Saturday, February 3, 2007

QotW3: How to Make People Happy

As China tries to curb audio-visual piracy across the country, 2611 piracy cases worth 2.06 billion yuan in the audio-visual market have been uncovered and there are estimated financial losses of 990 million yuan. (China continues effort to curb online piracy cases, 2006) In Singapore, police arrested three people, including a student, in the city-state's first online music piracy case. The unnamed trio are alleged to have at least 20,000 MP3 music files "intended for distribution" on their computers. They could be jailed for up to 5 years and fined $SGD100,000. It was not immediately clear when they would be charged. (Singapore arrests three for music piracy, 2005) File sharing, for instance, is now one of the most common online activities. More than 60 million Americans have downloaded music and the number of file sharers continues to grow rapidly. (Oberholzer-Gee & Strumpf, 2005)People do not need to pay to listen to music anymore; music can be freely downloaded over the Internet. On one hand, the public are more than happy. On the other, content creators are enraged. Unfortunately, as information technology takes over the world, piracy will always be here to stay. The question is- Will this tension between them ever work out? Is there any possibility of reaching a compromise?

It is difficult to deny that the advantages of piracy are attractive. Back in the early days, computer programs were very small and the means of transfer was slow. Now with the vast increase of program size, the method of data transfer has evolved from computer disks holding 0.360 MB to recordable CDs holding 8oo MB or even more. The ways of transferring information have gone from giving your friend a disk with software, to local bulletin board systems, to the globe spanning Internet. Rising costs of software, and increases in technology have also made piracy more appealing. Methods have been developed so you can fit hours of music onto a single CD, play your favorite video and arcade games on your computer and watch DVD-version movies. Why pay so much money for a program when you can download it for free in just a couple of hours? Why should you buy a music CD with 10 songs, when you can have one with 10 of your favorite songs from the artistes you choose, for free? And how would you afford paying hundreds for a legitimate video game when you’re still a student? The affordability and sheer convenience are just among other factors that give people more reason than ever to practice piracy.

What has been done to stop piracy and help the content creators? Desperate measures have been imposed in a bid to protect their interests and stop the industries from being destroyed. Associations and campaigns try to educate the public and gain awareness. People have been arrested and charged. Copyright infringement laws give copyright ownership to the authors. Yet as far as copyright laws are concerned, they are enforced to ultimately benefit the public by promoting “the progress of science and useful arts;” that is, learning and knowledge. The means of this promotion is in the creation of laws that give creators exclusive rights to their creations for a limited time. Creators can benefit financially from their creations, which should give them an incentive to continue creating. Copyright law is intended to proscribe a balance between the interests of the authors and the interests of the general public. (Ovalle, 2005). Content creators and developers have suffered and will continue to suffer great financial losses.

Because there are so many people working in the shadows of the Internet, it is almost impossible to eradicate piracy totally. According to Joe Fleischer, co-founder of BigChampagne an online media tracking service, "What everyone forgets is that the Internet was designed to facilitate file transfers. It's completely agnostic." (Brown, 2005) There is also the temptation to make money by selling illegal programs. All one needs to become a pirate is a CD burner, which now costs very little, and the pirate's computer can become a virtual cash cow. How can piracy be killed when it’s being indirectly encouraged with the constant expansion of bigger and better technology? Look at the various MP3 players and iPods. Doug Morris, the CEO of the Universal Music Group, justified it quite succinctly: “These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it,” he said. In the music scene, record labels have been arguing for quite a while that they should be “paid for it”–specifically, trying to get Apple to pay them royalties on every iPod as reparations for all that stolen music that would be played on the devices. Microsoft currently pays Universal a dollar for each Zune device sold. It may not seem like a practical strategy in the long-term. Even if Apple had paid Universal a dollar for each iPod sold, that would only be 80 million. That would be less what Universal is making from royalties on iTunes songs. (Apple has sold maybe 1.5 billion songs. Universal has a quarter of the market–that’s 375 million songs, with about 70 cents royalties on each–$262 million and rising fast.) (Levy, 2006) But, this solution of paying royalties is one probable way that would appease both the content creators and public because whatever that they’ll be earning is “better than nothing”. Laws will never catch up with technology. You can catch one, but you can’t catch all. In my opinion, a move like this will help more rather than hurt. After all, technology and copyright issues has always been some sort of an oxymoron that blurs the line between both parties.


Brown, S. (2005). Why File-Sharing Piracy Will Never Die. Retrieved on February 2, 2007, from

Felix Oberholzer-Gee, K. S. (2005). The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales. Retrieved on February 2, 2007, from

Levy, S. (2006). A Universally Bad Idea. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from

Ovalle, C. (2005). What is Copyright? Retrieved on February 2, 2007, from

People’s Daily Online. (2006). China continues effort to curb online piracy cases. Retrieved on February 2, 2007, from

The Sydney Morning Herald. (2005). Singapore arrests three for music piracy. Retrieved on February 2, 2007, from

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Good sources for your overview of copyright as well as possible solutions for both content creators and public good. Full grade awarded.