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AP Looks at Piracy, Misses the Point 406

TechDirt is reporting that the Associated Press has covered several stories recently about what a "huge threat" piracy is in other countries. This article, however, argues that they have perhaps missed out on the whole story by ignoring the other side of the coin. From the article: "the AP doesn't bother to mention how all that piracy helped created new and different business models for musicians in China that let them thrive despite the piracy (actually, in some cases, because of it). Nor does the AP bother to mention how software piracy helped boost certain aspects of the industry in China by decreasing the cost of inputs."
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AP Looks at Piracy, Misses the Point

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  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:56PM (#15662403)
    Misappropriating and/or "stealing" things that don't belong to you, or just flat out breaking the law (in some jurisdictions), is okay if in someone else's estimation it's actually "helping" them?


    Here's the problem: the new "business model" they talk about is that free music sometimes promotes something else (concerts, merchandise, or something new entirely). Ok, great. What if it's my music, and I don't want you to have it for free, regardless of how else it might "help" me? What if I've voluntarily signed on with a record label because I think that it's in my best interests (and no, I haven't been "brainwashed"), and that record label has a trade group that represents it, and what if the laws of my country support the protections of my creations?

    I love how in the story here recently, people talked about it as a new "business model" that the record labels and trade groups just hated. Um, huh? The Russian mob taking things that don't belong to them under the guise of a very weak argument that they can do it under radio license rules (which are designed, ironically, to get people to BUY the content, not as the mechanism for people to permanently obtain pristine digital copies) and selling them for 1/10 or 1/20 of what they sell for via legitimate channels is a "business model"? I guess if you don't believe that anyone should be able to "own" content like that, ever, and that the "legitimate" distribution channels are nothing more than a state-sponsored and -backed mob, ok.

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that the the content owners might need to sell the content for 2 or 5 or 10 times more than does to actually support the industry? If your answer is "no, they don't need all these ungodly rich Britney Spears types" etc., and should be able to sell it for just the costs of bandwidth, who the hell are YOU to decide that? Chances are, some of their promotion, advertising, distribution, marketing, and production is what made a particular artist - the popular ones people often pirate - desirable in the first place. And how is it even an argument that, essentially, you can "steal"/copy something on your own and get it for cheaper, and if it's more expensive than some arbitrary value you've set in your head, it's okay to just take?

    But why is the anti-copyright argument always the one touted here?

    And for those in the "copyright is bad on works that can be effortlessly copied in the digital realm", consider that "art for art's sake" isn't the end-all be-all argument, either. Have you ever considered that since economics isn't a zero-sum game, that there are millions of people who have indirectly benefited economically from the industries that have sprung up around, support, and are supported by, music, television, books, and movies?

    I'm not saying the trade groups aren't out for control, and maybe even aren't greedy baby-eating bastards. But this isn't binary opposition: it's not RIAA-like "thuggery", or no ownership rights at all. Where's the middle ground? And no, I'm not saying copyright should be perpetual and infinite, either. But can we ignore A.A. Milne's shit that's 75 years old for a minute as an arguing point, and talk about what's really at issue, which is brand new, current, and popular music and movies?
  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:59PM (#15662426) Journal
    "Misappropriating and/or "stealing" things that don't belong to you..."

    No. Duplication of files does not meet the definition of appriation or theft of files. If you want to get it straight, you shouldn't change the subject to something entirely different in your summarization.
  • by oahazmatt ( 868057 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:05PM (#15662483) Journal
    As an anime fan, I download fansubs. Now, for the most part, this is piracy. These are television shows that have been recorded or ripped from DVDs, give subtitles, and been made available for free trade online through P2P networks.

    However, it proves beneficial. Take for instance, Funimation. At conventions, the Funimation booth runs contests, and on the entry form you may list anime that you would like Funimation to consider licensing. They know these shows are being downloaded, and instead of condeming the person downloading like some other organizations, they ask if they should bring it stateside so that it may be introduced to a wider audience through American television.

    I would prefer to see many organizations take this approach. I would love for record labels to ask "what unsigned artists are you listening to that you think we should consider signing".

    Piracy can actually be used to a company's advantage at times, and too many seem pre-occupied with the short term loss of a $20 Ashlee Simpson CD to notice.
  • American example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NetDanzr ( 619387 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:12PM (#15662541)
    "Nor does the AP bother to mention how software piracy helped boost certain aspects of the industry in China by decreasing the cost of inputs."

    And nor does AP bother to state that the US itself explicitly encouraged the pirating of foreign works in its 1790 Copyright Act:

    [N]othing in this act shall be construed to extend to prohibit the importation or vending, reprinting or publishing within the United States, of any map, chart, book, or books, written, printed, or published by any person not a citizen of the United States, in foreign parts or places without the jurisdiction of the United States.

