Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the rebuttals-and-rebukes dept

The broadband industry isn’t opposed to net neutrality — so long as it gets to write the rules itself. This week, companies spoke up in support of their toothless version of net neutrality, prompting one anonymous commenter to give us our most insightful comment of the week:

If you are making the industry you are trying to regulate happy, you are not regulating it properly.

To balance that short one, we’ve got an extra long one in second place. After one of our regular critics, himself a paying insider, asserted that it’s impossible for filmmakers and other creators to compete without strong copyright enforcement, JP Jones found he couldn’t help but laugh… and respond:

This comment is hilarious in the context with you being an Insider on Techdirt. So you think that you can’t compete with free on a website that offers all of it’s content for free that you are currently paying for?

What specifics do you need? You’re proving he’s right every time you pay for his free content.

There’s so much irony here, but one of the biggest is your misconception that piracy is hard, or even risky. It’s not, despite millions upon millions of dollars the MPAA and studios have thrown at it. In other words, Mike’s “utopian vision” already exists as far as your complaint is concerned.

Here’s the thing. A content company isn’t competing with pirates. This is a fallacy, and one that even a slight amount of logic utterly destroys. There’s only one scenario where piracy even affects a content creator, and that’s the scenario where a potential customer would have bought their product, but due to free alternatives, chose not to. Every other scenario is completely irrelevant; maybe the person chose to pirate, but wouldn’t have bought the product anyway, or the person didn’t pirate, and wouldn’t have bought the product ever, or they bought the product. None of those scenarios are slightly affected by piracy, although for some reason everyone gets hung up over the first one. If by some miracle they couldn’t pirate your stuff, they still wouldn’t buy it, so the end result is the same.

The actual problem, where someone could have been a customer but chose to pirate instead, is always fixed by one of two things: either you make the product available at a price they’re willing to pay, or you improve your service to a level that they’re willing to pay. If you don’t fix one of those two things, all you’re doing is creating the person who pirates but wouldn’t have bought it anyway, by definition.

The amusing part is that the person who pirates, but may have become a customer, is actually more likely to increase profits than the opposite. Why? If they considered paying they probably have an interest in your product. By pirating it, they are being exposed to the quality of content you create. If they like it, they are more likely to consider purchasing other products from you in the future.

This is known in fancy business terms as “advertising.” Companies pay millions of dollars per year in advertising. A 30-second advertisement during the Super Bowl costs around $4 million
This works even better for the younger crowd. Kids in high school and college rarely have a ton of expendable income, if any. They aren’t going to buy a lot of content because they simply can’t afford to. No amount of anti-piracy is going to magically change their income; without access to your content, they simply aren’t going to buy it.

You know what free access to your stuff causes, though? Interest. Habit. Fandom. Things that, once they do have more expendable income than free time, makes your better service and reasonably priced product more appealing. Studies have shown over and over again that individuals with the highest piracy rates are usually the ones that spend the most money on content. Which is obvious if you think about it; fans want MORE.

Do you think HBO subscriptions would have risen as much if Game of Thrones was only available via HBO, and not piracy? Of course not. The only people watching would be those that already had a subscription. People bought it because they wanted to watch the show the second it came out. And they were willing to pay a ton for it (HBO is really expensive, especially if you don’t already have cable).

So yes, they’re supposed to sit back and let other people give their stuff away, like they’ve effectively been doing for years. All that money going to ineffectual lawyers and lobbying could instead go to making a service so good, with so much content, that people will flock to it, and piracy will die out except for the few diehards that refuse to pay for anything (which, incidentally, will never be your customers).

Granted, this sucks for the lawyers and lobbyists making bank on exploiting the content industry, but sorry if I don’t really care about the people who are adding nothing to our economy. Which is the whole point of this article, really…the MPAA is made of up lawyers and lobbyists, not content creators.

Funny how that works.

For editor’s choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to Chris Christie’s abuse of E-ZPass metadata, specifically the demand to know why one Senator crossed the Hudson River 284 times in a couple of years. Ninja had the answer:

Who cares? Maybe he was dating some chick? Or there’s a restaurant he likes to visit there? His old grandma lives there? He appreciates going through the goddamn bridge? You may question the fact that he didn’t pay but why he crossed the bridge or where he was going? It’s none of your business.

And they say metadata is harmless. It’s freaking open to interpretation because only the driver knows why he drove to a place and why he used a determined route. With enough imagination and some cross reference from law enforcement you can probably associate anybody with some meth dealer.

