English Discourse Site Menu:

Free Entertainment: What is it Going to Cost You?
James Dee
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
©Read the copyright notice at the bottom of this page
before reproducing this essay/webpage on paper,
or electronically, or in any other form.

Today electronic devices such as computers and DVD players have become as common a part of our lives as televisions were for our parents. Since the invention of the microchip, technology is advancing faster than ever before. When a consumer removes a state of the art piece of hardware off the store shelf, there is a better, faster, hi-tech replacement ready to take its place. Because of the sophisticated technology available today, Hollywood and other entertainment providers are having a difficult time keeping digital media secure. Mike Godwin, the author of "Hollywood vs. the Internet," addresses some of the problems faced by the entertainment industry and their ongoing struggle with the technology companies to create devices that will keep their information from being pirated. The entertainment industry, as well as software manufactures have the right to seek government protection with copyright laws and secure their information so that proper compensation can be awarded.

The entertainment industry like any other business is just that, a business. They go to work everyday to create a product that will turn a profit. They are but one part of the Content Faction. "The Content Faction includes copyright holders such as movie and TV studios, record companies, and book publishers" (Godwin 173). It just happens that their product can be easily shared and duplicated between consumers because of the sophisticated hardware available today. For anti-piracy technology to work it has to be developed at the hardware level. The Motion Picture Association created "encryption technology called content scrambling system and unfortunately quite rapidly that was hacked and was made available over the Internet" ("News Focus" 2). Above is an example of how creating software patches is not the solution and that responsibility lies within hardware equipment manufacturers. Temporary fixes will not stop a dedicated hacker who has time to spare. The solution must be permanent and start with a push from lobbyist to politicians and from politician to hardware manufactures. If hardware makers incorporate some kind of regulator in their devices, the Content Faction will be able to secure profits and continue to provide entertainment for years to come.

Hardware makers should be forced by government regulations to incorporate security features in their devices so that digital media cannot be shared for free. There is a Senator from South Carolina by the name of Ernest Hollings that is interested in the government stepping in and controlling this onslaught of theft. The legislation introduced by Hollings "dubbed the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, is designed to help content companies turn the potential peril of digital technology into profits" (Godwin 177). If this bill were approved, it would allow the government to penalize companies that created hardware that allowed illegal transfers of digital information.

One important issue that Godwin failed to address is how are the creators of digital content going to survive when piracy is becoming increasingly easier. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said that they have lost "more than $1 billion a year, tens of thousands of record industry jobs, lost royalties and a large number of artists not getting contracts"("News Focus" 2) because of the ease at which files can be shared and duplicated. With this infringement on their profits, the entertainment industry is going to have to find new ways to keep profits up. The first step will be cutting production cost and big budget movies. It would not be feasible to hire twenty million dollar actors such as Jim Carrey, and create movies on a $100 million plus movie budget. If file sharing continues at the rate it has been, the only revenue a movie studio could expect to get would be from theatre ticket sales and cable TV revenue. That alone would not be sufficient since ticket sales make up a small percentage of all revenue brought in by a movie. In the future, the only new content we can expect to get will be "B" movies and Indy films. Those alone will not sell the popcorn.

The content producing entities where taken off guard by the revolutionary technology that Napster offered in the nineties. Part of the reason that piracy has gotten out of hand is because they failed to become aware of developments in industries other than their own; specifically software and MP3's. Digital technology took everyone by storm explains Mathew Oppenheim, RIAA senior vice-president of business and legal affairs. He says "many people have complained that the record industry did not come up with a legitimate alternative soon enough to the issue of piracy" because they had to play catch up from a technological standpoint" ("News Focus" 2). In the future content producers need to take a look at themselves and the outside world to ensure they are doing their share to stay up with the times. It is partly their responsibility to seek out potential threats to their enterprise and not rely on the slow wheels of government to protect them.

