WIPO Director General Against Draconian Anti-Piracy Punishment... But For The Wrong Reasons

from the not-quite-there-yet dept

We were a bit surprised, recently, to hear at a WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) meeting that they actually appeared to be taking more of an evidence-based approach to copyright, rather than just assuming that "more is better." And now, the Director General of WIPO, Francis Gurry, gave an interview where he explained why he thought that high fines and jailtime weren't the answer to piracy. He's exactly right, which is a bit surprising. But as you read the details, it sounds like he might be right for the wrong reasons -- which isn't all that surprising.

It's not that he thinks that the better approach is for companies and content creators to adjust their business models -- but that he's afraid the draconian punishment schemes are basically a PR nightmare for WIPO's continuing fruitless effort to convince people that infringement is evil:
"I don't believe we are going to win this, (to) find the solution by putting teenagers in jail," Gurry said in an interview on a visit to India. "I think that is not going to win public sympathy."

"Part of the battle here is to sensitise the public to the fact that there is a real issue involved. It is not simply a victimless crime...."
Amusingly, the whole reason the RIAA kicked off its lawsuit strategy was based on similar thinking: that it was an "education" campaign that would convince people that there was "harm" done from file sharing. Of course, it didn't work. At all. And no education campaign is going to work, because it's just the basic nature of economics. If the technology has made the product infinite, it's not a moral issue or a legal issue: it's a business model issue. The answer is to change business models, not hope and pray that you can somehow convince people that it's "bad" to do something that obviously can be done quite easily.

So, yes, Gurry is correct that draconian punishment has created a massive PR backlash that has helped make things even worse, but an education campaign isn't going to make a difference. Only a business model change can fix a business model situation -- and we're already seeing that happen just fine in many parts of the world. It's not an education campaign that will help the content industry. It's smarter business models.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:15pm

    The last paragraph is odd....

    Downs their solution with the first sentence. Offers the reason with the second. Third sentence recaps the first and the fourth recaps the second.

    may just be me, but its a brutal read and I cant find the necessity.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    We all know .....

    We all know how well banning marajuana worked .... the war on drugs .... the billions spent by the government to stop it .... this is going to go the same way, a totally ineffective waste of time and taxpayers money. With more money being spent in a year on attempting to stop it, than the labels make in that same year. Money being spent by ISP's to police their networks to show that they are doing what the letter of the law says. etc

    Total waste of time .... IMHO

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    Let Them Waste Their Time ...

    ... pursuing an “education” (or more accurately, “indoctrination”) approach. And then see what ever-more creative rationalizations they come up with as to why that doesn’t work.

     

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    Matthew, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:45pm

    Here's something I don't argue about the "get a new business model" argument. Suppose that I'm a musician. I'm not a concert organizer, a T-shirt manufacturer, a poster printer, etc. I'm a musician. It used to be people would pay for my music. Now, they won't pay for my music and worse yet, people keep saying I should sell out to t-shirt manufacturers and poster printers in order to make my living. What is my music now? A glorified advertisement for somebody else's posters? I suppose I could print my own posters, but like I said before, I'm not a poster-printer. I have no talent for graphic design, printing posters brings me no joy, and it takes time away from my music.

    (Okay, yes, this hypothetical argument is a little bit simplistic and naive, but it conveys the thought process I had in mind.)

     

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      A Dan (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:51pm

      Re:

      In your hypothetical situation, tough luck. Nobody's required to buy anything from you. The fact that they used to, and you feel entitled, has no bearing.

       

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      zegota (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

      Re:

      Suppose that I like writing fanfiction....

      Just because you create something doesn't mean people should be obligated to pay for it. Now, with that said, I think your assumption that people won't pay for music is false. Some people will be happy to pay for it. Some people won't, but many of those people will be happy to pay for concerts. Etc.

      And even though the t-shirt/poster thing is not the best (or even that good, IMO) way to monetize your music, claiming that "I'm a musician" isn't really a justification for having to do the other stuff. If I'm a writer, I can't just say "I'm a writer," and get paid without having to dabble a little in promotion, law, business, etc. If I'm a director, I can't just say "I'm a director" and not have to deal with budget issues.

