Around the same time, my high school friends and I would exchange and copy audio cassettes, as well. I remember the joyful day, when my one friend bought a dual deck cassette player with high-speed dubbing. We were all thrilled. However, the cost of blank cassette tapes was enough to keep my pirate library small (I spent all my money on comic books, baseball card and such things back then).
Later, as I myself started to study at college (music), I began to side with the software and music industry that was always complaining about pirates copying music and software. However, being a poor student, I couldn`t be as ethical as I liked. When I "downgraded" my computer system to the X86 line of PC clones, I and a friend would often "co-buy" software. Then we would copy the disks and the photocopy the manual. We took turns keeping the originals. I felt guilty, but I rationalized that I was paying for the software, some what.
After I started working, I stopped pirating software (CD-ROMs and the then prohibitive price of CD-burners might have had a little to do with my change). I enjoyed going to stores and buying games. When I was tight on money, I would phone order games from a used CD-ROM store. I didn`t use audio tapes (too inferior sound quality), so I only listened to CDs that I owned or borrowed from the local library. I felt my convictions grow and took pride in my self-righteousness.
Then I moved to the Czech Republic. Friends trading games is one thing, but I was shocked at the wide-scale copyright infringement in this country. My students were giving each other CD-ROMs full of MP3s or Mpeg movies. Naturally, all the software they use, whether games or applications, are cracked warez. If you visit http://www.toplist.cz/, you will always find "Czech WAREZ" in the top 10 visited Czech sites.
Also, in Kotva and Bila Labut there are toys of Spider-man and Batman made in China and called "Action Man" (or something like). No mention of Marvel and DC Comics` trademarks is printed on the packaging. A good number of Czechs in Prague have been fooled into buying trademarked sports logos on their clothing. For example, I`ve seen perfect renditions of the New York Giants football team`s logo on hats that said "Los Angeles Giants" (no such team exists). I`ve also seen Speedy Gonzalous, Garfield, Homer Simpson and other American cartoon figures serving as logos for various business (even in Austria). Because of the threat of lawsuit, these toys and clothes would never appear in American stores, and American businesses would be scared to used trademarked characters as logos.
I confronted a student who was passing a CD full of MP3s to a friend, one day. He responded that it wasn`t copyright infringement to give a CD of copied material to a friend. He wasn`t selling it, after all. I replied that anytime you publish previously copyright material, without fitting the criteria for the fair use clause for reviewers and teachers, you are breaking the law. Offering an MP3 on a web-site or on a CD is breaking the law, whether you profit from or not. My using a copy of software that I half paid for was breaking the law, because the purchase allowed the software to be used on one machine at one time. After some thinking, my student finally agreed, but still didn`t care.
Living with a lower standard of living here in Prague has lend me to change perspective on copyright infringement. I now get very angry hearing multimillionaire singers whining about people in China or other "dirt" poor countries copying their music. Yes, the people are breaking the law and stealing from the artists, but, when a store bought CD costs several months` pay ("guestimation" of Chinese income) or at least a good percentage (like here in the Czech Republic), I can feel no pity for the artists.
However, I think that they have a right to complain about black market copies of software, music and movies. Nobody should profit from the intellectual or artistic work of others (although that is actually how the corporate world works). Now that the information age is blossoming, the possibility of world-wide distributed black market goods has corporations panicking and is causing them to overreact to borderline cases.
The easiest things in cyberspace for corporations to attack are web-pages. For example, since I can`t watch South Park here (I have no TV), I used to visit Fandom.com and download episodes in RealVideo format. Then one sad day, their web-site stated that Comedy Central [the TV channel that produces South Park--owned by HBO] ordered the web-site to remove all of the South Park episode videos. A similar thing happed to another web-site, where I downloaded anime (cool Japanese cartoons) episodes.
Alright, the companies were just protecting their investment. Yet, I would watch South Park on TV, if I could, and I would watch anime on TV or on video tape, if I could. But since I can`t, the Internet was my only source to view these things. However, I do agree with the companies` decisions. It was the ethical and legally correct thing to do.
