Empirical Data Suggests That Website Blocking Is A Useless Weapon Against Infringement

from the empirical-data dept

Calls for evidence-based policy-making in the copyright domain are increasing on both sides of the Atlantic. How do we best regulate the fair remuneration of artists? How do we enforce it? Evidence based on sound methodologies and research is slowly but surely appearing. Now the highly respected Institute for Information Law (IViR) of the University of Amsterdam joins the league of evidence-givers with a new report, Filesharing 2©12, Downloading in The Netherlands, about how blocking websites is not a worthwhile remedy (The report is in Dutch, but the executive summary is translated. It was an initiative by the IViR itself and was partly financed by the Ministry of Culture, Education and Research, some ISP's, Dutch society for professionals in the book industry and done in collaboration with several other institutes. Small disclaimer: I did my masters at this institute).

Economist Joost Poort explains his main findings:
"The most surprising result for me is that the act of downloading from an unauthorized source seems to have peaked and is now declining. This is most likely due to the actions of the music industry, who have been successfully experimenting with new business models."
There you go, music industry! You're doing it right! It seems like everyone is winning in the Netherlands: illegal downloads decreasing, new business models (streaming, advertising) successfully competing with abundant free supply, and paying customers. In fact, the study shows that some two thirds of consumers are willing to pay around the current retail prices for content. I can't back this up, but it seems reasonable to suggest that this is the same amount of people who would have shelled out cash back in the day of optical discs, or CD's as those clumsy shiny discs used to be called. Remember all those thieving fans who proudly owned huge tape collections with self-decorated covers of the copied albums? If you don't, you must be younger than 25. However, not all is good news. Poort continues:
"The downloading of films and series from unauthorized sources is on the rise. This shows that enforcement is not the reason for decreased downloading of music, since successful enforcement would not only have an effect on music, but on all media offered by blocked websites, such as the Pirate Bay"
Note that ThePirateBay.org is blocked in the Netherlands, pending appeals in several cases. Poort elaborates:
"The reactions from consumers show clearly that the blockade of the Pirate Bay website is not relevant to about 75% of them. This is because they never downloaded from illegal sources anyway, or stopped downloading since legal services have taken off or they had enough money to pay for content. The other 25% seems fairly unaffected by the injunction. Only 5% have indicated they actually started downloading less, not a shockingly large effect to put it mildly."."
To say this is an interesting finding is an understatement of epic proportions. This finding gives decisive evidence that blocking access to websites, services or content distribution methods is a bogus way of addressing an innovating customer base. To repeat, but in more joyous terms: Hey Policymakers! Honorable Judges! Here's the evidence you've been waiting for! Ha, turns out that blocking websites is an ineffective way to change consumer behavior after all. Gosh, if only someone had predicted this before... Would've saved us all quite some hassle, right?!

Well then, now this is settled, time to focus all the wasted litigation and lobbying money for restrictive measures on R&D. The legal services are still in their infancy and have so much potential. The better they get; the more people will pull out their wallets to pay for access. You wouldn't want to be the only kid left behind who can't access all the great content made available through 4G network phones and super fast broadband by really easy to use services, would you?

Thinking about it this way, affordable, user-friendly and all encompassing services for music, films and books may even increase the paying user base from 67% to... 100%?! Maybe not quite 100%, but more research is needed for this new and possible social phenomenon of peer-pressure to pay for media and at the same time the reversal of the old media model: huge paying consumer bases for the cultural sector due to abundant and ubiquitous availability, instead of artificial scarcity and thriving "piracy". Record execs must be throwing money at their screens by now, reading about this not-quite-so-hypothetical but under-researched gap in the market.

Of course, we must not forget that part of the financing team is currently in appeal for a court ruling, which forced ISP's to block ThePirateBay.org. This blogger is happy to keep you updated of any developments in the already legendary Dutch copyright fisticuffs of 2012!


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Scott, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:45am

    I hope that MAFIAA would throw in the towel,the way technology is advancing that an efforts to stop it iss futile.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:52am

    The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    And it's irrelevant even if true: copyright is moral recognition of who has the right to make copies.

