Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Copyright Police

The Australian Government proposed some new copyright laws this week and at first I was quite excited because they seemed to be making some commonsense decision. The two standout decision were to make it officially legal to transfer music you own legally between devices (e.g. CD to MP3 player) and to "time-shift" TV programs, i.e. record them and watch them later.

It makes sense to officially legalise behaviour that almost everybody does (do you know anyone who's never recorded a TV show to watch later?) But then comes the stupidity: the law is going to include a proviso that you can only watch the recorded show once. What the fuck is that about? Who could possibly think that's a legitimate restriction? Well, the production companies for a start. I continue to be amazed by how both film and music studios seem to think the best way to maximise their profits is to fuck around their customers. But this seems stupid on more than one level - how could the "one viewing rule" possibly be enforced? Here's where the paranoia begins...

A proposal that's been defeated in the US (although the studios and the corrupt politicians they have bought keep making attempts to revive it) is known as the "broadcast flag". What this essentially means is the studios want every broadcast on TV to include an electronic "flag" that controls what you can do with that show. This can only work if every device that can receive a signal (TV, recorders, PC with TV receiver card) can read the flag AND BE LOCKED INTO OBEYING THE DICTATES OF THE FLAG. And that was the purpose of the proposed Broadcast Flag law - make every device compliant with this control and make any non-compliant device illegal. Australia seems to be staring down the barrel of an even worse truckload of restrictions now courtesy of a bunch of wankers called DVB.

So what this law seems to be opening the door to is a future of electronic devices that you buy but have no control over. Your TV, your recorder, you PC - none of these things will be under your control. And your old devices simply won't work. The goal is to make you pay again and again and again for content and to severely limit how you can choose to enjoy content you have paid for.

The constant justification for this is "the internet is full of people stealing our content!" And that's true. The internet is full of people who, by any reasonable legal definition, are stealing content. This is often presented as the end of an argument but really it's only the beginning. There are two key points that entertainment industry hacks seem to constant gloss over, twist or flat out lie about.

One: A significant portion of these people are getting content online that they can't get legally . The "owners" of the content aren't making it available in any convenient, realistically priced way so a lot of people don't believe they have a viable alternative - they go online and download it free. You want a parallel? In the early days of video, because of paranoia over piracy movies were for rental only - not sale. If you could buy one it cost about $100 so nobody much was interested. Then someone finally bit the bullet and started selling videos for $20. Lo and behold, a totally new multi-billion dollar revenue stream appears.

Two: Making up a figure for the amount of music and movies that are being traded online then attaching a dollar amount to that (usually somewhere in the billions) and saying that is what the studios are losing is a flat out fucking lie. Lies, damn lies and statistics. What that figure (however accurate it may or may not be) represents is the commercial value of the property if all the downloaders had paid for it. The studios did not lose that money because they never had it. The vast majority of that content (my unscientific conservative guess would be over 80%) is stuff that the downloaders were never going to pay for. If they have to pay, they'll do without.

I've gone on record before stating I don't want people to steal content. But I get really angry at these greedy, incompetent, clueless companies claiming the high moral ground and saying they have the right to tell us what we can and can't do with products we acquire legally. If they have their way, they'll totally kill innovation in the name of protecting their bottom line. The irony of it all is they're holding a gun to their own head and they appear to be too fucking stupid to realise it. These are the same people who fought tooth and nail to ban the VCR because it scared them. Luckily for them they lost because it created a whole new revenue stream that gave them billions of dollars they otherwise would never have received.

So here's my simple, fair proposal. Make content available to consumers how they want it and whenever they want it. And once we pay for it IT'S OURS! Don't tell us you can dictate when we watch it. Don't dictate where we can watch it. Don't dictate how often we can watch it. And don't tell us we can't watch it on different platforms. If I've paid for it I should be able to watch it on whatever new player comes along. Go after people who are ripping off your content for commercial gain and leave us alone in our own homes.

