Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lamar Smith, the MPAA and RIAA can all suck it


Today is blackout day on Wikipedia and other sites as people protest SOPA and PIPA, the House and Senate versions of an online piracy bill. The bills were crafted with the assistance and guidance of people who sell music and movies and they go way over the lines of reason. This is how it goes when people are intent on protecting their stacks of cash. I don't have much of any sympathy for them.

I used to pirate music like some sort of audio Blue Beard. I don't do it as much any more. Instead, I tend to download music illegally only to sample it and see if I want to pay money for it. Luckily, many artists' music is available for listening prior to the release date on sites like NPR where the First Listen feature is one of my favorites. I don't like to buy something sight unseen (or sound unheard). I try to let reviews guide me, but it's not the same as experiencing a piece of art first-hand. I like trying to decide if a band's new album sounds as intriguing to me as their previous work without having someone else's opinion coming between me and that first experience. So, sometimes, in lieu of other options, I pirate the damn thing.

You can slap the cuffs on now if you like.

I just don't believe in the people at the RIAA (music) or in Hollywood (movies and television) when they claim that this is such a problem. From what I can see, money is still being made, now more than ever, and it's a lot more money than I will ever see. I remember when the compact disc came out (I'm that old) and they cost about $15 each (sometimes more). The cost, we listeners were assured, would plummet when volume of sales increased. Yeah? Really? Not so much. Then Apple was able to bully the record labels into cheaper prices and now Google and Amazon are doing the same. I no longer buy albums until they are below ten dollars. They just aren't usually worth more than five or six.

And then there's the matter of copyright which, aside from patent law, is one of the worst things to ever happen to creativity. Disney is the first to blame for this. They fought to keep "Steamboat Willy" out of the public domain and in the process have made copyright almost endless. Never mind that Disney makes so much of their money on public domain stories. That's beside their point.

When the record and movie companies tell you that they aren't making enough money, remember that that's just what the cell phone companies say and the cable companies. It's just what the auto companies say and it's also what you are likely to hear from the hospital who just billed you $75 for an elastic bandage.

Don't buy it.

I mean that in both ways. Don't believe it and don't buy it. There are other options.

A few years ago my next door neighbor was running tight on cash. He disconnected his Internet connection. I heard about it a week or so after he had done this and told him the password to my router. There was no reason we couldn't share. Except that I'm pretty sure it's illegal. I don't know for sure because I'm unwilling to read the legal nonsense accompanying my connection. (And as such, let's say that this whole passage is hypothetical, shall we?) He got to use the Internet, I was able to do him a favor, and there is no reason it should have been otherwise.

I refuse to copyright my work. I would appreciate it if people who borrow my words give me credit but I have neither the time nor the inclination to make sure that it is so. It's not a problem for me. Which is not to say that it might not be a problem for someone else. But no one in their right mind thinks that the industries are being so badly hurt that our civil liberties must be curtailed. We fell for that nonsense when G.W. Bush told us that we had to give up liberty for safety from the terrorists and it turned out that the people we had to fear all worked in the west wing. I'm not falling for it again.

I'm against SOPA and PIPA. I am saying so in this post and I will continue to say so with my actions. Ahoy, there! Prepare to be boarded!

Write to your representatives and senators. Tell them where the industries can stick their bills.

Write on.