    The phrase "innovating customer base" is a repugnant lie euphemizing theft, removing the moral sting of taking what is --regardless of all else -- demonstrably NOT YOURS. One could as well use the phrase "innovative pocket access" to describe pickpocketing. It's sanitizing wrong acts.

     

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  3.  
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    Scott, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:55am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    What you got against innovation,are you some Luddite wishing the Internet didn't exist.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:00am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    So, your argument is that we should continue to try to implement strong copyright enforcement just because it is tradition? Even despite the fact that it does nothing whatsoever to reduce piracy in any significant amount?

     

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  5.  
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    Forest_GS (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:02am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    People like you want all innovation to stop so current technologies will never need to be improved with money from a company's profits.

    We would not have the internet in the first place if people like you were in charge.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    "blockade of the Pirate Bay website is not relevant to about 75% of them. This is because they never downloaded from illegal sources anyway, or stopped downloading since legal services have taken off or they had enough money to pay for content." -- HA, YES BUT the remainder is used by that person for some math trickery:

    "The other 25% seems fairly unaffected by the injunction. Only 5% have indicated they actually started downloading less, not a shockingly large effect to put it mildly."." -- Actually, of the 25% downloading, 5% is a TWENTY PERCENT effect, and worthwhile.

    Disproved by internal evidence. Your argument is invalid.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:13am

    Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    What?

     

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  8.  
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    Scott, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:15am

    Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    That doesn't make sense.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:17am

    I am always amazed when the copywrong forces try to wrangle in a moral argument on something that is strictly financial and artificial. Those copyright maximalists are anything but moral and want to try to use that as the basis for why the public should?

    Time and again it has been shown, not just here but all over the net it's a smoke and mirror game when they scream morals.

    It might not hurt for them to take lessons in ethics to discover what morals really are if they are going to try that route. Right now, they haven't a clue.

    Any arguments from that direction merely show the wishful thought of saddling someone else with what they don't wish to be burdened with. Moral arguments for copyright are a fail from the start of the use of that word.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:28am

    highly respected Institute for Information Law

    highly respected by WHO ??? themselves ? you..

    who else, apart from Masnick and the institute itself highly respects them ??

    google "institute for information law" and look up how many people are 'respecting' them !!!!

    what have they done to earn this 'respect' ?? what have you dont to earn our respect ?

     

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  11.  
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    Milton Freewater, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:30am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    "the moral sting of taking what is --regardless of all else -- demonstrably NOT YOURS."

    Everything you take is not yours by definition. Whether you pay for it or not, whether you have permission from the owner or not.

    When I purchase a DVD, I am taking something that is demonstrably not mine.

    This is a troll post I like, because it clearly demonstrates some of the garbage thinking that underpins piracy hysteria.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    ' Hey Policymakers! Honorable Judges! Here's the evidence you've been waiting for! Ha, turns out that blocking websites is an ineffective way to change consumer behavior after all.'

    the only ones that wont accept this fact are the entertainment industries themselves, including the BPI and the thick fuckers in the UK government. the BPI has just put in requests for ISPs to block other websites but will have to go to court to get it enacted as they did for the TPB blocking action. as for the UK government, whatever has been tried elsewhere and failed, they come along months or years later and try that very thing, just in case the effects will be different than they were for everyone else! talk about dopey! and these idiots are supposed to be in charge, for Christ's sake! unbelievable!!

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:33am

    Ummmm...where does Poort indicate that he's talking about 5% of the 25% that download from illegal sources and not 5% of the whole sample? And even if you were correct and we say that the 25% represents 100 individuals...well, 5% of 100 is not 20...right? Am I missing your logic?

     

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  14.  
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    Milton Freewater, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:35am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    "copyright is moral recognition of who has the right to make copies."

    Copyright is not a moral doctrine. It's a legal construct.

    Confusing legality with morality is a commonly made but basic mistake. You may argue that it's morally wrong to break any law (and many religious people believe that) but no moral person thinks the law describes moral behavior.

    Again, a great teaching moment. Thank you.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:36am

    Re:

    I don't know much about the law side of the University of Amsterdam, but the school in general, is highly respected.
    Notable Alumi.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:43am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    Copyright is NOT moral recognition of who has the right to make copies. It is merely legal recognition. DO NOT conflate legality and morality. Just don't.

