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I Don’t Care About The Entertainment Industry’s Profits, And It Enrages Me That You Think I Should

36

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Every time changes to the copyright monopoly are considered, the profits of major entertainment industry companies are at the center of the discussion. Even the people who fiercely defend the right to share information freely are going to extreme lengths to argue that this will not hurt the revenues of the copyright industry. But why are these profits even relevant? Why should we care about the profits of these companies?

It is almost apologetic. Apologetic for defending the civil rights that our ancestors fought, bled and died to give us, their children and grandchildren.

Thinking about what hurts and doesn’t hurt sales misses the point entirely. A corporation’s profits must never be at the center of policymaking, much less the center of determining what fundamental civil liberties we have as free citizens.

COLUMN REPOST
This is a repost of a column previously published on TorrentFreak, a repost made in the light of TechDirt’s excellent report on the growing entertainment industry, The Sky Is Rising. While factually interesting and well researched, the shrinkage or growth of the entertainment industry must not carry any impact on the debate on civil liberties.

You remember Blackwater Security? The wet-jobs security firm that the US military hires for jobs abroad, jobs that violate the military’s own regulations to the moon and back?

When Blackwater Security was playing Grand Theft Auto among civilians in Iraq in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, with which Iraq had nothing to do, how would you react if they had issued the following statement?

“Our profits are being hampered by the civilians’ rights. It is not fair. In all fairness, we demand that torture should be allowed preemptively to find suspects or people that we find interesting, or because it can boost our profit. Also, we demand the right to detain civilians at will and indefinitely, because we could charge Uncle Sam for that too, boosting our profits even further.”

How would you react to that?

Let’s take another scenario from Blackwater in Iraq:

“Our profits are being hampered by the rights of the people. It is not fair. Our profits are falling. In all fairness, we demand the introduction of wanton censorship, allowing us to discover and prevent people from talking about subjects we don’t like. Also, we demand to hold messengers responsible to some amount of punishment we determine if they carry sealed letters containing something we don’t like. That way, our profits could perhaps be restored to their former glory. After all, it’s only fair.”

Would this demand from Blackwater Security in Iraq perhaps seem reasonable? They’re asking for the dismantlement of rights on the same level as the right to not be tortured, not to be detained without due cause, and similar rights.

Well, this is exactly what the copyright industry is demanding. Exactly this.

The rational emotional reaction to this is an immediate desire to personally kick the living shit out of these pretentious bastards. After proper impulse control has been applied to this desire, the proper official poker-faced response – if any – is that the world owes them nothing, preferably coupled with sharp reductions in existing monopoly privileges.

If somebody had written a dystopic novel in the 1980s illustrating how some subjects had been forbidden, and if you would speak about them on the phone, a voice would pop in and say, “You have mentioned a forbidden subject. This has been noted. Please refrain from discussing forbidden subjects.” – if somebody had written this, people would have dismissed it out of hand as being too dystopic, too unrealistic. This could never possibly happen, people would have said, shaking their heads.

Try posting a link to a torrent on The Pirate Bay on your wall on Facebook and see what happens. People in the 1980s would have been horrified, people on both sides of the Iron Curtain. All in the name of protecting profits for a cartelized industry with monopoly benefits.

The job of any entrepreneur is to construct a use case and a business case that allow them to make money, given the current constraints of society and technology. They do not get to dismantle civil liberties, even if they can’t make money otherwise. That goes for Blackwater Security as well as the copyright industry as well as every other entrepreneur on the planet.

When our parents sent a letter in the mail, nobody was allowed to open it to check if it contained a copied poem, which would infringe on the copyright monopoly. When our parents sent a letter in the mail, they and they alone determined if they identified themselves as sender on the outside of the envelope, inside the envelope, or not at all. When our parents sent a letter in the mail, the mailman was never held responsible for the contents of that letter, regardless of if the contents infringed a particular copyright monopoly or were even downright illegal.

It is entirely reasonable to demand sternly that our children have the same rights as our parents and grandparents had. A particular corporation’s profitability does not factor into it.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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This article is also available in other languages: Russian.

By participating in the discussion and posting here, you are placing your contribution in the public domain (CC0). If you are quoting somebody else, credit them.

Contributors take own responsibility for their comments.

