11
Apr
08

Steal this article!

“Wanna copy?”

 

That’s how it always starts. “Tape this,” “burn that,” and even “record it for me.” As the technology for copying intellectual works (and I use that term loosely) gets increasingly better, the cases against copyright infringement pile up. Before I split too many hairs, let me go into the history of copyright infringement as I’ve seen through my lifetime.

 

I was a kid in the Eighties (living in KY) and didn’t have a lot. There was only one TV in the entire house and maybe one radio. I would play cassette tapes off my dual-deck tape player, and occasion dub one (wasn’t that what the function was for?) And it seems innocuous when you’re under 10: someone lets you borrow their tape; you copy it, and give it back. It didn’t have the exact quality, but it did have the songs you wanted.

 

As I got older, getting a “copy” of something basically meant that someone recorded a movie off HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax and gave it to you (which is –very technically- legal due to the 1983 Supreme Court ruling). While the “copy” I would receive was substandard (2nd only to the quality of scrambled porn), I did know of others who went to great lengths to get a VHS copy of a movie without buying it, due to the “scrambling” code imprinted on the tapes (no, I won’t give out names even if I could remember them). Sadly, I had a middle school teacher who had a video camera and “taped” a movie he had rented off his TV screen so he would have a copy to show to his history classes without always having to rent it.

 

Fast forward to a little after the year 2000. I’m sitting in a cafeteria on the college campus. Someone with a new computer and DVD burner is telling me that they’ve just downloaded a movie and burned it on disk. Being a film major I’m somewhat irked because I know that several people go into the making of a movie and this digital “thievery” is going to get worse before it gets better.

 

So, why do people decide to make copies? Here are my thoughts:

 

         Offers from friends: someone says, “Have you seen…?” You reply, “No,” and they follow up with “Wanna copy?” And this “saves” you money because you really didn’t feel like plopping down $5 at the blockbuster for “The Marine” (or whatever film you got a copy of but didn’t like).

         They want the movie, but can’t afford it. Yeah, it happens.

         Lack of “catalog” titles at the local video store. Most video stores keep current titles in their stock, and a few others that generate money. When you’re living in Bum Egypt, Nebraska it might be a tad difficult to rent Hitchcock’s “The Trouble With Harry.” I may be wrong, but you catch my drift.

         Space. A single disc gets tossed around and scratched; rendered useless before being tossed away. If you have the case and the ACTUAL DVD, you may have to be responsible and the chances you’ll destroy it are lessened (or maybe not).

         Don’t care/ won’t get caught. This applies to a lot of people because they’ll only do it a few times, and mostly for their close friends. The idea the guys dressed in dark suits with sunglasses knocking on your door while the SWAT team busts through the window just because you copied “Crank,” does tend to feel ridiculous. But…

         Fileshare programs. I don’t know the current crop on the block but I do know a little about this. The problem that stems from this, aside from the FBI and SWAT, is that the quality SUCKS. The halcyon days of VHS tapes made from the inside of theatres had better quality than some stuff I’ve seen. There are exceptions to this, but not many.

         The movie sucks, and no one should pay to watch it. See “Offers from friends.”

         Stickin’ it to the Man. The movie was made/distributed by Warner Bros. You burned it on an HP disc on your HP computer. It’s all in the ‘family,’ right? (HP is tied-in with AOL, which is owned by Time Warner, which is owned by the WB, which…)

         To get the film noticed. Probably the most valiant or honorable of reasons. With the fact that roughly 300+ American movies get distribution a year, and the fact that sometimes people just don’t have time, there are films that “slip through the cracks;” movies that you would probably liked had they came to the theater in your town, or the video store, or had you even heard about them. This can happen to a few independent films, and a large amount of foreign films waiting for distribution. Sad to say, this truism steady perpetuates itself.

 

I’ll close in saying this: yes, intellectual theft is wrong (even if the product isn’t exactly intellectual to begin with). Should you do it for any of the aforementioned reasons, whatever the case may be, please take it upon yourself to send some money the direction of the filmmakers, especially the independents.

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