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Category Archives: digital rights

Why I will never, ever again vote for Sen. Dianne Feinstein

The Burr-Feinstein anti-encryption bill is a horrible piece of proposed legislation. This is a bill that will likely criminalize all forms of strong encryption. What the actual fuck?! Either Sen. Feinstein is an idiot or just plain evil. Either way, she’s not fit to draft legislation if this is what happens when she tries.

There are lots of other reasons to really, really dislike her, though:

She behaves more like a conservative than a liberal. She needs to leave the Senate and I will never vote for her again. I’ll vote for anyone else if she runs again.


The state of streaming movies

When I want to watch a movie I first look on Netflix (I have a streaming subscription), and then I look on Amazon (I have a Prime subscription).  Most often the movie isn’t on either, and on Amazon there are two possibilities: free (with Prime) and rental.  Young Frankenstein, the most recent example, is available to buy on Amazon (DVD or streaming), and the DVD is available on Netflix (if I had a DVD subscription).  By the way, the streaming version on Amazon is available to buy for $9.99.  No thanks.

The net result of this situation is two fold: people will watch fewer movies or they will pirate them.  I want to give them my money, but they don’t want to take it.  This power play between the content owners and Netflix/Amazon is going to be the content owners downfall.  Their desire to control everything will mean they lose massive amount of money through lost sales.  At some point, either people will turn to other entertainment or they’ll pirate the content.  And this isn’t something that comes up infrequently.  I’d say 80-90% of the time I want to watch a movie, it’s just not available to me.  Content owners, are you really that stupid??  It seems so.

And, let’s not forget that the user experience when I rent a DVD is far inferior to the user experience when I pirate, not that I would do that sort of thing.  If I had all the time back that I wasted from the time I inserted a DVD into a DVD player and the time the movie started… I’d have years back of my life.  Being forced to watch commercials for a DVD I own or rented, well, that’s just infuriating.  For those that pirate their content?  They don’t have any of these issues.  Their experience is wonderful.  Hit play, see the beginning of the movie.  Wow, what a concept.  I have a movie library that consists of 40 or so DVDs.  I have actually downloaded illegal copies for movies that I own, because I knew the user experience would be better for the download than the physical thing I owned.  I believe it is legal for me to download the digital version of something I already own, so I exaggerate calling this an illegal copy.

The movie industry constantly complains of piracy, yet everything they do encourages it.

Angry Birds boss: ‘Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business’

Angry Birds boss: ‘Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business’.

When ever the discussion of piracy comes up, claims are made on both sides.  Here’s a data point for the “piracy isn’t the problem it is claimed to be, and sometimes it is beneficial” side of the argument.

Free can be good.  The rank of the Kindle book Realms Unreel rank jumped from #72,330 to #3 in free Sci Fi, #8 in free Fantasy, and #198 overall in the first day of free promotion, and is now has a paid rank of #8,328.

Many people in the Tech industry have pointed out that Microsoft would not be the powerhouse they are today if it were not for DOS piracy.

Free can be good.

Khan Academy video explaining SOPA/PIPA

Sal Khan is amazing. Worth a look, even for people that think they know everything about the issue. I learned some things.

Obligatory “Khaaaaan!” (you need to click the picture)

Six GOP Co-Sponsors of PIPA Ask Reid to Cancel Vote

Tim O’Reilly: Why I’m fighting SOPA — Tech News and Analysis

Tim O’Reilly: Why I’m fighting SOPA — Tech News and Analysis.

I love the “Piracy is not a real problem” part.  It’s worth repeating this (emphasis is mine):

… But the vast majority of customers are willing to pay if the product is widely available and the price is fair. If you have a relationship with your customers, and they know you’re doing the right thing, they will support you.

The people who are pirating are most likely the people who would never give you a nickel to begin with. Piracy serves people on the fringes who are not being served adequately by legitimate markets. Frankly, if people in Romania can download my books and enjoy them, more power to them. They weren’t going to pay me anyway.

Charge a fair price.  What a concept.  I stopped buying music for 10 years because the price of a CD rose to absurd levels ($15 and sometimes much more–I’ve paid over $22 for a CD).  The problem with the music industry is the artist, from that $15 sale price, gets very little ($1 if they are lucky).  When I download an “album” from Amazon.com or the iTunes store, the cost is close to nothing for distribution.  Yet, the price didn’t really come down for digital versions.  Just like when we went from LPs to CDs, the price actually went up instead of down, even though CDs were cheaper to produce.

The fact is, that for music, the artists are getting screwed.  This is also true with movies and books and performances in general.  Louis C.K. made a comedy show that he sold on his website for $5.  In a few days he had made $1,000,000.  I’m sure he’s made much more since then.

The old ways of distributing artistic works don’t translate to the digital world, and when you charge too much because you are trying to hold onto the past, you will be circumvented.  Either that, or people will  find other things to do with their time, which means your movie, book, album or performance will be ignored.  When this happens, as has been par for the course in the last 10 years or so, we will unfortunately see a lot of complaining about “pirates are stealing my stuff and I can’t make money anymore.”  Don’t believe them.  If they had changed with the times and offered a good product for a reasonable price, people would flock to pay for it.  Just like they did for Louis C.K.’s performance.

A Guide to the U.S. Congress Debate on Internet Laws and Freedoms

SOPA Opera – A Guide to the U.S. Congress Debate on Internet Laws and Freedoms.

Most importantly, this guide lists the money that congress persons take from the movie and music industries.

Surprises: Al Franken is for PROTECT-IP and Bachmann is against SOPA.  My state’s senators (Boxer and Feinstein) are also for PROTECT-IP, but that’s not surprising as.they are in the pocket of big business, and specifically Hollywood.

“Copyright Monopolies” and their relationship to SOPA & PROTECT IP

An interesting read: It Is Time To Stop Pretending To Endorse The Copyright Monopoly | Techdirt.  This was written by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party. Yes, it represents the far left of the spectrum, but there are some good and interesting ideas in there.

I found this very interesting:

… buttonmakers in France in the 1600s went berserk when tailors bypassed them and made buttons out of cloth instead. They demanded the right to invade people’s homes and search their wardrobes for violations of the guild privileges. Sound familiar?

Wow.   Over buttons.

I think the money quote from the post is this (no emphasis added):

I reject and oppose this monopoly that was never for the creators, but always for the distributors: a guild whose time is up and obsolete, and which has no business trampling on our civil liberties.

To relate this to the current battles over SOPA and PROTECT IP, this is not about the artists that make your favorite music or the writers and directors of your favorite movie, it’s about the distributors of music and movies.  The distributors are finding themselves cut out of the loop, and they are terrified the vast sums of money they enjoyed in the past will evaporate (and go to the creators).  They witness experiments in artists going directly to the people and it points out how useless they are in the digital age.  Louis CK made over a million US dollars in a short time, selling directly to the public without a middleman.  Why should be go to HBO and make a fraction of that?

The current battles in congress over SOPA and PROTECT IP are about the middle men, who add nothing to the creative works, protecting the profits from a bygone era, before digital communication ruled the planet.

I support a free and open internet and support the creators of the content we love to consume getting paid directly (I bought Louis CK’s show on the first day it was available).