Yesterday, someone on G+ shared this excellent open letter on the SOPA/PIPA/ACTA debate. The owner has had an impressive career as tech journalist & editor specializing on computer games and won several international business awards for outstanding accomplishments. IMO, his open letter to SOPA/PIPA/ACTA lobbyists captures the root of the problem – or rather: False understanding thereof – of the entire copyrights discussion. I think it is very important for content producers (“bloggers”) and users alike to understand what all the latest heat on the copyrights debate is about as it will ultimately affect everyone using the internet as we know it today. So I’ve dedicated a minute to try my hand at translating Gunnar Lott’s letter.Also and closely related to Gunnar Lott’s reasoning is a good understanding of what is and isn’t covered by the First Amendment (“Free Speech”), which Sam Cook at comparitech did a good job at explaining in his article.
Dear content industries,
I certainly appreciate copyrights. During all of my professional career and also in my role as blog writer and author I have been producing what you in this day denigrate as “content” day in, day out. And I am firmly set against people, who simply take without asking. I also witnessed all the drama happening around computer manufacturer Amiga and the demise of Thalion, whose games I loved, but who went out of business on grounds of not seeing a business perspective for themselves due to the high volume of piracy of their products. I was part of those who witnessed Anno 1602 sell well over five times as many products as Starcraft – and only in their first year! -, because Starcraft didn’t have copy protection while Anno did, albeit a weak one. I take the old school position of expecting customers who use certain products (which someone worked hard to create) that come with a price tag to better pay up.
But that’s only one aspect, the intellectual one, if you will. My life experience teaches me entirely different.
A long time ago, I used to purchase CDs on a regular basis. That is until I noticed that I wasn’t able to listen to them on my car stereo because of copy protection. I was, however, able to listen to CDs I had burnt myself. Since I wished to be able to listen to music while driving my car, I switched to the latter CDs.
I then purchased music on iTunes, that is until one day both my iPod and my PC failed simultaneously, thus rendering my legally purchased music catalogue inaccessible because of the built-in copy protection. Those tracks I had ripped continued to be accessible [note: and thus audible]. From then on I’d purchase music at Amazon, which is DRM free and rid me of the experienced problem.
I would then begin to purchase TV series on iTunes, until I noticed I wasn’t able to stream those to my Xbox, because of the built-in copy protection. I was able to stream “accidentally found” movies on the web alright, though. I am now left to either buy an Apple TV or continue to look for DRM free sources. Frankly, I’m tired of leaping one ring of fire after another, while the industry doesn’t tire to put spokes in my wheel.
Dear decision makers in the content industries, I am a first generation internet user. We are the people whose buying power made something like the iTunes Music Store a reality in the first place. We are the people, who make donations using Flattr, who purchase software license codes via Paypal, who reciprocate a fraction of love to independent producers using Humble Bundles and who keep the entire app economy afloat. We don’t do this for reasons of not understanding how a jailbreak works or where to find Keygens, cracked code and serialz or music or entire movies on the web. We do this from a place of users’ ethics and because we appreciate paying for what we use to consume. I’d assume you to love us for doing so. But no – we are the enemy, whom you reluctantly grant just as much permission to use their products so a contractual agreement can be met.
It doesn’t work this way. I expect to be granted permission to use my possessions as I see fit, on whichever platform available. And in this globalized world, I expect to get to buy products as they become available and not be left at the aquiescence of a portfolio manager, who arbritarily decides to unlock access to their products for my country and only after all other product value chains are thorougly exhausted.
Johnny von Spreeblick recently put this a little more eloquently: “If the entertainment industry would eventually bring themselves to learning from the success of Megaupload and others and offer internationally available products to their consumers instead of investing their energy into equally dirty lobbying in politics, maybe then we’ll slowly see something happening. I don’t mind one bit for all this crap like e.g. Megaupload to disappear from the web, because I don’t want to have to endure no fucking pornographic advertising or flickering download timers and I certainly don’t want to pay any of my money to such portals in order to get to see the movie of my choice as soon as its production is completed. I don’t mind putting five or ten Euros on the trackpad per month, if in return I can expect producers to get a fair share and if all of that stuff comes legally.”
[note: Decision makers, …] Think harder, I am getting tired of all this annoyance.
With kind regards,
a paying customer
Disclaimer and legal note: Original article by Gunnar Lott at kaliban.de, translated from German by Werner Nieke. All intellectual property rights remain with Gunnar Lott. I refuse to accept any liability for any errors on my part or any potential copyright infringement. This is simply done for reasons of voluntarily campaigning for free speech and fair use of products and the internet at large. I did not nor will receive any compensation for this. Any links and references were made to the best of my knowledge and don’t reflect my personal preference for any company or trademark mentioned. I also have no intention of promoting any of the above mentioned brands. I intentionally didn’t place links to sources that – under current legislation – might be considered promoters of illegal distribution of commercial products and I firmly disapprove of pirating commercial products.