I caught this ad on TV the other day and, after picking my chin off the floor, had to find out who funded it. Creative America explains that it’s a grassroots organization that includes the major entertainment corporations.
Content creators should absolutely be compensated for their creations. This is why I pay creators for their content. I buy music, DVDs, pay for movie tickets, purchase books. I also stream a ton of content online through the many creator sanctioned forums.
But the creators’ compensation should not overrule my right to access to the information the internet contains.
Creative America’s TV ad above, and their mini-documentary style propaganda video on their site, both talk about the decline in movie production and the impact on the industries hardly anyone remembers when they’re sitting in the theater. Creative America places the blame squarely on the shoulders of pirates from other countries.
This video plays on the decade in the making heightened xenophobia of US citizens and residents. Every country named, aside from the US, has a soundtrack that elicits images of thieves breaking into houses or a movie villain plotting to blot out the sun. Viewers are supposed to be very afraid of what those people over there are doing to undermine our culture and society and values. These are pirates, after all.
What Creative America ignores, though, is the elephant in the room. The market is changing. The traditional strategies, for all forms of entertainment, do not work with the same effectiveness. Outdated, invisible lines divide markets that determine who can access certain items when. I ran into one of these when trying to buy an ebook. I haven’t read the book, but that also means the company and the author haven’t gotten any money from me. I could pirate it, and they still wouldn’t get the money. Either way, it would remain a lost sale because the lines exist preventing me from giving them money for their creation.
As the market becomes more access demanding and global, the creators would be better served finding ways to tap the market. In their mini-doc, Creative America tells the story of a couple of indie film makers and how their movies appeared online. Their assertion is that the online component cut their DVD sales, preventing them from making the money back. I didn’t even know either movie existed. This tells me that the the standard system isn’t as wide reaching as it once was.
It’s easy to blame all the loss on people stealing a product. Because people do use products without paying the creators. But the flip side is that the market is there, because people don’t steal items they don’t want. It’s just that the current way creators are trying to get their product to the market isn’t the way consumers want it. The capitalist solution to this problem is not cutting out potential consumers but shifting how the product makes it to the consumer.
The Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act both cut out potential consumers, and punishes people in the US by cutting out access to the entire internet. If the thieves are non-US and outside of US jurisdiction, why do US have to suffer the consequences? Not to mention, international interactions are not the sole purview of either the US Congress or corporations.
I hope that the other branches of government exercise their checking power to keep our internet unburdened. It’d be better if the corporations did what they’ve always done, adjusted to the changing market and stopped trying to force everyone to stay in the system they want to keep.