The Entertainment Industry Giants Already Have Too Much Power [Opinion]

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In recent weeks, the Internet has been up in arms about the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation. Many people see these measures as incredibly powerful and therefore dangerous to businesses and individuals online. While most people will agree it’s worth protecting the income of artists, history shows that the entertainment industry is somewhat overzealous with their accusations of copyright infringement. So the thought of giving these companies more power without ensuring adequate checks are in place to ensure they don’t abuse their power is chilling.

The entertainment industry giants already have too much power. They have used copyright infringement accusations to destroy the livelihoods and businesses of both innocent and guilty parties, yet instead of minimising the damage to innocent parties many governments are indulging the entertainment industry and affording them even more power. Why would they do this? Well, because the entertainment giants are powerful government lobbyists. Why is it a problem? Well, let’s see what they do with their current powers, shall we?

Blanket Copyright Infringement Accusations

Recently, a few YouTube videos I uploaded were marked as infringing somebody’s copyright. These were private videos of kids singing traditional Christmas carols and were obviously caught in an automatic blanket accusation against anyone daring to upload something with the same name as something one of their artists performed. I can appeal, however YouTube strongly suggests that people don’t do that as their account will be penalised if the appeal fails (what, my Gmail/Google Docs/Google Calendar account?). It’s a pretty strong incentive to let these guys get away with their blanket copyright accusations.

I know YouTube is doing its best to compensate artists and avoid litigation, but I feel the industry is abusing that power and will continue to do so since they’re financially compensated for it. Note, this happens in offline royalty collection too. Essentially, it’s a scam or a form of copyright trolling. Sometimes they seem to be claiming copyright infringements simply in order to be a nuisance (and they think they’re untouchable).

Turning ISPs & Content Hosts Into Copyright Cops

In the entertainment industry’s ideal world, every business in the chain of content creation and delivery would be protecting the entertainment industry’s interests and be liable themselves if they didn’t comply. This is not a feasible demand, since any attempt at complying would mean these businesses would need to impose blanket measures such as YouTube’s and inconvenience many of their non-infringing customers in the process.

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It would also never be 100% effective, leaving the content hosts and ISPs falling foul of their supposed responsibilities. And who is to say the entertainment industry’s rights are more important than those of the content hosts, ISPs and law-abiding customers of those services?

However, regardless of whether laws enforcing further copyright protection come into effect, the entertainment industry already exerts pressure on content hosts and providers via litigation.

Limiting Purchases Regionally & Rights Of Consumers With DRM

Entertainment providers routinely impose regional purchasing restrictions and DRM (Digital Rights Management) controls on products in an attempt to protect their own interests, even if it renders that product unusable or un-purchasable for the customer. Computer games, digital music and videos are all frequently affected by DRM (including DVD region encoding), while many digital downloads are simply unavailable to consumers due to their location.

Customers expect that once an item has been purchased it should be possible to use that item in everyday, fair-use situations. However, this is often not the case and it causes great consumer frustration. Gamers are unable to play certain games unless they’re online, while iTunes movies downloaded to laptops are not able to be played using a larger monitor. Some people begin to wonder why they bother paying for things they can’t use. Libraries are finding it tough to lend digital books legally.

Changing The Laws

Persistent lobbying from the entertainment industry giants has resulted in criminalisation of digital downloading of copyrighted material (and prosecuting people for offences despite knowing how easy it is for the wrong person to be seen as infringing), copyright extensions (preventing works reaching the public domain and becoming available for adaptations into new art) and strong-arming other governments, thereby imposing strict copyright laws in other countries.

Recently, the US has also taken to extraditing people who are believed to have committed no crime in their own country in the name of copyright protection for the entertainment industry.

What About The Little Guys?

Sadly, independent artists are rarely and poorly compensated via large representative bodies. Nor is proposed legislation likely to gain them any real advantage to protect their own material. Quite frankly, most countries haven’t developed a workable copyright protection model to protect the rights of the little guys. France, for instance, taxes writable media like CDs and DVDs, yet the proceeds just go to the big names of the entertainment industry. In the end, individual artists still need to look out for themselves and develop better business models for the digital age.

