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Archive for the ‘opinions’ Category

Music and movie piracy

29.01.2010 16:35

Earlier this week, it became clear that RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) wants to settle in the lawsuit against Jammie Thomas for $25,000. This is after the judge in that lawsuit had decreased the original $2 million “fine” (actually closer to $1.92) to $54,000 only a few days before. Not surprisingly, Thomas declined because they wanted her to accept it “without me knowing what I’m agreeing to”.

I would agree with Thomas here. I’d fight the ridiculously high demand to my very last breath. Not because I don’t want to pay for the music I have, but because I disagree with the methods these trade organizations (RIAA, IFPI, BSA and MPAA being the major offenders here) are using to battle content piracy (“content” being music, films, software and whatnot — I’m counting games under the “software” umbrella here, btw).

I admit, I download music, films and TV shows illegally on a semi-regular basis. But, I buy a lot of it legally as well.

Once the most recent episode of Heroes or CSI (just to mention a few) hit the pirate networks after being aired in the U.S. a few hours earlier, I download it (or, at the very least, later that same week, depending on when I remember to check in). I don’t want to wait until the one of the local TV networks decide to air it, mainly because they are constantly one or two seasons behind the U.S. broadcasts. And some of those TV shows are even available on the pirate networks in both standard definition and HD. For the sake of simplicity (and storage space), though, I usually go for the standard definition ones. That’s not to say I’m not willing to pay for it. Heck, I’d gladly pay a monthly subscription fee if I could get all of my favorite TV shows legally, and the second they are available from the respective production companies. The only services I’ve heard/read that do this, are only available to customers inside the U.S., which is a shame to me, as a customer in Norway. Sure, I can use a proxy service to mask my IP address as if I was in the U.S., but why go through all that trouble, when I can get the same episode from a pirate network for “free” – and keep the episode afterwards?

I’ve pirated a few movies as well. Whenever I’m very uncertain about whether the movie is worth the DVD price and/or shelf space, I usually download it from a pirate network first. If the movie was bad or disappointing, I’d leave it at that. If the movie was great or absolutely worth my money, I later go out and buy it on DVD. The latter has happened to me on several occasions; Chicken Little, Cloverfield, Jumper (the latter two being surprisingly underrated), just to mention a few.

I’ve also bought (or gotten as a present from my wishlist) Heroes (season 1 and 2), CSI (seasons 1 through 7) and Stargate SG-1 (all 10 seasons and the two movies following the series) on DVD as a result of downloading these illegally first.

The same goes for my music collection. I have roughly 30-40 music CDs (maybe even up to 50, I don’t have the exact count), but close to 60-70 GB of music on MP3 (roughly 13-14,000 songs), all of various quality (128-320 kbps). I don’t add to my collection as frequently as I did before, but I still get new music, roughly a half of a CD album’s worth once or twice a month. Some I get from pirate websites, of the AllofMP3 type, some I get from genuine online music stores (DRM-free).

The current count of DVD units (TV series seasons and movies) at the time of this post was close to 940, all purchased or gifted 100% legally, so in a way, I consider myself a good customer of the movie and TV industry. Yet, when I pop a DVD into my DVD player, I feel intruded upon whenever the usual video regarding piracy comes up (the one with “You wouldn’t steal a car…” etc). I can’t skip it (“next” or “menu” on my DVD remote), even though I’ve literally seen it thousands of times before. I feel like I’m being stamped as a criminal even though I’ve bought the movie myself. Besides, those who pirate this DVD is not likely to include that short video when they distribute it anyway. It has no purpose.

The only positive anti-piracy campaign I’ve seen, was a pamphlet included inside the cover of one of the DVDs I bought from Play.com (UK-based, which means region 2 encoded DVDs, suitable for all of Europe – for you Americans, they also have an American division for those region 1 DVDs). I don’t remember the exact words on this pamphlet, but it basically said that by buying this film legally, I support the creators and producers of the film, and encourage them to make more. Now, that’s the type of spirit I want to see.

No matter what these trade organizations do, they won’t be able to shut down piracy completely. If you shut down services like The Pirate Bay, a few weeks up to a month later, a new website just like it will pop up (either from the same creators or from some other part of the world) and become the most popular piracy website instead.

