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.