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Media Piracy Cannot Be Rationalized

No, you may not "share" what is not yours.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

August 17, 2013 - 1:00 pm
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Is pirating a pirate movie really pirating?

Is pirating a pirate movie really pirating?

Every kid wants to be a pirate at some point. While sailing tall ships around the Caribbean on a quest for buried treasure remains an elusive fantasy, modern pirates take a less romantic form.

Based on reaction to a recent piece by PJ Media’s Susan L.M. Goldberg, it seems many of you – our dear readers — sail the digital seas looting movies, television, and music. To many, the suggestion by Goldberg that such activity might have economic consequences proved deeply offensive. One of the top-rated comments reads:

Quoting the RIAA [Record Industry Association of America] about piracy is like quoting the Mexican Cartel on the dangers of drug legalization. The dubious study RIAA cites assumes that all piracy are lost sales, for which there is simply no evidence.

And there is a lot to the concept that pirated copies lead to sales of legitimate copies and related merchandize. Certainly, there are studies that show that free downloads and DRM free products lead to more sales such as this one.

But mostly I don’t think you understand fully understand the tradeoffs, excessive zeal to stop piracy can annoy one’s legitimate customers.

Considering such arguments reminded me of a guy I know who spent years amassing piles of pirated DVDs by making copies of discs rented from Netflix. We’ll call him “Guy” for the sake of discussion. He obtained the requisite software with ease, available free on the internet, and set off to build a library of titles he wanted to watch but didn’t want to pay for.

Guy knew that what he was doing was illegal, briefly deterred as he was by those menacing FBI warnings displayed before each feature presentation. He felt pangs of conscience, but consoled himself with a number of convenient rationalizations.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
The fail in this piece is astonishing. To begin with, the entirety of the RIAA's actions are based on legislation that should have been thrown out as unconstitutionally limiting the right of free speech, namely the DMCA. Among that act's many flaws that should have been fatal are that it is illegal to retrofit a piece of media you legally purchased in order to play it on a piece of equipment you legally purchased. The DMCA neutered the fair use provisions of copyright law and in the process made it illegal for blind people to decrypt items so they could be used with reader software - a use that is protected.

Fair use also covers snippets of music and quoting of lines of poetry or lyrics of songs so long as these are credited to the correct people. You don't see that done any more. Why? DMCA.

Given that the media giants who tried to convince judges that time shifting (recording something to watch later) was illegal and *all* video recorders should be made illegal as a result are the same groups who funded the DMCA (by their oh so generous donations to the various politicians who allegedly wrote the thing) and make up the RIAA's membership, the obvious conclusion is that they want no music or movies or any other form of art unless it is controlled by their cartel with extortionate fees squeezed from those who wish to enjoy it.

Some other points to note: Baen books are almost never pirated - and yes, the publisher does step in to stop the few cases that arise. It doesn't happen often because the books are readily available at a reasonable price without onerous encryption schemes and without the kind of deceptive "licensing" that in itself should be considered deceptive trade practices.

Mark v with his "theft is theft" nonsense fails to recognize that the RIAA wants and is doing its damndest to get a world where whistling a few bars of your favorite tune is "theft" unless you've paid a license. Because you "performed" the piece.

If you doubt, I suggest considering the reason why so few (if any) restaurants sing "Happy Birthday" for patrons in their birthday clubs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You're missing the point. Copyright law exists to protect individual rights, not to preserve culture, promote sales, or otherwise serve some communal utility. To own something is to retain control over its disposal. If an up and coming artist wants to get their work out their by giving it away for free, they have that right. If they are discovered and their work takes on fresh value which they wish to monetize, they have that right. The legitimacy of rights is not dependent upon some analysis of cultural utility. The quickest way to get past someone's property is to go through it; but that doesn't give you the right to.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If only there was a existent model where intellectual property was loaned out free-of-cost, where we could measure the impact of the freely-availible alternative on the local sales of the product.
Something like, say, a library.
Funny thing, the evidence is that a library helps, not harms, local bookstores. People who read a lot of library books also tend to be the same people who buy books, and often buy books (or subsequent books by an author) they especially enjoyed when they encountered them at the library.

Or, we can look to the internet. Baen books has been releasing free e-books for years. What impact has it had on sales? http://www.baen.com/library/prime_palaver6.asp Why, that looks strongly positive, doesn't it?

Or since we're talking about the RIAA, we can also discuss the short life of MP3.com, where artists were free to put up their own music, a couple of free tracks, with the option to buy the entire album. There's a reason the RIAA threw lawyers at them until they couldn't afford to continue. Their entire business model was being upended. Yet nothing they did could reasonably be considered piracy.

And of course, there are the harder cases. If you already own the IP in one format, shouldn't converting it to another format be "fair use"? After all, you paid for the content. (The market price for the shiny silver disc itself is much lower.) Yet the RIAA (among others) denounces this as piracy.

Or, can you loan a copy of a .pdf or .mp3 to a friend you know will enjoy it? By doing so, you're connecting a likely purchaser of the content with the producer of the content that they otherwise might never have encountered. Every time I've encountered this, it's resulted in sales for the content producer. But no, this too, is considered piracy. Even though books and CDs are freely traded amongst friends.

