Who Does Torrenting Hurt? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 15 2015 @ 3:40pm

You can review the whole Dish debate so far here. A half-dozen readers below are pro-torrenting to some extent or another. The first:

Loving the thread on torrenting.  I was about to write my thoughts on it, but I’m lazy and this cartoon from The Oatmeal basically sums it all up anyway.

Another reader:

You seem to have had a dearth of confessed pirates who aren’t total dicks, so I thought I’d write in. Like a lot of your other readers, I’m a Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriber (and Dish subscriber from day one!), a cable subscriber, and I’m really looking forward to HBO’s standalone Go service.

Nonetheless, I pirate. But I’m an ethical pirate, in that I only pirate media that are out of print or have not been distributed in the U.S. I mainly consume foreign TV shows that are not distributed here, or have no imminent distribution planned. For example, I used to pirate Doctor Who until BBC America finally got on the stick and offered a day and date release for the last few seasons. Until then, it was a six-month wait to see it, and spoilers abounded by then. U.K. shows are increasingly getting distributed here, but there’s a ton of other quality programming produced in Europe that never gets distributed in the U.S. And some of the shows that eventually surface are exclusive to one carrier, like Black Mirror, which showed up on DirecTV two years after it aired on Channel 4.

Another zooms out:

Art is not some onerous task that nobody wants to do unless you bribe them with enough money.  There are zillions of creative people who are already longing to make art.  The relevance of money is not to motivate them to make art – as if artists are a bunch of pissy John Galts threatening to take their toys and go home – rather, it is to enable them to do what they already want to do anyway.

I saw this all the time in my days as a starving artist.

Artists who can afford to make art will do it; artists who can’t won’t.  But there’s more than one way to make an artist’s life affordable.  One is to make sure that payment and royalties find their way back to the artist, but another more effective way is simply to make art a less expensive proposition.  Technology is doing that.  Today there is more music, literature, visual art, etc, being produced and made available than ever before in history.  The reason is that you no longer need your own recording studio or printing press to make it, and you no longer need an elaborate distribution and marketing program to get it out there.

Another is on the same page:

What follows here is NOT a moral judgment, or a judgment of value. It is simply to state that, with the Internet, many things are changing dramatically and we may be incapable to stop that change, for good or bad.

Let me use a metaphor related to what the IP lawyer wrote. Let’s suppose I am an sculptor, and I make a really beautiful sculpture, and then I put said sculpture in a public park. Then, from everybody that passes by and looks at it, I say: “Hey, you DID see that sculpture, now you should pay some money for that, after all I do deserve a compensation for my work! And if you don’t pay, I’ll sue you!” Everybody would just laugh at me. Well, the fact is that now we all live in the world’s largest public park. It is called the Internet.

You don’t want your movie to be pirated? Very simple: make it in celluloid. And only make copies in celluloid. There, problem solved.

The fact of the matter is that, once you go digital, there is simply no way to keep your artwork out of the Internet. Some people are counting on Digital Rights Management (DRM) as being the savior. However, I work with DRM, and I can say from first hand experience that DRM only gives you a brief interval before a digital artwork reaches the Internet for free anyway. Major corporations are putting billions of dollars in coming up with more and more elaborate DRM schemes, and still piracy thrives.

The only thing I know for sure is that trying to put the Internet genie back in the bottle is impossible. We will just have to create a new mindset for the Internet age.

Another sorta sees both sides:

Almost indisputably, it is unethical to download and watch torrented films one didn’t pay for, while also being true that almost all torrenters wouldn’t have seen those films anyway and the artist therefore isn’t out the cash. An illegally downloaded film or music cd does not equal a lost sale. It just does not.

In the five years before I got torrent, I would see maybe five movies a year in the theaters, generally action flicks deserving of the big screen experience. After getting set up with a torrent client, I starting watching dozens of films each year at home, in addition to still going to the theater about five times. But there is no way I’d have gone to see any of those downloaded movies in the theater. The artists involved did not lose out on my money. The overriding reason I watched the films is because I could get them for free. If I couldn’t get them for free, I wouldn’t watch them. Period.

Another sees a lot of gray area:

I just wanted to push back a bit on the idea put forth by some of your commenters who say torrenting The Godfather is no different than going into Best Buy and walking out with a DVD of The Godfather under your jacket.  That’s nuts, and I don’t think anyone actually thinks that, at least not in any consistent way.  Consider some hypotheticals.

1.  I rent The Godfather on Blu-Ray from the local library.  When I get home, I find the disc is scratched and it won’t play.  I download it instead.  Stealing?

2.  I buy the premium cable TV package, but I’m usually working when the shows I watch are airing, so I download the shows after they air.  Stealing?

3.  My girlfriend buys all the Game of Thrones DVDs and invites me over to watch them with her.  But I have a larger TV, so I want to watch them at my house.  I download the first few episodes.  Stealing?

4.  I go out and buy Rubber Soul on vinyl.  But I want to listen to it on my iPod, so I also download Rubber Soul in mp3 form.  Stealing?

5.  I see 12 Years A Slave in theaters three times.  I buy the DVD for my aunt and for my grandfather.  Ten years from now, I haven’t seen it in awhile, so I download it.  Stealing?

6.  I buy a hardcover copy of The Cider House Rules.  I leave it on the train accidentally, losing it before I started it.  So I download an e-book copy.  Stealing?

None of these is intended as some “nyah-nyah” rhetorical gotcha, and none is a slam dunk one way or the other in my view.  And I’m obviously not claiming, because it would be ludicrous to do so, that everyone who torrents the latest album by The Arcade Fire only did so because they were out of money from buying copies for everyone in their immediate family.  But I think most people would at least see some ambiguity in the rightness or wrongness of each of the above actions, whereas nobody would see any ambiguity if I had just gone into a store and stolen hard copies of all the items in question instead.  If that’s true, I think that gives lie to the idea that torrenting is the same as theft.

One more reader:

On the bright side for musicians, many may not have had the audience they do now without file sharing, meaning they can gain more in your revenue. Unfortunately, for some that means constantly touring and many (like Grizzly Bear) still couldn’t afford health insurance when they had broken fairly big pre-Obamacare.  Under major labels (and I’m guessing many minor), stealing music tends to hurt the label more than the band since bands rarely make much of anything off of album sales. Similarly, bands rarely hold the rights to their masters so bad you stolen Beatles music for a long time you would’ve been stealing from Michael Jackson.

I’m all for a system that continues to employ the sound engineers, production assistants, etc., but let’s not pretend that what existed pre-Napster was great for artists.  The recent Black Swan lawsuit showed just how exploitative the film industry is of (unpaid) interns. I think another reader’s question about executives stands and I’ll alter it: why do they get to make millions when some people work for nothing?