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The Mistake of Digital Restrictions:
When it Comes to the Internet
Renata Carson
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Downloading of entertainment such as movies and music are a common pastime in the United States. The Entertainment Industry is losing money while the Technology Industry is profiting. Mike Godwin's "Hollywood vs. Internet" goes into detail about the Content Faction and Technological Faction concerning the conflict of downloadable entertainment. He also informs us how the government may try to step in. Putting restrictions on digital entertainment, such as computers, would not solve the problem of the Entertainment Industry losing money because the downloading and sharing of entertainment files is not the major reason for low sales in entertainment. Another possible reason that has not been mentioned is the Content Faction's lack of true entertaining content, which would leave their audience wanting more. A person does not want to waste their money watching a movie that was so bad it would be on HBO or in video rental stores within a month of its release. Because of other reasons like that restrictions on computers would not help make up the difference in the low entertainment sales.

The Hollings Bill was drafted to be a solution and compromise for the Content and Technological Factions. The Content Faction is the entertainment industry, which includes the music and movie industries, and the Technological Faction is the digital hardware industry, which includes manufacturers of computers, DVD players, and Internet access tools (Godwin 173). Supporters of this bill, which would mainly be the Content Faction, feel that investing more in Broadband Internet with the right digital restrictions will make the Content Faction "offer more compelling online content…" (Godwin 177) to their audiences. Broadband Internet is high speed Internet access that would give faster and better quality to graphics, sounds, animations, and videos (Goldsborough 36). The Technology Faction does not see how their Technology Market will benefit from the Hollings Bill. They feel that the restrictions imposed on their technology will keep consumers from buying their products. Godwin states, "If computers and software start shipping in a hamstrung form, mandated by the government, I'll quit buying new equipment. Why trade in last year's feature-rich laptop for a new one that, while faster, has fewer capabilities" (78)? The old digital systems put "power into ordinary peoples' hand" (Godwin 178) which is why the Technology Industry has been making money. The proposed future technology would take the power away from the individuals, who would then in turn stop buying the restricted technology, and take the money away from the Technology Industry. From what Godwin said, the Content Faction would still be at a loss because consumers will keep their old digital systems. The only change that would occur is that the Technology industry would take a loss along with the Entertainment Industry.

Some entertainers who are considered part of the content faction have found ways to profit from the bootleggers and pirates of the Internet. Some musicians' fame and notoriety have come from the successful distribution of their songs over the Internet. In return for having their songs listened to over the Internet their concert sales have gone up, and amazingly enough their record sales were phenomenal when their albums were released. One artist who capitalized off of the Internet bootleggers was Fifty Cent. He actually encouraged people to download his music. This type of promoting is called street promoting. He was so sure that once people heard his songs that they would want the real CD, which many consumers did. He even released a bonus documentary prior to his album release which made him even more money. His album "Get Rich or Die Trying" debuted at number one on the Billboard Album Charts and sold over 872,000 units the first four days it was released (Bobo).Without the Internet he, like other artists, would not have been able to reach the wide range and variety of people that like his music. The Entertainment Industry does not need the Hollings bill to profit within this downloadable era. They need real talented individuals like 50 Cent. Without the Internet many artists would not have profited at all by the time their albums were released.

The vice president of public policy for Universal claims that "… if we build a safe, consumer-friendly site that has all the…features that music fans want, it will flourish," Mathew Gerson goes on to say "…fans will have no trouble paying for the music that they love and compensating the artists who bring it to them-established stars as well as the new voices the labels introduce year after year" (Godwin 176). Universal is a major recording company, and in the world of entertainment politics some radio stations will only play the big named recording companies' artists. This leaves a lot of talented individuals left out. These individuals either do not live in the surrounding areas of these big companies or they do not have the money to move to where the big companies are. The poor location of some potential artists may seem trivial, but in the Entertainment Industry being in the right place at the right time is just the edge some people need to make it to the top.

