Wednesday, 19 August 2009

you know what we do with pirates - 12,809 words

- under capitalism all production is for the market; goods are produced not in order to meet human needs and desires, but for the sake of profit, for the sake of acquiring further capital - j.m. bernstein -

- copyright law…[is] not a set of constant commitments that, for some mysterious reason, teenagers and geeks now flout - lawrence lessig -

I wasn't going to start writing about copyright on here until after Christmas when I began to tackle the subject in my thesis writing. But two stories on Wired today changed my mind.

The first detailed the new piece of anti-piracy propaganda from The Business Software Alliance. A YouTube video in the style of MSNBC's To Catch a Predator, the clip initally presents itself as a cringeworthy parody - a man, dressed in full pirate garb, goes to a woman's house to illegally copy software. The anchor interrupts him eating cookies, after promising the audience that we're going to see him catch "a real sicko," and interrogates the 'pirate' until he leaves the house, embarassed and which point he is violently forced to the floor at gunpoint by two police officers and arrested. The first line of the Wired article reads: "The Business Software Alliance has a new anti-piracy video that for the first time uses humor instead of scare tactics to get out its message."

First off, it seems weird that the BSA would even want to associate itself with To Catch a Predator's entrapment-for-entertainment schtick. But, far more terrifyingly, this is the content industry's soft and fluffy approach: 'sick' pirates should be treated like sexual predators, with all of the violence, lazy moralising, and disregard for human rights that has become de rigueur in the wake of much of the media's coverage of such cases. This is the cult of fear as quantum leap: by explicitly associating simplistic archetypes our revulsion is meant to kick in - who'd want to be a pirate, they're paedophiles!

Ok, so it's not as one-to-one as that, but you get the idea. And at the very very least, the notion that potential software pirates should be ever held at gunpoint, especially before they've even copied something, is just vile.

So, article #2, published on Wired about an hour earlier. "7 Good Reasons to Switch to Windows 7". Number 4:

Yarr! We know there are plenty of you out there downloading pirated digital booty, especially in Windows land. But it’s never been convenient to be a pirate compared with being a paying customer. For example, if you’re a legitimate buyer purchasing movies off iTunes, you can easily stream your media to your legitimately purchased Apple TV. If you’re a pirate, you’d have to go through roundabout programs and hardware to re-create the experience.

Windows 7 is an OS practically made for pirates. Want to display your movies, photos or music on your TV? Bam! Windows Media Player will do that out of the box if you have a Wi-Fi enabled TV, or an Xbox. No extra programs to install: Windows Media Player seamlessly communicates with your Wi-Fi device to display your illegal content in all its glory on your fancy HD TV.

And sharing media is easy, too. Want to download all of your brother’s music? Bam! HomeGroup, an easy networking feature included in Windows 7, will make that super easy between computers running the OS. Immediately upon plugging in to your network with Ethernet or Wi-Fi, HomeGroup will ask if you wish to join the group on the network, allowing you to set up easy file sharing in minutes.

And I agree - all of this must have been on Microsoft's mind. Items which faciliate piracy, or encourage it, even tacitly, sell well. The largest capacity iPod is currently at 160GB of memory. That's about 40,000 songs, or 3300 odd albums at 12 tracks an album. Average price of £10 an album... I guess you can put films on there, about 50 of them, but unless you download them from the Apple store you have to copy your own DVDs which is, notoriously, a bit of a grey area.

Microsoft know that piracy sells, and they have wisely implemented systems which facilitate it in their new product. Yes, of course there are legitimate uses for the new technology, but Microsoft well know the power and popularity of piracy, of course they do. After all they, along with Apple, are active members of the BSA...



- from the 2nd section on copyright -

"Through recent changes to the fabric of the law - changes made in response to the percieved threat of digitised media by a collection of few artists, many distributors, and a terrifyingly small amount of corporations and the reactionary policies that they have succeeded in getting enacted - textual scholars are being inhibited by a scared minority from within the content industry. But, increasingly, ‘textual scholars’ just means ‘people.’ As we have seen, many consumers are beginning to view, criticise, interact with, and even produce our culture's texts, and on an increasingly influential scale. The work of textual scholarship can equate to the leisure time of anyone who wants to become involved in the work, meaning that the fears and restrictions of academics can now belong to everyone"

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