Copyright, Piracy and the Troubled Waters We Tread

pirate_flagAll of our laws begin with a noble idea seeking to right a wrong or protect the innocent. Copyright law is no different. No one would ever say that an artist does not deserve to be compensated for his or her work. That is the noble idea that copyright law came into being to protect. I agree with that 100%. The only one who should profit from my brain regurgitation is me or my family. But what happens when copyright veers from that noble goal? Is copyright a guarantee if profit?

Ever try borrowing a current bestseller from the library? Well you can’t. How about lending your eBook copy of Hunger Games to your sister, not going to happen. Current eBooks are swaddled in DRM that severely limits what users can do with them all in the name of thwarting piracy. What does piracy have to do with copyright? Well in our modern age if you aren’t paying for your digital content you’re probably pirating it. Funny I am giving away copies of my works all the time to build my audience and for reviews, not piracy. Borrowing a book from the library and reading it also not piracy, now try to convince publishers of that.

One other area of copyright that some run a foul of concerns movies and television shows. Buy a blu-ray of The Avengers and want to watch it on your phone or tablet? Well get yourself an eye patch and three corner hat. Oh you can pay for a copy to run on your device in addition to the disc you just bought. If you are fortunate to have a device that will play then files in that come with some releases even better. Television is an other matter. Over a year ago we dropped our satellite service and instead rely on streaming. We have subscriptions with Netflix, Hulk + and Amazon Prime. We also have a digital antenna for local broadcasts but there are a few shows that are cable only. The streaming services are great for older shows but current ones are not so lucky. In truth it is quicker and easier to torrent the show than it is to find it on one of the streaming services that we pay for. That noble idea of copyright is starting to become a real pain in my digital ass. All I am saying is I am willing to pay for the content I enjoy but I can’t even do that. So churns the waters.

One last area that stokes my fire concerns emulators. An emulator is a piece of software that tricks a computer into acting like another. Emulators are not illegal to create own or even buy. The programs, called roms, that run on the emulator are a different matter. By all interpretations of current copyright law these files are illegal. Own them amounts to theft but let’s look at this. Suppose you want to rekindle your adolescence with some rounds of Mario Kart but you have long since parted ways with your SNES. In one scenario you could download an emulator and the rom for Mario Kart and enjoy. You would be a pirate, breaking the law and Nintendo doesn’t get a dime. In scenario two you could hunt down an old system from a garage sale or eBay and the game cartridge.  You would be completely within the legal confines of the law but Nintendo still doesn’t get a dime. Are you starting to see a flaw in this?

No technology can arrive without causing some disruption in the status quo. Just think what the printing press did for all those medieval scriptoriums. It would be foolish to think technology can enable a wild west mentality at least until the laws catch up. The danger we face is in not recognizing when the mechanisms of protecting business models no longer relevant are allowed to slip into the codification of law.  At that point we are all adrift. Arrrgh maties.

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About Vincent A. Alascia

Vincent is the author of, "In the Presence of Gods," "Xristos: Chosen of God," and coming soon, "Undead Heart," available on Kindle and paperback, as well as works that have appeared in anthologies and online. Originally an East Coast native, he makes his home in the Phoenix area of Arizona with his wife and three attention grabbing felines. Vincent is an active member of the West Valley Writers' Workshop and an Adult Services librarian at the Maricopa County Library District Northwest Regional Library in Surprise, Arizona.
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