30 novembro 2010

Piracy: the last stand of reason

It really annoys me when (most) people talk about piracy. Illiterate or ill-intentioned individuals, corporates and even governments usually equate not-for-profit possession (or distribution) of copies of any copyrighted work with felonies, or even serious, degenerate crimes like theft. At the same time, these same people, more than ever before in the history of copyright law, in the name of defending the rights of authors (poor authors that serve as excuses), are seeking to strip the rights and legitimate uses that copyright law have always granted to the public. It really saddens me deeply to see that the very own idea(l) behind copyright law, which is to foster creativity and ultimately benefit the public, is being thwarted to serve the evil purposes of amoral (even immoral) corporations.

I want to make this post short. I really do! I have an agenda with a concrete subject I want to address, but I can't stop myself writing a short, abstract introduction first. Please, forgive me...

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation the purpose of copyright is twofold:
"To encourage a dynamic culture, while returning value to creators so that they can lead a dignified economic existence, and to provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public."
Pay attention to the adjectives used near each of copyright's objectives: dignified economic existence and widespread, affordable access to content for the public. It doesn't take that much intellect to see that copyright does NOT exist to make people rich, millionaires. Dignified economic existence is not exactly what copyright stands for today... Take a look at the music industry for example: all those "artists" posing with limos, living in mansions, with multi-billionaires producers and record-labels behind them, and yet producing an output of increasingly dubious quality. To provide creators a dignified economic existence: no, that's definitely not what copyright stands for today!

On the other hand, the adjectives for the other main aspect of copyright's definition are far from sedated: widespread (spread to a great distance; widely extended; extending far and wide. [1913 Webster]) and affordable (That may be afforded. [1913 Webster]); which shows exactly what should be the focus of copyright: to benefit the PUBLIC, fostering creativity, spreading far and wide the works of human invention.

No, that's not what copyright stands for today: defying its own definition, copyright is being actively and effectively (ab)used to prevent the widespread access to content for the public, and to maximize profits in detriment of affordability for the masses.

In a time when the actually affordable widespread access to creative content is finally made possible through technology, the very own copyright holders resort to any means, licit or illicit, sometimes even immoral (harassing and bullying people), to prevent the very own realization of copyright's utmost objective.

Poor housewife fined $1.5M
It is these same crumbling empires, built around their thwarted notion of copyright, the ones that pose the most impregnable barriers to innovation and creativity. If it was not for the evil efforts of these multi-billionaires leeches of copyright, we would have already experienced a digital and social revolution. A revolution that was subject to attempted infanticide! A revolution that is being constantly and unmercifully threatened with murder by the media industry. A revolution that only survives thanks to the disjointed efforts of millions of individuals worldwide. Some of which are paying a hefty price, completely disproportional to the alleged "damage" they are being charged with and totally contrary to public interest, people that are being punished for simply doing what the general public expect to be able to do: access content easily, from any device, anywhere and everywhere in an affordable manner.

To add insult to injury, these corporations "hire" the support of corrupt politicians and governments that pass laws and acts to legitimate their coercive and abusive practices for "protecting the author's rights", aiming to tighten their grip over creative works, broadening and twisting the concept of copyright into something that serves exclusively to secure their profits and protect their own interests. This was an evil that Robert A. Heinlein detected back then in 1939, in his book Life-Line:
"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."
Two things strike me most in this brilliant quote by Heinlein:
  1. How can someone be so adept at writing as to summarize in such few words, and with much more impact and precision, everything that I'm trying to say in this whole (and still unfinished) post?
  2. How things didn't change even a bit since 1939. You can take Heinlein's quote verbatim and apply it to what is happening today. Government and corporations working against the public interest, to stop the clock of history, to guarantee the profits they have been making out of this very same public...
RIAA sues severely sick teen
And then you ask me what did make me write all of this? Well, actually this is the result of many, many years of listening to all this "corporate" nonsense about author's rights, copyright, piracy... It's the result o witnessing young people, good housewives, teachers, me and you being harassed by corporations, taken to court as if we're criminals, evildoers. We are legitimate customers! We're the public. Copyright doesn't exist without the public interest in mind.