Next time you hear that ask the idiot proposing it to share the entirety of his metadata. I bet my balls none of the surveillance-happy crew will hand it all.

Next, we’ve got an excellent comment from an astronomer that comes in response to our criticism of the ESA for not releasing high-res photos from a publicly funded mission. It better illuminates the reasoning behind the reticence, and while I don’t think it makes the case that such embargoes are a good thing overall, it explains why problems with how we currently fund scientific research have made them an arguable necessity:

Being a member of the astronomy community, the idea that the information would become public instantly is slightly terrifying. Mostly because my funding comes from grants, which often rely on past publications. If my group released the photos, and was working on careful science to explain some phenomena, and some other group scooped us with poor quality science but mostly correct ideas, there goes the discovery paper and quite a bit of my oomf for my next grant cycle. It’s all about who publishes first, and I feel not having the proprietary period would cause a manic rush to publish that would end up effecting both the science, and probably the sanity of the scientists involved.

Boosting the economic return by releasing information right away may be a good thing, but in the end you are going to be hurting the scientists who have made this their life work.

Also, linking this to the HGP; astronomy is a very low economic return science, that’s part of the problem with funding. We don’t often make discoveries that end up making people money. Meaning or main source of income is those grants we have to fight tooth and nail for. The HGP likely has for more economic applications then most astronomy projects do, aside from the money made via PR. It’s a very one way science when it comes to costs. While I adore my particular research, I am under no illusions that what I am doing will somehow be able to be economically viable. My research is important for the advancement of my field, but has no economic return. This is of course scary in the US were the government seems to be pushing only for science that boosts the economy.

Still, there ARE projects designed for this instant information release. The LSST, which will hopefully be working sometime in the 2020s, will be pushing all its info out as soon as everything has been reduced. The beauty of that particular project is that there is so much information that no one person could scoop all the important discoveries. They will have terabytes of data released every few days, and there will be thousands of important discoveries to be made. Rosetta is a very different mission, in that there is a much more limited data set, and for funding purposes the scientists who run the mission need those discoveries to be made within the science team to validate the mission.

(Personally, I’m firmly of the belief that the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake alone is a noble goal that everyone should be proud to contribute to — but the tyranny of “usefulness” seems ascendant at the moment.)

Over on the funny side, we’ve got a one-two punch. After photographer Jerry Fisher discovered a college attempting to claim copyright on a 16th century Michelangelo sculpture, John Fenderson set the sarcasm train in motion and rocketed to first place:

If copyright doesn’t apply to Michelangelo’s sculpture, then there is no incentive for Michelangelo to create more sculptures. Jerry Fisher clearly hates artists.

Stepping into second place, an anonymous commenter arrived to bolster the case:

Michelangelo is a poor, starving artist. He hasn’t made any money or eaten anything in 451 years!

For editor’s choice on the funny side, we start with a response to the former head of the GCHQ, whose comments about encryption included the notion that, without backdoors into devices, intelligence agencies would need to be even more invasive and unethical. Dfed aint no fool — he read between the lines:

All I got was: “It would be a shame if your kneecaps had to be decrypted.”

That wasn’t the only instance of the head of a four-letter acronym making crazy statements this week: MPAA boss Chris Dodd gave a staggeringly ironic interview about the Sony hack and his supposed love of free speech. Baron von Robber captured what it feels like to read his words pretty damn accurately:

“If you said to me, what?s the one thing that has been responsible for the 100 years of success of the American film industry, I?d point to one thing ? it?s freedom of speech,? said Dodd.”

[Irony-O-Meter at 300%, cooling system at highest capacity]

“We have always been a great advocate for freedom of expression”

[Irony-O-Meter at 450%, cooling system failing!]

“and speech,”

[Irony-O-Meter at 550%, cooling system failing, Prenda Buffers overflowing!]

“and I don?t represent anybody who doesn?t embrace that value.”


Dang it.

That’s all for this week, folks!

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Comments on “Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt”

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The Old Man in The Sea says:

Re: Boo Hoo!!

Another ignorant person who knows nothing of history, research or discovery. I had this argument with atheistic ignoramus’s before and given chapter and verse of who and where many of the great discoveries came from.

The “tyranny of usefulness” is a artifice of accountants and lawyers. The ROI for astronomy has been enormous and has affected every area of our daily life from communications to medicine, from computer systems to construction.

It just takes a longer time for the return on astronomy to build up. We are looking here at hundreds of years instead of years and decades.

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