36

  1. 1
    steelneck

    If it really was the case that some people producing luxury consumption, entertainment, would not get food on their table if politicians do not demolish a lot of basic rights for us all, then let them starve. But luckily this is not the case, the only thing that has happen is that some disruptive technology has put the tools of digital production and communication in the hands of citizens. In a worst case scenario if all their nightmares would come true, all they have to do is to work with something else. Though nightmares are not more true than grand visions of a better society, but the policys based on those two will differ fundamentally. People acting out of fear are dangerous, especially those in power or with weapons in their hands.

    It is not wrong for a policymaker to think about company profits, that is quite allright, but it is _very_ wrong to put that against civil rights. Above that a lot of politicians also seem to forget that different civil rights should not be put against each other, as The universal declaration of human rights put it in its last article 30:

    Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein. – Note the word “any”.

    Or the first words of article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, Note the word “all”.

    To put the second paragraph in article 27 against article 12 is simply wrong. Yes, authors shall enjoy protection for their legitimate interests, but breaching article 12 suddenly makes is it an ilegitimate interest. A legitimate interest do not deprive other people of their basic civil rights. So if you cannot make a living without depriving other people of their rights, you have to find another way or do something else.

  2. 2

    One of the most famous (and most courageous) Swedish politicians, Olof Palme, said the following:

    “Each generation must re-conquer democracy anew.”

    I think this is true, and it is certainly true for our generation, since we have a whole new *Universe* – the cyberspace – where old laws and principles not as easily/self-evidently apply directly, and where modifications/violations to civil rights can be approved more easily, since it is “only in internet”.

    So let’s take to the streets and demonstrate for the re-conquering of our democrace – virtually as well as physically!

  3. 3
    DannyUfonek

    Thanks, this gives a whole new perspective on the issue. Let’s see if politicians value money and profits of people who bribe them or the rights of the people that pay them. It’s all about money, unfortunately.

    • 3.1
      PiratGurra

      It’s all about money (and other “nice stuff” money maybe can’t buy…) until their own jobs are threatened ( by pirate politicians starting to enter parliaments ). Maybe that’ll start making them think twice, at least in Germany…

  4. 4
    Jerry Kindall

    “Rational emotional reaction.” LOL

  5. 5
    Peach Cobbler

    So basically Rich is speaking on behalf of himself and all the freeloaders who seem to think that movies tv-series games etc. are produced by magic pixies who work for free.

    • 5.1
      Rick Falkvinge

      I don’t care what neither their salaries nor profits are, but if they can’t make a profit, they belong on the scrapheap and not in the legislative chambers chock full with entitlement.

      • 5.1.1
        Peach Cobbler

        Rich I’m sure you and the other freeloader don’t care about the people behind the movies games songs etc. you love to download but you have to understand that your actions reflect badly on yourself and only show you off as greedy b*****ds.

        • Rick Falkvinge

          Dear Peach Cobbler,

          please refrain from attacking my person or that of other guests here; this is not a place for attack of people but one for discussion of ideas. For more information, please refer to the Troll Policy.

          Thank you,
          Rick

          PS: It’s Rick, with a K (Kilo) at the end, not Rich.

        • Rev. Smith

          Most mucisan play at conserts for free and make music for free.
          Most movie makers do their movies for free.
          What’s your point?

        • Peach Cobbler

          Actually most or all pro-musicians and pro-moviakers get paid. And I guess you like most people mostly listen to and leech stuff made by pro’s shame that you and ‘Rich doesn’t want to pay for it.

        • Rick Falkvinge

          @Peach Cobbler:

          Actually most or all pro-musicians and pro-moviakers get paid

          This is kind of a tautology, isn’t it?

        • Also, it’s spelled “bastards”. There are no asterisks in the word.

        • Scary Devil Monastery

          I believe I speak for a great many “pirate” activists when I say that since your efforts at enforcing copyright have encroached on ordinary civil liberties as collateral damage we quite rightly no longer care about anyone standing on the opposite side.

          You aren’t threatening a pirates ability to send information to one another – you have gone beyond that and are now, with lobbied-for legislation such as SOPA and ACTA threatening to choke the ordinary citizen’s ability to simply communicate freely.

          That being the case – feel free to starve. I’d say that you get off lucky.
          Two hundred years ago your ilk would have been hung from the nearest tree by an irate mob in an uprising.

