James Murdoch Is Very, Very Confused About Copyright Infringement (And So Is His Dad, Rupert)

from the good-luck-to-you dept

TorrentFreak has an article about how Ari Emanuel, brother of Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and the "inspiration" for Jeremy Piven's "Ari Gold" character in the show Entourage, is claiming that he's talking to President Obama about implementing a three strikes law in the US. While I'm sure he's talking, I'm at least somewhat confident he's not getting very far. Almost everyone I've spoken to on various sides of this debate agree that a blatant three strikes law in the US is unlikely to get very far. Now, something like ACTA might put pressure on ISPs to adopt a three strikes rule, and Emanuel's buddies in Hollywood still think that they can convince ISPs to voluntarily put in place such rules -- but very few people seem to think that a full on three strikes law in the US is in the cards. Hopefully that's the case.

What may be more interesting, however, is what Rupert Murdoch's son, James Murdoch was saying at the very same event. He didn't just echo his father's blatantly incorrect notions of copyright, he went way beyond them. The younger Murdoch, who apparently is the current heir apparent to the Rupert Murdoch throne at the top of News Corp., made a bunch of statements about copyright infringement that sound like the typical comments of someone who has just entered this debate and has never thought about the actual issues. That is, he trots out the ridiculously wrong line that infringement is the same as "theft":
"We need enforcement mechanisms and we need governments to play ball... There is no difference with going into a store and stealing Pringles or a handbag and taking this stuff. It's a basic condition for investment and economic growth and there should be the same level of property rights whether it's a house or a movie.... The idea that there's a new consumer class and you have to be consumer-friendly when they're stealing stuff. No. There should be the same level of sanctity as there is around property. Content is no different. They're not crazy kids. No. Punish them."
Where to begin? First of all, yes, there's a very big difference between going into a store and stealing Pringles (why Pringles?!?) or a handbag. If you do that, the Pringles or the handbags are now missing, gone, kaput. If you make a copy of a digital file, the original is still there. You've just created a new one. And, no, it's not "a basic condition for investment," that there needs to be the same property rights in a house or a movie. The two things have never had the same property rights. A house never goes into the public domain after a certain period of time. There is no fair use of a house (though, to be fair, the Murdoch family seems to think that fair use doesn't exist either, despite relying on it heavily in some of their companies). And there's a reason that there are those significant differences, and it has to do with basic, fundamental economics, and the difference between scarcity and abundance.

Honestly, seeing James Murdoch's words immediately call to mind Larry Lessig's recent talk where he discusses how the current media bosses at companies like Viacom are dinosaurs, with the younger generation waiting in the wings to take over, claiming that they don't hold these same draconian notions on copyright. Except, in this case, James is the younger generation which is supposed to get this stuff.

Perhaps he should take some notes from his (slightly older) sister Elisabeth, who recently made comments that appear to be the exact opposite of what her brother and father are saying:
"Fans remain the best salesmen of our content, even if that behavior is on the borderline of piracy. Danger of the new world is that we must concede that we'll lose some control."
I wonder if James' "the idea that there's a new consumer class and you have to be consumer-friendly" line was directed at his big sis. Of course, in that recent NY Mag profile of Rupert, it notes that many people expect Elisabeth to come back into the News Corp. fold at some point (she left to start her own -- successful -- TV production house). Either way, if James really does get control over News Corp., it sounds like it'll be more of the same: more misunderstanding about how copyright law works, more misunderstanding of the economics of content and more mistakes designed to hold a company in the past, rather than embracing the future.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 8:17am

    Yowza...

    "Perhaps he should take some notes from his (slightly older) sister Elisabeth, who recently made comments that appear to be the exact opposite of what her brother and father are saying"

    Not only does she appear to be smart, but she's a bit of a babe as well. That sounds like an awfully compelling combination for the corporate head of a media company to me...

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:10am

      Re: Yowza...

      It's a well known fact that females mature and develop more rapidly than males.

      Couple that with the fact that most males never bother to grow up...

      And it's obvious she's grown into a thinking adult--well ahead of her other family members.

      ;P

       

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    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    to hollywood

    i want to outsource you and create open source movies
    and music

    end of story

    and by admission open source would never work if we need to do nothing but invest money into it , and if bad Microsoft and others and there copyright laws didn't exist i bet you'd not need a GPL either

    thats the crux here.
    WE KNOW in open source that copyrights are evil but we used your laws to make it for us to have free.

    remember the comments recently that open source is bad
    haha undermines all this corruption and greed don't it.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:23am

    Well, if I go into a store and steal a can of Pringles, last time I checked, I don't have to pay a fine of thousands of dollars per "potato" chip.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:34am

      Re:

      I should hope so, I mean, after you steal that one can of Pringles, what's stopping you from sharing the whole can with billions of people?

