Everyone seems to have an opinion on downloading music and TV shows, everything from “Information wants to be free” to “Skipping commercials with your TIVO is theft.” Some of the views are self-serving, some are rationalizations, and some people have strong opinions based on what they believe is right and just.
Here’s the thing a lot of people are missing, though: Breaking the law does not count as civil disobedience unless you go out of your way to do it publicly. Obviously I’m referring to people who upload and download music, movies or software without permission from the copyright holders. Some of them are just in it for the free tunes. Some of them think the law is wrong. But the ones who believe copyright laws have gone too far damage their case when they quietly violate the law, expecting to protest the law if — and only if — they are caught.
Think the law has tilted too far in favor of the copyright industry? Great, so do I. Have you written to your congressman? If not, then don’t complain about the law when you get busted. It makes it look like you’re just trying to stay out of jail — which you are — and supports the MPAA and RIAA next time they try to get copyright extended.
Before you end up in a jury box, you should really try the ballot box. Time for me to get off my soapbox.
No really, I want to talk to one. There should be several in every large town, just like there used to be. Because it would be immoral to deprive them of their “right” to make money in the way that they want to.
“But that’s absurd,” you say, if you’ve never heard the argument before. “You’d have to outlaw cars to protect the buggy whip manufacturing business.” Yes, and that’s exactly what the buggy whip makers tried to do: ban the car.
Copyright does the exact same thing buggy whip makers tried to do: it protects a specific business model. The “right to control copying” exists to encourage people to go into the business of creating new works.
We, as a society, benefit from having new works. We have agreed to grant creators of those works a temporary monopoly on reproducing and selling those works. If the specific method that we’re using to encourage creation actually serves to restrict creation, our method needs to change.
Everyone who thinks the RIAA is responsible for increasing the net creative output of the world, raise your hand … Everyone who thinks the MPAA is the creative force behind independent film, raise your hand …
Copyright law was a specific solution to a specific problem. It doesn’t codify some inherent human right. If the “solution” has been pushed too far in one direction, which I believe it has, it’s time to re-think the balance. Or maybe come up with some new way to encourage creation of easily-copied works.