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In "Hollywood vs. the Internet," Mike Godwin discusses copyright laws and the development of new technology to protect these laws. The effect on the entertainment industry is also discussed. A major factor in Godwin's essay is whether or not piracy should be allowed. Though the legality of piracy has already been determined, the enforcement thereof is lacking. The awareness of such illegal actions should be brought not only to the consumers' attention but also to the attention of society as a whole. Piracy is theft and consumers should view it as such. Action must be taken to rid the industry of these crimes. While many attempts are being made to terminate piracy, the ones that are making the greatest impact are the enforcement of fines and public campaigns that portray piracy as a major crime.
The entertainment industry is one of our country's leading enterprises. People complain that this industry is making billions upon billions of dollars each year. However, this is the entertainers' and entertainment companies' means of survival. It could be said that these people are making more than enough money to survive, but studies show that Athese industries and artists have claimed losses of up to $4.2 billion worldwide. By some industry accounts, 2.6 billion songs are downloaded every month resulting in a 31 percent drop in album sales since June 2000" (Galuszka 3). If losses such as these occurred in a different industry people would undoubtedly be concerned.
One of the main problems is that when consumers and/or users think of downloading music or other digital material, all they consider is the billions of dollars made every year by huge entertainment companies. As long as people continue to share this view point, the piracy problem will not change. These companies are thought of as greedy, where in all actuality they are just trying to run a business like any other company owner in the world. Most people would not consider shoplifting a CD from a store, but they do not see illegal downloads as theft. Along with the institution of fines, companies that are being affected by piracy need to ban together and start up a public awareness campaign. If each of the companies contributed a million dollars, there is no doubt that an effective campaign could be created. If the media campaign stopped a large portion of piracy, the millions of dollars used to start the campaign would no doubt save the companies billions of dollars in the long run.
Recently, companies have really been cracking down on piracy. Some are "slapping pirates with lawsuits and penalties of up to $150,000 per illegally downloaded song" (Galuszka 3). A majority of the defendants in these lawsuits are college students. In many cases colleges' Information Technology (IT) departments have assessed firewall protection to the most frequently used unauthorized download services. When a person opens a site protected by a firewall, a disclaimer pops up informs the person that he or she is being monitored and it lists his or her name, address, and the location of the computer the person is using. "The only problem is that people quickly find other illegal download sites not yet protected by the firewalls" (Galuszka 3).
Something that a number of universities are doing now is making deals with companies such as Napster to make the legal downloading of music possible to students. The universities are simply adding the purchase of this service into the IT budgets. By doing this the students are charged only a small extra charge in the fees they already have to pay. Then, for example if the university chose to use Napster's premium service, students would have absolutely legal access to about 500,000 song titles and 50 digital radio stations. When asked if they would use the free program, some students say that Ait would depend on the songs offered and they are not sure the types of music they want would be available" (Galuszka 4).
There are also plenty of companies that have started making deals with the music industry to give away "free" music downloads. These deals involve consumers purchasing the company's product and winning downloads. This way no one is getting cheated. The consumers get the feeling of being winners and the companies are getting money for their products.
Although many changes are being made to steer the direction in which illegal downloading is going, the war on piracy is likely to worsen before it gets any better. According to Galuszka, it is predicted that these Abad times will come in 2007 when the nation's television reaches its peak, high-quality movies and programs will be transmitted via the Internet and downloaded on computers" (4). When that day comes the same problems that affect music downloads are certain to play a role in television along with much of the same controversy. Fines will have to be enforced here as well. If users see that the government is serious about slapping people with fines, hopefully the problem with television will not get as out of hand as it has with music. If it is that big of a problem, fines will already have been proven to work and, more than likely, the problem will not persist as long as the current dilemmas.
Americans thrive on the fantasy world portrayed in movies and songs. There will always be a high demand for both. Current non-downloaders probably do not pirate films because they prefer to have the high-quality official DVD or video with its original packaging. That is something that cannot be attained from downloading videos illegally. People are still going to want to go see their favorite musicians in concert and be in the atmosphere of the real thing. Yes, entertainers are still making more money than the average person, but that does not change the fact that piracy is stealing. Few people would consider stealing from a store ethical so how can they feel that stealing form the entertainment industry is okay?
A popular thought on the prevention of piracy is the water marking system. With this system new digital technology would have a water mark inside that would prevent users from committing illegal acts. This system would most definitely crack down on piracy, if everyone bought entirely new equipment. Godwin makes the statement that, AIf computers and software start shipping in a hamstring form, mandated by government, I'll quit buying new equipment" (178). Most likely people share these same views with Godwin, with the exception of the technologically advanced who are constantly upgrading their equipment. It is a fact that times change, especially technological times, but this change will not compare to the gradual transition from eight tracks to cassettes to CDs. For this system to have any immediate outcome old equipment would have to be made obsolete within a matter of a year or so. In the long run water marking may be beneficial, but by that time pirates may have already cost entertainment companies another billion dollars. Even when water marks are added to new technology there will be people that can easily get around them. Therefore, water marking should be added to new equipment. People will eventually purchase these products as their current equipment becomes outdated. However, water marking should not stand alone as the primary weapon against piracy. Water marking should only be used as an addition to fines which are the most effective tool against piracy.
Based on statistics from a music downloading demographics study found in Galuszka's article, there has been a significant decline in the percentage of people who download music. These drops occurred most prominently between May of 2003 and December of 2003 (4). This was the time period that companies started implementing fines. The media also began portraying piracy as a serious offense rather than a slight misdemeanor. These statistics prove that fines do have an impact on illegal downloading. People would rather buy a subscription for a few dollars a month than have to pay a $150,000 fine for illegally downloading one song. Fines have worked in the recent past and they will continue working in the future.
If music and movie fans want to continue enjoying new material they must continue to support artists by purchasing CDs, DVDs, etc. Entertainment is like anything else, new material cannot be produced if there is no money to fabricate it. In the capitalistic society that we are in, buying and selling goods is imperative to keeping our economy above water. Our economy is fueled by trade in the marketplace, hence the reason laws are instilled to make sure that the trade system is not corrupted. Piracy is the backbone of corruption in the technological society we have found ourselves in today. This has to be enforced through public campaigns and fines.
The top means of preventing piracy in the future revolves around stopping it in its tracks. If people that are not currently pirating music and movies can be prevented from starting, the beginning of the end of piracy will have occurred. This can be accomplished with public awareness campaigns, new technology, and most importantly fines. People are absolutely aware that piracy is illegal and morally wrong for that matter. These pirates are costing entertainment companies billions of dollars that they have earned. It does not matter if the common person thinks that these people have too much money, it is still illegal. Now the tables have to be turned and the big time industries have to make pirates pay.
Galuszka, Peter. "The War over Internet Piracy." Black Issues in Higher Education. Reston:
11 March 2004. Vol. 21, Iss. 2; pg. 24, 4 pgs. 9 September 2004 <http://80-gateway.proquest.com.argo.library.okstate.edu/>.
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. 172-183.
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