The Content Faction is making some progress on their own to stop illegal file sharing. The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has started getting involved with universities and their students to teach appropriate behavior and bring awareness that copyrighted file sharing is illegal ("News Focus" 2). They believe one of the ways to fight this epidemic is to start at the root of the problem and teach people that they are breaking the law when they turn on a computer and swap movies with their friends. Another approach is to bring awareness with lawsuits and fines against individual violators. Since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed in 1998, the law that killed Napster, the RIAA has used its loose guidelines to prosecute peer-to-peer users. The DMCA law was designed to only offer protection against central server related piracy. Because of non-server technology such as Grokster and Kazaa, the RIAA is using the DMCA guidelines against P2P file sharing. In September 2003, the RIAA "issued a spate of civil lawsuits against individuals it claimed had illegally distributed substantial amounts (averaging more than 1,000 files each) of copyrighted music on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks" ("News Focus" 1). Maybe these two approaches combined with stronger governmental laws will give the makers of digital media the air they need to stay afloat until anti-piracy technology can catch up.

The DMCA is the only piece of legislation signed into law thus far that offers any kind of copyright protection. Some critics believe this is enough. Wayne Rosso, CEO of Optisoft, defends copyright infringement and peer-to-peer technology such as Grokster, Kazaa, and Morpheus. He argues, "the entertainment industries should embrace this technology and understand that it is not about copyright infringement because P2P technology contributes to copyright infringement no more or less than Xerox or VCR or Microsoft Internet Explorer" ("News Focus" 3). He believes P2P file sharing technology has many uses and benefits to society and that the RIAA fears this technology because they do not fully understand it. Rosso admits that the technology can be used to break the law and is against the RIAA strategy of pursuing individuals ("News Focus" 3). He says, "they are abusing the law. They are trampling on U.S. citizens' rights to due process and there are serious privacy issues" ("News Focus" 3). Although Rosso does have an argument, it is misguided and not in the best interest of content providers and the consumers. He quite possibly wants to get as much profit from the use of copyrighted material as possible before it is made entirely illegal by the push from the Recording Industry Association of America on politicians. Rosso is focused on short term and that is easy when one is not looking ahead to the future for our childrens benefit and ourselves. In the end, both will suffer if piracy is not eliminated.

Technology companies and the U.S. government need to get on board and protect the media industries so that they can continue to make a quality product. In the absence of help from the outside, the RIAA has attempted to control the piracy mayhem with the antiquated Digital Millennium Copyright Act. However, this does not seem to be enough. "Who is going to buy DVDs or tapes of TV shows or movies they can get for free online through peer-to-peer file sharing"(Godwin 174)? The answer is not many. The Content Factions sales would be impacted so much they may not be able to survive to the end of this decade. Mike Godwin the writer of "Hollywood vs. the Internet" believes that the consumers should be the ones asked about what they want. If it is left to the consumer, and the government is slow to step in, there may not be a Disney channel for our kids to enjoy as we did.

Works Cited

Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations. Ed. Jason Landrum. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company: 2003. 173-178.

"News Focus: Turning Piracy Into Profit." Managing Intellectual Property. London: Nov. 2003. 1-4.

Search English Discourse
WWW English Discourse

Copyright notice: this page will hereafter be referred to as the essay/webpage. All rights to the essay/webpage are held by its author. You may hyperlink to the essay/webpage electronically and without notifying either English Discourse—the e-journal or the author of the essay/webpage, but hyperlinks are allowed only for non-commercial and educational use. The essay/webpage may not otherwise be reproduced in hard-copy, electronically, or any other form, unless the written permission of its author is obtained prior to such reproductions. If you do link to the essay/webpage, part of the text in the hyperlink must contain the words "English Discourse—the e-journal".

You may quote from the essay/webpage, but only if the author and English Discourse—the e-journal are unmistakably cited in parenthetical citations and works cited page, endnotes, footnotes, bibliography page, or references page citations.

You may not otherwise copy or transmit the contents of the essay/webpage either electronically or in hard copies. You may not alter the content of the essay/webpage in any manner. If you are interested in using the contents of the essay/webpage in any manner except as described above, please contact "webmaster" at "englishdiscourse.org" for information on publishing rights, and the editor will arrange contact between your organization and the author of the essay/webpage. English Discourse—the e-journal, suggests that such emails should include a subject heading that reads "editorial contact," or "publishing rights." English Discourse—the e-journal will not act as an agent or accept any fees. The essay/webpage is the intellectual property of its author, who retains sole rights. The author has merely granted permission for English Discourse—the e-journal to publish the essay/webpage.