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April Ann Gustafson
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Internet Piracy, the downloading of electronic media with the intent to copy or share with other users, has America along with the rest of the World struggling to protect their copyrights. As development of technology increases, students, adults, and all users are learning to take advantage of the various options for downloading and copying music. Over the past decade the Internet has become a daily medium for information transfer, so logically, people have found a way to trade other things beside letters and documents. Internet sites that allow users to trade media; music, video, software with other users have become overwhelmingly popular. These sites are called peer to peer downloading and are illegal by copyright standards. The majority of the media that is being shared is copyrighted material, and as the creators receive no credit or profit from the copyright they lose money. Universities have taken extra action due to many lawsuits filed upon students and a fear the lawsuits could be aimed at them as well. The Industry has been working to toughen firewalls, a security wall that does not allow access to specific sites and material, and scare more users off by picking out specific students and fining them up to $150,000 per pirated song (Galuszka 24-25). As technology gets better, downloading time speeds up, and users increase. An agreement should be reached between copyrights, producers, manufacturers, downloading sites, and users that will allow a measurable use of copyrighted material to be downloaded and viewed at home. Internet Piracy has sky rocketed over the last few years by technological devices and Internet trade. The crackdown of the Internet market will not be necessary once an agreement is met that will benefit all factions surrounding copyrights.
Hollywood along with the rest of the media-producing industry are seeking help from technological devices to control or stop people from pirating their materials. Godwin states that, "At some date in the near future, perhaps as early as 2010, people may no longer be able to do the kinds of things they routinely do with their digital tools today" (173). The industries' goal is implementing new hardware that will be smart enough to detect whether the software is a copy or the genuine version. A new device that monitors and detects specific coding will not only require new hardware but a detection device built into the media itself. A special bar code would have to be attached to each media form that is standard so all bar codes match up with all detecting devices. As media quality and quantity is increasing most videos, music and software will be available without players and specific programs. Galuszka explains, "When digital television reaches its peak, high-quality movies and programs will be transmitted via the Internet and downloaded on computers" (27). Technology is advancing so quickly that it would be hard to introduce a newer model of players when home equipment can do all the work for users. The device, the media industry is seeking will only be successful if law enforces the decoding device in all systems, and it is the only option for playing or using that media. As the crackdown continues new devices will be added to the market but one that will sell will be user friendly and still allow the old videos and media to be played as well.
The Internet has been a great source for trade and downloading of multiple forms of media and information over the vast cyberspace. Godwin makes clear that, "Because computers are potentially very efficient copying machines, and because the Internet is potentially a very efficient distribution mechanism, the Content Faction has set out to restructure the digital world" (175). The Content Faction, copyright holders, are the ones making money off the copyrights and their goal is to stop the breaking of copyrights by piracy. This all means that the Internet has become an easily accessible medium of transfer like postal mail or a shopping center. Many people in America have access to the Internet and understand the minimal skills required to download and transfer media across it. Although copyrights need protecting, free access to most sources at a mutual agreement would be feasible, as opposed to suing every person in the nation with a computer and some form of pirated material.
Universities are beginning to find out that they can make money off the new technological downloading spree. Penn State has launched a deal with Napster, well known peer to peer downloading site, that allows students with on campus Internet connections to download the music at no up front cost. "Students can use university lines to accrue a half million song titles. The cost is folded into our IT budget" (Galuszka 27), said the Penn State Spokesperson. Universities are paying for this service by fees to the technology departments paid by the students. Students get to use the service, and Napster hopes that continual use will increase the students' use of their service after graduation. After students are done with school or move off the campus it allows Napster to offer the same service but receive a monthly fee of $9.99 to have access to their site (Galuszka 27). This is a great example of groups opening up and working together, the music is being paid for and each side is getting something back. Matthew Gerson at Vivendi University adds, "We know that if we build a safe consumer-friendly site that has all the bells and whistles and features that music fans want, it will flourish." Gerson went on to say that the fee would be paid by the users and would still establish new stars and promote new voices year after year (Godwin 176). This website would be accessed through the Internet, so it would not be necessary to create new devices. This new website or downloading site could become as normal as going to buy a CD at the store, it would become another type of media player. A National Service agreement could be created with downloading sites and Internet service providers that is calculated into the users' monthly bill or an added feature of their network.
Another group that is in support of limited control is the Tech Faction. Godwin writes: "The Tech Faction believes people should be able to do whatever they want with their digital tools, except to the extent that copyrighted works are walled off by DRM" (178). DRM, (Digital Rights Management) are the ones who attempt to prevent copyright infringement, and are pressing for more crackdowns. Galuszka reports "A new nationwide phone survey of 1,358 Internet users from Nov. 18-Dec. 14 by Pew Internet and American Life Projects shows the percentage of online Americans downloading music files on the Internet has dropped by half the numbers who are downloading files on any given day have plunged since the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) began filing suits in September against those suspected of copyright infringement" (26). The numbers have been dropping quickly because people are beginning to fear large lawsuits and copyright infringement charges going on their permanent records. Many organizations and factions are trying to slow and stop the illegal downloads, and it appears their hard work is paying off. These numbers will continue to drop if the organizations and factions stay attentive to the constant downloading spree. The decrease could also be made without lawsuits if a reasonable agreement is met with the copyright industry and downloading sites. Universities are setting a good example of cooperation and DRM should look into a more agreeable way of slowing piracy than the attack and fining of individual users.
Hollywood and other media industries fear their consumers downloading and breaking copyrights because if the consumer can get the material for free then the industry will no longer have the profits associated with that media. Americans cut corners to speed things up or just lessen the cost, and new technology has helped to assist in this goal. Although copyrights need to be protected there has to be a better way than the attempt to have total control by producers, directors, studios, etc by charging individuals with enormous fines that everyday citizens can not afford. Deals like the ones being made between Universities Internet Technology services and peer to peer downloading sites are great models and could be adopted nationally. Godwin explains "If you see people as consumers, you control access to what you offer, and you do everything you can to prevent theft [. . .]. But if you see people as users, you want to give them more features and power at cheaper prices" (178). A National bill would have to outline the specifications of a new site that has made a deal between National Internet Providers and Industry leaders allowing for media downloads. The bill would also outline the amount of access and fees to be paid by each member. This bill would clarify any uses of the website and as long as they were followed law enforcement could no longer prosecute users. A compromise has to be met between copyright enforcers, industry producers, artists and users or the media industry as a whole could be in jeopardy.
Galuszka, Peter. "The War over Internet Piracy." Black Issues in Higher Education 21.2 (2004): 24-27.
Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations. Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, Constance Squires. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 2003. 172-78.
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