      What's stopping you from making trillions of copies of potato chips?

       

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        Hephaestus (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:28am

        Re: Re:

        I know that was sarcasm but ...

        There is this thing called a potato. You plant it, it grows. You dig it up, you cut it in half replant, use the other half cut it up and deep fry it, and eventually you share it with a billion people.

        You can do this for as long as you like .... well unless its a patented Genetically Modified Potato, then you run into some issues.

         

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          :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Everybody knows genetically modified potatoes only grow in corporate soil...

           

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          vivaelamor (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "There is this thing called a potato. You plant it, it grows. You dig it up, you cut it in half replant, use the other half cut it up and deep fry it, and eventually you share it with a billion people. "

          I wonder what would happen if someone actually made their own Pringles (say for the sake of argument that you don't need fancy equipment) and gave them away for free. Or for that matter, made their own designer handbags and gave them away for free.

          Actually, scrap that. I don't want to wonder about increasingly dumb comparisons between property and pseudo property. I do wonder about the likelihood that James Murdoch might choke on a Pringle though.

           

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Death and Taxes

    I assume Jimmy has no issue paying taxes on all that property he thinks he owns.

     

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    Anshar, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    Just To Play Devil's Advocate…

    Could James be saying what his father (and presumeably those around him) wants to hear? Just thinking that would be best way for him to ensure he gets the top job at News Corp.

     

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    PEBKAC (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:44am

    If I'd been eating Pringles when I read that line about Pringles, I'd've shot Pringles particles out of my nose from laughtersnorting.

    (for real - why Pringles? was it lunchtime?)

    It's terrifying that these people have the ear of policy makers...why is there no one to countermand them? No equally influential group or person imparting common sense?

    Where are those people?

     

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    Michael, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:52am

    Pringles

    Is he saying Pringles or Proctor and Gamble endorse his feelings about IP?

    I smell a lawsuit...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:57am

    "There is no difference with going into a store and stealing Pringles or a handbag and taking this stuff."

    Stealing implies depriving me of something that's rightfully mine. If I deprive you of the privilege to enter my house that's not stealing because the privilege to enter my house is not rightfully yours. Me depriving you of intellectual property privileges is no more stealing than me depriving you of the privilege to enter my house, such a privilege is not rightfully yours.

    Now you depriving me of my right to create a product just because you have a patent on it or to make copies of something IS stealing, such a right is rightfully mine and society owes you no monopoly on anything. If we are to grant monopolies it should only be to the extent that it advances innovation and the public shouldn't enter into a social contract that unfairly benefits IP holders over society as a whole, as our current laws do.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 6:15pm

      Re:

      "Me depriving you of intellectual property privileges is no more stealing than me depriving you of the privilege to enter my house, such a privilege is not rightfully yours. "

      More accurately, me depriving you of intellectual property privileges is no more stealing than me depriving you of the privilege to break into my house and take my television against my will.

       

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    Mark Levitt, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:04am

    Let's call his bluff

    "there should be the same level of property rights whether it's a house or a movie"

    So, let's impose an "Intellectual Property Tax" to go along with the Property Tax on the house. And, lets allow governments to pass laws that dictate what you can do with your Movie the way they impose laws about changes to your house.

    And, of course, in order to buy and sell a house, you have to register the transaction with the government. No more private copyright contracts. Now anytime your lawyers work out a cross-licensing deal, you've got to register it with the government.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:06am

      Re: Let's call his bluff

      and every time you sell a copy you must register it with the government as well.

       

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        Hephaestus (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:32am

        Re: Re: Let's call his bluff

        wow talk about unintended consequences ... so they get their wish list and IP becomes like physical property how soon will it be before some cash strapped government taxes the hell out of it.

         

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          :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:35am

          Re: Re: Re: Let's call his bluff

          I can see it now... Somebody saying "I'm too poor to own any intellectual property."

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 11:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Let's call his bluff

            Even your own?!?

            But remember kids, sharing is the same as stealing, and once ACTA comes into force, the future will be ours!!!

             

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          PEBKAC (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 12:44pm

          Re: Re: Re: Let's call his bluff

          I'm surprised this hasn't happened yet. Gubmint could slash copyright to 10 years, but rightsholders could, and must, actively maintain their (registered) copyrights every year at a cost collected by the gubmint (perhaps tied to income brought by the copyrighted material). Or something. Something to reimburse taxpayers for all the time spent in court and congress over these things.

          Seems part of the problem w/copyright abuse is that it's just too easy to have the copyright. There's no pushback, no payback, just more stick to wield over those who, via law, *permit* copyright to exist - the citizenry.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2010 @ 3:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Let's call his bluff

            “(perhaps tied to income brought by the copyrighted material)”

            Property taxes are not paid based on income brought from the property. You pay property taxes regardless, often based on the value of the property instead. The value of the property is what others are willing to pay for it.

