Big businesses using every means they can to ensure their revenue and profitability haven’t been news for at least several decades and probably a lot more. There’s always been a group, or more, trying to bend the laws, or make new ones, to get what they want. The most recent example is the big media companies that have been caught by surprise by a completely unexpected turn of events, market conditions and peoples’ expectations changing. The Internet has shown everyone that they can get content when they want it, as fast as they want it and for as much money as they’re willing to spend, even if that’s absolutely nothing.
Smart companies and businesses adapt, change is inevitable, right? That’s not what the movie studios or the major record labels think; not only can you fight change, that’s the only reasonable thing to do. Failing to realize the potential of the web, perhaps because it would mean someone in the content industry would have to actually ‘innovate,’ or at least try do something different - basically ‘work’ - for the first time in decades, these companies pursue their interests and nothing else. Basic human rights be dammed.
The latest example, not that there’s need for proof at this point, is the set of proposals the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other groups have filed with the US government as part of a request for public comment and debate about the ‘piracy’ problem.
The proposals make for a very interesting read and they would certainly solve all of the (perceived) problems with copyright infringement and file-sharing. They’d trash even the most basic rights a democracy should grant individuals, but hey, movie execs need their third holiday home. ‘Anti-virus’ software for copyrighted content
One of the proposed solutions: ‘anti-infringement’ software that people would ‘voluntarily’ install on their homes. The media industry sees it as anti-virus software for copyrighted files. They’d monitor your computer and warn or maybe even delete, if the analogy would go all the way, infringing files.
Who in their right minds would install something that cripples the functionality of their own computers? Even taking into account parents concerned about their kids downloading the latest Hollywood flick, why would anyone, knowingly, install software that actively spies on their behavior?
And that’s not even taking into account the practicality of the move. People use more than one platform, would a Linux version of the tool be made available? How about the fact that any software tool can be hacked, manipulated and bypassed, despite what the latest and greatest DRM scheme might have you believe. China is a great inspiration for pro-copyright groups, as always
It’s interesting that, while some might criticize China
for the way it treats its citizens and Internet freedom, more and more people on that one side of the copyright discussion are citing it as a great example
and borrowing from its great successes. The great Chinese government had a very similar idea as the media industry, a couple of years ago, have people install a piece of software that would monitor their activity and ‘protect’ them and their children from the threat of adult material and other harmful stuff.
Dubbed Green Dam, the software turned out to be a major fiasco, not only because it was a complete rip-off of an existing parental-control application (copyright infringement is not that big of a deal in China). It worked only on Windows and it exposed computers to some pretty nasty security threats. In the end China ditched the plans altogether, realizing that they were unfeasible. Yet big media believes it can succeed where the mighty Peoples’ Republic has failed. Wide-range filtering, throttling and other pro-active measures
But infringing content shouldn’t make it to peoples’ computers in the first place, the MPAA and RIAA believe. What is needed is better filtering at every level, from the ISPs right down to the local networks. These groups must love Australia’s plans in the ‘field’ of Internet censorship
Again, basic common sense, empirical knowledge and countless studies elude the media industry. No filtering solution has ever been effective, people who want to get through will. They’ll just have to work harder, but simple filtering would only deter the most undetermined of ‘pirates.’ Uncle Sam knows best
And it’s not enough that these preventive methods get implemented in the US, everyone has to follow suit. Because, what’s good for the US, or at least for the US media companies, is good for the world. And if countries fail to realize the great benefits of trampling on their citizens’ rights, they could use a little convincing, some tough love from the US government, perhaps. Maybe threaten with trade sanctions if they don’t comply? Uncle Sam knows what’s best for the world, after all. Homeland Security should check into the piracy threat
And speaking of Uncle Sam, the US taxpayers’ money should be put to good use working against their interest, or at least that’s what the pro-copyright groups believe. Another proposition would have government agencies, including Homeland Security, working to fight the plague of copyright infringement. Last we checked, copyright infringement was still a civil matter in the US, apart from some very clear exceptions.
There are plenty of other propositions, a veritable Christmas wish list for big media, the usual things like cutting off peoples’ Internet connections, more thorough international border searches, site blocking and censoring and so on. You can check out the full document over here
(in Google Document Viewer
). The Electronic Frontier Foundation goes over some of the more ‘interesting’ proposals
and the Torrentfreak blog does a good job
at covering it, as always.
Now, just because the content industry is reaching for the moon it doesn’t mean that it will actually get anything that it’s asking for. But trusting politicians and government officials to put the public interest ahead of the media industry’s has proven to be naive at best, time (UK)
and time (Italy)
and time again (France).