The President's challenge: What more does government want — or deserve — from the tech world?

There's an old joke. Heavy rains start and a neighbour pulls up in his truck. "Hey Bob, I'm leaving for high ground. Want a lift?" Bob says, "No, I'm putting my faith in God." Well, waters rise and pretty soon the bottom floor of his house is under water. Bob looks out the second story window as a boat comes by and offers him a lift. "No, I'm putting my faith in God." The rain intensifies and floodwaters rise and Bob's forced onto the roof. A helicopter comes, lowers a line, and Bob yells "No, I'm putting my faith in God."

Well, Bob drowns. He goes to Heaven and finally gets to meet God. "God, what was that about? I prayed and put my faith in you, and I drowned!"

God says, "I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter! What the hell more did you want from me?"

As SOPA looked shakier, the President handed a challenge to the technical community:

"Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue Web sites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders," reads Saturday's statement. "We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge."

All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi--hell, you can even get online while you're on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?

Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we've sent you. Don't wait for the time machine, because we're never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer's convenience with contempt.

Republished with permission from O'Reilly Radar


    1. Yes. We who use cool technology that we did not invent should automatically be allowed to steal whatever we want from artists we claim to admire. It’s only fair.

      1. When I want, on whatever device I want, and at a reasonable price. Reasonable price means, if I pay you for content, there are no ads, and it doesn’t cost the same as paying for the 100s of cable or satellite channels I don’t use.

        1. Ads are one thing, but the mf&$*!#~ing unskippable “you wouldn’t steal a car” and FBI seal is what drove me to learn how to rip DVDs.

          You’d think there was like a conspiracy of interns and techies working to destroy the system from within.

          1. Well, it’s likely that the only way we’ll be able to convince content companies to switch from a traditional ad based broadcast model to a web based streaming model, is with ads that cannot be skipped.

            I’m honestly pretty open to that model, as long as it takes advantage of the technology to actually target ads to the people watching them instead of  a specific time slot or a generalization about the show. Honestly, the content companies are completely insane for not embracing the web and everything that comes with it.

            The reality is that services like Hulu don’t make enough money as is, because the content companies neuter it and then undervalue their product. “We don’t make enough from Hulu ad revenues to lose regular TV viewers.” Oh, no shit? How about charging more for ads then morons? How can you have a service that is capable of tracking so much information about it’s viewers and NOT figure out how you can take that back to your customers (the people who buy ads).

            “Look, we have the shows people want to watch, and now instead of selling you a show, we’re going to sell you our entire site’s demographic. We’ll target ads by age, sex, location, etc… and the best part is, they won’t be able to skip them.”

            How is that sales pitch not working? People who suck at their jobs, that’s how. Fire whomever is in charge, because they are screwing everyone from consumer to stock holder.

            I just want to take every media executive and shake them, just shake the living hell out of them until they either get it, or die trying.

          2. I’ve resolved to pirate a movie every time I can’t skip past one of those asinine anti-piracy ads. Also to steal an MPAA exec’s car if I ever have the opportunity.

          3. I’m just waiting for an opportunity to download Chris Dodd’s car.
            C’mon techie dudes, my hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.

        2. I agree, except the online content for the magazine I want is outrageous, it’s far cheaper for me to purchase it in print. Know why? Readership is not the same as subscribership. I can’t leave my digital  edition laying around or accidentally drop on of 6 loose order forms on a bus seat. Magazine companies count the other 7 readers they guess will read it after I leave it in a doctors office. It’s all about advertising. That’s why Facebook is so desirable, it’s like setting my magazine down or dropping an order form. I never use the like button or G+, I just copy the link and paste it. 

      2. Any item or service is worth what one is willing to pay for it. When I collected comics, I eventually accepted that there were many I wanted but would never own because, even if I were a millionaire, I would not pay $500+ for a book. Then along came ebay, and even though all the price guides still stated their values as at least what they’d been before, I was able to buy those $500 books for $20.
        Therefore, those books are not worth $500. They’re worth $20.
        Similarly, if the consumer is willing to pay $5 for a movie, and the movie retails for $12, then the movie is overpriced. So the studios have a choice:
        1) Decrease retail price for everyone to $5, thus increasing total sales volume (and almost certainly profits, as well).
        2) Keep retail price $12 and sell a lesser volume, thus encouraging consumers to find other means to acquire the movie, which will, in turn, also expose that movie to a larger market of consumers potentially willing to pay $12.
        3) Decrease retail price to some point between $5 and $12, thus enjoying a blend of the pros and cons of the first two options.
        4) Keep retail price $12, spend millions attempting prevent that movie from being acquired for less than $12, fail in that prevention, make acquiring and enjoying that movie such a chore that it’s not even worth $5 anymore, and continue to insist that the movie is just so awesome that everyone should want to spend $12 for it, despite the market telling them that their movie’s worth half as much.

    1. Agreed.  And they need to pay attention to the shifting landscape of the market too.  Since the rise of Pandora, I now listen to some 60% of my music through their service.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD, and the only music I downloaded last year (only one album), I paid for.  I used to buy dozens of CDs a year, but with the new options out there, it just doesn’t make sense to anymore.  But I would buy more music if it was more affordable, and why can’t it be?   Certainly pushing bits through the interweb has got to be cheaper than making a shiny disk and pushing it out to retail.

      And why aren’t there better online viewing options?  for $1.20 I can go to Red Box and rent a  new rental release.  But to watch it at home legally, say through Amazon, will cost me $3.99.  Why??  That assumes I even want to rent a movie; most nights I would rather be doing other stuff on the internet.  Like I said, there are just more entertainment options these days.  Which makes me wonder how much lost revenue is really from piracy, and how much is from consumers doing other things.

    1. The government basically funded linking together a bunch of Xerox workstations. Most of the genius came from PARC. This is a popular myth that isn’t really cool.

      And everything, everything valuable that sprung up on the Internet has sprung up in an entirely free, unregulated market.

      1. First, “THE GUBBERMENT” is us, we pay for it, elect the officials, oversee it’s operation, etc, so yeah, the government helps invent a lot of freakin’ tech. 

        Funding a project, having a private individual or organization develop on contract or in hopes of contract, subsidizing academic instituions like universities… all these are ways the/a government creates technological advances. If they are not outright pushing for the development, then they are creating the fertile bed from which tech fields can be specialized, concentrated on, and developed. 

        It’s in vogue to bash the government, but the public sphere subsidizes a lot of our innovation and makes our prosperity possible. There is no free market without government. And yes, Al Gore helped create the internet as we know it today

        I think Obama is right that the tech world is the most capable force for coming up with viable solutions to “piracy” but superior to private Intellectual Property rights is the public right to control this tech to protect fair use rights and the open access needed to keep innovation going as well, which is what all the SOPA protests were about.

        PS: I’m not an Obamabot, but in this case I didn’t see anything wrong with what he said at first blush.

    1. This.  You can have blockbusters like Avatar and Katy Parry prefab albums that cost astronomical money, or you can have a bunch of indie stuff that gets produced less reliably and with worse special effects.  I’ll choose the less flashy media and the more interesting content over curtailed freedom of speech any day.

      1. Even worse special effects isn’t a given anymore. Technology keeps advancing to the point where even motivated amateurs can produce something totally worthy of cinema screens C. 2001, and plenty of low budget professional films are now nearly indistinguishable from a mainstream hollywood production.
        The only thing standing between independently produced films and average fare hollywood productions is control of the distribution channel, and hollywood has the significant disadvantage of clinging to their distribution channel so tightly they didn’t even notice that someone invented a better one until about a decade after it happened.

  1. It’s not a technology problem, it’s a business problem. 

    There was an article in the LATimes on SOPA and the MPAA that was linked here where I learned about Malcolm McDowell’s newest film. It’s apparently being bootlegged everywhere. He complains about it but in the email I sent to the reporter, I have to ask, how is his film being distributed? We’re not talking about Batman or Harry Potter: this is a movie for True Fans who evidently want to watch it. Is there a legal option for them? Or are we relying on people driving to the video store or big box to get a shiny disk? 

    The internet routes around obsolete business models as nimbly as it does around censorship. You’d think these folks would have figured it out by now. 

