Sunday, February 18, 2007

Making Copies is Not Stealing

Back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when I was a teenager, my dad and I were early adopters of the new-fangled audio technology called 8-track. Not only did I have a tape deck in my green pickup truck, but my dad, who performed and recorded bluegrass and gospel music, also bought an 8-track recorder.

Although you could purchase the 8-track version of albums at any record store, I would rather have listened to my favorite music mixes. That wasn’t possible without a recorder or without all the vinyl albums I wanted mixed. I had the recorder, but not all my favorite albums.

Fortunately, there was this shop in Columbus called the Mod Shop. It was the ‘60s, so the term “mod” was used often to depict latter day styles and technology. The Mod Shop had mixed play lists of all kinds of music. I was mostly into Country Music back then. That was back when most male vocalists didn’t accentuate the strong Texas drawl that is so common these days, and so very annoying.

My favorite artists back then were Bobby Goldsboro and Glen Campbell, among others. So I bought an 8-track mix containing those two artists. There were about 25 songs on it.

Obviously, the little shop was breaking copyright laws, but I didn’t care. I really didn’t even realize it at the time.

When VHS video tape came along a decade later, my dad was also an early adopter of that technology, including home video taping. I also enjoyed renting movies and transferring the ones I liked to a blank tape to keep in my library.

But the companies that represent movie studios got smart and made the manufacturers of video cassette recorders include an anti-copy mechanism into their machines. You could still copy a movie, but it looked awful.

Today, we have what’s called digital rights management software, or DRM. The movie and music industry use it to keep individuals from making copies of their films or music that is downloaded from the Internet.

Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs has called for the music industry to stop including DRM technology in their downloads, saying that 90 percent of the music they sell is via compact discs, which do not have protection. So to include DRM on the 10 percent of music that is downloaded makes little sense.

Film studios, meanwhile, are including a spot at the beginning of most DVDs that tries to make viewers feel guilty about making illegal copies of the movie. The spot says, “You wouldn’t steal a car…” and then insinuates that making a copy of the DVD would also be stealing.

I don’t buy in to that theory. It is not stealing. The federal copyright laws give individual consumers permission to make private copies for personal use or archiving. And I’ll make copies of DVDs anytime I feel like it; it’s my right.

When you steal something from someone, that person or store no longer has the item. They must spend money to replace it while you enjoy the benefits of the original. But making a copy of a DVD or a CD doesn’t take anything away from a store, a person, or the music industry. If it’s your own DVD or CD, you’ve already purchased it. If it belongs to someone else, they have purchased it. Either way, it has been legally purchased. Copying it isn’t stealing it.

Some may argue that if I copy a DVD or CD that I borrowed or rented it hurts the movie and music industries because I would then not go out and buy it myself. But 90 percent of everything I copy I wouldn’t buy anyway.

Piracy means a big loss of business for content producers. Pirates make multiple copies and sell them for profit. The industry is well within its rights to go after these pirates. But when they go after individuals who are also their customers, they only alienate those who have supported them.

And I firmly believe that, unless the industry comes to its senses, the day is coming when the film and music distributors will become obsolete.

1 comment:

Ye-ling Chang said...

February 23, 2007
Ye-ling Chang’s Responses to Mr. Wilson’s article of February 18, 2007,
“Making Copies is Not Stealing”

It’s difficult to keep balance between copy right protection and application of CD or DVD in this e-age. Though we should respect the copy right or artists or composers, we can purchase their products and compose (or mix) their works in our CD’s or DVD’s for non-benefit use.
According to your article, your federal copyright laws give individual consumers permission to make private copies for personal use or archiving. So you would make copies of DVDs anytime you like. I sincerely hope that our Taiwanese government also makes the similar copyright laws to allow individual consumers to compose (or mix) their works in our CD’s or DVD’s for non-benefit use. Unfortunately, without definite laws to protect trade companies’ or individual right to reprint or reproduce some multimedia products, the trade market in Taiwan seems out of control.
Alternatively, I think the copyright may not be protected seriously because “to give is more than to take”. On the website, we can see a lot of creative ideas come from reconstruct or recompose old texts or media. If writers or artists insist on preserving their works, they make no progress on their works. Being an English teacher, I believe my students can write compositions or compose homepages better than I after I show them my sample works on-line or off-line. Being a columnist, you share your idea in the blogs with your reader twice a week, and you might hope to get some feedback from your readers, either pros or cons. Later on, you may write more to your readers in their interest or needs. Overall, if feedback or reconstruction is inevitable, why don’t writers or composers open their minds by giving copyrights to other users in a condition of getting their acknowledgements.