back to article Free Ride: Disney, Fela Kuti and Google's war on copyright

Wars over creators' rights are pretty old – much older than copyright law. In one of the first "copyfights", in 561AD, about 3,000 people died, writes Robert Levine in his new book Free Ride. St Colmcille and St Finnian clashed over the right to make copies of the Bible, with the King castigating Colmcille for his "fancy new …

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...until you have to disburse it.

"I don't think £7 or £8 a month for all-you-can-eat music is so terrible"

..until the time comes to disburse it - "it" being whatever remains after deducting the expenses of keeping track of who listens to what, and who gets what.

To change the subject, I think that tech companies need to pay for things in the public domain against which they run ads. There is NO reason for these tech companies to become the inheritors of all the value of all humanity's cultural works and achievements - in fact, the very thought is repugnant. These tech companies need to be forced to pay for the privilege of using these works, and the revenue that those works generate must contribute to society, and the world at large, and not merely the bottom line of rapacious web companies such as Google.

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Stop

Public domain

"To change the subject, I think that tech companies need to pay for things in the public domain against which they run ads."

I don't agree, but pay who? "Public domain" means that everyone owns it.

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FAIL

Sorry, what?

Pay for stuff that is in the public domain? Why? The very definition of public domain is that it belongs to nobody. The reason that they make money with the ads is that they go to the hassle of putting up a web site. They are not exclusive inheritors of all the value of all humanity's cultural works and achievements; they are just the only people who actually work their ass off to make it available.

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wow

I agree with everything this bloke says. I used to be a massive downloader of music, or freetard if you will. But since i started using the subscription streaming options, my music downloading has almost stopped. I now stream music to my stereo, and to my phone, so have no need to actually hold any of the music. Ive always advocated that this method would work for me, and i was right; im no longer a freetard.

now if someone would do the same for movies( streaming, all you can eat, high quality) we would be rocking!

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Ru

streaming, all you can eat, high quality

Size of a fancy-schmancy high sample rate lossless audio file... lets say 50mb.

Size of a fancy-schmancy 1080p high quality video with surround sound and blah blah blah... lets say 50gb.

Given the atrocious state of the broadband market in most english speaking countries, the latter cannot be realistically digitally distributed or streamed as you'll either destroy your 'fair' use limit before you get most of the way through the film, or you'll end up traffic managed to the point where its gonna take 2 more days to buffer the rest of the film.

I can happily listen to reasonable bitrate MP3 files without my inner audiophile throwing a fit, but I don't intend to be watching films in youtube levels of quality. How about you? Where are you willing to compromise?

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Anonymous Coward

ru your right this is the same coward as above

the state of broadband does hamper the idea of steaming high quality. But if people are happy to download 700MB video files then they should be able to stream that on as little as a 5mb connection.

personally i dont watch 700MB avi's but then i have 50mb broadband. But other people do watch this quality, and i suspect they would be happy to pay for it.

Ive tried love film and other movie streaming services and while the quality was very good, (1080p DD sound etc), the cost of the indivdual films was.... grating. £4.99 for one movie? no thanks

Id go to £20pm for a service that allows me to stream movies in 1080p. all i can eat. and id be happy to pay it. You may think £20 is quite low but lets be honest here, its £20 that otherwise they wouldnt see, and if there are more people like me, its quite a lot of £20 each and every month.

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Anonymous Coward

Worldwide services

It's all well and good but if any service is going to match the illegal but convenient option it absolutely has to be worldwide. Spotify won't even let me subscribe, you have to jump through hoops to get some random japanese song from itunes if you don't happen to live there. The result?

A five second search on whatever illegal method happens to be popular. That is what needs to be matched.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Worldwide services

Spotify won't let you give them money?

Are you sure?

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Re: Worldwide services

Well, I recently read about Spotify opening up for business in the US, so I guess he may well be sure. Dividing the planet up into different regions to "exploit the revenue-generating possibilities" or however the content industries would describe their restrictive barriers was something those industries were completely in favour of, so why should the commenter's experiences be in any doubt?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Worldwide services

I presumed the OP is in the USA.

http://www.spotify.com/us/get-spotify/overview/

Spotify is open for business and will happily take his money. So maybe he needs lessons in how to use the interwebs. Or how to pay for things. One or the other.