    1. But…but…if they made it available for sale, then someone would undoubtedly copy it and put it on those pirate sites.  Better to restrict sales as much as possible so that it won’t be pirated.  Yeah, let’s go with that business plan.

  2. Um, how exactly do any of these nifty techs “protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet?” as requested? It’s one thing to argue that intellectual property is bogus and that piracy is inevitable given a free Internet (and that’s a fairly valid argument), but then you can’t really be surprised when the people who make money selling content want to make the Internet unfree, can you?

    1. Because they show that if you create some intellectual property that isn’t total shit, people will give you some money. Maybe not all the money, and maybe not some arbitrary amount that you ask for because you could get away with it in the past, but enough for you to create what you want and release it.

      That should be enough for any content producer. The copyright protection laws of the 20th century are bizarre, stultifying, unsustainable and irrelevant to creativity. They must be stripped away.

      That’s our answer to the President; those are our “best ideas.” We’ve already given the world new tools to earn money with content. So let go of the old ways, because we are going to continue to undermine and destroy them no matter what laws you pass.

  3. The Internet is the greatest threat to the continued existence of governments — or if you’re feeling warm and statist, governments in their incantation today — and so it should be that way. 

    What does government deserve from the tech community, after all the government has done to undermine that community? Our contempt.

    1. The physical layer of the internet is pretty vulnerable to the state. If people were living under a regime that frowned upon free communication between citizens, those people might develop a method of peer to peer wireless networking – sort of a Citizens Band Internet. Then those people would be in a better position to express contempt.

  4. Why are new legal tools needed? There are already laws that protect all that intellectual property stuff. Look at the MegaUpload raid.

    This business of making “copying of ones and zeroes” a worse crime than physical violence, that is something I can’t wrap my head around. The Constitution does not guarantee a person the right to make a bunch of money. It just provides the opportunity. Let them work for their income like the rest of us do, one customer at a time.

    1. I agree. The current laws seem to be working. I think what the president is really asking is for our help to dismantle due process, which is an inconvience to everyone except the falsely accused. In the end though, these fights are not about preventing copyright infringement or giving copyright owners more protection, it’s about giving the media companies the ability to overrule any technology or use of technology that does not fall in line with thier business plans. It’s about preventing emerging business opportunities from taking root that could challenge the established businesses. It’s about stifling speech that is critical of those extablished business interests.

  5. Does anyone else think that the entire copyright discussion has descended into a simplistic, binary shoutfest? I’m all for reforming copyright law to strongly bolster fair use and eliminate excessive penalties for low level infringement. But it now sounds like one has to be either an all out copyright abolitionist or an evil, SOPA-loving Dodd-slave.

    I’m not really sure what this article is saying. Is it wrong to say that we should have a legal framework in place that protects content creators as well as content consumers?

    1. 1. What makes you think this is about “content creators”? The doctrine of copyright has never, not once in its history been about protecting “content creators.”  It’s always been about governments providing rent seeking rackets for publishers:

      The Statute replaced the monopoly enjoyed by the Stationer’s Company granted in 1557 during the reign of Mary I which, after several renewals, expired in 1695. Under this regime, company members would buy manuscripts from authors but once purchased, would have a perpetual monopoly on the printing of the work. Authors themselves were excluded from membership in the company and could not therefore legally self-publish, nor were they given royalties for books that sold well.

      2. What is it that you think we need in addition to the copyright protections that are already on the books?  If you’re not advocating for SOPA then what are you advocating for?  Maybe if you have a reasonable suggestion you can make the discussion less bipolar.

      1. Again, I’m all for revising copyright law, which is currently designed to protect publishers and distributors, does not protect people engaging in fair use, and results in collateral damage to legitimate businesses who are seen as facilitating piracy.

        What I was pointing out is that several of the comments on this thread seem to be of the “down with the man” variety, and sound like they’re advocating outright copyright abolition. It strikes me as being similar to the current Republican attitude of “the government is large and unwieldy, therefore we should end all regulation and federal oversight.” The current copyright system is deeply flawed, but copyright abolition is a nuclear response that has collateral damage of its own.

        Full disclosure: I’m a content creator. Much of my music is available for free.

        1. What I’m asking you is how do you think copyright should work.  You think it’s needed but needs overhaul.  How would you want it to change?  I see a lot of people saying, “both sides are being unreasonable” but these equivocators never seem to have any reasonable suggestions of their own.  I am open to suggestions but you have to actually make suggestions.

          1. I can answer that.  Shorten copyright terms to ( at most ) the life of the artist – not the media conglomerate.  Codify fair use in explicit law regardless of medium.  Enshrine format switching and transformative uses in law.  Provide explicit safe harbor to service providers who may link to, but not host infrining material.  

            Sharply limit potential penalties for non-commercial infringement and tie potential punitive damages for non-commercial infringement to genuine financial loss.

            On the other side add the piece that is missing completely – add strong penalties for rights owners for spurious or invalid claims.  Abusive, fraudulent, excessive and irresponsible claims come with steep fines all the way up to and including forfeit of copyright for serial offenses.  
            Copyright does not exist to allow anyone to make money.  It exists to drive content creation and innovation.  It does so by allowing creators and inventors to profit exclusively for a limited time.  

            If we keep the distinction between the purpose of copyright, and the means used to achieve it, we can arrive at a system that is fair ( and profitable ) to all sides of the equation.

            To do otherwise is to imagine that tax law exists so that accountants always have a way to make a living.

  6. The government doesn’t ‘deserve’ anything from the tech world. Get the f#@$ out of the way and try to use what you can as effectively as you can while being composed almost entirely of old white men who have barely gotten to the point you can cope with faxes now.
    But yes, it’s worth our while to try to keep these stupid old bastards happy. They need to be able to go back to the people who are bribing them with tens of millions of dollars and say ‘look, revenue stream!’

    1. Thank God for a moral and financially clean “tech world” right?  They’d never do anything to divert money out of the country, influence/corrupt politicians, support bad labor practices, or abuse your right to some semblance of privacy……right?

  7. Good joke. I also like the way David Foster Wallace tells it:

    There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.'” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

    1. As an atheist, I like it better the other way. In that case, the joke stands alone as existing in a hypothetical world where god exists (like science fiction). It’s funny no matter what your beliefs are.

      In your example, by framing the ending in the way it has it’s more implying that the atheist is a fool and that god does exist. Yours is the way that a practicing religious person would frame the joke – the other way is how a comedian (no matter their personal beliefs) would frame it.

    2. Punchline: twelve Episcopalians, three Baptists, and a Catholic died on their knees praying to God in the very same blizzard.  Evidence is easy when you never hear about the negative results.

  8. maybe i’ve missed something here, but isn’t there already a model in place where consumers can download media for a small fee?  called iTunes?

    now, i’m not saying the iTunes model is necessarily the way of the future, but i am convinced that a significant proportion of illegal downloads would be converted into “income generating” ones if such a service were available for movies.

    again, maybe i’m missing something major here…  anyone know why i can’t download a movie for $2 instead of going to the store to rent a hard copy?

    1. It has to do with the way that that they have traditionally made thier money. In the old model you would have a production company to create the content, a publishing company to package the content into a sellable product, a distribution company to deliver the product to the companies that will sell it to the consumer. Of course all of these companies are owned by the same parent comany, which means that all the costs all along the way can be controlled by the company. This is the reason why the media companies hate the internet, because all these middlemen become irrelevant in a digital world. Not only that but since they now have to negotiate with 3rd parties like iTunes, it means that they no longer have direct control over thier costs, because they now have to compete based on licensing costs.

      1. right, that makes sense, thanks.  also, reading through these comments, i see there is netflix (i’m not in the us, so i guess can’t use this service) which i suppose is the movie/tv equivalent to itunes.

        as far as i know, we are still paying $10 to go to the cinema, so i guess the beef is about lost dvd rental revenues.  they want to know how they can afford to produce another tom cruise movie if we don’t pay $2 to rent the dvd.

        as others have said, i don’t really see this as a technology issue – it’s a business model problem.

        if you have a product (i.e., tom cruise movie) that is really valuable to the market, then you have a bargaining chip, amiright?  if you don’t think the public values your product highly enough to pay to cover the costs of production – you need to change the business model.

        there are many many smart business people in the us – how about tasking them with solving this problem?