These greedy fucks don't seem to have any concept of fair play. But why the hell can't they see how much money they would make if they did it right? They have example after example from history of how new technology creates new revenue for them - what's so fucking hard to understand? All their effort at the moment seems to be focused on fucking over people who would willingly pay for their product if they were given a fair deal. Turn honest customers into criminals - real fucking smart.

They are dinosaurs and they will go the way of the dinosaurs.


kyklops said...

Mr. Angry,
As you've rightly pointed out, these companies are fucking dinosaurs, and the sooner they become extinct the better. Through nothing more than sheer stupidity and greed they've basically forced the consumer to bypass them altogether.
Why do I have to buy two DVD players if I want to watch a home video my mom makes in Canada and sends to me in Japan? Fuck it, I don't. Upload and download via the 'net.
Why, after over 20 years, has the price of a CD remained pretty much constant? Record company greed. Fuck them, I'll buy the few CDs I really want after sampling a shitload of them from the 'net. The lying shits haven't lost a dime from me. It's only a matter of time anyway before we can go straight to an artist's site to sample and then buy what we like legally.
The various blocks and "protections" they put into their products are dangerous and even illegal (eg. the Sony fiasco). What reason does any sane person have to buy these products? If they want to start fucking with the hardware they'll only be giving us another reason to become creative in bypassing them altogether, and turning more hard-working, decent people into criminals.
Consign these pricks to the hell of bankruptcy.
Whew! My rant for the day!

zenstar said...

i completely agree with format and time shifting. i also understand the "view once rule" but think its overly zelous.
your vcr is not meant to be for creating your own personal copies of movies.
its meant to be for time shifting and viewing free stuff (home made vids, adverts, etc).
basically you shouldn't be archiving things. if you want to keep a collection you should be buying the thing. same kind of principle (sort of) as not allowing video cameras into cinemas.
but the "view once" thing is ridiculous.
what if a household has 3 people who all part-own the videos and tv and vcr? all 3 want to watch a movie (lets say die hard 3) but no-one can make it for the viewing time. vcr record for time shifting.
but now one guy works graveyard shift and the other two work normal time.
with view once someone's gonna get screwed out of the deal. if the 2 watch it at night the graveyard-shift-man isn't going to be (legally) allowed to view it.
unless they mean view once per person...
but what if you fall asleep during the movie?
technically you haven't finished viewing it.
what if your girlfriend is watching with you and you get "distracted" missing important scenes...
does view once prevent you from rewinding to a previous scene for action replay.
as for the whole replace all your electronic stuff with the flag reading stuff: fine... as long as the companies pay for it all... and i want top of the range! i don't care if my tv is outdated now, it was rocking when we got it (at least that's what i'd argue).
you can't moral enforce a law that instantly makes everyone's assets wortheless.
if they want that shit then they can pay to create their own broadcasting stations that'll only work with their flag-tronics and then they'll go under as everyone watches the normal flag-free channels and shows the middle finger to the flag.

zenstar said...

just thought you'd like to know i've updated my blog...
you always complain about getting there too late to get the movie :)

i can tell you're online 'cos i just got your comment :)

Mr Angry said...

zenstar: and I knew the quote! yeeeeeehar! Plus, you make good points re copying. I think I put my wish simnply enough: why can't we have a situation where if you're not ripping off someone's stuff for commercial the greedy fuckers leave you alone.

Kyklops: amen brother! Rant on, I'm with you all the way.

Cranky McGee said...

Paying for it once would seem like the fair thing. You only have to buy a CD once to listen to the songs as often as you like. I would think the same principle would apply.

But, I'm a Pirate... I steal and pillage so paying for something is not part of my normal day to day life.

Mr Angry said...

Arrrr cranky! And how about those anti-piracy ads they put in front of movies in cinemas and dvds these days? Hello??? YOU'RE SHOWING THIS TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE PAID THEIR FUCKING MONEY YOU IDIOTS! I have trained my kids to make pirate noises in the cinema if one of these ads plays and it usually spreads quickly. By the time the ad ends there's 100 people going ARRRRR!