Monday, November 22, 2010

Do what you want, 'cause a pirate is free...

I love the smell of blatant B.S. in the morning--especially when it comes to the RIAA, aka Republic of Ignorant Assholes of America. That's what it stands for, right? No? Damn. Wrong again.

Before I start this long entry, please read everything in this link. It will disgust you how the RIAA has us by the balls, literally.

I have a long history with piracy, starting from when I was about 11 or 12 on 56K internet. We used what everyone else used back in those days: Napster. At the time, downloading one song took about an hour or so, depending on how many people had the song. Even with 200 people, it still took about 20 minutes. But between me and my sister and a few months, we downloaded maybe 50 songs! Holy smokes!

Shortly after, that's when Napster started getting a whole lot of media attention and kids my age were getting sued for sharing music. You'd think that would stop us, but my sister had the smarts to switch to a new program. It was a much smaller community, but most of the songs weren't mislabeled and/or viruses. Meanwhile, another 12 year old is getting sued while we dodge bullets. Also around this time, we started burning CDs to make room for more music, which we promptly shared with our friends. Lars Ulrich, I gotta admit: Master Of Puppets was on half of them. Don't worry, when I found out your stand on piracy, I immediately stopped listening to everything associated with you.

Napster was shut down at this point, and soon after we got DSL internet. Songs downloaded in minutes. I actually managed to download an entire album, song-by-song, in about a day. I was still buying a CD here and there, mostly because I wanted to support the artists. But some CDs were impossible to find because I liked a few bands that didn't have badass record deals. I would always check the band's website first to see if they had any songs up on there (some actually did) before scouring the internet. If they didn't have anything, all I had to do was ask around and someone would have it. Piracy still did not seem so evil.

At 15, I had my first run-in with Torrenting. I didn't quite understand it, but now I was downloading shows, movies, etc. My mom was spending hundreds of dollars on satellite TV that only worked during the winter because the trees blocked the dish, and they wanted her to install a pole herself to stick the dish on--with no reimbursement. Even if we had decent television, I still wouldn't have been able to watch shows from Japan, or the vast number of documentaries available as OnDemand didn't exist yet. I thought BitTorrent was probably the coolest thing since sliced bread, and I got hooked. I started downloading all sorts of stuff: music that I never would have had access to previously, shows I wouldn't have become addicted to...Hell, half the concerts I went to were bands that I found through friends linking me Torrents.

Still, I bought CDs. I continued to try and support artists and labels, because it made me feel better about what I was doing behind closed doors. Should the RIAA ever come knocking on my door, I would show them my massive CD collection, all of them scratched to shit and say, "I'm not a bad person." Apparently, the RIAA and the FCC don't care. Probably over the years, I have downloaded hundreds of terabytes of stuff that they think no one profited from.

But here's the real kicker: the only people that didn't profit from my downloading were the RIAA and the FCC themselves. I have spent hundreds of dollars on concert tickets, band merchandise, fan club/street team memberships, and much more--all of which contributed to the artists in one way or another. As for movies, I still go to the theater for things I really have to see on a big screen, and anything that's worth the money, I'll buy the DVD. Of course, I won't watch it on the DVD because of the 500 ads that I can't skip or the bullshit programs they want me to install just to watch one fucking movie. If it weren't for fansubs and torrent websites like BoxTorrents, hundreds of anime shows and movies would not be licensed here in the US to this day.

The sickest part about this whole "pirating" thing is that the RIAA claims pirates just want things free. That's not the case. I'm a huge stickler for copyright laws--however, the money I shell out deserves to go to those who really created what I'm purchasing, and not whoever is selling it. Record companies create contracts with bands that literally rape and pillage them for everything they are worth. For every CD they sell, they only get about $0.05, sometimes less. As for iTunes, none of that money goes to the artist (depending on the record label). If you're an indie band, you'll see some profit. Signed with WMG? Nothing. 500,000 downloads and they might give you 1/100th of the profit out of the "kindness" of their hearts.

So what about the lawsuits that are supposedly benefiting the artists? Apparently, that's all bullshit too. The RIAA is actually in debt from chasing around children and single parents, so they're asking the government to get involved with piracy (see: COICA). They've also commissioned ISPs into cutting out the middleman and just directly tracking everyone's download information, sending out letters with summons to court stapled to them. And now, any money they do get from these lawsuits goes directly into the RIAA's pockets to fund anti-piracy ads. They figure it will scare pirates away from downloading, because the last thing pirates want is to fund an anti-piracy campaign.

Fact of the matter is, piracy has basically been the figurehead for technology these days. Without Napster, we wouldn't have the iTunes store. Without BitTorrent, we wouldn't have 1TB external hard drives for chump change. Without TV Links, we wouldn't have Joost or Hulu. Many companies are now realizing that "free" doesn't always mean "profit loss". When you give more to people, they want more.

There are thousands of artists, comedians, directors, and actors that wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for people like us who got their name out. Do you honestly think Bo Burnham would be the youngest comedian to film a Comedy Central Presents if it weren't for YouTube? YouTube wouldn't even exist right now if it weren't for the love of sharing. Pirates are not thieves. We don't destroy businesses, we don't harm anyone. We have facilitated more to the economy, technology, and the entertainment industry than the RIAA, FCC, or anyone else has.

And if for whatever reason the RIAA is interested in this blog post, I have a message for you: you should take a note from the people you sue, who work hard for the money they have to fork over. People claim bankruptcy, lose their homes and cars, can't afford to feed their children--just because you missed out on $20 for a CD. When you scare people into doing something, they won't do business with you. Piracy hasn't boomed because of the pirates--you are the ones who tell me I could get your overpriced shit on the internet for free every time I put a DVD in.

You give yourself a bad name, and during your pathetic crusade, you have single-handedly made millions of people become pirates. Every news story that breaks about how you sued yet another 13 year old girl or someone in a wheelchair, people rush to the internet to download stuff. So instead of trying to destroy the one thing that has given you your tools against us, start working with them to figure out how you can make your customers happy--and I assure you, people might actually spend what little money they have.


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