Respecting content

I’ve often talked about the need for societal respect of content copyright. For example, the RIAA would not have a leg to stand on if people didn’t think it was socially ok to steal music. After all, when you look at your mp3 collection and see music you never paid for, its really no difference culturally than if you had a pile of stolen CDs sitting right there on the floor.

So I wonder, is skipping commercials with my DVR any different? If the implied contract between the content provider and myself is “here is our content, and our ads” then aren’t I bound to that contract?

After all, I have the choice to not watch the content. Nobody is forcing me. My job isn’t relying on watching reality TV nor MTV.

As we move to a culture that is more and more digitally driven, should we as a society stop and think about how we respect ourselves and respect the wishes and rights of others? Maybe if we did this more often, we’d have less of this lawsuit nonsense going on.

On the other hand, maybe we do need to go to hell first, where everything becomes so digitally locked up that we can’t do a damn thing with our content. Then we’ll stop buying most content because it is crap after all, and then the pendulum might swing back towards open systems after the major industries have collapsed.

What do you think? Do you feel we’re disrespecting ourselves by not having the self control to respect a content providers right to price their content? Do you feel that we disrespect ourselves when we talk ourselves into thinking that copying is not stealing? Do you think we disrespect ourselves when we’ll steal music but not steal the cds we burn it to?

Its all fascinating to me.


  1. Well… here’s what I think! Excuse the weird attempt at quoting what you said, but I can’t do the usual blockquote or italics. πŸ™ This blog software sucks- it is impossible to post anything longer than two lines. Feel free to email me if you want to talk about this more… But I’ll make an attempt at replying. You said: START—>After all, when you look at your mp3 collection and see music you never paid for, its really no difference culturally than if you had a pile of stolen CDs sitting right there on the floor.<—END An mp3 collection of non-paid for music is looked at the record companies and the owner of the content like that, but not in a general cultural context. That mp3 collection full of stolen music is not at all like a pile of stolen CDs culturally; rather, it is like a pile of CD-Rs that you burned, copying music from a friend. Or like a shelf of VHS tapes that were all recorded off of TV, copied from a friend’s copy or from a tape you rented. Or a computer whose software is all pirated, installed off of a friend’s CD. What do these all have in common? A lot of people- even people whe consider themselves moral and ethical, including to but not limited to Christians, will engage in these methods of library-building. The reasons aren’t all that complex- for it to happen it needs to be relatively easy. You’re getting something for nothing or next to nothing, and nothing is “stolen” in the sense of physical property. I think most people would feel a ton worse for stealing a 10-cent individual piece of gum from a gas station than for downloading a few unlicensed mp3s. Culturally, these crimes are a world apart- one is depriving someone for compensation due for their property, and the other is thought of as a “victimless crime”- a music artist or record company doesn’t have something taken away when I copy a CD. A lot of people who do these things say “well, I wouldn’t have purchased it anyway, the only reason I have a burned copy is that it was easy and available.” I’ve known people with vast libraries of downloaded and burned CDs, DVDs, and computer games/software. They only use a fraction of the library usually, but still collect compulsively. This isn’t most people, mind you, but interesting IMHO. My very Roman Catholic grandma has a big library of VHS tapes copied from video rentals and I guaruntee you she never once equated with what she did as stealing. I’m sure she knew it was illegal, but legality does not dictate morality with most folk. I agree that if magically you managed to change human nature so that people no longer downloaded music, movies and other media they didn’t pay for, yeah, there would be less litigation. But that just isn’t going to happen. I think we will have to go down the path of a DRM hell, and the pendulum will swing back toward openness- but only a little. I think we’ll be stuck with something like Apple’s DRM or something like it- compared to the other systems around it’s downright libertine, but it is still “less free” than just purchasing a CD.

  2. My only comment to all this is, who cares? How does DRM actually affect the legal owner of the product? In fact how does it affect my ability not to share it when in fact, in the case of iTunes, I can burn tracks in a virtually limitless way to give to people? As for all the other DRM out there currently it all lets the actual purchaser of the product full access to it. I know that in the future they may try to limit how many times we can view something, but they have tried this in the past. DIVX anyone? It failed miserably because no one will buy something that limits you this much. All I am trying to point out is that every group has a right to protect their product. It took an investment to make and they should be able to reap the rewards. As for good Christians having illegal things, I say “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”

  3. How does DRM actually affect the legal owner of the product?

    Well when my DVD drive ate my Call of Duty 2 DVD, I had to send it back and wait 12 days to get a new DVD before I could play the game. I can’t make a backup of the DVD as it uses copy protection. After 90 days a dead DVD starts costing me $10 + shipping, opposed to what it would cost to make a disk image and never use the DVD, or make my own backup.

