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Solving the Piracy Problem:
A Tale of Two Factions
Josey Elliott
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Online piracy was once thought to become a thing of the past. After Napster was targeted by recording artists and numerous lawsuits were filed, many people believed that illegally downloading files would disappear. Instead, this problem has evolved into the piracy of document, game, and video files. In "Hollywood vs. the Internet," Mike Godwin explains how many people in the recording studios of movies and television are discovering that the file sharing of digital videos is becoming increasingly problematic. The author focuses on how these companies will have to find new ways to protect their products. Godwin brought attention to the conflict between the studio companies and the technology industries. Digital Rights Management would prohibit file sharing but anger many entertainment technology consumers by doing so. The two factions are Content and Technology. The Content faction consists of those people and companies who own the copyrights, while the Technology faction is comprised of the people and companies that are the leaders in the advancement of software and technology. These factions need to re-evaluate their options, find a middle ground, and look to another source to discover a result that will equally distribute the positives and negatives to each faction. An equal-ground solution must be found.

Since it is predicted that sharing video files will become mainstream, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and many other communication administrations have been searching for ways to prevent piracy. A conflict of which group should be affected has started between the Technology Faction and the Content Faction. According to Godwin, the Digital Rights Management (DRM) would involve "features that prevent copyright infringement" (175). This means that a person could not attempt to download streaming video, and there would not be technology available to be able to perform the tasks needed to play the video. Companies like Sony, Dell, RealOne Player, and Roxio could not legally sell software that lets the person use it for entertainment purposes. Enforcing the DRM plan would put some of these companies out of business. Many artists believe that they will lose profits and have, consequently, supported the DRM products. Plans to solve this problem have already been set by some corporations. Microsoft announced that it has arrangements to make products that will be digital rights management-friendly. Although it is a good idea, this could crush the Tech faction and could also lead to computer users' resentment.

A reason why the FCC is protested against is how the group does not take into consideration the affected artists, whether they are directors, writers, or actors. Godwin states that these people rely on some forms of pirating to make them established stars in their field (176). Like many recording artists, theatrical entertainers can count on these Internet sources to help their image. Joe Morgenstern states that ending online piracy could "suffocate independent films" (2). Morgenstern also says that "there'll be no time…for Academy voters to see 'American Splendor,' 'Winged Migration' or 'Whale Rider,' to name but three of the many superb films that lack the budgets to promote themselves. And so the elephantiasis that afflicts the movie business will proceed apace, as the most heavily marketed films - though often the least interesting ones - lumber toward Oscar glory" (2). Many movies would never be screened for the Academy Awards because these films lacked money. Many of the larger box-office filmmakers argue with the independent filmmakers and say that since the file sharing decreases the amount of profits, many film contributors (set designers, make-up artists, film grips, et cetera) are being negatively affected. The group loses their paychecks, while many people who download believe that it is only the movie producers who are affected. A person could disagree with this in stating that many of the behind-the-scenes contributors are not paid based on the profit of the movie, but instead are paid at an hourly rate by the studios they work for. Since the types and groups of people that make up a film's contributors vary in so many ways, the focus should be more on them, instead of the large corporations.

Godwin explains how the two separate factions describe their customers. While the Content companies call their customers "consumers," they call the customer of technology industries "users." This shows how the studio companies feel about such pirating. Since the content industry uses the term "consumers," it can say that they control access to what their customers take, and allows them to control theft (177). It actually suggests that when the content faction states that the technology customers are "users," the people are doing things that are wrong. The Tech Faction uses the term "users" as a way to show that people are using the technology made available to them. Since neither the Content Faction nor the Tech Faction can agree to see their customers as both a consumer and a user, they will not find a way to stop the piracy.