In Houston, Texas a lot of hip hop artists who were considered underground entertainment, are coming to light and getting record deals with major record labels. Underground entertainment can best be illustrated through mixed tapes, which is a compilation of artist that get together and start rhyming on different beats and tracks. Mix tapes are considered street promoting too. In Houston there is an event called the Kappa Beach Party where a lot of the Houston based rappers get their inspiration for rhymes on mix tapes. The Beach Party is an event where mostly young black adults to go have fun in Galveston, Texas and indulge in, sex, flashy automobiles and a codeine based drug called "Syrup" (Sanneh 2.28). Artists such as Slim Thug, Paul Wall, and, the public's favorite right now, Lil Flip are getting these breaks due to promoting their work through the peer to peer file sharing of their music on the Internet (Sherman A26). Columbia and Sony Urban would have never known who Lil Flip was or to what magnitude his lyrics and persona could do for them if the masses had not heard him over the Internet. After signing with Columbia records his hit single "This is the Way We Ball" sold over a Million copies which was followed by his second album "You Gotta Feel Me," which debuted at number four on the Billboards Album chart (Sherman A26). If more restrictions are put on technology other potential breakout artists may never get the chance Lil Flip got. This also means that the recording companies and content faction in general will just have to find something else to blame for their low sales because when one analyzes the preceding statements the audience had to have already listened to Lil Flip's album before they purchased it. These people still decided to purchase the album because of the content and quality of his entertaining rhymes. The other well established entertainers may have had a successful album one year and a not so successful one the next due to the content of their album. Artists and entertainers need to realize that just because a person had a really good year with their songs does not mean that they automatically get to repeat the success without putting in the effort. Sharing of files on the Internet keeps audiences from making a bad buy on an album.

Of course there are copyright issues that can make downloading music illegal. This is what already established musicians and actors are trying to get the public to understand and see. It is illegal to copy and sell other artists' creations without their consent. Because bootleggers do not get artists' consent, they can sell the artists' albums cheaper without having to worry about charging more for the artists' royalty fees, which is why bootlegging, is illegal. The artist should be recognized and paid if their music is sold for a profit. Not all downloading of music is for a profit. Some people just like to listen to music and share the music. Since sharing files is not the same thing as selling files the entertainment industry has a hard time winning in the courtroom against file sharing sites like Morpheus because those sites "…do not have the ability to monitor or control how users of their software exchange files" (Ritchel C1). So if one thinks about it, it is like sitting at home listening to the radio and recording on to tape the songs that the disc jockey on the air is playing. There is no harm in that either. If the entertainment people do not see any harm in listening to a song that is taped off the radio then they should not care about a song that was shared on the Internet because if the audience can not get it one way they will get it the other, and the content faction would still be at a loss.

Putting restrictions on digital entertainment would be a harmful thing to do for both the Technology and Content factions. The Content factions would not gain anymore profits than they already have now with people downloading their entertainment, and the tech faction would loose money and rights if bills like the Hollings bill were to pass. The Content faction should be looking internally for the reason for their poor sales, and fix those components first. The products that the technology faction produces should not be blamed and therefore should not be restricted.

Works Cited

Bobo, Vincent J. II. "50 Cent Sells 872,000; Breaks records." VSX. 13 February 2003 . Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, Constance Squires. Kendall/Hunt: Iowa, 2003. 173-178.

Goldsborough, Reid. "The Latest in Broadband Internet Access." Black Issues in Higher Education 2 August 2001: vol. 18, Iss12 pg 36. ProQuest. Oklahoma state University lib. 20, September 2004 <http://gateway.proquest.com/>.

Ritchel, Matt. "File-Sharing Sites Found Not Liable For Infringement" The New York Times 20 August 2004, late ed.,: C1.

Sanneh, Kelefa. "The Woozy, Syrupy Sound of Codeine Rap." The New York Times 18 April 2004, late ed.,: 2.28.

Sherman, Cary. Letter. The New York Times 17 September 2004:A26.

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