Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Copyright Fairy – Part Two, Well Everybody is Doing it…

In my last installment of The Copyright Fairy, I was concerned with how people would rather not investigate how the law is constructed when there are a variety of resources available to inform them of the state of copyright law, and by extension how their actions, could put them in hot water, especially if they are a high profile figure.

This post was inspired by my comment to a post by Russell Beattie regarding his PSP and his use of BitTorrent to put an unreleased movie onto his device, which is very cool, but not legal. I like Russ and his blog is a daily read for me. My comments to him were partially tongue in cheek as he currently works for the would be Media giant called Yahoo. I think that it’s problematic to work at a company that makes a living off of helping to promote to consumers the valuable intellectual property that media companies create and then post on a highly trafficked blog that you use BitTorrent to get the movies that you want.

It’s totally Russ’s business to do whatever he wants in his home and as the Libertarian that I am, I salute him for exercising that right. I also like the brashness of his comments. It’s good entertainment and I plan to read on in the future.

So after Russ slapped me down for my negative tone and condescending preachy post…

It got me to thinking about two issues. The first is BitTorrent. I love Bittorrent. I sent the guy money and I proudly wear my BitTorrent T Shirt to the gym often when I work out. I make a BitTorrent version of my podcast The $250 Million Radio Show as often as possible even though the majority of the people who get my show download it directly from my servers. I think its an important technology that you should support provided you are using it in a legal manner. Back to my previous post, The beauty of BitTorrent, and the reason that the Grokster case isn’t going to help out people who use BitTorrent is that everyone has to upload to download. This puts you in clear violation of the DMCA as rendered through the various decisions in the various cases adjudicated to date. Lots of legal stuff can be found on Google, I mean Yahoo.

Russ said something to the effect that everybody is doing it and not talking about it isn’t going to help. You can find his direct smackdown in the comments to the post. Well, that may or may not be true, but it is illegal. Period. I may do some things in my house that are illegal, but I am certain that I am not going to post about it on the Internet. That just seems to make sense to me.

The second thing was the conflict between technology and media that is at the heart of what many of us have been working on for a lot of years now. Because I highlight the issue some think that I am stung by the copyright issue and that I hate content companies, etc. That couldn’t be further from the truth. For most of my professional career I have worked for big media or companies that supported big media. I am certain that I will quickly pass that as I have spent a lot of the last several years working in small media and technology. Those of us who play in these waters are aware that you have to walk a fine line. There are some who take an extreme position on either side, but the vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle hoping that the content companies wont quash technology, while enjoying and wanting to find new ways to help traditional content reach new and broader audiences.

The important point is to know where your bread is buttered. When I was in my early 20s I worked at Sony Pictures and managed to get into a preview screening of Johnny Mnemonic. At the same time I was marginally active on the alt.cyberpunk list on Usenet. I naively posted a review and had a conversation with Amy Harmon who is now at the New York Times. She published my comments out of context in the LA Times on opening day. The head of the studio called my boss early Monday morning screaming for my head. When I saw Russ’s post I could see Terry Semel (Former head of Warner Bros.) reaching through the Internet to grab him by the neck. As he clearly pointed out its not really any of my business, but I thought that a word to the wise would be time well spent.

12 comments:

Mobile Jones said...

I agree Derrick. I was shocked while reading the post on Russ' site. I believe Sky Captain has already gone to DVD and couldn't be characterized as prerelease or unreleased, but clearly the post suggested support for ripping movies.

There is a movement to decentralization of content, culture and by extension intellectual property, but there is a fine line to walk. Technologists need to take care that they aren't actively inducing the public to "steal" media properties, and media rights owners need to turn the threat of P2P into an opportunity.

I think my warning to Russ was a bit more obviously tongue-in-cheek:
http://www.russellbeattie.com/notebook/1008378.html#1015146 (see comment from Mobile Jones). Given, the RIAA's willingness to sue individuals like 12 year old girls and boys for copyright infringement, I'm sure some media interest wouldn't hestitate landing the head of a prominent blogger on the proverbial stick.

Derrick Oien said...

I think I was wrong about pre-release. I thought it had just hit Pay Per View, but I think your point is more spot on that you don't want to endorse ripping movies.

The thing that I am most concerned about is some judge somewhere making a blanket move to shut down BitTorrent because of the inherent upload nature of the tool. A little technical ignorance and the right judge, say in the 2nd district, could be a real hammer to an awesome tool.

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