What’s This About Pirates?

By: Grainne Rhuad

So, what did the SOPA/PIPA blackout achieve?

First of all, anything announced that has to do with internet and internet freedoms gets the attention of most people using the internet.  There are precious few people who want restrictions placed on their internet activity and those who do belong in one of two categories.

  1. Government /Law enforcement agencies-because they need laws-at least superficially to go after people.  Especially people in other countries. 
  2. Large Corporations and Industries like Music and Film licensing ones and Media outlets who want to make money off of people’s work.  Being able to give away your own work for free or sharing music, stories etc. with your friends really puts a dent in their pocketbook.

News of the shutdown seemed to bring retaliation from hackers who claimed credit for attacking the Justice Department’s website. Federal officials confirmed it was down for hours Thursday evening and that the disruption was being “treated as a malicious act.”

‘A loose affiliation of hackers known as “Anonymous” claimed credit for the attack. Also hacked was the site for the Motion Picture Association of America.”

P.S.-I love how the news outlets discribe and downplay Anonymous…scared maybe?

It seems to have worked however since a postponement has been called by SOPA’s author which will be discussed in a moment.

Whose Minds’ did it change?

It didn’t initially seem as if it changed anyone’s mind.  Those who were for SOPA/PIPA got up bright and fresh this morning and arrested people in New Zealand in exactly the manner SOPA lays out should be acceptable to us. 

4 people from the company Megaupload.com including the founder Kim Dotcom and 4 of his executives were arrested in New Zealand for breaking piracy laws in Virginia where one of their servers is located.  Even though they hadn’t broken any laws of New Zealand where they legally reside and at least Kim Dotcom is a dual citizen of Germany and Finland, The U.S. wanted extradition and received it.  Of the other three defendants two were German citizens and one is Dutch. 

Other people whose minds weren’t changed ranged from Musicians themselves to most of the U.S. representatives voting on the bill. 

In a bit of strangeness.  Robin Davey, an Independent Musician lately of the group Bastard Fairies, Writer and Award Winning Filmmaker. Came down on the side for SOPA.  Stating in an article he wrote for GizmodoPeople have further been led to believe that music holds no worth, and can be shared or streamed at little or no price. Piracy will remain as prevalent as ever having seen the legal alternative settle so low, and the artists, content owners, and creators suffer even further as they try to cope with ever diminishing returns.” 

See he is concerned with losing money on his creative potential, which is interesting as his band The Bastard Fairies has given away complete and partial albums for free as well as created music by inserting rap and reading around stolen beats from other artists.  In fact, complete songs produced by Robin Davey are pirated. 

But early this morning Senator Harry Reid (D- Nevada) went public with the following statement:

“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

“I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”

Also, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced on Friday that he will postpone consideration of his Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) until there is wider agreement on the controversial legislation.

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” Smith said. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

Just in case you didn’t know, Smith was the author of SOPA and its most vocal proponent. He had repeatedly said the bill did not need to be changed and accused the critics of “spreading lies.”

 

Do the Internet Outlets in fact have any power?

This is a question I was looking for in this whole Blackout.  Pretty big companies joined the blackout.  Like Google and Wikipedia.  Granted, they didn’t entirely Blackout, their services were still availably but they were pretty clearly supportive, one had to get around their front page to go to anything else.  The message was there.  People use both of these sites every day, several times a day and they will most likely continue to do so, however it didn’t initially seem as if they held much sway in this case.

People went about business as usual the day after and even the day during.  Most News outlets declined to participate and very many individuals commenting in social forums made light of the attempt to sway the government in their decision making.  A fact that at very least shows the lack of confidence the people have in those who govern them. 

Yet in light of the above statement from Sen. Reid and others today it would seem that the public outcry and new type of boycotting did have the effect intended.  Lawmakers took note and at least slowed down to take a better look at this particular set of laws. 

This is in and of itself is a sort of victory.  Yes this sort of protest works.  Particularly it seems if some big names are behind it.  Google and Wikipedia-A big thanks to you. 

