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Piracy Today: Restrictions on Computers
Ellen Fultz
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Piracy happens often; people illegally download music, share movie files, and obtain works for free without giving the artists their rightful compensation. The proposal on how to handle the piracy situation, which Mike Godwin addresses in his work "Hollywood vs. The Internet," is either to restrict computer uses or not. Because of the legislative acts protecting the rights of the companies, restrictions on computers are not needed. Industries disturbed by this new type of theft should think of more creative solutions to catch the advanced stealing by policing the Internet better and campaigning for higher morals instead of downgrading the phenomenon of the 21st century. Even though this theft is a problem, it does not need to monopolize attention, which eventually exaggerates the effects of piracy

Two factions compose the business world: the content faction and the tech faction. The content faction tries to protect the producers of goods; this faction labels the general public as consumers. The tech faction is technologically based; they refer to society as users. The content faction would like to make piracy impossible, where as the tech faction settles for the status quo. The content faction believes that every act of piracy should be noted and ticketed. To elaborate this point, the content faction would presumably want to fine a driver every time the vehicle surpasses the speed limit. People are accountable for their wrong-doings, but it is not viable to catch every crime committed. The content faction wants to downgrade computers in order annihilate all means of this offense, or in the car analogy, manufacture an automobile incapable of speeding. Godwin comments that manipulating a product that was a versatile tool into a "special-purpose appliance" is difficult for society because they have "to adjust to the idea of building in limitation" (178). The fair compromise is to make consequences when caught with some limited capabilities of a computer that exist now. The content faction complains that the problem of piracy has not completely been stopped; a better solution to the problem for companies to know that piracy may occur, but police the waves better. Consumers should understand that they may be caught and will have to suffer the consequences, such as a fine or lawsuit.

Another part to take into consideration is weighing out how powerful the crime is. Although stealing obviously is not acceptable, it should not be taken as seriously as other crimes. Piracy, when balanced among other crimes, does not seem as important such as battery or murder. People should have a moral obligation to not commit piracy but also have the right not be punished to the fullest extent imaginable. Taking away functions of a computer would only worsen the debate instead of calm it. The content faction "talk[s] about the problems pose[d] by computers, digital technology, and the Internet in apocalyptic terms" (Godwin 175). Piracy is a problem; it is a new form of stealing, but it will not bring Armageddon; the degree of the crime is too small. Only a slight, but significant increase in policing the Internet is needed to help resolve the piracy problem. Raising the awareness of policing, users will also deter from pirating without change in the entire interface of a computer, or other means of drastic measures.

Adding to higher policing of pirating is for the industries affected to merge and push for higher moral standards from the consumers. People should be deterred from downloading illegal items; they should be self-conscience of what they are doing. There seems to be a lack of concern for the people affected by the stealing of today and that is due partially from lack of communication between the two bodies: the general public and the business world. People pirating movies, music, and software are not concerned with the multi-millionaires who create those works. A man who calls himself Frankie, from Grillo's article "Pirates Sail the Virtual Seas," states, "I don't think Bill Gates will miss the money. He's loaded." (29). Grillo makes his point by saying, "The public holds the key. They can choose if piracy lives on or not… People need to develop a greater civic conscience" (30). The consumers may possibly rethink, what they would call, sharing if they were juxtaposed with the artists lives and their percentage of income they were losing. Extreme changes are going to have to be made to open the minds of the penny-pinching pirates to change them into apathetic enthusiast willing to understand what is not rightfully their property. If the companies would like to see a change in their profit lost, an increased conscience is certainly useful. Taking away computers functions is overkill, but making a consumer realize the damage they are creating would halt some of the downloading.

Some advancements have been made toward an increase in the civic conscience. A creative solution will calm the "companies that have had to adjust their revenue to account for goods being held up on he highways or pinched off" (Grillo 27). Companies have begun to give prizes of free downloads to those who win contests. Macintosh Computers have a program named iTunes also linked to an online music store. The iTunes program lets the public save songs on their computer, create playlists, and share music with others on the same network. Users can purchase a song online to go into their iTunes folder for a reasonable price of 99 cents per song to compensate the artists. Agreements between companies and iTunes make it capable for users to win one free download. This ingenious idea not only is the start to solving the problem, but it provides a way to spread the use of tool that compromises the two worlds together. People may download the songs they wish to download instead of buying several unwanted songs on a compact disk, for example. When a person wins a free download for a song, they may then go into the cyber world and discover the opportunity that a program like iTunes offers. To spread the use of iTunes would solve the problem by adding moral conscious to society in a more subtle way, as well as compensate the ones who rightfully deserve it without taking away from computer functions.

iTunes fits perfectly to the social improvement. The program gives the user freedom but its restricted powers. For example, "…the number of time a user can burn the same playlist to a CD is being reduced from 10 to seven" (Garrity 5). Even though there is a reduction of how many times a CD may be copied by a user, the restriction is not one great enough to upset the user yet gives more power to the producer. The Apple Computer, Inc. is a company that is slowly revolutionizing the music industry. They understand that the change will not happen overnight. They also realize that the public's view of downloading music needs to slowly change, but not be coerced. Some, like Motion Pictures Association's Guerra, think that "piracy is not an animal that will die if you cut its head off. It is more like a primitive worm that will be killed only if all of its parts are crushed" (Grillo 28) Apple Computers think similarly, but "crushing all the parts" will take time along with a gradual process. The answer to Godwin's question of what will happen to computers is simple: nothing. Nothing is wrong with the instrument. The corruption lies within the hands of the Internet and the people. iTunes is trying to fix the problem and being successful at doing so.

The issue is not whether piracy is moral or not, but how to curb the opinions of those who do commit the felony and how to handle their punishment. Society is already warned by legislative acts that exist now for artists' protection. Changing the capability of the computer to being extraordinarily limited is neither necessary nor wanted by the general public. Laws can be enforced with more efficiency and steps can be taken to prevent further deter piracy. Piracy will still happen as well as regular theft does in the tangible world. The main objective should be to realize that the overall aftershock is not significant enough to try and change such a powerful gift bestowed upon this generation. The problem should be solved with minimal restrictions, but enforcing the limitations now. Increasing the awareness is also vital to protecting ones rightful compensation. The awareness can come through company-endorsed advertisements, news stories, involvement to promote iTunes, and several other creative ideas. A cultural revolution is not needed, just an eye-opening experience for the pirates.

Works Cited

Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations. Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, and Constance Squires. Dubuque, IA: Kendall / Hunt, 2003. 98-102.

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