tech news and opinions

Ion Cannon part 2 – Digital Rights

I didn’t finish strongly last time I posted on the topic of digital rights since my computer was around ten minutes away from rebooting for updates, so allow me to continue. I’m using a new blog post since this topic of digital rights is becoming distant from the original Arstechnica article I began with.

First, I’d like to begin by finishing the thought I had last time: Deception in the marketing industry. I don’t want to drag this on, but I really think that the industry is being plagued by the misuse of important terminology. The only things truly being bought and sold in this country are at garage sales. The purchaser has the full rights to do whatever they want with the item they purchase, at least within legal limitations of course. The person giving the item away is selling that item and all the rights they have to controlling it. (And actually, since some items being sold at garage sales still have patents on them, truer “sales” are those at junk and lumber yards where people can buy raw materials.) In the entertainment and software industries, however, it is an entirely different story. The businesses misuse the word “sell” frequently because they are making a transaction with you. What they are actually selling is a license and you just happen to get the product along with it. But this brings me to the next point in the discussion.

No one would actually want to buy the full rights to Microsoft Office. That would cost over 9000 dollars, euros, or whatever currency you prefer (except pounds of gold or uranium, where the former could buy you Microsoft and the latter could give you cancer). It costs alot of time and money to make these programs. It also costs alot of money to make music assuming you want to use professional equipment and not just sequencers like the guys on OCRemix (though their music is really awesome). If you are going to do anything with vocals AND want it to sell, you need high-end equipment. If you are going to make a professional software product, you either need alot of time on your hands or a team of software engineers to create the product. Movies and TV shows require even more time and money even when you have a large enough team. My point being there is alot of effort being put into these products, and people don’t seem to appreciate that effort when they copy others’ work and post it for anyone to take. I can see the bitterness some companies may have when they are trying to make a profit and people continue to give away their stuff without permission. Technically, these companies don’t have to sell us anything. It’s the illusion of the American consumer that he or she deserves to have access to the data.

Thus, from a moral standpoint, the best option would be to not copy without permission. Rather, we ought to try making such things for ourselves so that we get some idea of the difficulty and time spent making these products. However, there is some degree of copying that I believe companies should (and some do) find desirable. In the entertainment industry, trailers and music videos are what gets the word out about a product. It gives people some idea of what the product is (if not the whole thing). Many entertainment products I buy I’ve had the opportunity of watching or listening to or playing in full before hand. Had I not had these opportunities, the companies that make these products would not otherwise get my service. The digital market has a catch 22 it faces all the time: there is no tangible, real product to show people unless you let them try the real thing with the risk of having them copy it and not give you business anyway. There will always be bad apples in the crowd, but let’s not let that spoil the digital marketplace.

How can we improve the marketplace? What would be an ideal marketplace? First, I believe both sides, the consumer and the producer, need to exert more effort in trying to understand the point of view from the other side. Second, for the consumer, there are already alternative options. For future posts, my intention is to present the benefits of open-source free software (in accordance with the definition of the Free Software Foundation). Furthermore, I also intend to compare open-source free software I use to their commercial counterparts. As for the entertainment industry, there are bucket loads of legally free music on the internet, so don’t expect me to confine myself to writing reviews of OCRemix albums (though I’ll do that too).

Hopefully, this article has encouraged you to consider how to resolve this digital dilemma for the best of both parties. I did not explicitly state how you, the consumer, are to view things from the point of view of the companies (“putting yourself in their shoes”). I would hope that you acquire such a perspective from considerations you may have as you complete your own professional products. Don’t expect the discussion of digital rights to end here, though. There is so much more to discuss.

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