      2. “This is the reason why the media companies hate the internet, because all these middlemen become irrelevant in a digital world.”
        LOL. Really? If you don’t think Facebook and the iTune store aren’t middlemen, I suggest your position needs rethinking.

        1. Try reading that again: “*these* middlemen become irrelevant”.

          As in, “all these companies owned by the same parent company, so all the costs all along the way can be controlled by the company, become irrelevant”.

          Maybe you should work on your reading comprehension before acting like a condescending prick.

        2. Of course, iTunes and Netflix and the like are too middlemen, but as 3rd parties it gives the media companies less control over distribution and more importantly costs. But is there a future where even these middlemen are irrelevant? Sure. Just look at Louis CK for example. He very successfully produced and published his own content, created his own distribution and sales channel, and other than operating costs gets to keep every dime he makes. Plus, since the web is self-promoting (at least in it’s current state,) he didn’t have to pay a media company a ton of cash to promote his content.

          1. Yes – I expect that the Louis CK example will be used over and over to suggest that anyone can successfully promote themselves over the Internet and rake in huge profits in so doing. But it’s bunk.

            Just as I can’t deny that Louis CK  is *one* example that succeeded, I’m sure you must realize that many thousands or millions more don’t.
            Using that Louis CK experiment as an example sounds to me a lot like the “I did it all on my own” narrative we hear from people like Donald Trump or Mitt Romney. It’s a very popular mythology (especially amongst Americans) that removes the history and context of their success.
            Louis CK leveraged the success he achieved through the *old model* to help him in the new one. He himself admits he spared “no expense” on the production – monies that he made through that old, traditional model of playing clubs, doing TV shows that are sold on DVD’s, etc etc etc… 
            He had, effectively, achieved a level of fame that translated into an economy of scale that could be leveraged into the new platform. But the production values and the venue he’s playing in are a far cry from some dude riffing on parent/child relations into a webcam from a basement.
            Yes – sometimes it happens that talented people can use the new platform to transition into the *old* (Beiber gets a record deal, Samberg’s on SNL) – but the model as far as I see it, is to use the new one to transition to the old one (where the laws and regulation are much more strictly defined and enforced) or, when you’ve reached say, an ESC (economy of scale) level of fame in the old model, utilize the new platform to do an end-around.

          2. I did not mean to suggest that just anyone can promote themselves and be financially successful on the internet. Obviously Louis CK is a very talented performer and relied on his previous success, but he is far from a fringe case of accidental success. You are right that for every Louis CK there are thousands of failures, after all the world is a competitive place. But what is your point? Thousands of people are also signed to record labels and only a handful of them will ever achieve any level of financial success. I don’t believe that the internet is some magical place where everyone wins and nobody loses; it’s just as ruthless as in the real world.

            The point I was trying to make with @boingboing-94577488307d53b786b02e01d39452f6:disqus was that certain costs which used to be built-in because the media companies could set the price however they wanted are now being reduced or even eliminted entirely due to new forms of competition that the internet has made available.

    2. Ironically the iTunes model would work just fine, if the media publishers weren’t such greedy bastards.  The funny thing is it’s always their fault, no matter what angle you investigate.

      Digital downloads should cost a fraction of what they cost; the vast majority of a CD’s cost goes into plastic-pushing (manufacturing, storage, materials, distribution etc. etc.).

      If an MP3 cost 15p and an album £1  I don’t think anyone would have a problem paying for it – even cheap buggers, and the funny thing?  The studio execs would be garnishing just as much from the sale as they would a CD.

      They’re constantly shooting themselves in the foot and then trying to bandage the problem with new laws.

      They don;t deserve our ideas, they don’t NEED ideas.

      1. Agreed, tv/films and mp3s haven’t come down to a reasonable level that would make somebody just buy (or rent in the case of video) the damn thing instead of trying to search the web for a free version.  The prices points, and *what’s available* is all outta whack. It’s sort of like if every physical record/video store sold every single unit for basically the same price point.

      2. at a dollar an album I would fill terabytes with music I’d never get around to listen to. 

        as opposed to now, where my sole music expenditure is $10 a month to get Rdio on my phone.

  9. Dear President Obama,

    A technological solution is not possible. We have yet to solve spam or any of the other myriad problems that plague the internet yet.

    Further, a solution is not needed. Piracy arose to fill a deficit in the marketplace. The problem is that the entertainment industry has come whining to the government to protect it from the marketplace. If your buddies at the MPAA and RIAA better respond to the market piracy will be reduced. That’s capitalism.


    A technologist

    1.  I really hope that Obama ultimately receives a message similar to this, and does not receive what he’s actually asking for. I take this “challenge” as a sincere attempt to address the issue, but one which lacks this understanding.

      The media companies are the ones who have given politicians their current understanding of the situation – so with this challenge technology companies have an excellent opportunity to correct this (mis)understanding.

      Tech companies have not as of yet made a lot of political noise. Will they rise to the occasion? After the success of the SOPA protests, I really hope this is a new age where tech companies are able to have positive influence.

    2. Well put.  If the government wants to “fix the internet”, why not do something about spam?  Probably because spam isn’t a billion dollar industry–or is it?  Either way, it doesn’t have lobbyists contributing to reelection funds.  

      China censored the internet to stifle opposition to the government.  The US is considering censorship to benefit big business interests.  Should I be surprised?  Probably not.

      1. Spam could be solved, but it involves fixing a broken transport mechanism (SMTP)

        SMTP has been patched but it’s still just as possible today to send an email that looks like it came from as it was 30 years ago. As long as the sender cannot be verified, spam will always be a problem.

  10. Nice lead in, since one way of looking at content nowadays is like a joke: once you share it, it’s shared, and it’s very difficult to un-share.  If you tell a joke to a room full of people, there’s not much to stop them from telling the joke to other people later.  (They may tell it poorly, but the idea can still be transmitted).  So if you don’t want your joke getting around, your best bet is not to tell it to anyone.  If you want to make money from your jokes, your best bets seem to be to do a good job of performing them live, or keep putting together new collections of jokes (books, tv show episodes) and sell them for a reasonable price.  If a good joke book is $5 I may buy it, if it’s $100 I’ll just go hang out at the bar and trade jokes with people there.

  11. So .. it is good US nerds vs. evil Russian nerds now? 

    The idea / approach in general is nice (better than SOPA, when people with no / little knowledge tried to draft a legal bill) .. but I think the deeper problem is the whole concept of media distribution … and that there is a whole group of people getting rich on something that is not needed anymore … and of course, they are trying to keep their place. 

    1. The congressscritters (the people with no/little knowledge) did NOT draft the bill. The folks at the RIAA/MPA drafted the bill, and paid a wheelbarrow of money to the congresscritters to entice them to pass it.

      That’s how legislation is made: some industry writes it, and Congress passes it.

  12. The phrase “other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists” seems to describe the media companies fairly well. It doesn’t take technical solutions to deal with that problem. All that is required is that we (society/government) stop supporting their behaviour. For people who aren’t directly involved in government, that means not buying their product. For the various branches of government, that means not giving the media companies the benefit of special legislation, and refocusing copyright to serve society as a whole instead of a few select corporations. Do these things, and there will no longer be a ‘problem’ that needs to be solved.

    1. I don’t think anyone really puts this out there, but the ethical technologists are kinda stuck in a Catch 22: Do we pay for our content and support artists and procure things legally or do we pirate everything and stop supporting this huge, oppressive edifice?

  13. There is no problem to solve. There will always be a subset of customers who do not have the money to pay for entertainment or do not want to pay. You will never reach those people.
    But as soon as you give everybody else a good, easy to use service with a fair price they will pay. Just looke at Netflix, iTunes, Steam, all huge succeses.Why would you want to mess about with cracks and configs files when you can just click a button and have the game right now? Too expensive? Wait for the Steam sale and get it dirt cheap.Why go to Pirate Bay when you can just fire up any of your devices and stream the movie right to your TV with Netflix?
    Give people the option to pay, make it good and they willl. But the era of fixed media is comming to an end. Accept that or die with it.

