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Blatant media piracy: Not just for south-Asian countries anymore

March 2, 2008

in All Articles,Culture

“The only cure for the fear of falling is to jump.”
-Carl Jung

Mike from asks:

“I know of people that download and copy songs and movies via the internet. They (and everyone else) seem to do it all of the time. Is this legal? The younger generation seems to think that since it is so accessible and easy, it must be legal. What is the truth?”

For those who don’t know, what Mike is referring to are a lot of programs and pages on the Internet that provide people with copies of movies, television shows, and music. These can be taken from the Internet and played on your PC for free. This concept was recently popularized by the now defunct Napster software.

Remember the clichéd question: If you could do something you believed was wrong, and be 99% sure you wouldn’t be caught, would you do it?

Well, now we know how most people would answer!

The short answer: Yes. Unless given express permission, downloading copywritten media (like moves and songs) is illegal, Illegal, ILLEGAL.

Why? It’s a simple question of copying something you have no right to copy. The concept is the same as bringing a video camera into a movie theater, or making a copy of a CD and giving it to someone. This is blatant copyright violation since the creator of the media gets no credit or compensation for the copy you’ve just made.

The long answer reveals complexity: Publishing companies are seeding the file sharing services with fake files to discourage sharing. And if Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) gets his way, companies will literally be allowed to hack without warning to disable computers they believe are hosting pirated files. These techniques barely combat the problem short-term, and will quickly be rendered ineffective.

Despite what music and movie publishers believe, this isn’t a black and white issue. Permit me to use an odd analogy to explain my point:

A few years ago, I was unmarried. I lived alone in my small apartment. I stayed up late and I ate bad food. To get from one room to another, I had to wade through piles of crunchy clothes. Without going into more embarrassing detail, my point is that I had a lifestyle to call my own. Whether or not others liked it, that was the way I lived.

Then I got married, and my life changed: I went to bed at a more normal time. My wife and I made dinners – with real vegetables. And with my clothes being relegated into “drawers” and “closets”, I became reacquainted with what a floor looks like.

My style of living evolved. Getting married meant that I had to incorporate what was new. Different rules lead to a new lifestyle. A new lifestyle meant Change.

This relates to our question: Previously, we had a world where the publishing houses had tighter control over their products. It wasn’t so easy to make copies and share them. Now we live in an era where a blockbuster movie may be available for free download before the movie hits the theaters! The world is undergoing a lifestyle change. The current copyright and information ownership laws were not crafted to consider our current technology. We must evolve to incorporate this new technology. This means Change.

Mike’s question leads to another: The Internet isn’t going away. It allows us to share information freely, quickly, and invisibly. How should we best use this incredible resource? Where do we go from here?

In the meantime, the laws are still here: Copyright violators receive stiff penalties if caught – up to 5 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. That’s a lot of money for movie tickets (though at my local theater it still won’t cover the popcorn costs).

Here are some links you might be interested in:

An excellent article describing the State-of-the-Union of the music business
What Congressman Berman intends to do
More detail on that bill (in easier to understand language)
An article on peer-to-peer media sharing
Penalties for generic copyright violation
Piracy information from the Recording Industry Association of America
“The recording industry and motion picture industry need to look for technological solutions to their own problems.”
The Motion Picture Association of America’s view on piracy

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