Sunday, January 22, 2012

Copyright and Piracy

So after our (for now) win against SOPA and PIPA, my interest in copyright and piracy laws has exploded. I've been watching youtube clips of what is fair-use of copyrighted material and what is means to hold a copyright and i've come to the conclusion that this system sucks. Why is it that something that was created by a person, who then created a company around the original idea, can keep making money on the idea long after they are dead?

As a director of plays, i frequently want to use stories for the stage that i can't, because i can't afford a license on a copyrighted story for an author who has been dead for 20+ years. So instead of creating an awesome new play based on an Agatha Christie book, i'll just not do it. I might think about writing my own stuff, but i won't because i'm afraid i lack the skills to do it. Does this generate more money for the copyright holder? no. Does it create more content for public consumption? no. It stifles the little bits of creativity that was already there.

Which brings me to piracy. The big uproar about the horrors of piracy centre around the idea that if the content (movies, tv, or music) wasn't available for free on the internet, the user would buy these things from the company. Well this just isn't true. I will use myself as an example.

Assuming there was no free content available online: If there was a movie that i was moderately interested in, i probably wouldn't bother going to see it in the cinema because there are lots of movies i'm only moderately interested in seeing. (If i saw every movie that i was only a little interested in, i'd lose a lot of money and waist a lot of time.) After a few months there wouldn't be advertisements on tv about the moevie and it would eventually move to the movie rental shelves. If i went to the rental shops, i might see it and think 'ok, i'll have a look'....but chances are, i wouldn't go because i'm the kind of person who LOVES my own movies. If i own it, i love it and watch it again and again. So i could watch something i already LOVE or i could possibly waist 2 hours on something that is probably not that great. i'll pick my love every time. When i finally saw the same movie in the discount bin at Big W, i'd think about buying it...but i wouldn't because i couldn't be sure i liked it enough to buy it. My budget is a bit flexible, but i don't want to spend even $5 on something i'm not sure about. So in the end the entertainment industry would lose out on my $$.

However, with piracy, if there is a movie that i'm moderately interested in, it doesn't cost me to check it out. I don't feel like i'm obliged to sit through it all because i paid for this. I can skip thru it or watch every second. If i love it, i put it on my "must buy" list. Then when i see it at the store, i'm more likely to buy it, even if it isn't discounted; because i like it!

The thing that the entertainment industry doesn't seem to understand is that people will pay for things they like. The don't like to pay for being jerked around and treated like a thief AFTER they buy their products. I think it is time that the industry did some research on how much money they make because of piracy, instead of complaining about how much they 'lost'. I know they've made at least $400 off me. (want more proof? click here)

And i'm not the only one who is starting to question our willingness to let the entertainment industry bully their consumers around. In Europe, the Greens party has announced they are backing a plan to change copyright laws and legalise file-sharing (click here to see the article). The other political party to take note of is the Pirate Party, who are gaining support all over the world.

It really is time to update our laws to reflect lifestyle and to stop the bullies.