    The techworld has given you the tools and technology to make it happen. But so long as big media insist on making it expensive and hard so that a blu ray or dvd looks like better value in comparison the Pirate Bay wil continue to draw more visitors.

    1. I think one of the key problems is that the industry execs aren’t willing to take a price cut to get a higher volume. I’m not sure Why, because in most markets, reducing price is a standard way of boosting sales.

      1. Last time I went to the cinema it cost £12 to get in.  I’m willing to bet my life’s savings that if it cost £6 there would have been more than twice as many people in there – make it £3 and you’ll have queues round the block.  But unsurprisingly, if you do nothing, people will seek alternatives.

        Stupid businessmen make stupid business decisions.  There’s your ‘solution’.

  14. (sung to Bob Dylan’s “The Times are a-changing”):

    You musicians and actors who get more than you earn
    and you greedy producers too will have to learn:
    if we don’t like your media, we won’t pay in return
    and it will not ever be staging.
    So the copy protection shouldn’t be your concern,
    for the times, they are a-changing!

    Dear U.S. President: Before blaming the bad, bad piracy problem, first make doubly sure that there’s a problem at all. You’ll find there is none. So don’t waste resources on fixing what isn’t broken.

  15. We have been paying nothing or very little for the actual art involved. Any expenditure was to fund the structure that produces and delivers it. Now that the structure is leaner and meaner than ever, why are we still expected to pay the same price? Most of us are content with MP3-quality recordings, and that’s easily attainable with entry-level recording equipment. Making music is a desire, a compulsion, not a profession. It’s supplying something we want, not something we need.

    1. Weeeelll…I’m all for it being recognised that music is not worth the massive amounts that those at the very top of the pile make when they’ve ‘made it’. Also,  I’m aware that it is a privilege to be paid (and a great privilege to be paid a living wage) for making music.  It takes time and commitment and passion to get to the level where you’re worth paying that much, and the results of that for an audience can be highly desirable. 

      Many folk do actually need to listen to music to relax, to feel good, to dance, to make emotional connections, to be inspired – it’s one of the best tools available for those things.  Sure it’s not right down the bottom of the needs hierarchy with food and shelter, but for mental stimulation and emotional nourishment it’s pretty hard to beat.

      As a professional musician, I am very happy about cheap, excellent recording equipment, and every other bit of tech that makes it possible for me to make musical connections without having to engage with the industry on the abusive terms it used to take for granted.  The fact that nowadays you can pay artists directly, even tiny amounts, means I can support artists I like easily and know that it’s not filling the pockets of the lawyers and execs.  I love that, and I love when it comes back around to me and helps make me a living.

      Hopefully you’ll not be expected to pay over the odds too much longer, but also hopefully you’ll still be happy to pay at least something towards the actual art involved.  When it’s this direct it makes a huge difference.

  16. “how to clamp down on rogue Web sites” –> you don’t

    “and other criminals” –> they’re your problem, not ours

    “who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders,” –> or so the MAFIAA claims in unsubstantiated fantasy reports

    “We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights” –> nope, no-ope, no really, we don’t need some new legal foobar. How about you fix the economy in the first place and stop concentrating on the marginal?

    “without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet.” –> not possible, you can’t have your censorship cake and eat your freedom too, sorry bout that.

    “Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm” –> nope

    “and know-how” –> no-ope

    “to this important” –> not important, get your head out of where the sun doesn’t shine.

    “challenge.” –> fix the goddamn economy

  17. 1. We (geeks) built for the movie, music, and publishing industries the most magnificent promotion and distribution platform they could ever imagine.  In fact…it’s so magnificent that they COULDN’T imagine it: it was (and to a large degree, still is) beyond their comprehension.  Their response? “We can’t control it, we can’t turn it into a vapid
    wasteland (like, say, American TV), so let’s burn it down.”

    2. There is no evidence on the table that online copyright infringement hurts content creators  or costs any jobs.  No CREDIBLE evidence, at least.  The “studies” so often cited as backing for the ridiculous claims of the IP cartel fall squarely into two categories: (a) those contracted by and paid for the copyright cartel, i.e., those whose conclusions were written before they were begun and (b) those allegedly conducted by the federal government.  I say “allegedly”, because, oddly enough, it appears that these have never existed.  See, please, for background on this.

    Let’s be clear what all this is about.  It has nothing at all to do with copyright or jobs; these are merely smokescreens to distract from what’s really going on.  And that is: the Internet has made it possible for directors/producers, actors, musicians, authors and other creative people to directly connect with their audiences, without the necessity for them to sell their rights and the bulk of their profits to middlemen.   The middlemen, accustomed to getting not just a taste of the action, but the overwhelming majority of it, are far too greedy to just accept this from the comfort of their multi-million dollar mansions, and are determined to undo all this forward progress by any means necessary.   (See, for example, professional liar Chris Dodd.)

    I believe the proper response from the Internet is to invite the movie, music, and publishing industries to leave, in the same honest and direct fashion that Sheridan invited the Vorlons and Shadows to leave, i.e., “Get the hell out of our galaxy!”  Of course, this invitation might be more perceived as more sincere if accompanied by particle beam weapons fire, but that’s merely a courtesy detail.

    1. I love listening to people talk about the disappearance of the middleman in this new, glorious, egalitarian model, as if somehow Facebook wasn’t taking a 30% cut on purchases made with Facebook dollars, Apple wasn’t doing the same with iPhone apps, or Google wasn’t making billions as the middleman between advertisers and consumers.

      What universe are you people living in?
      Seriously, you all seem at least a little intelligent – try and prove it by knocking off the hyperbole.

      1. 1. I’m sure to many newcomers, entities such as Facebook and Google and Apple appear to be important and permanent.  They are neither.

        2. There are plenty of (creative) people using business models that depend on none of these.  I suggest educating yourself about them.   One easy way to do that is to head over to TechDirt ( and start reading any of the hundreds of articles published over the past few years that discuss these ventures.  Some of the experiments have worked; some haven’t; others are still in progress.   But what should be apparent after even a cursory study of these is that exploration of the myriad possibilities is only just getting started.  Tomorrow, someone else — some musician, some artisan, some author — will try yet another approach that it somehow different from all its  predecessors.  It’s really been a fascinating process to watch, doubly so because the speed at which lessons are being learned and applied is remarkable.

        3. It is important to evaluate these business models not only in terms of who profits, but who has control — which is far more important in the long term.   Creative people are starting to realize that they don’t have to give up control — although certainly this is a one-step-forward, two-steps-back process as we can see here:  and here:   both of which explain how Apple is behaving far less like a technology company and far more like a traditional publisher.  In time, though, these overreaches will be rejected: the alternatives are proliferating much, MUCH faster than any one company, no matter its size or resources, can react.

        1. I disagree; middlemen are just as prevalent and just as important.  There are just less links in the chain; and the business models vary more wildly.

          Sure, you can launch your own website to sell 1 product; but good luck getting any customers there.

          Importantly, there’s nothing wrong with middlemen, they’re not always unnecessary, and when it comes to selling wares, they’re crucial (if you want any success).

          note: I’m painting with a broad brush.

          1. Then you and I have a philosophical (for lack of a better term) disagreement.   Just as the Internet has broken down barriers between (to pick an example) journalists and readers, making it possible for reporting to happen in the absence of newspapers, editors, television networks, radio stations and that usual intermediaries, I think the Internet allows content creators to connect directly with their fans — and while part of that connection obviously involves selling, the more important part of it involves interacting, because it mutually benefits both.

            Look at the increasing success of crowdfunding models.  (No, it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but then again, not every creative idea is a good one.)   Look at and and for more examples of experiments.   There are MANY more examples of experiments like  this — again, not all of them successful — but what they have in common is that they remove the middlemen, connecting fans directly to creators.   And what we observe from these is that fans want those creative people to succeed, want them to make a living, want them to keep on producing good stuff.  And they’ll pay for it.

          2. I actually think it’s our definitions that are differing, rather than our philosophies.

            To take your example of journalists and readers; how would a journalist reach its fans without a middleman?  Twitter? (middleman) Blogger? (middleman) Facebook? (middleman) etc.

