Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Punishing the Purchaser: FBI Warnings and Other Follies

I hope they don't sue me for pirating this screen shot. I ripped it straight from a DVD I had laying around.

Anyway, I popped in the Knight's Tale DVD the other day and had to sit through two piracy warnings that stayed on my screen for 30 seconds each before even seeing the main menu. Then I started the movie and guess what? Another FBI warning! If I hadn't already owned the DVD for a couple of years, I would have returned it.

Instead I ask; does anyone actually think this works?

I mean, being put out of my way actually makes me lean towards just logging on to my favourite p2p (peer to peer) site and grabbing whatever I'd like. At least the piracy groups know not to inconvenience their patrons.

I remember seeing the first two minute anti-piracy commercial after paying $11.00 to see a movie in a theater, I was pretty tempted to leave. Is that kind of advertising supposed to inspire me to go on some crusade against piracy? Am I supposed to feel ashamed if I download a missed episode of television or grab a copy of a movie from the net because I haven't gotten my copy from Amazon yet? I'll tell you, it doesn't work. I know plenty of people with massive digital movie collections and they don't look guilt ridden. I also don't feel like shaking my finger at them and telling them that they're hurting the creators of that work.

Theft is wrong, that's undeniable. If everyone who read my books pirated them I would still be working in a call center cubicle and I'd be spending thousands of dollars submitting manuscripts and mail outs to agents and publishers around the world. A few science fiction fans have put their support behind me because they had access to some of my work and as a result I'm writing for them full time. I still have to work to continue getting the word out to build that following, but I don't mind.

On the other hand I'm not interested in posting big notices in the first pages of my books telling them (the readers, my supporters), that piracy is wrong, and that I'll sue them if I find out they made a copy for someone else! Imagine starting into one of my EBooks and seeing a whole page dedicated to that kind of threat? I don't think anyone would put up with it.

So, since it's not illegal, I've started ripping all my DVD's to a hard drive, skipping the FBI warnings and keeping all the digital picture and surround sound goodness. You see, what they don't tell you in those threatening announcements is that everyone who owns an intellectual product is allowed to make 1 or more copies for backup purposes. That's true in Canada, the US and the UK. My glossy DVD's will sit on the shelves getting dusty and ignored from now on.

As a final note with regards to piracy, the whole digital information industry is trying to find a new business model that lets everyone think they're getting something for free. I'd love to give my stuff away, but I don't receive enough donations or have enough cash in the bank to allow for it. That doesn't mean I'm going to wait to be rich to find a way to get my books out there cheaply or freely. In the future I'll be trying a few different strategies on my own as I discover new opportunities. No promises at this point, I'm still looking at several options. My point is that there will be ways to get content for free eventually, even though it may take another decade for companies to figure out how to stay in business and finance their productions.


[Are you an advocate for piracy or a supporter of the content creators? Do you have a solution that lands somewhere in the middle? Leave a comment!]

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