Saturday, July 26, 2008

The cost of piracy

For me, the cost of video piracy is that every time I watch a video, I have to endure a tedious warning message. I find these warnings very annoying; you often can't skip past them and they get very repetitive. For all the shortcomings of old VHS tapes, at least you could fast forward through the dross. How necessary are these warnings? Most people don't pirate but we're all subjected to the warnings every time. Does a warning deter people who pirate or watch pirated copies? I very much doubt it. The usual warning that piracy will kill the Australian film industry falls on deaf ears; it could (with a few exceptions) stand being put out of its misery.

The issue of copyright extends to all digital media, of course not just to video. The copying of software, audio and video has become commonplace. Big production companies are constantly complaining about file sharing, peer to peer networks etc. There is evidence that file sharing of audio tracks actually promotes sales. I personally would be much more likely to purchase or (legally) download a whole album if I'd had the opportunity to listen to a few sample tracks. Copyright laws have simply not kept pace with the digital revolution. Laws that might have worked quite well with more traditional forms of media don't translate very well into the digital world. Digital media is so well suited to copying suffering no degeneration in quality after unlimited successive generations, unlike analog forms. The growth of the internet has made sharing files extremely easy.

It is understandable that production companies aggressively protect their incomes. If piracy and file sharing were allowed to erode sales to a high degree, producers couldn't survive. Never the less, these companies have incredible financial and technical resources. Surely the responsibility for protecting digital products from unauthorised copying falls to them.

There is surely a difference between individuals sharing a few files and organised criminals mass producing illegal copies. When 13 year olds are prosecuted for downloading a few MP3s, there has to be something wrong with the system.


iWalk said...

When I watch a legal DVD, I have to endure a long series AD which I can't skip past. :(

Liam said...

Frustrating, isn't it? Most of us rent legal DVDs and are subjected to the boring warnings. I'm sure those who pirate DVDs edit the warnings out. Why keep warning those who have paid; it's no deterrent to the pirates (arrrh).

iWalk said...

Maybe that's the reason some guys buy pirate DVDs, same quality,no Ads, no warnings messages,and much cheaper.

They should think carefuly about this question, and make some progress.

Liam said...

I'm sure those considerations are part of it, although being cheaper or free is probably the main reason.

I don't make illegal copies myself or use them. I'm not in favour of piracy, but there is a difference between individuals who do it for personal use and those that mass produce illegal copies for profit.

Either way, the big production copies have the resources to copy protect their products and the responsibilty should lie with them.