December 03, 2011

Stephen Colbert on SOPA

The Colbert Report devoted two segments to SOPA (which I wrote about on Friday) and its potential effects on internet.


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It was proven that the music industry did NOT lose revenue due to piracy. Piracy INCREASED revenue because people could hear the music and decide if they want to pay for it. The only place where computers cost the record industry money was lower album sales: because people can buy only singles on MP3, they're not forced to buy albums of filler. People ARE honest, despite what corporations would like everyone to believe (read: falsely accuse people of).
"What is possible to find is proof that the RIAA statements about actual monies lost and downloads are worthless. To say there’s been a lot of spin is understating the case; for example, in 2003, when the music industry was still making over $10 billion on album sales, they tried to pass off shipping fewer units as a loss. It’s widely accepted that the RIAA and the MPAA cannot be trusted for anything resembling accurate statistics on piracy or losses — not that this prevents them from making things up."

The same is true of movies and TV. People are NOT thieves, and the corpulent corporations are making up numbers. What is the biggest reason people download movies? Is it to "steal them"? No. People download to preview them. Movie trailers are dishonest and far too short. They no longer show what the movie is about, and quite often, they're false advertising, dolled-up ads made to trick and lure unsuspecting people into watching crap. People download movies so they can watch 10-20 minutes of it, then decide if it's worth seeing at the theatre or paying for on DVD. If the movie industry ever managed to ban all downloads, people would watch fewer movies, not more.

These greedy corporations should take a good look at computer industry concepts such as shareware (or demoware) and abandonware. Many software companies have freely distributed crippled, partial or demo versions of programs with the full version for sale. Once people see how good the program is, they buy it in huge numbers. It's been true since Id Software did it with DOOM, and it continues today with games like Angry Birds.

Abandonware is a concept where outdated software (several generations old, and no longer distributed or supported by its makers) is distributed for free. Some companies willingly take part for the good of all people, while others are such greedy bastards they wouldn't lift a finger to save their own mother, leaving taxpayers pay to save her. For example, Borland made their Turbo programming languages (DOS) free to download, while Microsoft won't even let their 25 year old DOS software be distributed, and would sue anyone who did.

My biggest annoyance with these media corporations is their hypocrisy and greed. They have repeatedly lobbied to have copyrights extended to "protect intellectual property", yet many works produced by movie studios and record companies should be in the public domain by now - everything made or recorded prior to 1961. If they could bribe politicians into making copyrights last in perpetuity, they would.

Worse still, such companies have often profited from works in the public domain. Disney made many movies based on stories for which the copyright had expired (e.g. Cinderella, Hans Christian Anderson stories) without paying a dime in royalties. If today's copyright laws existed when Disney made those movies, they would owe many writers' estates hundreds of millions in overdue royalties.

I say, screw 'em. I obey copyright laws as they existed for centuries (50 years) or the length at the time the work was created. Anything that's older than that is fair game for free distribution, as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't sell such material, but I have no qualms about distributing it. The public should be free to repackage and sell "Steamboat Willie" (1928) for a profit, just as Disney used others' works to make money.

Ahem. Excuse me for the length of that.

Posted by P Smith on December 4, 2011 06:42 AM

Thanks, P Smith.

That was very informative. I was not aware of a lot of the material you provided.

Posted by Mano on December 4, 2011 08:13 AM

If they could bribe politicians into making copyrights last in perpetuity, they would.

That's effectively what happens with retroactive copyright extensions, which is why I think of retroactive extensions as unconstitutional. Steamboat Willie has become the event horizon of copyright.

Posted by Paul Jarc on December 5, 2011 12:42 PM