The Way We Were

My opinion on Digital Rights Management? I thought you’d never ask…

In last week’s class, I mentioned that I had in fact been busted for downloading illegally. Here’s what happened… I missed an episode of House, one of the shows I watch religiously. My DVR malfunctioned and it didn’t record, and I really wanted to see that episode of House. (A show which is, by the way, broadcast on Fox affiliate KCPQ, and anyone with a TV and rabbit ears can watch for free.) So my now husband who downloads anime off bit torrent downloaded the episode for me. I watched and all was well.

Until, one day when I was working from home, I couldn’t get on the internet, my (VOIP) phone wasn’t working, and as always, I had zero reception on my cell. I had absolutely no contact with the outside world. Panic set in. I plugged and unplugged the cable modem several times, troubleshot as best I could, but all to no avail. Shaun came home and had no idea what was going on either. The next day I called the ISP (from work) and they informed me my cable had been shut off because of this sin I had committed. They had received a threatening letter from Fox which was able to pin the illegal download to our service, and like that, the world went silent.

They said all I had to do was sign a form promising I’d never commit such a terrible act again, and my cable would be restored. I thought about it and it didn’t seem right to me. One episode of a broadcast television show that I could have seen for free anyway causing all this trouble? (And don’t start talking to me about commercials, because I would have passed right by them on my DVR.) So I didn’t sign the form and switched to a bigger, better more name brand ISP.

I used Napster all the time when I was first in college, probably my sophomore year. I don’t remember hearing a peep about copyright infringement until maybe my senior year. I never thought I was doing anything wrong by downloading song and I still don’t. There’s a great line in the movie Almost Famous when the new manager of the up and coming band is trying to convince them to get all the cash they can while they can. Because there will come a time when the band’s young audience will decide having new clothes is more important than having their record, and instead of spending that cash, they tape the record from a friend’s copy. Well those were the issues people dealt with in the ’60s, ’70s, & ’80s, and these are the issues we’re dealing with now.

I know it’s not really the same, but the market has to continually adapt. Just like the film executives balked at the emerging video market, now it’s their biggest moneymaker. So shutting down Napster was trying to quash file sharing, which is exactly what it seemed like at the time, was the wrong type of thinking. Finally Apple came along and said, “hey that napster was a great idea, look how many people loved it. Let’s stop fighting against that model and make it work for us.”

I still think the legitimate sites have a long ways to go though. A lot of music I want I’m not going to find on iTunes, because it’s obscure and hasn’t been commerically viable in decades. So Napster before and Limewire now are useful to me.

I understand the arguments for and against Digital Rights Management, and I think both sides have relevant issues and problems to tackle. Yet any way you slice it I just don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong. I don’t download a lot of stuff, maybe that has something to do with it. I prefer to watch TV on TV, and when an artist I like, say Randy Newman, comes out with a new CD, I go out and buy it. But the 10 second snippet of a song in the new Mac Ad? I’m not gonna buy that. I just want to hear it. So I download it illegally and listen to it a few times.

(Newman, by the way, doesn’t like the illegal downloading of his content and thus I think is effectively combating that by offering a myriad of media and ways to listen/buy on his website.)

I’m starting to get paranoid now that saying “download” and “illegal” so many times in one blog post may draw some unwanted attention. Plus I’ve rattled on long enough. But as you can now tell, I have an opinion about this stuff, and prior to last week’s class with our guest speaker, I was kind of dreading any class with the word “law” in it. Now I’m really looking forward to it.


About suitejen

Writer. Video Editor. Mama.
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One Response to The Way We Were

  1. Gerry says:

    Right on Jen, fight the good fight!

    I’m with you here, big media has only one thing in mind, how to bilk more money from you. The distribution model that worked so well for them for years is now threatened by new technology, and they’re running scared. Especially Ruperts New Corp… they love the internet when it comes to the ad revenue generated off of Myspace, but are scared when someone downloads a free over-the-air broadcast.

    Granted, NBC isn’t much better with their online olympic coverage. You’ve got to put in your zip and cable provider in order to get access to online video… if you get TV over the air, or from a ‘non-participating’ cable provider, you get shutout. Granted, it took me all of five minutes to search online for a combination that works, but why even go through the exercise? I’m using a internet line, yet I have to have cable to access web content? That’s like asking your power company for permission to use your gas lawn mower.

    Not to mention that NBC holds an information monopoly that prevents US citizens from getting live video from foreign sources, just so they can hold onto the footage until primetime to maximize ad revenue.

    Is it really appropriate that we allow media companies to act as censors and gatekeepers to information? Cable ala cart got shot down in the 90’s, because it threatened the model. Will we ever see a day where I can bypass my cable company and direct download the content I want? We watch maybe 10 hours of TV a week. I’d gladly pay for a ‘season pass’ for direct download to my DVR… but what incentive does big media have in giving us that kind of power, when they can tell us what we will watch, and when we will watch it?

    You hit on this too, when you receive TV over the public airwaves, are you still bound to a contract saying you won’t redistribute? That’s like saying you can’t take a photo of a national park and put it on your blog. I don’t get it.

    What gets me, is that we’ve made honest efforts to download legally, but have run into wall after wall. If the MP3 doesn’t have DRM on it, you’ve gotta install spyware on your machine, or pay a huge monthly fee just for the one song you want to download. It’s still easier and faster to hitup bittorrent or limewire.

    If you can’t tell, yes, I’m very opinionated on this as well.

    Anyway, I’m sure the intellectual property folks at News Corp have already been flagged about this blog post. Good for you for not relenting with you first ISP. People need to stand up to these mafia like tactics, and if they want to waste their money sueing you over one episode, by all means let them.

    I have no problem watching a 5 second ad at the beginning of content, but gone are the days when 30% of a program can be devoted to advertising. We won’t stand for it.

    Anyway, thanks for providing me a needed break from work.

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