    As has been pointed out repeatedly, morals are subjective. Yours are not mine. Mine are not Mike's. Mike's are not Obama's. And so on and so forth.

    Stop playing the morality card, it has little to no business in business, law or anything else really.

    As for "innovating customer base", wtf is wrong with you? How is that a lie for "euphemizing theft"? It's not. It's quite frankly an honest and frank business reality. You must innovate your customer base. You must give them reasons to buy. You must make it so paying you is not a worse and more difficult task than simply acquiring something illegally.

    Also, it is not necessarily wrong to take something that is not yours. Knowledge and culture being two things that are commonly taken and used by others, as well as expanded upon.

    Again, you don't know what you're talking about. You were speaking (falsely) of the moral recognition of who has the right to make copies, now you're discussing taking something (actual theft) and pickpocketing. Which is again, a horribly incorrect (and morally repugnant) analogy.

    You're conflating theft with the ability to create copies. Go look up theft. I'll wait. Didn't bother? That's okay, theft is when one DEPRIVES another of something. Doesn't matter what, as long as it is in some way something tangible (for the most part). Meaning they are now without. Copying means copying, creating another and now there being two of an item where before there was wrong.

    You idiot. I'm sorry, I try not to insult others, but you seriously test my patience and my ability to be respectful to others.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:44am

    Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    Please read the background article if you want to spew your nonsense, so it is at least informed. The actual quote from the translated summary is:

    "Of the remaining 23.8% of Ziggo and XS4All customers, about three quarters said the blockade had not affected their downloading habits and a mere 5.5% said they now
    download less, or had stopped downloading altogether. The expected reaction of customers of providers that had not yet enforced the court-ordered Pirate Bay blockade at the time of the survey was found to be comparable."

    So we are talking 5.5% of 23.8% of the users of ziggo and xs4all that had actually felt affected by the ISP-blocking. Please stop lying.

     

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  18.  
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    KelvinZevallos (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:48am

    Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    So ignoring the whole customer base for just a few who haven't taken the legal chance yet is enough to justify enforcement for the whole population?

    The Betamax case wants a word with you.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    He's not lying. He's just bad at reading comprehension (but surprisingly good at math, being able to figure out that 5 is 20% of 25). Plus, some of his screws are loose.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    sorry, thanks for clearing my mess up!

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:55am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    If you look at how the copyright clause in the constitution is worded you'd see that the truth is the opposite of your claims: Congress can grant copyrights, but the cannot grant it as a perpetual property right.

    Plus, the actual wording "congrass shall have the power... to promote the progress of science(copyright) and the useful arts(patents)" suggests that it is not meant as a moral right at all and only for things that move socity forward.

     

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  22.  
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    James Burkhardt (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:01pm

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    So, to disrupt our corporate overlords, we should strengthen and enforce the tool our corporate overlords are using to control how we see and view the world.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:01pm

    Copyright math, no matter how many people say it.

    Ironically, the same news is being reported by ZDNet and CNet about the effectiveness of the blockades going on in the UK.
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57537871-38/more-pirate-sites-face-u.k-isp-blocks/

    I also guess you did not receive the news about privacy methods like VPN services have greatly increased since website blocking has been implemented.
    http://www.scmagazine.com.au/News/299099,paid-vpn-services-boom-in-sweden.aspx

    Unle ss we want to live behind the Great Wall of the MPAA/RIAA, these attempts will be useless, and even then technology will improve as has been shown by Chinese dissidents.

     

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  24.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:05pm

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    copyright is moral recognition of who has the right to make copies


    Umm, not, it's not. The purpose of copyright is clearly spelled out, and "moral recognition" of anything is not a part of it. It is also specifically not a property right.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    Here's what I don't understand. If a copy isn't property, then how can you argue that Godwin has a right to his files that were seized. You can argue about legal semantics, and economic versus legal definitions, but you can't have it both ways. Either a copy is a form of property or it isn't?

     

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  26.  
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    Trails (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    Theft is a repugnant lie demonizing infringement.

    Innovating is something one does to combat infringement. Hand wringing, name calling, and getting in lather is something one does to... um... why do you do it?

