pirating porn (http://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-grandma-was-wrongfully-accused-lawyer-admits-110831/) and mass lawsuits against random IP addresses you pulled out of the torrent cloud (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/05/biggest-bittorrent-case/).

Innocent until proven guilty and all that.

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4 Responses to RE: Thoughts on piracy

  1. lowestofthekeys says:

    I think one big issue is that the labels use hyperbole, skewed statistics and loaded language to make people believe piracy is a huge problem.

    Just recently, there’s a bunch of artists yelling at Google because they police the internet. IT’s all brought on by the labels insistence that Google can magically make these things go away.

    • lowestofthekeys says:

      Also great post 🙂

    • tradamtm says:

      It’s a combination of many factors. One is a general misunderstanding of the technology involved, general ignorance about the inner workings of the magic land that is The Internet.

      Other problems arise from the fact that publishers and content holders (not necessarily artists) tend to be completely ignorant that their business-model is not sufficient anymore.

      They see piracy as a systemic social problem instead of a business problem, thats why they are lobbying for laws, instead of adapting and evolving their business.

      The Internet is living in a post-scarcity society, this obviously clashes with our capitalistic model in the physical world.

      http://torrentfreak.com/young-pirates-evicted-from-festival-for-giving-out-free-waffles-120722/

      • lowestofthekeys says:

        I read that, good post. I remember someone trying to argue the moral ground over at Techdirt saying that the young pirate party was “trying to piss off the waffle makers.”

        Same bullshit, people just misdirect so they don;t have to face the real issue.

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