            Unless of course you’re referring to the freedoms the internet gives us for publication, such as buying your own domain and running your own blog (or similar).  If that’s your point I think I understand you a little more clearly.  Just be careful not to buy any AdWords (middleman).

          3. Yeah – I think you get it.

            What a lot of people (if not most) seem to be forgetting or overlooking is that the *medium* is the middleman. 
            When I sit down with a real, old fashioned book I’ve bought, there’s effectively nothing between me and the media.
            When I watch television (ugh), I am facing a medium with a huge number of actors behind the scenes – from government regulators who dole out channels, to the channel owners, to the media firms that produce the content, etc etc etc. 
            Same thing when I go to the movies. From the owners of the theatre, to the movies they show (their distribution chain), to the companies that make films, all of these are intermediaries between me and the culture I’m looking to indulge in.
            But for some bizarre reason, and in spite of the colossal “vertical integration” strategies corporations indulge in (which sees them seeking to control everything from production to distribution), we – or at least the blinded by technology types – seem to think there’s nothing between them and their entertainment.
            As if they weren’t using an electronic device (which is increasingly being locked down in the name of trusted computing) , which ran an operating system (very likely owned by a corporation), which delivers content via an ISP owned by a company, which runs a browser (which is likely owned by a corporation), which accesses social networks run by a giant multinational or seeks answers via the services of a giant corporation. All of these are acting in concert behind the scenes while some poor fool talks about cutting out the middleman, blissfully unaware they’re using their services to do so.
            The Internet *is* the middleman. And however you get on it is another middleman, and so on and so on…

  18. There are so many comments here that hit the nail on the head.
    The global distribution model is just messed up.
    Why do we have to buy region-locked DVD’s?
    Why does it cost more to buy songs from i-tunes in the UK than in the USA?
    Why do I have to wait for a european release of a film that’s being distributed on DVD in the USA?
    Why is the content different in the US release compared to the European release?
    Why can’t I buy Cryptonicon on the Kindle in the UK when it’s available on, only Amazon block my purchase because they can tell I’m not in the USA?

    The global distribution model doesn’t work for a gloabl marketplace.
    All of the problems you see above are solved on pirate sites and the creators of the content don’t see a penny as a result of their outdated business models.

    1. I do agree with you, but having a global marketplace doesn’t mean things cost the same everywhere. Apple would be crazy to not charge more for iTunes stuff in the UK than in the US – everything else in the UK costs twice as much as it does in the US!

      It’s not a matter of the costs to Apple (which are essentially zero for digital distribution), but it’s maximizing profit by adjusting to what the market will bear. Same with the well-known case of Microsoft selling Windows for very low prices in developing countries – they know nobody can afford the full US price, so they sell it for less (and everyone has a bootleg copy regardless, but at least they’re trying to make it accessible).

      Other than that – spot on :)

      1. Most of the Apple cost difference can be explained by VAT anyway, so really, the difference is pretty negligible.

        VAT is a swine, but that’s another issue entirely.

    2. This for me is the biggest issue; the issue in the US will vary slightly.

      I’m more than happy to watch ads to pay for content.  I’m also more than happy to pay a subscription charge (I pay more for usenet than I would for netflix, it’s NOT about money).

      Mr. Big Media,  if you can’t deliver the content to me in the UK at a very similar time in the US – in a flexible format that I have control over, then I’ll get it elsewhere; you’re only ‘losing’ my money because of your own lackluster performance and bureaucracy.  Laws won’t fix that – they’ll just reduce my consumption – they won’t put more money in your pocket.

      Or do you actually expect me to wait 3 months to watch some programming at a fixed time on a channel that can’t provide ‘watch-again’ services because of ‘licensing issues’.

      Don’t you think that if you bested the Television model, provided me with unlimited access to your whole catalog of programming, which is updated a few times a day, and charge a fair price based on the content, rather than your ego and misguided preconceptions about value that you’d make a KILLING – I mean seriously, you’d be swimming in money, literally.

      It doesn’t take a genius to work this shit out.

  19. We need to tell Obama that the Internet is the Worlds Largest Library. We also need to tell him that if he wants us to stop “pirating,” the media should Release Better Things. When something is GOOD it doesn’t have a problem making a couple million bucks. The MPAA needs to stop treating people like Pirates. There’s NO WAY that we can keep up with all the things that the media demands that we keep up with and still have money in our bank accounts.

    Hell, if all the media wants is adtime, they should make a website which blares advertisements 24/7. People select a television show that the revenue generated by the ads go to support, and that’s it.

  20. “criminals who make money”…

    I never got that, apparently there are criminal who earn millions by pirating, while the entertainment industry loses millions.  If this argument is true (which I doubt), the easy way out is for the entertainment industry to do what the pirates do. If you can’t beat them, join them. The quality of content the entertainment industry could deliver would put all current pirates out of business. 

    1. I always see that as well.  To me the pirates making millions pirating are pirating physical media, like those Chinese/Asian knock off of current movies.  Someone uploading an Xvid rip of a movie to a torrent site isn’t making much if any money.  The whole MegaUpload thing showed us that the operators are making money from ads and people paying to get this content cheap.  Like others have said increase the accessibility, charge the right price, and then other sites simply won’t matter as much.

  21. So after reading through all the comments, the one thing I take away from all of this is it simply boils down to a matter of GREED on the part of the record/movie companies. Is that it?

    1. The Canadian RIAA/MPAA did a study, and found that the people who pirated the most, bought the most. It’s not someone sitting in their parent’s basement on a pile of money they’ve saved, it’s someone sitting in their parent’s basement on a pile of packaging from all the stuff they’ve bought, while using illegal methods to find out what they want to buy next, by previewing it before they buy it.

  22. How about reasonable copyright limits. They are so worried about IP theft from corporations while they ignore cultural theft from an entire generation. When things actually fall back into the public domain again, then we can come back to the negotiating table.

  23. Free stuff, as in free beer, is great until you realise that what goes around has to come around. In the end, musicians, comedians, and programmers have to eat, so they have to make their money somehow. 
    All these people do is arrange bits in interesting patterns, so if you want those for free, how do they live? 
    There are lots of creative solutions, but they’re all characterised by devaluing the primary job and trying to make up in other ways.
    For example, a comedian can earn their keep from tickets at live performances. But what if you’re actually a comedy writer and no good at live performance?
    Or a programmer can write open source code by being paid by the state to do some job, but instead skimping on that job and writing software instead. But what about the people who were supposed to benefit from the job that person was supposed to be doing? 
    It seems to me that free stuff can only work in the long term if the state takes over the creative professions. This can certainly work, which is why we have open source mathematics, physics and literary criticism. The academics don’t have to worry about copy protecting their output, because they know they’re getting a salary cheque at the end of the month. But of course this is not free. It gets paid for in taxes. So is that the game plan? All generic bit arranging industries get nationalised, and the private sector is reduced to providing physical services like car manufacture and bespoke digital services, like legal advice?

    1. You’re relying on a false premise, i.e., that everything (creative and expressed in bits) should be, can be, or will be free.  The market has already demonstrated — emphatically — that it WILL pay for digital content, even when that content is readily available for free.  (See, for example, wherein Jill Sobule successfully funded her work by asking her fans to pony up.  One of thousands of such examples, you only need to look to find more.)

      What the market has also demonstrated is that while it’s willing to fund artists and musicians, writers and sculptors, it’s NOT willing to continue funding the megacorporations who treat their best customers like crap (e.g., DRM and other similar fiascos) and who treat their best clients like crap (e.g., go find anyone who’s been in a band for 5 years and ask them about dealing with agents, promoters and record companies…or consider how “creative Hollywood accounting” has been used to keep Return of the Jedi from showing a profit — so that the studio doesn’t have to pay the actors residuals:  

      To put this more plainly: the movie studios, the record companies, and the publishers have been stealing from creative people for decades.  But those people have had little choice but to accept this…until now.  Thus the panic on the part of these companies, who’ve realized that their services are no longer necessary.

