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Jun 18, 2014

The copyright industry sends forth a skeleton army to fight piracy

The copyright industry continues to mislead about the impact of piracy -- and the way to stop isn't copyright crackdowns but giving consumers what they want, Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer write.

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26 thoughts on “The copyright industry sends forth a skeleton army to fight piracy

  1. DJS

    I hate to be a naysayer but….

    In many respects, I agree with you all about the control and greed of the production and distibution industry. But it’s their product. If any of you out there were producing highly sought after, patented widgets and you decided that that the way you wanted to sell them was through your own retail outlets in Uzbekistan because that best suited your concept of the right business model, you’d be mighty cranky if someone started reproducing them in Australia. You wouldn’t be nodding your head understandingly, agreeing with the idea that the public couldn’t get them when and where they wanted them, at a price they wanted to pay for them, so it’s justifiable for them to get it through a pirate manufacturer.

    Movie and music makers make a product that they own and they have the right to sell it to whomever, whenever, wherever, and at what price they want. I’m no innocent abroad here but I’ve no doubt that pirating movies and music is stealing them. It’s only since the advent of the internet, where instant gratification is being taken to ever faster levels, has the morality on such things so dramatically shifted. We’re increasingly used to being able to find what we want online that the merest delays have the capacity to make us unreasonably irritated. And so it has become with music and movies. We know they’re accessible and we’ll truck no impediments to getting them.

    Pre-internet, not one of us would have accepted copying of books for sale. There is something about the extended physical effort of such an undertaking that would have made it almost grotesque to support. But because we can effortlessly type a few characters on a keyboard, and click a mouse button a few times, we don’t feel the physical violation of another person’s rights. A digital file cannot be touched so it can’t possibly hurt.

    There is a kind of herd mentality out there in relation to the justifications people have for taking something to which they have no right. Be frustrated, annoyed….whatever, about not having access to something you’d like to have. But those emotions don’t give anyone the right to take it from the person who owns that thing if that person doesn’t want to give it to you. They don’t have to justify why they’re not giving it to you, just like you wouldn’t have to justify not giving or selling someone your widgets.

  2. Jan Forrester

    I appreciate the big corporate picture here, Bernard, including the video game industry, but found DJS very thoughtful on how our habits, and patience, have changed with the Internet. Copying tapes, books, CDs has gone on for decades, (in the old days in SEAsia bigtime). I guess this is why big corporates are heading towards streaming fast. We all know digital has turned every form of consumerism upside down and it requires different skills to survive and prosper as a creative. However, individual ownership of creativity is being attacked. And this is where I am not certain of Bernard’s statistics on the number of workers in the creative industries – full time, part time, casual numbers? It matters because individual copyright is different in these different situations. And the general industry landscape that is being created. Ask some of these individual creatives what their copyright situation is, ie what kinds of contracts they sign. Ongoing experience suggests the ‘creative’ businesses are demanding ownership of ALL copyright on ALL platforms in PERPETUITY. Whilst this is being resisted by individual copyright-owners its currently a losing battle as more and more educational and other institutions are now demanding the same ownership rights. Many creative businesses demand people create for nothing to ‘build a profile’ – even if they have one already. But try that trick on your hairdresser or plumber sometime and wait for the reaction. It will be worth filming and distributing for free on the net.

  3. DJS

    Sean Carmody – Sure it happened with tape but on nothing remotely like the scale of it now. Besides, that’s not the point. It was theft then and it’s theft now, but on a far greater scale. What you and clearly most commenters here are arguing is, that unless you get the product at what you consider a reasonable price, you have a right to take it for nothing.

    HBO may well have made a mozza. They negotiated a good deal and that’s their right. I don’t know what you do for a living but what you’re saying is tantamount to an employer saying to you that the salary you’re expecting is too high so he’s going to make you work for nothing. This is how HBO make their living. They make a product and they sell it at a price below which they won’t sell it, just like you sell your labour at a price below which you won’t work – hopefully.

