Log in

No account? Create an account
Glare, Grouchy

[Rant] Copyright

As this has been getting discussed in the discussion groups of both Katherine Kerr and Megan Lindholm (Robin Hobb) over the past few weeks, it's been on my mind lately. Today I got a note on a game I help keep running that a couple users were using one of the communication venues in the game to discuss how best to trade around cracked games and whatnot.


There are some zealots, I admit, who really do believe that authors should release books for free and copyright shouldn't exist at all, or that all software should be free. Putting aside the question of 'if it's free, you are unlikely to make money on it, and there's no incentive to actually work on it as opposed to getting a different job,' there are other considerations.

Without copyright, for instance, someone could take a book and decide they want to publish their own version of it. They alter it -- cutting scenes, and adding a few they think are better -- and release their own revised edition with the same byline. The author's message is no longer there, and you no longer have any guarantee that you're getting the actual /book/ and not just someone's mutant edited copy.

Add to that the fact that our copyright laws were specifically altered some time ago to adhere to the Berne Convention guidelines, so that our copyright would be enforced and upheld by other countries who are signatories to it.

Really, what it boils down to, I think, is that the majority of people who pirate stuff do it because it's simple (just download something!) and it's free (and people are all about the free stuff). And all the arguments about how it 'doesn't hurt anyone' or how it 'only hurts the publishers' are largely just justifications. And 'I wouldn't have bought it anyway' doesn't really count for anything. If you wouldn't have bought it anyway, that's no excuse for theft. Hey, I wouldn't have bought that DVD player, but that makes it okay to steal it! Bzzt.

If you can convince yourself you're taking a Moral Stand against Big Business or whatever, you don't have to think about the fact that you are stealing from the people who wrote that game you're enjoying so much, that piece of software you use every day, composed and performed those songs you just downloaded in MP3, or wrote that book you just downloaded in eBook format.

The immaturity shows in a number of ways in the pirate community. Witness people who cheerfully accept acclaim and praise for making pirated goods available; the eBook scanners who cheerily accept the acclaim and thanks of the various pirates, acting as if the books were their own work. Hell, think about our Russian hacker friends who have an entire site devoted to Trillian as if it were their work, when all they're doing is distributing pirated copies of Trillian Pro and plugins.

I'm halfway tempted to talk to some of the authors, game developers and so on who I know, and ask them each to write a short essay on copyright and piracy, and collect them into a freely-available eBook to distribute on the net...


Your argument fails, however, on the grounds that what you describe is only the early in-theater bootlegs. Where piracy is particularly bad is when the choice is between say, $8 for the real legitimate copy or free for that .iso you can find on BitTorrent and just burn to disc yourself.

Especially with the new dual-layer DVD writers coming out, where you can now burn to a real production-style DVD that all DVD players can play. And which holds the same amount as production DVDs. Now people don't even have to DVD-rip, they just can make .iso files and distribute them.

Free, or $8, where the only practical difference to the consumer is that one is a hand-labeled DVD with no pretty box. But if you lower that $8 anymore, perhaps you can't afford to pay all your employees, and they don't get to eat, etc... so (to bounce replies) until the market prices decrease on other things, companies /do/ have a problem.

After all, if you start trying to pay someone lower than minimum wage, people start to whine and scream. If you move personnel overseas where you can pay pennies on the dollar, people start to whine and scream. (And both tactics /do/ hurt the economy, and I don't like either.)

In short, people want to be able to live a comfortable life. (Roof over their head, able to afford food, etc.) And China's government has a very different view on economic and market realities than ours does. So I really don't think any amount of piracy here in the States is likely to produce any result except for (as piracy gets worse) killing off the smaller end of the market.
First, minimum wage, economically, is bad. ;) It causes deadweight loss. Second, moving jobs overseas is a factor of free trade. There are downsides as well as upsides to it, and it simply means that more Americans need to move to service-based industries that are not movable (such as lawyers). But, in general, if one is a proponent of free trade, one must accept that a certain sector (or combination of sectors) will lose in order for the whole economy as a whole to gain.

Well, really, most pirates don't even bother with the physical cost of a DVD-burner and/or blank DVDs. They just emulate DVD drives and load up an .iso, and they are off and running.

The point is that unless the .iso is from a production DVD, the origination point must be some guy in a movie theater. When the .iso is from pre-release screeners, stolen DVDs, etc, that is where the argument breaks down. But, for the industry as a whole, it should be easier to dedicate their resources to protect /those/ points of origination.

I think I've segued somewhere...
The point is that unless the .iso is from a production DVD, the origination point must be some guy in a movie theater.

For purposes of my argument, I'm pointing to the production DVD piracy, really. The problem I'm discussing is digital piracy, where you can distribute a free copy of exactly the same product. So within the confines of this argument, assume the .iso /does/ come from a production DVD. Just like a pirated game comes from a real CD, not someone making a flash-movie emulation of the game out of screenshots. :)