Many people would like to know how to stop file-sharing. The Content Faction and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have chosen to sue those that have downloaded streaming audio. This cannot work because the RIAA is not in charge of people from Canada, Great Britain, or Australia. In "Online Piracy of Recorded Music" the authors declare, "Having the right to sue an offshore entity in a country where the legal protection lags behind that in the EU [European Union] may not be an attractive option" (Alcock et al. 131). A certain country may not have a punishment for online piracy, while another country does. The phrase Association of America states that the group cannot patrol the entire world, just the United States. The group, whether it is the RIAA or the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), should make it clearer that it does have ways to prosecute people from other countries. While punishment is an obvious way to stop file sharing, it is not a clear-cut way to solve the problem, since many people will never be caught. A piracy-trafficking program could be planned out in order to find those that illegally download. Since Internet users have their own dial-up or network address, they can be easily found. With this information, online piracy would be slowed down by catching those that are downloading software in order to illegally download or by trafficking each file that is downloaded. Piracy trafficking would be a way to catch all who download files illegally and would lead to a more fair punishment system.

The Content Faction has tried alternative methods to stop the peer-to-peer file sharing. In 2003, the RIAA sued the companies providing the peer-to-peer services, saying that they were liable for the growing problem. Since the companies do not put the digital products on the site themselves, the Los Angeles federal court ruled that the companies were, in fact, not liable for online piracy (Alcock et al. 131). The sites, though, are primarily used for swapping copyrighted files, so the companies that own the peer-to-peer software are an extremely large factor. Without this software, the copyrighted material would not be shared at all. The Tech Faction would be relieved in that they would no longer be urged to take a step backwards in the advancements of computer technology. Taking the software away from customers would hurt neither the Content Faction nor the Tech Faction and would stop online piracy altogether.

Since, it is clear that the Content Faction and the Tech Faction cannot see eye-to-eye, there should be an alternative solution. The one group of people that should be responsible for the piracy of digital products is the company that controls each film, recording artist, or document. The official corporation which controls each, whether it is Universal Studios, Columbia Records, or McGraw Hill Publishing, should make it where the product cannot be counterfeited. Each can either place its own watermarks (All companies would use the same type of watermark, it would just be their choice to put in on the product or not.) on the product or each can sell the digital product online through their own website. Godwin explains that "the watermark would contain information telling home entertainment systems whether to allow copying and, if so, how much" (174). Computer scientist Edward Felton says that the watermark would be easy to remove and would not be a major obstacle (Godwin 174). The best option would then be to make individual websites in order to buy movies online and download them. Many examples of a website would not be like iTunes or Napster; instead, products would be sold through the specific corporation (e.g. Sony Pictures Studio and Columbia-TriStar websites). Boosting Internet sales could involve "additional bonus material…to those who purchase from official websites, thus giving added value and encouraging fans to pay for a download rather than obtain it without paying" (Alcock et al. 132). The best alternative would be found by creating a newer, more improved way to download the product by an Internet Faction, thus making it easier to distract people from the almighty file-sharing companies. A solution found by the product's company rather than the Content or Tech Faction would be the superlative answer to piracy.

The conflict between the content and technology industries can not be resolved through new government mandated technology. Doing so would lead to the angering of technology customers and possibly the boycotting of such technology. Rather than sacrificing one or the other's rights, alternative methods must be preached by the two factions in order to find a common ground that suits each. This common ground must be reached by more innovative ideas that can be found in piracy trafficking and in creating a new faction, the Internet Faction.

Works Cited

Alcock, Lucy., et al. "Online Piracy of Recorded Music." The Journal of Brand Management 11.2 (2003): 129-132.

Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations An Anthology for Reading, Writing, and Research. Landrum, Jason, Matthew Wynn Sivils, and Constance Squires, eds. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 2003. 173-78.

Morgenstern, Joe. "LEISURE & ARTS - In the Fray: Response to Digital Piracy Could Sink Indie Filmmakers." The Wall Street Journal. 8 Oct. 2003: 1-2. Proquest Direct. Oklahoma State University Library. Article 420282031.

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