    I really hope you don’t get offended when I say that it seems to me that everyone here who shares your view has a blind spot about this. You don’t get that, if you don’t agree with the price that’s being asked for a product, you don’t buy it. You can’t just take it because you want it. You wouldn’t walk into Myers and walk out with a pair of Armani pants without paying for them and justify it to yourself by saying that Myer is a huge corporate who’s being greedy because the pants cost more than you think they’re worth and that it’s not fair that Myer had stitched up a distribution agreement with Armani.

    For some reason, when it comes to movies and music, so many people believe that they have an inalienable right to take them at will if they don’t like the distribution arrangements or the price of the product. The only things we as consumers can argue for access at a reasonable price about are societal essentials like health, education, social services, water, energy, housing, food…. We don’t have a right to demand access to private, discretionary goods like movies and music at a price we deem to be reasonable. If the prices are too high, people won’t buy them as much and hopefully the prices might fall. And they may not. But that’s the way it goes in the marketplace. And the marketplace is not always fair or equitable but that’s what we’ve got to work with. There’s no other part of the larger marketplace where anyone sensibly argues that because it’s not fair or equitable, it’s okay just to take what you want without paying for it.

  4. Graeski

    DJS, I’m not sure anyone is arguing that pirating isn’t theft. I think people are suggesting that if a distributor manages to put itself in a monopoly position for a certain product and then forces the public to pay exorbitant prices for additional products that they don’t want simply to gain access to the one product they do want, then it’s not surprising than some people take exception to this and feel justified in resorting to less legal means of accessing that product.

    Surely, given that Foxtel has established such a monopoly and is using it in a manner that is counter to the best interests of Australian consumers, there is a case for intervention by the ACCC?

    But instead of our government acting in the interests of the Australian people – something that we have every right to expect them to do – yet again we see it in thrall to the selfish and limited interests of big business. Even worse, through their myopic stupidity they are not only supporting the continuation of price gouging, they are considering putting at risk the freedom and independence of the entire internet by forcing ISPs to monitor and police the online behaviour of individual internet users. That is the thin edge of a very destructive wedge. All for the sake of a single organisation that seeks to continue imposing on the Australian people the same control over what we can an can’t see as the distributors of last century.

    The good news in all of this is that it’s not the actual creators of material that are being squeezed out by the internet. They are always going to be needed and I think – once they have adjusted to the new paradigm that the internet makes possible – they may well come out of it ahead in the end. What’s being squeezed out is the leeching middlemen who make no creative contribution to the process. I believe that the sooner the Foxtels and similar of this world disappear, the better.

  5. Draco Houston

    “Movie and music makers make a product that they own and they have the right to sell it to whomever, whenever, wherever, and at what price they want.”

    This is almost never the case. The rights holders call the shots usually and in this case they made a bad call.

    “In many respects, I agree with you all about the control and greed of the production and distibution industry. But it’s their product. If any of you out there were producing highly sought after, patented widgets and you decided that that the way you wanted to sell them was through your own retail outlets in Uzbekistan because that best suited your concept of the right business model, you’d be mighty cranky if someone started reproducing them in Australia. You wouldn’t be nodding your head understandingly, agreeing with the idea that the public couldn’t get them when and where they wanted them, at a price they wanted to pay for them, so it’s justifiable for them to get it through a pirate manufacturer.”

    I get what you’re saying but this comparison is unfair. All ‘pirates’ are doing in this case is copying data stored on their computer. The creative industries can’t just shut down companies that violate their patent like the hypothetical widget patent holder can. They’re competing with something very convenient and available to anyone with a net connection. It is too hard for them to kill piracy and there are options to improve sales of this kind of product.

