Mossberg Takes On Copy Protection
from the some-things-right,-some-things-wrong dept
While the arguments over copy protection technology usually hit on the same old points, one interesting thing over the last year or so is that, as the technology has become much more common with copy protected CDs everywhere, the debate itself is becoming more mainstream. Take, for example, Walt Mossberg joining the debate over copy protection. It’s a good read, and there’s some stuff for everyone in there… and that’s part of the problem. While those opposed to copy protection will be happy to see him suggest that everyone boycott copy protected content, his column swings and misses on a few big issues. First off, he pulls out the old “theft” issue. Sharing unauthorized content often is illegal — no doubt about that — but, that doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as “theft.” Even the Supreme Court has made it clear that referring to unauthorized copies as stolen is misleading. It can be illegal, but so many factors are different (the big one being that nothing is “missing”) that calling it theft is not just incorrect, but biases the discussion heavily. Mossberg also tries to suggest that copy protection should only be used to stop the “serious pirates,” while average users should be given quite a bit of leeway for fair use copying. Of course, Mossberg doesn’t actually seem to suggest how that might be done — perhaps because it’s impossible. The “serious pirates” will always figure out a way around copy protection — because if something can be played or viewed there’s always going to be a way to copy it. And, how do you limit one group but not another? Still, the biggest fault of the piece is that it misses the real point of the debate: that embracing what consumers want usually is good for business and quite often will grow a market tremendously. Just look at every single technology that the entertainment industry has tried to stop in the past century or so — and see how, time and again, the technology they thought would kill them ended up saving them, instead. The reason this happens is because those new technologies offer people more: more choice, more flexibility, more opportunities, more enjoyment, more value. Any business that actively opposes giving its own customers more value is going in the wrong direction.