The concrete motivation behind this post was the fact that I tried to BUY an audio track from a musician that I admire but due to unfair, discriminatory, xenophobic, profit-maximizing and restrictive policies enforced by record-labels and accepted by Apple I was PROHIBITED FROM BUYING IT!

Yes, you read it right! The very same lords of copyright, in their amazing wisdom, think they can increase their revenues by preventing legitimate, loyal customers like me from buying "their" goodies. They have segregated the world into areas to maximize profit, and, in violation of copyright, they are actually preventing access to content instead of promoting its widespread availability (at an affordable price). If you live in Brazil (like me) you can't buy ANYTHING in iTunes. I own an international credit card issued in Brazil, and if it was not for the Kindle for the iPhone (the phone alone costs a hefty U$ 800,00 around here) I would have nothing to read on the device unless I resorted to pirated books. I guess the U$ 240 that I spent the last month alone on Kindle books (thanks but no thanks Amazon) is not good enough for Apple, record-labels, copyright holders and ultimately authors.

Legitimate customers like me have to judiciously and consciously spent a lot of effort and go to immense extents to simply pay for the copyrighted work they want to buy. I can't see the reasoning behind this. You want to maximize profit, why do you make it difficult for people to pay you?

When the pirated product offers greater quality (did you ever saw a fan-sub anime? They are way better than any official offerings), more options, no restrictions and widespread availability then you know there is something terribly and deeply wrong with the way the "big guys" think!

Let's face it! There is no cost anymore with distribution, it's been shown that customers are more than willing to sponsor themselves the distribution of content in peer-to-peer networks. Going all-digital also offer a lot of other savings, even the cost of "pressing" physical media will be gladly accepted by customers too. The key to success lies just in following copyright's own aims: to provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public.

The Xeelee are unavailable to Latin America customers.
I can't buy mp3s from Amazon, I can't buy some Kindle books from Amazon either (the book I was most eager to buy was put off-limits to South American customers the day after I bought it, thanks, if you exist, Goodness!), I can't buy anything on iTunes, I can't watch any of my hundreds of DVDs on the PlayStation 3 (U$ 800 around here too) because my DVDs are region 4 and the PS3 is Region 1, I can't legally rip my DVD and Blu-ray collection to watch on my WD TV media player because they use (stupid) content protection that involves (lame) cryptographic mechanisms which were unconstitutionally made unlawful to counter, for the same reasons I can't play any of my DVDs and Blu-rays on my Linux box, the only way for me to watch anime is to import from Japan, paying more than five times the already expensive price, and to learn Japanese so that I can understand anything, my digital equipment costs a lot more than it should, and performs worse than it could due to bloated and costly DRM firmware, hardware and software which is required by the "industry" to be present in any high-fidelity/definition device (see The Hidden Cost of DRM, Top Ten Arguments Against DRM), nothing guarantees me that my current "protected" content will be readable and playable in future hardware and I can't transcode it to anything else that would work because it is unlawfull under the DMCA, I can't use a copyrighted soundtrack on my YouTube video showing my Boxers playing (and the sound was playing on my own stereo from an official CD)...

On the other hand I could easily download anything (and I really mean anything) for free, and almost instantly, by using the lovely µTorrent + Google combination. And it would play flawlessly on my WD TV, PS3, Linux box, DVD...

Is it too hard to see that as "they" get more and more restrictive, people are more and more willing to (sometimes even having to) resort to "piracy"?

As it stands now, piracy is more in line with copyright's original idea than its twisted version promoted by the powers that be.

Piracy is certainly wrong in many contexts, but current copyright law is nothing bu draconian and evil. This is so unreasonable.

Piracy may be the last stand of reason after all!

PS.: In case you were wondering, the tune I wanted to buy was "Rondo alla Turca (Turkish March)" by Italian drummer Andrea Vadrucci (vadrum). My Brazilian friends who cannot buy anything from iTunes, you can listen (and watch) to this tune/video for free on YouTube by clicking here. For my US readers, please, do what I couldn't, buy it on iTunes here so that Andrea can have some returning value for his creativity and amazing work (which he has been putting for free on YouTube for many years already!)

Um comentário:

Anônimo disse...

Reflexão interessante neste blogue, postagens deste modo emotivam a quem reflectir neste sítio .....
Escreve muito mais de este web site, a todos os teus seguidores.