One the early readings for this course discussed the substantial gap between copyright law and the norms of everyday behavior in the United States. Through this reading and others, it became clear that current copyright law is simply unable to adapt to technological innovations and is in urgent need of reform. One of the most visible struggles against copyright is the fight to define piracy.
The war on piracy is one in which US companies are loathe to cede any ground. In fact, earlier today TechDirt’s Mike Masnick posted yet another example of the RIAA doggedly sticking to their beliefs that piracy can be equated with theft in a rather ludicrous manner. Masnick’s report on a case in which the RIAA is seeking ‘trillions’ of dollars in damages against peer-to-peer file sharing software Limewire, includes this entertaining quote from the judge, Kimba Wood:
“Plaintiffs are suggesting an award that is more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877,” Wood wrote, citing a Lime Group court filing referring to the inventor Thomas Edison. She called this an “absurd result.”
Clearly, the RIAA is not about to change their stance on piracy no matter how disconnected it becomes from reality. It was quite refreshing when our class discussion turned to talk of piracy movements outside of US borders, which in some regards sound quite a bit more sane. The Pirate Party International Agenda offers a vision for copyright and trademark reform that seems to be much more in line with normative behavior. I’m sure they would agree with the sentiments expressed by this class blog post which illustrates how copyright holders may actually benefit from piracy. Though the Pirate Party is just one example of how organizations are attempting to change piracy law outside of the US, it stands in stark contrast to how the US views piracy in the rest of the world.
As reported by the blog TorrentFreak, one of the key limitations of the discussion on piracy is that it dominated by reports that are funded and performed by the industries which stand to benefit from strong copyright protection. Industry performed research often ignores cultural norms and produces a distorted view of copyright which heavily favors rights holders. (See this article from p2p.net for more information on the lies and disinformation being spread by the RIAA.)
Media Piracy in Emerging Economies is the first independent, large-scale study of music, film and software piracy in emerging economies, with a focus on Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Bolivia.
This recently released report includes several major findings, but the following quote is the most relevant to the discussion of cultural norms:
- Antipiracy education has failed. The authors find no significant stigma attached to piracy in any of the countries examined. Rather, piracy is part of the daily media practices of large and growing portions of the population.
This important insight is one that is seemingly being ignored in the US by the major content distributors. While this makes it difficult for US companies to distribute content in emerging markets, it also brings up the issue of how long it will be before piracy becomes an accepted cultural norm in the US as well. In my opinion, the true battle that is being waged by the RIAA and similar organizations is a war to maintain cultural norms within the US that consider piracy to be a crime.