Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Pirate? Takes One To Know One

The March 2004 issue of Wired has an article titled Some Like It Hot written by Lawrence Lessig explaining the hypocrisy that is the MPAA and RIAA given their history and also pleads for a compromised solution to try and make everyone happy.

Some key points from the article:

1) The film industry was founded by pirates. They moved from the east coast to the west coast (Hollywood) to escape the patent infringements their art would certainly cause against Thomas Edison and his inventions. California was far enough to be out of Edison's control and by the time the federal marshals got there to take any action, the 17 year patent protection on Edison's film patents expired. Yo ho ho, a pirate they be.

2) Record industry had a similar idea but instead, actually used Edison to help their industry. The copyright law at the time did not protect a music artist's work if it was recorded, ie on a phonograph (invented by Edison). So the record industry had access to music in a form of media that let them do what they want.

Since then, Congress has passed laws to protect the work even in recorded formats but only to a point. Once an artist allows the music to be reproduced by another artist, anyone can use it to their profit. Some of it is kicked back to the composer but that is a price controlled by Congress (not the composer) and he/she has little say to who can use their work. Guess who benefits? Record producers and the public. Blow me down, yet another pirate.

3) Radio wears a patch over one eye and has a peg leg too. Congress established that after a musical performance is played in public, the composer gets a kick back. The artist performing (covering) the piece however, does not. Radio is taking advantage of this inconsistency in the law to play music it only has to pay one artist for instead of the two that are involved. Many artists are glad they don't have to charge a radio station to put their music on the air. It's hard enough to convince them to play it for free.

4) When Cable TV first setup shop in 1948, they would pipe in your local network feeds then charge you for what was basically free television. The article makes reference that this is worse than Napster because Napster never charged you for the pirated content. Cable TV never volunteered to pay the networks for rebroadcasting their feed. Shiver me timbers.

End review of article
Begin soap box

Personally I believe piracy helps the artist. The beef the industries have is they lack the control over the piece being pirated, although it's already been demonstrated that Congress sets the value of what they think an artist's work is worth.

To the artists: Any exposure you get, compensated or not, should be enough. You're an artist. You claim you're an artist, not a business person. Piracy is a good thing for your field. Video games established a huge industry because of shareware. That means free is good. It gives the consumer a taste of what they want and if they like it, they'll pay for more. If they don't like it, then you become a starving artist just like anyone else who isn't popular. Either your work sucks or you're ahead of your time. The complaint is just about who has the control. Your promoters, the RIAA and MPAA want most to all of it, not for the artists they represent, but for themselves!

To the industry: Times change, formats change too. Opera houses probably complained when it became possible to play the music at home. If the RIAA existed in those days, we would still be attending opera houses to get our music and there would be no such thing as a compact disc. The music formats would change very little too - opera forever.

Opera houses still exist, only the format has changed and they are now called concert halls, despite us being able to take the music home for our listening pleasure. There are movie theaters despite the consumer being able to take movies home for our viewing pleasure.

Remember the beef about VCR? When they were first released no one could record anything broadcasted on television! The VCR was about to become a VCP instead. It was quickly overruled and who suffered? No one. Who benefited. Everyone. Video rentals are a billion dollar industry. Being able to record using the VCR promoted the selling of the units which created/supported the rental industry. In the evolution of technology, the VCR is giving way to the DVR. None of this would exist if those restrictions were successfully placed on the VCR.

See how you stimy progress, technologically and artistically? The people you accuse of being criminals are your clients, your customers. They pay your way and without them, you would not exist. Be thankful for what you have and feel blessed that you lasted as long and made as much money as you did. But if your time is through, there is nothing you can do. Step aside and make room for progress that is known as human social evolution.

You blame consumers for consuming. "Piracy" is only window shopping. My music budget increased dramatically after I started using (the original) Napster heavily so we know what's best for us, not you. I don't care if you're only making two billion this year instead of three. As far as I'm concerned, it's two billion too much.