Adapt Or Die: Piracy And Big Government

June 1st, 2012 - R. Rados 

Your business is on the brink. The market around you has rapidly changed in a single decade and sales just aren't what they used to be. New mediums have allowed your products to be accessed in ways that were impossible in 1990. New businesses have sprung up, some of the old ones have survived, some haven't. The ones who have survived have learned how to adapt to a changing environment. This is how the free market works.

When they don't know what else to do, most people have a natural inclination to show up on the doorsteps of bureaucrats with their hands out, palms up and begging for help. Panhandling has become a trademark of the the big Hollywood film studios and record labels since the inception of the internet. In their case, however, they're not begging for cash, they're begging for favours.

Imagine if we could all knock on Mother Nature's door (or God's door – whatever you believe) and ask her to save us from the cruel world by changing the laws of nature and physics to suit our needs. To hell with gravity, could you please get rid of it? It just gets in the way and causes glasses and planes to smash into the ground and my balls to sag. What a nuisance. While you're at it, could you please strike down anyone who looks at me the wrong way, buds in front of me in a line-up, or accidentally screws up my order in a restaurant. These people are a major inconvenience and I really don't feel like having to change my own habits just to tolerate them. I'd much rather see them thrown in prisons or executed. You know, because I'm more superior than all of them.

Oh, and could you also turn all stairs into escalators, make traffic lights obsolete, make cardio vascular fitness and dieting unnecessary in maintaining a healthy heart, eliminate all winters by changing the Earth's axis so I never have to be cold again, get rid of all good-looking men so I don't have to worry about competition, and make labour and work obsolete? Great. Thanks. I don't feel much like adapting to my environment right now. Maybe later.

This is what Hollwood studios and recording studios do on a daily basis. If our friends did this, we'd call them whiny cunts and tell them to shut the fuck up.

We all know that this isn't The Matrix and our reality won't change, regardless of how hard we pray or hope. We haven't mastered quantum mechanics just yet. But, those lucky corporations could throw away their parkas and dismantle their furnaces because the big bad government would try to stop winter just for them.

You can refuse to do what you have to do to survive. Go ahead. Try it. You'll die...unless you're a Hollywood studio or a record company. Then you could just ask that big omnipotent government to change your environment, or wrap you in a nice big bubble to protect you from the elements.

Some will argue that new and proposed copyright laws that criminalize individuals for accessing material in the safety of their own homes without shedding blood are nothing more than an effort to update existing copyright laws to modern standards. Sure, this is true if you're a sucker who falls for clever wording.

Bootlegging is theft, yes. Sneaking into a movie without paying is illegal, yes. Sneaking a recorder into a theatre and reproducing copies and selling them on the street is illegal, yes. The problem with the digital realm is that there are no physical copies, and to watch a movie there is no sneaking required. Enforcing laws that criminalize stealing, broadcasting, or watching non-physical products in the privacy of a home is nearly impossible and open to abuse.

Child pornography is unlike piracy and should not be clumped into the same category for matters of convenience. Unlike piracy, child porn has victims. Real victims that have lost their personal sanctity, not just a few dollars. Child pornography produces victims through its production. Its consumption produces more demand and, thus, more production. 

I'm not going to get into the specifics about how some new copyright laws are either illogical or logical. Some of them probably are and some of them probably aren't. The only way to enforce some of them is by breaking existing privacy laws. Thus, the studios and record labels won't be able to successfully use the government to win their battles. Also, accurately tracing something that isn't quite physical is far too difficult and could lead to wrongful convictions. Difficulty enforcing these new digital laws is enough reason to not bother.

The internet is like the Wild West, but it's a separate and non-physical anarchistic entity. It's impossible to enforce without producing victims and criminals in the real world. The internet is a combination of chaos and order. It's not something that can be conquered through draconian politics.

Most whiny Hollywood studio executives and record producers would be called capitalists. However, they act more like socialists that depend on government to solve their problems. The same conservative lawmakers that deride welfare and excessive regulation are quick to defend intellectual property by passing new laws that turn harmless taxpayers into criminals. These new laws act as nothing more than corporate welfare and they seem a lot like protectionism. Creativity and competition are supposed to be the catalysts for innovation and evolution, but who needs any of that when you have laws. So much for the free market and laissez-faire economics. So much for calling yourself a conservative, a libertarian, or a capitalist.

There are things that Hollywood could do to adapt to the changing environment without the government's help. One of which might involve converting from film to digital. David Fincher is known for doing up to fifty takes per scene. Retakes with film can cost millions because thousands of metres worth of celluloid are literally being wasted. Retakes with digital only cost pennies. With modern enhancements, digital can be made to look exactly like film and better.

A good example of evolution is Netflix. Once a mail-order rental service, the company turned itself into a billion dollar digital service that major cable providers and network studios now hate. The company is beginning to produce its very own original content, exclusive to Netflix. Welcome to the future, Hollywood. Get used to it.

Hey, Time-Warner and Universal, you might need to hire more affordable actors, move online, downsize your giant studios, and start producing movies that don't have predictable endings and corny cliches. The reason box office numbers are down is because no one wants to pay to see a movie they could write themselves while sitting in a smelly theatre and munching on ten dollar popcorn. Didn't you hear? Samsung is manufacturing 60” LCDs and Bose has a sound system that makes UltraAVX sound like a ghetto blaster. Until Cineplex puts couches in their theatres, the new trend is pointing towards my living room.

My point is clear. Anyone who dares to call themselves advocates for small, reasonable government and free markets cannot support criminalizing citizens and expecting taxpayers to prop up a dying industry. I don't respect freeloaders and leeches that suck the blood from the veins of civilization, but I also don't support laws and regulations that attempt to halt evolution by preserving an unsustainable industry that has lost its luster. Hollywood has failed to produce anything completely original in nearly two decades. Cinema is overpriced and it can't compete. With technology, musicians are capable of not only producing and recording their own music, but distributing it themselves. The times have changed.

Stopping freeloaders doesn't need to be the government's job. Corporations and industries should be required to fend for themselves using nothing more than creativity and innovation. Musicians, filmmakers, artists, and writers do suffer. However, they're more often victims of their employers than of piracy itself.

The costs of self publishing have dropped to historic lows. Anyone can do it. The options are unlimited for true, genuine artists who are looking to be noticed. Serving the corporate overlords is no longer necessary, unless their terms are reasonable. Today, this is seldom the case. Through evolution and Darwinian economics, corporations will eventually be forced to adhere to the demands of the artists. If governments continue to pander to corporations, artists will continue to be enslaved. Some corporations hate the internet and self publishers. All corporations hate free will. For most of them, competition is just a nuisance.

Furthermore, artists and writers will have to accept the fact that they may not be able to make as much money as they once did. This might be the new reality. Adaptation and survival apply to everyone.

To sum it all up, if you believe that governments should back off, you have no business supporting new anti-piracy laws. Most people like to use government when its convenient for them to do so. Everyone wants their cake and they want to eat it too. This is the habit of an unprincipled and undisciplined mind. You either want a big intrusive government, or you don't. Suck it up and pick one. Make a choice. Set some philosophical boundaries for yourself and accept the changing environment. Quit enabling the whiners in Hollywood. Let them know that it's time to adapt...or die.