The perfect anti-piracy law!

anti-piracy My friend Michelle, the most famous blogger in Quebec, recently re-opened the Pandora box (text in French) about content piracy. Her case is simple: as an avid Lost fan, she simply has no legal means to watch the first 4 episodes of this season to catch up to her recorded episodes.

Another friend, Philippe Martin, tweeted about an article from France that talks about the 3 strikes law they are looking to adopt in France. In France, some suggested an amendment that propose to intervene only when the downloaded content is already available on the Internet. Interesting idea. In another tweet, Philippe points me to “Quebecor Opens Door to Canadian Three Strikes Policy”.

With the CRTC currently investigating net neutrality and being lobbied by companies such as Quebecor for a law similarly abusive than what a few countries like France want, I decided to play the role of a legislator and ask myself:

What would be the perfect anti-piracy law?

I don’t know if it’s perfect, but I think I came up with a damn good one.

Please note that to simplify the language I loosely use the term content owner. I am targeting the music and movie industry when referring to content owners.

Here’s the draft of my perfect anti-piracy law:

  • An individual can download and share digital content from any source unless:
    • the content has already been made available for download by the content owner
    • the content was never released for personal listening or viewing by the content owner
    • the content made available by the content owner is not copy protected

I haven’t talked about any coercive measures. That wasn’t the point. I wouldn’t wish for ISPs to spy on individuals. The point is that if you make content available for download through purchase (or freely with advertising), you are answering the needs of the consumer. You wouldn’t have any excuse to pirate and it would be easier to go against real pirates (those who profit from piracy).

Such a law would be progressive because it forces the music and movie industry to rethink their business model.

For example, no more region locking. If Hollywood wouldn’t make a movie available for download in Canada but would in the USA, it would be fare game for Canadians to download and share freely. It would force them to review global licensing issues.

It would also incite Canadian content owners to offer their content for download across the globe. I think it would benefit artists and everyone involved. I am confident artists would increase their royalties through increased sales.

It’s also important to allow individuals to be able to play the content the way they want to play it. To simplify things for consumers, content should not be copy protected. If I want to play my purchased movie through an iPod, the computer, an XBox, whatever, I should be able to. If I want to play a digital movie I purchased on the TV screen instead of the computer, I should be able to. Hollywood is just realizing, though the Hulu/Boxee saga that digital content can be played on the TV and want to control how users play Hulu’s content. It’s laughable since it is technologically easy to have a browser control play content on any screen, including the TV.

I also think we should force download availability as a prerequisite of content availability. Streaming-only technology put limits on the way we can play content (we need an Internet link). So, if a content is only made available through streaming, downloadable copies should be fare game to individuals.

What do you think?

What would be your perfect anti-piracy law?

7 thoughts on “The perfect anti-piracy law!

  1. You have my vote Jerome

  2. If I decide to make a movie and I want to show it only on TV, why do you want to force me to show it on other mediums?

    I think these approaches go against the freedom of the content owners.

    If we want to encourage content owners to publish in new ways we should do so through incentives rather than coercion.

    I think that content will naturally go to the internet and content providers will find opportunities there to make profit, so I see no societal benefit from infringing on their freedoms to try to accelerate the process.

  3. It’s a good point. The way I formulated the law, it effectively allows the loophole you mentioned. The second point “the content was never released for personal listening or viewing by the content owner” is pretty vast. It’s evident a movie theatre showing is not considered personal viewing. For a TV show, it applies.

    The concept of the second point is primarily to ban region-locking concepts.

    A TV broadcast is already in grey territory as nothing currently forbids me to record the show and pass it to a friend. But, making it available to the Internet at large would probably put me in trouble. On the other hand, if the show has value, today, you can be sure someone will pirate it and make it available. If the content owner does not put the show for download with a fee, he loses revenues he could get otherwise. It does not make economic sense in the first place to not make the show available for download.

    If the show is only offered in the UK and people find it has value, you can today be assured that pirates will also make it available for download by people in other countries. Content owners lose again.

    A concept behind the law is to promote new business models where content owners make more money and the country also benefits from these revenues. It’s a way to protect content owners against their stupidity.

    As a compromise, I might be ready to offer a delay of a day or two before the show is made available for download to at least give time to content owners to package the content.

    As for the freedoms of the content owners, they are already free to make it available today only on TV. The end result is the same: if it is any good, they will lose revenues from pirating. It does not make any economic sense to try to go after pirates when you already have a solution to generate more revenue. So, the law would help the industry stop wasting money going after money you can hardly get back (through lawsuits) and favour going after more revenues for the content.

    If a country was to implement such a law, we would surely see some disruptions. The distribution costs would be much lower and there would be more loyalties available for everyone involved in a production. On the other hand, consumers would win with easy access to content through legal means. Remaining pirates would also have fewer incentives to make content available for download, since it is already readily available. This might make them less likable and acceptable at the same time.

  4. Greg

    What do you mean she has no legal way of watching lost? why can’t she buy the seasons on DVD? If they’re not sold anymore, certainly she can buy them on ebay, right?

  5. Dave

    The perfect law is no law at all.

    Here’s an idea: How about the music producers finally realize they aren’t required to be middle-men anymore and just go the hell away?

    It’s the 21st century. Time to start accepting it.

  6. If we want to encourage content owners to publish in new ways we should do so through incentives rather than coercion.

    I think that content will naturally go to the internet and content providers will find opportunities there to make profit, so I see no societal benefit from infringing on their freedoms to try to accelerate the process.

  7. Great ideas for the anti-piracy law. But don’t you think these would be very difficult to implement or execute? There are still a lot of gray borders to define. And there are also many more piracy regulation issues to be resolved. Don’t you think it would still take a long while for piracy issues to be resolved?

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