      Actually, scratch that. You can. You can hire people to do it for you. But that's the trade off. You can do the auxiliary parts of the business yourself, and keep more of the profit, or you can hire people to do it for you and trade a little profit for less time effort (actually, this is more complex, as, in your case, hiring a graphic artist might give your tshirts/posters a higher quality, resulting in a higher profit).

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 2:45pm

      Re:

      I'm a musician. It used to be people would pay for my music

      No, they paid for a plastic disc your record label put out.

      Now, they won't pay for my music and worse yet, people keep saying I should sell out to t-shirt manufacturers and poster printers in order to make my living. What is my music now? A glorified advertisement for somebody else's posters?

      Before your music was a glorified advertisement for somebody else's plastic disc if you think that way (I don't).

      The truth is that your music is valuable -- in that it makes other things more valuable than they would be without the music. In some cases, it may be a plastic disc in makes more valuable -- in other cases a t-shirt, a night out or something else.

       

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      Alan Gerow (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 2:46pm

      Re:

      "It used to be people would pay for my music."

      No, that's not true. There were millions of musicians before 1998 that didn't get paid a cent for making their music (or at least not a livable income). Being a musician and writing music guarantees no one an income, and never has. Traditionally, most musicians never could make a living strictly being a musician, and now there are more opportunities for monetization around music than ever before.

      "Now, they won't pay for my music and worse yet, people keep saying I should sell out to t-shirt manufacturers and poster printers in order to make my living."

      Except people ARE paying for music. People are paying for concerts. Companies are paying for advertising licensing. People are putting more money into the music industry than ever. Just that people don't care about CDs anymore, and charging for studio recordings (which are promotional material for live shows, not the end product) seems silly when music belongs to the culture and culture shouldn't be commodicized.

      And you don't have to sell t-shirts, you have to sell YOURSELF. People can't pirate a concert or release a bootleg before the show's happened ... so there's your biggest money draw: live shows! Just like it has always been.

      If you're a musician, you make your living selling experiences around music ... the shows, the memorabilia, the passion, the emotions, the feelings, the community. If you only want to record a song once in a studio and sell that a million times, then you're a songwriter and recording artist. A musician performs regularly for real people, and that's pirate-proof.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2009 @ 9:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Except people ARE paying for music.

        Incorrect, they are not paying for music, they are paying for performance of music. That is something that needs to be cleared up here. They are not paying for music.

        Further, the number of people paying for performance is a very small subset of people who in the past would have actually paid for music.

        A musician performs regularly for real people, and that's pirate-proof.

        Sorry, but there are plenty of great musicians who do not perform concerts. A musician should be allowed to write and record music and be allowed to sell that music without having to do anything else. That music is rare, it is unique, and people value it. The only reason there is a shrinking paying market for music is that people have learned how to steal it with impunity.

        (and before anyone says "it's not stealing", I am using the exact term that the Guru himself Trent Reznor used repeatedly in the past, instructing his fans to steal from his old record label. It's stealing, even Trent knows it!)

        Musicians shouldn't be caught having to do anything other be musicians to make a living. Recording unique recording that people value and want to enjoy should be enough to create a market. Remove the thieves, and that market will once again flourish.

         

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 4:19pm

      Re:

      You could get a job playing in a band in some restaurant. Like people with real jobs, there are those that receive salaries, and those that have a larger vision and are entrepreneurs.

       

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    Alan Gerow (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    "Amusingly, the whole reason the RIAA kicked off its lawsuit strategy was based on similar thinking: that it was an "education" campaign that would convince people that there was "harm" done from file sharing. Of course, it didn't work."

    What are you talking about?!? The RIAA's education campaign has been nothing but an overwhelming success. The RIAA has educated the public that there is real "harm" done from file sharing. There are have been countless lives "harmed" & ruined by file sharing.

    Jammie Thomas-Rasset's life has been irreparably harmed by the RIAA's fight against file sharing. Thousands of struggling college kids have been harmed because Lars needs another beamer.

    The RIAA's has educated the public a lot over the last 10 years. Mostly that it does the most "harm" to its own industry.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2009 @ 9:16pm

      Re:

      Jammie Thomas-Rasset's life has been irreparably harmed by the RIAA's fight against file sharing. Thousands of struggling college kids have been harmed because Lars needs another beamer.

      No, Jammie Thomas-Rasset's life has been irreparably harmed by her decision to distribute music without a license, followed by what some might consider the worst legal advice on the planet. It's not the RIAA's fault that Jammie decides to violate copyright and then follow advice that lead to her current situation.

