Doug Stanhope: Piracy Is A Problem Only If You Think Of It As A Problem

from the frame-of-mind dept

As the legacy of Louis CK grows, as does his fanbase and his ability to get the closed to be more open, it's worth noting that comedians have long existed on the edge of the IP world. While some comedians will occasionally pull out the copyright card, accusations of joke-stealing and copyright infringement of their acts haven't found the same hold as in music and movies. There is a great deal of borrowing and tweaking going on in the joke world and yet the comedy business is still around.

Now we can add another comedian to the list of folks who just don't see infringement as a problem, and think of the internet as a boon rather than a threat: Doug Stanhope. In an interview with Wired — which is hilarious enough to be worth reading the entire thing — the former Man Show frontman took on the notion that piracy is harmful.

The internet has done nothing but good for comedy all around. Comedians no longer have to rely on TV execs and club owners deciding if they are funny or not. There’s the problem of piracy if you think it’s a problem. I credit piracy with getting my name known enough to have a decent career. People bootlegging shows on cellphones and putting material out before it’s finished is a problem for every comic, but compared to all the upsides of what the internet has done, it’s a fact of life that we’ll learn to adapt to even if it means finding these people and killing their families in front of them.

Now, I'm at least 75% certain that the last bit about killing families for infringement is a joke, but his larger point is a gem. When we, all of us, think about what we want the internet to be, it is important for us to weigh the sum total of its impact. If I may extrapolate on Stanhope's statement, I would argue that this completely undermines the view the piracy and/or sharing must be stamped out on simple moral grounds. We've all heard the “but piracy is just wrong!” arguments (or, heard that in substitute of an actual argument) but that's nonsense. Piracy, infringment, and sharing would be wrong if there were a net-negative impact on the works being infringed upon or shared. If there is a net-benefit to those people, as Stanhope suggests there indeed is, how in the hell could that be morally wrong?

Further on that point, while some may argue that it is still wrong because the infringers are not respecting the wishes of the artist, look at how Stanhope frames it: Piracy is a problem if the artist thinks it's a problem. Bootlegged shows and uploads may present challenges and problems, but they are going to adapt. It seems to me that it is every bit incumbent upon artists, be they comedians or musicians, to change their frame of reference as it is on the internets denizens to respect the artist's wishes.

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Comments on “Doug Stanhope: Piracy Is A Problem Only If You Think Of It As A Problem”

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fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, this is more like “seeing something in a store and going home and making something just like it.” The store owner still has the original item and no theft or shoplifting was involved. The store owner may not like facing competition, but that is what the free market is all about.

Your second point is even further from the mark. This blog has never been against companies making money. Quite the contrary, it often advocates methods that businesses can use to make a lot of money. It also bemoans opportunities to make a lot of money that RIAA companies have passed up as they tried to cling to its antiquated business models.

Anonymous Coward says:

considering that ALL artists relied years ago on bootleg tapes to promote and enhance their careers, including a lot who now condemn file sharing and any form of copying and downloading, it just makes me so cross that those people can be such hypocrites. same old story though, when it suits, ie getting fame for someone, it suits, when it doesn’t, ie got the fame, it doesn’t!

out_of_the_blue says:

Okay, now what about $100M movies?

As I’ve said before, your notions work when making tunes and such with TRIVIAL costs, but have NO application to full movies with millions invested, YET Mike tries to make the case that you can just forget a $100M of “sunk (or fixed) costs” and focus on the marginal costs. Baloney. Your piratey notions don’t scale up.

“Piracy is a problem if the artist thinks it’s a problem.” — Okay, some do. Now where’s your solution besides mere contradiction?

All hail Mike “Streisand Effect” Masnick!
To properly honor Mike, I propose “Masnick Defect” as term for out-of-bounds self-aggrandizement such as years of trying to turn a single quip into fame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Okay, now what about $100M movies?

Better yet, why aren’t they making $1,000,000,000 movies? If they can spend half-a-billion on one movie and it takes in over $4 billion than why not spend half-a-trillion on one movie and watch it rake in $4 trillion dollars?

Are Hollywood accountants that stupid not to see such a goldmine?

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Okay, now what about $100M movies?