Who is hurt by this thing called Piracy?

The people the lawmakers will have us believe are hurt by piracy are individuals who have created things, like art, music, literature, research.   However as we all know by now, at least here in the U.D. an “individual” can be a Corporation thanks to “Corporate Personhood”. 

Other people piracy could potentially hurt are those artists particularly musicians who are just starting out who have been known to have their material swiped off of sites such as YouTube and lately Mac’s Cloud application. 

Most for- sale download sites like ITunes, Amazon and Barnes&Noble make it clear that you are purchasing copyrighted material.  Their TOS already addresses the issue that SOPA and PIPA seek to put in place making them redundant.

It’s not like the early days of Napster where music is freely shared and nobody gets a piece of the pie except the one 13 year old whose mum bought him/her a CD for the holidays.  Although, Spotify raises some of these questions again…but there again their TOS is pretty clear.

Others who claim to suffer from piracy are those like J.K. Rowling who gets really pissed off at any fan fiction using her characters.  I frankly think this is in bad form.  If you have inspired a new generation to write with your characters as a jumping off point you should be quite proud.  Instead she has been quite litigious in her approach to dealing with anyone and everyone.   

 

Who is helped by it?

With 150 million registered users, about 50 million hits daily and endorsements from music superstars, Megaupload.com was among the world’s biggest file-sharing sites. According to a U.S. indictment, the site, which was shut down Thursday, earned Dotcom $42 million in 2010 alone.

Although the company is based in Hong Kong and Dotcom lives in New Zealand, some of the alleged pirated content was hosted on leased servers in Virginia, and that was enough for U.S. prosecutors to act.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and digital rights online, said in a statement that the arrests set “a terrifying precedent. If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”

Alleged piracy seemed to help this company quite a lot as it was reported they had 150 million registered users and about 50 million hits daily.

Along with the arrests the company’s New Zealand Bank Accounts were frozen in amounts that equaled over $10 million dollars.  Also seized where rare vehicles like a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe valued at over NZ$500,000.and various pieces of fine art.  So it seems they were making a pretty penny off of this thing called piracy.  Most of which was of Motion Pictures. 

The foreseeable trouble with this case is the films were uploaded by other registered members. The company, much like Napster did not put them up for sale nor did they upload them.  They simply offered a membership fee enabling people to share more content.  They were also supported by the very people they were supposedly pirating from.  Music industry giants like Black Eyed Peas and Jamie Foxx participated in videos supporting the service. Although after the arrests most parties denied it.

 

Besides being trance inducing…it’s pretty clear from the video they can’t deny they were a part of the commercial.

Is there a different, better-ish way?

Is there a way for us all to be happy, share content, practice writing, create fan fiction/videos/cartoons while making everyone happy and not costing artists money?

I think the answer is maybe. 

I say maybe because it will require less greed on the part of the J. K. Rowlings of the world.  A lot of artists whose books, movies, music sells on the internet were in fact against the bill and issued statements to that effect. 

Artists against SOPA including Trent Reznor, OK-Go, Neil Gaiman, and more wrote an open letter decrying the bill.  Many artists and celebrities added Stop SOPA to their twitter accts. The difference is these are people who are actively connected to their audience.  They make use of the new ways of communicating and encourage others to emulate them.  They very often give away their works for free.  This is because they have moved with the times and know the best way to get your work out to the people is to let them know about it.  If they love it they will pay.  We see this work very often at places like Bandcamp where naming your own price for music, even if it’s zero very often nets musicians more than they would get from the record companies.  People understand the work that goes into producing something and mostly they are willing to pay for it.  Name your own price works because of that and because of this trust in the artist-fan relationship nobody needs to worry about Piracy.

What have we learned in the last few days?