  6. DJS

    Graeski – You’re definition of monopoly is flawed. Sole distribution of products is commonplace in a variety of industries. Dell computers are a prime example. You can only buy them from Dell. If you don’t like their terms of trading, you buy another computer. You don’t try to steal it. Foxtel is not a monopoly. It doesn’t control the entire television and entertainment industry. There are many other players in it. If you don’t like their terms of trade for the products they sell within that industry, buy another product. I understand that you might want theirs, but you don’t have a god given right to it and have the freedom to get it any way you want.

    There is a broad range of choice of programs that are available to you from many other sources. Like any other products, you just have to accept that, for whatever reason, some might not be available to you, regardless of how much you might want them.

    I have no love of this government but I don’t accept that, in this case, they’re in the thrall of Foxtel. In other ways, they may well be. And it’s not just Foxtel that they’re trying to protect. This is an issue for every song writer who has a right to be rewarded for their creativity and they have the right to determine what that reward should be. If they ask too much for what they produce, as I said in a previous post, people won’t buy it and the price will come down accordingly. But it’s not up to those that want it to determine what that price should be and simply take it if the creator and/or distributor won’t supply it at that price. I’m sure you wouldn’t allow that if it was your creation.

  7. drsmithy

    Clearly, if you think like that, then we have different standards.

    Indeed. Mine are based in actual law and history, rather than media industry propaganda.

    Because it’s not physical property, it’s not theft? Really? If you worked for someone for a week and they refused to pay you for your effort, is that not stealing your time? No – there’s nothing physical you can touch but it’s theft just the same.

    Actually, that would probably be breach of contract.

    In addition, if someone wastes my time, then that time is gone. I have actually suffered a measurable loss.

    By the same reasoning, you could plug a cable into your neighbour’s house unbeknown to them and use their power without paying them for it and, in your mind, that wouldn’t be theft because there’s nothing physical involved. It’s just electrical current.

    Electrical current isn’t a physical thing ? I’m sure that’s news to physicists.

    Further, if I use someone else’s power, then they have to pay for that power. They have suffered a measurable loss.

    That you refuse to get that downloading a file that you haven’t paid for is exactly the same as shoplifting a pair of pants is indeed a serious problem. People who pirate have to try to make that artificial distinction in order to justify what they doing.

    No, you have that completely backwards.

    It is the Copyright industry (and their bought politicians) that has been trying for decades to destroy the very real distinction between theft (or other situations where real, directly measurable losses occur) and copyright infringement (where losses are all hypothetical and, basically, made up out of thin air).

    I challenge you to find any lawyer who will stand in front of a judge and argue copyright infringement is the same as theft. I challenge you to find any music company claiming their hypothetical “losses” due to copyright infringement as a tax loss.

    Copyright infringement is not theft. Not conceptually, not morally, and sure as hell not legally.

  8. drsmithy

    drsmithy – I obviously can’t help you. You will think whatever you need to, to justify what you do.

    You don’t need to “help” me. What I “think” with regards to comparing copyright and theft, is what the law says.

    If you want to argue with the law, that’s your call.

    If you can assert that illegally downloading a movie instead of paying the copyright holder for it does not create a measurable loss, then we have nowhere to go.

    I can quite easily assert it because it’s true. If you disagree, please show some evidence of actual, measurable losses. Tax filings, company reports, that sort of thing.

    Incidentally, it’s not the “downloading” aspect that’s really a problem, it’s the “uploading” – ie distribution – part. In many – probably most – countries, downloading is actually quite legal (so long as you aren’t sharing it back).

    You may also find it useful sometime to talk to an actual lawyer about this stuff so you can learn what the true legal situation is – unlike these baseless, unfounded beliefs you have about it.

    Good advice, you should take it.

    Nothing I have written regarding comparing copyright and theft disagrees with the “legal situation”. If you have evidence otherwise, by all means let’s see it.

    Copyright is, at best, a necessary evil that should be tolerated by society only to a very limited and controlled extent. It has long exceeded that principle (one need look no further than the absurd idea that copyrights should continue past the death of the author to see that) and exists today primarily to benefit ticket-clippers and rentiers in the media industries.

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