You know how in horror movies when the beast/zombie/alien monster/ ghostly apparition looks it’s finally been vanquished but you know it’s still going to rise up one more time to scare the bejesus out of you?
Meet the real life equivalent: the RIAA and the MPAA. Despite being beaten like a drum last year over SOPA and PIPA, two badly written bills that aimed to curb piracy and counterfeiting at the cost of free speech, the content cartel is alive and poised to lunge at you.
Yesterday, MPAA president and former US Senator Chris Dodd addressed the Content Protection Summit, calling for a partnership with the same companies that helped to shoot down the idiot twins SOPA and PIPA last year. Per Variety:
"Hollywood and Silicon Valley have more in common than most people realize or are willing to acknowledge," he said. "Not only does Hollywood work closely with Silicon Valley to create and promote films; Hollywood film and television creators are tech companies. They celebrate innovation through the world’s most cutting-edge content, and they embrace technology as imperative to the success of the creators in their community."
Early next year we’ll start to see major ISPs — AT&T, Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon – roll out the Six Strikes system, where would-be pirates are given a series of escalating warnings and may have their Internet connections throttled if they don’t quit downloading.
The argument, which Dodd made yet again last month in an op-ed for the Huffington Post, goes thusly: When you’re Bit Torrenting MP3s and MPEG files, you’re hurting artists, not fat white male corporate hooligans wearing $2,000 suits.
Dodd uses the recent Facebook copyright hoax to draw comparisons between how people view their own content on Facebook and how media companies view it.
The Facebook incident demonstrates that the average Internet user recognizes this fact, especially when they feel their personal content — photos, videos, ideas, etc. — is in jeopardy. But it also provides average Internet users with some insight into the point of view of the creators of movies, music or other artistic endeavors whose work has been subject to online theft.
The livelihoods of these innovators depend on strong copyright protection policies so they can benefit from their work and continue to create more of it. Without robust intellectual property protections, innovation has no incentive to thrive.
Dodd’s concern for content creators is deeply moving – or it would be, if it weren’t total BS. The music and movie industries have been ripping off these same “artistic innovators” for decades.
Rolling Stone recently ran a series of stories this fall over how musicians like James Taylor, Cheap Trick, and the Allman Brothers have had to sue their own labels to get the money rightfully owed to them. The issue at hand? Royalties for digital copies of their work.
So, to summarize: Record labels want to sue you for downloading these files illegally, but are unwilling to share the profits they receive from legally sold copies with the people who produced them. Remember, you’re not supposed to steal from artists – that’s their job.
I’ll just say this again for the record: Downloading pirated content so you don’t have to pay for it is wrong. Period, full stop. Still, I totally understand why people do it. Not just because they’re cheapskates. It’s because they don’t want to give these a-holes the money.
This is why comedian Louis CK’s experiment last year was so gratifying. He sold his own concert recording direct to his fans for $5 a shot and banked more than $1 million from it. He asked for a reasonable amount of money, made it as easy as possible for people to download the file, trusted them to not rip him off by spreading it around for free, paid his staff well, and donated $280,000 of the proceeds to charity.
He’s since offered two audio recordings for $5 per and is selling tickets to his current concert tour for $45 apiece, all seats all shows all fees included. As anyone who’s attempted to buy concert tickets lately can tell you, that’s a bargain.
In short, Louis CK did essentially what the illegal downloaders do – bypassed the middle man and went direct to the source. And because he bypassed the middle man, he was able to offer it on the cheap and still make more money than he would have going the traditional route.
This is what the RIAA and the MPAA are so terrified of. It’s not that people are getting creative content for free, thus destroying the market for it; it’s that the Internet has made content distribution and marketing companies (the middle man) almost entirely irrelevant. That’s the real horror show for the content cartel, one that will eventually spell their doom.