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Cutting the wires: Are New Zealanders prepared for copyright consequences? April 26, 2011

Posted by Jess in Film, Music, Personally Jess, television.
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Cut off the internet, says the government, but is that the correct response to illegal file-sharing?

Courtesy of Google image search. Or is using this image illegal?

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Come September, New Zealand citizens will become liable for copyright infringement online. This is in the form of downloading, or as the government has chosen to define it ‘file-sharing’. This will mean any use of torrenting or file-sharing programs to obtain copyrighted material without paying for it will, if the copyright holder acts upon notification, earn you your first warning from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

I’ve made my views heard on this issue on Facebook and more so on Twitter, as well as in discussion with friends at dinner outings and work. But I wanted to write a blog on this hardly-used blog of mine just to get my thoughts out so I can understand my own logic, rather than trying to convince any politicians to change their minds – why keep flogging a dead horse when the horse is naive and stubborn in the first place?

I’m a 21-year-old female, living in Auckland and i’ll openly admit here that yes, for the past three or so years, I have, by definition of the New Zealand government, illegally file-shared online. Whether it’s in the form of torrenting or streaming online, I have at one point or another clicked on a link or typed in a web address with the intention of experiencing a song, video or television show for leisure and pleasure. And heck, I damn-well enjoyed it! Do you know why? Because media is made for the consumer and by jove, i’m going to consume it, as it was intended.

Any decent musician who is in it for the art and passion, and not the paycheck, will tell you that they want their music to be heard online. MySpace, Facebook, Blip, Last.FM, SoundCloud and any other free sign-up social networking site are their portals and platforms to help them share their work. Why have MySpace et al become to successful at this business of streaming music online? Because people love to try before they buy. It’s a basic business model.

YouTube and Facebook have become platforms for independent filmmakers to find an audience when funds would usually hinder this process. It has become to expensive to produce and distribute any kind of media without the help of huge international distribution companies, but with YouTube and other video platforms, such as Vimeo and Renderyard, all of this becomes possible at a tenth of the cost.

Hulu, Netflix – largely American-oriented content streamers – and OnDemand services provided by TVNZ and Mediaworks in New Zealand offer audiences the chance to re-watch episodes online of shows audiences may have missed when originally broadcast on television. Television is quickly becoming more about creating content that will draw in viewers for the show, rather than advertisers which has seen a shift to social content and finding ways to engage the viewer within traditional media.

All this academic/useless garble brings me to my point: Any government may think it is doing the right thing by copyright holders, in music, film or television, but in reality they really are not.

How is a self-made, self-funded musician going to make an impact on New Zealand now? If it wasn’t for MySpace, no one in New Zealand would’ve discovered Kids of 88. My House would never have been used in adverts for C4, they would never have charted so high and for so long, would never have released and album and would never have made it to SXSW festival.

Without YouTube, New Zealand short film would never get the exposure in theatres like it does right here.

And as you can imagine, the benefits for artists go on and on, onto various social networking websites. From these websites, opportunities have arisen, etc. And you could say “well those artists hold the copyright to distribute their content on whatever website they want” but that wouldn’t stop them from claiming infringement in the future.

Apart from all this, about doing good by the artist, the consumer/customer is more my concern. As someone who pays for internet access, not just at home but at university as well, I fully subscribe to the belief that the Internet and access to the Internet has become a basic human right. This is because most companies these days are forcing customers/users online to access their services, therefore I need Internet access to carry out my obligations to government services, television subscription services and personal communication services.

Cutting off the customer after infringing copyright three times just seems like a scapegoat for a failed business model used by multiple businesses who have now gone bankrupt, supposedly due to the fact that every potential customer file-shares. Take for example Real Groovy in Wellington, which is closing down as a result of poor vinyl, CD, cassette and DVD sales.

The owner came out on record in the media, saying file-sharing and illegal downloading was to blame. I can tell you now, that is not the truth. I wished to purchase True Blood season two a few months ago and contacted three different stores to compare prices. JB Hi-Fi were selling season two for less than $30 but had unfortunately sold out. Marbecks were selling season two for $35 and had nine copies available at their Albany store. Real Groovy on Queen St, however not-linked to Wellington people may say it is, it still gives an indication of RG pricing, was $75.

I ended up buying, of course, from Marbecks. I would be stupid not to. The point is, is that companies that stump up the prices and try blame file-sharing are idiots. No, you use a failing business model when even your competition, an Australian-owned franchise which has more stores around Auckland, are succeeding even in a recession! JB Hi-Fi, i’m fairly certain, are suffering no loses as recent research and studies show illegal file-sharing has actually helped to increase music and DVD sales, not decrease them. And of course I cannot link you to the research because I cannot find the link. Plus it’s something I learned at university from a tutor and I won’t APA reference it for you.

Not only are businesses not adapting for a new generation, they’re alienating their customers by laying all the blame on them for their failed business model.

The Copyright (infringing file-sharing) bill will criminalise more people than protecting them. There are situations where people may be given notice for doing something online that they do not realise is against the law. There are more important issues the government should be focussing on, such as illegal substance abuse and sales, the issues currently facing the family court system and the Christchurch earthquake recovery. The fact that this legislation was pushed through under urgency is also disturbing.

In summary, because it’s past midnight & I have work in the morning is this: No one will ever completely crack down on file-sharing, legal or not, copyright or not copyright. It’s something politicians need to read up on and perhaps experience to understand, as many have proven they have no clue what the Internet actually is and how file-sharing actually helps artists and customers, instead of damaging them.

Interesting links:

Vodo.com

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