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FAIL

I presumed the OP is in the USA.

Well I'm not...

Spotify in Canada

It looks like you're accessing Spotify from outside our launch territiories. In order to buy Spotify premium, you will need a payment card that has been issued in one of our launch territories (i.e. Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom or United States). As a Spotify Premium user you will have be able to use Spotify when you travel for an unlimited time period.

So they will only take my money if I somehow find my self with a US payment card. Maybe something like buying a Japanese iTunes gift card online so you can buy from iTunes Japan... yes a quick google shows market in spotify gift cards.

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Happy

Full Circle

Heh, needing a proxy or some sort of other work-around to pay for music...

That put a smile on my face.

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Shock! Man talks sense about copyright!

Such a shame the industry and government seem not to have listen to such reasoned arguments, hopefully soon...

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Stop

Not so fast on the levy though please

Some countries already bowed to pressure years ago and added tax to writable media. Wheres this money going now? Adding any form of tax or 'levy' is stupid. Give it ten years and it will be absorbed by the greedy system.

The correct option is to let people buy what they need/want, somehow. I think he is correct about the 'people want convenience', its been my own experience. Once something is within a reasonable price range, its becomes all about convenience. Go down to the store or buy it on Steam? Chances are very high Ill buy it on Steam, even if its dearer. People drive to shops nearby, even though the cost is much higher than walking.

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Facepalm

"but very few people are against it on principle"

Yeah, but your average person won't even know what DRM stands for. You can't use people's ignorance of DRM as an example of why DRM "isn't that bad".

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Ask the wrong question

"Levine: A lot of people say DRM was huge problem. But when EMI eliminated it, it didn't create a huge boost in sales."

That's the wrong question. You should ask when you add DRM did it create a huge boost in sales?

If the answer is no then DRM is not working, and you are paying for something that people hate.

Even if it was stopping people from copying your stuff (ha!), it's not making them buy it so you are just pissing into the wind.

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Anonymous Coward

re: "but very few people are against it on principle"

"Yeah, but your average person won't even know what DRM stands for. You can't use people's ignorance of DRM as an example of why DRM "isn't that bad"."

Could you point where Levine said that ‘DRM "isn't that bad".’? As far as I can see, he was responding to a question of whether DRM was one of the “culture industries' biggest mistakes” and was replying that in terms of punters buying stuff, DRM proved not to be an issue.

In any case, are people that ignorant? The reason I ask is that I hear/read far more complaints about the way EA handles DRM on its games, whilst comparatively little about DRM in music – I’ve inferred, rightly or wrongly, that this is because of the way consumers have been affected by it, or rather feel they are affected. When iTunes wasn’t DRM-free, I heard relatively few complaints from actual users of the iTunes Store – but if a CD was copy-protected to prevent ripping, I heard a lot more about it.

Going back to EA games, the amount of complaints from customers about DRM is well known – just look at the one-star Amazon reviews for Spore, as an example – and not surprising, considering it executes its DRM system. Yet, I hear very little griping about (as an example) Steam’s system of DRM.

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Linux

Engineering nice soft bumpers.

To their credit, Apple has done much to make their DRM seem transparent.

If you are a good little cult member and don't stray out of the pre-defined boundaries, then the DRM in iTunes is not such a big deal. DRM seems to become much more of a problem when it is a vendor neutral standard or it's bolted on top of something that isn't designed to accomodate DRM.

Then things "break".

You see this happen with CDs, DVDs, and BDs all to a varying degree.

When problems do happen with those optical media, a lot of people might not recognize it as a DRM failure. Saying that the industry has successfully snookered consumers is hardly a compelling reason to suggest they should just continue.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Engineering nice soft bumpers.

"If you are a good little cult member and don't stray out of the pre-defined boundaries, then the DRM in iTunes is not such a big deal. DRM seems to become much more of a problem when it is a vendor neutral standard or it's bolted on top of something that isn't designed to accomodate DRM."

Although I would go along with that, music sold via iTunes (except Japan, I think) has been DRM-free for a while - as are the music videos. In 2007, Steve Jobs publicly called on ‘the Big Four labels’ to let their music be sold DRM-free, so the question of DRM wasn’t just down to Apple.