What I’ve taken out of this whole experience is that unexpected people care about unexpected things.  I never would have thought Robin Davey gave a shit about piracy.  I also never would have thought that the author of SOPA would listen to the world of the internet.  I am pleasantly surprised in that.  I went into this year feeling pretty good about the world in general.  Yes it’s in pretty bad shape and yes we are losing choices daily.  It’s definitely not 31 flavors out there anymore.  But we do still have the choice to stand for something.  And sometimes we are heard.  Which is really nice.  But what’s more important than being heard is standing up, because integrity is everything. 

Also pirates are not all bad, sometimes they take what is on offer and give it away to those who will improve on things and make them better.  It’s really the very wealthy and non-creative people who are most afraid of pirates, because they can’t make anything new.

13 Comments on “What’s This About Pirates?”

  1. I’ve had talk videos on YouTube silenced because someone in the house was playing a radio in the background. I also couldn’t have made videos for then unknown artists who requested me make them one if I didn’t have access to a file sharing site because the video files were too large to go through email. Since I was doing everything for free, I certainly couldn’t afford to buy DVDs to burn the work and ship it back and forth until they were artistically satisfied.

    This is just the commercial music industry trying to grab money for work they didn’t do if you want to get to the core of it.

  2. Another point is that when people create videos for their favorite songs, that’s free advertising for the artist. I believe you touched on that point. The other side of the point is that those who created the videos are not paid for their work.

  3. Why does the situation with Megupload, dug out of their bomb shelters in New Zealand sound to me treacherously close to the saga of Julian Assange? Perhaps because there was a little juicy, free for government and banks seizures involved? Talk about piracy. All they did was put up some pretty little flags… and stole!

    Rowling needs to get real. An entire generation has grown up with her books. This generation is now in their twenties and having babies of their own. Of course they would be influenced by her work, because her characters have become as personal to them as Mr. Spock is to the Star Trek followers. This same generation also grew up on Japanese anime. You don’t see the Japanese wringing their hands and weeping because their fans use their big-eyed, half-human, half-animal concepts to create their own heroes or build on their devastated world story lines.

    What captures the imagination is what stimulates the urge for creativity. All artists at the drawing board, with a pen, an instrument or a stage performance, are influenced by other artists. Mimicry is often the first step, with tentative steps taken in the direction of their own creativity as they become aware of their own abilities for innovation. Originality is the process of creating your own work without copying another artists designs or expressions. If you are copying Rowling’s characters and style, but still expressing your own plots, you are only saying, “look how easy it is to copy Rowling”, which might be the rub. Frank Hubert’s son tried to finish his father’s last book, based on a half-finished manuscript and an outline, but the sensitive reader still knew the difference. No attempt to imitate Gene Roddenberry’s USS Enterprise future has ever quite captured his skillful hand.

    Musicians, like writers, have been told to promote themselves. The music companies, like the publishing companies, have decided they don’t want to risk their promotional abilities on unknown artists. When people download their music or share it, they are, in fact, promoting themselves. The money comes in when the fans are so enthusiastic about their music, they want their own CD’s or are willing to pay for a shared file.

    So then, why are the companies that haven’t done a single thing to encourage unknown artists to date, grumbling a lot? Maybe it’s because they bet on the wrong horse. You can’t make the public like one artist more than another no matter how much you publicize and promote your personal choices. The only answer is to stifle and control the voices of the unknown so there are no choices. Television continues on its downward spiral with shows so nauseating, you immediately switch to netflix or rummage through your old DVD’s to find something better. Music means clinging to the life raft of the seventies. The news media continues to skip hand in hand with corporate interests. Published books continue to be boring Oprah supported soap operas and weep while you read social dramas.

    Give the artist his or her due. Credit the artist’s work. Respect copyright laws and respect the artist who gives freely. If you are concerned about the financial aspects of the artist, donate to him/her. Buy the offered books, music or pay-for-downloads. But don’t squelch the artist as a pretense at protection.

  4. @ Karlsie,

    “But don’t squelch the artist as a pretense at protection.”

    Ah, but this isn’t really about the arts, is it now? Sure, many backers of this SOPA/PIPA bill were major promotional/publication companies – but that’s not really what this legislation is about: it is, and always was, about giving the state a “legitimate” foothold in control of communications so that it can later be expanded to censor all opposing voices.