          As for “greed”…you are perfectly willing to accept the reversal of ordinary jurisprudence and of laws which have been written into constitutions for centuries as unavoidable necessities for a democracy simply in order to protect a 900% profit margin on a CD. That being the case, any insult you toss our way simply means we are doing something right.

          Cry me a f**king river. Then cut your damn hair and get a job the market will stand for.

        • Anonymous

          Peach Gobbler – I don’t even download the trash that the media produces. I’m enraged, all the same, that they PRESUME to have the right to police me, my family, my friends, my countrymen.

          The media doesn’t give a small damn whether I live or die, or whether I can provide for my family. It’s only fair that I don’t give a small damn for their financial welfare.

          Maybe if they were to be reasonable, and roll copyright law back to about 1950, then I could find it in myself to approve of copyright enforcement. As long as that enforcement wasn’t draconian in nature.

    • 5.2

      They are, actually. I do all my animation work for free, and most people who know me well wouldn’t disagree with the assumption that I am a magic pixie.

    • 5.3
      steelneck

      Why do you want to erode basic civil rights for ordinary decent people who have done nothing wrong just to maintain producers of luxury consumption?

      When i made my military service i was trained to be prepared to defend those basic civil rights that our freedom and democracy rests upon with my life. In this case Rick actually speaks both for me and you, and everyone else. This has nothing to with copyright but everything to do with the values of a free and democratic society. Rick, and I, will even defend your right to private communication even if you may want to abolish civil and universal human rights and replace democracy with some fascist corporatist state. You are free to both hold and communicate those values if you hold them. But the moment you try to take liberties from me, i regard you as an enemy to the society i value and will defend on behalf on every citizen within it.

  6. 6
    jp

    “If somebody had written a dystopic novel in the 1980s illustrating how some subjects had been forbidden, and if you would speak about them on the phone, a voice would pop in and say, “You have mentioned a forbidden subject. This has been noted. Please refrain from discussing forbidden subjects.”

    Remember the movie Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone. Where a device will fine you every time you utter an expletitive.

    • 6.1
      Rick Falkvinge

      That’s true. Also, that device was seen as hilarious and worthy of nothing but mockery. I wonder if it had been as fun if it actually held some power over you.

  7. 7
    Moribund Cadaver

    Another point as well, from the purely economic and capitalistic angle on the topic:

    Why, exactly, is it “our” problem to listen to companies whine to us that they can’t make as much money as they feel, in their little hearts, that they should be making?

    Why should we apologize to these companies when we grudgingly remind them that the world doesn’t center around everyone gathering in a huddle to agree to make sure Media Mogul Inc makes as much money as it would like to make this fiscal year?

    When did companies cease operating under the notion that they had to EARN loyalty, and EARN sales? And start operating with the mentality that everybody who wasn’t giving them money is actively stealing profits that they theoretically should have?

    This is the mentality of fat, inured corporate hemogeny. It is the attitude of people who got so used to dominating virtually all channels through which money flowed for certain categories of revenue. That when suddenly there’s a change in the stream, they lurch from their slabs, Hutt-like, and demand to know why they’re not receiving as much tribute.

    Their attitudes are a perversion of capitalism itself, and the notion of a free market. In a sense, it’s understandable. They had a monopoly for so long, that they forgot what real competition was like, and have forgotten how to adapt and change. They’re still trying to use their accumulated clout and fortune to alter the rules of the game so that they don’t have to re-learn how to actually run a business.

  8. 8
    Peach Cobbler

    Moribund (Scary?)
    Then again why should companies accept that people just take their products illegally?

    • 8.1
      Mister Ego

      Survival and ethics.

      Monopolizing seawater is a strategy whose days are past.

      It’s better to have one billion poor Africans using their (infinite) resource then 1 billion fat westerners like you.

      And don’t worry about fat ass corporations. Any sufficiently complex computation can be walled off behind their firewalls, only computed data being sent to consumers. Crippleware is the future(present?), until we pirates catch up with you again, and that might take a loooooooong loooooong time, since we are going against some of the basic laws of the universe doing that.

      Adapt or die.

    • 8.2
      Rick Falkvinge

      Companies don’t get to accept or reject anything regarding the wording of the law. Citizens do.

      This is a discussion about what the law should look like and why.

