Lambert 1(Robert) Curtis LambertEnglish 101Professor Bolton25 June 2012 The Persistent Piracy Plethora or “What’s wrong with downloading music and movies for free?” Lawrence Lessig’s essay, “Some Like it Hot,” addresses the pressing issue of the currentdigital age: is media piracy, in any form, really wrong? Lessig is a professor of law at StanfordUniversity and is the founder of the Center for Internet and Society. The Center is a self-proclaimed leader in the study of the law surrounding the internet and all other emergingtechnologies. Therefore, one would presume that the author has considerable knowledge of thelaws covering media and technology, so his assertion that there are still some unansweredquestions about the legality of media piracy is unsettling. According to Lessig, “The question isone of balance, weighing the protection of the law against the strong public interest in continued[media] innovation. The law should seek that balance, and that balance will only be found withtime” (92). The author maintains throughout his essay that the issue of time has been a persistentproblem in dealing with piracy and the legalities surrounding who owned the rights to what, andhow those fees were to be disbursed. Nevertheless, Lessig wants the reader to continue to bepatient in this digital age of ever evolving technology and just give the law “time to seek thatbalance” (Lessig 92). We can all agree that laws are difficult to establish when navigatinguncharted territory and I feel that Lessig continually straddles the proverbial fence on this issuethroughout his essay. It seems the author wants us to believe it is alright to have it both ways. Icontend that the precedent for media piracy laws have been set since before the turn of the 20th
Lambert 2century, and although the type of media continues to develop and progress at a pace beyond ourability to keep up, the basic statute of the law has not changed: if one duplicates and/or sells oruses someone else’s media, in any form, without their written or express permission, then theyare breaking the law. The vast majority of the media that is duplicated is done legally and the artists whosework is being recorded, in any fashion, is compensated according to the law. However, it hasbecome increasingly difficult to monitor and protect the rights of artists in the media industry,due largely to the fact that digital technology changes and advances at lightning speed in today’smarket. For example, today’s media savvy youth culture sees nothing wrong with Peer-2-Peerfile sharing. It is an accepted practice, largely by teens and college students, to download andshare files among themselves, without ever paying for the data or media being shared. How dowe hold the YouTube generation accountable to the piracy laws? Peer-2-Peer file sharingdismisses any importance to copyright laws and infringements. Lessig’s claim that piracy ofdeveloping media technology is not new rests upon the questionable assumption that there isalways going to be a certain element in society that does not adhere to these seemingly randompiracy laws, and we need to be patient, while giving the courts and the laws the opportunity tocatch up. I disagree with the author on this point. I think the law is very clear and leaves no roomfor error on this subject. True, the laws have to evolve and adapt as the mediums change, but therudimentary basis of the original piracy laws are still applicable: artists own the works they havecreated, and we owe them monetary compensation when we use their said work, even if we don’tprofit from it ourselves. When it comes to this topic, most of us will readily agree that takingsomeone else’s property without their permission is stealing. Where this agreement usually ends,however, is on the question of ownership of digital technology and its availability to the masses
Lambert 3via the World Wide Web. Whereas some are convinced that if the information is floating aroundin cyber space then it is theirs for the taking, others, like me, maintain that there has to be someway of policing this issue more thoroughly so people are paid according to the law for theirwork. The Internet has made every artist’s work readily available at the click of a button. Nothought is given to who owns the work on the Internet or how to pay for it, and there is no senseof urgency in legislating these artist’s rights. Julian Sanchez, of the CATO Institute, had this tosay in an article he wrote, “Internet Regulations & the Economics of Piracy”: …I remain a bit amazed that it’s become an indisputable premise in Washington that there’s an enormous piracy problem, that it’s having a devastating impact on U.S. content industries, and that some kind of aggressive new legislation is needed to stanch the bleeding…our legislative class has somehow determined that—among all the dire challenges now facing the United States—this is an urgent priority…But does the best available evidence show that this is inflicting such catastrophic economic harm—that it is depressing so much output, and destroying so many jobs—that Congress has no option but to Do Something immediately?...the data we do have doesn’t remotely seem to justify the DEFCON One rhetoric that now appears to be obligatory on the Hill. (par. 2)In making this comment Mr. Sanchez reveals that he is of the same opinion as Mr. Lessig whenit comes to the time factor and media piracy: be patient, the copyright laws will catch up,eventually. Lessig gives a myriad of examples on how, throughout history, people have been goingto great extremes to avoid paying royalties attached to media copyright laws. He states thatHollywood was founded on two production studios’ refusal to pay royalties to Thomas Edison,
Lambert 4who owned the rights to the inventions the film industry was utilizing at the time. The studioswere so determined not to pay Edison what he was due that they moved from the east coast ofthe United States to the west coast, which was out of the local jurisdiction of Edison’s patents;thus, Hollywood was born. The studios managed to produce films using his copyrightedtechnology for seventeen years before the laws on piracy were finally amended. Unfortunatelyfor Edison by the time the copyright laws had changed the statute of limitations on royalties[money owed him] had passed; therefore, Hollywood legally owed Edison nothing.Subsequently, the advent of Radio and Cable television followed suit, and the artists whoseworks these new mediums were profiting from fell victim to the same lack of urgency in thecourts that Edison had been faced with. Lessig’s essay initially makes a strong point: he concurs that the inability to render alegal decision on copyright royalties has been a problem since the media piracy debate began atthe end of the 19th century, and the discussions we are having today about how to reign in mediapiracy are not new, only the technology we are debating is new. However, the author follows upthis point by asking the reader to accept that all piracy is not wrong and we should give the lawstime to decide accordingly. In my opinion, the author cannot have it both ways. On the one hand,Lessig argues for the rights of artists and the need to protect their work with amended laws. Onthe other hand, he implores us to be patient since these new laws take time. Although he wouldnever admit as much, if Mr. Lessig were being robbed of monies owed him through copyright ormedia piracy, he would have very different argument on the urgency needed to reform thecurrent legislation.
Lambert 5 Works CitedLessig, Lawrence. “Some Like it Hot.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 2nd ed. Eds. Richard Bullock, Maureen Daly Goggin, Francine Weinberg. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. 88-92. Print.Sanchez, Julian. "Internet Regulation & the Economics of Piracy." Cato Institute 17 Jan 2012: n.pag. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 18 June 2012.