Occupational thoughts

Covering life on the home front.

piracy is not stealing

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I’ve finished watching ‘Steal this Film II’. I watched Steal this Film I on a streaming site a while back because I couldn’t find a link to it’s torrent (internet laziness dictates that if you can’t find something on Google/the Pirate Bay in under 5 seconds you shouldn’t bother looking). The corporate entertainment lobbyists don’t really do much to help the anti-piracy situation. From my standpoint they identify themselves quite distinctly as the bad guys. They force anti-piracy propaganda in front of us every time a film is shown. I came across the fact that using the open-source videoLAN player the unskipable copyright notices are not enforced and I can just speed straight through them. Yet when software like Cyberlink PowerDVD plays the same film, the copyright notice (and sometimes the ‘Piracy is Stealing’ short) comes up and all the skipping controls are disabled. What this means is that there’s code somewhere on the DVD which tells the player to disable skipping and fast-forwarding while the copyright notice is playing.

To some extent this constant barrage of propaganda has actually worked. For the most part public opinion on piracy lines up nicely with the view advocated by the big companies: people who pirate movies are probably evil bastards who eat kittens for breakfast. Mainstream newspapers shriek with indignation from their moral high ground whenever a pirate is sued or taken to court. They do everything they can to keep control. The reality is that they’ve already lost control.

Peer-to-peer is a distribution network. The best distribution network – if you create a piece of media and you need an audience, the film executives and regulators pose a challenge. They bar your way like Cerebrus before the gates of Hades, they insist on changes, they make cuts, they show adverts half-way through and they can do pretty much whatever they want. That’s the way traditional media is distributed. It’s not the best way but it’s the way that makes the most money for big companies.

On the other hand, fighting their ground are a new echelon of creators. These are the people who, like me, post to blogs, create podcasts, direct viral internet shorts, design little enterteining flash games and animations. They are the people directly stealing sales from the big companies by challenging them on a new turf: the internet. Nobody quite knows how they’ll make any money, some seek advertising as the answer but the truth is that advertising is an empty dead-end. People are very good at ignoring adverts. The slow death of traditional distribution networks is not restricted to films; music has been forced to adapt with Mp3 players, radio is now only the preserve of people in cars stuck in traffic jams, journalists are publicly upstaged by bloggers, Marvel has a webcomic service, E-Books are undermining the whole book publishing industry.

I enjoy the freedom of being able to download almost any film for free, but I would pay for it if someone provided a system of the same quality at a reasonable price. There are legal internet-based distribution systems but they’re not good enough to substitute them for downloading a full High-Defenition movie ripped from some stranger’s Blu-Ray disk. And here’s why. Did you read that? Good. Now you’ll realise that the traditional systems of distribution have had ~10 years since the internet became really popular to adapt.

But they ignored the internet and didn’t adapt so it’s only reasonable that they be replaced by something better.

UPDATE: Peter came back from Belfast with a book called The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Hackers, Punk Capitalists, Graffiti Millionaires and Other Youth Movement are Remixing Our Culture and Changing Our World.
Peter hasn’t finished reading it and is guarding it eagerly.

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Written by Pierre

May 17, 2009 at 09:06

Posted in technology

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