Considering myself as cyber libertarian, I sometimes think about something that would be hard to imagine in reality. As long as we do not quantum computing everything on the net basically consists of 1’s and 0’s. Thus, it is (depending on the encryption) more or less easy to copy every single file which is digitized hosted on any server in cyberspace. A lot of these files are prohibited to ‘just copy’, for example movies which are copyright protected. The (civil-) spirit of the creation of cyberspace was free information sharing. Broken down to 1’s and 0’s these movies are also only information, why shouldn’t they be for free? Everything on the net should be for free…
I am not arguing that pirating things should become legal, I just like to play a mind game. To narrow it down, let us take movies, music, books and computer games. Why can’t these things all be for free as soon and as long as they are available on the net? Only because the companies which are selling them are stuck in a traditional way of making business does not mean that we should suffer from it. If they do not have a business model involving the possibility that everything on the net is for free, than they should try otherwise. On the last conference I attended they presented a lot of good examples how that can work under CC license. These people earned money.
Movies: First of all: If I really like a movie, I buy the DVD, so I can watch it all over again and have a fancy case on my shelf. Secondly, a lot of people are fed up with going to the cinema, paying a lot of money and watching a movie which really sucks. In general a lot of people argue that the quality of movies decreased drastically in the past few years. So some people prefer watching the pirated version on the net and then going to the cinema if they like it. Why that? Because the cinema is a totally different experience of watching movies. The sound, the screen, the other people. If they do not like what they saw pirated they are not going to the movies. The assumption that they would have gone to the cinema if they would not have watched the pirated version is wrong. For the beginning maybe…but after a while they would not. They would simply go to movies which have been highly-recommended by friends…because why spend so much money for watching a bad movie? The assumption of the film industry that everyone who watches pirated versions would watch it in the cinema or DVD instead is wrong. Guys: If you make good movies, people will pay for watching it. And they will pay enough money for it. If you continue making movies no one knows if they are good or not, people will tend to inform themselves (yes, even by watching the pirated version before going to the cinema) before watching it and paying for it. Is that bad? Well, apart from the fact that watching pirated movies is illegal, I think it is perfectly understandable.
Music: Basically the same goes also for music. Most of the time only a few songs are played from one album. So why buying the new album of xyz if you only like one or two songs? Or do not even know the other songs? Download the album from the net for free, listen to it and if you like the whole album, buy it. If not, just buy the songs you like. It should not be so difficult to listen to all the songs before buying it. I do not buy what I do not know. I do not think that a lot of people stopped buying music because they can watch and listen to it on Youtube. I think listening to songs there and sending links to friends might even help the music industry to sell more of their music. There are bands out there distributing whole albums for free on the Internet..but earn with payings for others of their albums, more people going to their concerts or advertisement articles. Just because some do not adapt to the possibilities of cyberspace does not mean, that it is wrong doing so.
Books: Books are special in that case because they can hardly be copyright protected. You just print the digital version of it. So why is it, stores still selling books? Books are sold because people tend not to like reading on a computer screen. This reminds of trying out a e-ink reader.. . If you print it out, you already pay money for it…so you can just double the amount of money (depending on the book) and buy it… have something for your shelf and something which is easier to read. So why not having all these books online for free? I doubt that a lot of people would transist from reading books to reading this stuff online or on their e-ink machine. I think it would help increasing the quality. You could read some pages of the book-you-want-to-buy and if you like it, you buy it, if not, you look for something different. There are also people in book stores, spending their time there and reading books. It would not be different.
Games: Well, games have no analogue counterpart. There are already business models which make you buy the game or at least pay for it. For example: Online Games such as World of Warcraft where you pay for being on the server rather than for the game itself. Of course these models cannot apply to every game. Just a short side story: There are already, and for a long time, private WoW server where you do not have to pay for. You just have to change some 1’s and 0’s in your config and you can play for free. Some features do not work instantly after an update but it is for free. How comes that not all the players migrate there? Another thing is, that Starcraft is one of the most pirated games ever. Well, Starcraft is also one of the most bought games ever, and I believe Blizzard made a lot of money with it. How comes? Because the game was awesome. And for quality we pay, even if there is no need to pay for it. Plus…how many people are going to buy Starcraft II? A lot of them might have been people who could not afford to buy Starcraft I back then. But now they can. In the end, quality will pay back.
I am totally aware that one’s freedom ends where another’s freedom is harmed. I also know that liberty does not mean, breaking copyright laws. I further acknowledge that the cyberspace is not a ‘location’ where law does not apply. However, I like the idea of a free and liberal cyberspace, rooted in its creation. If you think about it.. maybe it could work.
quality instead of lawsuits..?