    • 8.3
      Scary Devil Monastery

      No, I only ever post under this nick and none other. I have no need to transform myself into a one-man army in order to provide the illusion that more people agree with me than the ones who actually do.

      For the record however I agree almost 100% with Moribund.

      Where I take exception is in the idea that the entertainment industry is somehow doing something “new”. Every and any corporation or undertaking once it has established itself desperately seeks to toss the entire idea of competition overboard. Innovation and flexibility means extra overhead, which means extra cost, which in turn means less GM.

      Microsoft attempted the same in the earlier decade. The railroad tycoons of the 18th century in the US do, however, come closest in modern time.

      I am convinced that we’ll find examples of similar decadence in industry no matter where in history we look.

      The irony of it all is that every generation has to teach current industries that the market does not consist of entitlements and that market models change. That technology radically changes how you can earn money and how you can not. Especially when it comes to entertainment where every artist catering to fans who has something worth offering has only to hold out his hands and money comes pouring down from that fan base – as has been proven many times over.

    • 8.4
      Scary Devil Monastery

      “Then again why should companies accept that people just take their products illegally?”

      They are not. What you are saying is “Why should companies accept that people just copy their products”.

      Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Companies have had to put up with people copying their products for private use since the invention of the wheel. It’s just that technology now allows us to do it en masse.

      And this will NOT go away unless you reverse technological progress…or change human nature. Neither is feasible.

      • 8.4.1
        Peach Cobbler

        2Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Companies have had to put up with people copying their products for private use since the invention of the wheel. It’s just that technology now allows us to do it en masse.”

        Scary the only thing that has happened is that piratepeople today are absolutely shameless in breaking laws and regulations problem is that our common society is built on laws and regulations. Which no one is supposed to just disregard. But pirates do for their own benefit and corruption.

        • Bill Blade

          I pirate games, and you know why I do this? because they insist on hiding their spyware in a product I have purchased, christ, look at Ubisoft, because of their “DRM” to protect from pirates, I can now not play games I have purchased, until they bring their servers back up, while the pirates, don’t have the DRM because they stripped it out.

          Ubisoft had a kill switch in one of their games (Prince of Persia Warrior Within) that would crash my computer because I had a Virtual CD drive program installed, I pirate because I don’t condone them installing things without my permission (the EULA doesn’t say anything about their DRM either)

          EA enforces a “5 install limit” I’m sorry, who the hell are they to tell me how many times I can install something so many times before they force me to call them (at my expense, at $3/minute to explain why I went over my install limit)

          These companies have gotten so self important, they feel entitled to everything, they don’t give quality but expect the same payment as if the quality was there.

          Hell, why should it be acceptable that the movie “industry” can sue me for $500,000+ for one movie.. when it costs me $20-30 to buy that movie from a store?

          How is it right that the MAFIAA (MIAA/MPAA) can sue grandma for someone hacking her wireless and using it to pirate and there’s no excuse, but when it happens on their end, that excuse becomes acceptable.

          Explain to me in your ignorance and brown nosing to your corporate owners, how a .99 cent song translates into a $25,000 price tag?

          How do you think it right or fair companies offer a product with a feature, and then steal it away? (sony and them illegally removing OtherOS (which sadly they won because they had the money to pay off the judges))

          These companies need a reality check, they will get paid for a quality product, making the same game or product every year and charging the same amount is not acceptable, making a watered down game that isn’t quite finished, or that they force you to spend money for content on the disc (RE5’s versus, Jill and Shuma Gorath in MvC3, The Exiled Prince in Dragon Age 2)

          Once these companies start earning their money, and making quality products, I guarantee it they’ll see piracy start to decrease.

          They’re earnings will not come at the expense of my freedoms, and I’ll sooner die fighting it, than roll over and take it as you have!

        • Tom

          Try to repeat that sentence, after a root-kit crashed your C-drive, because it tried to remove your virtual drive, holding a legal copy of Linux.

          Ever since I don’t install commercial software on my computer anymore. If I really need to have it, I keep it unopened on a shelf and go to my Russian-hacker-of-trust to obtain a copy that actually works without destroying my private property.

          Hell! Some products even have it printed on the back of the cover (in VERY small letters): “This software can damage your hard drive”. They are not even ashamed of it.

  9. 9
    Putte

    There is also another interesting angle here. The change of perspective from workers/individuals to big corporations.

