Author: Ben Dalgetty
We are all pirates. Whether it was copying a friend’s CD, recording something from TV or the radio and sharing it or downloading or streaming copyrighted content online, odds are that you have infringed on some copyright or trademark knowingly or not. At least, that’s according to a 2008 International Academy of Business & Economics review, which found that 94 percent of college students reported downloading at some point in the past and 84 percent planned to do so in the future. Clearly there is something wrong with the status quo. Artists must be compensated for their works, but is it necessary for the consumer to prop up an over-sized, out-dated record industry? As we saw with Twitter usage during the Tehran protests, information cannot be stopped. Producers of copyrighted material must recognize that the product or service offered must be designed with the goal of being more appealing than piracy.
For me at least, piracy is not a question of actively wishing to deny creators their rightful due, it is simply the fact that the information is easily accessible for free and I’m a broke college student. But I happily paid Pandora the small fee to keep it ad-free, and always choose to watch something on Hulu, with its limited ads, over watching it illegally on a flash site. Choruss, an experimental service being deployed at six colleges and spearheaded by Warner Bros. Music Group, is a potentially excellent adaptation to the ubiquitous nature of content today.
Jim Griffin, the lead on the project, said students can “access a large pool of songs for a flat fee,” and, “they get to keep [the songs] the rest of their lives,” as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. There are solutions out there other than the wave of bellicose lawsuits against file-sharers, with the occasional grandmother or small child mixed in, that the RIAA has finally cut back on.
But, these solutions aside, we need to reform copyright laws so that consumers aren’t dependent on copyright holders (usually not the actual creative author) deigning to throw us a bone every now and then. It is not acceptable that in March 2009, the Performing Rights Society for Music, a British copyright enforcement organization, felt it could sue a stable owner for playing music to her horses without paying an annual “performance” license fee. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement currently being negotiated in secret between the U.S. and other governments is a perfect example of the problems with the status quo. Back-door negotiations cannot continue if we are to create equitable copyright laws. Although details are still unclear, despite repeated requests for openness by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and other non-government organizations, the agreement would place stricter requirements on Internet Service Providers to ensure their subscribers are not sharing illegal content and stricter content controls.
Consumers can no longer be boxed in by the restrictions of different physical media types. Media conglomerates have long controlled too much of the legislation that governs their copyrights, but the unstoppable nature of file-sharing and streaming means that consumers need to be included in determining future laws. Pandora’s box cannot be closed and file-sharing is only growing more prevalent and acceptable among younger generations. If copyright controllers and regulators don’t include consumers in future reforms, the result is inevitable – we are pirates.
Ben Dalgetty is a senior Politics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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