And yes, there are people who have the ideal of “everything should be free”, even if that applies to software, music, movies, TV shows or other performing arts.

I’m not saying they should just give up, I’m saying they need to reconsider their current business and earning model. They count each instance of illegally copying a song or movie file as a lost sale due to piracy. Trouble is, what if that person who illegally downloaded wasn’t going to buy that song or movie if he/she could afford it? What if that person wasn’t willing to spend money on something he/she had never heard of or seen before, or on something that has gotten very mixed reviews? A file is just a file, much like a piece of paper.

They treat each of these “lost sales” as a physical copy, even though they are not. Comparing movie piracy (through downloads) to the theft of a car is like comparing Apple and Orange. It just doesn’t work that way. Movie piracy is more like borrowing a book at the local library, scanning every page of that book into your computer, and then returning the book afterwards. Those scans are then given away to anyone who asks for it. The original physical copy is still intact as ever, but did the publishing company and/or author actually lose sales over it?

When portraying their current and potential customers as potential criminals (as they do with the today’s continuing campaigns), they are only going to deter the most skittish of pirates, while the piracy bigwigs won’t even flinch by these campaigns. Instead, they should rather promote the positive effects of paying for movies, music and software — like helping artists, producers, designers (and all others involved in the production process) to continue their work and make more.

Second, instead of fighting sites like AllofMP3 and The Pirate Bay with lawsuits and sanctions, they should rather look into why they are popular and see the business opportunities in the distribution and pricing models (of the type used in AllofMP3) used.

Also, when I’ve tried to watch a certain music video or try to access certain types of music/video content (non-porn, for those who try to insinuate something), I’ve been countered with the message that my country is not allowed to see that content. There are no real country borders on the Internet, and the rights owners should realize this by now. When there are things I want to access, but can’t do it legally only because of where I live (considering the content itself is not against any laws or regulations in my country), I’m more likely to obtain the same content illegally.

Also of note: first of all, the fines and outcomes of those close-to-frivolous lawsuits (by my standards) are not going to the actual artists whose rights have been stepped on. They more or less line the pockets of the executives and the executive branch of the industry. The artists and composers down the line are not compensated, as I’ve understood it.

Second, take a look at some of the targets of these lawsuits and/or fining campaigns (the latter being offering the target to settle the case for a single fine rather than going to court); single mothers, young students, grandmothers, children, computer novices and even dead people. This seems more like hunting for humpback whales with a BB gun and a butterfly net (terrible analogy, I know, but I’m just trying to project an image of futility here — btw, the bigwig pirates would be the “humpback whales” in this particular analogy).

There, I just had to get it off my chest.

The music industry needs to calm down

03.07.2009 16:39

As some of you might’ve heard, ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) want royalties on songs used as ringtones – each time the phone is ringing, effectively bringing entertainment industry representatives (ASCAP, RIAA, MPAA, etc) to a new level of stupid.

They are claiming that each time a phone rings with a certain ringtone, it’s an unauthorized performance of music (especially if there are people around to listen to it), and thus will require royalty payments for every time the phone rings with that ringtone. And that’s even when content providers pays royalties for selling ringtones to us consumers.

First of all, how would your carrier know what ringtone you have set? You might’ve changed your ringtone to one of a selection of songs already downloaded to your phone, or even used one provided by your phone manufacturer.

And second, what’s next? Royalties for each time you sing along with a song, or hums a tune? Or if there’s a song stuck in your head? I mean, come on!

Celebrity deaths and vacation details

01.07.2009 19:01

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave or otherwise completely inaccessible and unexposed to any type of news update during the last week, you probably know that Michael Jackson died recently.

Now, I know MJ was a great artist and dancer, but I also feel that he indeed was quirky at best as a person. Okay, fine, he probably was a pedohile (or at the very least had an extremely childish mind – way beyond the far end of normal, that is). Plus, his head in the recent couple of decades hasn’t been completely in the game, considering the plastic surgery and modifications (as I seriously doubt anyone has a chronic disease that permanently changes the color of your skin).

