Not the type as brought to vivid cinematic life by Johnny Depp.
No sailing vessels brandishing the good ol’ Jolly Roger (well… there IS one, but I’ll get to that).
This is the type that I think 90% of us have been guilty from time to time.
This is a blog about what is referred to as I.P. Piracy – the piracy of Intellectual Property.
These days, this battle is fought over the much discussed file-sharing programs that live on a lot of our computers – whether we identify ourselves as pirates or not – and that we don’t much think about since it seems natural to us.
However, this sort of piracy is but only the latest iteration of a time-honored tradition that has been happening for generations – at least as far back as 1965, and is only coming to the forefront now due to it’s ease of use in the digital age.
Let those of us who are old enough remember back to the days of the mix tape.
What a wondrous thing!
We could put 60 minutes of music on a portable storage device and take it wherever we wanted… 1 hour of music that we, the people, chose from various sources and artists to entertain us and our friends.
We were not beholden to what the music empires of Hollywood forced us to listen to if we didn’t want to. We could put 12 songs on a tape, and each of those songs could be by twelve different artists signed with 12 different music labels (whether we owned the source albums or recorded the tunes from the radio) – thereby creating our own musical identity that reflected exactly who we were.
This is what lead to the often quoted act of giving a mix tape to the person who you loved – something that you hoped would let them see who you truly were.
Yes. Those were the days of such universal freedom.
Or how about VHS tapes?
It was pretty much the same process – but with video!
We could record any movie we wanted onto a fairly cheap VHS tape at various speeds and levels of quality to maximize our viewing pleasure – sometimes as many as THREE movies on one tape! (Which for the most part, can’t be replicated on a DVD to this day – FYI.)
We could tape movies right off the TV (when watching movies on broadcast television was still relevant to the masses), or those of us with sufficient technological savvy could rent movies and then duplicate them to our own VHS tapes with nobody being the wiser for it!
Let’s do a quick poll:
How many of you over the age of 25 have done either the mix tape or the VHS recording? Come on, be honest with yourself.
That’s what I thought.
All of you are pirates!
How does it feel to be one of Hollywood’s most wanted – and not because you’re talented?
You’re not a pirate?
Think again, me harties.
You all signed up aboard the good ship S.S. Somethin’ Fer Nothin’…
…And trust me: Hollywood hates you.
Hates you with a fury that is seldom matched throughout the passages of history.
If the Hollywood studios knew exactly where you lived, they’d send out 5 musclebound goons to each and every one of your houses and homes to take baseball bats and crowbars to all of your electronics and other prized possessions – smashing everything into teeny-tiny bits and smoldering circuits before giving you a solid punch to the gut on the way out of your house as a thank you.
I’ll tell you EXACTLY why, dear friends and readers.
They would do that over money.
You see, every time you made a mix tape or did up VHS copies of movies and shows, you were paying the studios precisely zero dollars and zero cents (not entirely true for Canadians: there has long been a secret tax that you don’t see on the receipt applied to blank recording media sold in Canada, and that sales tax is funneled in the direction of organizations ‘representing’ recording artists and production studios).
This ‘free’ entertainment does not sit well with studio executives at all.
No sirree, Bob.
Hollywood studios expect – no, DEMAND – to be paid for every single nanosecond of entertainment that they produce – which is a somewhat fair expectation since they paid X number of millions of dollars to produce and market it.
If you’re listening to The Beastie Boys, you better have paid Def Jam, Grand Royal, and Capitol Records the money owed.
If you just finished watching The Dark Knight, the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot better have your cash in exchange for that privilege.
Before I go on here, I would like to point out a fairly gargantuan logic hole in Hollywood: stores that sell previously enjoyed records/tapes/CDs/video cassettes/DVDs.
All of the money that is made via the reselling of previously owned Hollywood product does not go anywhere near Hollywood.
Profits made by these stores go straight into the store owner’s pockets, which are then levied by the tax man. Neither the store owner or the tax man share this bounty with Warner Brothers, Viacom, Universal, Fox, or any of the others in the myriad of media studios.
To this day, Hollywood has not made a public complaint about these operations.
For all intents and purposes, the big studios don’t care since they’ve been paid at least once for the music and movies that are being sold – whether it’s being resold once or 100 times – which is not too dissimilar from what happens in the world of digital piracy since 80% of the material out there for download has been purchased from a retailer initially.
As I said, it’s a huge hole in Hollywood’s argumentative logic.
Which brings us to the next thing.
You downloaded The Beastie Boys via LimeWire?
Oooooh boy. How many vital organs do you think you can live without?
I only ask because Hollywood wants to eviscerate you and roast the resulting organs on a spit over the burning coals of everything you own.
Gory, yes… but oh so completely accurate.
Believe you me, friends: there are studio executives out there who would take those of you who download stuff habitually, place you against a wall before a cluster of HD video cameras streaming the feed live over the internet from multiple angles, and shoot you in the face personally without any moral qualms or hesitation in hopes of discouraging your comrades from doing what you were doing without thought.
However, since this a world full of laws and regulations, they can not do that.
So they’ve been doing the next best thing – well, the next thing legally available to them within the framework of the law – and suing individual people in court over what they describe as intellectual property theft.
This has happened to thousands of people in the United States, and to a smaller number of people in other jurisdictions – regardless of legal standing.
In many cases, there is no specific proof and is the legal equivalent of ‘He said/She said’.
For the most part, the inner guilt or limited financial means of their victims quickly result in monetary settlements that reach into thousands of dollars.
There have been a few cases that eventually wound their way to trial this year – even long after the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had said they would stop issuing legal actions against suspected file sharers.
Surprisingly – given the nature of the so called “evidence” – one woman was found guilty and ordered to pay a whopping 1.92 million dollars for possibly sharing 24 songs over the mostly defunct Kazaa file-sharing network.
Let’s take that into perspective.
Purchasing the same songs through a service such as iTunes would have cost $24.
That means – at least in terms of cost recovery – that the studio is recouping what it would have cost for each of those songs to be purchased legitimately 80,000 times.
I don’t care who the music artists were – 80,000 downloads PER SONG seems a bit far-fetched when taking into account that this was only a single file-sharing person.
Given an average download time of 2 minutes per song with a broadband internet connection, it would have taken 64,000 hours to download that amount of material.
64,000 hours equals 2,666 days.
2,666 days equals roughly 7 years.
Yes, I do understand that many people can download and upload the same file simultaneously.
Let’s assume there were constantly seven people downloading song of this lady’s computer at all times.
That would have still taken 1 year to accomplish – 1 year of non-stop internet connectivity with Kazaa ALWAYS running.
Is it just me, or does that seem a wee bit hard to believe?
Would you rather give up a kidney and maybe part of your liver instead of paying $1,920,000 at a lawyer’s equivalent of knife-point?
I’m pretty sure I would.
It makes you really think though, doesn’t it?
I mean… it’s really kind of an obvious question.
Who exactly are the pirates?