Monday, March 7, 2011

Hey Pirates, Why the Vitriol?

A post on the 1709 blog last week asks why P2P users have such anger at organisations that represent artists, and who create the content they share. The p2pers must blame someone, and who better than the fat-cats, is the suggestion there, but is it really that simple?

The piece focuses on the aftermath of the filesoup case being dropped by the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and deals with the comments in some of the stories on it, which attack lobby groups like the MPAA and RIAA. It ends with the following quote

Here’s a hypothesis: overwhelmed by the glut of content on P2P networks, file-sharers have lost control of their lives. Impotent with rage, they bite the hand that feeds them. They have made themselves the slaves of media-consumption – and who better to blame than the parasites, the scum, the spivs, the fat cats who ‘lord it over’ their screens?

I personally don't think that's the case, so I wrote the following comment, which turned out longer than I thought, and inspired me to post it here as well (note, most of it references US law, not the UK or elsewhere)

Years ago, I worked as a copyright enforcer for a UK Record Company (a small, indie one). I mainly dealt with physical piracy by singers in Med holiday spots (cabaret singers selling CDs of them singing covers of songs without paying royalties etc.). When Napster came out, I was all for trying to leverage it, and tried in vain to get my label's boss, and the BPI interested. they didn't want to know. Mainly because it was going to disrupt easy control of the markets, and mess up their chart control, but also because it was 'a step into the unknown' .

The best example though is the US betamax case. We all remember MPAA chief Valenti's words, how the VCR would kill the film industry, and the TV industry by only allowing a film to be played once, where it'd be recorded and watched ad-nausium, lowering the income that way. It'd also let you skip the adverts, reducing their income (who's going to pay for skipped adverts?). Oh, and the VCRs and tapes being mostly made overseas was also going to devastate the US electronics industry. They failed to convince the SCOTUS.
5 years later, 55% of studio revenues were coming from VHS tapes, and box office income was unaffected. As we all know, adverts haven't died, if anything they've become more ubiquitous. In 2005, Blockbuster Inc. *ALONE* had a revenue of $5.9B, while the MPAA was claiming downloads were costing the WORLD $6.1B, so you can see the issue some might have with the claims of the copyright trade groups.

The other reason people are so upset is because of the laws they pass through. The DMCA is in many aspects a HUGE anchor on technological progress, and on ability to 'do' things (or do things cheaply). the CTEA of 1998 added another 20 years to copyright, locking quite literally tons of stuff away from use, so that a handful of 'valuable' properties can continue to make people money. After all, the concept of copyright in the US is to 'promote the progress' of industries, and nowadays it's being used to prevent the progress instead. Copyright is a contract, where the terms keep changing to the public's detriment. It used to be "the government grants an exclusive right for 14 years, with an optional 14 year extension, in exchange anyone can use it however at the end. That's now been changed to at least 70 years and upto 140 years in some cases, SO FAR. who knows if there will be ANOTHER extension before 2018.

It's this that makes people upset, and angry at the lobby groups. The groups are in effect peeing on the bargain their industry has made with the people, changing it to their benefit through lies and lobbying time after time. It's not the content, it's the attitude that riles people. It's when they make claims, but only say half the story, but back it with enough soft money that politicians take it hook line and sinker, and independant studies, which do give their evidence, are sourced and open to peer review are flat-out ignored.

You want to know why the venom? THAT is why.

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