White is no monster. Music was already being distributed online by the time she started to listen to it, and she doesn't know from "albums," but she does believe that artists be fairly compensated, though she seems clueless as to how that could or should be done. She went too far in demanding that such compensation must conform to her need for "convenience." But Lowery downplayed the responsibility of the music business for its own destruction, and seemed to indicate that he wants to protect the music industry not only from piracy, but from inexorable technological change. Just as White has no "right" to convenience or low prices, the media business has no "right" to control the markets in which it operates. If technological change means that the industry loses its iron grip on distribution, and market prices for music sink (piracy aside), well, them's the breaks.

The music business has fought legitimate digital distribution and streaming almost as hard as it's fought piracy. It is reluctantly giving in only because it has no choice — indeed, it has made concessions largely in response to piracy. Consumers don't much care about the industry, of course, unless you remind them — as Lowery did — that it includes musicians, engineers, producers, and other actual humans, who don't get paid when people download music for free.

A recent cartoon by Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, has served as a Rorschach test on the copyright question. The cartoon depicted the thought process behind the average person's decision to illegally download copyrighted material. The subject couldn't find a place to buy or rent recent episodes of Game of Thrones online — unless he signed up for cable service, which he didn't want to do. So, after exhausting every legal avenue, he gave up and went to a pirate site, and later felt bad about it. People who think media companies are greedy and clueless saw the cartoon as supporting their point of view. People who think all downloaders of unauthorized material are amoral freeloaders saw it as a defense of the indefensible. But really, it was just an accurate depiction of the current technological reality, where the interests of media consumers and media distributors are impossible to reconcile and questions of ethics and morality are almost beside the point.

Cartoonist Matthew Inman examined these issues at www.theoatmeal.com.
Courtesy of TheOatmeal.com
Cartoonist Matthew Inman examined these issues at www.theoatmeal.com.
Reddit's Alexis Ohanian believes the best ideas prevail on the Internet.
C.S. Muncy
Reddit's Alexis Ohanian believes the best ideas prevail on the Internet.

Tech journalist Tim Carmody, who now writes for The Verge, is one of those who saw the cartoon as an apologia for piracy. In a debate on Twitter, he complained that people were trying to turn the cartoon into a "normative principle." Some of them were. But he complained that those people "don't even know how the television industry works."

The point, however, isn't whether viewers have insider knowledge — it's that they know there's a show they want to watch, but can't without ponying up for an expensive cable package. That's one way the television industry works — forcing customers hungry for its products to buy a bunch of crap they don't want to get the programs they do.

Carmody doesn't disagree — he just thinks that it makes business sense to make new episodes of some shows, such as Game of Thrones, available only on cable.

"I think the basic value proposition of cable, especially bundling lots of cable channels together in a single subscription, is still pretty good," he said in an interview. "Piracy can't be stopped, infringement can't really be enforced. But that doesn't necessarily mean it makes good business sense to do everything you can to take away all the 'if only' arguments that people make" — such as, if only Game of Thrones were more easily available, it wouldn't be pirated so much. In May, the media measurement firm Big Champagne estimated that Game of Thrones was "the most pirated show of the year," with its second season having been downloaded at least 25 million times.

In an article for Wired in March titled "In Defense of Cable," Carmody wrote that "what the pro-piracy arguments come down to is: 'this is legally available, but not at a price I am willing to pay,' and/or 'this is legally available, but not for a time that I am willing to wait.'"

He's right, though his use of "pro-piracy" sort of misses the point of the Oatmeal cartoon. But he's also right that this shouldn't be seen as a practical question rather than a moral one. Fighting piracy through law enforcement and the courts will never solve the problem, nor will guilting people into refraining from downloading unauthorized material. To minimize the harm of piracy, the media industry must divert its resources away from draconian enforcement efforts and toward realigning its business strategies to comport with modern realities.

In the end, the media industry has to accept that unless people's desires for cheap and easy access to content are met, piracy will never go away. Call it the realpolitick of media distribution.

The media industry has few disinterested allies. Indeed, there's hardly anyone outside the business, its paid water carriers, and its congressional pals who stands up for its interests.

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Those sites offering pirated material are at the root of the problem as much as they are at the margin.


Piracy is good for the companies if used correctly. instead of insisting on taking money for a product make it available for free, and link to a support site inside the product or beside it. doing it this way people will if they like it support it. it's this simple I will not pay for a product that is bad. how can I in advance know if it's bad ? only way is to try it, if it's above mediocre I will go pay the original title of that product. if it's mediocre or below I wouldn't had bought it anyway so no money lost for the industry there anyway. just saying something have been downloaded X amount of times is equal to X amount of loss is seriously the worst way to talk about how much the companies have lost. if it's dowloaded 10 times and it's a fairly good product most likely 4-5 of those 10 downloads will go out and buy it afterwards thus not loosing the money for that 4 or 5 downloads, then out of the rest most likely there are 2-3 persons that doesn't like it thus they would never had bought it anyway. so what is the loss then that 3-4 persons out of 10 doesn't pay for something they liked so for real it would be about 30-40% loss but out of those there would probably be some telling others how good this product is and thereby getting others to look at it and again more to buy it, so the real loss is more likely to be around maybe 10-20% of what the companies could had gotten if everyone was legal and had some moral. now we know that is not how the world is there will always be some criminals and a loss of 10-20% isn't that different from any other products out there that aren't artistics. because criminals will go to the black market and sell there stuff. the laws as they are now is flawed they Prevent development and does not protect the consumer as they should. we need new laws in the copyrights area, with a focus on protecting Consumers and Encurageing Development. software, technoligy, music, video and etc. industry needs to stop trying to controle the market and accept that others will produce something that might be better. what is the answer to a better product in competition it is to make a even better product. not suing that company for maybe breaking a patent. in fact patents shouldn't be in the new copyright laws once something is made it's to the market first and as long as it is being developed to be best there will be costumers. Stop assumeing that what is best for the companies is best for development and the consumer.

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