Screw the $100M movie! I want a $500M sandwich, but you freetards keeps saying that $10 is enough for a sandwich, so screw you and your “market forces” and your “supply and demand curves”. All of you low class pirates stealing your sandwich’s for $10, $5 — gah, dare I say it — $0.99!!! You are devaluing sandwiches.

I also, I want $1,000M statues, but you masnick-loving freetardians keep saying that the statue can be seen from miles away so why should you pay. You people make me sick. Can’t you just avert your eyes until you’ve paid the creator?! No, you pirate glances at the $1,000M statues making it impossible for that creator to make more.

Stupid freetardian, masnick-devil-hitler-loving, stalinesque pirating, pol potian grifters the lot of you!!

Zakida Paul says:

Re: Okay, now what about $100M movies?

What about 100m movies? I haven’t watched one in years because they are shite, and that is down to the fact that Hollywood has no idea how to make a great movie anymore (if they ever did).

Also, you continue to make yourself look the brain dead moron you are by referring to Mike on an article that Mike did not write.

The sooner you die, the better for humanity.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Okay, now what about $100M movies?

> The sooner you die, the better for humanity.

That’s a bit harsh. I think you’re assuming a person can be that brain-dead and still comment on the internet; which ignores more likely alternatives like “he’s a paid shill”–seriously, ever notice how the trolls get quiet when certain laws reach their crux time?

It’s possible he’s here to do a job, to attempt to disrupt this hub of subversive activity, while simultaneously paying attention to what’s being said.

Now, a lurker could observe and report, but if you want to disrupt a group you *must* be vocal and ludicrous.

See how we waste our time responding to his nonsense?

And every time a troll fades away, another steps in and fills the exact same function, almost as though somebody hired a replacement. Their number here is constant–the logical conclusion: paid shill.

TroutFishingUSA says:

Re: Re: Re: Okay, now what about $100M movies?

“Hub of subversive activity?!”

Seriously?! You need to get over yourself. Plus, I don’t think you understand what “subversive” means (or do you work for the people you’re trying to ‘overthrow?’). A little perspective might be in order; try reading up on current world events.

And you know, you seem to have A LOT of time to post endlessly here, floating conspiracy theories about the media; there’s no way a person with a full-time job could do that, so obviously you must be the paid shill.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Okay, now what about $100M movies?

nothing about them. Maybe they won’t get made anymore, maybe they will. Just because someone thinks its a good idea that so much money is sunk in a movie doesn’t make them entitled to make it back.

And I strongly challenge the notion that this kind of costs are necessary to begin with. If I take a look at fan made no budget movies and the type of CGI and visual special effects they can make in their spare time essentially for free, there is no reason to this insane costs at all.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Okay, now what about $100M movies?

I can’t remember the last $100+ million movie I saw that was any good. Every great movie I’ve seen in the last five years has cost $30 million or less.

And the $100+ million movies that were decent, like Lord of the Rings, didn’t seem to have any trouble making huge profits.

So what the hell is your point? Do you want good movies, or just expensive movies?

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m afraid can’t agree that it is incumbent upon the public to “respect artists’ wishes”. It’s untenable and unreasonable to expect such nonsense once something is published; if you are an artist and you don’t want people using or sharing your work, don’t publish it. As long as it is still private property, you may effectively hoard it to your heart’s content. To expect everyone on earth to refrain from touching your personal contribution to culture just because you would prefer them not to is asinine.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped us from drafting and vigorously expanding a host of laws to try to accomplish just such a thing, but I think by now we are all familiar with their lack of effectiveness.

Valerie says:

I thought this was a very good article and the comedian quoted made a good and motivating point: people stealing your stuff is bad, but the good outweighs the bad.

If you have the money for lawyers to constantly look out for you and fight for you, then you’re already a success because you’ve made that much money sot this is not a worry for you.

If you haven’t made it big yet and you don’t have much money, it wastes so much creative time and effort worrying about people stealing your stuff that you’re always paranoid and angry and can’t even be a good writer/performer any more. And of course hoarding your stuff defeats the purpose.

I think you should prioritize your time, money & energy to protect the biggest most important things (e.g. if you spent ten years writing a book & you want to sell it, do make the effort to get it copyrighted) and then be kind to yourself and relax over the less important things and accept that there are some things you can’t prevent. Also remember that no one can steal your talent – the person who copies you one day will be asked to produce something new or perform and they won’t be able to do it because something that good can only come out of your head!

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