The corporations were not overreacting by shutting down these sites; however, other groups are overreacting about other things. 2600 Magazine is being sued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for posting information about and mirroring software that decodes DVDs. The original news item "DVD Encryption Cracked" is rather humorous if you know something about U.S. export laws for encryption algorithms. After the crack, lawyers started shutting down all sites that merely provided information about the decoder. Now, the MPAA has filed two law suits against 2600, which only reported a news event and linked legal, free software. That was taking things a bit too far.
Another company is being unfairly sued by the music industry. Napster, Inc. is a software company that makes a program for locating and downloading MP3s. The software is very easy to use, and helps you find the quickest place to get the MP3s you want. On their web-site, there are legal statements pointing out that you can only use their software to download legally distributed MP3s. Each user of the software is supposed to make the judgement between legal and illegal. Still, the music industry is suing Napster, which to me seems like suing Colt because somebody murdered somebody with a Colt 45. Napster isn`t distributing illegal MP3s, people are just using the software to do that, and they would use some other software if Napster did not exist.
Web-sites that offer movies, TV shows, warez and MP3s have also been targeted by the software and music publishing industries, because these sites are easy for corporate flunkies and lawyers to find. All they needed to do is find some good search engines. Napster was also easy to find and use [Here is a brief Napster tutorial that I wrote for you].
Still, if people feel the need to provide copyright materials to fiends, they will find a way. The current "easy for geeks but not-so-easy for lawyers" method of distributing these materials is Internet Relay Chat (IRC). IRC has been around for many years and was primarily used to get people together to chat on a given topic. The topics could be anything from cats to cybersex. You simply joined a channel on your topic, and then you could "type-chat" with people all over the world in real-time. As the software advanced, new features arrived, including being able to send files to people. Now, there are entire channels that are not for chatting, but for using "fservers" (IRC`s ftp-like file servers) [Here is an IRC fserver tutorial that I wrote for you].
IRC fservering is analogous to friends trading tapes and games. However, the definition of friends has now been expanded to include people whom you`ve never seen before and who live thousands of kilometers away. People like to share things that interest them, and this is a fact of human nature that big business must realize and deal with in a realistic manner. Did audio tapes (or even CD-Rs) put the music industry out of business? Did video tapes put the movie industry out of business? The last time I checked these businesses where stronger then ever. These businesses will also survive the current MP3 and RealVideo craze.
On the other hand, there is the common argument that the lawful consumer ends up paying for copyright infringement. Software, video tapes, CDs and DVDs are all supposed to cost more because of piracy. The analogy given is that a local grocery store has to raise the prices of everything in the store slightly to cover the costs of shoplifting. However, grocery store items usually have very low mark-up (amount added to the wholesale price to make the retail price). On the other hand, CDs, software, et al have considerable mark-up value. It costs pennies to make a mass produced CD, but the companies charge $10-$20 US for them. The amount that was added due to pirating is minimal compared to the amount that was added due to corporate greed.
It may seem double-faced, but I see little wrong in sharing things with friends, when you are relatively poor (students in America, normal people here), while, on the other hand, I try to teach my students to properly cite references and not to plagiarize. Maybe I was too heavily influenced by the story of Robin Hood as a child.--i.e., stealing from rich corporations and giving to the poor is okay, but stealing from "poor" intellectuals is not. Maybe I`ve been seduced by the romantic swashbuckling notion of fighting against the big evil corporations. Heh, maybe I can blame the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for having a good season for a change and almost making it to the Super Bowl.
Well, enough rambling., it is time I went and watch an newly downloaded episode of Serial Experiments: Lain. Note: The downloaded video to be watched is only for evaluative proposes. It will not be distributed or rebroadcast in any form, without prior written consent from the owners of the copyright, and will be deleted from my hard drive shortly after sufficient evaluative viewing.
The Pittsburg Pirates` logo is copyrighted by Major League Baseball. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers logo is copyright by the National Football League. All pictures from Serial Experiments: Lain are copyrighted by Pioneer.