    Only in 1891 the US started protecting foreign works under the Chase Act. It serves to remember that the US justified pirating foreign works as being economically beneficial for the country. Even the Chase Act wasn't too friendly to foreign authors: it did protect their rights, but the Manufacturing Clause prevented their publishers from publishing their works in the US. This clause was removed only in 1986. It took the US 101 years to join the Berne Convention [].

  • by sharopolis ( 819353 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:15PM (#15662572)
    TFA and it's linked stories don't really go into much detail about what the actual benefits for the chinese industry are.
    Can anyone supply some more information?
    It's easy to invoke the old arguments about a colapsing business model and the failure of big companies to react to the market etc. etc. but how and why are chinese artists better without a working copyright system?
    This isn't a rhetorical question, I'd like to know.
  • by Dis*abstraction ( 967890 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:39PM (#15662771)
    It's true. Hong Kong had a thriving film industry until the late '90s, when pirated DVDs started flooding the sidewalks and subways. Dozens of studios went out of business. Others went downmarket and only do low-budget cheap thrills anymore.

    Just one example of many. It astonishes me how many people here on Slashdot can't tell truth from fantasy even when truth looks them in the eye.
  • by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:45PM (#15662815) Journal
    I love how supposedly-intelligent people can't realize that at some level, at some point in time, members of a civilized society must have some acceptance of a system of laws and order, instead of just arbitrarily and indiscriminately breaking ones they personally disagree with, if there is to be any value to a legal system at all.

    Ok so if there is a law I disagree with I should encourage its change but not break it until its been changed. Hate to break it to you but thats just what me and many others are doing, I havn't illigally copied a piece of music sence the original napster (at that time the legality was undecided, and parts of it are still now). But you seem to think that if I simply post on a message board the positive effects on free copying (and your right, piracy is probably wrong to advocate, as it advocates breaking the law) that I'm some type of low life that has no respect for property and can not make a rational argument.
  • by WilliamSChips ( 793741 ) <full,infinity&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:48PM (#15662839) Journal
    How about the Offspring? They even tried to release one of their albums for free off the internet but were stopped by the record company.
  • by LaminatorX ( 410794 ) <sabotage&praecantator,com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:06PM (#15662953) Homepage
    Actually, if you really need to use a more tangiblr crime as a metaphor, I think tresspassing would be a better one. It is the exclusive domain of the copyright holder to permit duplication and redistribution of a given work. Making unauthorised copies infringes upon that domain.

    It is noteworthy that someone who sneaks into a movie or concert without paying is charged with tresspassing, not theft.

  • by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:12PM (#15662996) Journal
    ...instead of just arbitrarily and indiscriminately breaking ones they personally disagree with... a certain powerful leader chooses to do on the slightest whim. The "thieves" you disparage are just following the example set by their "superiors". Many of us don't believe in the "Do as I say, not as I do." thing anymore. If you won't apply the law to everybody...equally, don't try to apply it to me. "Si tu fumas, yo puedo fumar tanbien."

    ...what's your solution? No copyright, and anything that can be copied digitally should always be free?

    Well, somebody has to pay for the electricity(for now), however, that would be a good first step.
  • by servognome ( 738846 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:33PM (#15663137)
    The ancient world had no concept of "intellectual property", and creators of content in Greece and Rome understood that their work would be freely copied without compensation.

    People have since the beginning of civilization tried to claim things. In ancient times "intellectual property" mostly existed in the form of trade secrets. Recipes and processes that were closely guarded family trade secrets passed down from generation to generation. The primary reasons there were no laws for written works were: the high cost of reproduction, lack of audience, lack of awareness (how would somebody in Italy know their book was copied and taken to Greece).
    Modern changes like mass production and digital communication, have also shifted the economy from valuing physical labor, to valuing IP. Hence the focus of ownership has also shifted from physical objects to ideas.
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:41PM (#15663192)
    Well, what else should we do when our constitutional rights to having content become unrestricted after a "limited time" are infringed? Sure, it isn't slavery, but it is an explicit protection which is being eliminated. Or should we just be glad we are only losing content, and not being sent to Cuba?
  • by ( 899244 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:52PM (#15663258)
    I am going to skip the usual wordy and subtle version of the "you have no clue" diatribe and skip right to my point.

    Copy right originated as the RIGHT TO COPY protecting printing presses from trying to put a stranglehold on production and allowing education to not be impeded by finance. It was the right for the people who purchased something to copy it for their own use.

    Extrapolate this now to modern era with media such as music and movies. It follows that I should have the RIGHT to copy anything I lawfully purchase. Any form of DRM impedes MY RIGHTS as outlined in the intent of this law. It is that I disagree with, and thus any laws that support it.

