SOPA Not a Solution to Online Piracy

Isiah Reyes, El Vaquero Staff Writer

It’s true that online piracy hurts companies that sell intellectual property, but there is a benefit from having their products spread all over the Internet.

Digital piracy is the act of obtaining materials online without paying for them. It can range from downloading one song to downloading an entire library of movies.

Media companies and the U.S. government have tried to thwart the duplication of copyrighted content for years. This year, Congress proposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which would have given law enforcement more tools to fight online trafficking of copyrighted material, as well as limited the public’s access to sites that upload the copied goods.

Digital piracy is a problem for the music, movie, gaming, and software industries. But Internet censorship by the U.S. government is not the solution. Restricting the Internet is appalling because it infringes upon our freedom of speech.

The solution to piracy is to have the product itself installed with anti-piracy software, which has been done in the past. For example, companies have placed anti-copying software on their CDs that requires an authorization code for the product to be used. Another common practice is limiting downloadable content to how many devices it can be placed on.

Also, education campaigns against piracy in schools are a way of informing the new generation on the topic of piracy, a solution that could limit illegal downloading in the long run.

Both the SOPA and PIPA bills have been postponed until the issues raised against can be resolved. The presidential administration has called on legislature to put forth an online piracy law by the end of the year.

When it comes to music, the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow can adapt to piracy and use it to their advantage today.

An increase in illegal downloads means an increase in potential fans, which equals more people wanting to buy the product and attend shows. Piracy can help build a buzz in the community and save the artist money from spending cash on marketing.

Some independent musicians supported the bills because they wanted to be paid for the content they created. That makes sense. However, there will always be some form of stealing, so the artists should use piracy to their advantage as a way of marketing their product.

Karen Croxson, an economist at Oxford University, published an article called Promotional Piracy. She classifies profit from four types of consumers: safe sales, people who will always buy legitimate copies; never consume, people who don’t buy legitimate copies and don’t illegally download anything; profit-friendly piracy, people who will not buy the product but illegally download it; and threatened sales, people who would buy the product but decide to pirate instead.

Looking at consumers from this point of view is more realistic than saying everyone who ever downloads anything is hurting the entertainment industry. Those who would not have bought the product because they don’t have money are not a sales loss since they would not have purchased the good.

Of course, that does not mean that they are entitled to the product just because they can’t afford it.
The Institute for Policy Innovation estimates more than 373,000 lost American jobs and $16 billion lost employee earnings resulted from piracy. However, it’s hard to determine losses because not everything that is pirated is something that would have been bought.

When it comes to music, major record labels do create the advertising needed to spread the word, but at the end of the day, these same record labels are the ones that keep most of the revenue from album sales. Most bands get their money from touring and selling band-related merchandise.
Many artists have had success with giving away albums for free. Word of mouth from fans on social media websites is just as effective as a giant billboard. If people really like something, they will pay money for it.

As for gaming manufacturers, they can’t really benefit from promotional piracy because their products are for the younger crowd who has less income. Microsoft and Sony’s game servers authorize real and fake copies and ban people who play with pirated copies online. So for those who do obtain their games illegally, they aren’t able to use all its features if the game is playable online.

This is a much better solution than having the U.S. government limiting a web that is supposed to be worldwide.

In the end, yes it’s bad to steal. Yes it’s wrong to take something that is copyright protected without paying for it. But to say that there isn’t a single benefit to those who are having their goods copied are not looking at the issue from all angles.