Let’s contrast two videos concerning copying media.
The first is an Australian Government advertisement targeted at young people and equating downloading movies to physical property crime:
Here are the words that appear during the video (copied from the YouTube page):
You wouldn’t steal a car,
you wouldn’t steal a handbag,
you wouldn’t steal a television,
you wouldn’t steal a movie.
Downloading pirated films is stealing,
stealing is against the law,
PIRACY IT’S A CRIME
Here’s a video of Jonathan Mann (of geek-culture videos fame) singing Nina Paley’s (creator of Sita Sings the Blues, an animated film that won’t get released because it uses compositions from the 1920s which are controlled under Intellectual Property laws) “The Copyright Song”:
Here are the lyrics to that song (and a link to the Nina’s original video):
Copying isn’t theft.
Stealing a thing leaves one less left.
Copying it makes one thing more.
That’s what copying’s for.
Copying isn’t theft.
If I copy yours, you have it too.
One for me and one for you.
That’s what copies can do.
If I steal your bicycle, you have to take the bus.
But if I just copy it, there’s one for each of us.
Making more of a thing, that is what we call copying.
Sharing ideas with everyone.
That’s why copying is fun.
Sounds a lot less sensationalist and fear-mongering to me. Maybe the Australian Government should run a more reasonable campaign aimed at proponents of restrictive copyright laws. They can use the following text with their original video (I won’t sue them for copying it):
You can’t copy a car,
You can’t copy a handbag,
You can’t copy a television,
You can copy a movie,
Downloading pirated films creates a copy of a video while keeping the original completely intact,
We need to reform our laws so that they appreciate the difference between stealing and copying and don’t criminalise the general population,
IGNORANCE: IT’S A CRIME
If you are interested in reading more about Nina Paley’s current legal problems with Sita Sings the Blues, QuestionCopyright has a long interview with Nina Paley. They also have a YouTube channel with other small videos.
Piracy is a complex issue that can’t be simply reduced to “stealing” and “protecting intellectual property”. We need to reasonably weigh economic considerations against freedoms (to create and share).
Here is a set of questions worth considering:
- Should piracy for personal use be decriminalised if the majority of the population generally feel that it’s “okay”?
- Is it ethical for news corporations to regulate, moderate, and censor the spread of information?
- If you could copy a car for personal use, should the automotive industry be allowed to stop you?
- If the poor could copy food as easily as you could copy music, would it be ethical for the farming industry to stop them?
Copying of digital material is cheap and easy. With new technologies, copying of physical objects will eventually become the same. At that point, copyright holders will be looking at digital copyright laws (that we are yet to write) to determine if people can copy “real” things. I hope we get these laws right.