Copyrights and piracy (v2) sign now


I recently read that the war between copyright owners (of digital content) and copyright infringers (which is to a larger or lesser extent everybody in this planet that owns a computer) is about to be escaladed to yet another level, meaning that some law is proposed to give powers to customs officers to search digital devices as they please when you try to pass such device from one country to another if they have the suspicion that device carries pirated content. I don't want to discuss here the feasibility, or correctives, or political and civil liberties impact, or even sanity of such proposal, if the rumor is true, but I would like to advance a different solution for this digital copyright issue, and I would like everybody who agrees with my proposal to sign this petition stating that you would support such plan if it would ever be accepted by the other party involved. By "other party" I mean that if you are a digital content consumer, "the other party" is the people you consume from (film and music industry association etc.), and if you are the representative of a digital material copyright, then "the other party" are your customers, potential customers, future customers and pirates (which I bet you cannot tell which is which, so Ill just put everybody in one pile.

It is clear that today's technology has made possible (and not only possible, but so easy is embarrassing even) for each individual with an IQ over "idiot" level (and this is arguable, you may not even need that) to copy digital content very easy, fast, cost free, and sometimes even before the digital material is officially released on the market. It is also clear that this copying technology has disseminated so much in the general population that is impossible to reverse the process, unless all developed countries throw democracy to garbage and instate police states in which every citizen starting with 5 year old kids become potential copyright terrorists (which is the way it seems we head now). It seems clear to me that the message coming from this (very large) group of people which encourage free copying of digital material is that they will develop technology to keep content free for all.

On the other hand, this content does not produce itself, and while the producers say they cannot come up with a better offer than what pirates are offering (who can beat free content ... it cannot get cheaper than that), the guys running today's peer to peer servers say "the business models are obsolete, they need to be changed, industry must come up with new model", but they fail to actually provide any (other than the one that says industry should start making money as it used to do, from live performances, which would essentially mean that content owners should stop imprinting everything so goodbye movies, we go back to theater because today everything imprinted on a medium digital or analog alike is duplicable fast, in mass copies, and basically with no cost).

So, it seems to me that on one hand we have the socialist approach of "let's have it free for all", and on the other hand we have the capitalist approach of "anything that is produced with a cost must be sold with a profit". It may seem as opposing, irreconcilable forces, but if we look around there are already example of systems that function in today's society with a cost and a big one but still they are free and accessible to everyone alike (up to a point). I am talking about public school system and public healthcare system. The way they work is that initially, healthcare and education has been considered a must have for everybody in a civilized country (and I would argue it is maybe time to consider entertainment a similar must have), then people agreed to pay taxes to support the cost of running these systems (these taxes were paid as a percentage of their revenue so everybody could afford to pay them, and people making more money would essentially cover costs for people making less money by paying bigger taxes in absolute numbers), then an entity (usually a state agency) would gather these taxes and split the money according to whatever rules written in laws.

My proposal would be to create a system in which consumers pay their right to digital content through taxes, and this means that while they will pay for the distribution medium (if you go to cinema, you pay for the cost of the seat and the quality of the image and sound, if you buy a DVD, you pay for the cost of the blank medium and its finish and so on), the digital material that they obtain is free for them to use and distribute as you please. So, if anybody decides to spread around a copy of the movie he saw last night and liked it, it should be free to do so.

How would such system work:

1. people pay a percentage of their gross income as "copyright tax"

2. this big pile of money goes to an agency which then distribute it to copyright owners. It would be best if this agency would also conduct rating and audit to poll people and see which content was most consumed compared to other, it also must be an algorithm to weight the "cost per view" of a movie compared to a song ... but most of these systems (rating, calculate value per unit for different types of content) are already in place right now (because you know now that a movie ticket is 7 bucks while a song is 99 cents)

3. copyright owners would be encouraged to have people consume their content "for free" because they would get better rating, and as such a bigger slice of the money. They would also be encouraged to present the content in an attractive packaging to compete with low cost copies and make and extra buck from people who choose to consume content with more "style".

4. people would get their content for free, everybody will pay a reasonable amount compared to how much it makes.

5. states will get to direct their law enforcement force from copyright protection to watching over people to pay their taxes.

6. best news for kids (the main source of piracy if you think of it), is mom and dad that pay the taxes.

7. of course, because Internet has no borders, such a system must have no borders ... or must have at most one border, and all that is outside of it should be considered not interesting by the copyright owners anyway ... or accepted as marginal loss in copyrights revenue. But obviously if people from US cannot get money from people from Europe looking at their movies, the system will not work.

8. as with any system of such scale, is prone to corruption and lawsuits will still fly all around, but they should stay between states, agencies, industry associations, and away from people. This is good news for everybody, because people would still retain some control over tax levels as long as they are the ones electing their governments, and content owners (I guess) would rather sue a competitor with a big pocket rather than chasing around and suing a few thousand individuals.

9. as long as the alternative is rampage piracy, is in copyright owners' interest to have states in the system rather than outside the system, so if people say they pay too much and they want out, there is still room for negotiation.

10. it can be an opt-in system for copyright owners. If an organization wants in, then it registers with the regulatory body, submits to the rules of the game, releases the copyrights and gets a share of the money, if wants to stay out, then good luck chasing pirates around and lobbying governments to trash Constitution laws. Obviously, since then it will be an alternative system in place, it will be much harder for such organizations to persuade governments to push questionable laws compared to current situation when there is no alternative.

So, please sign this petition if you think this is an acceptable middle ground in the digital copyright issue and if you think entertainment industry associations and governments should work to build such system instead of pushing the limits of constitutional rights and civil liberties.


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Yvonne EsparzaBy:
Politics and GovernmentIn:
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