Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The right to own DVDs

A report on picks up on an article in the Malaysian paper, The Star, about penalties for having illegal DVDs, even for private use. That sliding feeling again ...
Pirate copies of publicly-available films on DVD are clearly wrong. It must be unlawful to copy a DVD version of the film, to record it off-air (except for whatever limited purposes the law might allow, as our copyright law does for time-shifting - which sounds as if it might be related to what Phaedrus experienced ...) or to use a camera to grab a copy in the cinema. On holiday in Spain in recent years, I have noticed that the DVDs available to rent (within the expat English community at least) are all copies, and I suspect I might find something similar in England if I ventured into the right part of the underworld - but I have little interest in watching the latest from Hollywood, anyway.
What about when the film is not available? That seems to be the argument in Malaysia. There's also an argument based on the price at which it's available. Of course, illegal copying of anything would disappear immediately if the anything were available free of charge - or even for a modest cost. Film producers, and record companies, must set their prices at the level at which they expect to maximise profits (or do they? Why are CDs and DVDs priced so uniformly? Is a CD from one artist really worth the same as a CD from another artist? The selling price might be identical - but market clearing or profit maximising might call for a different price). Just because one can't afford the DVD, or CD, doesn't mean one can procure an illegal copy.
Well, back in the days when (as I just defined the era) Frank Zappa was unknown to FT readers and there was an Iron Curtain to show how different various political and social systems could be, I had an extensive collection of tapes made from friends' LPs. I also had no grasp of copyright law - but that's another matter. I am wiser as well as being older. I couldn't afford to buy all those LPs - after all, they cost as much as £2, sometimes even £2.50, each - so I taped them, and my friends taped my records, or would have done except that my collection was so eclectic that they probably didn't want to bother. I had some rarities on tape, which couldn't be obtained any other way, but mainly I admit it was sheer volume, not scarcity, that drove me. And others.
I still have some rarities on tape, somewhere - old Dylan bootlegs. There's the scarcity argument. 30 years ago his 1966 concerts were only available in bootleg form. The people who made the records could face prosecution but the fans who bought them did no legal wrong. Nearly everyone (excluding the Grateful Dead) takes a much more prorietary view of their rights now: plus, record companies and film studios are rather bigger entities, with more shareholders to satisfy. The people who make copies of music and films that they cannot afford are and must always be infringers: they should never be criminals. People who make unlawful copies on a commercial scale are and must always be infringers: whether they are also criminals is another matter, and I would say let the industry enforce civil rights before hastening to criminalise the activity, which often forms part of a wider range of activities which is clearly criminal anyway.
And price the product to make it available to all!

No comments:


blogger templates | Make Money Online