Act for the freedom of information

Ideas cannot be caged

I am a pirate. I drink and carouse with my friends, I traverse a frontier fraught with danger, wonder and potential wealth and freedom, I flagrantly disregard social mores and traditions, and I consume media in a way which greatly angers the trading companies and hardly affects the actual workers.

Yes, I illegally download entertainment. Mostly because I’m broke. I also stridently disagree with the way the entertainment industry does things. They treat both workers and consumers as second class citizens or criminals. Even people who legally purchase media.

The way they do this, primarily, is through Digital Rights Management (DRM). If you’ve ever spent all day installing Microsoft Office, because they have it locked down tighter than the crown jewels, or argued with Apple about moving around some MP3s you bought, or tried to rip the songs off an old CD you love for your modern MP3 player, you’ve experienced DRM.

Ideally, DRM exists to protect the interests of companies. In other words, to ensure that people like me can’t go on a well-known Internet-Tortuga and benefit from the software or music without paying for it. The problem is, you bought that content. It should be entirely up to you what you do with it, even copy it and hand it to people on the street (so long as you’re not profiting, it’s technically legal). The other problem is that it doesn’t actually prevent our downloading and using the stuff.

It has been proven by authors, game developers, and musicians, such as Cory Doctorow, The Humble Bundle crew, and Amanda Palmer, that giving people what you have for the amount they want to pay actually does work. Studies show that illegal downloading rarely affect sales. Game of Thrones is the most widely downloaded television series, and yet, HBO’s most profitable show. This is a property aimed at the pirate demographic, even. Clearly, piracy is not affecting things.

Aside from the technology’s complete and abject failure, the very idea is offensive. Information is non-tangible. It cannot be held. You can copy it down, and hold on to a copy, but the information lives despite your grasp. Information is the closest we have to magic, or god. It is created by us, and then lives on despite us. I understand a company’s desire to get paid for what they produce. That is their right, of course. I am not crying to be catered to as a non-paying consumer.

What I am saying is that their model is offensive and ineffective. A paying customer has every right to do what they wish with the things for which they pay. A company does not produce content — workers and artists do. The company merely packages the content.

Plastic and paper cost. Bytes and Electrons don’t.

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