Archive for October 9th, 2007

October 9, 2007

Avast mateys

I speak to you today of Pirates. Not the Johnny Depp ( and his uber hot companion Vanessa Paradis) type but the other, more modern sort. Those who risk prosecution by the RIAA and losing their immortal souls by copying music and movies. I must say i have mixed feelings about the whole thing for logical and emotional reasons. I work in the media and thus understand the value of produced electronic work. It may only be binary code or magnetism on a tape but it represents real blood, sweat and tears on the part of its creator. I note, however, that a woman in the USA was recently fined over $200,000 for having shared 25 odd songs on her hard drive via Kazaa™. To me this is ridiculous especially in view of the fact that police also found hundreds of legitimate CDs in her house she had bought from the companies that are now driving her into bankruptcy.

The usual response from the recording industry that copying music or downloading it for free is the equivalent of smashing open a store window and snatching the CDs from the shelves – it most patently is not. Something that exists in digital form is, by definition, not the same as a material object. It is designed to be easily copied – in fact – that is the main advantage of the digital format  – it is easily reproducible and loses no quality from generation to generation. If, in the 70s I taped a friend’s tape of a song he took from the radio I had a greatly inferior version of the song…the quality degraded with each generation. Not so today, if I rip a CD on my Mac and then email that file or upload it to the web, whoever gets it has a perfect copy of the original. Technology has overtaken the music and film industries. They can no longer guard their products as they were able to in years past. Their business model has also failed to keep up with the times. Apple Inc. has done well with their iTunes store but that is not available in all countries and even they put DRM ( copy protection)  in their songs which limits what the user can do with them. Small wonder that people who live in the majority of the world resort to downloading from Limewire or Kazaa to get the latest movie or film.

The entire notion of putting DRM to prevent copying is also plain foolish as it only penalizes those who actually buy the music or film. It is ALWAYS possible to bypass the DRM on a CD or DVD whether by using software or simply using a hardware capture. If you can see it or hear it – it can be captured and encoded. Recognizing this the recording industry has resorted to its current Storm Trooper tactics. It is a crazed acknowledgment that they know they cannot stay in their old tidy business model. I fear they are being foolish. They are really the victims of pricing themselves out of attractiveness as a product. Only a small percentage of a CD or DVD sale actually goes to the creators. You can see this at work by looking at the bargain bin of your nearest music or movie store. What was $39.95 quickly becomes $7.99 , a measure of the markup.

The music industry measures its losses from downloads and copying in the billions of US dollars. What they base this amount on is anybody’s guess. I assume it supposes everyone in the world would be in a position to pay for Britney, that people who download music would have paid for it otherwise, that the initial cost of a music track actually represents its value and that downloading a song means someone would have liked it enough to pay for it.No, no, no and no. I buy a fair amount of music but I also download quite a bit … though carefully…and using a proxy server in Dresden. Most of the music I download I end up tossing in the trash after a listen or two. If someone tells me I should listen to a particular artist I sure as hell am not going to part with hard earned money to follow their advice. I find a copy on Cabos, listen – and if I like it I buy the album- if I don’t – it goes into oblivion.Were it not for downloading via file sharing the RIAA would never have had a sale at all…I had to hear it first.

That being said, there is a difference between the previous scenario and what we see in T&T . Here we have people pirating entire CDs , burning them onto CD blanks and selling them from carts on public streets. To me this is rather a different matter especially when it comes to local artists. These people are making money from the work of others which brings the concept of piracy closer to its roots. In this case I can understand why local artists like the amazing hidden secret of T&T, Ella Andall, resort to physically confronting these pirates. I agree such individuals should be prosecuted and driven out of business but not the average downloader.

One of the reasons I love the internet is that it allows me access to things I never had an opportunity to explore before…I am a lucky person to have been born in the age of the internet. The average person copying music or films is not a pirate….they are simply a regular person who wants to see a film or hear a song they would otherwise never have a chance to see or hear. As far as I am concerned if you are downloading or uploading to allow other people to hear or see things you appreciate I think you are a good person. Word of advice…just use a proxy. If you are selling music or DVDs from a roadside cart in T&T – I say you are stealing simply because you are making money off your pursuit.

Happy downloading…and use a proxy server.