    In the mid 20th century, unionized workers with a steady salaray were supposed to be protected from the forces of competition and the ruthless market. Governments would go to extreme lengths to protect these existing jobs and income streams at the expense of consumers and owners of the companies.

    Today the tables are turned. Workes are suppose to silently accept that their livelyhood can be taken away in an instant by competition, executive decisions or technological change. At the same time, companies future stable profit streams are sacrosant.

    Any government action that would deprive corporates of their profit streams are considered extremely controversial and any regulation that reduces the status quo profits are politically impossible. In the TRIPS agreement there are wordings about exactly this. If a (third world) government takes action that reduces the future profits of a foreign Corpotates, these companies have the right to compensation. But not workers.

  10. 10
    the j

    Case in point:
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/02/shoe-on-the-other-foot-riaa-calls-for-open-act-to-be-scrapped.ars
    So basically the RIAA fully admits the burden of proof can be costly (hint: it’s got the word “burden” right there in the name). But nothing, ever, should decrease their bottom line. If the concept of due process imperils their net profits, well then clearly the concept of due process must be scrapped.

    It’s a pitiful state of things when anyone could possibly come to their defense. I have nothing but pure, liquid contempt for old guard forced-business-model apologists.

  11. 11

    It has never occurred to me to look at the issue that way. You are absolutely right, we SHOULD be outraged. Thanks for this, I’ll share the living shit out of your awesome little rant.

  12. 12
    Tom

    I need to say: not only do I not care for the industry’s profits. I also refuse to consume their ridiculous low quality “products”. I don’t even know if and what music is on their self-established chart lists or what DVDs they toss unto the market. What market? There is no market.

    The real market is “on demand availability”. Having what you want, whenever you want it and not having to walk to a store in the rain to search through their stuff, just to find out that what you really want is not in stock. Thus ordering it and waiting 2 weeks for deliverance, while having to call them every second day to find out, if your order has arrived yet.
    While in the end finding out that the damn thing installs tons of advertisements plus a root-kit, that tries to install itself as a Windows driver and accidentally crashes your hard disk, trashing all your family photos along with itself.

    These people want my money? For what? They have nothing to sell.

    And it’s not like they didn’t know. I’m working as an IT-expert in an industry that has taught these people how to do the right thing and establish a business on the net for not years but DECADES now. Yet they wouldn’t listen! They choose to ignore reality? LET THEM PAY! That’s all I say.

    Let them go down and vanish. Let them be replaced by more intelligent companies, that do what is best for the customer and create new jobs.

    Did the Zeppelin industry demand to banish wings when airplanes came out?

    Also they need to understand one basic fact: copyright was intended to be given to true ART and SCIENCE – not as a means to make money. Well, I don’t know what other people think, but: I wouldn’t call THAT crap that they try to sell us either “art” or “science”. A hammer nailed to a wall is more artistic than today’s mainstream music and movies. Because: while art is not defined by quality, it is defined by sensuality. Yet their stuff usually lacks both. How DARE they even speak of copyright?

    Since we are living in an information age, information has become so vital to all our daily lives that it just HAS to be free. Or else people (as well as other industries) will have to pay the price.

    Or as Shakespeare would have said: To have access to the information you need or not to have it, when you need it – this is the question of being alive and communicating; or not.

    Or as I would say: let them burn!

  13. 13
    Sivvie Siv

    I make music, and I share it for free. All I want is for my music not to never be heard.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUeX6mYXSxk&list=PLC8BC0639437ABE22&feature=mh_lolz

  14. 14
    domainoob

    Problem is, at least in the U.S., the constitution expressly directs Congress to balance the rights of “authors and inventors” – which include the ability to generate profit – against the other rights provided for in the constitution. So although we may not care about the profits of content creators, U.S. legislators and courts are compelled to consider them in legislation. Hence business models matter.

    This means that, as nauseating as it sounds, if our ancestors (or the ancestors of the Americans) fought for “the constitution,” then they also fought for the rights of creators to get rewarded for their work in some limited scope and time.

    All the more reason for Congress to take its job seriously, and give freedom of speech primacy over profits.

  15. […] while paying the copyright industry, then everyone wins. However, as Falkvinge puts it, “I don’t care about industry profits.” Realistically, I don’t care about most companies profits; because I’m only […]

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