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Piracy Is Not Free Speech

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By Ron Merk

If you think that free downloads of your favorite movie, TV show or music are your “right” – think again. If you assume that the use of other people’s work in your own work (without paying them) is an excise of free speech and that you have a right to use any portion of their work to express your own ideas, then stop thinking and start listening. You’re wrong.

If the creators of the work you are are “borrowing” to use in your film can’t get something back from their effort and financial investment, why would anyone in their right mind continue to create new work for your future “borrowing?” Now there are those who say that if we can all use other people’s work to re-combine with our ideas, to “mash” things as the jargon goes, that we’d have a great new world where creativity will have no limits. Here’s the problem with that idea. Everything cannot be free if we want to have high quality work to enjoy. Someone has to pay to make a film or TV program or music recording. If you think it’s your right to use someone else’s work without compensating them, then would you consider it okay to pick their pocket of a dollar bill?

What do you mean, “it’s not the same.” In my opinion. It is.

There seems to be a big division in opinions about this subject, right along the lines of what generation might be considering the question. From the time that Napster starting appropriating the work of others and making money from it without paying the creators, a whole new mindset has developed, mostly among younger people that EVERYTHING should be free. Of course, this is an idiotic idea. If you ask someone who has this opinion WHY they think they can download a copyrighted work from a pirate site they just shrug their shoulders as if they have never heard of the idea of copyright or the right of a creator to benefit from the ownership of a copyright and the financial results of their creativity. HUH?

If we point out to people that there is a simple value vs. cost factor in all creativity, and that people will invest less and less in a project as revenues are decreasing, it would seem inevitable that at some point “smart money” would go elsewhere, and what we will wind up with is amateur work and nothing else. Junk shot at 4K with nothing more to it than someone’s ego at the center and no talent, no story worth telling, and a film industry turned into a film hobby.

The only people making money from the “democratization” of the creative process (filmmaking, photography, etc.) are the people creating and selling the equipment and computer programs that make this work “easy as pie.” It’s all well and good, but we now have a whole generation of people who think that anything they put up on the screen is a movie. It’s not. Creative expression without talent and education is like a chimp doing watercolor. It’s hardly creative, and it’s barely expression. Art means making choices.

I know I’ve hammered this idea a number of times in my written pieces on Indieplex, I can’t stress any more how important this idea is. You can’t be a professional overnight. You can’t be a film genius with your first posting on Vimeo or YouTube. And you can’t be a professional unless filmmaking is your day job, one that pays the bills.

If you want to know more about how we, and I’m assuming you are part of that we (creative professionals who make their living from their work) can do something about the erosion of our revenues by piracy, then you should check out the work of Ruth Vitale and Creative Future. Please take the time to check our their website and by getting involved in what they’re doing to help protect our work. The URL is http://creativefuture.org

Their mission statement is very clear, and hard to disagree with:

CreativeFuture promotes the value of creativity in today’s digital age. We embrace expanded audience access to content in ways that reward creativity and hard work. We are united in opposition to for-profit theft of creative works, which jeopardizes the rights of all creative individuals, puts jobs at risk, and undermines new business models and distribution platforms. Our mission is to empower the creative community to speak with one collective and powerful voice – advancing a positive, dynamic vision of a digital future that better serves audiences and artists alike.

Think about it. Think very hard. Your future and the future of the film and entertainment industry depends on you making the right choice.