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Differing national IP systems is the elephant in the room.

As 'zef' points out: none of the "official" means of purchasing legal IP works across properly borders. I've even ranted at Apple directly over some of the more Byzantine problems I've had with iTunes.

I've worked in a number of different countries over the last few years. I'm currently living in Italy, where iTunes is a pale shadow of, say, iTunes UK (or US). I can't get Doctor Who episodes—despite the fact that I can stream them now on the BBC's own iPlayer Global iPad app! Half the features touted in the US version are missing from iTunes.

Hell even the iBookstore in Italy is stuck in the "Gutenberg Project public domain catalogue" era: there is *NOTHING* in there aside from the "classics". (I.e. proto-Mills & Boon fare written by Jane Austen and her peers, which are considered Literature primarily because they're old. If they'd been published today, they'd be considered basic romance novels.)

And it's not just Apple, either. Spotify is a mess. Amazon Italia only just opened its doors here a few months ago and is still playing catch-up with its older siblings.

The problem is that Italian tourists aren't banned from buying music CDs, DVDs or anything else in the UK. So why am I banned from doing the *exact same thing* online? What difference does it make if I want to buy a DVD in English without Italian subtitles or dubbing?

In short: why the hell does the IP industry go so far out of its bloody-minded way to make it as hard as possible for people to pay them for their products and services?

Here I am, an ex-pat Brit living in a foreign nation, but as far as these idiots are concerned, I don't exist. Despite the fact that I have relatives who were speaking *seven* languages before they left school, the automatic assumption is that all the world's citizens are like at least half of those who live in the US: parochial, mono-lingual and uninterested in other cultures.

I *want* to give artists my money, but their agents won't LET me!

The interviewee in this article is bang-on. I hope rather more people listen to him than to that idiot Lessig.

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Hear Hear

As an Ex-pat currently living in Japan my options are basically nil due to licensing reasons, language reasons (Websites that only allow you to use the Japanese localised version drive me nuts.)

Until there is REAL globalisation of these services without the artificial boundaries (far chance) piracy will still be the most convenient option for those of us who don't fit into their consumer pidgeon holes.

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Another Ex-pat in Japan

There's this crazy place called Tsutaya.. they will lend you DVDs and Blurays in exchange for money!!! Learn the 3 or 4 kanji you need to switch the audio to english and/or turn on subtitles and away you go! Even eikaiwa staff can do it!

>>(Websites that only allow you to use the Japanese localised version drive me nuts.)

Most people in Japan use Japanese as their first language.. strange that eh?

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Anonymous Coward

Har har har

1. Glad you like renting DVDs, I like playing games.

2. I am talking about websites for foreign companies who ignore browser language settings and redirect you to their Japanese sites based on your IP and then you have to hunt around for the settings to change it back to English (If they exist) or, if they redirected you to a totally different domain, ways to try and get back without being auto-redirected again.

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ok...

>>1. Glad you like renting DVDs, I like playing games.

Ok, because game rentals aren't allowed here.. there are plently of game recycle shops. Any of them will be happy to sell you games at a lot less than retail price, and will buy them back from you when you have finished with them. Arcades are still pretty big here you know..

>>2. I am talking about websites for foreign companies who ignore browser language settings

Most if not all Japanese sites that offer English versions have a link in the top right hand corner for the language... I haven't actually come across a site that doesn't work like that. Being an expat in Japan is actually very easy in comparison to other places.. i.e. my bank operates totally in English, sends me English statements, has online banking in English.

You might want to not rely on English as a crutch though.. things will get messy when you say, want to go to the dentist on your own without a "friend" to translate for you..

Bottom line, your choice of living abroad isn't a excuse to pirate stuff. If you were going to anyway fair enough but don't make out you have some honorable reason for it.

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Jane Who

Sean Baggaley 1 >> I can't get Doctor Who... proto-Mills & Boon fare written by Jane Austen and her peers

Live the meme - Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus! (Billy Piper did/does). It's a free world, except where it isn't.

