Defending the Villain

Sean Sands | 11 Apr 2008 17:00
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

I'm not arguing that the ESA, RIAA, MPAA or anyone else is wrong in taking the position of defending themselves from piracy, but it seems like a basic understanding of business would suggest that interfering with legitimate users hurts sales at best and act as a driving force toward piracy at worst. But, it doesn't even really end there. In flipping through my DirectTV information the other day I was informed that should I choose to record a Pay Per View movie with my DVR, the recording would only be available for twenty-four hours, now establishing restrictions on how I consume media without affording either recourse or discount. This sort of haphazard curtailing of how I may consume media, this further encroachment on the idea that I own the products I buy, is offensive. Companies cannot simply will away the technology that is permeating the average consumers life, but must find ways to adapt else the consumers will adapt those products to fit our lifestyles with or without corporate consent.

Perhaps someone could explain to me why, exactly, I should ever bother to spend money on Pay Per View again if I can't use the technology I already own to enjoy my purchase at my discretion? Am I crazy in thinking that this measure, like so many others, will drive people to spend less money on these products rather than more? And when that happens, how conveniently will these companies blame piracy on their lagging sales instead of the real culprit: anachronistic and hostile policies toward legitimate consumers.

Let's be honest: Piracy in the age of digital product is inescapable. It will not cease to exist, and media conglomerates can run from their own shadows all they like, but it's part of doing business now, a part that has been inflated by their own consistently failed response. And as a consumer, it's not my problem. It doesn't change the fact in the least that I expect companies to be able to deliver their content without interruption and without unreasonable restrictions, and if that means they have to sacrifice their tried-and-true models of doing business, again, that's their problem not mine. I have no doubt that the actual makers of music, movies and games will continue to do so regardless of whether artificial constructs like the RIAA or ESA collapsed tomorrow. These are disposable consolidations of power, and their attitudes in what I increasingly hope are their final days are vaguely reminiscent of dictators about to fall to revolution.

Like most people, I am enthusiastic to give the creative forces behind media their well deserved money, and I am equally enthusiastic to give the responsible support structures behind those media their cut. What I am having increasing trouble justifying is the money that I spend on organizations that increasingly treat me with less respect and more restrictive conditions of sale. Given that, I have the unpleasant choice between piracy and abstaining from consumption, I choose to abstain. The question of piracy remains one that cannot be defended from a legal standpoint, but the truth is that my conviction to see media companies defended is mitigated by my treatment as their customer.

My point is this, and I admit it is flawed: If piracy is the mechanism that dissolves these institutions that have become openly hostile, or forces them to adapt to the modern marketplace, I find it very hard to strongly condemn the practice.

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