We need to note the last few paragraphs in conjunction with current copyright law. There's a reason there are currently more stories available from the Gilded Age, than there are from several of the post-war decades combined. If copyright terms were shorter, the way they used to be, you could defend draconian enforcement of copyright. But if draconian enforcement takes part in the current environment, much of pop culture will be lost (and has been lost).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (116)
All Comments   (116)
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Cheat-Sheet On Spying Posted on July 14, 2013

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/07/cheat-sheet-on-spying.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great job. Insult the audience in the second paragraph. Obviously, borderline libel can be rationalized.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One of the reasons I was annoyed at Hudson's misrepresentation of my comment was that his argument echoed an argument I had heard elsewhere.

When a particularly loathsome outfit popped up with an extortion revenue model, they attacked the critics of their litigation tactics by claiming that the critics were on the side of piracy.

Who were they? Prenda Law.

If I wanted to play this strawman game, I'd accuse Hudson of being on the side of Prenda Law. But I don't and I won't because this style of argument is not appropriate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't have much sympathy for piracy, but I do understand why there is considerable upset at the music and movie industry and their often insane attempts at protecting their IP. First of all, the movie industry keeps trying to extend copyright protection for what Jack Valenti once suggested should be "infinity minus one year." Debates at the Philadelphia Convention concerning the copyright and patent provisions of the new Constitution indicate that the goal of these "monopolies" was to encourage development of new and useful arts and sciences, but the case for these was for the benefit of the society as a whole -- not because there was some right to copyright or patent. Hence, these monopolies were for limited periods of time -- not in perpetuity.

Secondly, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has some really absurd provisions in it. Yes, there may be a case that the $75,000 statutory fine for copyright infringement makes some sense for high value entertainment such as music and video -- but for yesterday's news stories? No. And the lack of clear statutory (or even clear case law) definition of fair use has a chilling effect on legitimate derivative uses.

Thirdly, RIAA has filed some tremendously expensive suits based on filesharing where the person that they were suing simply shared the same IP address as whoever actually was doing the piracy -- and did not even bother to find out if they were person they were suing was the pirate. I talked to an attorney who defended such a target of RIAA, and eventually, he won a very large settlement against RIAA for this misuse of the law -- but there are a lot of people who simply can't defend themselves from RIAA's lawyers, even when they are completely in the right.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For those unfamiliar, Clayton was among the victims (if Clayton will forgive me for that term) of the Righthaven fraud.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When Rick Moran cuts and pastes a vast tract of someone else's work and then adds a comment of two, does that count as media piracy?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
According to Righthaven it did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I buy used CD's, DVD's and now BlueRay's.
Please note the concept of "USED"
Since I do not own a TV or have ever bothered to tune in my car radio, I do NOT support the programing through advertizing. So I just end up converting my media into a byte perfect format.
Funny, I just bought Game of Thrones Season 1 & 2 Blu Ray and ended up selling the collector set's for more than I paid for them.
Listed it for $50 as a joke, who would pay that much for the box sets? Liberals and Media whores.
The folks at PJ would pay retail for used!
So tell me oh wise PJ editors, does your revisionist history really make the new online pundits as the "Worlds oldest profession"?
What does MSNBC, CNN, PJMedia have in common?
The answer is, you're all Media whores.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Maybe, just maybe...if the RIAA and the film industry had kept up with technology instead of trying to suppress it, they could have innovated and found a way to maintain their profits and keep customers happy.

Instead, they attempt to force people, through force of law, to prop up their decrepit business model even while their profits dwindle away.

One other thing...people would pirate either way, but they might not feel so justified in doing so if they didn't (correctly) feel that they were being raped and abused by the music, cable, and movie industry for decades on end. Back when people had no choice but to cough up or go without, they could get away with it. Now they're the ones getting bent over, and they don't like it. Not one little bit.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, this totally justifies all the forced entires, fake-cop acts, rent-seeking behavior, and abuse. Why didn't I see it before?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"No, you may not share what is not yours."

You first premise is flawed. People can and do share what is not theirs all the time. How do you think your photos migrate all over Facebook? There is no legal mechanism in place to prevent them from doing so. No one is going to step in a protect your intellectual property.

Additionally, if I borrow a library book, nothing prevents me from allowing my family and friends to all read it in the time period allowed. So long as the book is returned on time, no one cares and no one will send a SWAT team to your door for pirating an author's intellectual property.

Why are authors apparently so different then other creative individuals when it comes to protecting their intellectual property (aside from the fact that we live in an increasingly illiterate world)?

Now, I'm not claiming that you should have your work stolen from you wholesale, but I do think there are whole lot of people who are vastly overvaluing their work. The market needs to reset, and until it does, piracy is here to stay. I also take issue with the new trend of digital CLOUD ownership where I am expected to pay full price to merely have a key to the software without actually owning a copy of it for myself and my own use so that I have to have an active 'net connection in order to use it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And no, I don't pirate, but neither do I buy very much, either.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Game of Thrones is the most popular TV show on earth.
Game of Thrones is the most pirated TV show on earth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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