The Doctor, palpably able to visit Mars and Venus on whim, has no need of such memes. Austen ranged equally wide. Were you aware that Pride and Prejudice is the literary autopsy of Hume's Treatise on Human Nature? That when Hume couldn't find a philosophical justification for ethics, the fallout was that morality was justified by convention, custom, and habit. Ethics as a type of manners. Darcy is the personification of Hume's conclusion, seen at the outset in that way by Elizabeth Bennett. Austin, by implication of the storyline, then rejects Hume's thesis. That puts Austen alongside Kant IMHO, and above Bentham and Mill with their utilitarian justifications, as an intellectual giant of the age in not giving in to mass pressure or the herd instinct.

Next up: the Caveman meme,

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Anonymous Coward

Crossed wires

I think there are crossed-wires here. I am not looking for help and my Japanese is fine. I was trying to point out the kind of thinking which drives people to piracy.

I have steam from when I was in England. I cannot buy loads of games on steam because they are not allowed to be sold in Japan. As such I have to work around it by getting friends / family to gift them to me (Which carries a risk of getting a banned account to boot). Or having to get copies snail-mailed to me. This is a Workaround to a problem caused not by technical limitations but by companies making decisions that screw some of their users.

Another example: If I want to watch BBC, I can either A) Proxy via UK to access the iPlayer or buy DVDs or I can pirate. iPlayer is wonderfully convenient and I would pay for it, but it is not possible (iPad version aside) for commercial reasons, again nothing technological.

The second point (Website stuf) was not actually regarding the problem of distribution systems, maybe I shouldn't have brought it up, but again I was trying to use it as an example of the kind of thinking which causes people to get annoyed.

The point of my post was to bring up examples whereby people are realising that the potential of online distribution systems is being crippled due to commercial aspects which are usually detrimental to the end user (Just ask Aussies about getting ripped of price wise) and are getting angry at that and then feeling justified to pirate stuff because it is just so damn convenient compared to the legitimate, but hugely less convenient, options.

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Joke

A little out of context

"The culture business is one that generates jobs that are pretty good, and doesn't create a lot of pollution, compared to BP."

I assume your commute was powered by some nifty tunes today!

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Anonymous Coward

On a slightly more serious note

BP's actual business doesn't create anywhere near as much pollution as the things people do with their products does. A subtle, but concrete, distinction.

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Mushroom

And to be honest ...

... a lot of "popular" culture products could be accurately described as "pollutants".

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Hmmm...

" in Nigeria, you had Fela Kuti, who is still as iconic as he ever was. This generated money sent back to Brazil and Nigeria. Now people are still making the music but not a lot of money is going back. And those countries could use the money. The culture business is one that generates jobs that are pretty good"

I have to say I am sceptical about whether the amount of money that was repatriated to Nigeria in return for Kuti's intellectual property was a significant contributor to its GDP and whether music "exports" ever employed as many Nigerian musicians as beer drinkers at the Shrine ever did.

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Holmes

"it undersells the value of the music"

Which is what?

There seems to be some adherence to the labor theory of value here ("I put time and sweat into it, so it's worth X"). Which leads to calls for government redistribution schemes, forced taxation and what-have you.

Wrong.

If you get pennies, it's worth pennies. If you can't find the paying public, it's worth nothing.

This is why the marketing industry exists, and this is why distribution gets the lion share.

And this is why artists should take more control of their distribution channels.

Additionally comparing the Intellectual Property Output of East Germany with anything, then say that it's low because there was no IP enforcement is, like, you know, pretty weak. Lots of ripping going on over there, right?

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Gimme a Link

To the book so I can BUY it !!!!!!!!!

This guy makes sense and in this business that's beyond rare

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Anonymous Coward

http://amzn.to/nhg2qv

now, do you want me to pop round read it to you as well?

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Coat

He will not sell it to you...

Just gives you a non-exclusive license to read it a certain number of times. Remember, mate, this is the new world of IP we're talking about here. Oh, and if it's Amazon, they can take it back any time they wish

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Examples do not prove anything

And this is what this seems to be. Just because sales for EMI didn't rise when they ditched DRM doesn't mean DRM isn't bad for business. Example isn't correlation, and correlation isn't causality.