    As for maybe the **AA should take a clue from the success of this site and of iTunes and see that people ARE willing and able to pay, and they are telling the *AA what they are willing to pay. A smart organization would listen and adapt. They would say "Wow, people are willing to pay X amount for this in droves... how can we work that as to capitalize on all these sales" and "we can sell 100k copies at $20 or 500K copies at $10... how do we work a greater profit margin out of the $10 sale then?"

    That is what people refer to as the "Business model," not piracy as a business model (although many companies *cough* microsoft *cough* have made it one and cornered a market via piracy. But looking at what people are showing themselves to be willing to do and adapting to that rather than trying to force what the **AA as an organization feels people should be willing to do.

    I will admit to my own bout of piracy but have since realized it was not productive. Now I seek out means of legitimately acquiring the things I need at a price I am willing to pay. Wow... free market... what a concept. If it is legal for me to pay $2 to a company in Russia for an album in mp3 format I will do so. Russian law requires the artist receive a portion of this which I support. I see no need to pay the **AA to do ANYTHING. Now if someone proves the artist is not receiving their portion of the money then I will also support any legal action taken against the people who broke the law. Any artist who's music I have purchased is more than free to contact me asking for my assistance in this... or to make that argument publicly.

    Someone found a business model which as far as I know is legal, to sell me something I want for a price I am willing to pay. If iTunes offered the same price I would still buy from allofmp3 because it lacks DRM and I can do what I want with what I purchased, as I have a RIGHT to do. If iTunes offered the same thing for the same price I would buy from them as their interface is better and I have a slight preference to supporting US companies. See the pattern? Sounds like free market to me.

    Under no circumstances will I give these files to anyone else, as that is illegal and unethical unless I then delete them. As I feel I was charged a reasonable price I should direct others to buy it at the same place. It is equally unethical in my mind to prevent me from doing so. If I want to give a book to my friend for them to read I can do so. No one would dispute this, even the **AA, although they would like to. Why should a CD or mp3 be different? So long as I do not have a duplicate of the item when I give it, that should be a legally protected transaction.

    The difference between me and most is I feel an obligation to "fight the system" I disagree with but by simply not giving my money to those I disagree with. If you want to sign on as an artist with an RIAA label that is your right... just don't expect my money or for me to support you when ask me to vote for laws that impede my rights. Now if you want to sell me your album direct for $2-5 and pocket everything but the bandwidth costs be my guest, you will probably get my money. If your any good you will probably get my money more than once because I did not back up your mp3 before a HD crash or some such.
  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @06:52PM (#15663546)
    what i'm talking about is a specific aspect of interoperability. Allow me to elaborate.

    The way things have worked for the 80 years preceeding the DMCA was thus:

    first,the recording industries and the elecronics industries get together to create standards. The specs for these standards are documented, and an "official" implementation is provided for you for a nominal license fee, so long as you met the conditions of the license.

    It was not necessary though to get the official license. You see.. these standards can have unofficial implementations which do the same thing a different way.. sort of like the rotary engine is in automobiles. it doesnt use pistons, but it still moves the car. Those who didnt want to be subjected to burdons placed on them by the official license (such as the exclusion of features which the large incumbent companies fear would result in too much competition against them).
    The best example of this in the computer world would be FFmpeg or Xvid, which is an unofficial codec conforming to the DivX/mpeg4 standard.

    Electronics manufacturers and software engineeers have been doing this for ages, and it is a fundamental right, even in the case of patented products, to come up with your own way of accessing specific interfaces (in this case, copy protected media).

    By removing that right, these copyright cartels have removed the only means of firms in the tech sector from avoiding unfair contract obligations imposed by the "official implementation".... and those obligations are now so strict that there is no real product differentiation anymore. any breakthrough features are quashed because without the license you will be prosecuted for selling a "circumvention device".

    I don't consider that part of the monopoly distributor status intended by copyright.. it's more like a monopoly on everyone else's work too =/..
  • Re:Futurama (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikeBabcock ( 65886 ) <> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @11:41PM (#15664741) Homepage Journal
    I'm just like the grandparent; I've done much the same thing on several occasions, and I know many others who do so as well.

    The fact of the matter is, those who do not follow this pattern would not have paid for the content in the first place, so it is not in fact lost revenue.

    The problem that still needs addressing is: Do we really want to limit cultural experiences to those who can afford them all (there's a limit)? I can't afford every CD I want to listen to, or every piece of artwork I'd like to look at or every book I want to read.

    Luckily, we invented libraries for the last one.

    How about the first two? Radio doesn't really count incidentally because of bias and advertising. The originators of Copyright in North America believed that works should be in the public domain in the not-so-long-run so as to allow as many americans access to culture and education as possible. Where did we go wrong?

All Finagle Laws may be bypassed by learning the simple art of doing without thinking.