    You're about as full of wind as The Donald¯™, are you in real estate?

     

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  27.  
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    Trails (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:20pm

    Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    Oh wow you're right. And if we consider what 5% of the 5% is, that's 100%!!! Ergo, the blockade stops 100% of infringement! Excellent work, OOTB! You've stopped infringement!

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    control of Individual copies is not the same thing as having a legal power to stop others from making their own copies.

    At least try to understand what we're talking about when entering a discussion

     

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  29.  
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    Scott, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 1:26pm

    I notice something

    Why does OOTB runs away when he's confronted for his troll posts?

     

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  30.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    Awesome. I guess there will be no need for OoTB to post in the future. His job is now complete.

    OoTB - Return to base. Now!

     

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  31.  
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    gnudist, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: "not relevant to about 75% of them."

    All his base are belong shampoo

     

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  32.  
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    anon, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    really

    I think you are a bit of the mark here this time, If anything more and more people are torrenting , they are just torrenting much less than when they started. At first it is a great feeling to have access to unlimited amounts of music, where you can download a cd in a few seconds. Some people i know have many many 2tb hard drives full of mp3's and music videos. Libraries of music that would probably put most studios to shame. The problem is once you have these huge libraries of music, especially music of the genre you really enjoy, what is there left to download. Why download anything if you have so much music you could listen to a new track one after another and never have a repeat the rest of your life.
    I have pointed out the extreme here but I suspect that in most cases someone who has downloaded 2 tb of music will not have a need to download anything every again. or at most the odd song here and there.

    And all these people that have terabbyte's of music , you think they will not be allowing anyone to copy there hard drives, I mean it does not cost anything and if anything there is a backup if the original hard drive is bricked.

     

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  33.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 1:51pm

    Re: I notice something

    Because his(?) goal is to obscure anything intelligent in the comments with random, blantantly stupid assertions that others will then rant about. That's why I soooo wish the comments were properly tiered and a tree or subtree could be collapsed when reading.

     

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  34.  
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    ldne, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 2:06pm

    Re:

    There's more than one institute for information law, this one is a part of the University of Amsterdam, which is one of Europe's largest research universities with an endowment of €613.5 million, and was started in 1989. This study was partly funded by "the Ministry of Culture, Education and Research, some ISP's, Dutch society for professionals in the book industry and done in collaboration with several other institutes."

    Their web site lists these places as ones they cooperate and do research with:

    Berkeley Center for Law and Technology (UC Berkeley);

    Berkman Center for Internet and Society (Harvard University);

    Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law (Munich);

    Norwegian Research Centre for Computers and Law (NRCCL);

    University of Haifa Law School (Israel);

    Center for Intellectual Property and Information Law of the University of Cambridge (CIPIL );

    Institute for Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen (Norway);

    Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT).

     

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  35.  
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    anon, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    I would not get so upset about it, the writing is on the wall, more and more people are creating some really good music and giving it away free, eventually it will be a minority that ask for payment for there music in mp3 format. And those will eventually be laughed out of the market.
    Do not agree, well just look at youtube, and torrent sites, where people are uploading there own tracks and albums for no compensation.

    Just as with authors and publishers and people being able to publish books that should have been published years ago but were blocked, more and more authors are letting there works go for nothing, why , because they enjoy writing, it is a hobby and now that the ability to distribute it has become 0 yes 0 everyone that ever wanted to can write a book or two or three in there spare time.

    Movies and TV shows: This is the best part of copyright, where huge companies are finding it almost impossible to do business with the studios, where the cost to supply and sell the product is so high that there is almost no chance to make any profit, or very little profit for the amount of effort put in to distribute in a way people will pay for content. More and more big internet businesses are talking about funding TV shows and movies and supplying them free of charge to there customer base.