There are many counter-examples, at least equally valid:

For example look at the early modern German book market as compared to the British one. In Germany there was no strong Copyright, so books could easily be copied. This lead to many people learning to read, and books becoming cheap. This also caused a lot more books to be published and more money for the writers. As opposed to Britain where only the publishers got rich.

Also it's missing one point completely. The cat is out of the box. We do have uncensored high speed data networks. People are going to "illegally" get what they want. So what now should be done is finding ways to deal with it. Just like the industry found ways to deal with automatic pianos, the radio or even Youtube.

People usually don't pirate in order to save money. They pirate because they cannot get a paid copy. Many movies will probably never come out on DVD, for example ET (1982, not the 2002 version which is horrible and currently the only available version). Some people cannot afford to pay $20 for a DVD. Also I'm sure many pirates would lovingly give twice of what the artists get from buying the content directly to the artists, but there simply is a fairly useless industry in between.

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Pint

"People usually don't pirate in order to save money"

Actually I think they do; the price asked is higher than the price they are prepared to pay or can pay for what they want. Simple as that; go without or take for free.

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Nah

The op is right. Most "piracy" is for stuff you can't get form you would prefer - either unavailable or available with lots of excess baggage. Copyright is so long now and - in the US at least - corporations are effectively immortal and also recognized as "people," many movies are vanishing because they were never popular enough. Songs are not released as singles any longer so paying the price of a decent dinner for a bit of plastic with a three-minute tune on it is too expensive. However if the individual tunes from the disk are available - say on Amazon - then $0.99 or so is a reasonable cost. If it is locked so that it only be listened to on one device, well then it again becomes too expensive.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

"People usually don't pirate in order to save money"

Well, for an argument to be convincing, it has to be based on facts.

1) "They pirate because they cannot get a paid copy"

Go and correlate the most popular music downloads on Pirate Bay with the current Top 40.

You can do this now.

What do you see?

2) "Many movies will probably never come out on DVD"

The opposite is true. Most movies only ever come out on DVD. cf "straight to DVD" The limited theatrical release of many movies is to "prove" it's a movie to foreign distributors, but even that isn't necessary any more.

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Anonymous Coward

People usually don't pirate in order to save money.

Most people pirate because they don't want to spend the money, which is a subtle but important difference.

All the people I know who pirate stuff are constantly pirating stuff, as soon as a download ends another one is queued up - much of it they will never listen to / watch / play, but they download because they can, there is no additional cost associated in doing so and there is next to no chance that there will be any direct consequences.

Claiming that people generally only pirate stuff they have tried to pay for and failed is as absurd as claiming that most people using P2P only do so for downloading the latest Linux distro.

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FAIL

Explanation needed!

"People hate DRM in that it won't let them do what they want, but very few people are against it on principle."

What's the principle of DRM again? That publishers should be able to impose restrictions on how copies may be used. If people hate it because of those restrictions, how are they not against it in principle?

Maybe the author in question, between lashing out at others, might wish to state that he understands the principle of DRM to be "making sure publishers get paid" or "making sure authors get paid", or even "making sure every copy is paid for", but really that's a separate matter.

A lot of people aren't able to form an opinion about DRM because they have no choice: CDs in various markets popped up with standards-violating "copy protection" and all the consumer got to know is that the discs didn't play in the car any more. Tell them why and you can be sure they'd be against DRM.

Publishers have only themselves to blame for spreading ignorance and protecting the supposedly dishonest punters from themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Explanation needed!

"What's the principle of DRM again? That publishers should be able to impose restrictions on how copies may be used. If people hate it because of those restrictions, how are they not against it in principle?"

They might just hate a particular execution of DRM - someone may have no problem with the idea behind something, but how it is carries out is another matter.

"A lot of people aren't able to form an opinion about DRM because they have no choice: CDs in various markets popped up with standards-violating "copy protection" and all the consumer got to know is that the discs didn't play in the car any more. Tell them why and you can be sure they'd be against DRM."