But now that he has passed away, I feel it’s time to forgive him for most of his quirkyness and remember him as the great artist, composer, choreographer, dancer and music producer that he was. I’m not saying we should let every detail go, but we should at the very least tone down the bad things about him for a while.

Just let his family, friends and fans mourn his passing in peace, mmmkay?

In the recent times, we shouldn’t forget that other celebrities have passed away as well; I’m of course talking about Farah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. Although Farah Fawcett wasn’t that big in Norway, and Ed McMahon even less known (bordering on unknown), I’ve seen references to the latter in other media (cartoons, movies, TV series and such). I know that these are all big names in the U.S. (and somewhat smaller in the rest of the world as well), and their passing should also be shown the same respect as if your best friend’s brother/sister/father/mother just passed away. In this entertainment-hungry world, big celebrity names might as well be just that close (as long as you don’t act on that closeness in a stalker-ish manner, of course).

On the brighter side of things, I’m lifting off in the direction of the U.S. of A. in a little less than 10 days and 17 hours from now. The first leg of the journey starts from the Ålesund airport at 10:40am (Norway time) Sunday next week, and I’m expected to land in Las Vegas (after an overnight in Orlando) at around 11pm the following Monday.

If you’re curious about the overnight in Orlando, it’s by my own arrangement and design, considering it was cheaper to book a flight (with return flight), first from Ålesund to Orlando, and then from Orlando to Las Vegas, rather than arranging direct flight routes from Ålesund to Las Vegas to Orlando and back to Ålesund. Here’s the full flight route, in case you’re curious:
Sunday, July 12: Ålesund, Norway – Oslo, Norway – Philadelphia, PA – Orlando, FL (total time: about 16 hours)
Monday, July 13: Orlando, FL – Denver, CO – Las Vegas, NV (total time: about 9.5 hours, 3.5 of them waiting in Denver – arriving in Las Vegas at 11pm)
Monday, July 20: Las Vegas, NV – Denver, CO – Orlando, FL (total time: also about 9.5 hours, and almost 4 of them waiting in Denver again – arriving in Orlando at almost 1am)
Monday, July 27: Orlando, FL – Philadelphia, PA – Oslo, Norway – Ålesund, Norway (total time: about 15 hours, arriving home at around 2pm the following Tuesday)

As you can imagine, it’s going to be a major bitch of travelling, but I’m trying to focus more on the fun I’ll have in the days between those long flights.

Some things have already been planned, some things are semi-planned (will do, but undecided on which day), and some things are yet to be decided.

As I’ve said previously, I’m staying at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Blue Man Group fans will already recognize that name from the fact that their Vegas show is at that very same hotel (which was also the main reason I chose that hotel). I’m planning on catching a show with them while in Vegas, and maybe even a show with Penn & Teller (I’m a bit of a fan of them too). No idea which day(s) that will be, though.

If you’re in the Las Vegas area and want to hang out with a fat Norwegian guy, do let me know.

And as I’m staying at the Loews Pacific Resort Hotel in Orlando, I’m going to spend a few days at the Universal Studios Orlando park (I do have a few attractions I definitely want to catch while there). The hotel package I selected also includes a Blue Man Group show Wednesday evening (the 9pm show on the 22nd), plus the big fan meet is on Saturday, so those are the only things that are locked in.

And yesterday, I bought myself a ticket for two days at Disney World (I wanted to check out a certain selection of attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom and Epcot – and yes, considering two days spread over 3 theme parks, I did add the Park Hopper option to my tickets), considering it’s a 25-30 minute drive from my hotel at Universal. I’m not really a rollercoaster guy, so it’s going to be mostly 3D movies, simulator rides and a couple of galleries and tours at both Disney World and Universal Studios. In particular, I’m at least catching the MuppetVision ride at Disney Hollywood Studios, the Simpsons ride at Universal and the studio backlot tours at both. I’ve planned it to a point where I have a specific list of attractions I want to check out (some of them even clearly marked out on a printout of the park maps found online). I’ve yet to decide which two days I’ll spend at Disney World, though, but I will have to find out when I arrive, as I have to let the Mears service know at least 24 hours before going to the Disney parks (I’ve already booked the attraction shuttle ride from my hotel to the attraction and later back to the hotel).

