There are countless millions of internet users all over the world who function under an illusion somewhat tantamount to the belief that the Earth is flat. Through mass hypnosis, mob mentality or maybe just pure ignorance, they somehow have been led to the belief that because they pay for a broadband connection that fee entitles them to unfettered access to the sum of human-generated content in its totality. The few bucks they shell out to their local ISP therefore should buy them unlimited viewings of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, the playing of the hottest video games and the reading of every New York Times bestseller.
The hard facts that a major motion picture can cost upwards of $200 million to produce is irrelevant to them as they counter that the studios are making such windfall profits that it’s not harming anyone for them to watch the flick online. They are purposely blind to the economic realities that dictate that if content is distributed freely the funds to produce it in the first place evaporate, and we can all look forward to no more Avatars… but only phonecam YouTube schlock.
The Content Genie Is out of the Copyright Bottle
On the other side of the copyrighted content equation stand the MPAAs and RIAAs of the world, whose massive lobbying power has created a situation whereby governmental regulators continue to apply standards that would have been seen to be outdated in the previous century, let alone in the age of global WiFi. Both of these opposing factions seem to be operating under delusions, as the reality that the content genie has been let out of the copyright bottle is just as pervasive as the equivalent reality that the outstanding content we all enjoy simply would not exist in an universally pirated cyberverse.
DMCA Exists in the 8-Track Age
The U.S. Copyright Office reviews challenges to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) every three years and the latest go-round has done nothing to resolve these long-standing issues. The DMCA continues to arbitrarily differentiate tablets from smartphones, making it illegal to jailbreak the former but fine to do so to the latter, even though the borders between the two form factors continue to fade. When it comes to copying copyrighted content, the DMCA continues to exist in the age of 8-tracks where cassette tapes were a fantastical invention you read about in the future technology section of Popular Mechanics. The DMCA foolishly continues to insist that even though you have legally purchased content on a medium such as a CD, DVD or BluRay, you can only consume it on a device playing that medium. Therefore you’d better figure out some way to interface an optical drive to your iPad or you had better not watch The Avengers on anything but your living room’s flatscreen or… Hulk Smash.
Personal and Direct Consumption
The solution would seem to be simple enough: You purchased a particular piece of content, now you can enjoy that content on any device you have. The tipping point should be when you distribute that piece of content to others, at which time you have breached the spirit of the law. When you bought that Adele CD you were paying the British songstress and her record company for the rights to personally and directly enjoy her serenades, not act as a public radio station. So if you’re playing the (surprisingly dreary and un-Bond-ish) Skyfall theme through your mobile device or your home theatre setup should equate to the same thing: personal and direct enjoyment. But to the DMCA that’s a violation and it thus leads to the criminalization of the vast majority of Americans.
Absolutely no progress in copyright protection is going to be achieved unless both sides of this massive confrontation wake up and smell the digital coffee. The copyright holders have to realize that their business model broke somewhere in the mid 90s and the content consumers had better migrate to Hulu and away from eztv.it. The entire future of content consumption is at stake and, frankly, at this point in time it doesn’t look too promising.
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