    Also, I wouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet – it was merely postponed: this is an opportunity, I think, for the political class to wait for the public outcry to die down and tinker with the language to make their real intentions less obvious. Never turn your backs on a politicians – ever…

  5. Thank you, Grainne (and others) for making this legislation clear for me. I have to be the only person in the entire world that could not make heads or tails of this legislation. And when I asked, I got answers like, “It’s about piracy.”

  6. RE: Others who claim to suffer from piracy are those like J.K. Rowling who gets really pissed off at any fan fiction using her characters. I frankly think this is in bad form. If you have inspired a new generation to write with your characters as a jumping off point you should be quite proud. Instead she has been quite litigious in her approach to dealing with anyone and everyone.

    Well, no, she really hasn’t been very litigious about fan fiction at all. See

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_issues_with_fan_fiction

  7. @Jennifer- I think it was designed to be sneaky and not understandable. Which worked out great because by the time it hit the meme stage it really didn’t look like it made sense even to those who were against it. People are left scratching their heads going piracy? Hmmm, what do I think about that….

    But aren’t all Bills designed that way?

  8. @Karlsie and Az- I think Az hit the nail on the head, since when does anyone care about the Arists of the world? There’s a reason a lot of artists don’t become famous until they are dead and can make other people money.

    Also yes this is a long way from over. It was a testing of the waters I think. A way to make arrests over seas on a company that truly fits the image of a scam like uploading company. The arrest was calculated because those guys appear like they are doing something wrong. The fact that anyone at all got pissed just told the powers that be…gotta go back to the drawing board.

    Do not kid yourselves though this isn’t even just about piracy or intellectual rights. It’s about how much are we ready to allow? A kind of how many fingers will they take test.

    They’ll lube us up with something more, belive it.

  9. @ Helen W. looked at your link which was to say the least brief in its mention of J.K. Rowling and I noticed it was stated by someone (not her) that she likes fans (whoever is to say who and who isn’t a fan?) and not sex?

    Whatever, still stiffling.

  10. Great job, Grainne.

    Personally, I think the SOPA scandal is a manufactured controversy. I don’t buy for a minute that all of these people complaining did crap for the freedom of speech issue. I think the fact that these idiot lawmakers were attacking Google and Facebook (Bilderberg people) is the only reason it was halted as is. But oh yeah, they sure want to spin that, saying the American people made a difference. HA! As if!

    The corrupt institution must be destroyed it cannot be rehabilitated. Whatever distraction helps us to forget that fact will be highlighted prominently.

    And more to the point, I really don’t care about the entertainment industry. They’re overpaid and overvalued. The best writers are unpublished. The best actors work undiscovered in theater not on screen. The best musicians are underpaid in favor of the lowest common denominator like American fucking Idol.

    Let the entertainment industry rot, being the syphilis-infected demon whore bitch that she is. They are the 1% and the worst of the 1%.

  11. @ Mitchell,

    “Personally, I think the SOPA scandal is a manufactured controversy. I don’t buy for a minute that all of these people complaining did crap for the freedom of speech issue. I think the fact that these idiot lawmakers were attacking Google and Facebook (Bilderberg people) is the only reason it was halted as is. But oh yeah, they sure want to spin that, saying the American people made a difference. HA! As if!”

    I doubt that it’s quite that simple – sure companies like Facebook and Google certainly would have been affected to a significant degree, but I don’t believe them to be the real targets of this legislation here.

    But you’re correct about the common man “making a difference” here – at best the public outcry has delayed the passing of “laws” similar to this one: sure, SOPA might not get passed the Senate due to the contraversy it raised – but I have no doubt that the political class is already working on bills that are more subtle in nature to legitimize the police powers of the state and will push them through as soon as the time is right…

  12. @ Az- Right. I’m thinking it’s a PR spin just like the companies that are hired to come in, test and audience and adjust. But with this it’s legislation. All in all the same game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.