      We are 24 days into 2012.  So far this year, I’ve written a check for $50 to someone who writes a blog I like, bought two CDs ($25) directly from a band I saw (I didn’t particularly like them, but they’re trying hard, and they’re local, so why not support them?), and ordered a photo (direct from the photographer) that I intend to give as a gift ($75).  That’s $150 right into the pockets of creative people, $0 into the pockets of middlemen.  Now multiply by 100 million and you see why those behind SOPA/PIPA are wetting their pants.  Can’t very well build third mansions in the Hamptons without all that money, you see.

      1. Your example with Jill Sobule is an interesting one. Why is she making money? Is it because she is a good musician, or is it because in addition to being a good musician, she also has the entrepreneurial nous to market herself well? That’s all very well, but where does that leave good musicians who don’t have that nous? Well, I suppose they could go to Jill and ask her for some help. But since Jill has to eat, she’d have to charge them a bit to do this. You see where I’m going with this? You haven’t actually cut out the middle man, you’ve just assumed that creatives can *also* perform the roles currently performed by middle men, which, granted, is easier than it was before, but not trivial.

    2. That’s one way of viewing the issue; but it’s not the issue at hand today.

      The point is that the publishers are trying to protect outmoded distribution channels and refuse to catchup with technology and give consumers what they want; so consumers get it themselves.  Ironically this sometimes involves paying to access the illegal content.

      The issue isn’t really about the artists getting paid, it’s that the people representing the artists don’t understand the marketplace anymore.

      I haven’t seen anyone suggesting today that artists don’t need money.

      1. I heard recently that the #1 record of 2011, by a talentless “musician” I shall not name, cost more than a few million dollars to produce and distribute. There’s the biggest problem in the specific example of the record industry. If it costs more than a few tens of thousands of dollars to produce and distribute a record, then you’re doing it wrong.

         I’ll not subsidize their poor business decisions.

        If a CD is worth $10, then I’ll pay $10. How do I decide whether  it’s worth $10? I download it, usually illegally (until Spotify came along), and give it a test run.

      2. Nobody openly suggests that artists don’t need money, but I haven’t yet heard of a good solution that addresses the basic fact that if you get your bits for free, then the bit creators don’t have a revenue stream from the bit creation, and are reduced to getting it from other activities, which might not be the ones they are good at.
        Sure, the proposed laws can be bad, and the existing companies can be greedy, but it seems to me that Obama’s challenge is fair enough. There clearly is an issue here, and while many cleanse their consciences by persuading themselves that only big, greedy corporations will suffer, in fact as far as I can see, it is big greedy corporations (albeit different ones) that are the biggest beneficiaries from the transformations wrought by the Internet. It certainly isn’t the creatives at the coal face.

        1. But nobody is suggesting that the work be distributed for free either.  You’re creating your own argument.

          I download content illegally on occasion*; but I use Usenet, which costs me money.  Given the choice I’d MUCH rather give that money to a legitimate company that licenses the content, filling artists coffers with gold.  But no such company exists.

          Surely you can see a solution in there that neither involves distributing content for free nor refusing to pay artists royalties.

          We’re getting closer though; with services like Netflix, Spotify, Hulu etc. we’re getting the convenience we want for a more fair price. The person losing out in this process isn’t the artist, it’s the 25 middlemen that are now unneeded between the artist and the consumer.

          The point of this article (at least my understand) is that we, the people, have created the technology that can enable Big Media to make lots and lots of money; but instead of harnessing it, and giving people what they want and making their artists money; they’d rather do things the way they’ve been done for the last 50 years and shut the internet down.

          So that’s why Obama’s request is needless; the solution has already been provided.

          * This is mostly via a process I like to call ‘reverse time-shifting’. I’ll often watch the content when it finally airs in the UK, ensuring that my advertising quota is met per production.

    3. For example, a comedian can earn their keep from tickets at live performances. But what if you’re actually a comedy writer and no good at live performance?

      Why should the world have to accommodate you just because you’re not all that good at what you want to do?

      1. I guess it’s a question of fairness. If I do something and you’re not interested, we have no transaction. You don’t owe me a living because I’m not doing anything useful.
        But if I do something, perhaps by putting a lot of effort into it, and you choose to benefit but not reward me, then that doesn’t seem right.
        Of course, you can take that attitude, and if everyone follows suit, I’ll have to find another way to make a living. But just because I can make a living some other way, doesn’t mean it’s sensible to dis incentivise me from doing what I’m best at. This is where the “oh, but I know a musician who is great at self marketing” argument gets into trouble. Why is it good if a musician does their own marketing, but bad if they outsource this to a middle man?

  24. “Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue Web sites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders”

    It’s called copyright law; it already exists.  Can we move on now please?

  25. So I have a question….Are the movies and the CD’s that are being pirated in places like China legally available for Chinese people who are buying the pirated copies?  Can a Chinese teenager walk into a store and legally buy “Avatar” or “Hangover 2” or whatever?  If not, why not?  Is it an issue of the movie not being distributed by the movie companies to the places it’s being pirated most?  Or is the Chinese government not allowing those movies to be sold there?  If either one of those is the case, then it’s not  a technological issue then is it?  It’s a supply and demand issue.  And the idea that the Movie Companies are losing money is moot because they wouldn’t have made that money in the first place?

    1. “And the idea that the Movie Companies are losing money is moot because they wouldn’t have made that money in the first place?”

      This sentence can be applied to 95% of digital piracy.

      I could go and download the whole Disney discography right now.  I would never have bought it, and I never will.  But if Disney found out, they’d file for damages and a loss of income.  They would claim that they’d lost the total RRP of that discography.  But just because I downloaded it doesn’t mean I would have ever bought it.

      I haven’t /downloaded/ music in a very long time, Spotify took care of that for a while, and now just iTunes (which is still too expensive); but back when I was downloading music I’d download anything.  I got to discover a lot of new bands and genres and (perhaps coincidentally) that was the time of my life I was going to the most gigs, buying collectables and memorabilia etc.  But to suggest that I lose those artists money by downloading their music is absurd.  Not only did I funnel more money to those that deserved it, I couldn’t have afforded to buy even 1% of that music anyway.

  26. “Say, do we have anything for the content industry?”
    “Sure do – it’s called a clue.”
    “Nope, won’t work.”
    “Really, why not?”
    “We tried already. They sent it back, saying they didn’t want it.”

  27. How to stop criminals who exploit artists and other rights holders? Do nothing. Eventually the criminals will go out of business and then artists will get paid for their work by loving and generous fans.

  28. There is just so much rhetorical bullshit flying around in this comment section. I have difficulty taking any discussion seriously where the majority of commenters refuse to acknowledge that piracy is

    1) at least generally wrong, and;
    2) at least potentially a problem for content producers.

    I hate DRM; I have circumvented same in order to enjoy something that I have purchased in the way that I wish. I think that this should be legal and that the reason that I had to do it was because of media companies who don’t understand what people want and how to get it to them.

    I have also downloaded things for which I did not pay. I didn’t do this as a protest of DRM, I didn’t do it because media companies are “greedy.” I am not Robin Hood. I did it because I wanted something that was free instead of paying for it. Okay? I’m that guy. I’m a LOST SALE. Am I really the only one to admit it? We exist. Please stop acting like there are no actual pirates and that none of them would buy things. Don’t argue about the difference between “stealing” and “infringing,” and act like one is natural and harmless. If it’s easy, people will choose Free. iTunes is easy and DRM-free; people still pirate music. Many justify it by whining about Apple, iTunes, the iPod, BMI, whatever. Please. 90% of the time it’s bullshit. You want it for free, so you go torrent it. If you’re smart enough and stubborn enough that you only run Linux, you’re resourceful enough to find a way to get the music you want legally.

    You can’t go into a Starbucks and say, “I’m only giving you a quarter for this coffee because it’s overpriced;” why do people think they get to decide how much they want to pay for a movie?  You just don’t buy it. Prices will come down. Maybe they’ll stop making such expensive movies. I don’t know. What I am pretty sure of is that the people arguing that piracy is a good thing or necessary are muddying the waters. Talk about what CAN be done; what you want to see done.

    “I’ll buy movies when they’re $2.00.” Okay, what if they’re not? “I’ll torrent them.” You’re the problem. That’s not how it works. Don’t pretend you gave anyone a fair chance to sell to you. What about a $2.00 rental online?

