Washington Post Editorial Claims Piracy 'Costs' Companies Millions; Believes PROTECT IP Won't Be 'More Sweeping Than Necessary'
from the mpaa-and-riaa-suddenly-concerned-bill-isn't-nearly-'sweeping'-enough dept
Another editorial has appeared supporting PROTECT IP, this time at the Washington Post. The writer, sporting the unlikely nom de plume “Editorial,” makes the usual statements rehashing the usual arguments. In true pro-PROTECT IP fashion, it begins by pretending this act has something to do with counterfeited goods:
CITY SIDEWALKS ONCE were lined with merchants peddling counterfeit designer handbags or second-rate copies of popular movies. Such vendors are less commonplace today, but counterfeit goods have proliferated more than ever, thanks to the Internet.
Fake goods – from sneakers to pharmaceuticals – are produced half a world away but can be marketed to U.S. consumers through foreign Web sites.
So far, so what. If anyone is still clinging to the notion that PROTECT IP is being cobbled together to stop trafficking of counterfeit goods, then these few lines of lead-in should allow them to remain comfortably misinformed. Editorial (or “Ed,” for short) gets to the real driving force behind the act in the very next sentence:
Some sites stream pirated U.S.-produced or -owned movies and television shows. Such theft costs the copyright- or trademark-holders billions of dollars each year and thwarts the ability of writers, producers, songwriters and others in the creative arts to earn the royalties they are due.
Costs? Really? Piracy COSTS the rightsholders billions of dollars?
Now, you can make the argument that piracy results in lost sales or that a decline in revenues can possibly be attributed to piracy (no really, go ahead… the comment threads are open), but I don’t think that you can say that piracy of goods costs these companies anything. Just because the content providers of the US may be routinely filling out large numbers under the heading “PIRATES” in their collective Accounts Payable columns, they are incurring no costs as a result of piracy.
Now, those in the industry may be confused and point to the dollar amount expended to fight piracy as a “cost,” but if that’s the case, it’s very much an optional cost. More to the point, pretty much every dollar spent on this fight is a wasted dollar. For all the good it does them, they may as well just contact major pirates (whoever they are) and offer them X amount of dollars to stop running their piratey websites. Sure, these pirates might take the money and some might even cease their piratical operations, but someone else would take their place and no one would be better off but a limited number of pirates.
In short, discussing piracy as a “cost’ when it comes to digital goods is completely misrepresenting what’s actually going on here. If we were discussing physical goods, then yes, theft (a word that is perfectly logical when referring to physical goods) could be considered a cost. But when it’s just a matter of bandwidth usage paid for by the uploaders and downloaders, then there’s no real “cost.”
However, the inanity/insanity doesn’t stop there. Read on:
Consumers often find themselves saddled with shoddy goods and little or no recourse to get their money back. Unlike domestic sites, these foreign-registered businesses are often out of reach of U.S. laws.
Maybe those consumers who are purchasing counterfeit products are finding themselves with shoddy goods, but I can guarantee you that consumers who are availing themselves of pirated digital goods (movies, music, games) are finding themselves “saddled” with clearly superior goods, free of region locking, DRM, ridiculous street dates, a million anti-piracy intersitials and the like.
It goes on from there, sounding more and more like an MPAA press release than an actual editorial. There’s some stuff about how PROTECT IP won’t break the internet or violate anyone’s free speech. There’s talk about how “reasonable” and “fair” it is and how it will only be used to deal with consistent violators (the ever-popular “rogue sites“) before wrapping it all up with this paragraph:
The Protect IP Act takes pains to protect Internet service providers, search engines and others that may have done business with a rogue site. They are not required to scour the Internet for offenders nor are they held liable if they happen to host or provide services to a site that is eventually deemed unlawful. They are only required to take “reasonable” and “technically feasible” measures to obey a court order. There may still be room to tweak these provisions to ensure that they are not more sweeping than necessary. But there is a need for a legal tool that stops those who persistently leech off of the innovations of others.
While I would like to believe that efforts enforced by the DHS (in association with the MPAA and RIAA) would result only in tempered responses to the “worst” sites, there is nothing in the collective past of all the entities involved that indicates this would happen. And as has been proven already, what the MPAA/RIAA/DHS feels is reasonable is far removed from what ISPs and search engines feel is reasonable. So the definition of “reasonable” will obviously be left in the hands of those tasked with enforcing the legislation and, as other nations instituting various anti-piracy programs have shown, the public is already persona non grata during the debate of these bills. It can’t be too much longer before everyone else on the “outside” of this bill (ISPs, search engines, etc.) finds themselves completely shut out of the input process.
And what exactly is this supposed to mean? “Not more sweeping than necessary?” Everything implemented in a top-down fashion by government entities is “sweeping.” The government only knows how to do “macro.” That’s what government does best. The government should not be in the micromanagement business, but thanks to the fiduciary arm twisting of various lobbyists, it’s finding itself in exactly that position. Even worse, “Ed” here is relying on the fact that the government (again, in conjunction with the RIAA and the MPAA) has any idea what “necessary” is and can be counted on to not “sweep” past it.
None of this is truly necessary and as such, it can pretty much be guaranteed that the implementation of PROTECT IP will bring about tons of enthusiastic sweeping with a large number of overreaching brooms. And not only will the taxpayers be handed a broken internet (while being scolded about “why we can’t have nice things”), we’ll also be expected to pay for the privilege, including any internet repair work down the road.