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A Fight Against Copyright Piracy
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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The digital age has become an increasingly important aspect in every day life. Digital technology continues to develop new ideas that would keep users from pirating copyrighted material. In "Hollywood vs. the Internet," Mike Godwin discusses what works and what does not work in the development of materials that would prevent digital theft. People in Hollywood find it alarming that more users are copying material rather than going to the stores to purchase the entertainment. If there are encrypted codes installed on devices such as CDs and DVDs, then it is more likely to upset consumers, and the purchase of these items will decrease. Mandated controls would have a negative effect on the economy and the usage of digital technology.
There are two factions in the digital age, the Content Faction and the Tech Faction. The Content Faction focuses on what consumers want and the Tech Faction focuses on what the users would like to see. "If you see people as consumers, you control access to what you offer, and you do everything you can to prevent theft" (Godwin 178). By and large, "if you see people as users, you want to give them more features and power at cheaper prices" (Godwin 178). The difference here between consumers and users is a large issue that must be faced when solving the problem of piracy. When users are purchasing items such as computers they want the one that has the most features and capabilities. When people start building in limitations, users are likely to stop purchasing because it begins to take away aspects that were featured in previous models. If this happens, then the demand for newer technology will decrease.
A way in which people want to stop the piracy is by mandating that all merchandise be designed with an invisible watermark. This would be invisible to viewers but capable of being read by home entertainment systems. However, it would be easy for people to remove the watermark. Therefore something else would have to be added. "Which is why components of new home entertainment systems probably would have to be designed not to play unwatermarked content" (Godwin 174). It is not only in home entertainment systems that mandating protections is becoming increasingly useful. The personal computer is the most popular tool used by people because of its highly digital capabilities. Michael Eisner, Disney CEO, said "just as computers make it possible to create remarkably pristine images, they also make it possible to make remarkably pristine copies" (Godwin 175). What Eisner means is that as the digital age continues to develop, the more ability the users have to copy information from the computer and rebroadcast those images online.
There is a phenomenon that continues to sweep across the nations; electronic mail. When sending items through e-mail on the Internet, anything is possible. Any sort of file, seemingly, can be sent. When babies are born their parents can send pictures through e-mail to other family members. Letters, instead of taking two or three days through the postal service, can be received with the click of a button. If mandated controls are applied to digital technology, these simple pleasures will no longer be simple. Godwin says "in this war over the future shape of digital technology, it is computer users who may suffer the collateral damage" (Godwin 173). Computers run our economy, from the purchasing power consumers have on computers to the exchanges of stocks on Wall Street. Our economy is based on computer usage. Limiting these uses would limit the power the economy has.
Other than the computer industry, the music industry is also fighting a war on piracy. After Shawn Fanning created Napster, MP3 file sharing software, college students and the like began to share music that at one time would cost them twenty dollars to own. With this came a slew of other programs such as KaZaa, Morpheus, and Ares. Since 2000 "unit shipments of recorded music have fallen 31 percent and revenues are down by 22 percent from $6.2 billion in 2000 to $4.8 billion in 2003" (Wade 12). Downturns such as this in one of the largest money-making industries will eventually begin to affect the money trade in the economy. However, this does not mean that there should be mandated controls on digital technology, just that the music industry itself should work to prevent p2p programs from operating.
Ways in which the music industry is working on preventing file sharing is by joining forces with certain universities. Statistically it is college students who download a majority of free material from the Internet. This is because "with high-speed network connections and students that have plenty of free time but not much cash, college quickly became breeding grounds for music piracy" (Wade 13). However, the music industry has developed the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Companies. "This will aide school administrators by supplying them with educational resources on the problem, technological solutions and collaboration on legislative initiatives" (Wade 13). With programs such as these, mandated controls on all digital technology are not necessary.
RIAA President Cary Sherman says "we simply cannot allow online piracy to continue destroying the livelihoods of artists, musicians, songwriters, retailers and everyone in the music industry" (qtd. in Wade 12). Therefore the RIAA has begun a grassroots approach on educating the public about the damage that pirating is causing to the music industry. Initially when doing so, the campaign focused mainly on the idea that file sharing was wrong and that it needed to cease as soon as possibly. However, the new argument that is being developed is that file sharing is lawfully wrong, and abusers should be prosecuted. Although this seems like a logical tactic, it has no effect on users. "We've been telling people for a long time" Sherman says "that file sharing copyrighted music is illegal, that you are not anonymous when you do it and that engaging in it can have real consequences" (qtd. in Wade 12). Unfortunately for the RIAA and the music industry, their campaign has received no positive results. What would be best for the RIAA is to drop their campaign, because it is wasting income.
There may be one solution that would appease the industries bothered by pirating. That would be to take away high speed internet. Today's society runs at an incredibly fast pace. This means that the initial dial-up connection is virtually extinct. Most computers are run on a large area network, whether it is DSL, Cable, or T-1, they are all connected through a network card. If people would be willing to run on a basic connection they would be less likely to download free material. This is because the connection speed is not as quick as the network connection speed. "Before cable and DSL Internet connections became more readily available in recent years, it was still unreliable and time-consuming to pirate music in the average household" (Wade 13). However, if this were to happen then companies such as Yahoo! and the cable Internet providers would begin to lose money. So in essence, it is no longer the users stealing from the consumers, but the consumers stealing from the producers.
Although there are many people who are infuriated by the copying of copyrighted material, there are still main players in Hollywood that feel mandating protections is an "abysmally stupid" (qtd. in Goldwin) idea. When companies start to build limitations into things that are not supposed to have limitations, then that begins to undermine capabilities that they initially should have. This is what Godwin is talking about in "Hollywood vs. the Internet." When people take away power from consumers then that takes away their purchasing power. This means that demand on merchandise goes down and supply goes up. However, the same is true when people are no longer purchasing their entertainment of choice but rather copying it from the Internet. The economy loses either way. Therefore it would be a waste of money installing new technology into the old technology if it is just going to cause the same problem.
Preventing all file sharing is virtually impossible. There are many ideas and theories that have been tested. However, none of them will ever truly put an end to the copying of copyrighted material. This is because as technology continues to develop, social ideas continue to develop. What is in the best interest of everyone is to continue allowing users to do what they are doing, and if it starts to become too much of a problem, then mandate protections. As Jill Lesser, AOL Time Warner's senior vice president for domestic public policy says, "there isn't from our perspective a need for additional remedies" (Godwin 176). What Lesser is saying here is that there really is not a need for people to take immediate action to solve this problem that weighs on everyone's mind. This is because, inevitably, there is nothing that can be done to remedy it. College students and the like will still continue to download free music and images from the internet because there is a risk in doing so. This does not mean that they will not get caught, but getting caught is not a threat they fear daily.
Wade, Jared. "The Music Industry's War on Piracy." Risk Management 51.2 (2004):
Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations: An Anthology for Reading,
Writing, and Research. Edited by Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils,
Constance Squires. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2003. 173-178.
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