    I’ve heard so many nonsensical arguments. “I’m pirating the Blu-Ray because I already bought the DVD. I own the movie. I should be able to watch it on whatever system I want.” Oh, OK. I went to see the movie when it was in the theater. When do I get my free Blu-Ray?

    Sure, media companies are short-sighted and clueless. They make money well beyond what the people who actually create for a living are getting. As a filmmaker, that makes me crazy, but that’s a debate for the entirety of society to settle. We need to take THIS debate beyond finger-pointing and arguing about which side is greedier and figure out something that works. Not because it’s fair, although it’s nice when things are fair, but because something that both sides can live with means that we don’t have to live with asinine restrictions, competing file formats, and being forced to use multiple outlets to get all the cool stuff we want.

    1. I think you should go back and read all the comments again, there is some really solid commenting up there.

      “I did it because I wanted something that was free instead of paying for it. Okay? I’m that guy. I’m a LOST SALE.”

      Was it really a lost sale?  If you didn’t manage to find it illegally would you have bought it?  This is where things get complicated.  Just because somebody downloads something illegally, doesn’t mean they would have bought it otherwise.  Or, alternatively, they might then go out and buy it because they enjoyed it so much (I’ve done this with a few TV box-sets, and TV is prepaid with advertising anyway, so both nobody lost AND the creators got some extra cash).

      “I’ve heard so many nonsensical arguments. “I’m pirating the Blu-Ray because I already bought the DVD. I own the movie. I should be able to watch it on whatever system I want.” Oh, OK. I went to see the movie when it was in the theater. When do I get my free Blu-Ray?”

      This is the point that I realised you don’t understand digital piracy.

      A Blu-Ray disc costs money to make, to store, to distribute.  A torrent was uploaded by a media purchaser of his own accord and downloaded using third parties.  It doesn’t cost the artist or the production company a dime.  The two scenarios cannot be compared.

      “I’ll buy movies when they’re $2.00.” Okay, what if they’re not? “I’ll torrent them.” You’re the problem. That’s not how it works. Don’t pretend you gave anyone a fair chance to sell to you. What about a $2.00 rental online?”

      $2 online rental sounds great!  In fact, what’s even better is services like LoveFilm or Netflix; and to be completely honest, if they could keep up with Hollywood’s marketing and carry a broader selection I think you’d find that there’d be very few pirates left, at least in the western world – and who is in control of those factors?  The people complaining!  In fact you’ve almost made the very suggestion that all those ignorant commenters above you have already suggested.  You’re nearly there!

      “You can’t go into a Starbucks and say, “I’m only giving you a quarter for this coffee because it’s overpriced;” why do people think they get to decide how much they want to pay for a movie?”

      It’s called the free-market.  We DO decide what we want to pay for things.  The reason that people pay $5 for coffee is because they’re happy to do so, else they wouldn’t.

      And actually there’s a lot of logic in wanting to pay less for your media, lest you understand what you’re paying for; you seem quite content being told what to pay and simultaneously cheat the artists (you’re right, you are the problem).  When you pay $20 for that DVD, most of that money is for the physical product.  When you buy a digital copy of a DVD you should be paying 10% of that cost, if that. We’re talking $2 for a film, and a similar amount for an album. Big Media is both simultaneously skimming more profits from people and trying to shut down any other access they have to content. Don’t you think a better solution would be to not fuck about with our laws and to simply please your customers?

      Sure, there’ll always be people that download because they’d rather not pay; but then there’ll always be the guy who stabs grannies for checkbooks cause he doesn’t want a job.  I don’t see what relevance this has to the discussion.

      1. There IS some very good commenting above, much of it yours. I just think there’s a lot of commenters being deliberately obtuse and pretending that just because Big Media have made mistakes (and they have, colossal ones) in adjusting to a digital market that their concerns are all equally backwards. To a large degree my intent was to play devil’s advocate and call for a bit less disingenuousness in the discussion of piracy.

        “Was it really a lost sale?  If you didn’t manage to find it illegally would you have bought it?  This is where things get complicated.  Just because somebody downloads something illegally, doesn’t mean they would have bought it otherwise.  Or, alternatively, they might then go out and buy it because they enjoyed it so much (I’ve done this with a few TV box-sets, and TV is prepaid with advertising anyway, so both nobody lost AND the creators got some extra cash).”

        Yes. I’m volunteering myself as that lost sale, just to prove that such a situation exists–just so people will for a moment stop denying my existence. There have been CDs that I wanted, but didn’t want to pay the asked price for, and I downloaded them.

        I am ALSO the person who is a heavy buyer of media that studies have produced. I buy a lot and avoid piracy when I can. You are, or have been, the person who pirates to “try things out.”  We are probably (okay , almost certainly) not a threat to the future of content. And I don’t think piracy in general is a threat to the future of the feature film, just to be clear. They’re doing fine.

        “$2 online rental sounds great!  In fact, what’s even better is services like LoveFilm or Netflix; and to be completely honest, if they could keep up with Hollywood’s marketing and carry a broader selection I think you’d find that there’d be very few pirates left, at least in the western world – and who is in control of those factors?  The people complaining!  In fact you’ve almost made the very suggestion that all those ignorant commenters above you have already suggested.  You’re nearly there!”

        I agree completely. My question was meant to ask “what will satisfy you as a consumer? Does it seem reasonable? What will you do if you don’t get that?” If the price of that Starbucks’ coffee doesn’t satisfy us, we don’t buy it. And while I understand the ways in which stealing is different from copying, if that coffee were duplicatable, would Starbucks be legitimately troubled if people set up next door and gave away the coffee? I understand that stealing is for an object and the copying isn’t the same, but this is a pointless distinction. Stealing deprives an individual of the use of their physical object, or the sale of that object. When we buy a DVD, we’re not paying for the shiny disc. We’re paying for the content that’s on it; if that content is available elsewhere, there is a danger (a probability, I would suggest) that the downloader won’t pay for it. That’s why movies on TV have commercials. To pay for it. That’s why we pay for HBO. To pay for the content. Getting the content for free means that the providers don’t get paid. If you’re arguing that they shouldn’t, well, I can’t address that, and neither will they.

        “When you pay $20 for that DVD, most of that money is for the physical product.  When you buy a digital copy of a DVD you should be paying 10% of that cost, if that. We’re talking $2 for a film, and a similar amount for an album. Big Media is both simultaneously skimming more profits from people and trying to shut down any other access they have to content. Don’t you think a better solution would be to not fuck about with our laws and to simply please your customers?”

        That’s not correct. DVDs are dirt cheap. Yes, we’re paying Big Media. We’re also paying the clerk at Best Buy, the shareholders of Best Buy, the same folks at some distribution company, the actors who get residuals, their agents, and their unions. They all get their cut. When we buy or watch a digital film, iTunes/Netflix/Hulu or whoever gets their cut. It seems like Big Media should be making MORE doing it this way, absolutely. If they’re not, I agree–they have their heads up their asses. And, yes, they should be trying to solve the problem for the people who WILL pay for their content instead of screwing them over.

        “I don’t see what relevance this has to the discussion.”

        That’s why I’m going off the deep end a little. This IS the discussion. Big Media and now the President are saying, “Okay, we hear you. You want a free Internet. You’re smarter than us. Help us figure this out.” They’re afraid of piracy, and much of the tech-savvy community here is saying, “End copyright! Down with RIAA! I won’t pay money for DVDs when I can watch the show on TV for free!” None of THOSE things have anything to do with the discussion. Sure, they’re trying to squeeze as much money out of their products as they can. Tech-savvy people need to help them realize how much that will be.
        Your points above do:

        1) How can companies distribute media to people in a way that’s convenient?

        2) How can costs for this be adjusted to a point where they’re making money and consumers are spending it?

        My question would be:

        How can we, the tech community, help media develop their distribution to a point where they realize that they’re getting as much money as they can?

        Until then, they’ll be afraid of the pirates who will take what they’re making for free. Suggesting that we as smart tech people are going to pirate as a way of asserting our rights until they do is not helpful (and yeah, I know you’re not the one saying this).

