Commentary

Piracy: consumer rights vs theft

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There’s a collective voice within my age group (I am a kid of the ’80s-’90s era) about the type of shows we watched when we were little. The awesome shows we grew up watching were always a good talking point, and the lines between social classes became blurred once we started reminiscing about them.

It didn’t matter if you owned those overly priced Play-doh, Voltron toy robots or Cabbage Patch dolls. (Were they even sold locally in Manila in those days?) The moment you started talking about cartoons and local TV shows, you would surely get into a lengthy conversation.

Fast-forward to today. Try watching some old-school animation and tell me if it still amuses you. (Of course, timeless classics like Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, and even the basic Disney shorts are exempted.) After watching two or three episodes, you’ll start to wonder why it’s not as awesome as you remember it. Actually, some of the old shows sucked. But every time we looked back, we’d almost always think they were good shows and even say, “Those were the days!”

Fact is, we had no choice back then. We were supplied with limited choices coming from the local stations. I am not saying it was a bad thing; I might even argue that it was a breakthrough in television parenting.

But as time passed, our need for more options grew rapidly. Video rentals, cable television, the Internet – a new era in terms of media and technology combined has dawned. And when every medium has been exhausted, you are left with the feeling that you still want more.

And this is where piracy or bootlegging comes in.

Buying power

We all know that it’s wrong to “steal” copyrighted material, but what can we do? It’s a question of practicality and common sense! Think about it. Would you want to spend for a P400 original CD where you would end up liking only a song or two?

Does the end, then, not justify the means in this case? Yes and no.

Consumer rights versus stealing. Now, that’s the greater debate, in my opinion. Going back to the argument on the willingness to buy a CD just for a song: We consumers (read: hard-earned money as buying power) are smart – or at least we think we are, most of the time – and we don’t want crap in our house. If we want something, even if it’s expensive, we will save up for it. If we have a Blu-ray player and a kick-ass 50-inch TV set, we will spend thousands of pesos for movies that we will surely enjoy. We won’t want to download it from the Internet mainly because there is a certain yabang (pride) about it. Say it with me: “I will watch ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ Part 2 on Blu-ray, and then I will just download it? What am I, cheap?”

The same philosophy may apply to musicians: If we love your band and we want to support you, we’d surely buy your stuff. My question is, Are you willing to buy the original “The Human Centipede,” “Gigli,” or “Catwoman” movies? I’m guessing you’re not. Hollywood hates you.

We don’t want commercialist crap but we are curious enough to at least check it out first. I know of some people who watched a film or listened to pirated media first before buying the real deal. Don’t blame us if your end-product stinks.

The funny thing about intellectual property rights when it comes to movies in general is irony in itself. Imagine this: A novice scriptwriter introduces his stuff to a bigwig Hollywood company. He’s told his idea sucks and he’s turned down. And then after six months, this scriptwriter finds out in the trailers about a film that he conveyed to that same Hollywood company. Imagine his shock. Can he do something about it? Probably… if he’s lucky.

Hollywood steals ideas sometimes and then files for intellectual property rights. It’s shrewd and smart. (Read Philbert Dy’s stand on Stop Online Piracy Act and Hollywood here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ pinoycinephiles/permalink/ 341051095914275/. Mr. Dy is a film critic on Clickthecity.com)

‘Stolen’ art

Why are film companies and musicians complaining about their stolen stuff? I mean, they do those things for art and for the public, right? When a band is trying to enter the mainstream, it will literally give away its music to the public just to be recognized and to share its passion for music with everyone.

And it should be the case for music, films and books, which are all artworks. I know that artists deserve to be paid, but they should have listened to their parents when they were young: “That’s a poor man’s occupation, son. Look for a better livelihood.” That’s why these Hollywood giants are laughing – all the way to the bank – at you when they claim to have created a blockbuster. Simply put, you’re paying for bad entertainment that movie giants say you wanted to see in the first place!

Think about it. If you want to be heard globally, piracy is the best chance to do it. I have listened to a lot of unknown bands lately, and I was surprised at the hundreds, thousands, of awesome songs out there that are not getting any friendly airplay in the local radio stations.

And I am sure that these guys would be ecstatic if they found out that a country like the Philippines would appreciate them. In short, if they did a gig in Manila, for sure people would attend it mainly because people are actually familiar with them. Case in point: Norwegian band Kings of Convenience and Swedish band Club 8.

Gaiman

I’m sure everyone knows or has heard of Neil Gaiman. If you don’t, it’s time you met him. He’s in favor of piracy. He tells us two good points of piracy: the idea of lending media via the Internet and global advertising.

Even our friends in Australia found a way to sell a film via the use of torrents (http://www.thetunnelmovie.net/) when they were trying to gather funds so that they can show it globally.

Being force-fed with mediocrity is never a good thing. Consumers have the right to choose what we want and if there is an opportunity to sample-test first, then we should have that option. If we can do that with food, we should be able to do that with media too. Sopa/Pipa (See http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act) is not the answer for this.

Why don’t you guys in the movie and music industries create quality stuff instead?

Jay-R Trinidad is a cinephile who is a mainframe programmer by day and a wannabe hipster blogger by night. He is trying to beat his record of 860 films watched in a single year.

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