If you look back, the real hoo-ha about such CDs were that the packaging didn’t say anything about restrictions. Yes, it’s annoying that there are restrictions, but if you don’t know about such restrictions, it’s more annoying not being able to make an informed buying decision. In the States, one consumer won a court case over this – she argued that if she had known that the CD albums wouldn’t play in a computer, she wouldn’t have bought them (particularly as she didn’t have a stereo and used her computer as a music centre) – this is going back a bit (something like a decade), but after that case, such albums suddenly had such a warning.

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Mushroom

Indeed and why can I not play my legit copy wherever I want?

Totally agree. Example by way of brief story on how DRM is so poorly implemented by the industry:

Some time ago I bought (legitimate retail) a DVD movie that I particularly wanted. It came with a Warner Bros voucher for a "free" download copy, knowing I had soon to go on a business trip, I thought this was a great option to put it on my laptop for later viewing.

Only problem? Laptop upgrade before my trip happened; attempt to download the movie again from Warner's, "no, you've already got a copy." Go through the convoluted "I need a new copy" process, get a download but then it won't play anyway because the keys don't match (original recorded off the voucher and new associated with the later download).

At that point I gave up and ripped the DVD, which of course is what I should have done in the first place instead of trying to play by the book. These turkeys can't even get simple technology right so how do they expect to compete with easy-but-illegal sites?

And btw, before any smarta*se comments otherwise, making a copy of a legitimate copyright work is perfectly legal for the purpose of format-shifting or time-shifting where I live.

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Hmm

Simple fact: "Content" is horrendously overpriced for what it is, and the balance of power has shifted so as not to favour the distributors and producers. The industry, in trying to extract payment for every instance of media consumption, are in their own way just as guilty of freeloading as the "freetards". (How many plumbers expect to get paid every time you flush your toilet? No, they do the work, you pay them once and they go away. And they don't complain even if you let other people bizz in your toilet.) Everyone in the industry has had it too easy, for too long, they've got used to it and they don't like that it is coming to an end.

Just because something was hard work, doesn't somehow automatically entitle you to make money out of it. It was the same for a few people who used to make money importing rare shellfish from the Middle East to make purple dye, before William Henry Perkin spoiled it all by inventing artificial mauve.

The *only* way to ensure people aren't getting your content without paying for it, is not to create it in the first place. You create, you get ripped off. That's the way it is now -- the tables have turned. Artists have got to eat, but there's nothing stopping them from having proper jobs.

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Meh

Property Property Property.

Time and Time again the defenders of our traditional Content Creation industries talk about their property. They even use the term 'intellectual property'.

I don't have any of this 'property', but I have lots of information and stuff I have created; I sometimes consider the information I have to be private, confidential, not for distribution etc. but I never think of it as my property.

And uber capatilists should be wary of going down this route because:

If information can be 'my property'; can I charge every company that holds and uses my property (my name and address for instance) rent? arrears for the years they have held it without payment? Can I go to court to demand my property back? Would a policeman need to give me receipt if he asks me whether I 'think I'm Barry Sheene'?

Be careful what you wish for...

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Unhappy

Art?

Is the name "Owen Carter" art? Nope, I don't think many would consider that an original artistic work.

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Anonymous Coward

Original Work

Take any top 40 hit ...

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Silver badge

Owen Carter...

is unique!

(identical twin notwithstanding)

as are we all.

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Anonymous Coward

@NaughtyHorse

but the name "Owen Carter" is surely not unique. Owen Carter is not claiming that he has copyright over himself, but over his name (which arguably is his parents' IP anyway so maybe he should be paying them everytime he uses it - word of warning: don't write them a cheque cos then he'd have to write another one for using his signature, and another one, and soon be in an infinite loop of royalty paying) or address (which IP belongs to the local authority / royal mail / house builder anyway).

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Trollface

Never mind the width...

Feel the quality.

The record companies need to make music worth "stealing" again, instead of album after album of utter Cowell.

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Pint

Not only that

You can currently spend a lifetime reading totally free books that are pretty current. Or "consume" music that you can get for free. Or install software that has only a transport fee on it.

"Content producers" take themselves far too seriously. Often they are just the vehicle to stuff a channel with the "new thing" or are riding a fad to fast riches. Or not. They then expect a lifetime of rent from the stuff they did or expect to be handed property überpowers

Bizarredly, I don't get rent for all the programs I write at work. How is that?

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