    I’m screwed becase Aspyr sees 1500 sales and 15,000 update downloads.

    The point is that as long as society equates copying with free, we’ll lose more and more rights.

  4. Really though how does a DVD wearing out differ from lets say an XBOX 360 dieing after 90 days, or a blender after 90 days. Or a car after I drive it off the lot. We live in a society that depends on things breaking, and self destructing in order to drive spending. When you are purchasing a product producers of the product do not think about how folks can make a copy so they can use the original. Just because it would be much easier to copy a DVD you purchased than an XBOX does not really matter to them. They treat it the same.

    In reality the ability to purchase a DRM version of something digitally actually has a much better chance of surviving provided I have a good back up regimen. On that note, Aspyr is going to start a game download service just like iTunes for there games, so in that case you will have the back up you want. So really, DRM is making it easier for us to keep things longer and not have them wear out. πŸ˜‰

  5. Because we have fair use laws, laws passed by the house that give me fair use rights to back up a DVD. But those laws are circumvented by DRM and copy protection.

    I don’t buy the DRM solution because as soon as Aspyr goes out of business, I won’t have a backup.

    TouchΕ½ πŸ™‚

  6. As soon as my Xbox breaks I will not have one! As soon as my TV breaks I will not have one! As soon as my Car breaks I will not have one! As soon as my refrigerator breaks I will not have one! As soon as my iPod breaks I will not have one! As soon as my sofa breaks I will not have one! As soon as my CD of Darkside of the Moon Breaks I will not have one! As soon as my TIVO breaks I will not have one!

    I think you see my point!

    Oh and stop being anti-American with all your communist fair-use rantings as well πŸ˜‰

  7. haha.

    As soon as your rights are fully taken away, your life, you will not have one!


  8. My biggest problem with consumers is that they display a sense of entitlement over this issue. Like they are, in the end, somehow entitled to music. Like this is merely just a negotiation between them and The Man and it will be sorted out eventually. And if they take some liberties and partake of music they haven’t paid for, that it’s still OK because… they’re… entitled. ……PARAGRAPH……
    The bottom line is that whomever creates something gets to decide who may have it and how they might go about getting permission to have it. The argument that it’s a victimless crime is a red herring. You’ve taken away a creator’s right to control (or not!) their content. But since the consumer sees only money as the roadblock to access, they make that the focus. So, if it’s “victimless” to take someone’s music and not pay whatever that artists or their representative because “I wouldn’t have bought it anyway” is beside the point. (and watch how the dynamic changes when you talk about art or books… music gets the short end of the stick because it’s intangible) ……PARAGRAPH……

    Bottom line, the creator’s rights have been taken away. And no argument which involves money has any relevance to that. And if you want to see the flip-side, go watch the shitfight that breaks out when someone creates some picture and puts it on their website… the moment someone else takes that image and uses it for their own purposes the creator will go ballistic and start talking about “my rights”… but they forget that when rationalizing the taking of others’ property. They point at the RIAA or record company and say “they’re bad, they’re greedy” and that’s supposed to make it OK. Well… it doesn’t, consumer. That’s you trying to assuage your guilt. ……PARAGRAPH……

    Me? I’ve stolen. And I’ve done my best to make up for it by buying the same content later. It doesn’t make it right, but it helps my conscience. I’ve still done something wrong. We all need to own up to our crimes, even if we’re going to continue to carry them out. ……PARAGRAPH……

    PS – Can’t you turn on ‘convert line breaks’ for comments? Pretty please?

  9. hmmm so it seems OK after you post. The preview is all screwy though- all run together.

  10. Thanks for the comments! You hit the main point I’m trying to make – its up to each individual to make the right decision and en masse we can maybe move this country in a better direction. Maybe it starts with foregoing piracy, ends up with helping someone in need. Compassion and respect.

    I’m thinking about setting up some forums for comments or something, I dunno, I never liked the blog comment systems.

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