The Piracy Situation: The Devil's Advocate
by Chip Ninja
Following R. Toby Richards' article, I felt that there were far too many
anti-piracy advocates and far too little emphasis placed on the fundamental
problems with the current copyright laws or the positive aspects of piracy.
While initially I will be directly addressing Richards' article (as it
highlights the most common views supported by anti-piracy advocates), ultimately
I will get to the root of the problem.
The Law is Out of Control
While one could simply say that more laws are created due to piracy itself,
this belief is simply untrue. On the surface, it appears that perhaps the
current trend of adopting ever increasing copyright laws is due to rampant
piracy and the millions in damages piracy causes to various (primarily
However, I would like to point out that the large corporations that are
trying to "protect" intellectual property are in reality abusing their vast
wealth in an attempt to extort their customers.
The first incident to highlight this phenomenon is takedown of a video
posted by Stephanie Lenz, which showed her child dancing to the Prince song
"Let's Go Crazy." Was the takedown filed due to copyright infringement? No,
the video clearly falls within fair use. The question is, by taking the video
down, how did Universal protect their intellectual property? They didn't. So
why did they do it? The only plausible explanation is to show everyone who is
However, this is just scratching the surface of the issue. Lawsuits are
also common against people who mod their own hardware to work with other
software (such as Geohot jailbreaking the PS3), which is also allowed by the
current copyright laws. However, in many cases, when a lawsuit is filed,
defendants would much rather just settle than deal with the increased legal
expenses of going to court. Keeping that in mind, one could do a quick Google
search and find an extensive collection of cease-and-desist notices threatening
legal action against those who operate wholly within fair use. This practice in
many ways could be compared with the despicable act of patent trolling, whereas
most people look the other way simply because piracy must be stopped!
The Real Issues
What must be realized is that this is not a new phenomenon at all. Efforts
were made to shut down VCRs when they first came out because "the VCR is to the
American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to
the woman home alone."
This thought process is very similar to the overstated belief that piracy
on the Internet is destroying our entertainment industries. That is simply
untrue. The real issue is that groups like MPAA have been quoted saying that
they want to keep it illegal for you to create your own backup copy of a DVD
simply because it creates additional revenue streams for them. Your disc gets
scratched or broken, you buy a new one. You want to watch it on a mobile
device, you buy the movie again.
The question here is once you've already bought a product, why should you
buy it a second time? According to MPAA, you should buy the same movie multiple
times so that you have alternate ways of watching a movie - but isn't that just
saying "because we want to milk more cash out of you?"
Continuing with the lost profits, let's get away from ripping DVDs for a
MPAA's and RIAA's Flawed Reasoning
The highest market share for the movie industry from 1995-2012 has been
original screenplays, at 48.94 percent. Remakes are sitting at 6.4 percent.
Now, think back to all of the recent movies which are remakes. Since just 2008
there have been 102 remakes, whereas from 1990-2000 there were 56. So, doing a
little math, we can say that from 1990-2000 the movie industry averaged around
5.6 remakes a year. The average per year from 2008-2012 is 25.5.
So in the last four years, there has been over a 400 percent increase in
the number of remakes, which make up only 6.4 percent of the market share from
1995-2012. The problem is that some remakes do incredibly well, while others
completely flop. The industry, however, is approaching it with more of a
pinata technique - they're blindly throwing movies out there in hopes of a
giant success, which simply doesn't work if you're trying to make a profit.
Does piracy affect this? Yes, definitely. Pirating a movie will certainly
affect the amount of revenue generated in the box office and sales. However,
there is a positive side which is often unmentioned.
The Real Impact of Torrents
Switching gears temporarily, if you knew a product you were about to buy
was flawed or not really what you thought it was, would you buy it? Probably
not. If you knew for a fact that your Sony TV was going to die as soon as the
warranty was up, would you buy it? More than likely, you would look for a
different brand. But how do you know that the new brand wasn't built the same
way? You really don't. The true root of the problem is that products are
intentionally misrepresented to increase profit. Ultimately, customer
satisfaction is no longer a priority. The true priority is just to increase
profit using any means necessary. The true aspect that scares big corporations
about piracy is that we can, and do, use it to save ourselves from foolishly
purchasing flawed products.
Let's start with what happens when a crap movie or music album is
downloaded. The pirate views the movie or listens to the album, realizes that
they just saved themselves at least $20, and then deletes the pirated work.
They tell others that it was crap, and less people are interested. However,
when a good work is pirated, the resulting word of mouth gets more people to
the theater, and many pirates end up buying the work. I personally have pirated
movies which have not yet been released in the United States (or ones that I am
unsure of) and, as soon as I have the opportunity, have purchased the
Indie developers know the value of using torrents, and many embrace the
idea of their work being shared on sites like The Pirate Bay because they know
it will increase their exposure and thus help them more than it will hurt them.
Minecraft's creator Notch responded to one of his fans telling him, "Just pirate
it" and to buy it when he could afford it if he still liked it.
So why are groups like MPAA and RIAA fighting so hard against piracy when
it could potentially be good for business? They're fighting it because of what
happens when a product they release is crap. Trailers are intentionally cut to
make you want to see the movie. There are plenty of cases of misleading
trailers, and I'm sure you can think of some on your own. Music? Only the best
on the album are typically aired. So what happens when the only value a work
has to offer is what is showed in a trailer or aired on the radio? Well, if you
deal with pirates you know to avoid wasting your money. If you don't - well,
you end up blowing your hard earned cash.
But what about the critics, you may ask. Critics and reviewers are much
like politicians. Both are paid off by the media companies to write things in
their favor. So, if we acknowledge the fact that reviews are often biased,
what is the only true way to ensure that you have a fair assessment of a
That's right, you personally need to view, listen, or play it, or speak to
a person you personally trust who has.
So, we've already established that there are flaws in the belief that
piracy is a completely evil thing. However, much like anything else (such as IP
lawsuits), there is a vast potential for abuse. There is no guarantee that a
pirate will buy the work. However, likewise there is no guarantee that the work
is even worth your money.
The true solution to piracy lies with the content creators themselves.
Represent your product accurately. Stop trying to fool consumers into buying a
misrepresented product and you won't lose much if at all to piracy.