      Please, stop trying to rewrite history.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2009 @ 3:18am

        Re: Re:

        People like you who believe that it is appropriate to fine anyone $80,000 for something that retails for less than $1 are revolting to see. You are a greedy, opportunistic coward with a shameless sense of entitlement that enables you to fume in self-righteous indignation over supposed losses to your government sponsored subsidy, as if it is an inalienable natural right that you receive a perpetual revenue stream for any creation.

        BTW, those who engage in file sharing the most also typically spends the most money on music. Sadly the recording industry is hell bent on biting the hand that feeds it. The decline in CD sales has nothing to do with piracy and every bit to do with the likes of you, people who would rather harass, bully and intimidate the most vulnerable members of society for undeserved revenue, rather then be true artists and actually work for a living.

         

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    Chris in Utah (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 3:10pm

    You outlaw something...

    The solution is simple. When you outlaw something you give the power to the outlaws. Turn it into a state liqueur store and you have a socialistic solution. Oh wait, I forgot its why we call it piracy. /sarcasm

     

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    RD, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 3:26pm

    Tough sh*t

    "Here's something I don't argue about the "get a new business model" argument. Suppose that I'm a musician. I'm not a concert organizer, a T-shirt manufacturer, a poster printer, etc. I'm a musician. It used to be people would pay for my music. Now, they won't pay for my music and worse yet, people keep saying I should sell out to t-shirt manufacturers and poster printers in order to make my living. What is my music now? A glorified advertisement for somebody else's posters? I suppose I could print my own posters, but like I said before, I'm not a poster-printer. I have no talent for graphic design, printing posters brings me no joy, and it takes time away from my music."

    No on is forcing you to choose to be a musician. If you spent years learning music without any idea of how to earn from it, then that is tough shit for you. Or did you learn music because you LOVE music, love to play it, love to entertain? There are HUNDREDS of ways to make money making music. You arent REQUIRED to make albums or sell them on discs. You can write/create music for someone else. This can be studio, commercials, jingles, or work-for-hire. You can do it yourself. Technology exists now (with the PC and the internet) to produce your own music. You can partner with someone who CAN do the marketing. Maybe you form a partnership, maybe you are an employee. No one owes you a living, you have to go find it. So you wont be Madonna or 50 Cent, so what? You can still earn a living with music if you really want to. What you dont get to do is punish the rest of the ENTIRE WORLD because of YOUR failure to monetize your skills.

     

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    Fred McTaker (profile), Nov 14th, 2009 @ 1:47am

    Sharing IS a victimless "crime"

    "Part of the battle here is to sensitise the public to the fact that there is a real issue involved. It is not simply a victimless crime...."

    I wish just once a journalist would stand up to such claims and ask someone to prove this hyperbole at the moment they spout it, rather than let it go unchallenged.

    Sharing data that was already released to the public, in any form, is the very definition of a victimless crime. In reality, no one loses. The perception of loss is completely made up -- a "lost sale" where no sale ever existed. In fact, the expanded public exposure to the data can lead to sales which would not have occurred otherwise.

    The reality is that, without the barrier of government obstruction to data sharing, the original purchaser gets to share their purchase, and thereby increase its value to them, and to show others why it was a good purchase. If others agree, they can purchase the same data as well. If they disagree, they can just delete or archive the copy. If they agree but would rather support the originating data provider in some other way, they can find another way to get the data provider just as much or even more money than a direct purchase. If they don't have the money or will to contribute, they can share it with friends who do have the money and/or will, so sharing it with the poor or disinterested is no net loss. Such sharing is a currently defined as a "crime", but all loss is a complete fabrication, and the gains to all parties in the "crime" are much better defined. In fact, this is the opposite of a victimization -- it is a liberation. Suppressing sharing causes more definite harm, so that should be the crime.

     

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    freedom, Nov 15th, 2009 @ 2:54pm

    Art

    one day people will look back on htis era and cringe in horror. That man profited from culture and entertainment and tried to control his fellow humans. In the later times art music and entertainment are created for the fact that it is to be freely given.

    What happens in our future when all the factories work is done by robots , in fact all work is?
    No one will have money so how will you pay for anything?

    it is the end where capitalism strives too, to make 5 people on earth own everything and we get what they wish us too.

     

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