Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #950: Digital Dumb-Assery

The rise of the internet and new digital mediums, has opened new avenues for the transmission of information, music, video, and even books.

It has also opened new avenues for egregious stupidity that could easily kill the golden goose, and mostly over who owns what is defined as "intellectual property." The media corporations don't know what to do when it comes to digitized intellectual property, so they either come up with wonky rules or lash out in erratic ways that make no sense and do more harm to their cause than good.

First up is iTunes which is looking at a court battle which I would like to call: "iHard With A Vengeance."

Trust me, once you here the story, you'll think that name was brilliant.

It all hinges on the simple fact that you don't legally own the songs and other material you buy on iTunes.  You are, in fact, buying a license to use that material on appropriate gadgets until the day you die, then it all goes back to iTunes and the record companies.

Not many people know that since it's buried deep in the "user agreement" or "terms of use" that very few people actually read in full, and even fewer understand.

One person who has read the agreement, or had his lawyers read it is actor Bruce Willis.
What he's discovered has pissed him off, and reports are saying that he's planning to take iTunes to court

You see, Willis has a large music collection, and he wants to leave that collection to his family in his will the way he would have left a collection of vinyl record albums or a stack of CDs.

"Ixnay on the eavinglay" declared the iTunes terms of use in a shocking use of the Latin language, because all your songs really belong to us. 

Willis might have a case, since all of iTunes advertising say "buy your music" instead of "rent the license in order to have permission to use your music for a limited time determined by the company," which is what iTunes is really selling.

iTunes will then claim all kinds of obscure copyright regulations, which might have more legal weight, but very little moral weight because it involves removing ownership from the customer of a good the customer paid money for on the good faith belief that they will own them.

But that's not the only thing.

Big media companies are terrified of piracy, and with good reason, it costs them millions of dollars each year. However, there tactics seem intent on giving the pirates the moral high ground.

The most recent exhibition of copyright law enforcement dumb-assery was the Hugo Awards given at the World Fantasy Convention.

If you don't know, the Hugo Awards, named after groundbreaking editor Hugo Gernsback, are to honor the best writing of science fiction and fantasy in multiple mediums including novels, short stories, film and television.

This is where the idiocy comes in. The awards ceremony was being broadcast live on the internet via the Ustream service. It was all going well until they got to the television awards.

The Hugos had permission to air clips from the nominated shows, but no one bothered to tell the automated piracy hunting bots that the media companies.

The bots shut down the broadcast right in the middle of the TV awards, pissing off legions of science fiction and fantasy fans.

Once again, the big media companies show zero competence in managing access to intellectual property, and engaged in the sort of heavy handed tactics that make pirates look like the good guys.

Big media needs to get some serious common sense if they're going to survive this major shift in how people get, use, and share intellectual property, because they're definitely doing it wrong now.


  1. Would the money paid at least go back to your estate? If not, the HUMANCENTiPAD is looking more pleasant and reasonable.

  2. I can't wait for all this mess with digital distribution to be sorted out. This story is just just a tiny part of the problem - limited international distribution, forced language versions (hate dubbed movies? too bad), region locking, not online = can't use (even if the files are all there on your harddisk), DRM in form of spyware. When a video game asks you to submit a scan of your passport to confirm your identity torrents suddenly seem to be the only sane option.