Wednesday, September 05, 2012

In Defense of Copyrights

I'm sick of seeing people whine about how unfair copyright laws are, insisting that they're a trick by the government to control information.  Because yeah, the Man really doesn't want me to see that Transformers III download for free, or else I might turn into a CGI robot and stand up for myself.  By forcing me to pay to see computer images fight, I remain yet another brick in the wall of deceit.

And we're told that the entertainment being stolen isn't good anyway, which makes it odd that people would be upset that they've been prevented from stealing it.  It's like the person who complains about how horrid the food is, while insisting the portions are too small.  If you weren't downloading it, then you aren't being affected by this.

And we see the same thing from the people who still insist that Megaupload was merely an innocent file storing service; seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are many other places to store your files and they don't do what Megaupload did...or have nearly the profits.  Or people who insist that it was useful for small bands to catch a break, again oblivious to the fact that other websites specialize in such things, and again, don't have nearly the profits that Megaupload did.

And so I read yet another article about how Youtube goofed and removed content that wasn't protected by copyright: Namely, video from the Democratic National Convention.  And if the commenters there are to be believed, this wasn't an accident.  No, this was part of the government's plans to suppress us, even though the government had nothing to do with it.  As the article said, it was a mistake by the computers, which was quickly corrected.  Yet this mistake is apparently enough to make people demand yet again to get rid of copyright laws, insisting that it's yet another sinister plot to deny me my freedom to watch Jay Leno's monologue on my computer; as the Founding Fathers intended.

And I generally respond to these people, but decided to include one of my better responses here.  Enjoy!

Look people, this isn't complicated.  Copyrights are important because it protects the people who create things.  If you recorded a song and Sony could sell your song without paying you for it, you'd be upset.  And you'd stop recording songs.  Same goes for Sony.  If they can't make money from their movies and music, they'll just stop making it 
And so copyright laws are good so the people who create things get paid for them, and that includes the writers, actors, and producers; who all get paid good money if their work sells.  Unfortunately, there are jerks who put this stuff on Youtube, thus hurting the artists and companies who give us these things.   
And they do this so much that it'd be impossible for the people who own the copyrights to find it all, so they use computers to find it for them.  And this happens so much that it'd be impossible for Google to have enough employees to take all this stuff down, so they also use computers to do it for them.  And sometimes the computers make mistakes. 
Who's to blame for this?  The jerks who post this stuff to Youtube.  That's who.  And I say that as someone who someday hopes to get rich selling movies and music, and don't want you jerks ripping me off by giving my stuff away for free.  Even bad b-movies can make a lot of money for the writers, and that's how I'm hoping to retire.  So don't blame Google or Sony.  Blame the jerks who give it away for free online.


Antonio Rodriguez said...

I'm going to disagree with you to a certain degree. The problem isn't only that these programs remove content automatically, but that they do it without regards to context, and without verifying that the instance they are about to remove is a valid use as approved by the originating organization. Understandably, these copyright-detection mechanisms have to make a snap decision, but I find it telling that they always judge in favor of removing content, when it's not clear that that is the appropriate response. After all, if you're going to remove my content if it's licensed properly or not, why should I spend resources licensing it?

For instance, the live video cast of the Hugo Awards was shut down recently, because they were displaying video content that was considered infringing (a fragment of a Doctor Who episode written by Neil Gaiman), disregarding that the BBC had authorized this use, or that it qualified under Fair Use.

Doctor Biobrain said...

That's definitely an understandable point, and yet the problem remains that there are so many files that need to be checked that it's simply not practical to have human eyeballs view them all, and that's the only real way to bring context into the review process. Like there was a case where a guy's home video was shown on Jay Leno's show, and then the copyright software decided he must have infringed upon Jay's material and brought it down; when if anything, it was Jay who did the infringing. Fortunately, there is a human review process, so once he complained, his video was put back up.

If anything, they perhaps need to change the way they do these things, so they can identify which parts of a clip aren't part of the copyright. So that when a segment is allowed to be there, it won't get flagged in the system. And while the copyright holders have no reason to do that, it would be in Google's best interest to force that to happen. The more they're forced to review these situations, the quicker they'll be do work on that.

And for the most part, these are exceptions to the norm, as there are far more legitimate clips being brought down than ones brought down wrongfully. And the vast majority of people complaining aren't just complaining about the legit clips, they're complaining because they don't think copyrights should even exist. I've seen people seriously argue that it violates our rights to not let us download music for free, because once an artist creates the music, it belongs to everyone. To them, concerts were the only way a musician should be able to make money; and even the concerts can be recorded by anyone and belong to everyone. Seriously, they said that outright.

And then they always couch this in terms of a violation of their freedom, as if they've got some inalienable right to free entertainment, because it's not a tangible good and so stealing it isn't really theft. And that's basically where I'm coming from. Not that the system is perfect, but that copyrights serve a legitimate purpose, and while the copyright software still has a few bugs in the system, it's far better than the free-for-all we'd have without them.

And again, as someone who'd like to retire based upon the ideas I create, I have a vested interest in making sure they're still worth something. Otherwise, I'm wasting my time for nothing.