    Eventually these groups of businesses will hopefully get together and start making big blockbusters and start taking money away from the old copyright czars. TV shows even more so as the cost is not so high and with technology improving on almost a daily basis it is becoming cheaper and cheaper to create a really good TV show.And look at the story on here the other day where the east is starting to break into the market with a much better product than the west has produced in many years.
    Just watch red hill a Japanese or Chinese subtitled movie, seriously torrent it and watch it, I think it gives the likes of the biggest blockbusters a run for there money, in many ways it is one of the best movies I think that has ever been released and it has English subtitles. I would actually say that it is way way better than the lord of the rings trilogy, more believable, better videography and a more in depth sincere story, the special effects are unbelievable...ok i shut up now.. :)

    SO I understand that people are upset and at times I get upset at the way the studios or Hollywood or the mpaa , call them what you will, try to lock down entertainment and charge virtually just for thinking about there content, they are going, the writing is on the wall.

     

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  36.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    are you in real estate?
    Can't be.. that has the word "real" in it - not a strong suit there.

     

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  37.  
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    JMT (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    "If a copy isn't property, then how can you argue that Godwin has a right to his files that were seized."

    Reading comp fail. Nobody said a copy isn't property, only that copyright isn't property.

    A much better question is what right does the government have to prevent his access to his perfectly legal files?

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 3:40pm

    Same AC as above.

    Maybe, it's just because I come from a different business. So, I'll give an example.

    You've got a team of developers working on a software project. Could be 20, could be hundreds. The project is pretty much done and ready to be distributed, say GOG.com (definitely a model for software distribution). One of the developers leaves the project, and starts selling the group's project on Steam. Doesn't this have any property aspects for the 19 or 99 other developers that worked on that project.

    That copy does have property rights, in my humble opinion. And when someone purchases a copy, that copy should have rights to the individual that purchases it as well.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:12pm

    Re: Same AC as above.

    Yes. That's pretty much what is said in the comment you just replied to. Might read it again to make sure you do understand what was said.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:34pm

    Re: Re: Same AC as above.

    Nobody said a copy isn't property, only that copyright isn't property.

    If copyright isn't property, it goes to the public domain. So the one developer can legally sell the work of 20 or hundreds of developers without punishment. Sadly this is going to effect many open source projects in the future for both the Microsoft Store and Apple Store that require DRM.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:44pm

    Re:

    darryl, for the benefit of everyone else, let me spell it out for you again.

    You will never, ever, EVER be considered to have the intelligence nor relevant cognitive capability of an average Australian.

    You have done absolutely nothing that is worthy of respect. The closest gesture of respect someone might offer you would be spitting in your direction.

    Find yourself a gun and someone who is smart enough to pull the trigger and get him to off you.

     

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  42.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 1:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Same AC as above.

    If copyright isn't property, it goes to the public domain. So the one developer can legally sell the work of 20 or hundreds of developers without punishment
    Well, except for that being breach of contract since one would assume it would have been done as employed work if he's workign with 19 other...

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 4:36am

    Re: Same AC as above.

    Your position is perfectly reasonable. This side of copyright -- legitimate protection of investment -- should be debated intelligently and respectfully on techdirt.

    Unfortunately people get whipped into a frenzy by hostile and rude "pro-copyright" comments -- I wish these were gone -- so they can't respond to your serious comment without sarcasm.

     

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  44.  
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    Chubbysumo, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 6:45am

    Re: The old "ineffective so do nothing" ploy.

    Copying is NOT theft, and people like you that continually push for the same punishments as theft need to be slapped. If I steal something, the other person no longer has it. If I copy something, guess what, the other person has it too. Sharing is caring, and until there is a viable, affordable(in this economy, what is currently available is NOT affordable to their majority of customers), and comes with non-intrusive DRM(think Valve with Steam. They got it right, and sales went thru the roof because of that). If the *AAs would give the people what they want instead of using a scorched earth policy with litigation(which does nothing to deter file sharing), then their sales too, would go way up. As it is now, its going to take the *AAs completely closing shop before anything new comes to market. Hell, the MPAA is already in hot water over questionable accounting practices, and im sure the RIAA is next.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 8:45am

    Re: Same AC as above.

    Doesn't this have any property aspects for the 19 or 99 other developers that worked on that project.


    If by "property aspects" you mean that it's a violation of property rights, I would say no.

    However, there are at least two important legal ramifications of this that protect the company: it's certainly a copyright violation (and possibly a criminal one at that), and it's almost certainly a contractual violation.

    To say that copyright is not a property right is not to say that it has no force or value.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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