             

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:45am

    OMG I think I understand what Fox News is about after reading his statements. (Not a good thing).

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:55am

    A Twist - You Have to Manufacture a New Copy

    In the case of Pringles or handbags, new copies have to be manufactured. There are a variety of costs in manufacturing in terms of labor, materials, transportation, marketing, and spoilage.

    The reproduction of content by digital means does not involve any of these costs to the content manufacturer (artist, distribution firm). So how about this, as the content is reproduced the per-unit cost of that content declines! Furthermore, product sales increase as the price declines. Content stimulus!!!!

    Given that content producer's don't have to pay manufacturing costs to produce new copies why should they be entitled to gouge the consumer with a "full price"?

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 11:07am

    maybe hes a R.E.T.A.R.D.?

    ya know dumb not stupid as stupid knows better.

    join us murdoch its fun and you can spend so much more money on your yacht building, rather then waste it on litigating and making your lawyers yacht building program better.

     

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    ECA (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 12:38pm

    weird..

    Lets see here..
    Physical goods vs. Virtual?

    The theater ISNT selling your the movie.
    They are RENTING you a seat to watch the movie. THATS PHYSICAL.
    TV shows use commercials to SELL you physical goods.
    DVD's sell you DVD's to get the movie..Physical.

    Virtual..
    is the INTERNET.
    Its here, and NOT HERE.
    its an illusion of 1's and 0's..
    Virtual goods is like AIR, enjoy it while its there.

    Food is Physical..
    YOU NEED it to survive.

    The old STORIES collected by the GRIMS and ANDERSONS were free, until someone STUCK THEM IN A BOOK and SOLD THEM as PHYSICAL products.

    When I goto a SHOW, I RENT a location to BE' to listen to the music, to use the RESTROOM.. not the music or movie.
    If they sang on the Street corner, would I PAY FOR IT??
    I hope they paid for a Peddlers License.

    The artist of the PAST, the painters, only got paid 1 time for the Picture..The Picture has sold many times, does he GET ANYMORE?? DOES his family reap the money??

    Music and MOVIES are only there to ATTRACT US, to a product or service. If a SERVICE on the net, GAVE me the availability to GET SOME THING I WANTED, I PAY for the service. NOT the music or movie. THE ARTIST should be paid for HIS service of BRINGING people to the SERVICE, NOT the middle man.

    WE ARE IN A BATTLE,
    over the definition of VIRTUAL over physical.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    the crapple doesnt fall far from the tree

     

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    ECA (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 3:39pm

    DID YOU KNOW

    That you have the RIGHT, to copy your purchased goods..
    For your OWN use.

    You can ACTUALLY, goto the copyright office, and COPY any thing, and make the device yourself, for your own use.
    ANY device.

    As long as its not for sale or SOLD.

     

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    ECA (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    I would love the price structure on it

    WOW..

    You mean I could pay for my house 1 time and NEVER pay TAXES again??

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2010 @ 7:01am

    Rebuttal

    It is you--not James or Ari who needs a legal education if you really want to have this debate. The concepts of Fair Use and Copyright expiration do not disprove their point=they support it. Intellectual property protection (patents, trademarks, copyrights) is a hallmark of advanced societies who recognize that the scientists who invent new drug compounds, filmakers, authors and the artists who create musical and artistic compositions deserve the protection of the law to prevent unauthorized use. If you do not like these laws, petition Congress--they have been chaged many times, but usually to expand and extend their protection. You see, public policy supports investment in these endeavors as we have moved into the information age. The Fair Use and Expiration concepts you raise are simply the legislative balance struck between competing social values of property rights and open access. You may not like it--but that is the law--and it has been uniformly upheld in the faces of numerous challenges, most notably the ruling that put Napster out of business and cost Bertelsmann hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes, ideas are different than Pringles, but they are no less valuable and the fact that these are now delivered in digital rather than physical form does not reduce their __

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

      Re: Rebuttal

      "Intellectual property protection (patents, trademarks, copyrights) is a hallmark of advanced societies who recognize that the scientists who invent new drug compounds, filmakers, authors and the artists who create musical and artistic compositions deserve the protection of the law to prevent unauthorized use."

      Oh, good, thank you for admitting that you do not know what problem trademarks were designed to solve. Now I don't have to bother reading the rest of your drivel.

       

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      vivaelamor (profile), Mar 13th, 2010 @ 4:22pm

      Re: Rebuttal

      You may as well wear a brightly coloured wig and call yourself Anonymous Troll. You'll never snare anyone while being that obvious.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2010 @ 7:24am

    “There is no difference with going into a store and stealing Pringles or a handbag and taking this stuff.”

    Except that this is a lie and telling lies is wrong. Why should I trust your moral judgment when all you do is tell lies.

     

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