This week we studied the topic of culture and copyright legislation on the music industry. I always find the issues of copyright and piracy to be rather complex, and I find that for the most part people do not seem to have the right understanding about it. Think about the many people that you know, and then think about how many of them would know the true characteristics of copyright or piracy. Although I do not agree that ignorance is bliss, I think the lack of knowledge about copyright and piracy is part of the overall issue.
For most of history, civilization only had to worry about one dimension of copyright and piracy, but in today’s modern age we are also confronted with the digital dimension. According to Steinmetz and Tunnell, “digital piracy is a type of copyright infringement—[which] is a global phenomenon that allegedly contains grave economic consequences for intellectual property industries” (2013, p.53). I definitely agree with this view. It has become a global phenomenon mostly due to the widespread reach of Internet, and intellectual property industries are really concerned about both current economic consequences and future ones. However, we cannot simply only concern ourselves with the affects on intellectual property industries, we must also concern ourselves with the affects on society and our overall culture. Digital technology is here to stay therefore; we must find a solution that appeals to both sides of the issue.
Before we can find a solution, we must first understand why our culture engages in piracy and copyright infringement. In the study “Under the Pixelated Jolly Roger: A Study of On-Line Pirates”, Steinmetz and Tunnell found several different motivators for piracy. They argue that the following reasons motivate piracy: “a desire to share digital cultural artifacts with each other, to sample content before making a purchase, an inability to afford digital content and a desire to circumvent or undermine copyright law and the digital content industry” (2013, p. 65). I agree that all of these reasons are possibilities as to why people engage in piracy. I would, however, add the facts that the consequences to engaging in piracy, although they exist, are rarely ever exercised on regular people, and the fact that engaging in piracy is so readily available, as further motivators to engage in it.
On the other side of the argument is the intellectual property industry. Although I see the affects that digital piracy and copyright infringement has had on the industry, in some ways I believe that the industry is too strict. The lawsuit that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) launched against its own customer for suspicion of sharing copyright music files online (Condry, 2004, p. 343) is a great example of just how strict the industry is trying to be. Many believe that the way to overcome file sharing is to find a way to compensate for lost profits.
In his article “Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan”, Condry suggests that fees should be charged on hard drives, blank CDs, and broadband Internet connections (2004, p. 345). I disagree with this view because there are many people that purchase these products without intent to engage in file sharing. It would be unfair to punish everyone for the mistakes of few. In another article by McCourt and Burkart “When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of On-line Music Distribution”, the authors argue that subscription prices should be increased to compensate for lost sales (2003, p. 344). I also disagree with this view because one of the motivators for piracy is an inability to afford digital content therefore; this solution may only encourage piracy more.
Overall, I agree with Larry Lessig’s view that he expressed during a TED Talk back in 2007. Larry states that we almost live in an age of prohibition where consumers quite frankly do not even care about the rules anymore. Because of the many rules, laws, and regulations with copyright, people can simply not even keep up anymore. Furthermore, I believe that if there were more rules, law, and regulations for copyright our courts would not be able to keep up with it anymore either. I think that the best solution to this problem is to allow some copyright infringement and piracy as long as the person does not profit from it. If they do profit from it, they should compensate the original owner of the work. Furthermore, stopping or even regulating file sharing would be almost impossible due to the many ways of file sharing available to us. It would probably cost us more, as a society, to regulate it than it is for it to be available to us.
Condry, Ian. (2004). Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan. International Journal of Cultural Studies. 7 (3), pg. 343-363
Larry Lessig: Laws that choke creativity. TED Talks (2007). Filmed March 2007, posted November 2007.
McCourt, T., P. Burkart. (2003). When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of On-line Music Distribution. Media, Culture & Society. 25 (3), pg. 333-350
Steinmetz, K., K. Tunnell (2013). Under the Pixelated Jolly Roger: A Study of On-Line Pirates. Deviant Behavior. 34 (1), pg. 53-67