I have to admit right at the start that I have “illegally” downloaded or streamed different things from the internet. Whether it be a movie to cure a Saturday afternoon boredom on a rainy day or a song to take the morning blues away, I think a good percentage of the population will be guilty of the act…. well under the outdated copyright act they are anyway. The copyright act in New Zealand was made in 1994, now that doesn’t sound like that long but it is actually 21 years ago. This was the year that the Playstation One was released and cell phones were still the size of small cars, alright that is a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea. Technology has come along way from then where even downloading something from the internet was virtually unheard of.
Today though that is a completely different story where it is almost easier to illegally download a song than it is to buy it or to cut copy and paste someone else’s work (promise I’m not doing that). Although this is on the change with the popular services like Spotifiy and Netflix becoming more of a household name with more people using them. They are following the model of Steam by bringing all of the same type of things together, like music and movies but then charging only a subscription fee which can work out cheaper but is a lot more user friendly. Probably the most prominent and least thought about growth is the content that is uploaded to YouTube. YouTube was founded in 2005 and has become the 3rd ranked website in the world, but when the Copyright act was made there was absolutely no thought put towards this type of media sharing simply because it didn’t exist and wouldn’t for years to come. So this is where a lot of confusion comes into play. I am using YouTube as my example because it is where I first became aware of copyright, but only recently. The copyright act was put in place to protect the owner/creator of their work from other people copying it. The idea YouTube doesn’t really come into play until when the idea of SOPA (I’ll talk about it later) was brought about in 2011. Before this the copyright act was enforced but pretty lightly but when SOPA came up it forced everyone to look at copyright a lot more closely. YouTube content makers for years have been using (for example) computer games and making reviews on them. Now before copyright was brought into the light the policies that the creators had to follow weren’t that strict but after, lets just say, it got quite difficult and very confusing. This video (be warned he does swear in the video) that the YouTube content creator Nerdcubed made shows only a tiny portion of the trouble and confusion faced by the copyright law. I can’t see law changes doing much to stop the downloading and copying of someone else’s intellectual property because with every law change or new rule that is put in place someone will find a way around it. For example the Witcher 2 was released in two versions, a version that had DRM features built-in and a version without, and after the game had been out for a while it was found that the cracked DRM version was downloaded more. It shows that if a company tries to stop piracy there will be a way round it. I believe game retailers like Steam are the best ways to help control it because it brings all the games together in an easy to access way, almost like the piracy sites do but with Steam you can see that you’re helping the developer when you buy their game. If you have the time read this Blog post from a game developer and see the giant game of hide and seek that is being played.
Stop Online Piracy Act or as its more commonly known as SOPA was pretty much brought around to blacklist the internet. At the beating heart of SOPA is the ability of intellectual property owners to effectively kill foreign sites against whom they have a copyright claim. For example, Warner Bros, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and the really scary bit, that the site’s ISP prevent people from even going there. Ever since US congress started playing with the idea of SOPA websites around the world have tightened up their copyright rules significantly. On the 18th of January this year there was a mass strike of more than 75000 websites around the world, organised by sopastrike.com, which included parts of major sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter. On the 20th the US congress dropped the idea of SOPA although it sites in the back of everyone’s mind still as it will be back. I like so many am against SOPA because I believe it’s a law for the power-hungry as they feared the one thing they can’t control, The Internet.
The Idea of Fair Use
Fair use is an exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of any piece of their work. It is a policy that permits limited use of copyrighted material without gaining permission from the author/copyright holders. A few examples of fair use include criticism, parody, news reporting, research and teaching. This is effectively what almost all YouTube content creators work under. The fair use policy has a lot of unknowns and shaky rules that can be interpreted both ways but only using a tiny percentage of the copyrighted material, and it is non-profit, it is usually covered under the fair use policy. Sometimes letting someone use a little bit of your work, for example, to make a YouTube video about your copyrighted property, it can work out in your favor, as the video will be viewed by a larger audience and will bring added advertising for you. The biggest conflict with the fair use policy is Copy and Paste as it is so easy but you are taking someone elses property.
So as you can probably see I total don’t agree with the current copyright rules. They are outdated, don’t work and can also cause issues for people who don’t want any. Everyone has their own opinion on copyright and has their own right to it but at a certain point people will have a conflict with it. This giant game of hide and seek will continue on as long as there is a law in place. When one hiding place is discovered another will appear.