Not to worry, this painful planning process is only a rough outline on how to get the most fun out of every park hour available.

And so far, I don’t know about the quality of the Mears service, but I liked the way I could make my shuttle reservation (and payment) online and way in advance. The price wasn’t too bad, either – from the airport to my hotel (round-trip) cost me $29, plus $18 per attraction transport (two days to Disney World), a total of $65 for all the transportation I’ll need in Orlando. And I can even make adjustments to the whole itinerary until the day before my first arrival (judging by the time listed in my confirmation e-mail, I’d have to say about 12 hours before my first use of their service). All pre-paid and ready when I finally arrive. One less thing to think about. I’ll get back to you on how that went, though.

And before you start suggesting rental cars: I don’t drive. I don’t even have a license. For now, I’m using buses to get around in Ålesund (and the occasional taxi), and I’m doing just fine.

And again, if you want to hang out while I’m in Las Vegas or Orlando, just let me know.

I’m also on Twitter now, giving the occasional update.

I’ve also booked cell phone rental (actually just a SIM card, as I’m using my own phone) while I’m in the U.S., but I won’t know the number until next Wednesday (when the rental company starts shipping the SIM card to the Orlando airport hotel where I’ll have my first overnight stay). I’ll publish that number on Twitter when I know (and maybe here, depending on whether I remember doing it).

Cartoon trouble

10.02.2006 01:50

As most of you have caught up in recent news, the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten published a caricature of Mohammed, the Muslim prophet. Knowing full well that depicting the prophet is against Islamic law, several other European newspapers republished these caricatures for some strange reason, among others, a Christian extremist newspaper called “Magazinet”. I have a feeling that they did this just to piss someone off.

These events generally caused Norwegians to become targets in countries and cities heavily influenced by Islam, with flag burning, riots and physical attacks against Norwegian offices and tourists in those countries. Not police, though, but by rioting groups. And it almost feels like we’re on the brink of World War III, which I seriously hope never comes into fruition.

The newspapers and magazines that have published these caricatures claim freedom of speech as the reason for doing this.

I think this is wrong. With freedom of speech also comes the personal responsibility for what you’re saying. Say the wrong things, and people get insulted. I’m not saying we should abolish freedom of speech altogether, but I think that those who have the freedom also should take the responsibility to not directly offend anybody’s religion, race, gender or sexuality.

The rioters were also demanding that our government apologize for the insult. Trouble is, with freedom of speech also comes the fact that a gathered country can’t take responsibility for what a single person expresses. If they’re going to paint targets, do it to the ones who were insulting them instead of targetting an entire country. We don’t all have that same opinion, and people should respect that.

I heard a good example today that could help you get a feel for how muslims react to this issue: How would you feel if someone either found a nude picture of your grandmother or constructed one and then published the picture on the front page of a nation-wide newspaper? False or not, “all” they did was use their freedom of speech, expressing their opinion of the world or their skills as an artist. Even so, it doesn’t make it right, does it? There’s a fine line between trying to provoke a reaction and outright stupidity, apparently. If you have something you know will violate the emotions of an innocent person or a group of innocent people, the freedom of speech you should exercise is to not publish it. You know, spare their feelings.

At least something good came out of it; the editor of the Norwegian newspaper was reported to the police by the Muslim Al-Jinnah Foundation. It’s good to see that doing something like this isn’t entirely without legal consequenses.

Aftenposten: Caricature publisher reported to police

I’d like to say that I don’t side either with the rioters or the publishers. The rioters on their side went too far with their death threats against the people who were even remotely involved with the publishing of the caricatures (such as Norwegians or Danes in general). The publishers on their side went too far by throwing these caricatures into their newspapers. Bad ideas from both ends, I think.

Death threats are medieval ways in this modern world. Modern times react better to lawsuits. I say that all Muslims take up class action suits against the newspapers that published the caricatures. Judging by the widespread of Islam in today’s world, single lawsuits are a waste of time; several gathered class action lawsuits would be more effective in my opinion.

Go ahead. If you’re a Muslim reading this, gather up your friends and fellow believers in your region and get in touch with lawyer. I’m sure there’s something you could figure out there.