        (edit: formatting)

  29. Would the global “volunteer” problem solvers be paid/given copyright for their “solution” to this “pressing problem”? Just askin.

  30. If the president wasn’t such a pandering moron then he’d understand that best, the ONLY thing for the govt to do is get the hell out of policing the internet. 

    The brilliance of the internet is that it developed into this amazing source of information and knowledge with minimal input from a guiding hand. It’s evolved into the chaotic, wonderful system it is today not because there’s some inept congressional committee deciding the best way to proceed. The govt has no business trying to direct the evolution of creative, informational media. When they do, we get FBI raids, mass-domain shutdowns, indecency fines, indiscriminate copyright takedown notices, prosecution of whistleblowers… Who in their right mind would consider any of these to be beneficial?

    Every time they decide to protect us from the scourge of piracy or pr0n or nasty words, they just end up sledgehammering the guilty and the innocent alike. The same paranoia occurred with the ability to record movies onto VHS, but the solution wasn’t outlawing the REC button ; it was allowing the market to function and grow into another huge money-making industry for those companies smart enough to adapt. 

    But considering the last two presidents were fine with bailing out corrupt banks and inept car manufacturers, don’t count on them not trying to keep killing the golden goose.

  31. The problem is that the president has to balance two interests, that of the people, and that of the financial backing. We are asking him to respond rationally, when he is worried about an irrational party that he must represent. This doesn’t excuse his decisions, but it enables me to understand why they are made, no matter how much that understanding frustrates me.

  32. The content providers need to fix the problem, not the taxpayers.  Here is a reasonable solution:

    1) Content providers agree on a secure format for their data.
    2) Hardware manufacturers implement a way to deliver this content.

    Existing content and hardware isn’t secure, and I’m pretty sure the content providers have figured this out.  But they still produce content they know can be copied.  Whose got danged fault is that?  Not mine.

  33. Piracy is not the issue. It’s not even about content. It’s about control of distribution of content. Big C knows that if anyone but them, such as Apple’s iTunes or Amazon, become the mainstream audience’ s go-to guys for new flicks, they will bleed harder at their hands than they ever did at the hands of any pirates, MegaUpload included. Plus such platforms could also become gateways for smaller, independent content producers and you can only spend your movie buck once, now can’t you? So as compared to the current situation, even WITH the ‘cost’ of piracy (if there is any) losing the distribution monopoly is far worse.

    That’s why they simply refuse to play along in the digital game, frustrating progress and opting instead to lobby for laws that aren’t designed to stop pirates, but to give Big C editorial control over the content of sites they do not own nor have any stake in and as such should not have any power over. That’s why they would be in control over what content gets taken down. SOPA is not there to stop piracy but to put control over what’s distributed on the internet in the hands of Big C, just like the control it already has over all other distribution channels. It’s about protecting a monopoly on distribution and shielding the market from competition.

    The bleeding heart story of lost jobs and struggling artist is just there to distract us. 

    Worst part is, by denying access to a significant audience and easy distribution, in lieu of the possibilities, they are probably doing more to hurt motivated creators than anyone else. Any independent filmmaker bitching about his movie being pirated should ask himself if a significant portion of the illegal downloaders have any other way to see the work. If the answer is no (because there is no traditional distribution in their area) then it isn’t the downloaders who stole his money. It’s big content not distributing his work into a viable market.

  34. Here’s an idea Mr President: pay some fucking engineers to do the engineering work you’re asking for. Good luck finding ones who can.

  35. “copying is not theft”- that catchy animation is stuck in my head again. If it’s not theft, then what *is* it? I think maybe it’s closest to trespass. You kids don’t have to be doing anything bad to my lawn for me to call the cops.

    But now the landscape is changing, and the fences we put up last generation can’t keep the critters out, and the proclamation bravely demands better and higher fences.

    …while those who grok the new landscape are busy making greater plans…

    1. Copying is copying. It’s not trespass, theft, libel, rape, murder, cannibalism, or kidnapping. It is what it is: making something that looks or sounds like something else. The idea that copying is a crime is silly, so the Gingriches of the world  spent the last 12 years or so redefining the concept, convincing everyone that a cat is a dog, everyone knows that, it has always been so, so shut up…

  36. It’s probably not sensible to ask us to create ways to protect intellectual property content, but it is perhaps prudent to draw up a list of requirements.  SOPA was especially bad because it would break DNS or make linking practically impossible.  Our representatives had probably never heard of DNS and had no idea of the scope of the linking problem.  Once they heard that we needed those things, the legislation died.

    We’ll never get them to learn how the internet works.  But maybe we can get a bill passed that guarantee inviolability of some of the internet’s basic architecture.  Maybe we can even give them jobs in the meantime–monitoring ISPs for bandwidth iniquity or oppression.

    That would go a long way toward protecting content, if content creators knew what they can lobby about and what they cannot.

  37. I disagree, first with the choice of metaphor, and second with the outright dismissal of anybody who life isn’t so deeply entwined with these “divine” services.

    Hate to break it to you Nat but PayPal sure ain’t no boat, or car or whatever. What about all the CC licenced stuff that gets ripped, for profit, off of sites like deviantART? Thats what is being addressed, not the fact people see and interact with the world differently then you.

  38. > Well, I suppose they could go to Jill and ask her for some help.

    The relationship between bands and record labels is exactly the opposite of the way things should be. Record labels exist to  publicize the artist, and distribute the music for revenue. In a non-bizzaro recording industy, a band might hire a publicist, an accountant and contract with a distribution company. But bands don’t contract out these services for themselves, instead bands get ‘signed’ to a deal from a label. The bands work for the label. In fact they compete for the chance (their ‘big break’), because the labels control the distribution channel, and they control the standard publicity channels (radio stations, mtv, etc).  Also, the record labels have access to million dollar recording studios which used to be neccesary to make a good sounding album. None of these things are particularly true anymore. The internet gives anyone a distribution channel; social networking gives anyone a platform to do publicity; MTV is for “reality” shows, and YouTube is where people watch music videos. Just about any computer made in the last few years do more sophisticated multitrack recording and mixing than any million dollar studio 10 or 15 years ago.

  39. We will hand you one more thing, it’s called a clue.
    Maybe the people shoveling money at you aren’t telling the truth.
    Maybe you should do independent research, and actually listen to it rather than the nice man offering you money to not tell anyone about his secret.

  40. We’ve no deal with these people. Copyright was intended to permit an author, *for a limited* time – not life + 75 years (and extended after that, and after that, and after that), to profit from their work, to promote the arts and sciences for the good of the society (not the author – that was secondary).
    That deal was unilaterally rescinded by the copyright-holding corporations, acting through their employees, the Congress of the U.S. There is no deal anymore. Instead of copy rights, they think they own the images and words and sounds in your brain – and I’m  not being hyperbolic.
    If they want their super-police state, then we want the deal back. Copyrights should expire, and quickly. So at least we are not all criminals – and we will be, it being impossible not to reproduce a copyrighted article without permission in your daily life.

  41. It’s psychology, framing and a tactic to put everyone but Big Business at a disadvantage.  When The Media Industrial Complex asks “what can we do together to create a solution”, even if you’re just thinking about it, they’ve conscripted you into their personal army by getting you to think the same way they do.  If you play by Corporate Media’s rules you going to do a lot less questioning of validity of their problem and you’ve made yourself much more willing to accept whatever their solution may be.  If the public come up with an answer, Big Media wins because they get their way, the Internet is censored and the public can’t disagree with their own solution.  If the public come with no answer big media says, “Sorry, but since you couldn’t come up with anything and censoring the Internet is the only solution we’ve got so we have to do it.”  They win again.  If you disagree with them they say, “You’re a law breaker!” and they still win.  

    As Nat Torkington pointed out the solution is not our problem, it’s their problem.  There are times when technology changes our way of living and we can no longer go back.  For example, the printing press, photography, movies, radio, television and the Internet.  It’s not up to the public to find ways to help Big Business sustain an unsustainable business model, it’s up to them to come up with ways they can adapt to a new environment or face extinction.  Innovation is the fuel that makes an entrepreneur wealthy and improves everyone’s standard of living.  Stagnation leads to bankruptcy, a weaker economy and a lower standard of living.   

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