Conclusion

The entertainment industry giants have a lot of power and they routinely seek more in order to protect their own interests. They also have no qualms in blocking other people’s interests on the off-chance their own were compromised. I don’t want to give them any more power. Do you? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Image Credit: ShutterStock, ShutterStock, tom-b

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Comments (17)
  • Gertie Denby

    The following time I learn a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as considerably as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to learn, but I truly thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear can be a bunch of whining about one thing which you could possibly repair in case you happen to werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

  • Woodrow Mondelli

    I like this blog so much, saved to bookmarks. “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.” by Peter De Vries.

  • Read

    You mention SOPA and PIPA but I don’t see any mention on this page about the far worse ACTA that’s basically sneaking in through the back door avoiding things like being voted on or any public feedback, infact quite the contrary.

    • Angela Alcorn

      It’s scary, isn’t it? ACTA didn’t get mentioned because I was trying to recall to mind things people may have already seen reports about. ACTA wasn’t getting much attention then – it’s getting a bit more attention now.

    • Read

      Sorry but I think you either overlooked it or made a very bad call while missing an opportunity. As you say SOPA/PIPA is in the news so writing about them now is a perfect time to introduce ACTA to those that don’t know about it while they show interest in SOPA. You should have used that interest as a springboard to draw attention to something that’s far bigger, much worse and still looming.

      ACTA is the mountain to the molehill that is SOPA, virtually on a global scale. ACTA started 5 years ago then things becoming far more serious in 2008, 3 years ago. With more countries set to sign it very soon it’s long overdue to be the focus of attention.

      I agree with what you do cover, a wide range making good points, though you somehow neglected the giant elephant in the room that will only make everything you basically complained about even worse while adding more like privacy issues (deep packet inspection) and turning ISPs into content cops all in the name of copywrite.

    • Angela Alcorn

      It’s true. ACTA is a huge problem (and I’m glad you mentioned it), but I really didn’t want to focus on just one treaty with this article.

      Ultimately, if ACTA is defeated the entertainment industry will just lobby governments to start something else. My message is basically to think about the underlying cause and to fight all of the future battles.

      However, in hindsight, maybe I should have named this one by name. Thanks for bringing it up!

  • Angry Voter

    Corporations have been around longer than the US.

    If the Founders had intended corps to have rights, they would have been explicitly stated.

    Instead, the Founders only issued corporate charters for limited times and required each corp to prove it was of benefit to society to have it’s charter renewed.

    For example, the First National Bank of the US required a large bailout.  The charter renewal was denied and the people that ran it put on trial.

    That’s the way the US worked until the new 14th Amendment was perverted.

    If Mitt Romney can claim that a corporation in the Cayman Islands with only 1 employee (himself) is somehow legally distinct from himself and therefore not guilty of tax evasion then so could a serial killer, a child molester or even somebody who downloads copies of music!

  • Anonymous

    What I find ironic is we seem to be going through the same cycle as different industries come into the digital domain. If the publishers of the content really got on board, and offered the consumer what they wanted, they would get the man on the street used to paying for content. That’s what you need!!

    The music industry missed the boat trying to lock down CDs, and the movie industry has pretty much lost the war on protecting DVDs.

    eBooks and the publishers are the latest industry who need to pull it’s collective head out of the sand. I used to buy a lot of eBooks, but then they brought in agency pricing and severe geo-restrictions. My annual spend went from about £250 to £10. Now I just spend more time at the library.

    Their product weighs in around 1Mb, so they’re really going to be in trouble if the man on the street cottons on to how easy it is to pirate material (not that I condone that kind of thing). Some people will never pay, no matter how cheap or DRM free a product is. But the majority will, and they’re the people the studios/publishers should be trying to keep happy.

    Give people what they want and they will pay for it. Some won’t, but most will.

    • Angela Alcorn

      I know. The industry needs to realise that eBooks shouldn’t be anywhere near as expensive as real books, since there’s no transportation costs.

      Also, users are tying these books to one user’s account and you can’t hand digital books on to kids according to licensing restrictions. I’ll stick to DRM-free paper for now.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.