Silly Christian extremists

22.07.2005 02:16

Some of you might’ve noticed these two recent headlines:

CNN.com: Congressman suggests way to retaliate for nuclear terror
CNN.com: Muslims denounce congressman’s statement

Now this is a congressman who’s judgmental and that has no idea about the workings of the real world. Let me just put things in perspective.

If a group of rouge catholics bombed some target within the U.S., like some big landmark building or even an entire city, would that entitle this congressman to green light a bombing mission against the Vatican State? The terrorists in this example were catholic, after all.

In fact, what Tom Tancredo entirely missed out on, is the fact that real muslims are against the terrorist attacks made by so-called other muslims. I say “so-called”, because what they are doing, has nothing to do with the Islamic religion whatsoever. Islam teaches high respect of all life. Even I have caught up that little factoid, and I’m an agnostic. Islam even teaches respect towards other religions, in terms of “we all believe in the same god, even it has a different name or is split up into more than one god”.

Come to think of it, all religions teach some level of respect towards other life and religions, except for the Christian religions. You’d have to look a long way for religions more intolerant towards other religions and ways of life than the Christian religions.

The hate towards homosexuality comes from the Christian religions. The believers say that it says so in The Bible that it’s wrong. You know what? I looked that one up. According to Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” That’s one sentence. That’s ONE FRIGGIN’ SENTENCE. And that’s it. I know of another story that covers things wrong with that book….

Susan Stepney, jokes: an open Letter to Dr. Laura, by J. Kent Ashcraft

Read further down on that page for more crazy quotes from the ol’ book. If you don’t have The Bible at hand, you can look up the passages on site such as Bible on the Web. The passages are for real, and they really do say that.

Now, what if a Christian extremist decides to take upon the role of being the judge of all mankind by using The Bible in a literal context? Bush has already rolled the ball, other Christian conservatives keep pushing that ball through the snow. At some point, some nut is bound to stockpile a bunch of dangerous weapons and is planning to use these as punishment for how people have abandoned the “rules” of that old rag some use for spiritual guidance.

Don’t get me wrong; many things in The Bible contains good ways to behave, parts which have the basic unwritten rules of what we call common sense in writing. It’s just that this old thing is bound for a rewrite to fit the society of today. Keep in mind that not much of the contents has changed in this book for almost 2000 years. That is, if you’re Christian and has the New Testament expansion pack. If you’re working off the basic edition, it’s even older than that.

Returning to the congressman’s statement this week, I think he could use a real slap on the wrist. Or the face. He and a whole bunch of conservative Christians need a real eye-opener before it’s too late. Before the next terrorist attack attributed to a so-called muslim. Before the next mistake of a war comes to life.

The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005

28.04.2005 17:07

This week in America, “Dubyasigned a legislation named the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which is a “movie piracy and filtering bill” (according to GovTrack).

Now, I don’t mind it being illegal to make distribution copies (ie. not backups in case something should go wrong), but that filtering part of it just makes me mad. I mean, when will it stop? So much for the “land of the free and the home of the brave” when the freedom is ripped from you by means of additional legislation, lawsuits or overzealous politicians, and the brave are just sitting around, waiting for someone else to do something about it.

Quoted from the CNN news story:
The bill gives legal protections to the fledgling filtering technology that helps parents automatically skip or mute sections of commercial movie DVDs. Bush signed it privately and without comment, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

There goes the artistic freedom out the window along with the actual parenting responsibility of parents. It’s simply allowing parents to slack off when it comes to being parents to their children. I mean, for crapping out loud, the movie ratings are there for a reason, right? “Not intended for ages below 18”. OK, so don’t let your children under 18 watch it, then.

In other political news from the US this week, Gerald Allen (Alabama) wants to ban all books containing subjects about homosexuality as well as books written by homosexual authors. As librarian Donna Schremser points out, this seems to be the beginning of some sort of “though police”. Now that’s 1984. George Orwell might’ve been right after all, he just missed the year of the events by a few decades.

By the way, from what I can tell, you can read the entire book 1984 by George Orwell online, and for free. Also, I’d recommend watching the movie with the same name, starring John Hurt (“Alien”, “Contact”, “Hellboy”).