I just got through watching the latest Jimquisition about piracy, where Jim Sterling argues that the problem is publishers not making their content available in a way that is convenient for consumers. While I agree that this is part of the problem, as Jim made evident by pointing out that piracy has gone down in instances where it's become more convenient for people to purchase content, I still don't believe that this is the main issue.
While it may be the case that a lot of people pirate content because of convenience, I would guess that a lot more people pirate content because they want to have that content without having to pay for it. So why not just give it to them? No, I'm not some crazy hippy who thinks that we should do away with currency and that everything should be free. I just don't think that things have to always be done the same way through out all of eternity. Just because we've always done something one way doesn't mean that that's the only way of doing it, or that it's even the best way of doing it. It may have been the best way of doing it at one point in time, but things change.
Perhaps there is another way for artists to make money off of their content besides making the consumer pay for it. So I thought I'd share an idea I've had for a while now. I'm probably not the first one to think of it. In fact, I know I'm not, because the pirates have already been doing it for a years now. It's just that it's not an idea that doesn't seem to get brought up very often when discussing the issue of piracy, and I think that it should be.
Is there any reason why artists can't make money the way that most blogs and other sites do? Why can't they just make their content available for free on their own sites, and then make money selling ad space. The more popular their material is, the more hits their site will get, and the more money they'll make selling ad space. This would eliminate the need for a middle man entirely. The artists themselves would be the first place to get their material, and it would be free. So there'd be no reason for people to go anywhere else for their content.
This is basically what South Park does already. You can go to South Park's website and watch pretty much any episode of South Park you want at any time you want. Why couldn't this work for other things. It seems like this would be a much simpler and more affective way of dealing with the piracy problem, and no one would have to go to prison for 50 years.
It may be the case that someone else could come up with a much better solution than this, and it may also be the case that there are some major flaws in this idea that I hadn't even considered. Perhaps this idea wouldn't work at all. The point is that it's time to start considering new things. If you decide that X has to be the answer no matter what, you eliminate a lot of other possibilities from the equation.
Even if my idea isn't the answer, we know that passing bills like SOPA and PIPA(and whatever variations of those bill that we can inevitably look forward to down the road) aren't the answer, and we know that locking up the owners of websites like Megaupload isn't the answer. We know this because we can look and see how other cultural issues that the government has declared war on have worked out. I'm pretty sure that drugs and poverty are still a problem. So why should we expect the government's war on piracy to turn out any differently?
All you're going to accomplish by passing harsher laws against piracy is that you'll get some 15 year old girl to think twice about uploading the latest Lady Gaga video to her Youtube channel, and you might convince some guy who works at a movie theater to not record the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises on his phone and put it on his blog.
You aren't going to stop the people who are actually making a living off of pirating copyrighted material. They have an invested interest in continuing what they're doing, and they aren't going to give up that easily. They're just going to come up with newer and more creative ways of getting around the laws. Which is kind of sad when you consider the fact that the pirates are actually more creative when in comes to finding alternative solutions than the people who are supposed to be selling the content legitimately.
By making it so that the pirates no longer have to compete with that 15 year old girl's Youtube channel or that guy from the movie theater's blog in terms of distributing free content, you're just sending more traffic their way, and helping them make even more money pirating content illegally. Which, in turn, just gives them even more incentive to keep doing it.
Is it really so much to ask that the people who sell creativity for a living be more creative than threatening people with lawsuits and prison sentences when it comes to solving their problems? Because, as it stands now, it seems like the pirates are more creative than the people who legally hold the rights to the copyrighted material in question. So you could actually make the argument that the pirates deserve to profit off of it more. Maybe the pirates should try passing a bill that goes after copyright holders for taking away their business.